Monday Reading List: Summer Blues Edition

With the warmest months suddenly upon us, the New York Times looks at the affordability of summer recreation:

Most American schools take a 10- to 11-week break during the summer. The assumption that underlies summer vacation — that there is one parent waiting at home for the kids — is true for just over a quarter of American families. For the rest of us, the children are off, the parents are not. We can indulge our annual illusion of children filling joyful hours with sprinkler romps and robotics camp or we can admit the reality: Summer’s supposed freedom is expensive. In 2014, parents reported planning to spend an average of $958 per child on summer expenses. Those who can’t afford camps or summer learning programs cobble together care from family members or friends, or are forced to leave children home alone. Self-care for 6- to 12-year-olds increases during the summer months, with 11 percent of children spending an average of 10 hours a week on their own.

Buzzfeed has a list of activities under $10, and the Huffington Post has something similar. Give the growing cost and prominence of enrichment activities, summer is yet another place where access and resources can exacerbate opportunity gaps. Speaking of access to enrichment, parents in the DC suburbs are in the midst of battling about access to gifted and talented programs:

A recent report on school choice in the suburban Maryland school district recommended changes to increase diversity in the county’s highly gifted centers and magnet programs. It found stark disparities in enrollment and acceptance rates, with white and Asian students faring better than their black and Hispanic classmates. The most controversial of the report’s recommendations would modify the admissions process to focus on “selecting equitably” from applicants who show a capacity to thrive. It suggests a few possible ideas, including admitting the top-performing children from each “sending” school and broadening the definition of “gifted.”

That sounds great, right? 

... many Asian American parents are worried that the recommendation, which mentions “group-specific norms,” could lead to Asian American children being denied admission on the basis of race.

So, I guess it's complicated. Read the whole piece, because it contains one of my all time favorite cooptations of a Dr. Martin Luther King speech. Cultivating the talents of academically gifted children is a worthy goal, but let's not pretend that academic giftedness is so cut-and-dry that we cannot adjust our definitions to meet equity goals. Most definitions of "giftedness" account for a combination of academic performance, creativity, and motivation; when the definition shifts, as is happening in Montgomery County, the folks who benefit from the current definition are bound to be frustrated.

SIgh ... definitions are hard to pin down. Sharif El-Mekki wants folks to understand the real definition of "activist":

To be a community activist, one must put his/her own preferences in their back pocket and sit on them. There are many folks who incessantly wave the community activist banner, yet readily refuse to acknowledge that what they promote doesn’t serve the best interests of our communities ... I know community activism when I see and hear it. I grew up surrounded by unabashed and unapologetic community activists. Their unyielding love for their community and their sacrifices for the children they served is forever imprinted in my brain. It is easy for me to see self-serving interests masquerading as community-serving. The hypocrisy of politicians who pose as community activists, yet boldly and arrogantly refuse school choice for our communities is alarming. These same “activists” ensure that they can exercise unfettered school choice for their own, yet demand that other families wait—despite the fact that my people have been waiting since they left plantations or participated in the Great Migration.

El-Mekki calls out unions in this piece, but there are plenty of other folks masquerading as activists out there. Some folks who say they're for the cause are really just faking the funk. In the same spirit, Nate Bowling mourns the death of Muhammad Ali by calling out celebrities who use their star power for counter-revolutionary means:

Ali’s death is especially poignant because we need truth-tellers right now. In the era of $100 million endorsement deals and social media consultants, athletes have become PR trained automatons. No athlete today would or could take the stands he did. If they dared, they’d be crucified by the alleged journalists, like the clowns on First Take. Watching YouTube interviews of Ali (as I have much of today) I am reminded of Orwell: “In times of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” Muhammad Ali’s truths about the Vietnam War, about racial injustice in America, about the colonization of Africa, were revolutionary, for his time and for ours. I believe if you have a platform, dammit use it. In this moment, when a nativist, dog-whistle blowing, reactionary right, is ascendant in American politics, we need Alis in sports and in the black community.

Jose Vilson has a similarly poignant sentiment:

That’s why, when I walk in with my Muhammad Ali t-shirt on Monday, my message will be simple: you don’t have to be perfect to be great.

It seems trite to say more after that, so I'll just leave you with this gif of Ali dodging over twenty punches in under ten seconds: