When I first read the Times summary of the VOICE study I was overtaken by a feeling of unease. Reading the actual report in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) did little to assuage these feelings. In her recent Oped, published in Al Jazeera America, Susser succinctly explains what the Times and the VOICE researchers got wrong and shows how future studies can avoid these errors.
“The new program will designate 94 of the city’s most troubled schools, including the Coalition School, as Renewal Schools based on a list of criteria including low four-year graduation rates for high schools and poor test scores for middle and elementary schools. Students at those schools will receive an extra hour of instructional time each day, teachers will have extra professional training, and the schools will be encouraged to offer summer school. The schools will also be given additional resources, with $150 million spread over two years, about $39 million for this school year and $111 million in the next.
But the centerpiece of the proposal involves turning these institutions into so-called Community Schools, which try to address the challenges students face outside the classroom, with offerings like mental health services for those who need them or food for students who do not get enough to eat at home”.
I engaged in the following exchange in the comment sections of the piece:
“Without active parent participation at home and in schools, DeBlasio plan is doomed”.
“I agree that parent participation is important. Creating community schools is a step in that direction especially “with offerings like mental health services for those who need them or food for students who do not get enough to eat at home”. Offering these services to parents and guardians too might be one way to increase involvement.
In my experiences teaching public school I noticed that our weekly food pantry encouraged parents to come to the school and made them feel welcome.
It’s a two way street, if schools – especially in low income neighborhoods – do more to support and welcome parents we’ll likely see a reciprocal increase in parent support and involvement in school affairs”.
And another commenter, Sophiequus, added:
“I recall by brother-in-law, a district superintendent in update NY, saying “We just have them 7 hours a day. There’s a limit to what we can do.” If schools are going to become social service delivery vehicles, the school day will need to be extended far beyond an hour.
As a parent of school children, I feel certain nothing can replace a parent in the home who actively supports education, requires/ensures their children attend school on time, complete assignments, and seek out extra help when needed. If you don’t have the parent on the school’s side, I’m not sure how to help children succeed without more extreme solutions”.
I wanted to write a more detailed post on this, but as a new parent myself, I found it challenging to make time to even do this much!
Final Class Poem
In my final class, at least for the next year as I move on to a be a writing fellow at Baruch, I talked with my students about how I hoped that rather than remember any particular facts about research methods – that they had developed a new perspective on how to approach research articles and research presented in the popular press.
On the bus ride to class I’d been reading a recent issue of The Atlantic on The Confidence Gap. I thought the article quite relevant as 19//20 of the students in my course were women – many of whom were quite nervous about presenting their final projects . I questioned if they thought a confidence gap existed between genders and if this gap might contribute to differences in pay? Or perhaps the confidence gap was a symptom of other systemic factors at play?
My hope is that after working through the research methods course my students will be equipped to grapple with, deconstruct and then take a position in relation to the research presented in The Confidence Gap and in other relevant issues and articles.
I concluded the class by reading an excerpt from a poem featured in the same Atlantic issue, The Five Spot by Billy Collins. Ever since Questions about Angels was high school’s required summer reading I’ve had negative associations with Collins, but The Five Spot seemed to speak to an element of the course and hopefully to how students might think about issues in the world as they move on with their lives. The poem summarized my hopes for myself and my students better than I could in clumsy social science terms. And as in class instead of trying to summarize these thoughts and emotions I’ll let the poet do this work…so direct from my fridge here it is:
The craziest thing about March Madness is that the NCAA, TV networks and college coaches make millions, while the players themselves reap non of the profits.
In a related article William C. Rhoden presents a clear argument for why college athletes should be compensated:
“The N.C.A.A. has a wonderful business model, one that any entrepreneur would love to have: a profitable business in which your employees help generate billions of dollars and basically work for the honor and the glory of the business and little more”.
And Rhoden concludes with these words:
“Expect the N.C.A.A. to fight this with all its resources. If the decision stands and other players at other universities try to unionize, the N.C.A.A.’s house of cards could collapse. It does not have a winning argument when it insists that it is not a commercial enterprise. Indeed, the organization argues against itself with each day of March Madness.
Face it: The jig is up.”
As a graduate student and New York Jew with family in Israel, including a brother attending medical school there, I clearly have a stake in this debate. There is also some family history involved; my grandparents worked with the ANC, and in part due to their political activities, were eventually forced to leave South Africa for England with their three young children (a journey that my mother recounts beautifully in the prologue to her book).
Certainly in the short term the boycott draws attention to Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, but at what cost to meaningful academic dialogue and research in the long run?
A good friend and fellow CUNY graduate student, Sam, shared his opinion recently in response to a Facebook post:
Many have likened the recent academic boycott of Israel to the academic boycott of apartheid South Africa. I wonder about historical differences in the two contexts. The history of the Jewish state and the jewish people is quite different from the history of the South African apartheid state. How will my family members, such as my brother, grandmother, and great uncle – who has a dual appointment at an Israeli and an American University – relate to this issue?
Interestingly, the above Facebook conversation ended with both parties agreeing to continue to the conversation offline – which also relates to my interests in how people write in explicitly social settings as opposed to semi-public or more intimate settings.
Clearly these two young men are aware of what’s at stake when debating academic issues involving Israel. What are the implications of their choice to end the conversation here, why didn’t they continue online and what does this mean for the way people write and think while using social media?
Still working away at my proposal…
However, I can see the light. I’m looking forward to wrapping this semester up – so I can hang with my siblings, who both currently live abroad. My sister arrives from Denmark today, and my brother from Israel next week.
What better way to welcome them back than to share this incredible post my brother wrote about his first few weeks in med school? The post was so good – it earned him an interview with Lonely Planet! So here it is:
What Matters Most
by Jonah Kreniske
A gentle breeze wafts in from the balcony, sliding through my open door and bringing a welcome chill. I step out and rest my hands on the iron banister. In the distance I can make out the hills of Ramot, barely lit by a low, rust colored moon. My neighborhood, Gimmel, winds out below me. Undulating Hebrew and Arabic beats from nearby apartment complexes mix with the usual classic rock standards from Coca bar up the street. If it were daytime, you would hear the Ethiopian children across the street playing in the yard of the New Immigrant Absorption Center. But it is almost one in the morning, and they are sleeping now. I should probably be sleeping too. Instead, I’m standing here, breathing in the city. From my balcony I can see Soroka Hospital. A shining invitation to the unwell of the desert night, it is a slice of sleek modernity in the dusty streets.
The past month, in that hospital, has been a whirlwind introduction to our new lives as physicians in training. We have met our classmates and together we have absorbed myriad lectures, and trudged through hours of intensive Ulpan. Now, in this rare moment of relative calm, I look across at the maternity clinic, and I wonder if someone is being born behind those walls. It’s comforting to remember that life begins here. On Monday, walking past the ER to my first class, a weeping woman swept past me. Glancing towards the ER doors she had burst out of, I saw another woman writhing on the floor. An ambulance had just arrived. Never have I heard so much pain in the voice of another human being as I heard in the cries of that woman outside the ER, on my way to 8am class. At Soroka we see what we might push to the back of our minds in another context. We see illness and death, birth and health, side-by side, tipping weights on a human scale.