Friday, December 23, 2016

University of Michigan Bicentennial: 1817-2017

In 2017, the University of Michigan (U-M) will celebrate its bicentennial--200 years of teaching, scholarship, and service. Established in 1817 in Detroit as the Catholepistemiad or University of Michigania, U-M is the state's oldest university. In 1837, the school moved from Detroit to its present-day location, Ann Arbor. Since its founding, U-M has become one of the premier research universities in the world and boasts the largest living alumni in the world (over 500,000). As of 2016, the university has 19 schools and colleges, 260 degree programs, and 103 of its graduate programs ranked in the top 10. Its official colors are maize and blue, and its motto is "Go Blue!".

The university is historically known for its student activism, popular stop for U.S. presidents and important figures, and its role in defending affirmative action at the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003 (though Michigan voters in 2006 approved restrictions on the use of race in college admissions in Proposal 2). As a proud U-M alumna, U-M also boasts the best graduate programs in my fields: higher education administration and social work. To my delight, the current U-M president, Mark S. Schlissel, has picked diversity, equity and inclusion as well as poverty solutions as two of his five areas of focus in his administration.

Browse the links below for more information about the U-M Bicentennial:

Five Bicentennial Symposia

Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Atlantic: How to Kill the Middle Class

In the past decade, state politicians have attacked the middle class with the passage of draconian lives that reduced their salaries, fringe benefits, and sick paid leave. If these trends continue, the traditional middle class may cease to exist in America. See The Atlantic article for more details:

Back in 2009, Rick Erickson was happy with his job as a teacher in one of the state’s northernmost school districts on the shores of Lake Superior. He made $35,770 a year teaching chemistry and physics, which wasn’t a lot of money, but then again, he received stellar healthcare and pension benefits, and could talk honestly with administrators about what he needed as a teacher every two years when his union sat down with the school district in collective bargaining sessions.

Then, five years ago, Wisconsin passed Act 10, also known as the Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill, which dramatically limited the ability of teachers and other public employees to bargain with employers on wages, benefits, and working conditions. After Act 10,Erickson saw his take-home pay drop dramatically: He now makes $30,650. His wife is a teacher, too, and together they make 11 percent less than they did before Act 10. The local union he once led no longer exists, and so he can’t bargain with the school district for things like prep time and sick days. He pays more for health care and his pension, and he says both he and his wife may now not be able to retire until they are much older than they had planned.

See this related article, Severe Inequality Is Incompatible with the American Dream:
The numbers are sobering: People born in the 1940s had a 92 percent chance of earning more than their parents did at age 30. For people born in the 1980s, by contrast, the chances were just 50-50.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

New Ed Department Report Focuses on Diversity in Higher Education

The U.S. Department of Education recently released a report, “Advancing Diversity and Inclusion in Higher Education.” It builds on the Obama administration's efforts to expand college opportunity. The presents key data that show the continuing educational inequities and opportunity gaps for students of color and low-income students and highlights promising practices that many colleges are taking to advance success for students of all backgrounds. From the official press release:
More than ever before, today’s students need to be prepared to succeed in a diverse, global workforce. Diversity benefits communities, schools, and students from all backgrounds, and research has shown that more diverse organizations make better decisions with better results. CEOs, university presidents, the military, and other leaders have accordingly expressed a strong interest in increasing diversity to ensure our nation enjoys a culturally competent workforce that capitalizes on the diverse backgrounds, talents, and perspectives that have helped America succeed.

“I applaud the commitments to creating diverse campus communities that so many colleges and universities have long sought to implement by attracting, admitting, and educating diverse students. But we must acknowledge that we have more work left to ensure that our campuses are safe, inclusive, and supportive environments that encourage student success and college completion for students from all backgrounds,” Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. said.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Why Trump Won the 2016 Presidential Election

Donald Trump's stunning victory was propelled by millions of white blue-collar and rural communities concerned about jobs and the economy. This observation was especially true in the Rust Belt states, a geographic region that Democrats traditionally carried in the general elections. In a nutshell, Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 presidential election because her platform ignored the overriding concerns of white working- and middle-class families in the Rust Belt.

While racism and sexism may have played some role, the effect was minimal in the general election. I believe voter suppression laws exist, and the gutting of the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder (2013) is a disgraceful travesty. But voter suppression does not fully explain why the five Rust Belt battleground states (Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania) turned red in the general election. These states are demographically similar so the polls missed other key factors.

Breakdown of the Election Results

Most Trump supporters are not racist or sexist. More white women (53%) voted for Trump than Clinton. Trump also performed better among African Americans and Latino voters than Republican nominee Mitt Romney did in 2012. On top of that, two-thirds (67%) of white voters without college degrees and over 80 percent of white evangelicals voted for Trump. Both groups are concentrated in middle America.

One-third of nearly 700 counties that voted twice for Obama in 2008 and 2012 supported Trump in the general election. Former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (I-VT) stated in his New York Times op-ed that "millions of people who voted for Mr. Trump did so because they are sick and tired of the economic, political and media status quo." Trump supporters were seeking a presidential candidate who spoke directly on the immediate needs of the struggling middle class.

Trump supporters also included millions of traditional Democrats--white blue-collar families. The Democratic party used to serve as the base of the labor movement. The New Deal coalition of Democrats and labor unions was formed under the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt. By 1964, the Midwest had the highest concentration of manufacturing jobs and union workers in America. While union membership has fallen in the last fifty years, organized labor still remains a strong presence in the Midwest.

Nonetheless, the Democratic national platform continued to ignore the devastating impact of globalization and free trade in these communities. Since the 1970s, the Rust Belt has struggled with economic decline, population loss, and urban decay due to the shrinkage of its industrial sector. Oscar-winning filmmaker and Michigan native, Michael Moore, predicted a Rust Belt Brexit in the industrial Great Lakes region: "From Green Bay [WI] to Pittsburgh, this, my friends, is the middle of England – broken, depressed, struggling, the smokestacks strewn across the countryside with the carcass of what we use to call the Middle Class ... What happened in the [United Kingdom] with Brexit is going to happen here." 

According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), the American economy lost nearly 700,000 jobs because of NAFTA. Deindustrialization and globalization have decimated many once-thriving small cities and rural communities across the country. Well-paying blue collar jobs have been replaced by low-wage service jobs (with no fringe benefits) that do not realistically support a family. These forgotten voters felt betrayed by traditional politicians who ignored their economic plight.

As an unconventional candidate, Trump accomplished the unthinkable—he reached out to blue-collar and union households and became their champion by assailing trade agreements that outsourced manufacturing jobs to Mexico and other low-wage countries. Exit polls revealed that Trump did exceedingly well with union households.

Overview of the Rust Belt: The Industrial Heartland of America  

Rust Belt Democrats warned the Clinton campaign to not take the industrial Great Lakes region for granted. The Clinton campaign's major mistake was focusing on future demographic shifts and disregarding current realities: the Rust Belt is demographically different from the more liberal Northeast and West Coast. Predominately white (80-90% white) and traditionally reliant on the manufacturing and steel industries, the Rust Belt contains a large presence of blue-collar and union households--many of whom lacked college degrees but nonetheless achieved the treasured American Dream.

Additionally, the Rust Belt is known as "America's Heartland", the centralized population of industrial production for much of the 19th and 20th centuries. The inhabitants espouse strong moral convictions (due to the high concentration of Protestants in smaller cities and rural areas) and a shared sense of common American values. They also clung to the lauded Protestant ethic (a pragmatic belief that hard work and perseverance rooted in humility pays off in the long run). These factors culturally instilled a form of American patriotism tied to production.

This Midwestern behavior comes across as provincial and conservative to outsiders but this assumption also reveals how the rise of secularized identity liberalism is incompatible with households who want to protect American traditional values and culture. It is important to recall that the foundation of American government is rooted in English common law, Enlightenment thought, and Protestant Christianity. It was divine intervention--the grace of God--that helped the colonists defeat the much larger and better trained British forces during the American Revolution.

Furthermore, the Democratic national platform's laundry list of identity positions--marriage equality, transgender rights, comprehensive immigration reform, bilingual education, refugee resettlement, and environmental issues--did not correspond to white working- and middle-class families in the Rust Belt, who have experienced in the last decade shrinkin workforcesloss of young talent to other stateswage stagnation, and rising cost of health care insurance premiums. Basically, Clinton never tweaked her campaign message to focus on quality-of-life issues--a disconnect that contributed to her astonishing and humiliating defeat in the Rust Belt.

The Rise of Trump: Economic Populist Message Resonated with Middle America

Trump emerged as the courageous outsider who spoke directly on issues that clearly resonated with struggling white working- and middle-class Americans: jobs, free trade, affordable health care, immigration, and border security. Trump channeled their anger and despair with an economic populist message of hope that he will "make America great again". The general public had never witnessed a recent campaign that captured so much of the American imagination since William Jennings Bryan.

This reassurance from a presidential candidate telling forgotten men and women that they matter is a powerful feeling--an emotion so inspiring that it energized them to get out and vote. This coalition of white blue-collar and rural voters in the Rust Belt turned out to cast their ballots. People who were disenchanted with politics found new hope in the image of Trump-Pence.

In an unexpected move, Trump displayed his leadership style by accepting an invitation with Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto and boldly declaring afterwards that Mexico will pay for the construction of a "big beautiful wall" on the U.S.-Mexico border. This power move demonstrated that Trump is not afraid to stand up to other nations. When not hurdling insults, Trump made populist statements that traditional conservative Republicans did not want to hear. White working-class Americans were intrigued with this side of Trump: a successful businessman who is concerned about the future of this nation, not a typical politician beholden to special interest groups.

For millions of white blue-collar and rural Americans who witnessed their jobs outsourced or taken over by low-wage immigrant labor, Trump's economic populist message was music to their ears. Trump's straightforward charisma was a breath of fresh air to voters distrustful of politicians and their broken promises.

Surrounded by abandoned factories, shuttered businesses, dilapidated infrastructure, limited employment prospects, growing poverty and drug use, and increasing rates of suicide, these communities wanted change. They wanted a return to an era where a person, like their parents and grandparents, could obtain stable, well-paying full-time jobs that did not require a bachelor's degree or higher. Trump came across as that likeable candidate who courted and understood their pressing economic needs.

The Democrats' Mistakes: Prioritizing Identity Positions Over Economic Issues  

The Clinton campaign targeted wealthy donors, college graduates, minority groups, and Catholics in the big metropolitan areas. They dismissed Trump as a bigoted clown who would implode and fade away. What the Clinton campaign and pundits failed to notice is that Trump is a mastermind of the media. His brazen tweets also provided a voice for the silenced. He excels in creating a powerful personal brand, which enabled him to outperform and defeat his opponents in the primaries

Despite her qualifications, Hillary Clinton also came across as distant and robotic to most white working-class families. After watching the three presidential debates, I asked myself: "To whom is Hillary Clinton speaking? She sounds out-of-touch with middle America." She also did not speak in laymen's terms, delivering detailed talking points filled with jargon that most viewers would not be able to recall the next day (Another blunder was Clinton asking television viewers to visit her campaign website without considering that many rural households still lack high-speed internet access).

Some of her talking points like renewable energy appealed to specific identity groups but were incomprehensible to voters who have never heard of the term. Trump's rally speeches reached a wider audience with short descriptors like "Build the wall" and "Repeal NAFTA" that voters could understand. He also appeared more confident than Clinton. My concerns were not unfounded: Trump broke the seemingly impenetrable blue wall and dominated the Rust Belt region in the 2016 presidential election.

The Hard Truth: A Declining Quality-of-Life in Rust Belt and Rural Areas

Hard-working Americans prioritized quality-of-life issues over identity positions in the 2016 presidential election. Finding decent-paying work was more important than which group(s) has access to the bathroom of their choice. Democrats' desperate accusations of racism, sexism, homophobia, and xenophobia were practically meaningless when Clinton refused to admit that neoliberal economic policies had a devastating impact on working-class communities. All she could muster to offer was job-retraining programs, and this was not what these folks wanted to hear.

For instance, Clinton appointees in the Democratic national platform opposed a draft of the $15 minimum wage amendment, a perfect example of indifference to the growing problem of wage stagnation and growing inequality in this nation. It is no secret that Clinton steers clear of progressive economic policies that help working families struggling financially throughout most of Obama's presidency.

The "basket of deplorables" whom Clinton labeled as "irredeemable" trumped the establishment--the elite ruling class in business, government and the mass media who condescendingly ridiculed anyone who didn't support Hillary Clinton. The Democratic national platform has become the party of the super-rich by using identity positions to cover up the establishment's quest for greater wealth, power and influence. Trump was scolded in the media while Clinton supporters exempted their own behavior (see this YouTube video). It is no wonder then that white working-class communities did not want to endure four more years of alienation, denigration, and economic misery.

Finally, Clinton did not energize women, blacks, Latinos, and millennials the same way as Obama did in the 2008 and 2012 elections. She made no effort to visibly reach out to undecided voters in key battleground states until it was too late (competent people do not vote based on the endorsements of celebrities and entertainers). Her arrogance, intellectual bigotry, and penchant for secrecy led to her downfall.

Clinton's Neoliberal Legacy Hurt Her Support Among Working-Class Americans

Hillary Clinton also made critical mistakes during her career that resulted in the loss of supporters. Her support for free trade agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)--which she later retracted--weakened her public image as a defender of working families. The passage of NAFTA contributed to the spike in illegal immigration in the U.S. She also supported China's entrance into the World Trade Organization (Established in 1995, WTO is an intergovernmental organization that monitors international trade and protects investors' rights). This move opened up the U.S. market to China.

Other polarizing policies she vigorously defended from Bill Clinton's presidency--the crime billwelfare reform, and Wall Street deregulation--reappeared in the media with scholarly critiques of their devastating impact on low-income and minority communities, especially African Americans (In a 1996 speech, she implicitly described young black men as a "gang of super predators" with "no conscience, no empathy". She later expressed regret for her word choice.). Ultimately, Hillary Clinton was never able to separate herself from her husband’s neoliberal legacy--a factor that contributed to less enthusiasm for her historic nomination and lower voter turnout.

Another miscalculation by the Clinton campaign was ignoring the impact of Bernie Sanders' unanticipated primary victory in Michigan. Sanders’ victory in a Rust Belt state was enough to shatter the widely held assumption that Clinton would cruise into the White House. His anti-free trade platform captivated many white blue-collar Democrats.

Both the Clintons and Obama supported trade policies that decimated much of the Democratic base in the industrial Great Lakes region. A new form of class consciousness emerged in which blue-collar Democrats saw a direct connection between globalization and economic decay in their own communities. And Jeff Faux nailed it in his op-ed: "America’s globalized capitalism can live with the politics of race, gender, and sexual identity. But it is implacably hostile to organized labor."

When Sanders ended his campaign, some of his supporters gravitated toward Trump who espoused a similar economic populist agenda. Meanwhile, Clinton and her diehard supporters--who came across as smug and self-righteous social justice warriors who shamed and scolded anyone who did not agree with their views--ignored the free trade position. They became complacent in their contempt for working-class Americans. Thus, they learned the hard way on election night (watch this Saturday Night Live parody)--a resounding defeat that left everyone stunned and speechless.

Adding to her misfortune, Clinton was not perceived as a change agent but as a companion to Wall Street. She did not come across as an aggressive candidate who will, in Harry Truman's words, become a "voice of the common man" and take on the establishment, which has ruined countless lives in the pursuit of greater profits. Sadly, liberal elites were tone-deaf to the economic anxieties of working-class Americans.


The liberal media, pundits, pollsters and academics overlooked this demographic. Why were their predictions of the 2016 presidential election so wrong? While the Clinton campaign focused on the Latino vote, they also disregarded the white working-class vote (who are far more numerous in the key battleground states). They were overly concerned with proper speech rather than what made Trump's message so appealing. They relied on data analytics that could not capture human emotions.

The hypocrisy is the Democratic national platform advocated for the rights of minority groups while at the same time denigrated whites and Christians who cherished American traditional values. Clinton lost the presidential election because she ultimately failed to present an economic agenda grounded in moral and patriotic feelings that resonated with white working-class communities in middle America. 

Trump told the audience in his victory speech that “the forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.” This statement epitomizes Trump's economic populist message that helped him sweep the Rust Belt battleground states to victory.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

WaPost: Why black workers who do everything right still get left behind

50 years later, blacks have equal rights and greater access to opportunities in education and employment. More blacks today have baccalaureate degrees and advanced degrees than when Martin Luther King, Jr. was alive. However, black workers are still financially struggling compared to their white peers. The problem is the highest-paying occupations today are only attainable if you have access to elite social connections. As a result, more black workers with college degrees are encountering discrimination in ways that were not foreseen in the past. Rising income inequality also disproportionately affects black workers. From The Washington Post:

These facts help explain why a recent Pew Research Center survey shows that African Americans with more education perceive more economic inequality. Among blacks with four-year college degrees, 81 percent say that blacks today are financially worse off than whites. But among blacks with no college experience, only 46 percent agree with that statement.

Pew also finds that college-educated blacks are more likely to report personal experiences with discrimination, and more likely to say that being black makes it harder to get ahead in life.

The data suggest an irony: By climbing the economic ladder, African Americans get perspective on the full system of inequality in America.

The EPI report adds to a sense that the economy is biased against black progress. We know that the Great Recession was especially damaging to African American wealth. We know that black people are more sensitive to downturns in the job market; they have a harder time finding a job, and are among the first to be fired when the economy seizes up. We know that for the past 50 years, the black unemployment rate has always been double that of the white unemployment rate.

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.

Related news:

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.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Department of Education Report: Spending on Prisons Rises 3 Times Faster than on Schools

The U.S. Department of Education recently released a policy brief where state and local spending on corrections is rising faster than spending on public education since 1990. More than 15 states invest more on incarceration than higher education. Texas leas the nation (up 668%!) in prison spending over schools. The school-to-prison pipeline is real: students of color are more likely than white children to be funneled into the criminal justice system for minor offenses that sets them up later for incarceration. The disparities has become so dire that it costs more money to house a prisoner than enroll a child in a private four-year institution!

As higher education appropriations declines, more public institutions increase their tuition to make up for the lack of revenue from the state. This alarming news is bad because states are prioritizing imprisonment rather than rehabilitation services to reduce recidivism rates. Furthermore, funding for social service programs (e.g., job training programs, affordable health care, affordable housing, foster care youth programs, and programs to combat homelessness) do not receive receive adequate funding. This current trend in prison spending is counterproductive and We need a more socially-just approach that does not penalize working families and communities of color. Click here for the Department of Education's policy brief, State and Local Expenditures on Corrections and Education.

State and local spending on prisons and jails is increasing at a faster rate than spending on public education over the past three decades, according to a U.S. Department of Education report. The report, released Thursday, highlights a dramatic increase in spending on prisons and jails nationally, and the relative disparity in increases to education-related spending.

According to the report, PK-12 expenditures increased from $258 billion in 1979-80 to $534 billion in 2012-13. Over the same period, state and local expenditures on correctional facilities increased from $17 billion to $71 billion.

The report also showed that 46 states, with the exception of West Virginia, Wyoming, North Dakota and Nebraska, reduced their expenditures for higher education over the past three decades, while increasing the amount spent on correctional facilities.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Origin of Affirmative Action

In a 4-3 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld affirmative action in college admissions. The court approved the University of Texas' use of a student's race as one of several factors in admissions for a portion of each entering class. This decision follows the 2003 Grutter v. Bollinger case.

For several decades, affirmative action has been mislabeled as "quotas", "preferences" or "handouts that give out unfair advantage" by opponents who advocate for more colorblind approaches, such as class rank or socioeconomic status. However, recent government reports from the Government Accountability Office and the U.S. Department of Education revealed that we are far from a colorblind society. In reality, women and racial/ethnic minorities--especially African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans--continue to face insidious discriminatory barriers in educational, employment and economic opportunities. Breaking down these racial and gender barriers remains an ongoing national priority.

What is affirmative action? Why is affirmative action important? Here are six interesting facts that everyone should know about its origin.

  1. The term, "affirmative action", is rooted in U.S. employment law. To take an "affirmative action" was to act affirmatively, i.e. not allowing events to run their course but rather having the government or employers take an active role in treating employees fairly.

  2. One of the earliest sightings of the term "affirmative action" is the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 (better known as the Wagner Act). Signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, this legislation established the National Labor Relations Board and collective bargaining, as well as decreeing that employers engaged in practicing discriminatory labor laws would be required “ take such affirmative action including reinstatement of employees with or without backpay...”. Many private sector employers opposed this legislation. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Wagner Act in 1937.

  3. President John F. Kennedy would become the first president to connect the term “affirmative action” with its contemporary connotation of a policy seeking to ensure racial equality. On May, 6, 1961, in Executive Order 10925, Kennedy called on government contractors to "...take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed and that employees are treated during employment without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin."

    President Lyndon B. Johnson's Commencement Speech at Howard University in Washington, DC, June 4, 1965

  4. The phrase “affirmative action” entered the public discussion after President Lyndon B. Johnson issued Executive Order 11246 on September 28, 1965. This order demanded that federal contractors and subcontractors "take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and that employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, color, religion, sex or national origin." In 1966, Johnson then established the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) in the U.S. Department of Labor to ensure that contractors followed Executive Order 11246.

  5. The Harvard Plan is considered one of the earliest and most effective affirmative action plans in the country. Walter J. Leonard, the architect of the Harvard Plan, worked out a formula in which race was considered, among other factors, in the admission process. It resulted in growing numbers of minority students and women at the law school and broadened the diversity of the university’s faculty and staff members. The Harvard Plan became a blueprint for colleges and universities trying to reflect the country’s growing diversity.

  6. While the U.S. Supreme declared quotas violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, race-based affirmative action was declared constitutional in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978). Race could be used as a factor in applications to promote diversity in education. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the use of race as one of several factors in Grutter v. Bollinger (2003), Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1 (2007), and Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin (2016).
Several research studies have shown that minority students are more likely to excel and graduate within six years at elite colleges and universities. Affirmative action does not harm minority students--racial isolation does. Justice Kennedy's pivotal vote in Fisher II assures colleges and universities will continue to have the right to shape their student bodies in a way that better reflects the diversity of American society.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

WaPost: How Harvard set the model for affirmative action in college admissions


I support affirmative action. The Washington Post's Nick Anderson recently wrote an article about how affirmative action in college admissions as we know it has its origins from the Harvard plan, which Bakke upheld as constitutional. With a ruling on Fisher due soon, I hope the U.S. Supreme Court justices take this time to reflect on how their decision on this important issue will affect generations of students. I have witnessed the impact of Proposal 2's ban on affirmative action in Michigan. Since it's passage, there has been dwindling black enrollment and increased incidents of racial and gender bias. Race continues to be a determining factor in wealth accumulation, access to educational opportunities, and career prospects. Race ultimately affects who gets ahead in American society.

Harvard officials reply that their approach is legally sound and has been ratified in repeated court rulings, including the Bakke case and the 2003 Supreme Court decision in Grutter v. Bollinger, which upheld affirmative action procedures at the University of Michigan law school. Race, the court has said, may be considered as one of many factors in a “holistic” review of an individual application. “Holistic,” as college-bound students know, is the way many selective colleges describe their admission process.

Harvard and many other prestigious schools have pushed the court in the Fisher case to leave that process in place. The court essentially acceded to their wishes in the first Fisher decision in 2013, sending the case back to Texas courts for further review. Now the case is back for a second ruling. Higher education leaders have urged the justices not to meddle with a system they say is essential to building a campus community with a robust variety of points of view. It would be folly, they say, to allow colleges to consider every element of an applicant’s background except race or ethnicity at a time when the nation is immersed in debates that touch on numerous racial questions.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

U.S. Deparment of Education: Racial disparities persist in U.S. schools, study finds

CNN published the findings from a recent U.S. Department of Education study, the Civil Rights Data Collection, which surveys 50 million students in 95,000 K-12 schools during the 2013-2014. 62 years after the Brown v. Board of Education decision, progress has waned on school diversity. Schools are re-segregating, particularly for low-income black and Latino students. The report found five disturbing trends:
  • 1 in 10 students are chronically absent
  • Black students are suspended more often
  • Schools with more minority kids offer fewer advanced classes
  • Minorities are more likely to attend schools with police officers but no counselors
  • Minorities are more likely to be taught by less qualified teachers
It is essential that policymakers and elected officials aggressively invest in under-resourced schools with large population of low-income and minority students to ensure that students are receiving the same educational opportunities as their privileged peers. Efforts should also focus on promoting socioeconomic and racial diversity in schools. Diversity benefits both white and minority children as they prepare to enter college, work, and civic society. Children should not grow up in silos, but rather engage in cross-cultural communication so that they are able to work with diverse populations.

Related news:

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Job Search and Interview Tips for New Graduates

Congratulations new graduates! Whether it is a bachelor's or an advanced degree, this achievement is a major milestone in your life and beyond. The next step that dreads many new graduates is finding a job. Not just any position but one that will launch your career. It can be a stressful experience but it doesn't have to be if you follow the tips below on your job search and interviews.

Unsure on where to begin? Start with these job search tips from Pam Waits at
  1. Create a LinkedIn profile. Make it as complete as possible. is a professional networking site used by most organizations. It is free to join.
  2. Look at the companies in the states and cities you're targeting and the kinds of jobs they offer.
  3. Prepare an elevator speech - a short description of who you are and what you're looking for.
  4. Reach out to individuals in your network. Tell them who you are, what you're doing now and ask for advice.
Unsure on how to prepare for an interview? Avoid these unforgivable interview mistakes that will make you lose a job offer by members of the Young Entrepreneur Council:
  1. You Constantly Interrupt
  2. You Still Behave Like You’re in College
  3. You Fail to Acknowledge Weaknesses
  4. You Lack Familiarity With the Company or Product
  5. You Show Up Late for the Interview
  6. You Don’t Clearly Answer the Question at Hand
  7. You Speak Poorly of Past Employers
  8. You Respond With, “I Don’t Do That”
  9. You Are Way Too Nervous
  10. You Seem Entitled
  11. You Don’t Take Our Mission Seriously
  12. You Dress Incorrectly

Saturday, May 21, 2016

GAO Report: School Segregation Is Worsening

62 years after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down racial segregation in public schools in Brown v. Board of Education, school segregation still persists in a negative way. U.S. Representatives Bobby Scott (ranking member of the House Education and the Workforce Committee) and John Conyers (ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee) asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to examine racial and socioeconomic integration in schools. Earlier this year, the White House announced a new grant program, Stronger Together, that seeks to improve socioeconomic integration in high-poverty, racially isolated schools. Nearly a half-century of research has shown the harmful effects of school segregation on academic achievement, student outcomes, high school completion rates, college attendance rates and occupational decisions later in life.

Earlier this week, the GAO released a report and found that America's public schools are still segregated by race and class. What’s more troubling is that segregation in public K-12 schools is rapidly worsening. The report shows that more than 20 million students of color now attend racially and socioeconomically isolated public schools. That is up from under 14 million students in 2001. The report also confirms that high-poverty, racially isolated schools are under-resourced and over-disciplined. Students attending these schools are less likely to have access to college preparatory curriculum such as AP/IB coursework and more likely to be suspended or expelled. It creates a school-to-prison pipeline rather than exposing children to resources and social networks that will enable them to succeed in life. Simply, the GAO found that our nation’s public schools are separate, and they are unequal.

“This GAO report confirms what has long been feared and proves that current barriers against educational equality are eerily similar to those fought during the civil rights movement,” said Rep. John Conyers. “There simply can be no excuse for allowing educational apartheid in the 21st century. Congress and the federal government, as well as state and local agencies, must ensure all children receive access to equal education at all publicly funded schools.” National Urban League President and CEO Marc H. Morial said, “The findings of GAO confirm what we know to be true: that the promise of Brown remains a promise that has gone largely unfulfilled.”

What can you do? Call your representative and support the bill, HR 5260, the Equity and Inclusion Enforcement Act (co-sponsored by Scott and Conyers) to empower parents and communities to address – through robust enforcement – racial inequities in public education. This bill would amend Title VI (education) of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars any entity that receives federal dollars from discriminating on the basis of race, color, or national origin, by restoring the individual right of action (lawsuit) in cases involving disparate impact. The bill would also create an assistant secretary of education to proactively monitor and enforce compliance with Title VI, and support newly required school district Title VI monitors.

School integration is not only a moral imperative; it is also an economic necessity. Too many children in high-poverty, racially-isolated schools are steered into low-paying jobs that perpetuates intergnerational poverty. race and poverty continue to be driver for inequities in education and that housing segregation patterns contribute to school segregation. It doesn't have to be this way. School integration benefits everyone, including white children (reduces prejudice and bias, greater awareness of different cultures; and ability to work with diverse populations). Help fulfill the promise of Brown.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Social Workers and Librarians Working Together to 'Humanize' the Homeless

In recent years, public libraries have increasingly hired social workers to help with at-risk populations get the resources they need. CityLab has an article about San Jose hiring the first library social worker to help connect the homeless patrons with assistance, mental services, and counseling. The homeless often take refuge at the public library where they find shelter from inclement weather and a daytime roof where they have access to media.
“These programs are humanizing homelessness throughout the library,” says Esguerra. “The library becomes a sanctuary for many of the patrons and our program helps them to feel safe again.”

Related content:

Monday, March 14, 2016

NYTimes: The Faces of American Power, Nearly as White as the Oscar Nominees

The New York Times published an article that reveals diversity statistics of the most powerful people in American culture, government, education, and business. Of the 503 most powerful people in the country, only 44 are from racial or ethnic minorities. The representation of minority leaders in the U.S. president’s cabinet is the most diverse, seven out of 17 members of President Barack Obama’s cabinet are from minorities.

The Atlantic: The Concentration of Poverty in American Schools

The Atlantic has a special report on the growing socioeconomic segregation in the nation's largest school districts. The sad reality is most African American and Hispanic students attend public schools where a majority of their classmates qualify as poor or low-income:
This systemic economic and racial isolation looms as a huge obstacle for efforts to make a quality education available to all American students. Researchers have found that the single-most powerful predictor of racial gaps in educational achievement is the extent to which students attend schools surrounded by other low-income students.

Underscoring the breadth of the challenge, the economic segregation of minority students persists across virtually all types of cities, from fast-growing Sunbelt places like Austin, Denver, Dallas, and Charlotte to struggling Rust Belt communities like Detroit, Cleveland, and Milwaukee, to the nation’s largest metropolitan centers, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston. But cities, educators, and researchers are also exploring new ways to abate the negative impact of concentrated poverty on black and brown students.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

NASW: Social Workers in Government Agencies

In 2011, the NASW Center for Workforce Studies and Social Work Practice released the occupational profile, Social Workers in Government Agencies.

Social workers are key employees in federal, state, and local government agencies. Social workers may work on-site at a government agency; at a non-governmental agency whose client base is generated from their relationship with a government agency; or in a contracting relationship as independent consultants. The range of government settings in which social workers practice include: agencies serving children and families; health care settings; schools; federal, state or local correctional facilities; nursing homes and agencies in aging; and agencies serving military veterans and active duty military personnel. In the federal government, the larger employer of social workers include the Social Security Administration, Veterans Administration, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Justice; and Department of Health and Human Services.

The occupational profile is very comprehensive. However, my biggest complaint with this document is that it overlooks social workers in macro-level roles such as policy analyst, program specialist, or public health educator. A growing number of social workers have non-clinical job titles. For example, becoming a Presidential Management Fellow is one way to launch a macro social worker career in the federal government. Greater awareness of social workers pursuing careers in policy and program evaluation is necessary so that students who are interested in politics or public policy know their options.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Professional Competencies for Social Workers

March is Social Work Month. Social work is a helping profession aimed to help those in need. What do social workers do?
  • Social workers help individuals, families, and groups restore or enhance their capacity for social functioning, and work to create societal conditions that support communities in need.
  • The practice of social work requires knowledge of human development and behavior, of social, economic and cultural institutions, and of the interaction of all these factors.
  • Social workers help people of all backgrounds address their own needs through psychosocial services and advocacy.
  • Social workers help people overcome some of life’s most difficult challenges: poverty, discrimination, abuse, addiction, physical illness, divorce, loss, unemployment, educational problems, disability, and mental illness. They help prevent crises and counsel individuals, families, and communities to cope more effectively with the stresses of everyday life.
All social workers should be familiar with professional competencies in the social work profession. I provide a sample below:

National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Code of Ethics

MSW/ACOSA – EPAS MATRIX for Core Macro Practice Competencies

State of Michigan Social Work Grid - Scope of Practice (Clinical & Macro)

Don't forget to browse books about careers in social work at the Michigan Girl's Social Justice Bookstore.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Social Work Month 2016: Forging Solutions Out of Challenges

March is Social Work Month 2016. The official theme is 'Forging Solutions Out of Challenges'. The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) picked this theme to honor macro social worker Frances Perkins. She used the skills she gained from her experience at Chicago's Hull House to formulate policies that addressed unsafe working conditions and economic crises. She would become the first female secretary of labor and cabinet member in President Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration. She used that position to improve conditions for working Americans. As an advocate of safer workplaces and workers' rights, her contributions helped create the American middle class.

From NASW:

Our nation’s more than 600,000 social workers have amazing tenacity and talent. They confront some of the most challenging issues facing individuals, families, communities and society and forge solutions that help people reach their full potential and make our nation a better place to live. We celebrate the contributions of social workers during National Social Work Month in March.
World Social Work Day 2016 is on March 15th. The theme ‘Promoting the Dignity and Worth of Peoples'.