Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Ruby Payne's work covered in New York Times Magazine

Ruby Payne is the author of among other things A Framework for Understanding Poverty. Paul Tough in the June 10, 2007, issue of The New York Times Magazine writes, “In the nation’s classrooms, middle-class teachers increasingly encounter poor students, often with disastrous results. Ruby Payne says she has the secrets to help them cross the great divide.” The article profiles her work as well as some of its criticisms.

Having been trained as a facilitator in Bridges Out of Poverty, and Getting Ahead in a Just gettin by World, I have found value in Payne's frameworks and having a vocabulary to draw from that assists in explaining some of the realities of the class divide. I have experienced a whole room full of folks understanding the impacts and experiences of generational systemic poverty as well as generational middle class and generational wealth in new ways and using those newfound understandings to inform and improve their particular interactions with people. I have found that if and when carefully presented, the concepts resonate with many people's backgrounds and experiences. Having tried to implement "Getting Ahead" in an urban neighborhood, though, I did struggle with addressing the role of race and ethnicity as it relates to systemic poverty. (Tho---I'm not convinced that wasn't just my own discomfort and inexperience.... )

In response, perhaps, or just because, aha! process, inc. has published its Platform for Economic Justice. It's an interesting discussion of issues and items of the day from the aha! perspective, which, in some ways again seems to side step issues of race and ethnicity. It is at least a jumping off point for additional and ongoing conversation about poverty, class (and dare i say... race and ethnicity?).

Saturday, May 05, 2007

On Stepping Up and Getting Involved

Whew! What a ride this has been. This whole school board mess.

For those that don't follow the goings on of the TPS - you should. After all, this is the basis for growth, understanding, hope and progress. Education - that's what it's called.

Recently the TPS had the opportunity to hire a top-notch Superintendent that could have helped our schools become true centers of learning. Dr. Bill Harner had had much experience in pulling poorly progressing schools out of the doldrums and turning them around. Making them into productive and encouraging entities.

Alas, the TPS has chosen to refuse to entertain ideas of growth and progress by wanting to (illegally) limit Dr. Harner's choice of residence and school for his daughter. Instead they have chosen a man that has been entrenched in the TPS for 29 years. Yes - 29 years. And in those years he has not taken the initiative to LEAD the schools into a positive future, but instead allowed himself to languish in mediocrity and ambivalence. This does not instill a feeling that this man is capable of LEADING us into a progressive future. Instead I fear more of the same. It's terrifying. It's disheartening. It's despicable. While John Foley may be a nice man, I do not have any faith in his abilities as a leader. I will pray that I am wrong. That our children's futures will not suffer from this decision. A decision made behind the masks of backroom politics and power plays.

In short - as long as we continue to do what we have always done we will continue to get what we've always gotten. And that's not acceptable. Not at all.

Our children deserve better. Our city deserves better.

Please, please, please - take the lead. Get involved. STAY involved. Let the TPS know that you won't allow the 'good old boy' system to sacrifice your children's futures for the sake of a pension.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Lone Ranger - and don't forget Tonto!

Do you remember the Lone Ranger? That beautiful white horse he rode?? How about his sidekick Tonto?

If you remember those things then you are probably close to my age.

Do you remember silvery pink lipstick, heavy black eyeliner, ironing your hair to make it straight, go-go boots, hot pants, mini skirts, micro-mini skirts and madras shirts? How about "granny dresses" and mini-prints? Or hip-huggers, maxi skirts, metal roller skates with a key, single speed bicycles, angel sleeved peasant blouses, and funky hats?

Well, let me tell ya ... those 'oddities' of yesteryear are back in style for the most part. And the kids wearing the 'different' styles now are no different than we were way back when. Sure, some of the clothes LOOK different, but they truly aren't. And some of the hairstyles and colors are different in appearance, but they say the same thing.

What are they saying?

How about something like, "I am under pressure." "I am SO wanting to be grown up, but I'm scared to death." "I have to fit in." "I CAN'T look different. Then the other kids will make comments about me!"

Those are the same fears and concerns we (us old farts) had back when dinosaurs roamed the earth. And those fears and concerns have not changed from generation to generation. The only difference is sometimes the physical presentation of those fears. That's where we straddle this chasm that separates the 'grown ups' from the 'kids.'

We don't want to admit that we've already been there, and the kids don't want to admit that they will have the same concerns we have, but in the future. You remember that the thought of actually becoming your folks was not something you aspired to. You always clung to that curve of individuality, that independent mindset. But we do become our parents - eventually. It's almost inevitable.

We (old farts) did not invent sex, drugs, peer pressure, etc. But we did live through it. And todays' kids will continue to think that they are the first and only generation that has come up with most of today's trials. The inner bewilderment that goes along with finally realizing that you didn't invent these things is quite an eye-opener.

Hopefully if we will be brutally honest with ourselves, all the while acknowledging that we are not different from the kids, we will be able to share and teach them without preaching to them. We will be able to have intelligent discussions with enough open-mindedness to listen rather than to just hear. And we will embrace the premise that mutual respect is paramount.

When was the last time you watched a group of kids and thought, "What are they up to?" Probably pretty recently. Instead, try saying to yourself, "I wonder what's on their plate today?" And then try to engage them in a respectful discussion. You just might learn something. I know I have.

Keep in mind - WE all wanted to be asked to do something instead of being told. And we all wanted someone to listen to us, not just hear.

Remember - one of the most constant things in life is change.


Monday, April 16, 2007

Stuff, more stuff, and even more stuff

While it may seem as though our project is stalled, I want to assure you that it has not.

Some issues have surfaced in a few of our personal lives that have dictated that we attend to some fairly urgent issues that occupy quite a bit of time. I promise we will be back on track very, very soon.

That being said....let's take a look at what's happening around us. Spring is trying to settle in, the trees are trying to get re-established, and it's almost time for the young folks to be out of school for the summer. That means that boredom will take over if we don't figure out just how to occupy the time of the kids.

Might I suggest that you make an effort now to recruit a neighborhood youngster to help with some of those summer projects. If you have need for an extra set of hands, more stamina, and more energy then make use of those kids down the street! And yes - you'll probably have to pay them - or you could barter with them. Perhaps there is something you have or can get that they would like to have. Might even be less than what you would think are acceptable wages! Give it a try.

I'm sure you are aware of the Mayor's proposal that the citizens adopt a piece of ground and plant flowers. This is an idea that is met with mixed emotions. While it would be nice to see lots of flowers and landscaping done we must keep in mind that it's expensive and time consuming. Perhaps if you have some perennials that can be split you could go ahead and split them and then place them along your yard as a border or in pots to accent your entry or patio.

If you find yourself saying things like, "There has to be another way." Or, "Why doesn't someone come up with a solution for that?" Or, "What in the world were they thinking?" Well, those thoughts tell me that you have considered options - different ways that any particular situation could/should be handled. In that case I would suggest that you share those ideas with whomever is in charge of the situation you're concerned about. That's the first step to instituting change. Real change. It takes OUR involvement. OUR dedication. OUR voices.

And finally...how did we become such a complacent society? Waiting for someone else to make changes that WE could make for ourselves. How did we become so ambivalent to the world around us? How did we become so self absorbed that we don't even know who our neighbors are? I, personally, have made a promise to myself to reverse all those things this year. How about you?

The true sense of neighbor and neighborhood has been replaced by the I-We-My frame of reference. We have become a ME society. This has to change in order for us ALL to be effective and informed. Won't you join in? Please.....

Thanks for reading the ramblings of a frazzled Monday morning mind.

Friday, April 13, 2007

On Youth, Hope and the Wonders of Today

WOW! I am bowled over - yet again!

You see, today I attended a meeting of local activists and those that have an impact on the community from a public service perspective. And one thing really stood out in this 90 minute meeting. Actually, I should say one PERSON really stood out.

This young man is some kind of awesome. He's thoughtful, well mannered, articulate, comfortable, pure, innovative, determined, interested, interesting, dedicated, and full of hope. He's also bright, intelligent, savvy, socially acceptable, politically correct. He's a handsome young man, eyes bright with hope, exudes self confidence, holds education near and dear, and is on track to be one of Toledo's 'movers and shakers' in the youth movement.

Ladies and gents - meet Tye Alexander. He's 15 years old and a truly wondrous human being.

Tye is a leader of youth in North Toledo. And he's just what the doctor ordered in order to dissolve the stones of apathy that many of us are plagued with. Tye is the leader of his group and promotes civic involvement, participation in shaping the future, and promotes and perpetuates a peer group that just makes you smile all the way down inside.

Tye's energy is contagious. His smile is what hope is built on. And his sincerity and faith in his own abilities, as well as the impact he has in his community, are traits that I am envious of. I only hope his energy and commitment to improving his future and the future of other youth becomes an epidemic that infects us all.

Tye - you are a shining star. Thank you for being a leader, and for caring enough about your city and your future to step up to the plate.

I applaud you - more than you know!

If you would like to meet Tye then stop by the little park located at Huron and Locust on Sunday, April 22nd, for the Youth Rally. Tye will be there and you really should meet him. He's one incredible human being!