Sunday, June 11, 2006

This Week's Recommended Reading

From Ash:

I have a few more interesting articles to blog about, and will later today, but I thought that these pieces on education sort of stood on their own.

AP (via the Boston Globe) reported that it isn't just in the US that kids are scrambling to get into college. In China, 9.5 million students are taking part in a 3-day college extrance exam: just 2.3 million of them will make it into a college or university. As a result over stress like that, an estimated 32 to 50 of Chinese youths suffer from clinical depression and other emotional disorders. This past week, one 16-year old committed suicide over the exam: she'd reportedly been sent out of the room because her hair wasn't properly in place with barrettes: by the time she came back, the exam had begun and she wasn't allowed in. A few hours later, she had drowned herself.

Things aren't quite as bad here at home, but they're still pretty perturbing.

If you're following the Washington Post series on the too-grim fate of African-American men in the U.S., don't miss these articles in the Chicago Sun-Times and the Los Angeles Times.

The Chi article reports on a new study by the Education Trust which has found that students with the least academic skills, the poorest, etc., can be saved by a fabulous teacher. But that they aren't, because these kids who need help the most, actually get the worst teachers. Teachers without credentials, experience, or even mastery of their own subjects, are disproportionately found in the schools with underprivileged kids.

What's the result of this?

Well, it probably can be found in the LAT piece -- a report on the frightening lack of African-American students at the University of California campuses.

While they make up about 7% of the state's high school populuation, out of the almost 4,900 students in UCLA's incoming freshman class, just 96 of them, just 2%, will be African-American. That's the lowest number since 1973. And of these, 20 of them are recruited athletes.

It's even worse at UC San Diego -- just 52 students (1.1%). UC Berkeley will have 140 African-American students, 3.3% of its class. Latinos are doing better than that, but they're still not near parity.

Which makes another article, in the San Francisco Chronicle, all the more poignant, and a second article in the LA Times seem sort of ridiculous by comparison.

The Chronicle's piece is a profile of several minority students who are at Berkeley, despite extraordinary personal hardships (e.g., the young woman whose parents were murdered, leaving her to raise her 5 brothers and sisters, while in school). The article's purpose was to call attention to a scholarship program for these students, and believe me, you'll want to get your checkbook out after reading it.

The LA Times piece is about a (very small) number of colleges that are offering their students classes about "life after college" -- from basic cooking to how to file taxes. Not that this is a bad idea, but when you consider how pampered the children who need these programs are, in comparison to those in the Chronicle story, you'll just feel embarrassed over the situation.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, what is happening in China is not so new. I remember in the 1980s, my high school classmates and I were hearing about five year olds in Japan committing suicide because they failed one class.

Also, remember that in China, girls are not as valued as boys are. I wonder why they sent the girl out because her barrette was wrong in the first place. That sounds so illogical to me. There is a wave of abandoned baby girls because of the one child policy in China.

Several friends adopted baby girls from China.

It seems to me that what happened in Japan is beginning to happen in China now.

The topic of African American men is very complex. I suspect it has more to do with the fact that they grew up without fathers and the fact that they were born to teenage mothers.

I am very curious to see if any studies have been done about men, regardless of color, growing up without fathers or a male role model AND men born to teenage mothers.

8:56 PM  
Blogger Ashley Merryman said...

I know that there are studies of men growing up without a father, and I guess you mean children of teenage mothers with fathers? To see if it's the age that makes the difference?

The challenge of studies like these is that it is very difficult to isolate what is the real issue, because the reality is that one aspect of parenting usually brings a whole host of other issues. For example, a teen mother is not just younger than a mother in a married couple, but she is also more likely to be a single parent, significantly less educated and less affluent -- the differences go on and on . . . . Now which one of those makes the most difference? Is there even a "most" between them? More likely, the effects of each probably continually reverberate against each other.

7:48 AM  

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