Monday, May 15, 2017

Monday News in Mid-May 2017

The culture of Seattle is beautiful and diverse. It is a gateway to Alaska. Also, it is a city with the nickname of the Emerald City. It has evergreen forests all over the area. Seattle residents are called Seattleites. Seattle is a great center of the performing arts. There is the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, which performs regularly at Benaroya Hall. The Seattle Opera and Pacific Northwest Ballet also perform at the McCaw Hall (which opened in 2003. It’s located in the site of the former Seattle Opera House at Seattle Center). The Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestras (SYSO) is the largest symphonic youth organization in the United States. The city also boasts lauded summer and winter chamber music festivals organized by the Seattle Chamber Music Society. The 5th Avenue Theater was built in 1926. It shows Broadway-style musical shows. It hosts local talent and international stars. Its jazz locations have helped the careers of many musical legends like Ray Charles, Quincy Jones, Bumps Blackwell, Ernestine Anderson, etc. Music from grunge, hip hop, R&B, rock, gospel, and other genres of music are a part of Seattle culture. Seattle and music go hand in hand. Film festivals and cruise ships readily predominate the lives of human beings in Seattle. There is the 24 day Seattle International Film Festival. Native American celebrations exist. The Greek Festival is hosted by St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church in Montlake. The Seattle Great Wheel, one of the largest Ferris wheels in the US, opened in June 2012 as a new, permanent attraction on the city's waterfront, at Pier 57, next to Downtown Seattle.  The city also has many community centers for recreation, including Rainier Beach, Van Asselt, Rainier, and Jefferson south of the Ship Canal and Green Lake, Laurelhurst, Loyal Heights north of the Canal, and Meadowbrook. Sports teams are down in Seattle like the Seahawks, the Mariners, the Sounders (in soccer), the Storm (in the WNBA), and the Reign (in soccer). Seattle is 69.5 percent Caucasian, 13.8 percent Asian, 7.9 percent African American, 6.6 percent Hispanic, 0.8 percent Native American, 0.4 percent Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander, and is filled with other ethnic groups. Seattle's foreign-born population grew 40% between the 1990 and 2000 censuses. There is the Central District in the African American community too. There is the Northwest African American Museum that shows the history, culture, and art of African Americans (which celebrates the works of the educator Thelma Dewitty, the poet Langston Hughes, the painter Jacob Lawrence, the sculptor James Washington, and the playwright August Wilson) in the Pacific Northwest. African American cultural events (in promoting dance, theater, film music, history, and art) exist throughout Seattle from the Festival Sundiata, Umoja Fest, and the Earshot Jazz Festival. Asian American events exist too. Seattle has always been culturally diverse.

Many issues are in the educational field and in education in general. One of the most important issues in education revolves around student loan debt. There is over one trillion total student loan debt in America alone. Many students struggle to pay the debt off. Many people wait until 10-20 years to pay off all of the debt. The debt has increased, because of rising tuition costs of universities over the past 30 years among other reasons like growing income inequality including lax incomes. That is why many join community colleges (which are less expensive than most universities) before going into a 4-year university. We certainly don’t need the raising of interest rates on federally assisted student loans. That makes things worse. DeVos or the Education Secretary recently has ended Obama era student loan protections. American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, who will join DeVos at a visit to an Ohio public school later this month, said rescinding the Obama-era guidance opens the door for "rogue operators" to win lucrative government contracts. "If Secretary DeVos were serious about curing America’s trillion-dollar student loan crisis, she would strengthen, not rescind, these protections," Weingarten said. "Instead, she is enabling and empowering bad actors. It’s just another clear example of Betsy DeVos and the Trump administration putting the interests of predatory profiteers over the needs of the little guy -- in this instance, the millions of people trying to go to college or acquire career skills without being crippled by debt.” Persis Yu, director of the National Consumer Law Center’s Student Loan Borrower Assistance Project, said the CFPB's lawsuit against Navient has demonstrated that problems with services are widespread and their practices can create obstacles to repayment that become costly for borrowers. "Today’s action by Secretary DeVos could make it easier for the department to hire servicers with a track record of harming borrowers," Yu said. "The Department of Education should ensure that servicers who work for the taxpayer embrace student loan borrower-centric policies and are held accountable when they fall short, rather than rescinding basic rules that assist strapped borrowers." There are many proposals to solve this problem.

Many have advocated extending the period of paying back loans to 25-30 years. Some want to reduce monthly payments or tying payment to job income. Some desire a total forgiveness of loans after payment for a certain amount of years. Some desire limits on total borrowing from private lenders. Some progressives desire investments to make community college tuition free. There have been debates about charter and public schools for over 20 years now. Some charter schools have made failures and some have made successes. The common ground approach is to promote accountability, teacher’s rights, student’s rights, collective bargaining, and improvements regardless of the educational system. Another important issue involves teachers and students. Both teachers and students must have their rights respected. Each serves an important function in any school. Students should be educated and protected and teachers should be respected and held accountable for their actions too. Both students and teachers equally must follow the rules in the classroom and throughout the school. Bullying is one of the most serious problems in schools. Bullying is wrong since it violates human autonomy, it violates human rights, and it is disrespectful. Many children of many backgrounds have unfortunately committed suicide because of bullying. That’s very sad. So, we are opposed to bullying 100 percent. Private schools exist. Yet, they shouldn’t be funded by public tax payer dollars. Vouchers being funded by taxpayer money publicly is a violation of the separation of the church and state. I don’t want anyone on this Earth to dictate to me how I should worship or believe in. Many schools are funded by property taxes. So, richer communities fund heavily from resources while poorer communities struggle to get resources. That is why this is wrong and more resources should be given to poorer communities, so their educational system can be strengthened.

Many scholars have looked to Finland to find educational solutions. One solution to education is to address economic inequality. There is no solution unless poverty is addressed, so economic inequality can radically decline. Helping those, who experience poverty, will increase not only wealth, but a better life in general. That means that investments in poor communities must exist, mentors must grow in schools, and unique investments must be made in order for schools to be funded greatly. Finland has taught us that small classrooms, highly educated teachers, and large autonomy in schools can work to improve educational functions. Teachers in Finland are given money to have graduate level preparation. Also, qualified teachers, high standards, supports for special needs, adequate resources, and balancing decentralization and centralization make the difference. Also, Finland has a flexible curriculum system which meets the needs of students in various schools. Finland doesn’t have a rigid, strict standardized testing system unlike many locations in America. Teachers for the longest time have complained about standardized tests and this situation must change. There should be a focus on creative solutions, innovation, and it must be grounded in the equitable distribution of resources instead of permanent competition to help people. Finland’s national core curriculum is leaner and focuses on developing local power and assessments too. Finland allows teachers time to jointly create curriculum and lesson plans.  Creative thinking is important as well. Also, students should be encouraged to follow independent learning at their own pace. Active learning among students grows their metacognitive skills to tackle, frame, and solve problems. They can improve and evaluate their work. Learning to them becomes more productive. Also, policies against bullying must transpire. Counseling services, and policies of educational equity ought to always become priorities in solution making.

Therefore, we know about the critical value involving education. Education is more than about learning information. Education is about promoting virtue and intellectual curiosity in the world. It is about questioning things and analyzing information in a cogent, deliberate fashion. We are not na├»ve too. Many corporate interests have damaged many aspects of public education. Capitalist elites have harmed many in the educational system for decades. The Trump regime has placed many people in charge of federal agencies who make it their duty to privatize or serious harm public education. DeVos is known for spending millions of dollars to promote the voucher system in Michigan, so education is privatized. Common Core, Race to the Top, and Leave no Child Left Behind are controversial policies from previous administrations too. We don’t need austerity and privatization (which is about the selling of public properties and institutions to capitalists). Education has been harmed by tax cuts for the rich, expanded military spending, banker bailouts, the economic recession, and other events. Public education should be owned and controlled by the people not by private, free market-oriented capitalist corporations. The people must define their power not corporations. The problem is not just found in schools. Many grown adults (grown people) fail to add numbers of a bank slip, identify places on a map, and reading directions for taking medication. Therefore, we should help people to do these tasks and to be more productive members of society. We must not shame or disrespect those who struggle with literacy. We must be strong, compassionate, and giving to help humanity. Education is about gaining wisdom, so our self can be transformed. We must embrace meaning. True education rejects brainwashing, rejects total groupthink, rejects constant training to rigid confirmity, and rejects stagnation. True education is about independent thinking. Developing intelligence isn’t about tech savviness alone. Intelligence encompasses creation, analysis, developing, memory, and creating new meanings to existing concepts. I don’t believe in G. Stanley Hall’s view that learning the alphabet is fetishism. Students should learn the basics of the alphabet, multiplication, grammar, scales and literature in order for them to get life going. Education is not training to be a puppet of corporate elites. Education is about using your innate talents and abilities to understand language, science, history, literature, other STEM fields, music, and other subjects in order for you to live and flourish in the world society. Learning is about not random memorization, but expressing true understanding of concepts (plus applying that understanding in everyday life). Education wants to make people in general to be informed about the world around them, so positive, progressive change can exist globally. That’s the point. To read, to write, and to think flourish under true education. We are human and we are creative living beings who have every right to promote education. I embrace critical thinking, self-awareness, and consciousness (in fighting injustices too). Universal education was improved during the civil rights struggles, but we have so much to go. So, public schools and any legitimate schools must improve. We must be active in supporting policies that develop education and promote true justice involving our educational services indeed.

By Timothy

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