Monday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

First, let’s send lots of prayers and virtual hugs to our Sue in Queens, whose father passed away over the weekend. All my condolences to you and your family, Sue.

In political news: I heart New Hampshire. I’ve gotten in my share of laughs reading the news coverage of the way the Republican candidates for president are being treated over there. Rick Santorum got booed by Republican college students for his anti-gay marriage stance, according to the Boston Globe. The Washington Post coverage of Sen. John McCain endorsing Mitt Romney in Manchester, New Hampshire, was straight-up hilarious. Enjoy!

In other political news: a North Carolina MomsRising member made these New Year’s resolutions to help the state become more family-friendly. Me likey.

The Boston Globe opened up a can of worms with a column, in which an Episcopalian minister and family coach criticized parents who put their children before their marriages. Actually, the column and comments that preceded it were quite interesting and largely civil. What say you about this topic?

Don’t think our deportation policies have gone too far? Check out this story about an African American teenager who was deported to Colombia. By the way, she speaks no Spanish and is, well, NOT Colombian. Sheez…

In somewhat related news, columnist Ruben Navarrette wrote a poignant essay on why some Arizonians are threatened by Mexican American studies. In better news: the DREAM Act in California stands as the opposition failed to the gather the 500,000+ signatures needed to place an initiative on the ballot to overturn it, according to the Sacramento Bee.

One of the those days that it dawned upon me (again) how we love to stigmatize the poor and worship the rich: on Thursday morning before I clicked on Super Why! for my kids, I stopped on a heart-breaking news story about how an office that offers clothes and food to day laborers was vandalized. The total cost of the damages? $10,000. I remember thinking if I had 10 grand I would immediately head over to Hayward to cut them a check. Then that morning as I sat up at my desk at work I was met by this opening news article on MSNBC. It’s about how a drunk woman urinated and rubbed her butt on a $20 million painting. Total damages? $10,000. Considering the platform — first news item on MSNBC! — I immediately thought of the likelihood that some rich patron would step forward to repair it. The nameless day laborers mentioned in our local news channel? Probably not so much. What’s up with that?

Speaking of day laborers, Latina Lista ran a heart-breaking story about an undocumented immigrant in Illinois who became paralyzed on the job and the hospital had him deported. He died in his native Mexico at the age of 21. The hospital’s decision, by the way, was met with anger by the local Latino community as some members offered to take care of the immigrant.

Also in Latina Lista: it is Thyroid Awareness Month and Latina Lista ran a helpful column on how to spot a thyroid problem. As the article pointed out, it is more common in women than men and a common source of feeling tired all the time.

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


Friday Morning Open Thread

(Bear with me as I took this photo with my iPhone. From left to right: Kyle de Beausset, Matías (last name not listed), Lisbeth Mateo, and Yahaira Carrillo, at the “Illegal” Organizing panel.)

On my first day at Netroots Nation, I attended so many interesting panels such as the Latino Caucus — my report on it is coming up next — and the panel pictured to the right: “‘Illegal’ Organizing: Lessons from the Migrant Youth Movement.” For video of the discussion, click here.  

The four young adults pictured are brave. They have “come out” — their words — as undocumented and have been arrested for civil disobedience. They have sat in Sen. John McCain’s office, Sen. Harry Reid’s office, have stood front and center at immigration rallies and have even been detained. One of the speakers said she believes they have not been deported because it would be “bad PR” for immigration officials. When people discuss “illegals,” the image of a young person in a cap and gown, assimilated and speaking English, is not what immediately comes to mind. Yet, passage of the DREAM Act would grant a million of these youth temporary permanent residency in the only country they call home.

“We are visible and upfront,” activist Yahaira Carrillo said. “We get personal attacks, personal e-mails and personal messages on Facebook and Twitter. But (coming out) also has its benefits.”

Unlike their parents, Carrillo and her fellow panelists represent a new mentality among undocumented youth. They are not afraid of declaring themselves undocumented, signing online petitions and attending rallies.

Lisbeth Mateo said they survive through their creativity. They have started their own businesses, been hired anyway — they are educated and speak English — or depend on donations for their activism. In other words, they have the work ethic and drive of Americans.

“Some people call it naive or foolish,” Carrillo said. “But we call it fighting for our lives.”

One way to help their cause is to call your members of Congress and have them support the DREAM Act.

In non-Netroot Nation news: Laurie Puhn at the Expecting Words blog wrote about how our partner’s flaws — and our own flaws — can blow up in our faces once we have children. She offered tips on how to fix them. Also in the Expecting Words blog: Laurie just attended the Smart Marriages Conference in Orlando and learned a bunch of factoids, like, the No. 1 predictor of divorce is the habitual avoidance of conflict. (Here is the source.)

The Associated Press had an article about a controversial school board measure in Raleigh, North Carolina, that critics say will re-segregate schools. Warning: do not read the comments as they are downright scary.

A writer at Mamapedia wrote about life after foreclosure.

In celebrity gossip break (that’s what it’s become!): Mama Palin supposedly doesn’t approve of daughter Bristol and Levi Johnston’s engagement, according to Reuters.

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


Resegregation in North Carolina

Due to a 1999 court case that ended mandated busing, some of North Carolina’s schools are segregating themselves again, according to an article in Newsweek.

Previously a model of desegregation, the state’s classrooms have begun to divide again along racial lines. In Charlotte, federally mandated busing ensured balance until 1999, when a court ruled that integration had been accomplished. Since then the number of 90 percent–minority schools has jumped almost fivefold. In Wayne County, one high school is now 99 percent African-American, which prompted the NAACP to file a federal complaint alleging “apartheid education.” And last month in Wake County, a newly elected school board voted to end an income-based diversity program that has been copied across the country. “I think it’s intentional race discrimination,” says Mark Dorosin, a senior attorney at the University of North Carolina’s Center for Civil Rights. (A spokesperson for Gov. Bev Perdue says the state is committed to “a sound, basic education for every child.”)

This is such a complicated issue. We have busing here in Berkeley so parents do not automatically get their neighborhood schools. They are assigned schools by lottery. On the one hand, our schools are very diverse. On the other hand, some kids do have longish commutes, which must make it tough on the parents when it comes to extracurricular activities.

What do you all think? Does your school district have busing? How would you ensure that schools are integrated?


Limiting Screen Time During the Summer

I admit, I have a lot on my plate so I have used the TV as a babysitter much of this summer. Eli has watched unlimited amounts of Super Why, which thankfully is at least teaching her the alphabet. (I swear she did not learn that from me and DH!)

Ari has watched a lot of movies, kids’ programming and played video games. I don’t know how much time he has spent viewing something on a screen, I just know it is a lot. But I agreed with Anne Fitten Glenn — aka “Edgy Mama” — who recently wrote an article calling for a device on every screen in the house that listed the amount of time kids spend on them.

What I want someone to invent is this: a simple device that plugs into all household screens and records the number of minutes each kid spends on each screen per day. It’d be set up so they can’t access a screen without a password that starts the countdown clock. They’re kids, so they might eventually figure out a way to outsmart the device.

But in the mean time, having a good way to measure their screen time would offer me some serenity. And while serenity and summer both start with an “s,“ that’s about the only thing they have in common when you’re a parent of young kids.

I have to say the article was a little guilt-inducing as I read how little screen time some of these kids in Asheville, North Carolina, get. :)

But, again, once work slows down and school starts up in the fall, I am hoping to begin restricting screen time again. I do think kids need physical activity and I don’t like the drawn out look they get on their faces when they passively watch television.

Do you restrict screen time in the summer? What are the ground rules?


Midday Coffee Break

What’s up?

Lists, lists, oh how we love lists. Forbes compiled a list of five cities Americans are relocating despite the economy. They are Raleigh, North Carolina; Austin, Texas; Charlotte, North Carolina; Phoenix, Arizona; and Dallas, Texas. Americans are flocking to these cities for warmer weather, job opportunities and more affordable housing.

Via the Washington Post: Poor Elizabeth Edwards continues to be pestered on the paternity of her husband’s mistress’s baby. Do you think it is his?

Bristol Palin talked about her lonely and hard life as a teen mom in a sad article in People magazine. Also, in case you missed it, the People article with Kate Gosselin is now online.

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


Latest Studies on Working Mothers

Two studies have come out about working mothers.

In the first one, Christopher Ruhm, an economist at the University of North Carolina in Greenboro, found that school-aged children of privileged families whose mother worked, fared worse on cognitive tests than those whose college-educated mothers stayed home, according to Newsweek.

On the flipside, children from low-income families did better on the tests when their mothers worked outside the home than when they stayed home.

Why do mothers’ choices have such different effects on kids, depending on their socioeconomic situations? Most likely, says Ruhm, the low-status kids get more intellectual stimulation in day care or with other caretakers, such as grandparents, than they do at home. Meanwhile, the high-status kids may find day care less enriching than being with their highly educated mothers. When these moms go back to work, “you’re pulling the [high-status] kids out of these really good home environments,” says Ruhm, “and a lot of the alternatives just aren’t as good.”

The same pattern was true of weight: low-status kids weren’t any thinner or fatter depending on what their mothers did, but high-status kids with working moms did have a slightly higher risk of being overweight at 10 or 11. The biggest effect on weight came when mothers were working during their high-status children’s school years. Maybe, says Ruhm, these moms didn’t have time to cook healthy dinners and after-school snacks: “If you’re working a lot and you’re eating out and buying fatty food, that could have an effect on obesity later in the child’s life.” Or maybe those kids were left unsupervised more often, and thus had more opportunities to eat cookies in front of the TV—and fewer opportunities to run around outside. “Parents who are working but want to make sure their kids are supervised and safe will often load up the house with sedentary activities, since they can’t always be there to take them to sports or to the park,” says Karen Eifler, an associate professor of education at the University of Portland. “Their kids are more likely to have a TV or computer and videogames in their room—and also, the higher your economic status, the more likely you are to have those three machines in your house.”

Still, the children of the privileged parents, regardless of their mother’s work status, still outperformed the children of low-income families, showing a clear correlation between income and academic success. Ruhm, whose own wife worked, said readers should take his findings with a grain of salt as there are holes. He could not study stay at home fathers because there weren’t enough of them. He also emphasized that the study’s findings do not mean mothers should leave the workforce, but that there needs to be more policies to help all parents of both genders balance work and family.

In the second study, British researchers polled 3,000 working mothers and at least one in five said they were demoted after they became mothers, according to the Telegraph.


Teens Biggest Offenders of Driving While Yakking

Okay, here goes a guilty mom confession: In my zeal to multi-task, I sometimes talk on the cell phone while I drive. I know. It’s wrong and it’s totally illegal here in California. But, if it’s a quick call and the cops aren’t watching…Well, you know where this is going.

But here is something that gave me pause: Apparently teenagers are the worst offenders of driving while yakking on the phone, according to an article in MSN Money. The idea of a teenaged Ari or Eli yakking while driving made me hang up forever. (Seriously, this time I am quitting for good!)

Staking out high school parking lots in North Carolina, researchers found the number of teen drivers on cell phones was essentially unchanged after the state banned the practice, according to a study released last week by the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Two months before the ban’s December 2006 start, 11% of teen drivers were observed using cell phones as they left school in the afternoon. About five months after the ban went into effect, 12% of teen drivers were spotted using phones.

Girls were more likely than boys to use their cell phones while driving. SUV drivers were more likely than sedan drivers, and solo drivers were more likely than those with passengers, the study said.

Cell phone use remained steady — about 13% — at comparison sites in South Carolina, where teen driver cell phone use isn’t restricted.

Then again, my kids will be taking public transportation as I don’t want them driving at all. Ha!

On a more serious note, have you discussed DWY with your teenagers? Do YOU talk on the phone while driving?


Indiana, North Carolina Open Thread

I am feeling a little election-fatigued, but it is an exciting race in that moms here and everywhere have a say in the nominating process. Indiana and North Carolina moms: Please give us updates!

The polls in North Carolina close at 7:30 p.m. EDT and at 6 p.m. local time in Indiana, according to my quick and dirty google search.


Elementary Schools: Aqui Se Habla Español

As someone who was raised in a Spanish-speaking household and heard her parents endure disapproving comments like, “You are in America. You should speak English!“ and my favorite, which I still hear today, “Aren’t you worried that your children will be confused?“ I was thrilled to read this New York Times piece: Building a Nation of Polyglots.  

Public elementary schools are starting to teach children a second language. It’s about time!

The United States, often fiercely chauvinistic and sometimes outright isolationist, has never considered the ability to speak a foreign language an essential talent. Unlike many Europeans and Asians who learn languages in primary school, most Americans do not get the chance until high school or in the grades just before — at too advanced an age to soak in quirky words and syntax with the nimbleness needed for fluency. That is why traveling Americans resign themselves to speaking menu French or Spanish.

But with an economy that recognizes few geographical borders, and with people from all over the planet becoming our next-door neighbors, more Americans are demanding language instruction earlier in school.

Martha Abbott, director of education at the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, said that while there is no reliable data on the trend, her organization keeps learning of more school systems that think paying for elementary school language teachers is money well invested.

Since September 2006, all students in grades one through five in Loudon County, Va., have been given 30 to 60 minutes of Spanish instruction each week. Last year, officials in Fairfax County, Va. — which, with 165,439 students, is the nation’s 13th-largest school system — decided to expand the study of foreign languages to all 137 elementary schools over a seven-year period. Twenty-five Fairfax schools provide 30-minute lessons twice a week in Spanish, Japanese, Arabic, Chinese or French starting in the first grade. Ten schools have ambitious “immersion“ programs where math, science and health are taught in a foreign language.

Foreign language instruction does not come cheap. Some school districts are already hearing the grumbles of taxpayers.

Fairfax estimates that hiring instructors for its expanded program will cost $16 million. The mystery is why more affluent districts that are willing to pay for gifted football coaches aren’t starting language instruction earlier, particularly in areas with significant immigrant populations. The logic for doing so seems obvious. As every immigrant knows, it’s far easier to learn a language as a 6-year-old than as a 16-year-old.

I suspect xenophobia has a little to do with that discrepancy. But still, it is thrilling to see this country is different from the one my father immigrated to in the 1960s when foreigners were pressured to lose their language and culture. My grandparents and father stubbornly held on, which is why I am (gratefully) fluent in Spanish.

But I would like to see Spanish, or any other foreign language, not only treated as a second language — as it is with only 60 hours of instruction a week — but as a part of a child’s identity. I am in awe of the non-Latino kids at Ari’s school — which is a dual-immersion program — who speak Spanish with native fluency. What a gift to be able to comfortably navigate two worlds!

Also, I was glad to read that Spanish is no longer treated as a remedial course as evident by this news story in, out of all places, the Winston-Salem Journal of North Carolina. Some North Carolina schools are offering Spanish for native speakers, which include Hispanics who were raised in the United States speaking Spanish at home, but do not actually read and write the language.

School officials say that the class teaches native Spanish speakers respect for their own language, makes them truly bilingual and also makes it easier for them to learn English…

“If you’re already literate in your own language, you have that framework of, this is how language works. If you don’t even have that to begin with, it’s like a whole other leap,” Baldwin said.

The N.C. Department of Public Instruction received a federal grant in 2002 to develop the curriculum. It does not focus on just the language, but includes computer skills and social-studies lessons. The class is intended to teach the same skills as a typical language-arts class, to better prepare students for those lessons, said Helga Fasciano, the section chief of K-12 program areas.

What a relief my son who is fluent in two languages will no longer be considered an aberration. It is estupendo.