Monday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

Okay. Get it out of your system. For those of you who watched the Super Bowl yesterday go ahead and cheer or jeer here. The New York Giants edged the New England Patriots 21-17.

Mitt Romney won the GOP caucus in Nevada this past Saturday. Word on the street is this soap-opera-turned-snooze-fest will continue since Romney has not garnered 50 percent of the vote anywhere.

Rolling Stone ran a sad story about bullies preying on gay students in Michele Bachmann’s school district, and in particular, the high school she graduated from.

The Root published a list of 25 graphic novels for Black History Month, which is this month.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Monday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

Finally, I can end my Target boycott! Target has partnered with Lady Gaga to exclusively release her new single, Born this Way, and has agreed to stop funding anti-gay groups or initiatives, according to Pink News. Also, it has committed to giving half a million dollars to LGBT activist groups. They already give partnership benefits to gay employees, by the way. Go them!

My brother, his girlfriend, the kids and I just saw Gnomeo and Juliet (pictured on right). Ari was bored, but the rest of us thought it was cute. I was surprised that this was the only kids’ movie in the theater though. With so many parents looking for things to do with their kids, especially in the dead of winter, I would think that producers would jump all over this genre. Huh.

In health news: researchers from the National Institutes of Health have found that less than an hour of cellphone use can speed up brain activity in the area closest to the phone antenna, according to the New York Times. I believe it. I know I feel wired after a cell phone conversation, but I am not sure if it’s the technology, the conversation or both. But I will concede to the good doctors on this one.

In other health news: there is a proposal to give the best kidneys to children as opposed to those first on the transplant list, according to the Washington Post. Also, kids who play video games are not insensitive to violence anymore than non-gamers, according to research cited by HealthDay News.

Can I just say that I fear for our students? All 2,000 of Providence, Rhode Island’s teachers were fired due to massive budget cuts, according to CBS News. Yikes. Also, Daily Kos’s “teacherken” wrote a compelling column for about unions, including teachers unions.

In other education news: Does this young man have a future in politics or what?

In Facebook news: Facebook just banned that creepy relationship status tracking app that informed followers when their friends changed their relationship statuses, according to

Last but not least, let me share the latest project I worked on with Anita Jackson over at Today is the last day of Black History Month and we put together a blog carnival of stories by African-American moms — and one dad. I especially liked this quote by my friend Carrie Smith, who is an outstanding woman and the most fabulous grandmother I know: “This month is not about the color of your skin, but the struggles we go through in life and virtues we learn along the way: LOVE, RESPECT, HARD WORK, and DEDICATION. This should be instilled in us all.”

Amen! With that, what else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Tuesday Open Thread

What’s up?

In celebration of Black History Month this month, check out this CNN story about a sit-in at a whites-only lunch counter 50 years ago. It still amazes me that this country had segregation only 50 years ago.

If you can stomach it, here is a depressing Newsweek story on children as indentured servants in Haiti.

Here is a game-changer in favor of abstinence-only education: At least one study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania has found that a third of 6th and 7th graders did delay having sex after taking an abstinence-only course compared to students in other sex education classes, according to the Washington Post. Officials for the Obama Administration, who have called for a scientific approach to sex education, have said abstinence-only courses like the one in this particular study could qualify for federal funds.

Laurie Puhn over at the Expecting Words blog cast a spotlight on a parenting philosophy of treating children like “little people” as opposed to babies and toddlers. In this case, a father let his almost 3-year-old daughter run around a high-end bar because she needed to figure things out on her own. Puhn viewed it as a lack of parenting while the father thought otherwise. What say you?

Starting in April of next year, fathers in Britain will be able to take 6 months — three months paid — of paternity leave, according to the Telegraph of the UK.

The taxpayers of Oregon just passed tax hikes on wealthy individuals and corporations to avoid a budget crisis in the state, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Here is an interesting article in Education World on how recess before lunch actually helps children eat more, behave better and gives teachers more instruction time. Who knew?

I, too, missed the Grammys Sunday night so here is a recap thanks to CNN.

Apparently American Idol will go on without Simon Cowell next year. Among floating names to replace him is former head of Sony Music Entertainment, Tommy Mottola, according to CNN.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Should Schools Teach Huck Finn?

Newsweek’s Allison Samuels wrote a piece that provoked at least several letters to the editor and much more reaction online.

She responded to chatter in some corners on the web and elsewhere that schools should stop teaching Black History Month and books that use the “n” word like Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird.

In early January, just before Obama’s inauguration, John Foley, a white high-school teacher in Ridgefield, Wash., penned a guest editorial in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that suggested it was time to stop teaching books that readily use the “N word.” Stories that portray African-Americans as inarticulate and unintelligent souls in need of white America often offended both his black and white students. Foley identified “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Of Mice and Men” as three books that needed to be reconsidered immediately.

That editorial set off a fierce debate on blogs, radio shows and in classrooms across the country. Now that there’s a black man in the White House, what message does it send our kids to read aloud a classic that uses the N word more than 200 times? While these arguments are hardly new, they’re all the more important now given our rapidly changing attitudes on race, Foley argues. “I think at the time when we have this very articulate, smart and intelligent black man running the country, we don’t need to reinforce the same negative stereotypes to young minds,” says Foley, 48, who’s received hundreds of angry letters from people across the country. “I’m very tired of having to explain to black parents and white kids as to why these books say the ‘N word’ again and again or having to watch my black students totally shut down as they read about black characters so far removed from the people they know.”

Foley’s argument may sound simplistic and wrongheaded. But it does raise deeper questions about our comfort level around race, especially now. Though Obama himself called for more open dialogue during his campaign, most of us still struggle to speak frankly on the subject. Throw in not just the N word, but also, in the case of “Huck Finn,” a portrayal of a childlike black man who seems to lack self-respect and dignity, and it’s easier to see why it might make some—especially sensitive white teachers—squirm with discomfort or even embarrassment right now.

The debate hasn’t been limited to literature either: in the past few weeks alone, National Public Radio, many African-American blogs and talk-show host Michael Baisden all led discussions questioning whether we still need Black History Month. “I think there is a certain sector of the country that now feels racism is over, let’s move on,” says Todd Boyd, who teaches race and popular culture at the University of Southern California.

Considering To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my all-time favorite books and one of the few books I have read multiple times, I really hope it is not extracted from schools’ curriculum. I would love for my children to read it someday. And surely, introducing it with context — I mean, what is the point of the teacher then? — is better than an outright ban.

But here is a sample of at least one Newsweek reader who disagreed with Samuels:

Allison Samuels wants to lead the group that clings to the past and continues searching under every rock for possible wrongs. If having a black president and black judges, congressmen, generals, governors, mayors, aldermen, college graduates and teachers throughout our society doesn’t mean things have changed, then one has to wonder what it might take to get people to take that chip off their shoulder, to be free at least.

It’s history, people! I don’t get the defensiveness at all.


Black History Month Books

I know we had a recent discussion about books on Martin Luther King, Jr.. Cookie magazine conveniently singled out a few books for black history month, which is next month.

Ages 6+
A Taste of Colored Water by Matt Faulkner
Two white children in the ‘60s South are determined to taste the magical beverage they assume must spout from the “colored“ water fountain, and end up facing the harsh reality of Jim Crow. This thought-provoking tale is an excellent way to get kids asking questions.

Ages 8+
The People Could Fly by Virginia Hamilton, illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon
In this folktale (with CD narration by the author and James Earl Jones), a once-winged people, enslaved in America, have forgotten how to fly—until an old man reminds them. The fantasy tones down the situation’s ugliness without diminishing its impact.

Ages 10+
We are the Ship by Kadir Nelson
Through lifelike oil paintings and voice-of-experience narration, this book re-creates the era of Negro League baseball in stunning detail, as an unknown player recounts his days of brushing shoulders with legends like Satchel Paige and Jackie Robinson.

What would you add as recommended reading?