Sunday, November 25, 2007

Ghetto Nation & Savage Inequalities Period 6 Group 2


Members:
Michael R6
Emily R6
Benwit L6
Alexander A6
Christina H6

Tuesday November 27th: pg 1-100 Ghetto Nation
Friday November 30th: Blog Session 1 ends
Tuesday December 4th: pg 101-196 Ghetto Nation
Friday December 7th: Blog Session 2 ends
Tuesday December 11: pg 1-150 Savage Inequalities
Friday December 14th: Blog Session 3 ends
Tuesday December 18th: 151-end Savage Inequalities
Thursday December 20th: Blog Session 4 ends

45 comments:

Christina H 6 said...

I laugh at the cover of the Ghettonation. The illustrator cleverly adds a do-rag and “bling bling” to the picture of Uncle Sam. As ridiculous as Uncle Sam may look, Americans are accepting (buying) this “ghetto” attire, attitude, and lifestyle.

Ghettonation is a powerful book that exposes the flaws of today’s American society. Cora Daniels begins with the definition of ghetto from the Merriam-Webster dictionary, and compares it to her updated, 20th-century, everyday definition of ghetto. By setting a solid foundation for the readers at the beginning of the book, we can better understand her point of view and the argument she is about to present.

I especially liked Daniels’ take on the hip-hop music industry. We usually don’t hear “digging-in-the-crates hip hop” (53) on the radio. The radio music features “singles anyone can hear over and over again without any effort or education about hip hop” (52). Daniels repeats the phrase “over and over again” to show a continuous routine. The routine keep occurring because no one is opposing it. The simple, catchy choruses keep our heads bopping to the beat. Why are we going along with it? I don’t know, but who cares. Cora Daniels warns us about the development of this type of attitude, because we are no longer striving to find explanations and reasons. Instead we settle for what is given to us—what the media feeds us.

Why does Daniels use the word ghetto to describe some people and events even though she opposes the idea of ghetto? For example, the fact that “[Gwyneth Paltrow] plays ’99 Problems’ as in ’99 Problems and a b**** ain’t one,’ for her 16-month old, makes her, well, ghetto.” (55)

Benwit L 6 said...

First blog entry for me. Keepin’ it real. Let’s try to pick up the pace a little. We have a lot of entries to make if we want to maintain our schedule. More importantly, let’s have some fun.

To answer Christina’s question and elaborate on the use of the word ghetto, Daniels repeatedly uses the word ghetto throughout her novel in order to make clear exactly what situations are considered ghetto. She places the lone word ghetto between sentences in a somewhat dismissing tone as one would in a typical conversation to create humor and to lessen any hints of ghetto being used in a demeaning manner. She is careful not to label any social group in particular as ghetto and even repeats it twice in her introduction that “ghetto is not limited to a class or a race” (8). When Daniels uses ghetto in a sentence, her intention is to allow the reader to accept the presence of the ghetto mindset in our society.

Daniels also uses the word ghetto as a form of clarification. To some readers, it may be clear that Gwyneth’s actions seem ghetto. However, other readers may actually have grown up in such an environment and they might have never considered their childhoods as ghetto. After all, it is easy to believe that “no matter how low on the economic totem pole we actually are, ghetto is those folks underneath us” (28).

Alexander A.6 said...

Sorry about not keeping up to date, but I have been working late the past few days, so I haven’t been blowing you guys off.

To respond to Benwit’s explanation of “ghetto” as it applies in the novel, I think that it was very successful in expanding on what Daniels’ purpose was in writing this novel. She writes of this disintegration/expansion (perspective-wise) of urban lingo and knowledge (or lack thereof) of the world around them. More importantly, Daniels is trying to convince us that ghetto is only an interpretation, not a social choice. However, after reading the first half of the story questions spring in my mind. Do you know anybody, personally, who fits the bill of someone she (Daniels) considers “gh-e-e-e-e-e-e-et----------to-o-o-o-o-o” or ghetto? Why do think it is that the definition of the word ghetto has been warped from the historical usage to the common vernacular abuse? Do you think Daniels is a bit too exaggerated about her definition or do you think that it is adequate enough in proving her point?

Benwit L 6 said...

I’m still curious. Are we planning to finish blogging tonight? We don’t have much done so far. Maybe we can plan an active time later in the afternoon so we’re able to respond quicker. Just a thought.

By Daniel’s definition of ghetto, everyone is a little ghetto. As she says, “I am ghetto. I am not ghetto. I am you” (22). I don’t quite think that she exaggerates the definition of ghetto but rather expands it. Daniels brings to light my own ghetto mannerisms. Though my actions are typically far from what is considered ghetto, I now view myself from afar and can see my minute saving antics on my cell phone and the shameless manner in which I dismiss my immaturity. Ghetto truly is contagious. “A mind-set has fluidity. That is why Apple’s mama Gwyneth can be just as ghetto as the knuckleheads [Daniels passes] every morning on the corner, and suburban Deal, New Jersey, can be just as ghetto as Bed-Stuy” (43).

As for the warping of the word ghetto, it has to do with the nature of name-calling. The definition of stupid has dulled down greatly in recent years. In order to express more severity, one would resort to calling someone a person of a known undesired grouping. In a modern situation, this situation leads to the misuse of the words “gay” and “retarded.” After World War II, the undesired grouping would be a person from the ghettos. Unlike the words gay or retarded, there is no single group that can defend against the use of the word. All people can treat the word as if it didn’t apply to them or someone they knew, unlike the other two terms I have mentioned. I hope this clarifies some of Alex’s question.

Christina H 6 said...

I agree with Benwit that Daniels doesn’t exaggerate the definition of ghetto, but instead expands it. Her examples serve to prove that “hip hop is our mainstream now. Its language, its content, and its rules have become American culture” (54). Many people have altered the way they talk, dress, act, and even think according to the influence of the media that promotes ‘ghetto’ lifestyles. Music videos on television contain explicit lyrics that are now incorporated in our everyday conversations. People are accustomed to using “Biaaaaaaatch” (55) and other inappropriate terms as filler words. The women in the music videos are dressed in tight, skimpy clothing that focus on the female body rather than them as people. When Nelly launched his denim clothing line and searched for a Miss Applebottoms, “most of the women [who auditioned] didn’t even get their faces on TV as the camera stayed at hip level” (26). By focusing on one part of the female body and disregarding everything else she stands for, the women are allowing themselves to be degraded. Instead of moving forward, and advancing in society, the women depicted in the media are being degraded. When Daniels mentions the woman who goes by the name “Superhead,” I laughed out loud, because “her nickname means just what [our] dirty minds thinks it does” (54). Then, I wondered why I had laughed out loud, because the act is disgusting and degrading to women. Then, I became angry and wondered why the woman would allow herself to be called such a name. She should feel ashamed, because that is nothing to be proud of. As the negative language, action, and images continue to be displayed on television, more people begin to accept this new American culture.

Alexander A.6 said...

As I was finishing reading on pg. 100, Daniels made me think about something. That sometimes a black person grows up in this kind of “utopian” wealthy upper-class family and chooses the lifestyle. And I was thinking even celebrities like Paris Hilton and Britney Spears have garnered the label of being “ghetto” in the same fashion that the hip-hoppers have. She was describing Terrence Howard’s performance in Hustle & Flow and her description says it all: “The film earned Howard and Oscar nomination for playing the pimp, who we are supposed to care about because, I guess, a white boy raised in California wrote and directed every degrading word that came out of the Black cast’s mouths.” (100). another question to keep the blog from becoming “viscous,” why does Daniels speak so negatively about what it is she claims to relate to (“I am ghetto. I am not ghetto. I am you”)? Do you think she has some kind of self-doubt about “getting out” like Daniel Howard (75)?

Benwit L 6 said...

Although Daniels suggests that we should accept ghetto, we should not be embracing it. After all, “ghetto is also an absence of self-respect” (33) and results in lowered moral standards. If we are to accept ghetto, what are we to do about ghetto behavior? Daniels makes clear that we can not simply turn our heads in a different direction. Whether we like it or not, ghetto is here to stay.

The embracement of ghetto is caused by the misconception that ghetto is black. In Will Smith’s “I Wish I Made That / Swagga,” he brings up the acceptance of ghetto as black in the music industry. In order to get attention in the media, he mockingly states that he would have to “jack a truck/ Full of cigarettes, guns & drugs & stuff,” in order to conform to the ghetto image. He talks about envying the fortune and fame of other rappers such as Dr. Dre and Tupac. He goes on to exaggerate how others criticize him for not having a ghetto background like most rappers of his time. However, he also raps, “All you see that you see when you seeing me, you ain't seeing all to be seen/ Cause there's more for you to see than when you see me on the scene in my/ media machine.” He reveals that he a person and he is not just his image. By stating so, he suggests that the other rappers are all about their images. He believes whether or not he is ghetto has no relevance to his blackness and that he indeed “got [his] swagga back.”

Christina H 6 said...

This is just a reminder: remember to put page numbers after your quotes.

I agree with Alex that Britney Spears and Paris Hilton are both living examples of women who influence younger girls to accept the ‘ghetto’ culture. As popular stars, both females are like dolls that the corporate companies dress-up and accessorize for advertisement. The images that these celebrities portray on television push the teenagers and children to imitate them. Despite the obvious, negative affects that the images have created amongst the viewers, some dollar-sign driven stars like Pharrell claims that “he [doesn’t] have any responsibility for the images he create” because he is an “artist not an activist” (60). The celebrities know that some of the younger viewers see them as role models yet they continue to corrupt the children, because they are making money by creating an image. It doesn’t matter if the image is positive or negative as long as their wallets keep fattening up.

Alexander A.6 said...

I noticed something when reading and that is that Daniels’ tone never seems to change. She comes off as peeved, if not angry, at the world around her. However, this is a common characteristic that is associated with this “ghetto” nation life style. She contradicts a couple of times in the first part of the book. She goes from saying “I am ghetto. I am not ghetto. I am you.”(22) To proving that she is this highly intellectual anti-ghetto conformist and that she is still ashamed of something that she says we all are. Also, Daniels talks about the hip-hop genre, and more specifically Will Smith, she realizes that the lyrics to one of his songs talks about choices. “I can’t think of nothing more basic to ghetto than not questioning the choices we are given.” (59) I think I am a little confused because, to me, this thought furthers the view that she thinks ghetto is a choice, but I originally believed that she says it is in all of us. Oh, and by the way are we still blogging about the first half until Tuesday or could we start discussing the next part before then.

Christina H 6 said...

You’re not the only one is a bit confused about the hypocrisy in Daniels’ ideas of ghetto , Alex. Your question is actually similar to my first question, because I wondered why Daniels used ghetto to describe situations and disapproved the use of the word when describing other situations. Daniels includes (This is ghetto!) at the end of some of her examples. As Benwit mentioned earlier, I think Daniels uses the word ghetto in her writing to create humor. I also believe that Daniels uses the word because “there is no going back” (56). Ghetto exists just like stereotypes. Even if we want to get rid of ghetto, it will still remain somewhere in a part of our minds. Does that make sense?

I was snooping around the site and looking at other students’ blogs when I stumbled upon a comment that caught my interest. Brian A. brings up the part about ghetto literature. I agree with him that “literacy has dropped tremendously in the United States but not only in the sub-category of Black Americans but in all social economic classes, white, Asian, and Latin literacy has dropped tremendously..” I feel that there are many books, today, that do a great job with story-telling, but lack depth and purpose. Books like Prep and the Devil Wears Prada are amusing novels that are written for pure entertainment. I think readers only like these stories because of the interesting characters and plot. The writers stick to the simple language, which makes the books quick and easy to read and understand. The readers don’t need to think about the events in the story, because they are straight-forward and obvious; There is no challenge. Books like the Great Gatsby and The Kite Runner are easy to read, too, but the writers are successful in the sense that their stories contain a purpose. Once the readers come away from the text, they can piece together the choices the author made such as with diction, the tone, and the structure. The author uses specific techniques to achieve a desirable effect on the reader whether it be a feeling or message. Readers avoid the challenge by resorting to audio books and movies while writers write for profit rather than purpose, which shows that people are “aiming low” (33) and supporting consumerism in America.

Mr. G said...

Move on to session 2 whenever...just write about that section. Some nice depth in some of your posts happening.

Michael R. 6 said...

I am sorry that I am just joining the conversation right now but it is my fault for not being on top of things with blogging and everything else. It seems like I’ve missed a lot but I like what I’ve read so far. It makes me want to contribute even more.
Well, I would just like to start off the next session with a topic in the book that Cora Daniels brings up on page 105 about teen relationships. Cora introduces Chris, “sixteen from Brooklyn let roll off his tongue one day while sitting in my kitchen that he’s had sixteen exes,” (That should make you raise your eyebrows) who ends up being the a major focus for discussion on the next few pages. Cora Daniels goes on to write that even see had to sit back and realize that this hasn’t even hit puberty yet has and already gone through sixteen relationships with sixteen different girls. And a critical detail that is easily overlooked is Chris’ acknowledgement of the girls as exes and not “past girlfriends” or “romances” or even “courtships”. They are the exes. I don’t think he talks good about his exes to his friends and that is a social dilemma among us and our peers.
I walk the halls of school and I hear kids talking about their past relationships saying “Oh yeah, forget that B**ch, I never thought she was hot anyways,” or the ever prevalent “Oh no! There’s my ex, I don’t even know why I went out with her.” It’s like kids want to make themselves feel better by denying the fact that they may have had the slightest attraction to someone who cheated on them with someone more appealing or maybe they were dumped and so are trying to pretend like it was going to happen anyways. The kids come up with faults about their exe partners and say bad things about their exes to make themselves feel better than the girl who “smelt bad anyways” (Freshmen 4th floor A house). I kind of get frustrated but laugh at the same time when I hear kids talk like that because they weren’t saying those things when they were in the relationships.
I read the passage and was thinking to myself that this kid thinks he is the man. He is the big man on campus because all of the girls want him. But then I read on and I find out that each girl that he has been with has cheated on him except for one of his girlfriends who was in a gang and he was able to get out of that one, “He’s not ghetto” (106). Chris now has a code that he implements in his relationships: Every girlfriend that he has is able to cheat on him once and no more. They may cheat and then be slapped on the wrist only to be accepted back into the relationship with open arms afterwards. Chris then goes on in an attempt to preserve his self-confidence by saying, “I’m not going to be taken as a fool” (106).
Chris’ story is what relationships are all about. Talking on the phone, asking the girl out, getting to first base, arguing, cheating, breaking up, and then talk again, ask the girl out…. again, cheat… again. It is all a viscous cycle. That is the problem that I see with teen relationships at Malden High and I may even be guilty of some of those mentioned. I think kids get into relationships because everyone else around them is in relationships. Everyone wants to fit in and if you walk the halls and you are all alone while everyone else has a partner then you need to get with the program. These common relationships may be considered “ghetto” by Cora Daniels and yes, they are definitely influenced by people like Paris Hilton and the rest of Hollywood but it is also the norm in suburban schools hopefully just in Malden High.
But I think that if anyone has cable TV and is able to watch MTV or BET or VH1, then these relationships will most definitely occur anywhere because of what we see in music videos of all genres.

Michael R. 6 said...

Hey guys!!! I hope everything is going good and that everyone is healthy. I just wanted to share something shocking with all of you that I happened to overhear in my Catechism classes.

I am a CCD Teacher for the Sacred Hearts parish here in Malden and during class today I asked the kids to sit in a circle and one by one introduce themselves to each other so that I may learn their names easier. There was a nice girl who said her name then told everyone that she also plays soccer in the fall and softball in the spring. After her, it was a boy’s turn and he told everyone his name and what sports that he played. He also tossed in the fact that his parents force him to go to CCD.

But the last boy of the class was the jaw dropper. I think that Cora Daniels might even describe him as another case of “ghettoitis” (134). This boy decided to tell the class that he currently has two girlfriends and that he has sex with both of them. And remember that this is in a Catholic school building.

I think that this is one of the lows that America has hit as a society where YOUNG TEENS are bragging about having more than one girlfriend. What is obvious is that this boy wants attention from his peers and there were many giggles among the kids but a child of a different generation might have just made a funny joke or chosen to pass. I feel bad for my generation because when we have children we will have our hands full of babymamas at this rate.

I just want to know what anyone thinks about my little encounter and how it applies to Ghetto Nation and the overall message of a ghetto mindset.

Christina H 6 said...

Wow, that is shocking news, Michael. How old were these CCD kids? It’s disturbing to think that kids are engaging in sexual activities at such a young age. I find your story shocking because you actually heard the story first-hand. Normally, we just hear stories about middle school students and the drastic changes that have occurred since our middle school days. To actually see/hear it happening around us is like a wake-up call. This is not just a story; this is reality.

I know we’re moving further into the book, but there’s a quote I’d like to mention. When Daniels describes her reaction to the film, Bullets, I could feel the hurt that she experiences.. Daniels is moved to tears by the images of “self-destruction” (76) that will “always haunt” her. The images are portrayed by the media while the people in society who allow stereotypes to live on contribute to self-destruction. Similarly, I feel that we could all relate to Daniels, because we encounter stereotypes everyday, which—whether you may know it or not—are forms of self-hate. Yesterday, while I was at a Key Club meeting, I had a conversation with some of the underclassmen. Out of no where, one of the members tells a joke. “How many feminists does it take to change a light bulb?” “It doesn’t matter, because feminists can’t change anything.” He waits for a response among the crowd, and a few of the boys follow his laughter. I tell him to cut it out, because that’s not funny. He doesn’t take me seriously. As much as I am mad at the person who told the joke, I’m equally mad at the girls who were part of the circle. They heard the the ‘joke’ and didn’t laugh, but they didn’t speak up either. I didn’t understand their indifferent attitudes toward the subject. The girls are promoting the stereotype by not defending themselves. They allowed themselves to be degraded to avoid confrontation. How can we stop others from promoting stereotypes if some people like the ‘joker’ don’t even take the subject—women’s’ rights, Black rights, Hispanic rights, Muslims rights, etc.—seriously? How can we stop stereotypes if people like the girls continue to remain silent and take hurtful words?

Mr. G said...

Hey all, really enjoying your conversation and you are all doing a nice and delicate job of discussing this material in an intellectual manner--so keep that up please. But remember, this is not a novel--it is a work of non-fiction, a study in sociology from a reporter by trade.

Anyway, we're going to give Emily some time to catch up here because of her leg. Christina and Benwit--I'd say two or three more posts and you could justify finishing the 2nd session. And Michael and Alex, I'd say you almost have enough to complete the length / amount for a solid first session.

I'm excited to hear what you all have to say about SAVAGE IN.. as well.

Michael R. 6 said...

Hey Christina I can definitely relate to your experience on many levels because I have been the unfortunate target of many Spanish stereotypes and nobody helps out. You just have to keep opening your mouth and someday you will be surrounded by people who will back you up. The kid that said the joke thought it was harmless and wanted to make people laugh but it shows his lack of self-esteem. Just remember that next time you are near or the target of such ridicule; they are only words and they convey the speaker’s self-loathing.
Cora Daniels is careful enough in her wording of Ghetto Nation making sure that she does not limit ghetto to any race or nationalities or even mention any sort of stereotype. There are actual surprising contrasts that help disprove stereotypes. I know that I was shocked when I read that one fourth of all non-Hispanic white births are to single white women, meaning that a lot of babies are going to be born missing a very important father figure in their lives. Back when I was in Melrose I actually had the stereotype that white people didn’t have to deal with those problems. Ghetto Nation has shattered a lot of stereotypes for me and it has also been humorous all the while.
One idea that Ghetto Nation has solidified my belief in is that “ghettoitis” has no color or race and that ghetto comes in fat wallet sizes too. I never thought that ghetto could be used to describe the crazy relationships of Hollywood and all of its stars that go out late at night drinking their riches away. Ghetto. But, the majority of America does not see it as ghetto because the stars don’t go out in public and scream “I’m broke as a mofo!!!!” If they did, the paparazzi would be all over them in seconds. Cora Daniels tells us that ghetto is found in all levels of society.
I was able to witness this idea when I was returning home from my dentist appointment in Stoneham late in the afternoon. My father and I had chosen to stop along the way back to Malden in Melrose for some pizza so that we could turn our cleaned teeth dirty and fill up our fat stomachs. Just for some background; Melrose and Malden though they are neighbors are two completely different worlds. Melrose residents are a little more affluent while the demographics of Malden can be seen as “struggling money-wise”. My father was ordering and I sat in one of the stalls awaiting a calzone and a meatball sub. A man walked in the small pizza joint and asked for half of a pizza. (It seems that the owner and I have never heard of this in our lives …) This man was white almost Italian looking, with dark colored parted hair, wearing a pair of tight Levi’s, a fitted worn-out forest green leather jacket, and a pair of yellow wood stained work gloves. My father happened to step out of the shop for a smoke on a cigarette and the man decided to start up some small conversation with the owner behind the counter. The man got on the tip of his toes so as to get a good look behind the counter and said, “What is that, a big block of cheese?!” The owner behind the register solemnly replied, “Yup, a hundred pounds.” So the Italian man said “DAAAAAAYYYYYAAAAAMMMMMMMNNNNNNNN!!!!” (And yes he said it in a pretty loud voice just like in the movie FRIDAY) Immediately, I began to laugh to myself and thankfully my father came in after the conversation between the owner and the customer had finished because my father would have joined in and embarrassed me.
I laughed because I saw this man as he walked into the shop and take off his gloves. Never did I think that he was even going to say that as an exclamation. Maybe that is just me and my stereotypes that I have. But it solidifies Cora Daniels statement that Ghetto is found everywhere. This man, who looked like he was in his forties or maybe early thirties, chose to be hip and in the groove with things by saying “DAAAAAAYYYYYAAAAAMMMMMMMNNNNNNNN!!!” instead of a simple “wow,” which is what my stereotypical mind anticipated him to say. Ghetto Nation helps to do away with many stereotypes that I have about all kinds of things. It sheds light on problems that we face on a daily basis like what Christina had to go through. The stereotypes spoken of in ghetto nation can connected to the degrading of women in music videos and there always people who disagree but don’t open their mouths about it while others choose to stand up and say, “That’s not funny and it is wrong.”

Christina H 6 said...

Hey guys! If you don’t have a copy of Savage Inequalities yet, I suggest you try to buy/order it this weekend since we’re supposed to start reading and blogging about it next week.

“You just have to keep opening your mouth and someday you will be surrounded by people who will back you up.” Thanks for the encouraging bit of advice, Michael. I hope that after we’re done with blogging about this book that we apply our new knowledge to our everyday lives.

I like the way Daniels structures Chapter 4. The readers feel equally annoyed by the security guard’s “Psssst, hey ma…” and “Psssst, hey baby…” pick-up lines. The reoccurrence of these italicized lines in every couple of paragraphs makes me want to yell, “Shut up!” Daniels shows the security guards desperation for an “on-the-side” (98) relationship. The security guard is even more attracted to Cora when he sees the wedding ring on her finger. A wedding ring indicates that she is a married woman, who has a husband and is therefore off limits. The security guard thinks otherwise. To him, Cora is a possible candidate for his lady on-the-side. Since Cora already has a husband to take care of her basic needs like listening to her problems, the security guard hopes to fulfill her sexual needs. The security guard doesn’t need to commit to the relationship and is only interested in having some fun. The value of relationships is declining. In some cases, like Chris’s, his exes aren’t even worth the label “girl-friend” let alone “ex-girlfriend.” (106). Reality becomes like the music videos. “There is never really one dream girl but a harem of girls ready and willing to get get get it poppin’. (106)

Why do people choose to watch “reality TV, and trashy movies” (100) and music videos? Afterall, “pop culture isn’t that creative (100).

Christina H 6 said...

Another passage that I catches my attention is the one about the tennis shoe pimps. It’s unbelievable that thirteen year old boys are going into the pimping business and that there are girls as young as twelve years old, who are willing to take part in prostitution. The students are “bragging about being pimps and hos” (102) and “showing off stacks of $100 bills” (102). The young teens do not see the harm in their actions. All they can see is the money that is rolling in. The girls do not consider “hoing as prostitution but ‘survival sex’” (102). The act of performing sex for money is enough to justify that they are committing prostitution. When the word ‘survival’ comes to mind, I think of the human necessities for living such as food, water, shelter, and clothing—to keep warm. The girls see their survival needs as “money for clothes, cosmetics, concerts and movies” (102); I consider all these to be materialistic items. They aren’t going to die if they aren’t wearing the hottest new sneakers and name-brand clothing. Make-up only serves to enhance your physical appearance; Lipstick isn’t going to satisfy hunger or thirst. Similarly, movies and concerts are only entertainment events and are not needed for survival. Physical appearance and social life dominate Ghettonation. The tennis shoe pimps and their hos spend their profits as quickly as made them. They “live the today because tomorrow doesn’t matter” (30). As long as they look fly and stay with the crowd in the present, there is no need to worry about the future.

Benwit L 6 said...

Sorry I haven’t been posting lately. I’ve not been felling well lately. Regardless, I’ll try to catch up.

As Daniels talks to the stranger on the subway, the stranger relieves that he “could have a baby but [he doesn’t] think [he] could ever get married” (123). Like Daniels, I struggled to understand his way of thinking. As a parent, one is deemed responsible for bringing a life into society. The stranger is afraid of the commitment involved in marriage but, as Daniels states, “what could have more permanency and foreverness than raising a child” (124)?

As I tried to think like the stranger, only one thought came to mind: the difference in expectations. In marriage, one must compromise with his partner which may or may not be high demand. However, if one were to view parenthood from an outside perspective, he’d think that he’d only need to please the child and raise him the way he wants to grow up. In comparison to matching the demands of an adult and the demands of a child, one would almost instinctively say that matching the demands of a child would be easier. The stranger states that he “wouldn’t be sharing [his] life with [his partner]” (124). However, raising a child would be sharing his life as well, just in a different sense. One could argue that this sharing of life also seems easier in parenthood than in marriage.

Although I’ve broken down what I believe to be the problem, would anyone else like to share their thoughts or a new viewpoint?

Michael R. 6 said...

Well Benwit, I think that the problem with this ghetto-child mindset is that one is lazy. Having to spend time and money planning a wedding and then money on child clothes and furniture and toys is draining. There are many elements to a serious relationship that have to be looked after. I do agree that there is an equal amount of love and work put into both kinds of relationships; parenthood and marriage. But there is a very debatable subject here that it is easier to raise a child than be married.

For example, if I chose to marry a woman who utterly despised the Puerto Rican race for the past thirty-seven years of her life, it is going to take another thirty-seven years to change her views about my people. An older person looking for a relationship who has experienced a large chunk of life already has certain beliefs and methods of living. But by raising a child, the parent is still able to mold the child’s mind and way of thinking. It is easier to influence their lives because you are raising them. Don’t get me wrong, changing a diaper is not very pleasant but I “heard” that you get used to it and it only last for the first couple years of life and the last twenty years of old peoples.

Hopefully this is what the man was saying when he spoke about it being easier to raise a child than get married but I think that there may have been different reasons.

Michael R. 6 said...

As we are all wrapping up Ghetto Nation, it was fun to see how far we have come in our understanding of the ghetto and its ghetto ways. I have laughed and I have cried and I have read and I have learned. Cora finishes her book with a message. It is a cry for help but there is ultimately nothing that we can do because ghetto is all around us and here to stay. She tells us of the Bill Cosby blow up and how he spoke for all of the people that weren’t opening there mouths. I think that I am one of those people who doesn’t open there mouth about ghetto and the eroding effects it has on society. I have tried before to say something but I think that sometimes it made me come off as racist because I definitely associated ghetto with Black people only (I am the first to admit). Reading Ghetto Nation took off my blinders to the world around me and I was able to see that Ghetto is everywhere. Ghetto can be funny and harmless but sometimes it is ridiculously dumb and makes one say, “Why would you do that?” Before I finish blogging about Ghetto Nation though, I want talk about one of the funniest ghetto ideas found in Ghetto Nation.
Cora Daniels decided to take us back to her days growing up in Bed-Stuy. Cora attended Brooklyn Tech High School and back then, it was the pride of Bed-Stuy. The cream of the crop of Bed-Stuy attended the school because you needed to take an entrance exam to get in. Her school was for the geeks and the kids from Boys and Girls high School always beat the geeks up.
One day, while Cora was in school, there was a great excitement when her classmates noticed that word DECEPTICONS was tagged on the sidewalk. (Tag means spray paint!) DECEPTICONS comes from a cartoon of huge robots battling for supremacy in the galaxy. The decepticons were the evil robots. The school was evacuated because the officials thought that there was going to be a big brawl.
I think the biggest surprise for me was that most members of the gang are from the school and they only caused mischief on the weekdays. They lived their double lives on the weekends. This “gang” of ghetto nerds is the weirdest thing I’ve ever read about. Cora Daniels wrote about them with some humor almost making fun of them. I hope that you guys can agree by saying that the DECEPTICONS are very similar to MAPLEWOOD gang. Both gangs are manned by unlikely kids. They are the kids that have silver spoons in their mouths and roofs over their heads. But, at night when there is nothing to do at home they would rather walk around with their pants hanging below their butts and terrorize the neighborhood than be with their friends and do normal things. These suburban gangs are very comical to me and it’s funny because MAPLEWOOD is feared around Malden but I think anyone who is a part of it is the laughing stock of the city. Come on, DECEPTICONS? M DUBS?!!! YE YEAA!!! ………….

GHETTO NATION = GOOD BOOK

Benwit L 6 said...

Hey guys. I lost my book at Sullivan Square today when I was getting on the shuttle bus. I'll try to make a post tomorrow so don't end the session until then.

Alexander A.6 said...

Sorry about the lagging, but it’s kind of hard to explain.
Anyway, after reading Ghetto Nation, I do realize a lot of these ghetto attributes in people. Just the other day I had seen a young black father and mother with their child and they were busy buying alcohol from the store and the baby looked as if it was freezing, but I resisted from saying anything since I knew I wouldn’t be able to change there perspective. Another thing that made me wonder was when she talked about Cosby’s speech at an NAACP award ceremony. For many a years, Cosby had been looked at as a hero to several in impoverished regions and after he ridiculed the poor, low-economic black community (a rather large community as well). And it made me think about what I had said before about celebrities, like Britney Spears and Paris Hilton who have adapted a ghetto style while still inexplicably being heroes. Though I understand Cosby may not strike anybody as “ghetto,” but one of the lessons I believe Daniels wanted us to see in her book was that, we don’t see the real ghetto in people and much like celebrities and people alike we all choose our lifestyle, however it is other people who exploit these unique qualities of people.

Christina H 6 said...

To elaborate on a point Benwit and Michael brought up about the stranger who believes he “could have a baby but [he doesn’t] think [he] could ever get married” (123), I think that the stranger is afraid of commitment. Marriage would limit him to one woman, who would restrict his freedom to explore. I agree with Benwit that marriage does call for higher demands and expectations. He is expected to be there for her physically, mentally, and emotionally. He would need to share his life with her. He must compromise with a wife before making decisions. On the other hand, commitment to a baby requires less compromise and allows more freedom. Because he is not married to the baby’s mother, he is not obligated to support her needs, but only the baby’s. It is easier for the parent to compromise with the child, because children are easily influenced. The stranger is aiming low by exercising as little effort as possible and avoiding responsibility.

Daniels refers to John Ogbu’s term “‘acting white’ to explain why some black students seemed to shun doing well in school” (152). The black students believe that black students, who take the high level classes, talk properly, and are focused on academics mean that they are “acting white.” Peer pressure discourages the other black students from doing well in school. They are convinced that there is a glass ceiling that prevents them from being equal to white students. With these assumptions in mind, it’s impossible for the black students to set high goals. There friends and classmates, and sometimes even parents may advise the black student to stop trying and return to his acceptable social status. They are telling him to just give up before he even had a chance to try to make an accomplishment. In A Hope in the Unseen, the main character, Cedric Jennings, attends an inner city school where the majority of students are black. Within his black community, Cedric is discouraged from thinking about college, let alone an Ivy League college. Despite his extraordinary grades and intelligence, his friends and teachers tell him to aim low—apply to the community colleges around the neighborhood. These “Dreambusters,” as Cedric refers to them, remind him constantly that he will never become successful in life and that he will end up just like the rest of them. His peers often mock him for reading, talking funny, and focusing on school—“acting white”. However, Cedric was able to turn this criticism and discouragement into motivation. In the end, he is able to overcome their words and reach his goal.

Cedric sets a great example for all students. Becoming an intellectual is not restricted to a certain race. Anyone can become an intellectual as along as they are willing to accept challenges and allow their horizons to extend despite the obstacles. In order to succeed, people need to learn to love themselves and rid of this self-hate.

Benwit L 6 said...

Good morning everyone. I’ve been a little busy but I’ve finally found some time.

The highlight of this book for me has to be chapter 6. Daniels’ writing style is dramatically different in this one chapter in relation to the rest of the book. Daniels makes no narration and the entire chapter is written in dialogue. Filled with excessive music references and ghetto behavior, this chapter reminds us how largely influenced we are by the media and vice versa. I’m not much of a music enthusiast but even I recognized some of the songs she was pulling lyrics out of. We hear the music so much that we can easily incorporate them in our everyday speech and it would go unnoticed. From “Gold Digger” to “Oops… I Did It Again,” Daniels utilizes the lyrics within the ghetto speech in such a manner that the entire conversation is believable and makes her point entirely. All the songs she refers to how this one ghetto image in common. Excessive partying. The financial aspect of a relationship. The fleeting ghetto aspect of a relationship driven by the thrill of the moment. Not only does this chapter instill humor in us, it also opens our eyes to how routine ghetto has become and the ghetto mindset. In words of 50 Cent, “America got a thing for this gangsta s***.”

Would I recommend other people to read this book? Definitely. It’s an eye opener for sure and makes you say, “Damn. I am pretty ghetto,” even if you never considered it before. This book can be read by those who detest ghetto culture and those who consider themselves a part of it. After all, it is social criticism. Ghetto is a part of our culture whether we like it or not so we might as well fully understand what it is and how it is affecting us. “I am ghetto. I am not ghetto. I am you” (196). A quick, enjoyable read that leave you laughing out loud and confused (but liking it).

Michael R. 6 said...

I think we are halfway through guys!!! So I hope that everyone likes the book because I actually kind of like it. I have another book to post-it up. I love the fresh smell of a new post-it notepad freshly unwrapped from its plastic wrapping. No really I do….

Savage Inequalities is very addicting book and so far I think that I’ve been more than shocked than I was when reading Ghetto Nation. Jonathan Kozol warns us in the beginning that all of the issues discussed in this book were evident during the time period of 1970 – 1990. I keep trying to remind myself that it was almost fifteen years ago and hopefully things have changed for the all the people that Jonathan Kozol mentions in Savage Inequalities. I don’t know where you guys are in your reading but I am going to comment on something that happened in the first chapter because the author started of with some crazy disturbing facts.

He begins with a short introduction to East St. Louis, Illinois which is on the border of St. Louis, Missouri and Illinois, separated by the Mississippi. Kozol describes the city and its surroundings. East St. Louis was once a boomtown because of all it natural resources surrounding the area. There was once an aluminum factory and this attracted much of the early population. I actually wanted to do a little more research because I wanted to see some pictures of the city and found out that the historic Route 66 runs through the city but it is described by one Route 66 enthusiast as “a depressed area of Route 66 that might not be appropriate for the casual Route 66er - especially at night.” * Many factories were closed during the Great Depression but were revived during WWII and used in the production of weapons and war machines. Since then, the city has gone down hill. Children don’t have adequate education or dental care, homes are not homes - they are shacks and children play in human runoff. There are high levels of lead contamination in the soil and many infant deaths occur. The smokestacks of the two chemical plants and a toxic incineration compound fill the air that people breathe with harmful pollutants. One student at East St. Louis High School describes it like this, “So the trash is [coming] at us in this direction. The chemicals is [coming] from the other. We right in the middle,” (31). Considered suburban, the city is nothing like its affluent (predominantly white) neighbors situated on the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi and Downtown St. Louis. There is one bridge going into St Louis from the city.

When reading about East St. Louis, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Chernobyl, Ukraine in the former USSR (Soviet Russia) and the horrible side effects that the failure of a nuclear reactor left behind. I keep scaring myself because Chernobyl is in Russia and that is a world away from America. Chernobyl has fishes in its water with four heads, almost like El Pond in Melrose (but I won’t start with that). There is an uninhabited buffer zone in the city of Chernobyl that surrounds the remains of the melted-down nuclear reactor where there are still areas teaming with nuclear radiation harmful to humans. It almost sounds like the lead in the soil of East St. Louis. Chernobyl made headlines around the world and Russia’s government poured money into the incident after it was all over so as to cover things up. Literally. During the process of containing the nuclear fuel rods in the power plant, scientists came up with the simple-stupid idea of pouring concrete on the molten fuel rods so that it could slow down the escape of nuclear radiation leaking into a cavern full of reactive compounds that may have resulted in a nuclear explosion sending gamma rays into the air and spreading them around the GLOBE…This solution was very fragile as authorities did not know if the radiation would just melt threw but it somehow held. The cover-up worked.

I don’t think that East St. Louis is a cover-up but the problem is that it hasn’t been uncovered yet, like Chernobyl was. I have never seen the city on the six o-clock news. I couldn’t even find very much info on it except police reports and funny mug shots and blogs with people warning about all of its organized crime.

I just wanted to know if anyone has been to a place like this. I know that my hometown in Puerto Rico has a ghetto area where gunshots are the norm. It is at the bottom of hill and my town is half the size of Malden. Has anyone been to the Bronx or heard of Chernobyl, Ukraine??? Maybe someone can tell how they felt when they read about East St. Louis and what it would be like to live there….

*http://www.theroadwanderer.net/66Illinois/city66.htm

Michael R. 6 said...

Hey everyone! I hope that we are all safe and warm in our houses. I asked Mr. G today if I could put some pictures in our little discussion and he told me to read up on how to do it in Kevin T’s posting. I learned and wanted to show you guys the pictures of an abandoned store in Pripyat, Ukraine (a ghost city on the outskirts of Chernobyl with a former population of 50,000) and a store in East St. Louis . Hopefully you guys can see the resemblance and be just as shocked as I was.

Michael R. 6 said...

Oh and I noticed something about my links. To make things easier, make sure you RIGHT click on the link and scroll in the options and click OPEN IN A NEW WINDOW so that you guys can see the pictures I have chosen better.

Christina H 6 said...

My initial reaction to Savage Inequalities was similar to Mike’s. As I read the first chapter, I was shocked and disturbed by the poor and dangerous conditions that the families in East St. Louis are forced to live under. Even though the statistics and events are based from 1970s to the 1990s, it wasn’t that long time ago. It’s scary to think that communities like East St. Louis existed right next to wealthy and comfortably adjusted communities.

The fact that rest of the world tries to isolate these inner-city communities angers me. Governor James Thompson refuses to provide “state loans to pay for garbage collection and to keep police and fire departments in continued operation” (9). He blames the mayor and administrators of East St. Louis, who happen to be mostly black. It’s frustrating because the governor is aware of the impending crisis and allows conditions to worsen, but does not take any responsibility. Without proper garbage pick-ups, the residents live in their own trash. The physical appearance and the atmosphere of the neighborhoods are unpleasant. It’s difficult for students and families to maintain a positive attitude, let alone, set high expectations. Their lives are thrown into garbage dumps whether this is an exaggeration or not.

Another unjust point that the governor argues is that “’there is money in the community…it’s just not being spent for what it should be spent for” (24). I strongly disagree with Thompson, because if there were money in these communities, then there would be better schools that would produce better students who will receive a better education to prepare them for better job opportunities, which will ultimately output better lives. It’s unfair that gambling such as lottery is advertised primarily in the poor, black communities. As a result, the “people who have nothing to start with waste their money on a place that sells them dreams” (16). Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t the state have power to pass laws that regulate gambling? If the state is aware of the economic problems that the people in the inner-city face, then why do they allow the gambling to continue in these places when they know that it will only deepen the inner-city families’ debt?

Christina H 6 said...

Sorry Mike, I don�t know anything about Chernobyl, Ukraine. However, your description of the incident does relate to East St. Louis. When you mentioned the four-headed fish, I remembered Kozol�s bull rats. I wonder if cases like East St. Louis still exist. If we have time, it�d be cool to do some research on inner-city communities. Like Mike, I was also wondering if the conditions of East St. Louis have improved. I tried Googling for some information, but I didn�t find as much as I wanted to know about. I browsed at the website for the East St. Louis School District #189, and clearly there are people who have been working for educational improvements. The only setback was that, the sites didn�t provide a list of improvements, so I could compare the results to the prior conditions in East St. Louis.

When the Illinois Board of Education cut �one quarter of the system�s teachers� (25) and �75 teacher aides,� but not any of the sports or music programs, I felt that the state was promoting racial stereotypes. By cutting the students access to academic resources, the students became even more disadvantages than they already were. The students were limited to the areas of sports and music, because the state felt confident that the black students have a chance of excelling in these two areas. The black students were assumed to athletes and singers and dancers, but not intellectuals of math, science, and english. The lack of enthusiasm from the state, affected the students attitude and self-esteem about academic classes. Because they were discouraged from advancing in academics, they resorted to their physical abilities. It was hard for the students to remain focuses and motivated. Many teachers weren�t helpful either. Some hardly even taught the students and let them sleep in class. The teachers believe it�s pointless to teach the students, because ��it makes no difference. Kids like these aren�t going anywhere� (52). The teachers have given up before giving the student�s a chance to learn, to grow, and succeed. The students who do stay in school and get a high school diploma aren�t that different from the students who dropped out. Those who received a high school diploma may not be able to read or write at a sixth grade level. The four years of high school amount to nothing. The students wasted their time�a huge chunk of their lives.

One of the main problems is that there are not enough teachers to educate students in the inner-city communities. What do you think could be done to attract more teachers to these positions? Obviously, this question cannot be answered from reading the book, but I was curious as to what you guys would propose to advocate change for better school systems.

Michael R. 6 said...

Christina to answer your question, I don’t think that there is much that kids our age can do except try to get our voices heard. There may not be that much worth fighting over here at Malden High but I think that the problems being faced by the kids in New York and Chicago put them at a level where they think that fighting is futile.

In the question, Christina, that you had pertaining to teachers and where more can come from; I think that there is little that we can do as high school kids because people go to colleges and universities to get degrees so that they can teach. Hopefully, they go to learn to teach things that they love. I feel that some teachers teach only to teach. In other words, they teach just to get by or as a side job. In some of the worst cases, they choose to teach only to find that it was a bad choice already made and it is too late to find another job. I think that I have dealt with many teachers like that in my lifetime. Many of these “half teachers” like the Chicago substitute on page 52 use their job hours as nap time. And it is ironic that the class that teacher was supposed to be teaching was not even academic but a more hands-on technology class. I think that if you have an engaging curriculum where the students do not come into class everyday only to do another class’s homework, then maybe an interest in the subject may grow.

However, I don’t think that this teaching quality is taught in the college or university giving out the degree. I think that the quality of a teacher is molded by their life’s experience and the morals and values that they are taught by their parents. If anyone hasn’t noticed, all teachers get the same kind of degree. I am not saying that any teacher is smarter or less smart than another but the education and basic requirement of a degree for teaching is the same. But, for some reason, all teachers teach differently and are appreciated by more students than others.

I think their teaching appeal has to do with how the class is run or how rigorous the class is. It is common sense that if someone is being taught something that they do not have particular interest in, there may be a great deal of struggle throughout their work.

In the problem of attracting teachers, nothing can be done because it is free will by which the teachers choose to teach. That is why most of the teachers in this book, like Mrs. Hawkins of Chicago, are declared heroes because she takes money out of her own pocket to provide an education to the children of her class. She may put in more effort in teaching than other teachers who sit back and take the fact that there is little that can be done. I just don’t think that unless teachers were assigned to schools all over the nation, problems like a growing demand for teachers cannot be resolved.

On the brighter side, there are teachers around me and you, Christina who do devote long hours for which they do not get paid (wink,wink) and then come to school to involve their students in education and provide help for when there is misunderstanding. If only we could clone these teachers and then every school in America would be better off!

Christina H 6 said...

Yes, Mike, it would be great if we could clone all those exceptional teachers, so that children everywhere will receive an equal education. Then, the students wouldn’t be wasting away their lives. Mrs. Hawkins is a wonderful example of the type of hard-working teacher that schools need. Unlike other classrooms, her classroom walls are filled with the students’ works and posters, which create an enthusiastic and positive atmosphere. Students who enter the classroom feel an urge to learn and explore. She challenges the students in all areas like math, science, art and reading. Instead of lecturing the students, she puts the students in groups, “departments”, (48) where they teach and learn from each other. The groups help develop teamwork and leadership, which could be applied to their lives outside the classroom. Mrs. Hawkins tells her students to use a dictionary if they come across an unfamiliar word. In order for the students to succeed, they must work to gain the reward, in this case, of knowledge. They shouldn’t set low-expectations by seeking only the answer. The students need to understand the reasoning behind the answers, and not just accept the information others feed them. In Ghettonation, Cora Daniels warns the people to not give in to the media’s images and advertisements. If the people are quick to eat up all that the media feeds them, they can’t make their own decisions; The viewers will make decisions based on the media’s influence.

Jonathan Konzol interviews Charles Mingo, principal of a school in Chicago’s second-poorest neighborhood, after school one day. The principal notes that as important as it is to “get these kids to pass their tests,” (71) it’s important to have flowers as well. I’m disappointed that many of the teachers, who do teach, teach to earn a living. They do not feel passionate about their occupation, and it affects their performance and attitude inside the classroom. A teacher who feels miserable about their job is likely to have a negative impact on the students. The teachers show up for the paycheck, not the students. The teachers should push their students to aim high, and not settle for a passing grade—the minimum. Konzol believes that flowers play an important role in the schools as well. Flowers beautify landscapes by adding color. Bright colors evoke feelings of happiness and life. Therefore, school should be a place where young minds are free to learn to their heart’s content. The students should not be limited. Let there be life in the classrooms!

If you guys haven’t watched the movie, Freedom Writers, I highly recommend it. The movie focuses on the lives of the students of Wilson High School and their daily struggles. A new teacher, Erin Gruwell, comes to the school with high hopes and zeal. She is shocked by the behavior and attitude of her students. At one point, she almost gives up on them, but she doesn’t. Mrs. Gruwell convinces her students to write in journals. From these journals, Mrs. Gruwell delves into the students’ lives within their tough community. With these eye-opening entries in mind, Mrs. Gruwell attempts to break down her student’s barriers and help them realize their potentials. The movie is simply inspirational. It’s now available on DVD, so rent it over vacation.

Christina H 6 said...

As citizens of the United States, all students are entitles to equal education. Each state has its own tax system where some of the parents’ taxes go to the public schools. It is unfair for a child to “have to choose between a teacher or a playground or sufficient toilet paper” (79). It’s understandable that private schools have better teachers and resources for the students, because parents pay for their kid’s tuition out of their own pockets. However, public education should be equal across the state, because it is provided by the parent’s taxes. One community should not be favored over another because of the parent’s occupation and status. All students should be provided with equal opportunities to succeed. Kozol’s statement may seem exaggerated, but it does reflect the crisis—limitations on improvement—in many inner-city schools. Kozol’s choice of examples is powerful as well. A qualified teacher is needed in order to provide the students with a proper education and motivation to learn. A playground represents the children’s right to have fun and enjoy their youth. Sufficient toilet paper is necessary for obvious sanitary reasons. Each of the factors plays an important role in the schools. Therefore, forcing the children to choose only one option for improvement leaves them at a disadvantage in the other areas.

On another note, what do you guys think about the phrase “’private-sector partners’” (81)? Some Americans agree that black children do deserve to receive a quality education. However, the upper-class white folks often refer to education as training for the black students to become “good employees” (81). As a result, the black students aren’t expected to become bosses. They are expected to produce good works so that the business of another man, who is probably white, can prosper.

Michael R. 6 said...

Well, in answer to your question Christina, I think that the phrase “private sector partners” is very misleading because it seems as though when someone is partnered up with another person, they are supposed to work together and get along. This partnership is one that is carried on behind closed doors, over the phone and through e-mail. Jonathan Kozol quoted a Chicago woman asking “Why should we trust their motives?” She spoke of the people behind the private sectors as being those that initiated the segregation of the cities schools and voted against the allocation of funds to the struggling inner city schools that they give gifts to. This parent from Chicago has obviously noticed something about the behavior of the private sector bosses and intends to fix it.

I think that the problem that was evident in Chicago back then is evident in all of the major cities of the U.S. It is found everywhere; prominent businessmen trying to make themselves look better by “donating” money to inner city schools. But at the same time, these people own most of the property in town and happen to run the city. They are members of the school committees and they are powerful members of society because of the people that they employ and the size of their bank accounts.

It is kind of funny because all of the examples and points that I have just mentioned above are found in the city of Malden. There are always the same people in power positions and they are always from the same family. I think that it is ridiculous because on the outside, these people seem to be friendly and caring when in reality many may turn out to be rude and thieving and dirty and bogus. I think Christina that someone needs to step in and shake things up in the wonderful world of Malden politics because it is turning into a chess game for power and prominence more than a profession meant for bettering the community.

Of course I can’t really step in to do something till I am eighteen (which is actually very soon). But, I think that along as we have money and greed, there will always be “private sector partnerships” because they are the front page makers. The partnerships and the deals that happen, like the new schools and the new school gyms and the new track stadiums are all front page grabbers that help to get publicity for the upcoming elections and people fall for these things. Anyone who sees the mayor of a major city shaking the hand of a gang leader who just received a new park for the children of his neighborhood is going to think, “Gee, that Mayor So-and-so is really nice and he cares a lot for the community,” when in reality he may have done those things for other reasons. Sometimes it is a picture of the mayor holding an enormously large check
for a small amount of money with a cute child coming from a low-income household that makes the front page. Why do you think the actual check is so big? Because the mayor and his associates want the world to see what they have done so they can look good in the community’s eye. But the reality is that they might never even set foot in that ghetto ever again.

But maybe what I am talking about is just a horrible stereotype and one that should be argued against. Does anyone have an opinion on this “private sector partnership”?

Benwit L 6 said...

Sadly, it is not a matter of whether we trust the motives of these relationships or not. Most people I’m assuming would try to take a neutral stance on such a controversial issue. Although it is true that these leaders can do more, people will argue that the leaders are at least doing something about the poverty stricken neighborhoods. People are under the idea that putting money toward poorer communities is not an obligation partially due to the lack of proper representation by the communities (sadly due to the lack of funds and importance in voice). As in any politics, people will turn the other direction and believe it’s no concern of theirs. After all, how would the graduation of redlining neighborhoods affect the life of a typical businessman? Additionally, there are those who feel strongly about their views on the matter, yet they feel as if they lack voice so they simply yield to the system, stand to the side, and dolefully criticize.

It seems as if the efforts toward helping these communities are responsibilities tied with promoting business. People are willing to do anything for positive public relations, even to support a cause that they may not necessarily believe in (hence why most people consider the actions of the powerful members of society as mere fluff). Even knowing that they do not care, people will still defend them because they don’t believe in the cause.

“Do the leaders have to donate to poor schools? They could put that money into their own businesses on move on. What good would it do them?”

Sadly, it does plenty of good, more good than if they were to put money into their own businesses. Public relations has grown to such a large scale that simply boosting one’s reputation is more profitable than doing the business itself. The gratification that one receives is nothing more than business in the eyes of the owners (not necessarily all of them but a good deal).

Alexander A.6 said...

Okay, I know some of you may be peeved and I understand, but I have just been swamped with other stuff recently.

Anyway, to respond to Benwit’s comment about I completely agree with you, that people do put a lot of emphasis on “rebuilding” these poor communities. The issue has raised itself, albeit briefly, in the current political races and how it is genuinely just talk. Ever since things like the No Child Left Behind Act people have been criticizing the distributing the wealth amongst these schools and it has raised outrage in areas of the country who suffer from supposedly useful legislation. “It is a tragedy that these good things are not more widely shared.” (233) Also, Kozol talks of the great injustice done by the justice system when the question of financial ethics is brought up. “the natural fear of the conservative is that the levelers are at work here sapping the foundations of free enterprise.” And to me it is just sad that the act of school funding could be considered some kind of business proposition amongst corporations.

Christina H 6 said...

First off, Mike, you have guts for placing hyperlinks to those pictures. Even though the pictures do back up your words with evidence, I do not think it is right to make hasty generalizations on the mayor’s motives. After all, a picture can be interpreted in more than one way, and you chose to interpret it in a more negative way. I think the schools in Malden have improved tremendously in the past decade. The city renovated 5 new K-8 elementary/middle schools—Beebe, Salemwood, Ferryway, Linden, and Forestale. In the book, Kozol describe P.S. 79, an elementary school in New York. The school had “no science room. The science teachers carry their equipment with them” (88) I remember that when I was in elementary school, back at the Emerson School in Malden, my art teacher and music teacher both had to carry around their supplies in boxes to each class. My art teacher and music teacher didn’t even have their own classrooms. They had closet space to store construction paper and little cymbals, but not any space for a personal desk or even a chair. Now that I think of it, I don’t know where they could’ve possibly stayed between classes besides the teacher’s lounge. My cafeteria was also my auditorium, my gym, and my computer loft, which had computers so old that CD-rom drives weren’t even installed in the hard drives. Also, I would not classify Malden as a city with segregated schools, because each public school consists of a diverse body of students. While volunteering at Malden’s 150th anniversary, I noticed the class pictures in the hallway (I think some are still downstairs in the hallways of the main entrance.). If you compare the students in each graduating class the year before, it is clear that the school has become more diverse since the days when the school was predominantly white.

Michael R. 6 said...

I think I am going to switch up the subject a little bit to something more towards the ends of the book. Jonathan Kozol speaks of schools in New Jersey where the children are still segregated and the rich acquire more riches and the poor become poorer.
Kozol introduces us to the cities of Camden, New Jersey and Cherry Hills, New Jersey. Both have schools that are less than five minutes away from each other but there are striking differences between the two schools. There is a shortage of faculty, supplies and classroom space in Camden’s High School while on the other hand there are AP classes and a greenhouse for students interested in Horticulture at Cherry Hills High School.
Many have proposed that the predominantly black and latino population that attends Camden’s High School should be bussed out to the neighboring city in order to receive a better education. It would not be that much of a hassle because the school is only five to ten minutes away, just over the bridge. But, parents refuse over reasons that many believe to be racial.
I have always noticed that there are physical boundaries found in place that allow for two different entities to go there separate paths. Islands in the Pacific are surrounded by water and so the species found on the island evolve isolated from the animal species found on the mainland. They go their separate evolutionary ways because of the water that does not allow them to mingle. I feel that the same idea can be applied to our school systems.
For example, Melrose and Malden are neighboring cities though the tangible differences between the two cities are astounding. They are divided by large forested conservation areas and the Pine Banks Park that Malden and Melrose happily share. Melrose is a predominantly white school while Malden is only about half white. Melrose busses in some of its students from the inner city though Malden does not. I actually spent a day at Melrose High and discovered a classroom that wasn’t a classroom; it was a Spanish class surrounded by moving boards arranged so that the other classes had some privacy. Malden High, I feel, has enough classrooms for all its students and so does not have to go to those measures.
I think that the difference between the schools is very evident in that Malden High is actually blessed. Many may complain and argue but I feel that because I have been to three different high schools, that we here in Malden, are pretty well off.

Christina H 6 said...

One of the main problems that Kozol addresses, in addition to racial barriers and lack of funds for schools, is classroom sizes. A first-time English teacher at the South Bronx school complains that she has “five classes—42 in each” (111). It is evident that class sizes become an issue when the teacher can’t give the students the needed individual attention. It’s hard to maintain the orderliness of a classroom when a teacher isn’t fully aware all the activities going on in different parts of the classroom. Some students may be sleeping on the desks or falling behind, but the teacher is too busy to help them. Therefore, students who do show up to class everyday may not be learning yet they might still be able to obtain a high school diploma, which sums up to nothing, because the students may lack basic math, reading, and writing skills. We know first-hand that Mr. G has English classes like ours that have up to 30 students. Thirty students is much less than 40 students, but the same problems occur. It takes longer for large classes to quiet down, which takes away from class time needed to introduce the daily lessons. Teacher-student conferences to go over essay drafts are hard to schedule, and the teacher may be forced to limit his time for each student. The fact that some of the teachers, who’ve been in the school for a while, expect that “half the students will be gone by Christmas” (111) is appalling. Yes, this will solve the problem with class sizes, but it does not resolve the impending problem of students dropping out of school. The teachers know that the students will resort to dropping out, but they take no action to prevent this. Obviously, the teacher should not be held responsible to the education of city’s student body, but the Board of Education should be. Also, note that Christmas time isn’t even the halfway point of an entire school year, and students would have dropped out by then. A student enters the classroom and sees that it’s full—no desks or chairs are empty—and that there are 5 other students already standing I the back of the classroom. She senses the hopelessness of the situation and leaves before even attempting to apply herself, because she knows she will not be able to learn under the poor conditions and lack of guidance.

Benwit L 6 said...

Although I cannot speak for the differences between Melrose High and Malden High, I do appreciate the diversity that Malden has. Sometimes, I wonder what would happen if I went to a different school. It’s true that I might be able to have more supplies. However, like the students mentioned in the beginning of the book, I’d rather prefer racial diversity than more school funding. Even when the students are in dire need of school supplies, they still remain idealistic and believe in Dr. Martin Luther King’s words. Malden’s diversity teaches its students to, at the very least, tolerate each other so that race is no longer an issue. Students are thrust into a more realistic environment than in the real world where not everyone is going to be white.

However, when I walk outside of Malden, there is a constant reminder that I am part of the minority. Still, I feel that, having come from Malden, I’d rather have had the chance to deal with people of different races than to have had little experience. My experiences in the Malden school system has made me realize that it the diversity in school has allowed me to approach matters of race in a positive manner. I understand now why so many people are surprised when walking into our classrooms now. Never, in any of my classes, have there ever been a situation where the class is all one race. Like Michael, I believe that Malden High is blessed and I am very grateful for it.

Benwit L 6 said...

Sadly, there are not many viable alternatives to larger classrooms. For the low income schools that Kozol mentions, hiring more staff is unlikely. Most teachers already have their hands full with the students they already have. It would not help giving students to uncaring teachers either. The lack of school supplies does not help the situation either. It is not as if the student is not dropping out because he wants to. As Kozol states, “the odds of finding a few moments of delight, or maybe even happiness, outside these dreary schools are better still” (59). The student figures that the chance he can learn the same material he is learning in school elsewhere is better than in an overcrowded classroom. For the student on the verge of dropping out, “it is hard to know if a decision to drop out of school, no matter how much we discourage it, is not, in fact, a logical decision” (59). After all, providing for his family or for himself is a higher priority than going to school to learn nothing. When the student does graduate from high school, the amount of material he actually knows may not be sufficient for a college education or for the career he desires. In all this hopelessness, who can blame him? It is no longer a matter of motivation. If anything, he just wants to make the most of his time. As the years pass, the significance of a high school diploma quickly degenerates. There is no easy solution to drop out rates.

Benwit L 6 said...

I’d like for us to bring up a couple more topics (maybe two or three) before we (hopefully) wrap up this section tonight.

I’d like a little discussion about Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream in the context of this book. In the interviews that Kozol has gone though, it seems as though Dr. King has died in vain. For example, one student in East St. Louis goes to a school named after Dr. King. Yet, “’every student in that school is black. It’s like a terrible joke on history’” (35). We have not yet fulfilled Dr. King’s dream. In the larger cities, at no point would “little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers,” at least in the public education system. Judging by Kozol’s analysis, poor black students are being isolated from the world of higher education. In order to obtain higher, they must take action on their own. It is not so much a matter of distrust but it is as Dr. King states, that “we cannot walk alone.” It takes more than the effort of the poor community to help their schools but the efforts of all people. Sadly, the current is as one student states in her poem about Dr. King states:

He tried to help the white and black.
Now that he’s dead he can’t do jack.” (112)

I encourage you to use your own thoughts, experiences, the book, and Dr. King’s speech for reference. None of us here are black but we are all human beings and that’s what truly matters.

http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlkihaveadream.htm

Benwit L 6 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Benwit L 6 said...

We are quickly approaching the end of our blogging sessions. Get any last minute posting done when you still can (if not, enjoy yourselves I suppose).

When I read the beginning of chapter 5, I was surprised to read about the 75 percent equality funds for schooling. To think, that last 25 percent is the difference between an advanced school and a poor school and that 75 percent is the bare minimum necessary to run a school. Despite this, “it is a matter of national pride that every child’s ship be kept afloat” (176) in order to compete with the rest of the world. This brings up a new issue in my mind. Is it better to have more insufficient schools just for the sake of national pride or is it better suck up our pride and have higher quality schools?

It is important to provide every child the opportunity to obtain an education, no matter how poor. Otherwise, we are taking away the child’s opportunities in life completely. Even the best students can rise from these poor public schools. On a worldwide scale, America’s image would be tarnished if it were not able to provide schooling for all students.

On the other hand, if we were to focus our funds, there may be more students overall that do better. There would be no longer problems such as lack of supplies and staff or overcrowded classes. Students would be less likely to drop out and they would be getting a higher level education. However, doing so would pigeonhole the poor, leaving them with no way of getting out of poverty.

I recall watching a documentary last year called “Stupid in America” about America’s education standards in comparison to other nations. We are lowering on a worldwide level. The economic gap caused by World War II is quickly closing in in recent years. If we were to ignore our standing, would that be more beneficial in the long run for students? After all, even students from the “best” schools are receiving mediocre educations in comparison to students from other countries. At the very least, our education can be on par with the other nations’ (although we really shouldn’t boast in the first place since America has so many enemies).

It is also interesting to note that, in the documentary, there are some poor schools that outperform modern, well funded schools despite the obvious disadvantages they face. Typically, this is not the case but it just goes to prove that money is not necessarily the factor the divides good and bad schools (though it is true that money provides necessities that poorer schools desperately need).

Stupid in America:
http://youtube.com/watch?v=Bx4pN-aiofw

Mr. G said...

My two cents (since you got me interested in the conversation, and thank you for acknowledging my class sizes—I’ve been grading all break (I know, poor me!))—I think one of the worst decisions teachers have made is to accept the hero / vocation role for this job. I think if we demanded to be treated like professionals, instead of “heroes”, we would be paid better (which is the best way to attract talent: money) and it would benefit students. The idea that teachers need to be motivated by altruism is so wrong: I think teachers are mostly to blame for lining up like cattle and demanding to all be paid the same amount of money, regardless of skill and expertise. Just because I think I am underpaid, doesn’t mean that every teacher is—some make what they deserve and some make more than they deserve. Can you imagine asking any other professional for a service for free “because the children need your help”—?

After reading what I just wrote (it is two days later—I sound bitter, but do not mean to). There has to be some humanity / empathy in teachers too—we can’t just be money hungry fools. Tho I stick to what I wrote!