Monday, December 8, 2014

Common Core Controversy

             Common Core State Standards "are academic benchmarks that outline the skills a student should have at each level" and are embraced by President Obama and his administration. Common Core claims the program embraces new ways of thinking while reducing emphasis on memorization. Many states  adopted the new standards during the Recession after states realized they would receive millions of dollars in federal money. The new standards coincide with new tests under No Child Left Behind, an education law passed during George W. Bush's administration.
            Teachers, parents and students are divided on the effectiveness of Common Core. Many conservatives believe the standards are ineffective while some students and teachers see benefits in the new standards. Some states have seen drops in student scores, but teachers argue it will take students time to get used to the new system. Most parents do not like Common Core because their children do not understand the material and end up failing a grade. Diane Ravitch, research professor of education at New York State University, argues students are not failing because "students are dumb, but because the state chose to set an unrealistic passing mark". Ravitch adds that teachers have not received proper training to teach Common Core and public officials need to listen to parents. 
           My sister is in high school and began learning Common Core standards last year. She is an excellent student but finds the new standards incredibly confusing. She thought the "old ways" of teaching were more efficient than the new norms and does not understand why the school district changed it's curriculum. In Common Core, there is a new process that students must follow to show work for math problems and my sister finds it incredibly tedious and "a waste of time". 
          Many other people support my sister's opinions and believe Common Core is ineffective because children learn differently and teachers just "teach to teach the test". Students do not really learn the material because teachers are focused in covering the material that will be on the tests. Based on evidence from my teachers and my personal experience, I believe Common Core is a mistake. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Children of Presidents Are Off Limits

           Last week, President Obama pardoned a turkey, preventing the bird from being eaten for Thanksgiving dinner. However, at this traditional event most of the attention was on Sasha and Malia Obama, the daughters of the president. The girls understandably seemed bored and embarrassed by their dad's jokes. In fact, the girls' expressions and demeanor were discussed in an article written by Buzzfeed titled, "The Obama Girls Could Not Be More Bored by Their Dad's Jokes". Teenagers are notorious for being embarrassed by their parents and the media capitalized on the fact that the president's daughters are just like any other teenagers in America.
           Republican congressional aide Elizabeth Lauten disagreed with the way Sasha and Malia presented themselves, so she wrote a scathing letter on her Facebook page. In the letter, Lauten criticized the Obama girls on their seeming lack of interest in the event and poor choice in clothes. In her post, she tells the Obama girls to “...rise to the occasion. Act like being in the White House matters to you. Dress like you deserve respect, not a spot at a bar”Lauten's comments went viral and caused extreme backlash from the American public. In response to the criticism from the public Lauten resigned yesterday.
          I found Lauten's comments extremely distasteful and frankly, caused me to wonder about Lauten's sanity. I have a hard time imagining why any adult would criticize a child, and especially who is in the public eye and had no choice in the profession of their parents. Sasha and Malia behaved like typical teenagers, and I saw no reason to criticize them for their actions. Lauren is the person who acted immaturely. Unfortunately, criticism of children of presidents is not new. The daughter of Ronald Reagan, Patti Davis, wrote a letter to Sasha and Malia explaining her  experiences with the press and how "as First Daughters, you can't win". I believe all children should be off limits to the press and public criticism, regardless of political affiliation. 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

President Obama's Executive Order

            Last week, President Obama signed an executive order preventing "the deportation of about 4 million parents and guardians who lack the same legal status as their children". The executive order has caused a huge uproar among Americans who disagree with the executive order. Many economic analyses believe after parents and guardians get work permits; there will be a boost in the economy. "The new order could boost labor income by $6.8 billion, helping to generate 160,000 new jobs and $2.5 billion in additional tax revenues". Other economists say a larger immigration overhaul, making more current illegal immigrants legal, could attract quality immigrant workers who have strong work ethics and desire to own their  businesses. Experts believe more immigration reform would attract more immigrants who could help the economy by taking over jobs from an aging, retiring workforce.
           I completely disagree with the executive order President Obama just signed. While the order applies to about 4 million illegal immigrants already in the country, I believe it may cause an increase in illegal immigrants. The new illegal immigrants may think that if Obama signs one executive order, why wouldn't he sign another one to help them? If I was a citizen of another country and heard about Obama's executive order, it may prompt me to enter illegally into the United States because I have faith Obama will sign another executive order to help me. The order also devalues the millions of immigrants who came the United States legally. The years and money they spent gaining citizenship are essentially wasted because millions of illegal immigrants received the same benefits without the same effort legal immigrants put into the process. I have friends and family members who went through the citizenship process, and it angers me that millions of illegal immigrants will receive the same status, but without putting in the hard work.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Importance of Early Education

         Research shows early education programs, such as pre-kindergarten and pre-school, have positive long-term effects for children. However, only a small portion of three-year-olds and four-year-olds are enrolled in these types of programs because it is too expensive for most families. Supporters of these programs include politicians and teachers who believe every child deserves a quality early education.
        However, since the government funds many pre-k programs, politicians think it is important to distinguish pre-k from pre-school in order for it to sound more academic. Some people argue "pre-school" conjures up images of "glorified babysitting," where children do not learn subjects like math, reading, etc. Both Republican and Democrat politicians, including Tom Wolf (D) of Pennsylvania, used the phrase "pre-kindergarten" in their campaigns. Therefore, the decision to distinguish between "pre-k" and pre-school is merely political.
          "Pre-k typically refers to a specific category of early learning that focuses on ensuring kids are ready for kindergarten". Ideally, teachers in pre-k programs have Bachelor's Degrees and introduce children to subjects such as writing and science. Supporters also argue that pre-k is an "economic investment because it’s believed to reduce the chances a kid will drop out of school, get arrested, and rely on social services, as well as significantly increase that person’s earning potential"Pre-kindergarten is seen as having these benefits as well as a solution to the gap between the rich and poor which is why politicians see pre-k programs as a "great equalizer" between different classes and races in all areas of the country.
        Critics argue pre-k programs are not as effective as politicians claim. While critics agree pre-k programs help close the gap between the poor and middle class, there is not evidence to see changes between the different levels of the middle class-lower, middle, and high middle class.
       I agree with the politicians who argue that pre-k programs for every child is ideal. I know it is naive to believe that every child will receive the same education, but I think it can happen in some communities. This semester, I have learned a great deal about child psychology in my childhood and adolescent development class and understand the importance and difference early education programs like pre-k and pre-school made in a child's life.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Remembering Women Veterans and Their Children

              Veteran's Day is a day to honor the men and women who have served our country. Today is also a day to bring attention to the rates of homelessness among veterans. Many organizations, including US Veteran's Affairs and nonprofits, have helped decrease the number of homeless veterans in the United States. However, the decrease in homelessness does not translate to female veterans. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates that women are 10% of the homeless veteran population. Experts believe the rate of homeless women veterans is rising because the of the lack of affordable housing and child care. Women are returning to the United States after combat struggle because many federal assistance programs lack the services women, and their children require.  
              Mental health services are also important for homeless female veterans. Issues including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder are common among veterans. Veterans who are mothers need to assimilate back into civilian life while at the same time, take care of children. Politicians need to do more for female homeless veterans and their families because no veteran should be homeless.
             When I was a child in elementary school, I thought Veteran's Day was just a day I did not have to go to school. Now I realize Veteran's Day is a day to remember our servicemen and servicewomen who have served our country. I have a cousin in the U.S. Navy, and both of my grandfathers served in the Army during the Korean War and World War II, respectively. My parents told me they struggled with mental health problems when they returned after their service. I can only imagine what it would be like to be a woman veteran with children and struggling with the same issues as my grandfathers did. I believe it is a disgrace that veterans are coming home from combat with no place to live, no services to help them, and no help with their children.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

How Neighborhoods Impact Children

            The impact of where children grow up is a controversial topic. People are curious to know whether a child's well-being and success in life are determined by where children live when they are young. Some people argue that "good neighborhoods with strong schools"  help children become well-rounded adults while neighborhoods with extreme poverty and bad schools have a significant negative impact on childrens' physical and mental health. Interestingly, there is evidence to support the idea that poor children in excellent school districts have increased academic performance. Studies show "poor children who live in low-poverty neighborhoods and consistently attend high-quality schools perform significantly better academically than those who do not". Poor children in excellent schools do well because of high teacher quality, generally speaking, and parents are more involved in the lives of students.  
            Others argue the importance of good neighborhoods and strong schools. The Moving to Opportunity (MTO) was a 15-year long study of thousands of low-income families who moved to low-poverty neighborhoods.  The results of the MTO study were dissapointing to researchers because they are not able notice any educational value of the families living in low-poverty neighborhoods. However, the MTO study had limitations including the families who moved to the low-poverty neighborhoods only stayed in neighborhoods for a few years. Consequently, researchers do not know the effects of staying in low-poverty neighborhoods for a longer periods of time. 
           I was raised in an affluent suburb of San Francisco. The suburb is known for award-winning schools and high test scores. However, as a child I was not aware that the education I was receiving was different from any other child who did not live in the same suburb. I was given many opportunities poor children in bad schools were not given. Teachers and parents were very involved in the lives of students. Based on my experience I believe children in better schools and neighborhoods have an advantage over children who were not so fortunate.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Election Plays a Key Role in Childrens' Lives

          "On the ballot this year are campaigns for school board, city council, governor, state legislator, congressman, and senator that will impact the education, health, nutrition, poverty, child abuse and neglect, juvenile justice, and housing needs of children at all ages - from infants in early childhood programs to school-age children to youth transitioning to adulthood". Education tends to be overshadowed by issues such as Iraq, Medicare and Social Security, which makes this election especially important. Many Americans believe education is a local issue and therefore should not focus on state or federal elections because they will not impact children as much as local elections. Thus, issues such as Common Core standards, standardized testing and high school requirements are ignored on the ballot by the American public because they believe children will not be affected. The midterm election should not be ignored by the American public because the elected politicians will have a significant impact on the lives of American children. The public needs to educate themselves about the different issues in order to make informed decisions. 
          Education is a key campaign issue in many states for the 2014 midterm election. Campaigns include North Carolina Senate, Kansas Governor, Iowa Senate, and Florida Governor.While Republicans are not concentrating on education, Democrats are enticing voters in battleground states with issues "such as college affordability and K-12 funding". The efforts of the Democratic party seem to have made an impact on voters who are single women and minorities. Polls conducted in battleground states by Democrat political strategists found that issues related to education lead to more voters. 
          As a Childhood and Adolescent Development major, I want to help children become healthy, educated adults that are why I believe voting is important. Obviously, children are not able to vote, so it is the responsibility of adults to make sure children receive an excellent education. Adolescents and young adults are also affected because many adolescents and young adults go to college. Most Americans are no longer able to pay for college out of pocket. I have friends who have taken out loans to help pay for college and are now tens of thousands of dollars in debt. 
        Voting in the 2014 midterm election is a way for Americans to make changes in our education system and ensure children will receive quality education. VOTE TODAY!