Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Review: The Death and Life of the Great American School System (2010)

The Death and Life of the Great American School System (2010) by Diane Ravitch is a critique of the modern American public educational system in which she previously espoused, particularly its growing emphasis on accountability, privatization, standardized testing, and charter school movement since the 1990s. Ravitch said that the charter school and testing reform movement was started by billionaires and "right wing think tanks like the Heritage Foundation," for the purpose of destroying public education and teachers' unions. She proposes several solutions to fix American education to its original principles: leave decisions about schools to educators, not politicians or businessmen; develop a national curriculum that sets out what every children should be learning; pay teaches a fair wage for their work that is not based on students' performance on standardized tests; encourage family involvement in education from an early age.

Ravitch is a historian by training, having earned her doctorate in the history of American education at Teachers College - Columbia University. In addition, she reflected on her own career in public service and academe. She was the Assistant Secretary of Education (1991-1993), National Assessment of Educational Progress (1997-2004); and the Brookings Institution (1995-2005) . She witnessed the rise of No Child Left Behind, a landmark legislation that championed many of the education reformers' goals in quantitatively evaluating student progress. She thought the accountability movement was the solution to enhancing K-12 education only to find out later that she was blindsided by its consequences, chiefly its impact on the declining enrollment of traditional public schools and parochial schools and the over-emphasis on tests to measure student achievement. The only flaw in this book is that I wished that she advocated for the elimination of charter schools, which are pseudo-private schools receiving public funding which have the effect of competing with public schools. This shift gives charter schools (which can be operated by a for-profit company or educational institution) an unfair advantage over traditional public schools who have the greatest need. Research has shown that charter schools have not exceeded the academic performance of public schools.

The title of the book pays homage to Jane Jacobs' seminal book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, which was also a critique of American urban planning in the 1950s and offered solutions on maintaining healthy neighborhoods. I recommend Ravitch's book to educators, students majoring in education, and policymakers who specialize in educational issues. Social workers who work in K-12 schools and educational nonprofits will also benefit from gaining a better understanding of why the current education reform movement on testing, accountability and charter schools is doing more harm than good.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Update -- I am an Advocate! (INFJ)

I completed a recent personality test from 16personalities, a London-based company. Here are my results:

Personality type: “The Advocate” (INFJ-A)

Individual traits: Introverted – 71%, Intuitive – 56%, Feeling – 62%, Judging – 57%, Assertive – 68%.

Role: Diplomat

Strategy: Confident Individualism

The Advocate personality type is very rare, making up less than one percent of the population, but they nonetheless leave their mark on the world. As members of the Diplomat Role group, Advocates have an inborn sense of idealism and morality, but what sets them apart is that they are not idle dreamers, but people capable of taking concrete steps to realize their goals and make a lasting positive impact.

Advocates tend to see helping others as their purpose in life, but while people with this personality type can be found engaging rescue efforts and doing charity work, their real passion is to get to the heart of the issue so that people need not be rescued at all.

Advocates indeed share a very unique combination of traits: though soft-spoken, they have very strong opinions and will fight tirelessly for an idea they believe in. They are decisive and strong-willed, but will rarely use that energy for personal gain – Advocates will act with creativity, imagination, conviction and sensitivity not to create advantage, but to create balance. Egalitarianism and karma are very attractive ideas to Advocates, and they tend to believe that nothing would help the world so much as using love and compassion to soften the hearts of tyrants..


I believe this personality type describes me to the core! It also supports why I pursued graduate study in education and social work. Both fields are part of the "helping professions" where individuals have the urge to educate and help others. Personally, I am interested in macro change, which involves large-scale systems such as communities, social institutions, organizations and policymaking. I am attracted to social justice and public service opportunities for a more just and equal world. I can be very opinionated around issue that I am passionate for--particularly racial justice and women's rights in the workplace. I have the spirit to want to improve and change society. For more information, check out the INFJ profile.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Before You Vote This Fall ...

While I usually stay out of partisan political discussions on this blog, I am sharing this video because women make up the majority demographic in the social work and education professions. Women generally do not discuss--or engage in--politics in everyday conversation. Yet this upcoming presidential election cycle has been full of surprises, to put it mildly. It will undoubtedly go down in history as one of the most contentious elections in American history. As a result, it is important that women educate themselves on the candidates' positions, particularly on critical issues such as education, welfare, and criminal justice. Do not vote based on party affiliation or peer pressure; vote because you did your homework on the candidates.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Review: 101 Careers in Education (2016)

101 Careers in Education (2016) by John S. Carlson and Richard L. Carlson is a comprehensive career guide book on education-related fields. Education is a broad field with different career paths and a variety of subfields depending on which student population (e.g., age, profession, online vs. brick and mortar, and special needs) you want to specialize. A college-level degree is the minimum education necessary for the majority of careers in education. Increasingly, many fields are seeking majors with specialty in specific content area (e.g., calculus, biology, and music) or specific skills useful (e.g., counseling, foreign language, and educational technology). The introduction includes a list of in-demand careers to date. Each career profile includes a basic description, core competencies and skills needed, educational requirements, type of experience necessary to succeed in the field, certification and licensure, salary compensation, employment outlook, and list of professional associations. The career profiles are concise and comprehensive which makes this book such an invaluable resource to have in your personal library.

The book also spends a great amount of detail on educational careers in non-traditional settings, such as religion, camping, adult education, public health, book publishing, archives and museums. This section will interest anyone who has an interest working in an educational setting but does not have an undergraduate or advanced degree in education. Finally, the book concludes with the author's views on the future of education with two chapters dedicated to professional development and career growth and the job-search process. The introduction includes a self-assessment tool that will identify which careers in education fits a person's interests and skills. Since Careers in Education is newly published, the resources are accurate and up-to-date.

I also recommend Careers in Education to social workers who work with student populations. Social workers and educators often work together in similar fields to achieve the mission of their organizations. We have the gift to naturally give back and help others reach their potential.

    Introduction to a Career in Education
  • Careers in Early Childhood Education
  • Careers in K-12 Schools
  • Careers in Postsecondary Education
  • Part-Time Careers in Education
  • Careers Serving Special Needs Populations
  • Careers in Educational Administration and Leadership
  • Non-traditional Positions in Education
  • Careers Pertaining to Web-Based Learning and Educational Technology
  • The Future of Education

Saturday, July 16, 2016

DetNews: Detroit’s chance of netting major retailers improving

Something amazing is happening in Detroit. This could be the sign of a real renaissance. The local newspaper reported that major retailers, who historically shunned the inner city, may expand into the city. Detroit suffers as a food (or major store) desert, an urban area in which it is difficult to buy affordable or good-quality fresh food. Unsurprisingly, most food deserts are located in predominately black neighborhoods with the most need for access to healthy, nutritious food. Mom and pop stores, which are run predominately by Arab and Asian immigrants, dominate the grocery store market in Detroit. Mom and pop (and dollar) stores have limited selection and more likely to serve unhealthy food. City residents who desire more options must travel to the suburbs to shop at a major retailer with wider selection of goods such as Target or Costco. For city residents who lack a personal vehicle, this poses as a serious limitation. Detroiters deserve the same access and availability of stores as their suburban neighbors. Detroit needs more major retailers -- I welcome this fabulous news!
Detroit may be near the tipping point in getting major retailers like Target and Kroger to open in the greater downtown area.

In most cities, such stores are commonplace. In Detroit, every type of major national retailer – supermarkets, department stores, movie theaters, restaurants – started to vanish from the city limits more than 60 years ago. When residents began to move out of Detroit, big retalers followed them.

Even now, a Home Depot (one store), a Kroger (no stores) or a Starbucks (eight stores) are rare in the 142-square-mile city limits.

But the greater downtown area – the central business district, Midtown, Corktown, Eastern Market – has seen a recent wave of new residents and new specialty stores, including some chains like Whole Foods in Midtown and Nike downtown.