AmeriCorps, Budgets, and NCCC
So, way back in early February, the President released his budget request for fiscal year 2007, which included significant cuts to AmeriCorps, most notably the elimination of the National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC). NCCC is a pretty neat program . . . from the AmeriCorps website:
AmeriCorps*NCCC (National Civilian Community Corps) is a full-time, team-based residential program for men and women age 18–24. Members live on one of five campuses, located in Denver, Colorado; Charleston, South Carolina; Sacramento, California; Perry Point, Maryland; and Washington, D.C.What one might not realize from that short blurb is just how much young people get out of this team based experience. The news coverage has been interesting:
The mission of AmeriCorps*NCCC is to strengthen communities and develop leaders through direct, team-based national and community service. In partnership with nonprofit organizations, state and local agencies, and faith-based and other community organizations, members complete service projects throughout the region they are assigned.
Drawn from the successful models of the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s and the U.S. military, AmeriCorps*NCCC is built on the belief that civic responsibility is an inherent duty of all citizens and that national service programs work effectively with local communities to address pressing needs.
- The Washington Post's article has a great quote from a 24 year old alumnus - "Just a few years ago, there was the president's call to service. People have been responding to it -- and now it's being cut off."
- The Columbia News Service (which is a good example of how big student media has become) has a pretty detailed article, looking at what exactly the budget cuts mean. There's a good quotation referring to NCCC members and their contributions to relief efforts in LA - "What makes them different is they know how to handle disaster situations. Other volunteers are either slightly older--and so less able--or college students, who are just available on breaks. NCCC members are more committed and trained. They’re a constant." This is also the reason why there were members of the Montana Conservation Corps who got deployed out to New Orleans last year.
- The NY Times ran an editorial titled "Save the Civilian Community Corps" (the full text is available on CityYear's website).
- Newsweek is rather critical of the President, opening with "It’s a form of hypocrisy that’s becoming emblematic of the Bush era."
- Even Fox New's coverage points out the large amount of support that NCCC has . . .
Cultural and Societal Identity
The New York Times ran an interesting article, "Adopted in China, Seeking Identity in America," looking at the issues that Chinese adoptees face. The article addresses the question of how Chinese children adopted by typically white, middle-class families should be raised, and how much of their ethnic culture should parents expose them to. While every teen struggles with identity, I think being stuck between two worlds would make things that much harder. One thing I find interesting is how the article seems to stress that the Chinese students seem to click better with Asians, or think they will - there's a 17 year old who only applied to schools with Asian student groups, and they also profile a group of three girls who are friends, and all Chinese adoptees. Whenever I hear about these issues, I always wonder, how important is it to preserve one culture, over the culture you're raised in? American culture is a hodgepodge, that's picked bits and pieces from all kinds of culture, but it's obvious that we're also loosing parts (Native American traditions and language are a prime example). Is it possible to celebrate and acknowledge all these differences, yet still have an "American" identity?
Connect For Kids has an essay from high schooler Natasha Santos, "How the Other Half Lives". An amazingly insightful piece, where Natasha, a black female from a neighborhood "where poor blacks and Latinos live isolated from wealthier minorities and other races" and she has concerns for her safety when walking down the street. She goes and visits a wealthy, suburban school, and talks with students there - who surprisingly to her are diverse: "Three were black, one was half-black/half-white, one was Asian-American, one was half-Cuban/half-white and one was Indian-American." I think it's interesting that these youth from privilege see minorities holding themselves back, more than society.
Daphney, who is black and whose family came from Haiti, said black kids at that school hold themselves back more than the system does. "I think it's because they have fallen into their own stereotypes. They criticize the people who want to get ahead," Daphney said. "This kid asked my sister, 'How come you get such good grades? Black people aren't suppose to get such good grades.'"Her conclusion is pretty strong, recognizing that race seems to have more emphasis depending on your socio-economic background . . . and her wondering whether if she gets out of the slums, will she share the perspective of the youth she talked with.
Swapping the Boardroom for the Classroom
Interesting look at the 17,000 career changers in the past five years who've become teachers after leaving their former professions. Most interesting bit to me? Roughly 95% of job-switchers tend to stick with teaching, which seems like a much higher retention rate that most of the attrition data you see for teachers.
A moral battleground, a civil discourse
USA Today ran this piece about homosexuality and schools. A very sensible article, that says that schools can't pick sides among religion, homosexuality, and other such issues, but they do need to be advocates of the First Amendment and open, respectful discourse. Reminds me of a few weeks ago, when I went to see a movie in response to trying to add an anti-bullying clause. I walked away from that showing thinking that it had a pro-homosexual slant to it, rather than a pro-acceptance stance, though I don't think that was the intent, just like the intent of the Montana Board of Education wasn't to be pro-homosexual, but anti-bullying and thus pro-acceptance.
Rather idealistic in hoping that people can be rational, rather than emotional, about hot-topic issues, but absolutely hitting the nail on the head.
Putting Parents In Their Place: Outside Class
This article from the Washington Post looks at an interesting trend of parents being too involved in their children's education, and how that makes the transition to college difficult. Parent's who "text message their children in middle school, use the cellphone like an umbilical cord to Harvard Yard and have no compunction about marching into kindergarten class and screaming at a teacher about a grade." Freshman orientations that now "incorporate lessons for parents on how to separate and let their children make their own hair appointments." Crazy.