Friday Reading List: Disparities

I'm just reading the news about Nice, France. Sending thoughts, love, light, and prayers seems trite at this point, but it's the least we can do.

Marilyn Rhames looks at what happens to children when they see a constant stream of real violence in the world:

Kids are watching people, real people, die on their TV and computer screens. If not on cable news, then on YouTube, and no one can comfort them with the assurance that after the video ends the people they see will get up and go home laughing. The blood is real. The bullets are real. The police are real. The gangs are real. The Black men they see bleeding out on the concrete are real. I’m not a psychologist, but I know that these images have a profound effect on one’s psyche. I’ve had a hard time sleeping. I’ve cried more tears than I’d like to admit. I’m scared.

I remember the heady days of the early 1990s, when Tipper Gore lamented the violence in video games, but Rhames is talking about real people, and real world violence here. While the proliferation of cell phone video has been instrumental in calling attention to police brutality, the side effect is that our children are being force fed a lot of traumatic, violent imagery. It's no surprise that the constant brutality is unleashing anger. Yale recently declined to press charges against an employee who smashed a window depicting enslaved people:

“Yale has to decide which is more valuable: a stained-glass window, or the dignity and humanity of the black people who live and work at Yale,” said Megan Fountain, an alumna and volunteer with the activist group Unidad Latina en Accion, which helped organize the rally. Yale said in a statement on Tuesday that it had requested that the state’s attorney not press charges, and that the university would not be seeking restitution for the broken window ... Yale also noted that after Mr. Menafee broke the window, a committee recommended that several windows related to slavery be removed and “conserved for future study and a possible contextual exhibition.”

First, I should own my bias here. As an alumnus of the university, I signed a petition last year to rename Calhoun College. I am disappointed that the administration did not do this; not erasing history is one thing, but not subjecting Black students and employees to constant reminders of their oppression is more important. Second, Megan Fountain from Unidad Latina zooms in on the critical point here. American has an ugly tradition of prioritizing personal property over Black lives.

Speaking of prioritization, Lillian Mongeau at the Hechinger Report looks at how the United States allocates resources to the youngest Americans, including interactive maps:

On every level — local, state and federal — this country invests little to nothing in the first five years of a child’s life, putting us decades and dollars behind the rest of the developed world. “I think we value our children less than other nations do,” said Arne Duncan, the former U.S. secretary of education who pushed hard for increased federal investment in early care and education during his seven-year tenure in the Obama administration. “I don’t have an easier or softer or kinder way to say that.” In 2012, the U.S, ranked 35th among developed economies in pre-primary or primary school enrollment for 3- to 5-year-olds, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an international economic association. The implications of failing to offer public preschool, especially for children from the highest-need communities, are “massive,” Duncan said. “It’s a loss of human potential."

Folks will hem and haw about the expense of, and political difficulty of, spending much more money on early childhood education. It's pretty stunning, though, to look at the disparities, both among states, and between the U.S. and other countries.

Eve Ewing has a new essay about the ways in which poets of color can be pigeonholed:

I politely correct people when they call me a “slam poet,” all the while wondering what they mean by that anyway ... For some people, “performance” is a bad word, and even for those of us who think otherwise, it can have frustrating implications. Poets of color, particularly black poets, are often pigeonholed into not only the presumption of performance, but the implication that performance—as a mode of poetry—is somehow crude, somehow lesser. I often recall, with pain, a meeting in which an older white man told me and another woman of color that poetry slam is useful insofar as it might bring poor, black, and “Hispanic” children of the “inner-city” in proximity to literature so that, eventually, they might read real poetry.

Yesterday I shared a video of performance poetry, and it's important for educators to understand not just the difference between the formal conventions of different kinds of art forms, but also the various cultural and contextual elements that lead to certain kinds of art forms being more "acceptable" to the dominant culture.

Finally, there hasn't been as much interest in the SUMMER READING! group as I had hoped. Still, I continue to read Yaa Gyasi's Homegoing with a small group of very dedicated blog readers (you know who you are). We read the second half of Part One this week, and next week we will read the first half of Part Two, through and including the "Willie" chapter. To learn more about the SUMMER READING! project, scroll to the bottom of the Friday, July 1 "Reading List."

As usual, the comments section of this "Reading List" will be dedicated to discussing Homegoing. I'll kick things off today.