Tuesday, April 28, 2009

2 Million Minutes

At today’s brown bag lunch discussion, Inspired staff members watched “2 Million Minutes.” The filmmakers (Robert Compton, Chad Heeter, and Adam Raney) present experiences of six high school students—two each from China, India, and the United States—and display how they spend their 2 million minutes preparing for college. Whether working towards a dream career or financial sustainability, students will eventually be part of a global economy in which these three nations are competing for that most precious of resources—“human capital.”

After the video, staff members jotted the comments posted below and engaged in a lively discussion.

“The educational system isn’t just broken in the U.S., it’s broken on an international level too. Despite less rigorous academic programs in the U.S., people from around the world often come here only to have their degrees disregarded. Unjust immigration policies and insufficient means for determining what a student knows and is capable of mean that the U.S. can maintain its imperial place of power even in fields where it doesn’t excel, while other countries compete for #1 spots in all academic areas. If we’re all competing to be the best though—schools, districts, countries—then someone else will always be on the bottom.”

“Many Indian students ‘escape’ the challenges of Indian schools to study in the U.S. schools. The academics here are less rigorous and come easier yet with more prestige. Why does the level of difficulty not directly correlate with the prestige and notoriety?”

“The greatest difference I saw between the students from each country was their understanding of ‘why.’ The students from China and India seem to have a greater understanding of why they are working so hard and why they need to be the best (economic stability, building upon their parents’ success). I did not get the same sense from the American students. They don’t seem to know why they’re going to school each day and getting an education. Perhaps this is where the American education system needs to start.”

“Whose privilege is it to take risks?”

“Economic drive in the U.S. is not as powerful as in India and China. Americans hope to keep their place in society and do well, as opposed to the real pressure of surviving and avoiding starvation.”

“The same ‘economic opportunism’ that leads students in India and China to see education as the ‘cure for hunger and poverty’ also produces Americans—the Privileged Children of the World.”

“In India—and perhaps China—education was a means to escape poverty. Is education, particularly urban education, designed to sustain poverty? ... institutionalized poverty?”

“It’s very powerful seeing the balance spent studying and doing extra-curricular activities.”

“The U.S. has a lot to learn from these countries in the value they place on education for getting ahead in life and society.”

“How do students of Indian and Chinese immigrants compare in school attitude/beliefs to students born to American-born parents?”

“How much of this video is propaganda?”

“While many, many school systems are failing, there are many succeeding. What can we uncover about these?”

“I feel this video was limited in many ways. The biggest issue I have with it is that it did not present American schools well. There is such a disparity between the low-income schools and schools [privileged] kids. It actually made me cringe. The video left me wanting more information beyond the statistics. It presented a narrow and stereotypical view of each community’s education. The question should not only focus on the privileged kids, but in what we’re not doing for kids at disadvantaged schools and how that ultimately impacts our society, including its educational and economic position in the world.”

“I feel quite strongly that we are asking the wrong questions. There is no agreement on what constitutes an ideal society. Certainly one would not easily find agreement on the current state of India, China, or the United States. We can likely agree that each possesses desirable/good/essential traits. But what do we want to be? And which path should we choose to get there? There is much to explore and no single answer.”

Join the conversation! Leave a comment and learn more about the video at www.2MMinutes.com online.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Teachers as change-makers -- A Chalk Talk

At yesterday's Teacher Advisory Board meeting, we discussed teachers as change-makers and the role of the teacher in advocacy work. Check out the Chalk Talk that got it all started ...

What traits/skills do good teachers have that make them ideal change-makers?
  • lead necessary discussions while making everyone feel included and invested
  • able to tackle multiple jobs at once
  • project management
  • passion for serving communities
  • asking useful questions
  • survival skills
  • assessing/observing potential within groups and individuals
  • good listeners
  • used to changing!
  • not usually condescending
  • thoughtfulnes/connection to the realities of young people's lives
If you were asked to speak to members of Congress, what might you talk about?
  • how all communities (teachers, faimilies, schools, admin., etc.) can work together
    without finger-pointing BUT taking responsibility for each part of the equation.
  • make education available for all, including parents (we have many low-literate and
    illiterate parents)
  • the paramount imporance of parents--who need training. Social service funding MUST
  • elevating the role of the teacher through laws that recognize them as vital to the
    success of our country
  • the necessity to engage active educators in education reform
  • transofrming public schools into center of community engagement institutions. Each
    school should house human support services such as health, housing, parent

What are you an advocate for?

  • making sure kids are treated fairly
  • treating kids as all humans should be
  • humor, thinking, and RECESS
  • trade and technical schools, distance-learning for homebound students or students
    who could do better in this kind of learning environment
  • individuals with special needs
  • equity in schools/educational opportunities
  • lifelong education! accessible education for all ages
  • creative thinking
  • *highest* respect for children

Can schools change society? How?

  • Yes, by offering young members of society opportunities to thrive, discover their
    strengths, and grow.
  • Yes, by educating parents.
  • Yes! But schools must be 'hubs' for collaboration and service to community.
  • Yes, by preparing young people to be the designers of a better future.
  • Yes, by demonstrating how people connected to a school--i.e., students, parents,
    educators, community members--can work together toward a single goal.