Mapping the imaginary lines we use to segregate our schools

Today, Vox posted Mapping the imaginary lines we use to segregate our schools, an excellent article and tool to look at the state of school segregation in the United States. It's generally not good.

From the data & tool, our district (Kenmore-Tonawanda) unfortunately re-creates the current neighborhood segregation:

In America, there is already a massive amount of residential segregation, shaped by a long history of racist government policies. This is why everyone going to the nearest school perpetuates very segregated classrooms.

Two of the elementary schools included in the data closed due to consolidation since the findings were reported, but I can't imagine things are much different with the new district lines.

For the United States overall, the percentage of black students who attend schools that are at least 50% white has rapidly decreased since the late 80s, to a level not seen since the late 60s. We're literally going back in time -- pretty disheartening.

Worth a read and looking at your area's school districts.

Teaching Grit

Grit is one of the most important traits of successful people and one of the top traits us parents can teach our children.

I was thinking some more on my common core math post from the other day. Specifically the viral social media posts we see on Facebook, like the frustrated parent (an electronics engineer with an extensive study in "higher math applications”) who cannot figure out a pretty basic math problem, then writes a snarky letter to the teacher.

What exactly is that teaching their child? That it’s OK to give up and not even try? To instead rely on snark and excuses? They obviously took some time to come up with the idea for the letter and write it down, so why not take that time and put effort into figuring out the question? It isn’t that hard and even if it was, I’m sure heading over to Google and searching for ‘math number line’ would have come up with some resources to help them figure it out.

Anyway, this led me to start thinking about grit.

courage and resolve; strength of character.

Also known as tenacity, endurance, fortitude, mettle, determination, and toughness. In my opinion, one of the most important traits of successful people and one of the top traits us parents can teach our children.

As a parent, I imagine the example above went down like this: they came home from a long day at work. Their child asks them for help with a math problem. The parent takes a quick look, figures out the answer to the equation very quickly, but given how easy the equation was, they don’t understand why the question is even necessary. So that sets off the need to make an example of this new fangled math. The focus changes from the child’s homework to the parent’s problem.

But I think it’s more commonly this, from a post in The Atlantic called Why Parents Need to Let Their Children Fail:

The stories teachers exchange these days reveal a whole new level of overprotectiveness: parents who raise their children in a state of helplessness and powerlessness, children destined to an anxious adulthood, lacking the emotional resources they will need to cope with inevitable setback and failure.

This overparenting "is characterized in the study as parents' misguided attempt to improve their child's current and future personal and academic success."

As a parent, the right thing to do is not insuring a low stress educational career or manipulating situations to improve your child’s success or going out of our way to make sure our kids never fail. It is this: teaching them to persevere through failure, to keep trying, to keep learning & growing, to be curious, to be problem solvers. Those skills will set your kid up for a lifetime of success.

Common Core Math Explained

You've all seen those viral posts on Facebook or Twitter: a frustrated parent writing to a math teacher about Common Core math. On the face of it, the math problems and methods seem ridiculous. We (adults) all learned math a certain way and we're comfortable dealing with that method. If it ain't broke, why fix it?!  The problem is, as points out in the linked article below, American adults are horrible at math. has an excellent explanation of the how and why behind Common Core math.

 One goal of the Common Core math standards is to make American students better at applying math in real life — a skill that's crucial for science and technology jobs, but one at which American students are particularly weak compared with peers around the world.

My three daughters will, most likely, know nothing but this "new math" during their educational career and I am grateful for that -- I believe it fosters a deeper understanding of math concepts and problem solving. Both are things we very much want for them.

There's plenty that they can improve about Common Core, but the new way to teach math isn't one of them.

We are all guilty

I've been sort of following these rape news stories, because I have three little girls and it scares the shit out of me. Not just rape, but the humiliation & degradation, the objectification, the lack of respect for the victim, the expectations and imagery we bombard young girls (and boys) with, and the sexist and misogynistic culture our media and society creates, in general. It sickens me.

I know I can only work hard to raise three strong women and hope that someday they won't have to deal with this mess. My wife is certainly an excellent role model for them, and I try to show them, by example, what a thoughtful, respectful man is and can be in our society. Unfortunately, I don't think it is enough.

Today on Twitter I saw a post by "Laugh, Mom" entitled, I am so fucking sick of teaching our daughters not to get raped. She starts out by hitting on all the things we tell our girls and women:

Never take a drink from anyone or let your drink out of your sight. Don't show too much cleavage. Be aware of your surroundings at all times. Never go to a boy's room alone. If it comes to it, go for the eyes, the nose, the balls. Always stay with a group of girls…safety in numbers. You can't trust him, even if he seems nice.

These are all the rules I was taught growing up. Parents, teachers, media, all told me I had to be careful not to get raped. Because I was a girl. And the responsibility was on me.

The fact that so much of preventing objectification, rape, abuse, and violence is on the potential female victim is such bullshit.

"Laugh, Mom" , who has three sons, pleads with other parents of boys:

We need to stop letting it be our sons.

We need to teach our sons that no means no. And that silence means no. And that drunkenness means no. And that being passed out means no. And that "I don't know" or "I'm not sure" or "maybe we shouldn't do this" means no.

We need to teach our sons that women and girls are actual people. They're not just bodies. They're not just holes. They're not inanimate objects to be used at will.

We need to teach our sons that degrading women isn't funny in any context.

We need to teach our sons that watching something happen and not intervening is every bit as bad as participating.

We need to teach our sons what it means to be men.

I don't have any daughters. I am not tasked with teaching them how to try not to get raped. But this isn't a problem with our daughters. We shouldn't have to teach them how to stop rape.

We need to teach our sons.

So much of this, it hurts. In fact, we all need to take more responsibility for this shit: parents, schools, media, and especially men/boys. And like I said above, it not just about rape – it's much bigger.

Please do your part.

Soundtrack for this post: Suggestion by Fugazi