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!
My grandfather Mervyn Susser passed away earlier this month. He was 92, and as one would hope for most people who live to 92, he had an amazing life.
I’m proud of him in so many ways. His work was extremely important to him and I think this recent article from the Times Health section does a good job of summarizing his contributions.
“He learned on the job in the 1950s while working in a clinic that served black South Africans and went on, over the next several decades, to examine peptic ulcers in Europe, hunger in the Netherlands, and AIDS in the United States and in South Africa. He and his wife, Dr. Zena Stein, promoted some of the earliest educational and treatment programs for AIDS in South Africa. Dr. Susser sought to improve public health from the ground up by gathering data on who was affected by diseases and why, and by trying to understand what their distinctive social and economic circumstances were”.
Though to me he was always Grandpa. Grandpa who spent long hours in his study and wasn’t to be disturbed. Grandpa who’d sit me on his knee and tell about camping in the desert and driving armored cars in the war. Grandpa with his big brimmed hats who knew every plant in the garden and couldn’t walk anywhere without stooping down to weed something. Grandpa who always joined the family for dinner, his booming, deliberate voice, pausing, to make everyone wait as he expounded on Israel, Iraq, global poverty – name it. Grandpa who’d recount playing rugby and cricket, while we watched hours of summer baseball – mostly the Yankees who’d introduced a precocious rookie shortstop.
Years later as my family gathered to sit shiva I listened to stories from my mother, uncle and aunt about moving from South Africa, to England and finally settling in New York – and yet never really being English, or American – never belonging anywhere. I reflected on my own experiences of belonging and how in my grandparents house and their garden I’ve felt a deep sense of belonging.
It took them the better part of 50 years but they finally did find a place to make a permanent home for their family. Though for my grandparents, and certainly my grandfather – home would always be South Africa. Some days after he passed away I searched the Times archive for his name. One article published in 1985 and titled Emigres Welcome Apartheid Battle caught my eye. Grandpa – or Mervyn Susser – is quoted, ”We still regard ourselves as displaced South Africans”. With Grandma Zena adding that their home in Hastings was “”a transit camp for South Africans.”
In his final years Grandpa became increasingly confused. As the family gathered for weekend lunches, the Hudson sparkling in the distance, grandpa would say things like “Whoever owns this place has done quite well”. Of course this was the garden he’d created and it was his home.
Then he’d tap grandma on the knee and say “C’mon Zeen it’s time to go”. And the rest of us would smile and gently remind him that of course – he was already home.
This happened quite often and at one point my brother playfully asked “Grandpa where are you going?”
“To the hotel, in Grootfontein,” his childhood home.
In his final weeks he stopped commenting on the lovely view from the veranda, and he stopped urging Zena to take him home. To check on him we’d sometimes ask, “Grandpa where are you?” And he’d reply confidently “In Grootfontein”.
As he said to the Times reporter all those years before, South Africa would always be his home. Though for us grandchildren he’s created a new home in Hastings. And of course it’s not the just the place but the wonderful and caring family who come together there that make it home.
…for the record a couple other obits were published since I wrote this:
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?
What’s the opposite of a smartphone? My Nokia C2 -1.05, though it does boast a 3.2 mp camera with video and music capabilities.
In fact, many of the photos on this blog were taken using this trusty tool.
However, I have decided to succumb and move into the smartworld. First, why did I hold out all these years? And second what’s changed?
Why Not Use a Smartphone?
1. I didn’t need one. It’s hard to believe but some New Yorkers don’t use cell phones at all. I spend most of my working day – as I am now sitting in front of a computer – so why would I need another computer in my pocket?
2. Having that computer in your pocket or by your head may cause brain cancer- though like plastics – it’s hard to say because everybody is doing it.
3. I didn’t want to pay more for a phone that I wasn’t going to use.
4. On an ideological level I think the smart phone, like the pocket watch in E.P. Thompson’s (1967) classic work serves as another way for our jobs – or the man – to control the worker’s life. As I wrote in a comment last year on the ITP blog:
“According to Thompson (1967) the shift from cock as timepiece to watch as timepiece signified a paradigm shift. Before the cock people told time by the sun. Chaucer’s cock reflects an agricultural modality. Can the current shift from wristwatch to smartphone be interpreted as a harbinger of the Internet revolution?”Christina quickly picked up on this thread writing “… as we consider this shift from watch to smart phone we also consider how this shift functions for Capitalism. Certainly there are implications for blurring the time of the working day. Are there other implications?”
5. And finally, everyone else has a smartphone, so if I need one they’re never far away.
1. Though I’m a far cry from self reliant, recently I’ve felt the desire to be in command of my own smartphone. Perhaps, it’s a response to the uncertainty associated with writing one’s dissertation proposal. I don’t know how that will turn out, but I do know that right now it’s 51 degrees in Central Park, I’ve read the Times top ten article titles, and my commute today will take exactly 37 minutes.
2. On a number of occasions I’ve yearned for a smartphone to direct me to the nearest Citi Bike station, or at least a station with working bikes. It’s this on the fly type of adjustment that only a computer in your pocket can provide.
3. Entertainment. I almost always carry a print version of the New Yorker, or The Atlantic in my bag or back pocket. However, I can’t carry the whole paper – or all the articles I’m perusing. One might counter – but you can’t read them all on the go anyway. Instead of reading I occasionally use the headset on my nokia to listen to the radio, but it doesn’t work on the train and I’m growing tired of NPR – especially during pledge week.
4. As noted in a previous post, I’ve become more reliant on my google calendar. In the past I used my trusty notebooks to keep track of daily engagements. However, now that I use my google calendar more often, the process of transferring information from the notebook to the calendar is flawed and has become cumbersome. For example, I might be at a meeting (without my laptop?!) and I want to schedule another meeting – but I don’t have my calendar because google has it.
5. I want the ability to check my latest email. If I don’t choose to respond right away I don’t have to – but at least I’ll know what’s ahead. Which leads to a larger existential question – is it better to know about the email lurking in your inbox, or to live with the possibility that there is a pressing matter at hand that you don’t know about?