Culturally Responsiveness through the Eyes of an Indian American Educator

Sheena Jacobs
Coordinator for Social Studies, Glen Cove School District

“I, too, sing America. I am the darker brother. They send me to eat in the kitchen when company comes, but I laugh, and eat well, and grow strong. Tomorrow, I’ll be at the table when company comes. Nobody will dare say to me, “Eat in the kitchen,” then. Besides, they’ll see how beautiful I am and be ashamed—I, too, am America” (Hughes, 2012).

James Mercer Langston Hughes was a famous American writer who was known best for being a leader of the Harlem Renaissance in New York City. Through his writings, he spoke about the inequalities that Blacks faced in our nation. He wrote and talked about the trials and tribulations that society has put on Blacks, and he questioned all aspects that are a nation is derived from, which are political, social, and economic. Reflecting on Langston Hughes poem, “I, Too,” and in the current political and social climate that we are living in, we are reminded that now more than ever, schools must embrace diversity and become culturally responsive. We are currently living in a society where the haves are at an advantage point, and the have-nots are at a disadvantage. For social mobility, we must provide equal and quality education for all children.

Unfortunately in the 21st century, we still face segregation and inequalities within schools from various regions, such as rural, urban and suburban areas. According to Leonard Valverde article titled, “Equal Educational Opportunity Since Brown: four major development” (2004) research has indicated the following implications are all steps to assist the segregation, promotion of equality and quality of education for all children.

  • Implication #1: Compensatory Education for Equal Treatment Programs stimulated and encouraged by federal funding
  • Implication #2: School Financing: Equity and Adequacy—Includes facilities, equipment, and personnel; inclusion and access using affirmative action
  • Implication #3: Multicultural Curriculum: An Accurate Account—A balance and true representation of contributions made by populations in America’s development

These strategies are targeted to address four basic concepts necessary to eliminate school segregation: promote equality in treatment, equity in resources, equal opportunity, and cultural democracy (Valverde, 2004). When researching responses to diversify and provide equal and quality education, author Ezella McPherson states the following points in “Moving from Separate, to Equal, to Equitable Schooling: Revisiting School Desegregation Policies,” (2011)

“…to diversify schools, housing policies need to be implemented to end racial discriminatory housing practices while integrating neighborhoods so that children and parents can interact with people from different racial backgrounds. By doing so, parents may be able to build racial tolerance and acceptance of their neighbors, which will place them in a better position to feel more comfortable to send their children to racially integrated schools. Besides neighborhoods, schools may need to be reformed to provide equitable learning environments for students regardless of their racial and/or socioeconomic class background. By equitable learning environment, I am suggesting that schools provide students with the opportunity to learn through providing an equitable education to students through quality teaching, school resources (e.g., books, materials), in-school tutoring for students with special needs or who have challenges in a particular subject. More importantly, in building racial tolerance and acceptance for people from different racial backgrounds, community members (e.g., school teachers, parents, local community members) should consider working together to provide a quality education for students” (2011, p.479).

Reflecting on my personal story, my parents migrated to the United States of America in the 1970s, looking for a better opportunity in three aspects of life, political, social and economic. They left their family and possessions behind and started in this country with a clear motivation, “to provide a better opportunity and lifestyle for their children and extended family.” I grew up in a household with strong cultural ties to the Indian culture and the Christian faith. My siblings and I were consistently reminded of the struggles that my parents and their ancestors endured and faced as they lived in India. They told us their hardships if it dealt with socioeconomic status, race, equality, or gender relationship, that they dealt with as they started and continued to live in America. The challenge of living in a traditional household that focuses on culture and religion is when you are living in a different culture besides the one that you are growing up in. Living in a household and trying to find an even balance between the American culture and Indian culture was challenging because there were ideology differences in culture, achievement, motivation, and gender. As I entered the elementary school, I thought that all children are equal and viewed the same; however, I soon came to realize how different I was even though I was born in the United States of America. I saw that I was not a part of the same culture, in fact, I was a minority looking into a culture that I had no idea about.

At an early age, I found myself making decisions and understanding perspectives that differed from mine; I look at the content in multiple ways because I was exposed to understanding how the world can be complicated, unjust, and unfair. My parents instilled in us that one should not allow being conquered by the injustices or unfairness that we might receive, one should look at these trials and tribulations and overcome them by continuing to follow their aspirations, advancing to become educated and eventually empowering oneself and making the change he or she wishes to see.

Looking at my parents starting point as they entered this country in the 1970s and comparing to where we are as a family now is remarkable, considering the strides that they made with the limited resources and support at their disposal. My parents eventually moved out to the suburbs on Long Island. They were adamant about providing us a quality education, and as a result, they uprooted their family to a new location where they were the only minority family. I can remember racial tension stories, an unfair treatment that my parents endured as they lived in the United States. I remember entering school and seeing racial injustices amongst my siblings and I. However, the one thing I remembered is that my parents consistently demonstrated that the culture that they have raised us was a culture that entailed language, knowledge, history, morals, and values that we should be proud of. We were taught not to back down and continue to strive. My parents equipped us with ideas that when we face injustices, we must be prepared with words, education, knowledge, and understanding and only then can we achieve equality.

In a traditional Indian household males and females are distinctly different. Being the youngest and a female, my gender defined my family responsibilities, social behavior, and thought process. For instance, I was expected to learn how to cook and clean, prepare meals and serve, be submissive and inferior to the males. However, living in a western culture and growing up in a traditional Indian household, my environment did not allow me to accept and practice any of these expectations. In fact, with the combination of the American and Indian culture intertwined, the two cultures combined empowered me to become a stronger individual that was aspiring to be a change agent for future minority youths, adults and especially minority females.

As an educator, administrator, and a doctoral student, I can emphatically say and agree with Ezella McPherson; it is time for schools to support children that come from diverse background, it is imperative that we as leaders provide professional development to our teachers who are in the frontline to help children who may differ from the majority, it is time for local and state officials to make culturally responsiveness a priority and not a checklist of things to get done within the educational system. The racial segregation and intolerance I felt in my life was strikingly turning points in my life, however the people that I came across, my family who was my foundation, and my loved ones who continue to support me were all factors why I keep staying on a path where I can be a change agent for schools to become culturally responsive.

References:

Hughes, L., Collier, B., Linn, L., & Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers (Firm),. (2012). I, Too. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

Kozol, Jonathan (1991). Savage Inequalities: children in America’s schools. New York: Broadway Paperbacks.

McPherson, Ezella (2011). Moving from Separate, to Equal, to Equitable Schooling: Revisiting School Desegregation Policies. Education and Urban Society, 46(3), 465-483.

Valverde, Leonard (2004). Equal Educational Opportunity Since Brown: four major developments. Education and Urban Society, 36(3), 368-378.

Charlottesville Belies Racism’s Deep Roots in the North

Brian J. Purnell, Bowdoin College
Jeanne Theoharis, Brooklyn College

Originally published in The Conversation, August 16, 2018. Reprinted with permission.

https://theconversation.com/charlottesville-belies-racisms-deep-roots-in-the-north-101567

A southern city has now become synonymous with the ongoing scourge of racism in the United States. A year ago, white supremacists rallied to “Unite the Right” in Charlottesville, protesting the removal of a Confederate statute. In the days that followed, two of them, Christopher C. Cantwell and James A. Fields Jr., became quite prominent. The HBO show “Vice News Tonight” profiled Cantwell in an episode and showed him spouting racist and anti-Semitic slurs and violent fantasies. Fields gained notoriety after he plowed a car into a group of unarmed counterprotesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer.

Today this tragedy defines the nature of modern racism primarily as Southern, embodied in tiki torches, Confederate flags and violent outbursts. As historians of race in America, we believe that such a one-sided view misses how entrenched, widespread and multi-various racism is and has been across the country.

Jim Crow born in the North

Racism has deep historic roots in the North, making the chaos and violence of Charlottesville part of a national historic phenomenon. Cantwell was born and raised in Stony Brook, Long Island, and was living in New Hampshire at the time of the march. Fields was born in Boone County, Kentucky, a stone’s throw from Cincinnati, Ohio, and was living in Ohio when he plowed through a crowd.

Jim Crow, the system of laws that advanced segregation and black disenfranchisement, began in the North, not the South, as most Americans believe. Long before the Civil War, northern states like New York, Massachusetts, Ohio, New Jersey and Pennsylvania had legal codes that promoted black people’s racial segregation and political disenfranchisement.

If racism is only pictured in spitting and screaming, in torches and vigilante justice and an allegiance to the Confederacy, many Americans can rest easy, believing they share little responsibility in its perpetuation. But the truth is, Americans all over the country do bear responsibility for racial segregation and inequality. Studying the long history of the Jim Crow North makes clear to us that there was nothing regional about white supremacy and its upholders. There is a larger landscape of segregation and struggle in the “liberal” North that brings into sharp relief the national character of American apartheid.

Northern racism shaped region

Throughout the 19th century, black and white abolitionists and free black activists challenged the North’s Jim Crow practices and waged war against slavery in the South and the North. At the same time, Northerners wove Jim Crow racism into the fabric of their social, political and economic lives in ways that shaped the history of the region and the entire nation.

There was broad-based support, North and South, for white supremacy. Abraham Lincoln, who campaigned to stop slavery from spreading outside of the South, barely carried New York State in the elections of 1860 and 1864, for example, but he lost both by a landslide in New York City. Lincoln’s victory in 1864 came with only 50.5 percent of the state’s popular vote. What’s more, in 1860, New York State voters overwhelmingly supported – 63.6 percent – a referendum to keep universal suffrage rights only for white men.

New York banks loaned Southerners tens of millions of dollars, and New York shipowners provided southern cotton producers with the means to get their products to market. In other words, New York City was sustained by a slave economy. And working-class New Yorkers believed that the abolition of slavery would flood the city with cheap black labor, putting newly arrived immigrants out of work.

‘Promised land that wasn’t’

Malignant racism appeared throughout Northern political, economic, and social life during the 18th and 19th centuries. But the cancerous history of the Jim Crow North metastasized during the mid-20th century. Six million black people moved north and west between 1910 and 1970, seeking jobs, desiring education for their children and fleeing racial terrorism.

The rejuvenation of the Ku Klux Klan in the early 20th century, promoting pseudo-scientific racism known as “eugenics,” immigration restriction and racial segregation, found supple support in pockets of the North, from California to Michigan to Queens, New York – not only in the states of the old Confederacy.

The KKK was a visible and overt example of widespread Northern racism that remained covert and insidious. Over the course of the 20th century, Northern laws, policies and policing strategies cemented Jim Crow. In Northern housing, the New Deal-era government Home Owners Loan Corporation maintained and created racially segregated neighborhoods. The research of scholars Robert K. Nelson, LaDale Winling, Richard Marciano and Nathan Connolly, through their valuable website, Mapping Inequality (http://dsl.richmond.edu/mappinginequality.html), makes this history visible and undeniable. Zoning policies in the North preserved racial segregation in schools. Discrimination in jobs contributed to economic underdevelopment of businesses and neighborhoods, as well as destabilization of families. Crime statistics became a modern weapon for justifying the criminalization of Northern urban black populations and aggressive forms of policing.

A close examination of the history of the Jim Crow North – what Rosa Parks referred to as the “Northern promised land that wasn’t”—demonstrates how racial discrimination and segregation operated as a system. Judges, police officers, school board officials and many others created and maintained the scaffolding for a Northern Jim Crow system that hid in plain sight.

New Deal policies, combined with white Americans’ growing apprehension toward the migrants moving from the South to the North, created a systematized raw deal for the country’s black people. Segregation worsened after the New Deal of the 1930s in multiple ways. For example, Federal Housing Administration policies rated neighborhoods for residential and school racial homogeneity. Aid to Dependent Children carved a requirement for “suitable homes” in discriminatory ways. Policymakers and intellectuals blamed black “cultural pathology” for social disparities.

Fighting back

Faced with these new realities, black people relentlessly and repeatedly challenged Northern racism, building movements from Boston to Milwaukee to Los Angeles. They were often met with the argument that this wasn’t the South. They found it difficult to focus national attention on northern injustice. As Martin Luther King Jr. pointedly observed in 1965, “As the nation, negro and white, trembled with outrage at police brutality in the South, police misconduct in the North was rationalized, tolerated and usually denied.”

Many Northerners, even ones who pushed for change in the South, were silent and often resistant to change at home. One of the grandest achievements of the modern civil rights movement – the 1964 Civil Rights Act – contained a key loophole to prevent school desegregation from coming to northern communities. In a New York Times poll in 1964, a majority of New Yorkers thought the civil rights movement had gone too far.

Jim Crow practices unfolded despite supposed “colorblindness” among those who considered themselves liberal. And it evolved not just through Southern conservatism but New Deal and Great Society liberalism as well. Understanding racism in America in 2018 means not only examining the long history of racist practices and ideologies in the South but also the long history of racism in the Jim Crow North. e 6 Col

Economic Law or Political Policy?

Alan Singer
Hofstra University

A problem framing the economics curriculum is disagreement about what should be included and even when there is a consensus on topics and themes, how they should be presented. The Business Dictionary, the NCSS C3 Framework, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, and the New York State 12th Grade Social Studies Framework even offer very different conceptions of what economics is. In Social Studies for Secondary Schools (Routledge, 2014) I provide teachers with a very simple definition. “Economics examines how societies produce and distribute the goods and services that people, communities, and nations need to survive.” But of course, it is really complex, because how societies “produce and distribute the goods and services” involves individual, business, social, and political decisions, and competition between different interests, as does defining what “people, communities, and nations need to survive.” A good example is the debate over the regulation of industry to protect the environment and human civilization from the negative effects of climate change.

Business Dictionary: “The theories, principles, and models that deal with how the market process works. It attempts to explain how wealth is
created and distributed in communities, how people allocate resources
that are scarce and have many alternative uses, and other such matters
that arise in dealing with human wants and their satisfaction.”
Their focus is on the market process and does not include the role of labor in production or government regulation.  

NCSS C3 Framework: “Effective economic decision making requires that students have a keen understanding of the ways in which individuals,
businesses, governments, and societies make decisions to allocate human capital, physical capital, and natural resources among alternative uses.
This economic reasoning process involves the consideration of costs and benefits with the ultimate goal of making decisions that will enable
individuals and societies to be as well off as possible. The study of
economics provides students with the concepts and tools necessary for an economic way of thinking and helps students understand the interaction of buyers and sellers in markets, workings of the national economy, and interactions within the global marketplace.” Their focus is on economic
decision-making and cost benefits. They recognize the role of multiple
forces in the process, but don’t specifically cite workers or unions, or
discuss how programs that benefit one group can be catastrophic for another.  

Nobel Prize winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul
Krugman: “The economy is everything that involves making or using
goods and services . . .Self-interest is still the best motivator we know – or more accurately, the only consistent motivator. So I’m for market
economies. But I’m for market economies with strong safety nets, with
adult supervision in capital markets, with public provision of goods the
private sector does badly. An idealized New Deal is about as far as I go.”
Krugman is a left-Keysnian who supports an active role for the government in regulating markets and meeting human needs, but he still relies on
market solutions.  

NYS 12th Grade Framework: “Economics, the Enterprise System, and
Finance” examines the principles of the United States free market
economy in a global context. Students will examine their individual
responsibility for managing their personal finances. Students will analyze the role of supply and demand in determining the prices individuals and
businesses face in the product and factor markets, and the global nature of these markets. Students will study changes to the workforce in the
United States, and the role of entrepreneurs in our economy, as well as
the effects of globalization. Students will explore the challenges facing
the United States free market economy in a global environment and
various policy-making opportunities available to government to address
these challenges.”

This is the worst of the definitions. First, the United States does not have a
free-market economy and never has. Second, the stress on individual
responsibility ignores the broader forces shaping our lives. Individuals,
especially children, do not choose to be poor, unemployed, or homeless.
Third, nothing is mentioned about competing interests or economic
inequality. Good points are recognition of global forces and a role for
government, but these are secondary in the,curriculum.

The idea of free markets is generally associated with 18th century Scottish Enlightenment thinker Adam Smith and his notion of an “invisible hand” self-regulating markets. Smith actually only mentioned the “invisible hand” once in “The Wealth of Nations,” his signature work. The idea was actually promoted by 20th century economists, including F.A. Hayek who described it as “spontaneous order” and Joseph Schumpeter who called it “creative destruction.” As a result of Smith, Hayek, and Schumpeter, free-market economists often describe the “invisible hand” and the supply/demand curve as “economic law.” According to Smith: “Every individual necessarily labors to render the annual revenue of the society as great as he can … He intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention … By pursuing his own interests, he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it. I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good” (https://www.investopedia.com/terms/i/invisiblehand.asp).

Economists from Karl Marx through John Maynard Keynes and contemporary Nobel Prize winners Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman argue that political policies and government decisions actually play a much more important role in shaping modern economies than hypothesized economic laws. Most political economists argue that government intervention in modern economies is a positive benefit to society although they disagree on how active the government’s role should be.

This series of activities are designed to involve economics students in discussion of whether “economic law” or political policy should govern modern economies. The articles are edited down to less than 500 words to meet the standard for fair-use replications. They were also selected as challenging, but within the literacy expectations of students who are ready to do college-level work.

Aim: Does economic law or political policy govern modern economies?

Do Now: Read the definition of the “Invisible Hand,” examine the cartoons, and answer questions 1-4.

Invisible Hand: The term “invisible hand” was introduced by Adam Smith in his book An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776). It describes unobservable, or invisible, market forces that help the demand and supply of goods in a free market capitalist economy to automatically reach equilibrium (balance) at the most productive or beneficial level. – https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/definition/invisible-hand.  

Questions What is the origin of the term, the “invisible hand”?How is it supposed to operate?How are the depictions of the “invisible hand” in the cartoons similar and different?In your opinion, which cartoonist has a more accurate view of how the “invisible hand” of free market capitalism actually works? Explain.  

Introduction (Modeling — Reading with video): Tax policies are definitely government decisions and affect people and industries differently. Donald Trump argues that cutting taxes on the wealthy and on corporations will unleash productivity and create new jobs. He is generally supported by free-market advocates, primarily members of the Republican Party. This chart is drawn from an article from Time magazine (http://time.com/5030731/the-republican-tax-bills-winners-and-losers/). The page also includes a video presenting multiple views on tax cuts.

The Republican Tax Bill’s Winners and Losers

The ultra-wealthy, especially those with dynastic businesses — like President Donald Trump and his family — do very well under a major Republican tax bill moving in the Senate, as they do under legislation passed this week by the House . . . On the other hand, people living in high-tax states, who deduct their local property, income and sales taxes from what they owe Uncle Sam, could lose out from the complete or partial repeal of the deductions. And an estimated 13 million Americans could lose health insurance coverage over 10 years under the Senate bill.

Winners Losers
* Wealthy individuals and their heirs win big. The hottest class-warfare debate around the tax
overhaul legislation involves the
inheritance tax on multimillion-dollar estates. The House bill initially doubles the limits — to $11 million for individuals and $22 million for couples — on how much money in the estate can be exempted from
the inheritance tax, then repeals
it entirely after 2023. The Senate
version also doubles the limits but doesn’t repeal the tax. Then there’s the alternative minimum tax, a
levy aimed at ensuring that higher-earning people pay at least some
tax. It disappears in both bills. The House measure cuts tax rates for
many of the millions of “pass-through” businesses big and small —
including partnerships and
specially organized corporations — whose profits are taxed at the
owners’ personal income rate. The Senate bill lets pass-through owners deduct some of the earnings and
then pay at their personal income
rate on the remainder.

* Corporations win all around, with a tax rate slashed from 35 percent
to 20 percent in both bills — though they’d have to wait a year for it
under the Senate measure.

* U.S. oil companies with foreign
operations would pay reduced
taxes under the Senate bill on their income from sales of oil and
natural gas abroad. Beer, wine and liquor producers would reap tax
reductions under the Senate
measure. Companies that provide management services like
maintenance for aircraft get an
updated win. The Senate bill clarifies that under current law, the
management companies would be exempt from paying taxes on payments they receive from owners of
private jets as well as from commercial airlines.
* An estimated 13 million
Americans could lose health
insurance coverage under the
Senate bill, which would repeal the “Obamacare” requirement that
everyone in the U.S. have health
insurance. The projection comes
from the nonpartisan
Congressional Budget Office.
Eliminating the fines is expected to mean fewer people would obtain
federally subsidized health
policies.
* People living in high-tax states
would be hit by repeal of federal
deductions for state and local taxes under the Senate bill, and partial
repeal under the House measure.
That result of a compromise allows the deduction for up to $10,000 in
property taxes.

* Many families making less than $30,000 a year would face tax
increases starting in 2021 under
the Senate bill, according to
Congress’ nonpartisan Joint
Committee on Taxation.

* By 2027, families earning less
than $75,000 would see their tax
bills rise while those making more would enjoy reductions, the
analysts find. The individual
income-tax reductions in the
Senate bill would end in 2026.  

Questions
1. Based on this report, who
benefits the most from tax reform proposals?

2. Based on this report, who loses
the most from tax reform
proposals?

3. In your opinion, are these proposals fair? Explain.

4. Does government tax policy
support the idea that the “invisible hand” is operating or that
economies are driven by political
decisions? Explain.

Team A: Renewable Energy Is Surging. The G.O.P. Tax Bill Could Curtail That. Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/07/climate/tax-overhaul-energy-wind-solar.html  

Questions
1. Based on this report, who
benefits the most from current
economic policies?

2. Based on this report, who loses the most from current economic
policies?

3. In your opinion, are these
policies fair? Explain.

4. Does government policy support the idea that the “invisible hand” is operating or that economies are
driven by political decisions?
Explain.

The Republican tax bills moving through Congress could significantly hobble the United States’ renewable energy industry because of a series of provisions that scale back incentives for wind and solar power while bolstering older energy sources like oil and gas production.

The possibility highlights the degree to which the nation’s recent surge in renewable electricity generation is still sustained by favorable tax treatment, which has lowered the cost of solar and wind production while provoking the ire of fossil-fuel competitors seeking to weaken those tax preferences.

Whether lawmakers choose to protect or jettison various renewable tax breaks in the final bill being negotiated on Capitol Hill could have major ramifications for the United States energy landscape, including the prices consumers pay for electricity.

Wind and solar are two of the fastest-growing sources of power in the country, providing 7 percent of electricity last year. Sharp declines in the cost of wind turbines and photovoltaic panels, coupled with generous tax credits that can offset at least 30 percent of project costs, have made new wind and solar even cheaper than running existing fossil-fuel plants in parts of the country.

In different ways, direct and indirect, the House and Senate bills each imperil elements of that ascension. A Senate bill provision intended to stop multinational companies from shifting profits overseas could unexpectedly cripple a key financing tool used by the renewable energy industry, particularly solar, by eroding the value of tax credits that banks and other financial institutions buy from energy companies.

The House bill’s effects would be more direct, rolling back tax credits for wind farms and electric vehicles, while increasing federal support for two nuclear reactors under construction in Georgia. Fossil fuel producers are under little pressure in either bill and some would stand to benefit: The Senate legislation would open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil drilling, while a last-minute amendment added by Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, would allow oil and gas companies to receive lower tax rates on their profits.

The tension between new and old energy was on display this week at a White House event to promote the Republican tax legislation, where a coal plant employee from North Dakota thanked President Trump for a provision in the House bill that would drastically reduce the value of the production tax credit for wind.

“The production tax credit has destroyed the energy market, especially in the Midwest,” the employee, Jessica Unruh, who is also a state representative, told the president. “Wind production has really eroded our state tax base and replaced coal production when it comes to electricity production.”

The wind industry has warned that the House language, which would reduce the wind tax credit to 1.5 cents per kilowatt-hour, from 2.4 cents, and change eligibility rules, could eliminate over half of the new wind farms planned in the United States.

Team B: Inequality Is Not Inevitable by Joseph Stiglitz, NYT, June 28, 2014 SR1 http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/06/27/inequality-is-not-inevitable/?ref=opinion

Questions
1. Based on this report, who benefits the most from current economic
policies?
2. Based on this report, who loses the most from current economic
policies?
3. In your opinion, are these policies fair? Explain.
4. Does government policy support the idea that the “invisible hand” is operating or that economies are driven by political decisions? Explain.

An insidious trend has developed over this past third of a century. A country that experienced shared growth after World War II began to tear apart, so much so that when the Great Recession hit in late 2007, one could no longer ignore the fissures that had come to define the American economic landscape. How did this “shining city on a hill” become the advanced country with the greatest level of inequality?

Our current brand of capitalism is an ersatz capitalism. For proof of this go back to our response to the Great Recession, where we socialized losses, even as we privatized gains. Perfect competition should drive profits to zero, at least theoretically, but we have monopolies and oligopolies making persistently high profits. C.E.O.s enjoy incomes that are on average 295 times that of the typical worker, a much higher ratio than in the past, without any evidence of a proportionate increase in productivity.

If it is not the inexorable laws of economics that have led to America’s great divide, what is it? Part of the answer is that as World War II faded into memory, so too did the solidarity it had engendered. As America triumphed in the Cold War, there didn’t seem to be a viable competitor to our economic model . . . Ideology and interests combined nefariously. Some drew the wrong lesson from the collapse of the Soviet system. The pendulum swung from much too much government there to much too little here. Corporate interests argued for getting rid of regulations, even when those regulations had done so much to protect and improve our environment, our safety, our health and the economy itself. But this ideology was hypocritical. The bankers, among the strongest advocates of laissez-faire economics, were only too willing to accept hundreds of billions of dollars from the government in the bailouts that have been a recurring feature of the global economy since the beginning of the Thatcher-Reagan era of “free” markets and deregulation.

The American political system is overrun by money. Economic inequality translates into political inequality, and political inequality yields increasing economic inequality . . . So corporate welfare increases as we curtail welfare for the poor. Congress maintains subsidies for rich farmers as we cut back on nutritional support for the needy. Drug companies have been given hundreds of billions of dollars as we limit Medicaid benefits. The banks that brought on the global financial crisis got billions while a pittance went to the homeowners and victims of the same banks’ predatory lending practices.

The problem of inequality is not so much a matter of technical economics. It’s really a problem of practical politics. Ensuring that those at the top pay their fair share of taxes — ending the special privileges of speculators, corporations and the rich — is both pragmatic and fair . . . Widening and deepening inequality is not driven by immutable economic laws, but by laws we have written ourselves.

Team C: Big Mac Test Shows Job Market Is Not Working to Distribute Wealth by Eduardo Porter, NYT, April 22, 2015, B1, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/22/business/big-mac-test-shows-job-market-is-not-working-to-distribute-wealth.html?ref=business

Questions
1. Based on this report, who benefits the most from current economic policies?
2. Based on this report, who loses the most from current economic
policies?
3. In your opinion, are these policies fair? Explain.
4. Does government policy support the idea that the “invisible hand” is operating or that economies are driven by political decisions? Explain.

Some 15 years ago, searching for a consistent way to compare wages of equivalent workers across the world, Orley Ashenfelter, an economics professor at Princeton University, came upon McDonald’s. The uniform, highly scripted production methods used throughout the McDonald’s fast-food empire allowed Professor Ashenfelter to compare workers in far-flung countries doing virtually the same thing. The company also offered a natural index to measure the purchasing power of its wages around the world: the price of a Big Mac. Some of his findings are depressing. Real wages — measured in terms of the number of Big Macs they might buy, declined over the first decade of the millennium widely across the industrialized world.

Even before the financial crisis struck, the wages of McDonald’s workers in the United States, many Western European countries, Japan and Canada went nowhere between 2000 and 2007, a period of steady, though unspectacular, economic growth in most of the developed world. In the United States, real wages actually declined . . . Faced with a tightening labor market and besieged by a vocal, combative movement demanding higher wages for America’s worst-paid employees, McDonald’s, Walmart and other large employers of cheap labor have offered modest raises to millions of workers scraping the bottom of the job market.

The battle for public opinion is fought mostly on ethical grounds — pitting the healthy profits of American corporations and the colossal pay of their executives against bottom-end wages that force millions of workers to rely on public assistance to survive. But what is often overlooked in the hypercharged debate about corporate morality is how a similar dynamic is taking hold around the industrialized world.

Lane Kenworthy, a professor of sociology at the University of California, San Diego, has disentangled the evolution of household incomes over the last three or four decades. The wages from work, he found, are playing a diminishing role for a growing swath of the labor force . . . A combination of sluggish employment and stagnant wages has forced more families to rely on the public purse in many developed nations. 

In Canada, for example, labor market earnings for the bottom fourth of the income ladder grew by roughly $25 a year between 1979 and 2007. Government transfers increased by $78. For Canadian households one rung higher — between the 25th and the 50th percent of the earnings distribution — there were no increases in labor market compensation. All gains came from the government. In Germany — often portrayed as the gold standard of the postindustrial labor market — the entire bottom half of households experienced shrinking earnings from work. They only got ahead because of rising government benefits.

Perhaps it is simply that the demand for skill in the modern job market has grown faster than its supply. The United States, notably, hasn’t increased educational attainment at the rate the labor market requires. And the economy simply doesn’t need as many less-educated workers as it once did.

Team D: Top 10% Took Home Half Of U.S. Income in 2012 by Annie Lowrey, NYT, September 11, 2013, B4

Questions
1. Based on this report, who benefits the most from current economic policies?
2. Based on this report, who loses the most from current economic
policies?
3. In your opinion, are these policies fair? Explain.
4. Does government policy support the idea that the “invisible hand” is operating or that economies are driven by political decisions? Explain.

The top 10 percent of earners took more than half of the country’s total income in 2012, the highest level recorded since the government began collecting the relevant data a century ago, according to an updated study by the prominent economists Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty. The top 1 percent took more than one-fifth of the income earned by Americans, one of the highest levels on record since 1913, when the government instituted an income tax. The figures underscore that even after the recession the country remains in a new Gilded Age, with income as concentrated as it was in the years that preceded the Depression of the 1930s, if not more so.

High stock prices, rising home values and surging corporate profits have buoyed the recovery-era incomes of the most affluent Americans, with the incomes of the rest still weighed down by high unemployment and stagnant wages for many blue- and white-collar workers.

The income share of the top 1 percent of earners in 2012 returned to the same level as before both the Great Recession and the Great Depression: just above 20 percent, jumping to about 22.5 percent in 2012 from 19.7 percent in 2011 . . . [R]icher households have disproportionately benefited from the boom in the stock market during the recovery, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average more than doubling in value since it bottomed out early in 2009. About half of households hold stock, directly or through vehicles like pension accounts. But the richest 10 percent of households own about 90 percent of the stock, expanding both their net worth and their incomes when they cash out or receive dividends.

The economy remains depressed for most wage-earning families. With sustained, relatively high rates of unemployment, businesses are under no pressure to raise their employees’ incomes because both workers and employers know that many people without jobs would be willing to work for less. The share of Americans working or looking for work is at its lowest in 35 years. There is a glimmer of good news for the 99 percent in the report, though. Mr. Piketty and Mr. Saez show that the incomes of that group stagnated between 2009 and 2011. In 2012, they started growing again — if only by about 1 percent. But the total income of the top 1 percent surged nearly 20 percent that year. The incomes of the very richest, the 0.01 percent, shot up more than 32 percent.

Team E: Health Care and Profits, a Poor Mix by Eduardo Porter, NYT, 1/9/13, B1 http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/09/business/health-care-and-pursuit-of-profit-make-a-poor-mix.html

Questions
1. Based on this report, who benefits the most from current economic
policies?
2. Based on this report, who loses the most from current economic
policies?
3. In your opinion, are these policies fair? Explain.
4. Does government policy support the idea that the “invisible hand” is
operating or that economies are driven by political decisions? Explain.

Thirty years ago, Bonnie Svarstad and Chester Bond of the School of Pharmacy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison discovered an interesting pattern in the use of sedatives at nursing homes in the south of the state. Patients entering church-affiliated nonprofit homes were prescribed drugs roughly as often as those entering profit-making “proprietary” institutions. But patients in proprietary homes received, on average, more than four times the dose of patients at nonprofits. Writing about his colleagues’ research, . . .the economist Burton Weisbrod provided a straightforward explanation: “differences in the pursuit of profit.” Sedatives are cheap, Mr. Weisbrod noted. “Less expensive than, say, giving special attention to more active patients who need to be kept busy.”

This behavior was hardly surprising. Hospitals run for profit are also less likely than nonprofit and government-run institutions to offer services like home health care and psychiatric emergency care, which are not as profitable as open-heart surgery. A shareholder might even applaud the creativity with which profit-seeking institutions go about seeking profit. But the consequences of this pursuit might not be so great for other stakeholders in the system — patients, for instance. One study found that patients’ mortality rates spiked when nonprofit hospitals switched to become profit-making, and their staff levels declined.

These profit-maximizing tactics point to a troubling conflict of interest that goes beyond the private delivery of health care. They raise a broader, more important question: How much should we rely on the private sector to satisfy broad social needs? From health to pensions to education, the United States relies on private enterprise more than pretty much every other advanced, industrial nation to provide essential social services. The government pays Medicare Advantage plans to deliver health care to aging Americans. It provides a tax break to encourage employers to cover workers under 65. Businesses devote almost 6 percent of the nation’s economic output to pay for health insurance for their employees. This amounts to nine times similar private spending on health benefits across the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, on average. Private plans cover more than a third of pension benefits. The average for 30 countries in the O.E.C.D. is just over one-fifth.

Our reliance on private enterprise to provide the most essential services stems, in part, from a more narrow understanding of our collective responsibility to provide social goods. Private American health care has stood out for decades among industrial nations, where public universal coverage has long been considered a right of citizenship. But our faith in private solutions also draws on an ingrained belief that big government serves too many disparate objectives and must cater to too many conflicting interests to deliver services fairly and effectively.

Our trust appears undeserved, however. Our track record suggests that handing over responsibility for social goals to private enterprise is providing us with social goods of lower quality, distributed more inequitably and at a higher cost than if government delivered or paid for them directly.

Team F: Skilled Work, Without the Worker by John Markoff, NYT, 8/19 A1 http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/19/business/new-wave-of-adept-robots-is-changing-global-industry.html

Questions
1. Based on this report, who benefits the most from current economic
policies?
2. Based on this report, who loses the most from current economic
policies?
3. In your opinion, are these policies fair? Explain.
4. Does government policy support the idea that the “invisible hand” is operating or that economies are driven by political decisions? Explain.

At the Philips Electronics factory on the coast of China, hundreds of workers use their hands and specialized tools to assemble electric shavers. That is the old way. At a sister factory here in the Dutch countryside, 128 robot arms do the same work with yoga-like flexibility. Video cameras guide them through feats well beyond the capability of the most dexterous human. One robot arm endlessly forms three perfect bends in two connector wires and slips them into holes almost too small for the eye to see. The arms work so fast that they must be enclosed in glass cages to prevent the people supervising them from being injured. And they do it all without a coffee break — three shifts a day, 365 days a year. All told, the factory here has several dozen workers per shift, about a tenth as many as the plant in the Chinese city of Zhuhai.

This is the future. A new wave of robots, far more adept than those now commonly used by automakers and other heavy manufacturers, are replacing workers around the world in both manufacturing and distribution. Factories like the one here in the Netherlands are a striking counterpoint to those used by Apple and other consumer electronics giants, which employ hundreds of thousands of low-skilled workers.

Many industry executives and technology experts say Philips’s approach is gaining ground on Apple’s. Even as Foxconn, Apple’s iPhone manufacturer, continues to build new plants and hire thousands of additional workers to make smartphones, it plans to install more than a million robots within a few years to supplement its work force in China. Foxconn has not disclosed how many workers will be displaced or when. But its chairman, Terry Gou, has publicly endorsed a growing use of robots. Speaking of his more than one million employees worldwide: “As human beings are also animals, to manage one million animals gives me a headache.”

Take the cavernous solar-panel factory run by Flextronics in Milpitas, south of San Francisco. A large banner proudly proclaims “Bringing Jobs & Manufacturing Back to California!” Yet in the state-of-the-art plant, where the assembly line runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week, there are robots everywhere and few human workers. All of the heavy lifting and almost all of the precise work is done by robots that string together solar cells and seal them under glass. The human workers do things like trimming excess material, threading wires and screwing a handful of fasteners into a simple frame for each panel.

Such advances in manufacturing are also beginning to transform other sectors that employ millions of workers around the world. One is distribution, where robots that zoom at the speed of the world’s fastest sprinters can store, retrieve and pack goods for shipment far more efficiently than people. Robots could soon replace workers at companies like C & S Wholesale Grocers, the nation’s largest grocery distributor, which has already deployed robot technology.

Team G: What Happened to the American Boomtown?
by Emily Badger, NYT, Dec. 6, 2017, B3 https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/06/upshot/what-happened-to-the-american-boomtown.html

Questions
1. Based on this report, who benefits the most from current economic
policies?
2. Based on this report, who loses the most from current economic
policies?
3. In your opinion, are these policies fair? Explain.
4. Does government policy support the idea that the “invisible hand” is operating or that economies are driven by political decisions? Explain.

The metro areas that offered the highest pay in 2000 have grown by some of the slowest rates since then, while people have flocked to lower-wage metros like Las Vegas, Phoenix and Charlotte, N.C. Similarly, the metros with the highest G.D.P. per capita are barely adding workers relative to much less productive areas. Some people aren’t moving into wealthy regions because they’re stuck in struggling ones. They have houses they can’t sell or government benefits they don’t want to lose. But the larger problem is that they’re blocked from moving to prosperous places by the shortage and cost of housing there. And that’s a deliberate decision these wealthy regions have made in opposing more housing construction, a prerequisite to make room for more people.

Compare that with most of American history. The country’s economic growth has long “gone hand in hand with enormous reallocation of population,” write the economists Kyle Herkenhoff, Lee Ohanian and Edward Prescott in a recent studyof what’s hobbling similar population flows now. Workers moved north during the Great Migration and west out of the Dust Bowl. The lure of the Gold Rush made San Francisco a boomtown after the 1850s. The rise of the auto industry helped triple the size of Detroit between 1910 and 1930. Other northern cities like Cleveland similarly swelled as they became manufacturing hubs. Los Angeles grew to a city of more than a million in the 1920s as film sets, oil wells and aircraft manufacturing promised opportunity. Seattle boomed after World War II, as Boeing did. Houston’s population took off as it became the center of the country’s energy economy.

Developing a FAIR School Homework Policy

Michael Pezone is a retired social studies teacher who taught at the High School for Law Enforcement and Public Safety in Jamaica, Queens. He organized his classes around research and writing projects for teams and individuals, oral presentations, class discussion, and civic action. This project was developed for Participation in Government classes. Many of his students had difficulty presenting their ideas in writing and supporting them with evidence. This project was designed to support students who will be taking the New York State English/Language Arts Regents Exam. Many of the students in his classes took the exam more than once so they can earn a diploma.

Introduction:

While changes in the larger society are needed to address problems like poverty and homelessness, there are things schools can do to help students affected by these issues. Your group is tasked to write a practical and reasonable proposal to the principal to suggest a school wide homework policy that might better serve all students, including our most needy students. (“No more homework, ever!” is NOT a practical proposal). Use information from the documents below as well as outside information to complete the project.

Requirements

A. A written recommendation addressed to the principal (see suggested outline below). Your group’s proposal must:

  1. Be 150 words that are extremely well written. Your proposal must be typed in friendly letter format (the format will be projected on the smart board during class).
  2. Explain how poverty and homelessness in NYC affect the ability of many children to do homework. Use statistics and other evidence to support your explanation. Use information from the documents and from your own research. Cite your source(s). (See how to cite the documents below)
  3. Propose a practical and reasonable school wide homework policy to address these issues

B. A poster that will be presented in class along with the proposal and may be selected to present to the principal. The poster should contain: A title and student names on the front of the poster; Chart(s), graph(s), and photo(s) that support your proposal, along with captions that explain what each chart, graph, photo shows. The poster should be EXTREMELY attractive with accurate information.

C. Presentations. Each group will present their proposals and posters to the class. All proposals will then be combined into one final proposal. Students will choose a team (two or three students from each class) to present the proposal to the principal. One poster will be chosen for use in the presentation to the principal.

How to Cite the Documents

(Singer, “Children Need Homes, Not Charter Schools Or Standardized Tests, And Definitely Not Tax Cuts For The Wealthy,” Huffington post, 12/14/2017)

(“Homelessness in New York State,” NYSTeachs, nysteachs.org/info-topic/statistics, 2017)

(“Figure 1: Time high school students spend on homework by race and parent’s income,” Brookings Institute, brookings.edu, 2017)

Suggested Paper Outline

I. First paragraph: Explain the problem of poverty and homelessness and how it affects NYC students, using statistics and evidence to support your explanation

II. Second paragraph: Present your proposal for a school wide homework policy

III. Brief concluding paragraph: Thank her for her consideration of the issue and ask her to meet with a team of students to discuss your proposal

Directions: Read the key term and documents and then complete the group assignment below.

Key Term: “Gentrification” – process of renovation of deteriorated urban neighborhoods by means of the eviction of poor residents to make way for an influx of more affluent residents.

Document 1 – Article: “Children Need Homes, Not Charter Schools or Standardized Tests, and Definitely Not Tax Cuts for the Wealthy,” by Alan Singer, Huffington Post, 12/14/2017
 
(1) Over 1.1 million children and teens attend more than 1,800 New York City public schools. About one-third of these children live in poverty. In addition, 111,562 students were homeless at some point during the 2016-2017 school year. They are assigned homework, but they have no homes. It is as if these children are trapped in a 19th-century Charles Dickens novel about London’s poor.     

(2) New York City is not a Third World country, but 10 percent of its registered students live on the street, in cars, in shelters, in abandoned buildings, in public housing double-ups, and in over-crowded deteriorating tenements with people they do not know. They often don’t have basic food, clothing, and health care, or heat in the freezing winter and air-conditioning in the sweltering summer. They don’t do homework and they don’t do well on standardized tests. Over 60 percent are chronically absent from school.  

(3) Homeless children are the collateral damage of gentrification in New York City. Between 2000 and 2015 the Hispanic population of Washington Heights in Manhattan declined by over 10,000 people. There were double-digit percentage declines in Hispanic population in the gentrifying Brooklyn neighborhoods of Greenpoint, Williamsburg and Bushwick. The African American population sharply declined in Harlem and the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant. No one is asking what happened to the children who used to live in these communities.

(4) During his reelection campaign, Mayor Bill de Blasio claimed great advances in addressing homelessness and school performance. These children don’t see it. The governor and his appointees on New York State school accrediting agencies push for more charter schools and lowering teacher qualifications. It is not clear how this will make a difference in the lives of these children. The City Council is discussing a bill that will ensure families applying for places in homeless shelters receive school information. They must be kidding, but the kids don’t get the joke.

(5) Mayor De Blasio, Governor Cuomo and President Trump need to know this: Schools and teachers can do just so much to help homeless children. Children need homes. Their parents need jobs. Authorizing additional charter schools and standardized testing and AP classes are pretend solutions to very real and pressing social problems.

(6) Expect the situation to grow worse. The Trump tax scam will force cuts in a range of federal programs including medical care. Such cuts in social services will be done so that tax breaks for the rich will not increase the national debt too much. Under Trump’s plan, loss of tax breaks for state and local governments will squeeze middle-class taxpayers and force state and local governments to lower taxes and cut spending on vital social services. Already two New Jersey towns have rejected school spending increases that were expected to pass. Children from the poorest families will be amongst the hardest hit.

Document 2: Data on Homelessness in New York State

(NYSTeaches – Chart shows growing homelessness from the 2009-2010 school year to the 2016-2017 school year)

Document 3: “Time high school students spend on homework by race and parent’s income.”

(Brookings Institute, www.brookings.edu, 2017)

Document 4: “Households with School-Age Children That Do Not Have Broadband Access

National Education Association, www.neatoday.org/2016/04/20/the-homework-gap/, 2016

Questions

  1. What percentage of all households with incomes under $50,000 lack a high-speed internet connection?
  2. What percentage of all households with a $50,000 income or higher lack a high-speed internet connection?  
  3. Which racial group has the most broadband access?
  4. Which racial group has the least broadband access?
  5. In a full sentence, state the relationship between income level and broadband access.
  6. In a full sentence, answer the question: How does lack of broadband access affect homework completion rates?
Homework Policy Project Grading Rubric (Total 15 pts)

Content of Proposal (0-3)
Is your explanation of the problem of poverty and homelessness and
their effects on homework completion well organized and logical?
Is your explanation supported by statistics and other evidence?
Is your proposal for a school wide homework policy reasonable and
practical?

Quality of Writing (0-4)
Is your writing of high quality, typed, with no errors?
Do you follow a simple paragraph format?
Do you properly cite your sources?

Quality of Poster (0-4)
Is the information presented accurate?
Is the poster extremely attractive?
Does the poster present graph(s), chart(s), and photo(s) with titles and
captions for each that explain what they are showing?
Does the poster contain a title and student names on front?

Presentation and Teamwork (0-4)
Do all group members contribute to the proposal and poster?
Do all group members come on time and follow school rules?
Do all group members behave in a mature manner?
Do all group members take turns presenting their proposal and poster to the class?  

A Passive Generation

Brooke Stock
Rider University

As United States citizens we are given the right to vote. This opportunity allows our country to be a democracy and gives people a voice in the government. As a young adult, one would think that our generation would choose to voice their opinions for the future, since it will affect our lives immensely. Unfortunately, many individuals among my generation do not see this as a priority. Young adults, from the ages eighteen to twenty-four have the lowest voting participation rates out of everyone who is eligible to vote. This is due to the Presidential Election in 2016 between Donald J. Trump and Hillary Rodham Clinton. Young adults share their voice and opinions on politics, but when it comes to the polls, they do not vote. Many young adults also believe that they do not have to go and vote because they believe that their voices will not be heard. In this article, I discuss the reasons behind this lack of commitment to the polls. What is the reason that young adults right out of high school do not vote? Is it the lack of teaching politics in social studies classrooms? Or, is the focus of social studies classrooms too dedicated to teaching the same past events? Furthermore, could this turn out be evidence that social studies needs to be renovated? Maybe there needs to be a class that is dedicated to current events and individual responsibility as a citizen that all students must take. I can recall when I was a student in high school, my teachers never fully expressed the importance of voting because we were not old enough to vote at that point in our lives. The presidential election of 2016 should be a warning for adolescents and young adults that our votes, in fact, do matter. All votes matter, but when it comes to the future of the United States, the younger Americans need to vote so our concerns can be handled properly.

            I remember, too, when I was in high school four years ago and all my social studies teachers never emphasized the importance of voting. Teachers always briefly stated the importance of the rights that we have, one being the right to vote. Before the 2016 election, there was not a recent election where the younger generation believed that they had to vote. Since the outcome of the election, this was a wakeup call to many people. Many people just believed that the person that they wanted to win, would. When the outcome was the presidential candidate that they did not want, they were the first people to complain all over social media. How can someone complain if they did not actively practice their right to vote? From my past experiences in the field at Ewing High School, my cooperating teacher expressed to the students how important it is to vote. We collaborated on a lesson about Andrew Jackson and tracing his presidency from his actions as a common man to his actions as having “king-like qualities”. Our students were curious on our views on the past election and what we believed. Together, we were honest with them. We expressed how significant it is to do your research, hear everyone’s side, and develop your own beliefs. We discussed the voter turnout and why their vote will matter someday. It is important for students to be taught that when they are of age to go out and make their voices heard.

            After researching why, it is that the younger generation does not vote, I found out that the average age that voted in the 2016 election was fifty-seven (Strauss, 2018). These means that all the reforms and laws that the younger generation wants to be passed, will not. All new laws, reforms, acts, will be towards what the older generation needs. Carolyn DeWitt and Maureen Costello state that, “If there is one thing we believe in America, we believe in government of the people, by the people, for the people.” and later explain that American citizens, “…haven’t learned how to register to vote. They haven’t learned the best way to influence their elected representatives. They haven’t learned that they have power.” (Strauss, 2018). How can we be a democracy that countries want to mimic if we cannot get our own to get up and vote? Have Americans stopped caring or are we too lazy to vote?  Joel Stein explains the millennial turnout and states that he, “calls millennials the “narcissistic generation,” and Jean Twenge says they are the “me generation,” stuck to their phones and uninterested in politics.” (Dalton, 2016). I do believe that millennials and people who are younger are addicted to their phones. Social media overtakes people’s lives, day to day. Instead of going out to make sure their vote counts, they will voice their opinions on Twitter or Facebook hoping that by posting their opinion it will help the vote. I agree, it is essential to voice your opinions, but if you are not going to act, then why are you choosing to not vote?

            I always ask my peers why they do not bother to go vote because I understood the importance of this aspect my whole life. The answer I frequently receive is, “Because my vote won’t make a difference”. This answer, I personally feel is a selfish statement. Every vote matters no matter who you are or what you believe. If everyone who did not believe in their vote, voted, then the voter turnout would be completely different. Health care is so prominent because it is what most older people want for themselves. If the younger generation would go out and vote we could help our education systems and our futures. Caroline Beaton expresses that, “In 2016, we view engaging in politics as a personal choice, not a civic obligation.” (Beaton, 2016). This is accurate because many younger people see voting as an option and not an obligation. They believe it is not their civic duty to express what they want. If people were educated more on voting and constantly informed on the importance of it, I believe that they would go out and exercise their right to vote.

            I have hope for my generation in the 2020 election. The past election was, without a doubt, a wakeup call. This article is not intended to bash the younger generation, however, to express my aspiration for them to be more active participants in the future of our country. We are the future and I believe that we will come together as one fighting for what we believe.

References

Beaton, C. (2016) The science behind why millennials don’t vote. Retrieved from  https://www.forbes.com/sites/carolinebeaton/2016/11/04/whymillennialsarentvoting/#34fb382e89c2

Dalton R. (2016). Why don’t millennials vote? Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2016/03/22/why-dont-millennials-vote/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.9e68bea2c2ec

Strauss, V. (2018, September 20). Many young people don’t vote because they never learned how. Here’s a free class now in schools trying to change that. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2018/09/20/many-young-people-dont-vote-because-they-never-learned-how-heres-free-class-now-schools-trying-change-that/?utm_term=.b355d8c66fc0

The Other Facets of Sputnik: Not Just a Satellite

Matthew Maul
Rider University

On the night of October 4, 1957, Americans could tune in on their radios to hear a small sphere floating in orbit sounding off beeps as it goes along. Sputnik was the first human-made object to go into an orbit around Earth, and thus start something called the Space Race. For such a breakthrough technological achievement, however, it was somewhat limited in its own performance.  It could orbit and transmit radio signals back to earth, but beyond that, Sputnik was practically useless except for its role in Cold War Symbolism. It is this symbolism that is thought more often than not, then the education reform that comes after it. The launch of Sputnik is much more than the start of the Space Race; it was a catalyst for education reform and by my calculations, it will take another Sputnik to launch another wave of widely accepted reforms instead of the patchwork introduction of fixes like SGOs, Common Core, and PARCC.


            “It is essential to examine the America school system before the launch of Sputnik in 1957. Before 1947 and stemming out of World War Two American schools were still primarily influenced by Progressivist school of ideas and practices from John Dewey. Progressivism emphasized the concept that students could only learn when they had “internalized what they had gained through experience and practiced in their own lives.” (Olson, 2000) In the mid-1940s, a new group called the ‘Life-Adjusters’ began to challenge the progressivist idea and thus began to change them. The main reason being that progressive education failed the majority. This so-called failure along with these new ideas for education and its purpose were based in the 1918 study titled Cardinal Principles of Secondary Education. The goal of this new educational philosophy entitled ‘Life-Adjustment’ was to change the fundamental practices of the school. What fundamental practices did this study mean, it was no other than the core academic classes. By disregarding traditional academics, this meant that history, languages, science, and mathematics were less valued to instead focus on the concept of ‘fundamental processes.’ The fundamental process was the curricula and activities for the general student and would thus be the considerations for vocational education, use of leisure time, and other wholesome topics that would improve the capability of a student to live a good and productive life. What supported this study was a national education conference in 1945. From its findings, the committee has found that no more than 20% of students could be reasonably expected to ever attend college, with another 20% destined for a vocational program.  This means that only 40 percent of students can further their education and contribute to society; the other problem becomes the other 60%. The obvious recommendation was the adoption of the previously mentioned Life Adjustment education model. It, however, was not going to be all in favor of the Life Adjusters, as these beliefs were incorporated with some progressive concepts. The most important being the concept of tracking students by ability level on every topic. This meant that higher achieving college-and vocational school-bound kids could still get the same education while the other students can get a more general track in which they can succeed. In 1951 the Life Adjustment approach was formalized in the Educational Policy Commission’s report, Education for All American Children. (Bybee, 1997) Life-adjustment education was more utilitarian when compared to the previous progressive practices of earlier education models. The reason for this utilitarian nature is that schools were failing in preparing a majority of its student population for its future so this model instead focused on the needs of the general student. Its proposed curriculum was on functional experiences in areas such as arts, family living, and civic participation.  This kind of curriculum was more about preparing an active citizen instead of an educated academic. 

   
Now, when you examine these tracks based on the ability for the student you can draw a comparison to the modern day with Special Education with the process of inclusion and mainstreaming. The method of mainstreaming and inclusion is the result of placing students in the Least Restrictive Environment as a part of the requirements of the IDEA act. (Morin) Mainstreaming is the process of taking your kids with disabilities and putting them in a general classroom, hence the mainstream. This typically comes with some form of help for the student or that the student spends time in special education or resource classes. Without the IDEA act, special education would not have advanced as quickly as it did which thus leads us to why Sputnik was so important.


            The National Defense Education Act was spurred into creation off the impact of the Sputnik launch. The overall goal of this specific legislation was to change the country’s educational system to meet the standards of the national government concerning the nation’s defense. Regarding the national defense that meant the subject thought and focused on would have a direct benefit to those job fields. Thus, by increasing the standards of education, the United States hoped the changes would help them either compete or pass the Soviet Union. The importance of the NDEA, much like IDEA, is in the acceleration for reform it caused. The overall effects of NDEA are grants and federal aid for higher education and also a restructuring of school curriculum around that funding. Because of the scientific nature and international significance of Sputnik, the course requirements for students became aligned toward national security and jobs of that nature. Thus, the standard course load stiffened away from Life-Adjustment and added more Math and Science classes. If The Association of American Universities described the NDEA as “inspiring generations of U.S. students to pursue study in fields vital to national security and aide.” (American Association of Universities, 2006) Then it was effective in changing education as they knew it. And when you examine education curricula today, you see that the impact clear as day as almost every high school student for graduation shall have four years of math and 2-3 years of science by the time they do so.

The apparent result of Sputnik is not just in the historical context of historians of Devine and Dickson who propose a situation of American paranoia in retrospect to their calm leader, but rather the impact on education reform that we can see in the foundation of today’s schools. (Divine, 1993; Dickson, 2001) In an interesting article by a psychologist, he recognizes that there is a problem with modern educational reform. At the national level, the federal government spending on education has skyrocketed, with no comparable improvement in educational outcomes in such programs like Head Start, New Math, Nation at Risk, Goals 2000, Race to the Top, No Child Left Behind, charter schools, Next Generation Science Standards, and Common Core? (Klemm). We have had little to show in terms of the results of these programs as we keep trying to create better-standardized tests and are even thinking of replacing the common core in many states even though it only came out in 2009. The problem with modern education reform may not be with the program, but with the implementation. If states are allowed to pick and choose on adopting or adapting these reforms based on the fear of losing government spending, then the speed and acceptance rate would be relatively minor and too late before it impacted most of the nation. Klemm later states in the previous article “I think the real problem is that students generally lack learning competencies. Amazingly, schools tell students more about what to learn than how to learn” (Klemm, 2014). This is something that can have a much more lasting impact because it is on the level of teacher adaptation. If we are teaching these competencies instead of solely content, we can make sure that students can turn into these lifelong learners. It is effortless for a teacher to teach Organization, Understanding, Synthesis, Memory, Application, Creativity because it involves no money, but instead an adaptation of a lesson plan. Organization can be as simple as upgrading our technology to a cohesive system like Google Classroom where students can access all work and assignments and the same can be said for teachers. Creativity can be new ways to teach a lesson or new activities.

It’s important to touch on memory, which is commonly related to tests. Instead of teaching kids to take these tests, let’s make them create better mental connections for better learning. If students can connect historical themes to present day events than they can more easily recall this knowledge for other subjects. The problem with social studies is the idea that we teach to one test, and then the student can forget that knowledge. If we work on creating these connections, they can easily recall this knowledge in other classes or everyday life. Instead of a focus on a national reform movement that is bogged down by politics, let’s do something that only teachers have control over, which is how we teach students.


            If we want to change education before national reform is ever sufficient, we as teachers must be proactive and as Social Studies teacher that may be the essential part of our jobs. If we can get tour students to transfer the Think like a Historian skill to other subjects, we can change their mind on the value of history.  So until we have another Sputnik, we are stuck in the process of revolution. (Kuhn 1962) We had Sputnik in 1957, We had The Nation at Risk in 1983, what is the next event to revolutionize education? The next logical step is the quick improvement in technology, which may drastically change how and where we teach. Whatever the next Sputnik is, to make sure it is a more effective reform like NDEA it takes us as Teachers to be open-minded and accepting to the changes. Because, whatever reform or new ideas are thrown our way, we still need to be ready to change for the sake of our students.

References:

American Association of Universities. (2006). A National Defense Education Act for the 21st century: Renewing our commitment to U.S. students, science, scholarship, and security.

Bybee, R. (1997).  The Sputnik era: Why is this educational reform different from all the others? Center for Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Education Symposium “Reflecting on Sputnik: Linking the Past, Present, and Future of Educational Reform.” Washington, DC.

Dickson, P. (2001). Sputnik: Shock of the Century. New York, NY: Walker Publishers.

Divine, R.A. (1993). The Sputnik Challenge. New York: Oxford University Press.

Klemm, W. R. (2014). Educational Reform and Why It Is Not Working. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/memory-medic/201407/educational-reform-and-why-it-is-not-working

Kuhn, T. (1962). The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Morin, A. (2014).  Least Restrictive Environment (LRE): What you need to know. Understood. Retrieved from https://www.understood.org/en/school-learning/special-services/special-education-basics/least-restrictive-environment-lre-what-you-need-to-know

Olson, L. (2000). Tugging at tradition. In V. Edwards (Ed.), Lessons of a Century: A Nation’s Schools Come of Age (94-118). Bethesda, MD: Editorial Projects in Education.

Joe Louis: A Multifarious Historical Figure

Gino Fluri
Rider University

Instead of looking at a history textbook, or studying an event like the Great Depression, one could look through the lens of the great boxer, Joe Louis, to get an invaluable historical experience. Louis’ career undermined some of the major problems in America at the time, and also highlights how sports ties into everyday life in America. ‘The Brown Bomber’ becomes the second ever, African American heavyweight champion when he dismantles the German, Max Schmeling, in less than two minutes. The implications of the ring becomes more than just a symbol of two men imposing their will on one another. It became an international struggle for power: in politics, culture, and society. Joe Louis and boxing came to represent something far greater than just sports. Ultimately, White America used boxing and Joe Louis as a tool for political and cultural manipulation; and Joe Louis’ career exposes the racism so deeply embedded in American society.

            The discussion of using Joe Louis in the high school social studies classroom is one you would not anticipate as being part of a history lesson. Despite this common thought, the boxer’s career is in the backdrop of World War I, fascism, Nazism, Jim Crow laws, the Great Depression, socioeconomic status, World War II, all leading up to the Civil Rights era in the U.S. Analyzing sport and race in America is a huge topic that I feel many history teachers glaze over rather precariously. This goes back to education in America and the current system that we are in; many professionals believe that teaching controversial topics is part of the job. For example, Matt Soley, who is a senior program officer in the Education and Training Division at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, D.C., gave a strong outlook on teaching controversial topics in the classroom (Soley, 2006, 10). His article, “If It’s Controversial, Why Teach It?”, presents the idea that there are many positive benefits with bringing controversial topics to the forefront of the classroom. The same can be said about Joe Louis and his career. Although it is controversial in terms of how you could show the facts, aside from that, the historical themes are vast: the discrimination he faced, racism in America that is infused by the dominant culture, and how much sports can connect to society at the time. 

I propose that the historical value provided in a boxing fight between Joe Louis and Max Schmeling, or the rise of sports in America during the 1920s, can be an exciting and unique resource for students to learn. At the high school many students are involved with extracurricular activities or sports. Providing several lessons about Joe Louis and his boxing career, or examining along the lines of race and sport in America, can be a refreshing topic of discussion. When you think back to high school, and covering U.S history in the 20th century, students often conceive of the following: World 1, the stock market crash, Great Depression, World War II, Civil Rights, and Cold War. It is a stagnant chronological order that may provide a few lessons that generate excitement from students, but presents little else. If one were to sit back and question how a lesson about Joe Louis and boxing does not fit into this agenda, you may want to reconsider.

Historians have often examined Joe Louis’ fights with Max Schmeling in a way that could generate awesome classroom lessons, divergent discussions, projects, presentations, and create a refreshing new way to teach the 1920s, 30s, and 40s in America. Lewis Erenberg’s The Greatest Fight of Our Generation: Louis vs Schmeling argues that “the boxers carried some of the deepest political and social tensions of a period wracked by political, racial, and national conflicts. They moved the racial basis of American and German nationalism to the forefront of American politics and national identity” (2006, 10). David Margolick, another historian, has stated that “The fight implicated both the future of race relations and the prestige of two powerful nations. Each fighter was bearing his shoulders more than any athlete ever had” (2005, 6).

Gathering these arguments, a teacher can discuss the importance of sport in America during the 1930s, and show how sport and race were deeply embedded in our country. This is a very intense study, but it can be simplified for any high school grade level because you can draw parallels to sports today in America and look at how certain issues about race or culture in America have been brought up through the nation’s best athletes. For example, years later with Muhammed Ali refusing to go into the draft, or even more recent, Colin Kaepernick’s decision to not stand for the national anthem. The career of Joe Louis, and boxers even earlier than his time can highlight the impact sports have on race, and the people of this country.

Using Joe Louis as a topic for classroom discussion does not only relate to the struggle African Americans had with gaining equal opportunity, or his giant fights with Max Schmeling; you can look at print culture from the time period to also identify with different concepts. To further students’ engagement, you can look at various cartoons and pictures of Joe Louis to help elicit more of a response from your class. Analyzing pictures from World War II and how Joe Louis fought in the war, becoming known as “G.I Joe” Louis is a great way to talk about how he was portrayed during the time period, what American culture was really looking at with these images, and how this may relate to the Civil Rights era. There are so many different ways to use Joe Louis and sports in the 20th century for your classroom benefit. This multifarious figure pulls out both controversial and very important lessons that students should know. For example, Rebecca Sklaroff, another historian who studied Louis’ career, said it is important to understand why Joe Louis—as the predominant black figure in all sectors of war propaganda—held such meaning both for those who developed the iconography and for those who received it” (2002, 963). This notion goes back to how Joe Louis and the pictures or cartoons constructed of him, can be seen as a defining moment in American culture during this time. This would be a very cool and interactive way of getting students engaged and to think critically.

Louis’ career also represents the Civil Rights movement, in which he is leader for his time period. For the topic of race in America, a social studies class should know what type of black figures were present during the early 20th century. Joe Louis is absolutely one of them, for his dominance in the ring expressed equality that did not promote a violent response (Margolick, 2005, 81). Going back to my high school experience, seldom was their ever discussions about key black leaders during the 1920s, 30s, and 40s, it is not until the Civil Rights era that we got into black history more critically. Using Joe Louis’ career and sports in America before his time, as well as print culture from the period, you can dig very deep into so many themes that tie into the Civil Rights discussion. The foundation of Jim Crow laws, as well as the way dominant culture, who is predominantly white men, actively controlled the narrative in society, is something that students should know. Whether his story, and sports, connects to race may be controversial or an intense discussion, it is something students need to know when covering the 20th century in American history.

To be considered a successful teacher, you must get your students engaged, asking questions, problem solving, and being able to critically think. Joe Louis, who represents a multifarious figure in American history, can hit all of these aspects of getting your students to critically think and ask questions. The historical significance of his career is like walking into a minefield, everywhere you step you are hitting material that can be excellent for your classroom! What are you waiting for as a teacher? You have to go out and find historically relevant material for your class, no student is going to want to discuss the Great Depression via PowerPoint, just so you can outline all of the hardships. Rather, discuss the rise of urbanization through the lens of sports, celebrities, and race in America. Instead of showing some of the hardships outlined in a PowerPoint, you can dive into cartoons and images that the popular culture embraced from the time. History can be exposed in the most subtle ways. The career of Joe Louis provides a wealth of significance topics in the high school social studies classroom: Jim Crow, Americanism with sports and race, print culture, and what a African American leader looked like at the time. There are so many options to choose from, digging deeper into the career of Joe Louis would be a valuable topic for examining 20th century America.

References:

Erenberg, L. (2006). The greatest fight of our generation: Louis v. Schmeling. Oxford University Press.

Margolick, D. (2006). Beyond Glory: Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling, and a World on the Brink. New York: First Vintage Books Edition.

Sklaroff, L.R. (2002. Constructing G.I. Joe Louis: Cultural Solutions to the “Negro Problem” during World War II, Journal of American History, 89 (3), 958-983.

Soley, M. (1996). If It Is Controversial, Why Teach It. National Council for the Social Studies. Social Education 60 (1).