omg - im not a geek!

according to a recent quiz in this week's newsweek, i am not geeky enough. i've apparently been feeding myself a lie for many years. either that, or i need to get some gadgets, stat!

see for yourself:

How Geeky Are You?


ny times and young black men

last week there was an article in the ny times titled, "plight deepens for black men, studies warn," that presumably prompted sunday's op-ed "a poverty of the mind" submitted by orlando patterson of harvard university. he calls on social scientists to consider "culture" in making sense of the extreme realities of poverty, which he discusses this way:
"Why are young black men doing so poorly in school that they lack basic literacy and math skills? These scholars must know that countless studies by educational experts, going all the way back to the landmark report by James Coleman of Johns Hopkins University in 1966, have found that poor schools, per se, do not explain why after 10 years of education a young man remains illiterate.

Nor have studies explained why, if someone cannot get a job, he turns to crime and drug abuse. One does not imply the other. Joblessness is rampant in Latin America and India, but the mass of the populations does not turn to crime.

And why do so many young unemployed black men have children — several of them — which they have no resources or intention to support? And why, finally, do they murder each other at nine times the rate of white youths?"

in response patterson asks, "Why have academics been so allergic to cultural explanations?"

among the ways that patterson uses culture include:
"Modern students of culture have long shown that while it partly determines behavior, it also enables people to change behavior. People use their culture as a frame for understanding their world, and as a resource to do much of what they want."

"SO why were they [black boys] flunking out [of high school]? Their candid answer was that what sociologists call the "cool-pose culture" of young black men was simply too gratifying to give up. For these young men, it was almost like a drug, hanging out on the street after school, shopping and dressing sharply, sexual conquests, party drugs, hip-hop music and culture, the fact that almost all the superstar athletes and a great many of the nation's best entertainers were black."

"For young black men, however, that culture is all there is — or so they think. Sadly, their complete engagement in this part of the American cultural mainstream, which they created and which feeds their pride and self-respect, is a major factor in their disconnection from the socioeconomic mainstream."
questions come to mind:

- how is culture being defined? what are the boundaries of culture? cultural participation? identification?
- what are the implications of "cross cultural research" - for what questions are asked; how data is interpretated; access to participants, data, meaning, communities?
- how do we ask cultural questions without indicting cultural practices? (though this might just be fueling the fire...)
- how do researchers position themselves in relation to the questions they are asking? culture/cultural practices they are studying?
- in what ways is culture useful and not useful as a frame for understanding "what's going on?"

i also wonder: in what ways might it help to complicate the causalities the author presents?
for example, he offers a few "if A, then B" statements (particularly in the discussion of employment) such as:
"...in New York such jobs offered an opportunity to the chronically unemployed to join the market and to acquire basic work skills that they later transferred to better jobs, but that the takers were predominantly immigrants."
if A="NY jobs offered an opportunity to the chronically unemployed to join the market..."
B="but that the takers were predominantly immigrants." (and by inference, not young black men)
what other relationships could be made to explain the relationship between these two statements? these are statements full of meaning and history and to investigate this space between them likely requires a new set of questions beyond "why" and with a (perhaps) more multidimensional understanding of culture, itself. patterson seems to be getting at this suggestion, himself, when he notes, "The same cultural patterns can frame different kinds of behavior, and by failing to explore culture at any depth, analysts miss a great opportunity to re-frame attitudes in a way that encourages desirable behavior and outcomes."

still, patterson's insistence on culture being positioned in an explanatory stance worries me; and at the same time, (economic) poverty remains a reality - what patterson both links to and disengages from when arguing for a cultural focus on "the problem." he writes:
"In academia, we need a new, multidisciplinary approach toward understanding what makes young black men behave so self-destructively."
from a methodological perspective, the relationship between social scientist and the focus/phenomenon of study cannot continue to maintain rigid barriers of knower and studied; there is a danger of overgeneralizing all that is "good" and "bad" in service of (a homogeneous) society; a danger of making uninformed claims about self-destruction and self-construction. if we only use a victim/perpetrator frame to approach social life in the inner city, then we blind ourselves to other realities and run the risk of misusing culture as a frame.


choices? what choices?

two stories led cnn's education section yesterday:

1. Florida high school students may pick majors
in brief - the Fla legislature is trying to pass a bill to allow high schoolers to choose a major and take courses accordingly.

2. 2,000 Katrina refugees fail Texas exam
in brief - Texas school officials assert that it is because of unpreparedness and improper grade placement that led to 2K kids who were forced to relocate b/c of hurricane katrina's devastating effect on the southeastern US. note: these are the do-or-die tests; the ones that determine whether the kids go on to the next grade.
from the article:
Between the two grades, about 2,000 refugees failed. Students who failed will have two more opportunities to pass the test this spring, but some worry the learning gap is too wide to close.
ok, first, why are we calling people refugees? isn't this a misuse of the word?
second, perhaps the author of this article and the TX school officials who this AP writer spoke with need to spend some time rethinking the phrase "learning gap" and delve deeply into Echoes of Brown, whose participants intentionally name education inequity as "The Opportunity Gap."


5th annual hip-hop odyssey international film festival

Now accepting submissions

Festival dates:
November 24, 2006 – December 2, 2006

[from hip-hop odyssey site]
As the largest Hip-Hop film festival in the world, the H2O [Hip-Hop Odyssey] International Film Festival provides a platform for filmmakers to showcase and define the variety of images that depict Hip-Hop culture and its communities.

This year’s theme “WHOSE WORLD IS THIS?” highlights the Hip-Hop community of the early/mid 90’s; a time when youth in the community began demanding money, power, and respect.

[from thuglifearmy.com]
The Hip-Hop Association, producers of the largest International Hip-Hop film festival in the world, will begin accepting submissions for its Fifth Annual Hip-Hop Odyssey (H2O) International Film Festival (H2O IFF) taking place from November 28, 2006 – December 8, 2006 in New York. Submissions will be accepted starting April 1, 2006.

5,000 festival-goers, screening over 75 films supported the 2005 festival in just 6 days. “In our fifth year we’re celebrating the Golden Years, where the 90’s Hip-Hop art, rebellion, business, unity and conscious soul movements soared to the next level. It was a great time of diversity; different hoods, musical sounds and struggles were all being represented. At the same time people were uniting and demanding more, all for the love of Hip-Hop. We’re celebrating that spirit… expect an amazing year,” says Rolando Brown, Executive Director of the Hip-Hop Association.

Taking place from November 28, 2006 – December 8, 2006 in New York, USA, this year’s theme “Whose World Is This?” highlights the Hip-Hop community of the early/mid 90’s; a time when youth in the community began stepping up and demanding money, power, and respect. In 2006, accepted films will be competing for a variety of awards, including cash awards, opportunities for distribution deals—DVD, broadcast, and web streaming—as well as inclusion in hundreds of community screenings and events.

H2O IFF showcases films that include one of the elements of Hip-Hop culture in the films theme, story or subject matter, i.e. Breaking (B-Boy/Girl), DJ'ing, MC'ing, Graffiti/Aerosol Artistry, Beatbox'ing, Knowledge, Culture, and Overstanding. Films categorized as "Under the influence" need only depict content that is relevant to the overall culture and may contain, but are not limited to, a focus on fashion, music, language, location, theme and/or characters influenced by Hip-Hop culture. All genres welcome: Documentary, Narrative, Experimental, Animation, PSA (Public Service Announcements), Freestyle/Experimental, Music Video, Trailer, and Youth Media.

“We use media as a tool for empowerment, education and social awareness within the Hip-Hop community, so open up your boxes, and let’s get to work!,” says Stacey L’Air Lee, Director of the H2O [Hip-Hop Odyssey] media initiative.

Until then, filmmakers can take advantage of two weeks of discounted early submissions from March 15, 2006 to March 31, 2006. Regular submission deadline is June 31, 2006. For more information, and a downloadable submission application visit http://www.h2oiff.org.

About the Hip-Hop Odyssey (H2O) Media Initiative

Social Awareness Through Media! The H2O [Hip-Hop Odyssey] is the media initiative of the Hip-Hop Association. With programming like the H2O [Hip-Hop Odyssey] International Film Festival, the Freshest Youth Program, the Odyssey Awards, and the Defuse Media Lab, its mission is to create cultural sustainability & industry longevity by supporting the use of Hip-Hop culture as a tool for social awareness & youth empowerment. The initiative also includes the acquisition of media properties that the H2O directors, staff, and advisory board believe will support this mission. Defuse News is one such media property. For more information please visit

what the... oh, it's the government at work...

according to reuters:
FCC hits TV stations for indecent shows

the same story's headline on the fcc site:
FCC Releases Orders Resolving Numerous Broadcast Television Indecency Complaints.

so the fcc's way of "clearing house" is to take pending "cases" and basically dole out fines like they were [insert good metaphor here - cuz we know i suck at metaphors...]

ok, first - who in the hell makes up the hundreds of thousands of people who write in the damn complaints when they are offended by an episode of "the surreal life" (obvious reason, notwithstanding) and where are the voices of opposition to the use of the "people's airwaves" during the precious hours of 6-10pm - when the "children" are watching - by our "elected" officials who spew, hurl, and vomit human atrocities at us? not sure if that sentence structure worked, but the point is about what gets tagged obscene and indecent and what gets a pass? and who decides? oh yeah, this guy.

from ABC Victoria (australia)

the article titled, "Hear my voice - Calls for change from the mouth of babes" shares news of young people from around the world attending and documenting the events associated with Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games.

from the article:
Nine youth reporters from Ghana, Pakistan and India are our eyes and ears at the games providing a fresh insight into how this extravagance is viewed by those that have so little.

They're aged 14-21 and will spend the next two weeks, camera in hand, experiencing the adventure of a lifetime as part of the media team for the 2006 Commonwealth games.


In their home countries Fatimata and Madassar play a very important role, raising awareness in their local communities to the dangers of AIDS, child abuse and the importance of free speech.

The media projects aim to challenge the mentalities and behaviour of the communities they live in and provide the future leaders of the nation a chance to be heard.

For now the children hunger for change, but they tell their stories in the hope one day they will only be seen as a record of the ways of the past.

Read the complete article here.


tv for the tv-less


recently viewed:
- oc clips (natch)
- myspace - the movie
- facebook - the movie

and then there's the ever expanding world of video google... what questions do we need to be asking about spaces for identity construction and literacy performances (blackburn, 2003) now??


writer's goo

writer's block is horribly misnamed. it isn't always the case that there is something standing in the way of you and the writing. it sometimes happens that the relationship between thought and writing is too little that incoherence is the only result.

michael (a participant from the rikers oral history project) said it best when he talked about writing as not so much difficult to do as it was hard to pin down. i find that's the case these days when i've completed one looming writing assignment, two revisions; i have two concrete pieces still ahead; and many more starts of ideas that will hopefully become full pieces someday. but at the moment, i am caught in a cycle of writing a bit of everything and long periods of everything BUT writing.

one of those things has to do with completing the novel "love walked in" by marisa de los santos. the way she uses words to describe emotions and characters' thoughts makes me excited about the possibilities of writing to do interesting work in the world. i loved both her use of language and the story she told. and yet, i find myself continuing to be mired in goo.

but i digress... de los santos writes her adolescent girl character - clare - with depth, integrity and complexity that feels rare in adult-based discussions of youth. yes, this is a novel, but it has implications for the dimensions we choose to pay attention to and document about the young people with whom we talk, laugh, learn, work, etc... in one moment, she describes how clare sees a quilt resting on the back of an armchair and takes a second to run her hand over the quilt before sitting in the chair - she does so, de los santos tells us, because she wouldn't want something so beautiful to feel it's beauty and place had been overlooked simply because someone was looking for a place to sit.

of course, the author's words are more precise and eloquent, but this one paragraph reminded me that actions, even small ones, have consequence, weight, importance. this point can get lost in the flurry of taking attendance, class discussions, checking homework, and the like...


pieces of wars and peace

What does it mean to be a in a time of war? Can we remember what peace felt like? There are local and global perspectives on both, and neither war nor peace is a singular concept. Several calls for papers I’ve come across recently invite articles, essays, and commentaries on the subject of life after/following/in light of war, conflicts, disasters, etc. Presumably the impetus for these calls are grounded in the tangible events such as the bombing of the Twin Towers, the war in Iraq, and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Yet, I am drawn to wonder whether because of these recent events, stacked together in hurried succession, we have a heightened sense of war-ness and peace-ness; does the global “We” have less of an excuse to be complacent to the needs of the local “We?”

We are more aware on a surface level of the struggles and triumphs of our neighbors across hemispheric lines, but how much more aware are we of the needs and resources of our neighbors across the street? I know that Slobodan Milosovic died in his prison cell, but what do I know about the lives of the kids who play in the park across the street from my building? Gloria Ladson-Billings spoke on Friday at TC about Education in the Public Interest – she and William Tate have an edited volume of a similar title that will be available from TC Press next month. As she raised questions about which public garners the interest of education, research, and the policymakers alike, she invited us all to question with her. i ask: Whose interest are we serving when we ask about teaching, living, coping, learning in a time post-war, post-conflict, post-disaster? For whom are these “posts” optimistic hopes? And in what ways might people be living in both a time of war and peace? A moment of hope and frustration?

Both. And.

Both War And Peace. At the same time. I know that’s how Biggz talked about the moment of sharing his words with an extended audience – at the same time expressing reflections on moments, some of which felt like war, others when he was at peace. This moment, of the sharing, being both one of peace and possibility; and war and conflict as he continues to sit within the concrete walls.

The Child Soldiers project offers some nuanced thoughts and images on the complicated topics of war and peace, but also about all that might exist between.

A couple of the calls I mentioned earlier:
From Perspectives on Urban Education
From English Journal



this past friday - 3.3.06 - we returned to rikers island for a reading in celebration of the second volume of oral histories being published. of the nine young men whose stories are featured in the book, three were at the reading and read selections from their chapters along with one of us - 5 educators, teachers, and graduate students from tc. the reading took place at the chapel inside the jail, down the hall from the high school site where the stories were crafted. the event was documented by a reporter from wnyc, a local npr station, and we were told that the story would be aired some time this weekend, although i haven't heard it yet. i'll post a link when i find it.

what was most salient for me about the event was the interactions between the teachers at the high school and the three young men who stood up at the makeshift podium and performed their stories. there were moments of hesitation that were quickly met with shouts of encouragement from the audience - "take your time, brother!" as biggz read his piece, his teacher looked on, not quite with an ordinary brand of pride but with an expression that indicated that his heart was full at that particular moment. this expression remained as jermaine c. and phat boi read their selections and shared the stage with me and kerry, respectively. (all names are the pseudonyms selected by the authors and how they are credited in the book)

following the reading was a reception in one of the classrooms, and as plates of food were prepared and passed around by the school staff, two of the authors sat at one of the round tables signing books at the request of their teachers and others, their heads held high, and smiles on their faces. this was a good moment. a explicit recognition of the hybrid identities and discourses we all inhabit. a glimpse at the possibility for second chances and new beginnings.

from the back cover:
“It’s amazing what we can learn about the experiences and challenges
confronting incarcerated youth by listening to their voices. Those who seek to
help young people avoid a life of frustrated dreams and unfulfilled potential
will find wisdom in these words.”
—Pedro Noguera
New York University, Steinhardt School of Education


blogging drawback

so today i learned at least one potential drawback of blogging:
sounding like a repetitive schlub to people who read my blogthoughts.

the upshot: people are reading this stuff
the scary thing: people are reading this stuff

also, i came across this site in my random blog searching i've taken to doing these days (love google blog search...):
edu.blog.com - i think this link is to a section on digital video animation and the descriptor for the blog reads: "Ewan McIntosh shows how blogs and podcasts aren't just a gimmick: they can be used to provide powerful learning in Scottish schools."

blog on!