Archive | May 2009

Why can't we text 911?

Today is going to mark the beginng of an on and off-again series I am entitling Simple Solutions. These will be random thoughts to make life better. I only ask that you give credit if you go on to make a billion dollars.

Shouldn’t there be a way to text 911? Think about it, if I am hiding from a would-be robber in my house and I have my phone, the last thing I would want to do is audibly tell my name, address, the situation, etc. Now think about a child that is being abused but doesn’t want to let the parent know they are calling 911. I know many would say that this would increase the risk of false text msgs and people playing pranks but I think there could be some safe guards built in where the person texting would have to provide an identifying piece of information like zip code or the color of the house, who knows. Moreover, we could increase the fines/consequences (if there are already) associated with prank calls to 911.  What do you think?

Stay up fam,

Brandon Q.

The way church should be…

Great article from CNN I read about last week regarding how I think church should be. Read the article below, with my commentary to follow.

(CNN) — The pastor of a non-denominational church in Argyle, Texas, passed around the collection plate to his congregants earlier this year — and asked them to take money from it.

Donations at the Cross Timbers Community Church had slumped because of the economic downturn. Pastor Toby Slough thought that his congregants had to be hurting, too. His gesture, instead, was met with an unexpected response: The church had its highest offering ever.

It was a eureka moment for Slough: Give away money to those who need it, knowing his church members will help fill the need. “In these economic times, we can’t be so into church business that we forget what our business is, and that is to help people,” Slough told CNN television affiliate KDAF in Dallas-Forth Worth, Texas.

In the past two months, the 9-year-old church has done just that: handed out a half-million dollars to members and non-members who are struggling.

“We’ve taken $200,000 and spread it out to organizations — four local, two missions that are feeding and clothing people in these tough times,” Slough said. “We’ve paid utility bills for members of our church that are unemployed or under-employed.”

His favorite giveaway came three weeks ago. The church gave 1,400 families $50 each and told them to hand it out to someone else. One of the recipients was Katie Lewis. “I’ve been alone so long. Just to be thought of and to be remembered, to be welcomed — it’s amazing,” she said, crying. Church members are pleasantly surprised. “You don’t hear about a church giving money away,” Amy Sullivan said. Slough said he is not concerned if people try to take advantage of the church’s generosity.

The church has now formed a group to look into the best ways to give out money. And, Slough said, it plans on doing so as long as there is a need in the community

What makes this story incredibly hype is that far too many churches berate their members to give to the building fund, church anniversary fund, or join the VIP or the $1,000 line. People are hurting and if I recall correctly, the purpose of giving to church is to maintain or expand the church ministry along with having enough resources in the store house for God’s children. This storehouse concept is all but lost in many of the churches I know and the fact that it made CNN, speaks to how relatively rare this kind of generosity is. I wish more churches went this route because if we are not helping people in their time of need, we as the church risk losing relevance.

Stay up fam,

Brandon Q.

Should the Mayor of Detroit live in Detroit?

The residency requirements to pay in-state tuition at the University of Michigan are higher than the ones needed to be Mayor of Detroit. That basically means I can run for Mayor of Detroit in November from my home in Bothell, WA.

A city’s mayor should be a city resident

For those that don’t know, Detroit elected a new mayor in a special election earlier this month to succeed disgraced former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. Dave Bing beat out City Council President and then-acting Mayor Kenneth Cockrel. Only 15% of the city voted in the election, making his 52-47% similar to a basketball game without a ball. Problem: he lives in Franklin, MI, not Detroit, MI. (And yes, I know about his apartment in the city, but a married man lives where his wife lives, regardless of where his apartmnet is. Mrs. Bing lives in Franklin, so he lives in Franklin.)

Damaged credibility, authority, and standards

Just like it’s hard for me to accept pontification on the importance of public education from someone with kids in private school, it’s hard to believe someone who says they’re a leader invested in a city they don’t live in.

This idiocy, the idiocy of too little process for important things and too much process where it makes no sense, is unique neither to Michigan nor Detroit. This is the age of 2-page billion dollar bank bailout applications. It’s very troubling that it’s easier to get a multi-billion dollar loan or run for public office than it is to qualify for lower college tuition.

That definitely shows where our priorities lie.

One Love. One II.

Shouldn't educators craft education policy?

It sounds like a stupid question, but sometimes those are the best kind.

I am not an educator. But in my layman’s observation of schools systems and education policies, I know that the last thing we need is to apply business models to classrooms. This “classroom as cubicle” thinking that characterizes so many charter schools’ method0logies and get’s them business loans to creat schools fails for the same reason our banking system failed:

The more one focuses on a singular indicator, the more corrupt one becomes.

Banks & businesses focused on short-term profits sacrificed responsible risk management and long-term viability. It is unacceptable to think that sacrificing the long-term quality of our children’s education is a good way to think about reforming education.

Measurement without context is a brain without a body.

Instead, I’d like to see a reform approach proposed and supported by a coalition of education practitioners, teachers, administrators, and researchers who can speak to what works in the classroom.

  • I want these people to be the ones that determine how to contextualize reading comprehension, writing, math and science test data.
  • I want these individuals to collaboratively design a framework for measuring teacher, school, district, and policy metrics, performance, rewards and repercussions.
  • I want this coalition to be represented in the Department of Education and in a meaningful way.

I don’t know how to address these and other challenges, but these people do. We must trust and respect that. After all, public policy not designed by the people it touches should be called what it is: unkept promises.

Our New Education Secretary disagrees with me

Arne Duncan, our new Secretary of Education was never a teacher or administrator. He gave his first testimony to the House Education and Labor Committee this week. I am especially perturbed by Secretary Duncan’s affinity towards charter schools:

Successful, respected educators agree with me

Deborah Meier

Deborah Meier

Teacher, Principal, author, child advocate, and leader of the Small Schools movment Deborah Meier posed this question and gave other critiques of today’s thinking on education reform on Democracy Now! yesterday:

Why do we have a Department of Education that is led by so few actual educators?

She went on to criticize the cracking of the door towards more support for charter schools, and eviscerated the notion that a business mindset will fix education:

Unfortunately, many believe that only people that know how to manipulate money know how to change the world for the better.

Who do you agree with?

One Love. One II.

Africans American gender gap in bachelor degrees

Below is an excerpt from the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education regarding the gender gap in bachelor’s degrees awarded to African Americans. I know statistics like these are often used to encourage young brothers to go to college but the implications are far more dire, especially in this economy.

To be sure, Black women doing well or better than men is not bad and women should not be berated for doing well. However, we as men have to step up and take our nephews and cousins under our wings.

The Gender Gap in Bachelor’s Degree Awards Among African Americans

In the 2006-07 academic year, black women earned 96,968 bachelor’s degrees, almost double the number earned by black men. Black women now earn two thirds of all bachelor’s degrees obtained by African Americans.

Do not be mistaken, black men too have made progress. Over the past decade, the number of bachelor’s degrees earned by black men is up more than 47 percent. But the result for black men pales in comparison to the huge gains posted by black women. Over the same 10-year period, the number of bachelor’s degrees won by black women has increased by nearly 60 percent.

"At least I"

What really makes me mad is what I call the “At least culture” (ALC)  that in my opinion is seriously undermining the social fabric of this country. To be sure, I define ALC as the misplaced comfort people place in being in a better situation than those less fortunate. The most obvious place where this idea manifests is our bank accounts where quite simply, too many people, regardless of their income find too much solace in being able to say,

Well at least I have a house,

Well at least I have a car,

Well at least I can provide for my kids,

Well at least I have college/graduate degree.

The list could go on but the point is that while few people actually talk like this in the open, I think many more think like this as a way to manage expectations of themselves. I hope the current economic crisis has allowed some people to appreciate that objects and money can come as easily as they can go. Moreover, our idea of status and having a good name is also just as delicate. Proverbs 22:1 states, “A good name is to be more desired than great wealth, Favor is better than silver and gold.” What I love about this passage is that when you put it in perspective, it makes the obsession with “at least” in its proper place. How do you feel about your name? Do you walk in favor?

Stay up fam,

Brandon Q.

Self-control: The key to success?

About forty years ago, Psychologist Walter Mischel from Stanford conducted this experiment with four-year olds testing their ability to demonstrate self-control. The experiment called for the child to be alone in the room with a marshmallow on a plate with the promise of an additional marshmallow if they can wait for 15 minutes. On the other hand, the child would forfeit the additional marshmallow if they rang a bell. (This post is inspired by a great article in The New Yorker by Jonah Lehrer.)

Most of the kids participating could wait about three minutes, while some waited the entire fifteen minutes and some as soon as the researcher left the room. So here is the kicker, Mischel decides to follow up with the children that participated in the experiment some forty years later to see how they are doing and

“Once Mischel began analyzing the results, he noticed that low delayers, the children who rang the bell quickly, seemed more likely to have behavioral problems, both in school and at home. They got lower S.A.T. scores. They struggled in stressful situations, often had trouble paying attention, and found it difficult to maintain friendships. The child who could wait fifteen minutes had an S.A.T. score that was, on average, two hundred and ten points higher than that of the kid who could wait only thirty seconds.” Read More…