Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Chicago Gun Violence

Last night the CBS Evening News showed this story on the rash of recent gun violence in Chicago:

It always makes me sick to learn of senseless deaths, especially those
of young people. The story told about one young victim who was only
ten years old!

According to the report, "Since September, 24 students have been
murdered, most of them shot. The dead amount to a classroom of kids. ... Last school year 34 students were killed. That's 58 deaths over what amounts to a 17-month period. And that makes an average of one child getting murdered every eight days."

Several years ago, I was in a high school about twenty miles out of Minneapolis, and asked a class of seniors what they wanted to be doing in five years. I got a number of responses like, "I'd like to be in grad school," "I want to be done with college and starting on my career," "I want to be married and starting a family," among others.

After seven or eight answers, the one black male student raised his hand and said, "I want to be alive."

I asked him, "Why would you say that?"

His response was, "Because the life expectancy for young, black males isn't very great."

I asked, "Why is that?"

He said, "Because we don't know how to solve problems. It's just easier to pull your gun and shoot the other guy. Back in my 'hood, I could be shot in a drive-by at any time. That's why I drive all the way out here through the open enrollment program."

Then I asked him, "If you decided to get out of your old school and drive out here, why don't you find a different group of people to hang with who don't hang out on the street to be targets for drive-bys?"

You should have seen the look on his face! That thought had never occurred to him. My thinking was he had made the decision to switch to a safer school, why not make the decision to make safer friends?

How do we change the paradigm of violence?

I'm interested in your comments on the subject.



Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Get Your Boy Reading

In my April first post, I discussed the issue of boys and their lack of interest in reading. Within hours, I received a comment from Daniel, a young man who loves to read. If you haven't read it, you can jump to the post by clicking here. If your boy isn't like Daniel, and doesn't like to read, here are six ideas you might try to help turn those interests around.

I want to share 6 Clever Ways to Get Your Boy Reading. This piece is from that article. I believe it makes good sense. Click on the image to make it larger:

I have one more suggestion. That is, read. Set a good example for your children. My sister and brother-in-law are both avid readers, and their fifteen-year-old son also spends a great deal of time reading. Tammy and Jeff started to read to Max when he was very young and as he grew and learned to read, he continued his love of reading.

Today, Max is reading some of the classics and wants to discuss them with his grandmother. By the way, Mom usually has two or three books going at any given time! Her father, Grandpa Joe to me, had an eighth grade education and started reading at an early age. He farmed his whole life and read until he passed away at age 85! He had a well-used, tattered dictionary next to him at all times, and if he didn't know the definition of a word, he looked it up on the spot! Do you do that? I just look it up at

Any comments?



Monday, April 7, 2008

Dropping Out Is An Epidemic

According to a study by the Editorial Projects in Education (EPE) Research Center, young people are dropping out of high school at a mind-numbing pace. It is especially high in our inner cities. Look at these numbers:

Click on the image to make it larger:

It comes from this article, published online April 1, 2008 by Education Week and written by The Associated Press. You can read the entire article by clicking here.

Former Secretary of State, and founding chair of America's Promise Alliance, Colin Powell states, "When more than 1 million students a year drop out of high school, it's more than a problem, it's a catastrophe."

There is a good video on the bottom right side of America's Promise Alliance's home page that gives you an idea of what the alliance is doing to try and stem the tide of students dropping out of high school. You can view it by clicking here.

As always, feel free to comment. I'm curious to read your thoughts on the subject.



Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Boys Think Reading Isn’t Cool

Why do boys think reading isn’t cool? Why do boys lag behind girls in reading scores? What can be done to level the field? Those are all questions being asked today about the discrepancies between boys and girls and their attitudes towards reading.

More than one expert believes it’s because boys are wired differently than girls. Many believe it has to do with testosterone. Others believe it has to do with socialization. Some believe there is a bias towards girls. I’m guessing it is a combination of all of the above and then some.

Mike Knight writes an excellent piece in the September 2007 edition of Mpls St. Paul Magazine entitled The Truth About Boys and Reading. You can read it by clicking here.

He talks to a group of male authors, academics and librarians that discuss the issue and comes to the conclusion we need to rethink our whole approach to the way we teach. Imagine that!

"I would say there is a crisis," said Walter Dean Myers, a children's book author. "Too many parents have walked away from this idea ... that education is a family concept, is a community concept, is not simply something that schools do."

Another article, Boys' lack of interest in reading tackled by groups, written by Paul Nyhan in the October 24, 2007 quotes Pamela LaBorde, children's librarian at the Seattle Public Library's Ballard branch, "A lot of times, when boys get to middle school they are feeling sort of disenfranchised from the educational experience.” You can read the entire article by clicking here.

The next seven paragraphs are directly from Paul Nyhan’s article:

“The problem isn't necessarily that boys don't read, it's that they are often practical readers,” LaBorde said, “reading magazines and even manuals.”

The reasons behind the reading gender gap are complex — everything from cultural changes to behavioral differences — but researchers know the brains of boys and girls develop at different rates.

They also may feel ignored. That's because the publishing industry tends to focus on girls, Myers said.

"The publishing industry doesn't think there is a market, so they just don't market them," said Hayden Bass, teen services librarian at Seattle Public's Library's downtown branch.

To engage male readers, books need to tackle their issues: what it means to be a man, walk away from a fight, play sports and even go to war, Myers said.

"I've never had a male editor," the New Jersey-based author said. "When you see the books that win the awards, you see books that are much more suitable for girls."

When Myers wrote Fallen Angels, a teen novel about Vietnam, it was a big hit with male readers.

Nyhan finishes his article with the following two paragraphs:

But like many student challenges, the first steps begin at home.

"Getting kids reading ready by talking to them, by having conversations with these boys and telling these young readers that they have to join our society, we don't have to join theirs," Myers said. "You have to interact with your children."

If you are a male, what do you like to read? If you are a female, what do you like to read? I’m curious, what are your thoughts on the subject?