Saturday, September 25, 2010

education reform drama and some graphics

Great, great article on education reform, myths, mainstream ideas and blaming the wrong person (a teacher). Making teachers scared of being fired anytime based on idiotic standardized tests which say nothing about the child ability or intelligence, is, well, on the same level as the STAs. The occasion to talk about it was Oprah's special, which, according to Colorlines, was more of a government infomercial than objective, critical assessment of the situation.

If they indeed praised Finnish system that way - heck, implement it. Full with complete, free healthcare, childcare and schools that I am pretty sure do not include classrooms with 40kids in them.

I teach, and sometimes I feel I dont' do a good assessment on each and every kid, that I dont' do enough to reach to every kid, to give a chance or attention appropriate to each learning style or personality. I have 5-12 kids in the classroom. I can't even begin to imagine what it's like to have more 20. And to have above 30? That's factory, not education.

I guess this is isn't really relevant... but we need a bit of bitter-sweet fun, right?

Now this one is much better. I just found this absolutely fabulous blog. The author adds own comments to free-domain pictures, like this one:

Friday, September 24, 2010

this and that.

some interesting, moving, or funny things I found today. I obviously am using my days off to break a record in reading online :)

1. A wonderful advice for all women who struggle with male dominance at work:

Jezabel added a few extras to the citi's list:

1. Women tend to have two X chromosomes — you are not heard.

2. Women menstruate in public — emphasizes your femininity and deemphasizes your capability.

3. Women sit vaginally — the power position when seated at a table is to have a penis.

4. Wear panties in meetings — boxer-wearers are seen as more assertive and knowledgeable than those in lacy underthings.

5. Women have wombs — children come out of wombs. Men don't reproduce, they conquer.

6. Ovulate — women ovulate at the smallest provocation which erodes your self-confidence. Men tend to move into sperm producing mode.

7. Women tend to smile inappropriately — an "inappropriate" smile is a smile that is on a woman's face.

8. Observe "Rules" — rules are made to be broken by men. When women break them, it is a violation of workplace culture. When women follow them, it is self-sabotage. To be safe, avoid being a woman whenever possible.

9. Being invisible — 90% of adult humans are unable to visually perceive women. Solution: wear a bear suit.

10. Offer a female handshake — the best way to combat this is to have a man's hand transplanted onto your wrist. Or purchase a giant foam hand at a sports stadium. These are very masculine and you are sure to be taken extremely seriously while wearing one.

2. Here you can see a seriously well done example of "If Facebook existed long time ago".

3. Great, simple and well done explanation of changes in health reform:

4. Another great idea to spread awareness - this time it's social education. From social images - using the style of historic site sign, the authors make strong messages about social injustice.

5. Disproportional poverty levels among minorities. Read full article at "poverty in America".
"nearly 26 percent of blacks and just over 25 percent of Hispanics were poor in 2009. Only about 9.4 percent of white Americans were poor during that same period of time. To be fair, gargantuan gaps between white, black and Hispanic poverty rates (and income levels (pdf)) aren't new. They just got worse — much worse — in 2009.

The reasons are complex and interrelated. They rage from the quality of schools and teachers that serve the nation's low-income kids to, yes, poor personal decisions. But they are also the direct legacy of decades of discriminatory policies and practices affecting everything from the way housing is sold to the way banking is done and other wealth and poverty drivers far too numerous to name. And it's not just a question of what's happened in the past. Poverty disparities are very much a function of what is still happening right now."

This is really a shame. The fact that the richest country in the world has such high levels of poverty is a disgrace. I am coming from a pretty poor country, but everyone could go to a hospital, get medicines with big cuts, single mothers get help, and there is paid maternity leave. I knew people who couldn't afford buying new clothes (ok, almost all of us throughout the years... even now I can't buy new clothes, old habit...), but never hungry.

I just can't get it. How come it is ok to kill and spend obscene amount of money on war, but it is morally wrong to "give away"? Why "tough love" is somehow seen as the ideal? Does it really matter if the single mother is "spoiled" by getting enough money from the government that when combined with her salary (which is what? 67% of what she should be getting if she is a woman of color?) she could have a decent life for herself and her children? Is it really so bad? Why so many people who work hard can't afford health care? How come the income of the top percents of richest Americans multiplied may times, while the minimum wage actually dropped? No one on minimum wage is able to lead modest, but decent life. It's just impossible. The myth that the poor are all lazy, drunkards and have no will power is just such a lie.

How difficult would it be to cut off some from the military spending and build more schools? Hire more teachers so there would be no more than 10-15kids in a class, so each would have individual attention? Why not invest in parks, play fields and after school programs so the kids would have choices and enrichment programs instead of hanging out on the streets where troubles can easy find them? Why not fund hobby-clubs, homework support, support for the very talented and the struggling ones. Education could help millions of kids getting better future. But it just happens that the rich and white middle class who make the majority of people with power, have their kids in good private schools or nice suburban public schools, with tennis classes and private tutors. They talk the most about "everyone has the same chance, everyone can go to university" or whatever other crap. such a bs.

Here is another image that shows the discrepancies in income depending on ethnic background (from family inequality):

another example how women are pressured to feel guilty about eating.

It's a commercial of a yogurt that is supposed to make you feel "fuller for longer". It is full of tortured women eating celery sticks (well, I would look tortured as well, 'cause I hate that stuff), rice cakes, lettuce ... you would think it should be contrasted with real food. Instead it is contrasted with the "solution": fat-free yogurt which looks very thick, which means you are "satisfying" yourself with thickeners and preservatives and artificial colorants. Women are still not allowed to eat normal food.
And I won't even comment on the mechanization, as if women were brainless robots, repeating everything others do, suffering taken as normal and necessary to be slim and "attractive". And are there really only white slim women in Australia? (ok, one Asian).

Gay adoption success!

At least some good news in the field - two men won striking down Florida's law according to which gay couples could foster but not adopt children. Step by step to normalcy.

How could anyone say that these two would not be good parents?

"They were completely traumatized for a while," Gill recalled. "At first the only way I could get [the 4-year-old] to interact was when he played with the dog."The child was so accustomed to taking care of the baby that he would grab the bottle out of Gill's hand and feed his brother. When the bottle was two-thirds empty, the 4-year-old would refill it, knowing exactly how much milk to pour."He would insist on holding his brother and burping him," said Gill.
When the baby dirtied his diaper, the 4-year-old came to Gill with a Pamper in his hand. "He knew his job. This is what he did. He had to be the parent to this baby," Gill said. "But, I explained to him, 'You get to play, you get to be the child. You don't have to take care of your brother.'"
That greatly upset the 4-year-old and it took a long for him to learn how to be a kid, Gill said. As a compromise, the boy -- now 8 -- has a full-time caretaker job, to give the dog its food and water.

And I especially can't get the "foster yes, adoption no" idea. If gays are good enough to take care of the unwanted, help them for a few years and then give them away to a different (hetero) family, it means they are thought of as not such a bad influence or evil household if they are given kids for a period of few years, right? But somehow stability, creating full family in the eyes of the law, giving the kids the opportunity to feel they are not in a temporary place to be traumatized again by moving to strangers, no, that's not good?

I hope they won't appeal, it's good the governor is happy with the ruling.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The need of solid backbone in politics

Among the common news of politicians playing to whatever they think is the mood of voters at the moment, the information that Mary McAleese, Irish President, refused to participate in NY St.Patric parade is very refreshing. What was the cause of her refusal? Gay rights. She opposes the fact that very often gay groups are forbidden from participating in St.Patric's Parade. She decided that she would not participate in something that is against her values and what she represents as Irish President. I wish more politicians had the guts to stand up for what they truly believe in, no matter what the constituent says.

Of course we could always say that she is playing to Irish voters' fiddles... but if that's the case, I am ok with that :) And still, she would got a nice boost by participating in the NY parade, so she's paying a price.

More in

All that is especially uplifting after reading the story about a baker who refused to prepare rainbow cup cakes for National Coming Out Day, b/c he was afraid that the rainbow is contagious and would influence his daughters assumed heterosexuality. If he is so afraid of his daughters well being maybe he should stop feeding them cup cakes, that's first.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Fifty years later, not much has changed.

By now we all know that the "acid attack" victim was lying, that there was no jealous, vicious black woman pouring acid over lily white, pretty face. I am glad I don't watch tv, so I only got bits from the internet, I can only imagine how it was blown out of proportion on tv. In comments to news articles people were calling for death penalty for that "aggressor", exchanging openly racist attacks, calling for white solidarity.

But that's not sick enough. This article in TheRoot gives much more details about previous racial based hoaxes, where it was the African American males who were created as easy targets of imaginary crimes. And the public was drinking it all in. It was so "correct" that a black man would kidnap, attack, rape, harass a white person that only few (whose voices are silenced) try to question the story.
Interesting is what happens after. Who is the victim? Who is the offender? Just because there was no real African American who was falsely accused of committing a crime, doesn't mean there was no victim. Each and every episode of that kind, blind support and lack of criticism perpetuates people's racial prejudice, hateful beliefs and social injustice.

As Nikole Hannah- Jones says in her article :

Already, Storro is being painted as the victim, and the harm done to the black community is being pushed aside, says Russell-Brown. In a press conference that revealed the hoax, the police commander called Storro "fragile." And an editor from The Columbian posted a comment chastising people angry at the hoax by saying the community needed to keep Storro in their prayers. "Now we’ve moved away from 'She falsely accused a black attacker' to 'We have to help her,' " Russell-Brown says. "We have 'good victims,' and this denies the harm of the hoax to African Americans."

Why they can't call it for what it is? She might be mentally unstable, but that doesn't take away the damage she's done. No one would say anything of that kind of the person was African American. No one would say we need to help her, take care of her. She would be ready to be lynched. What that woman did was a hate crime, even if there was no concrete object of her actions, her behavior hurt thousands. It was a hate crime against the society and the slow movement toward justice.

So, it maybe fifty years since the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird, but it's not too much of a past and history just yet.

ok... I guess I should stop pretending they don't exist... :-/

art by: Hyperbole and a Half

patriarchy and other links

Good article on straight privilege and homophobia at work. I am truly lucky, that my work space is very supportive and I can be out. I even came out to my students and it was taken fine, with just an advice from my boss to guard my privacy - but not not to speak about my queerness.
When I need time for my family, no chance; yet no-one ever questions my straight colleague's anniversaries, in-laws weddings/milestones (after all, Sparky will cover for them). And when I complain about this, I get a snarky comment about not needing that much time for my "sex life." Because sex is the ONLY reason I could possibly want to spend time with Beloved, right?
And part of it stems from that eternal fallacy that to be a homophobe/racist/misogynist/insert-ist here you have to be as extreme as possible. That anything short of being raging hateful bigots with torches and pitchforks is not REAL -ism, -ist etc.

New York Times writes about racial disparity in school suspensions. Unfortunatelly, no surprises here:

In many of the nation’s middle schools, black boys were nearly three times as likely to be suspended as white boys, according to a new study, which also found that black girls were suspended at four times the rate of white girls.

School authorities also suspended Hispanic and American Indian middle school students at higher rates than white students, though not at such disproportionate rates as for black children, the study found. Asian students were less likely to be suspended than whites.

Another great one is a checkup list on male privilege, based on the famous article and list made by Peggy McIntosh on white privilege.

Pointing out that men are privileged in no way denies that bad things happen to men. Being privileged does not mean men are given everything in life for free; being privileged does not mean that men do not work hard, do not suffer. In many cases – from a boy being bullied in school, to a soldier dying in war – the sexist society that maintains male privilege also does great harm to boys and men.

In the end, however, it is men and not women who make the most money; men and not women who dominate the government and the corporate boards; men and not women who dominate virtually all of the most powerful positions of society. And it is women and not men who suffer the most from intimate violence and rape; who are the most likely to be poor; who are, on the whole, given the short end of patriarchy’s stick.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

me now, reflecting on the day off work tomorrow

[illustration provided by art by the one and only Hyperbole and a Half. ]

the sad life of a pedestrian. (a wank)

Generally I am pretty much cool about walking around, taking buses, waiting for the buses, dodging garbage bins, overgrown bushes... but the thing that really pisses me off is the extremely common lack of consideration from the drivers. Most of them very rarely check if anyone's coming when joining the traffic. They force on you their turning even though both of you have green light to go. I have to constantly check if there is anyone who assumes I should stop and wait even though I do have green and cross straight ahead and he/she is turning left/right so should give me the right of way. But hey, better wait and be pissed than die feeling right. I hate when they can't wait two seconds for me to cross, but will slowly get closer and closer and drive fast by the moment they have enough room. Like really? Is that really necessary? can't you wait in place instead of causing my anxiety to sky rocket? I am already anxious enough crossing any bigger crossing, because I know that I am slightly disadvantaged when in clash with metal can on wheels.
And not only that, but for this jerk letting me go is missing a few seconds. For me it might be much more, especially if I am trying to cross for the upcoming bus, and when the next one comes in 40min.
Today when running errands I've met with this kind of behavior multiple times.

Sometimes though, there are people who will go back slightly when they notice they went too far while trying to join the traffic, blocking my sidewalk. Others will just wait, while I have to go around them, forcing me to walk on the street, b/c s/he is too lazy, and obviously too important to move his/her ass back a bit. Sometimes I have to wait to catch the driver's attention b/c s/he is looking only left and I approach from the right, and I am scared that s/he will decide to push hard on forward just when I circle in front of the car.

And dont' even get me started on red light runners...

Monday, September 20, 2010

got back from an app't with my immigration lawyer.

i despise borders. i never could grasp the idea of borders, countries, states... since I was a kid. I still have troubles with the fact that some clerk can decide I have no right to live in a place that suits me best, where I like it.
Even just a few hundred years ago people were free to migrate. They preferred to stay among their own, who speak same language and live similar lives. But sometimes, for myrriads of reasons they felt the need to move... and they could. Today? No way.

I'm lucky anyway, just a generation ago I wouldn't be allowed to leave my country to go to Israel or the US, my first passport was only for the countries in the soviet block. my Mom couldn't even dream to leave the region.

We were born to move. that's what we've been doing for the past few millions years... humans are always on the move.

It's a bit like wearing shoes. They are useful, protect from some uncomfortable surroundings, can be nice and colorful and let us be different from others, express ourselves. But truly, deeply inside I now that the happiest I am when I walk barefoot. That's what my body needs, that's what is natural, normal and good.

borders are so artificial. one man boasting he can separate himself from another, to limit the other... but at the same time limiting himself. We can't just build fences to force each other into small holes. and make friendships of privilege with pigeons from other richer holes.

the most strange thing recently I observe here is the hellish wars over Latino immigration (b/c of course it's not really about "illegal" immigration, it's about "non-white, poor, worse-kind-of-humans" immigration). and I am just wondering... can't people see these people are just coming back to their own land stolen from them during unprovoked US-Mexico war? They are mostly indigenous people, either from the lands of south-west US or the regions close and around. It's their land, their ancestors. and they used to be able to travel and migrate to their heart desire, depending on weather, seasons, animal migration, populations, diseases, geography... NOT stupid artificial lines drawn on map by some guys with too much testosterone.

I will be applying for my green card soon. I can't even imagine that some anonymous clerk might, with one signature, destroy all my plans, dreams, relationships, hopes, wishes...

Sunday, September 19, 2010


there is a great entry on shakesville about absolutely disgusting ad for weight loose toxin. It's again portraying at people as sad, miserable and unable to enjoy life in anyway. because obviously only thin, white women can have it.

the author commented much better, so I will quote here part of her entry:

Some fat people do live terrible, unfulfilling, limited lives, and in some cases it may be because they're fat—or because they've got shame, anxiety, and/or rigidly self-imposed boundaries in response to endemic cultural fat hatred. I do not want to disappear those experiences. But those experiences are not, as the above advert (and the similar Realize advert) would have us believe, universal among fat people.

I have known real love and real fear (don't even get me started on romanticizing fear as an experience all humans should have); I have gone skinny-dipping in Lake Michigan (and I've no interest in walking naked in the winter snow, but my fat wouldn't stop me if I did); I have fucked a stranger; blah blah blah. I can also tie my own shoes.

I've also traveled to other continents, lived in another country, ridden roller coasters, gone horseback riding, hiked through the Highlands, been rollerskating and bowling and golfing and rockclimbing and biking, gotten married, gotten divorced, gotten married again, had personal and professional achievements, had personal and professional failures, made friends, lost touch with friends, learned how to cook and tapdance and play piano and milk a cow, played endless video games, wrote a book, rode an elephant, went to prom, went to university, went to Niagra Falls, went to a taping of the Drew Carey Show (don't ask), went to Disneyland, went to Disney World, went to Sesame Place, went up in the Statue of Liberty, went up in the Arch, threw up in a brewery in St. Louis, pet a giraffe, bought a house, sold a house, bought another house, struggled financially, splurged stupidly, acquired a disability unrelated to my fat, and a second, visited 44 of the 50 states, watched a calf being born, saw The Matrix: Reloaded in IMAX from the first goddamn row, attended hundreds of rock concerts, got drunk, got high, got sick, got knocked down, got back up again, and flown a kite. That's not a definitive list. Still. All these things I have done, often in the company of other fat people—and I am a fat person.