How Y’all Get Some Political Fixin’s

As of late, the ways in which news is distributed are ever changing. Although the media format in which news is delivered has been a major focus in recent times, the feathers of journalism itself have been ruffled by satirical comedians such as Jon Stewart, Steven Colbert, and Bill Maher. These outspoken comedians have recently taken up a role of both informational value and integrity while offering up political news stories.

In a recent telephone interview, I had the chance to pick the brain of Ellen Graser, a 20 year old film student who is a regular viewer of both “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report.” When I asked her about her sources for news, she first mentioned reading the New York Times a few times per week. After pausing for a second, possibly from being embarrassed to admit this, Graser conceded that most of her political wherewithal came from the two political satirists she watched regularly- Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert.

“I don’t realize how much I’m, well, learning,” Graser says, “at least not until I’m having a conversation with someone about politics.”

In fact, in a survey conducted in April of 2007, The Pew Research Center found that 16% of those surveyed reported regularly watching “The Daily Show” and “Colbert Report.” Of those viewers, the survey showed that 31% were college graduates while 26% were between the ages of 18 and 29.

A few days after interviewing Ms .Graser, I had the opportunity to speak to another 20 year old college student, Scott Krevat. This interview went in a slightly different direction as Krevat is not a regular viewer of either programs, but rather gets his news from websites such as Reuters.com and AP.org. When I asked him about what he thought about political satirists delivering real information and news, Krevat said, “I think if it’ll get out there in a different way, then so be it.” He went on to tell me that while political satirists may not necessarily deliver news in a better or more informative way than traditional news sources, they are indeed “just as informing as normal news.”

One of the main objectives of traditional satire is to bring important issues to light. While many people perceive satire as plain sarcasm or humor, it is much more often in the form of a witty remark or statement. In her article entitled “Smart satire skewers dumb politics; Spotlight,” Patricia Maunder makes a point when she writes that “The Colbert Report…can easily be taken as pure comic fun. But the combination of improv and tight scripting delivers some searing insights.”

That is exactly the job of good, strong political satire. While The Pew Research Center’s survey states that “the fact that a particular news source’s audience is very knowledgeable does not mean that people learned all that they know from that source.” The good news is that may not be all that matters. The upside to this all is in the extra exposure to real political issues. Shows like “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report” are on the air for their values in entertainment and comedy, yet the Pew Research Center’s survey revealed that 54% of these shows’ regular viewers could be classified as having a high knowledge category. To be in the high knowledge level, the respondents had to answer at least fifteen of twenty three questions regarding politics and current affairs correctly.

“Satire doesn’t make the weak strong, it simply gives vent to their frustration and contempt,” writes Simon Edge in his article “Parodies that keep politicians on their toes.” Edge goes on to discuss the ups and downs of political satire; he writes about political disaster as well as success drawn from satire. An important note that Edge highlights is “that satirists really ought to know as much about politics as the politicians.”

It would be too simple to state how intelligent and witty a satirist needs to be in order to be successful in today’s world. Comedians like Stewart, Colbert, and Maher are all continuing on their courses for success, but we must be careful to not brush them off as simple comedians. With satirists making a push for seriousness, the task at hand is becoming clearer. Al Franken has been in the limelight for some time now. After leaving Saturday Night Live and writing a number of satirical books on politics, Franken is now in a race for a seat in the United States Senate for Minnesota. It is clear now that satirists are more than they are generally given credit for.

-adam michaelson

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Shall we marry them?

Why do people get married? Individuals get married as symbols of love forever. It’s without my eternal love that we stay together through the negative and positives of our marriage. Marriage is not just a certified document signed by two people. It is a contract that two people make together, with their community and country.

I want you now to imagine your life without the possibility of marriage. More importantly I want you to re-enter your childhood but remember miniscule things such as your first kiss, first date and your first sexual encounter. Now think about any of those experiences that lead you to believe anything serious could have came of it, but think about knowing that marrying was not an option. Gen-Y.org reported findings based on exit Pew polls estimated 47 percent of adults ages 18-25 support allowing gay and lesbians to marry.

The current state of gay marriage in the United States is alive and changing the way we as a people view marriage life all together. When is the last time you heard about domesticate violence between a gay married couple? Yes, me either. Find gale group.com reports, “1.5 million a year are assaulted by their current husband or boyfriend, one in three children are born outside marriage, and so on.” Isabelle Belneau says, “ They love each other. To walk down the streets as a couple knowing the stares and comments behind there backs. That’s why you don’t hear about violence between one another they really love each other.

The only state that allows gay marriage is Massachusetts. Other states such as Connecticut, New Jersey and Vermont perform civil unions. Civil Unions is a legal status created by the state of Vermont in 2000 and in California. It provides legal protection to couples at the state law level, but omits federal protections as well as the dignity, clarity, security and power of the world marriage yffn.org.

Other states such as New York and New Mexico are classified under “Law Silent,” meaning same sex couples that wish to marry can because there is no law banning the act of marriage but there also is no recognition of the marriage. In France the country recognizes an agreement is only recognized by France and offers all unmarried couples, same-sex and opposites sex couples a legal status carrying some but not all the benefits of marriage.

There are many forms of family but as a result of modern industrial society” the modern phenomenon of the nuclear family came to light. Nuclear family includes immediate blood relatives. But with different situations come different types of families such as single parent families, co-habitating couples of unmarried heterosexual adults who chose not to marry but may also be raising other children and same-sex couples rearing children. The ties between members of family are growing weaker at very quicker pace with disaster at its footsteps. Especially, for children because soon after there lives end in delinquency and crime, sexual promiscuity education lack of employment. Not to mention physical, emotional and mental problems. As stated by usatoday.com gay marriage is also said to raise social stability by rewards of strain of social conservatism that benefits families, school, workplaces and congregation.

Research is also suggesting that in California revenue is greatly increasing due to gay marriage. According to articles.latimes.com, by some estimates, weddings and commitment ceremonies for same-sex couples generate $1 billion a year in revenue. Rings, suits, and all things not normally bought for a party is what’s generating this yearly revenue. Gay marriages are being thrown in California and cost is not being spared. Same-sex couples have been waiting for the okay to throw their huge parties and now they have it. A media and entertainment agency called PlanetOut conducted a survey about gay and lesbians and concluded that gay consumers earn 20% more than their straight counterparts, on average, and spend about 10% more on nuptials. (articles.latimes.com)

“I’ve always wanted to get married, and I resent people who may not even know any same-sex couples making decisions she said. I believe this is a civil rights issue.”(gen-y.org) America takes all this time criticizing and trying to help other countries better themselves, how about its own people? How about our civil rights? Do they not know they effect our civil rights when they tell us with whom we can and cannot marry? Conservative Americans might as well define themselves as civil rights violations. America needs marriage in its society and the best way is to encourage gay marriage in our circle.

Accepting gay marriage does not impinge on religious or moral values; it just recognizes it as a civil right. The ability to separate church and state allows citizens to live how they please even if they choose to live differently than the young man across the hall or the lady in another state. Who I marry should be my decision not the states.

-belfort

Homosexuals, gays, lesbians. Let them marry.

Ok let’s get real. If you ask around, most of “us” especially the generation Y population are in favor for gay marriage and equal rights for homosexuals. This brings us to one of the most controversial issues among America today. The “gays.” There are still many issues people want to know, questions need to be answered. Will society actually benefit from gay marriage? Perhaps. Or most importantly, is gay marriage changing “traditional” current marital sanctions? But, in my opinion there is still one question that concerns me, do we still agree with the notion that all same-sex loving, committed couples can marry?

I believe, clearly and fully that most same-sex couples, along with the gay and lesbian population would marry if same-sex marriage was legal. In a recent study the California Supreme Court concluded that gay marriage will be good for the economy. The study says that same-sex weddings will give California just that boost it needs, also creating about 2,200 additional jobs. The California study also says that same-sex couples should add about $684 million to the state’s wedding business.The study estimates that half of California’s 100,000 gay couples will marry over the next three years and on average about 70,000 come from out-of-state.

Since we know how same-sex marriage can be beneficial for the economy. We can now move on to how it is “good for gays.” A recent article by Gay Patriot, shows that gay institutions “can provide role models for gay people, after the exhileration of coming out, can easily lapse into short-term realationships and insecurity with no tangible goal in sight.” If its not obvious, marriage can provide homosexuals with legal benefits like health insurance, but most gays look for a sense of social acceptance. So why are so many Americans bothered by it? Could it be the fact that they just don’t want to see it? If two people care about each other, who cares if they are straight or not?

Fortunately in France, The Civil act of Solidarity (PACS) is a legal civil union between two same-sex couples. It brings rights and responsibilities, but less than marriage. PACS is a “contract” drawn up between the couple. Individuals who have registered a PACS are still considered “single” with regard to family status for some purposes, while they are considered in the same way as married couples are for other purposes. Registered couples are able to share such things as joint auto insurance, extend their social-security coverage to each other, file joint tax returns, and leave each other property in their wills on favorable tax terms.

Author and homosexual activist Jonathan Rauch, argues that “gay marriage is not so much a civil rights issue as a civil responsibility issue.” Rauch claims, that each gay person is an individual seeking a good life. Just like the rest of us straight people who have happiness and good health, gays deserve it too. It should be a way of life that we should not object to give. Like many others of my generation, Rauch also believes same-sex marriage will “dignify gay love and sex as it has done straight love and sex.”

A close relative of mine, Tamara, 28, when faced with the question-what is the difference between gay and straight marriage? She simply replied, gender, religion, and the law. Tamara who is for gay marriage believes every human deserves the right to love, without discrimination like many people still do.

As to the idea of “traditional” marriage—the nuclear family was not seen in the USA until the early years of the 20th century. And even in the past hundred years, there have been many households that did not fit that model, like divorced and mixed family marriages. So will same-sex marriage weaken traditional marriage? Now, we do not know if gay marriage can actually improve or weaken traditional marriage. Gays marrying or not marrying should not have any impact upon the marriages of straight couples. A close friend of mine Katherine, 22, believes that same-sex marriage may actually influence straight couples to get married, as it can remind people that marriage is an important sanction between two people who share love for one another.

This brings up the reason why gay marriage would be a bad thing, and it is the same reason straight marriage is already a bad thing for many; people are not involved not true. Many people may not be prepared to deliver on their promises whether its was to stay faithful or deliver on financial affairs. Some people who do not believe in same-sex marriage in the United States claim that allowing gays and lesbians to marry would risk the institution of marriage, weaken families, and cause harm to children or loved ones.

We should ask ourselves, what really is marriage? Can the two words “I Do” change the way society views us? Can gays really “marry” without being discriminated? Those who are serious about gay marriage should not have to prove themselves to anyone, and maybe same-sex marriage can change American culture. If gay marriage is to have any meaning, society should not limit love to just man and woman.

–Raquel Ortega

Ambiguously Satire: Stephen Colbert the Satirist in the Newsroom

Ryan Hendricks

Satire is often a part of a comedic routine. However, due to the increasing convergence of media, satire has been making its way into broadcast journalism. “I often get my news from The Stephen Colbert Report with Stephen Colbert or The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, to be honest,” said Sean Hendricks, an 18 year-old college freshman. The Pew Research Center found that only 11% of those ages 18 to 29 regularly watch The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. This begs the question: what is the impact of satirical news on the youth population?

Stephen Colbert is a well known comedian who currently is the host of The Stephen Colbert Report, which is a show airing from Monday through Friday on Comedy Central. Mr. Colbert’s big break came when Saturday Night Live bought his satirical comedy sketch called The Ambiguously Gay Duo. This sketch pokes fun at homosexual superhero’s named Ace and Gary. Mr. Colbert played the voice of Ace throughout the entire series. His next big break came in 1997 when he was asked to play a part-time role on The Daily Show. His success on The Daily Show eventually earned him his own show called The Stephen Colbert Report, which has been running on Comedy Central Since 2005.

On television Mr. Colbert plays the role of a right-wing cable news personality. This character role allows Mr. Colbert to poke fun at many of the day’s major news stories. Colbert uses satire to show all shades of the political spectrum; through playing a right-wing personality he is able to give the one side of the story, and by then using satirical comedy he is able to show how the left views this issue. However, Jon Stewart and his colleague Stephen Colbert are far from journalists, and do not place the same emphasis on objectivity. Through making fun the right-wing Mr. Colbert seems to marginalize the conservative viewpoint for the sake of satire.

However, to his credit Mr. Colbert is often the media personality that most effectively performs the essential media function of government watchdog. Using satire as a cover, he is able to shed light on issues that other more formal journalist refuse to touch. This was most evident during the 2006 White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner in which Mr. Colbert used satire to make important political statements. While most journalist were praising the President, Colbert used his satirical routine to attack President George W. Bush for leading the country in a direction that was at odds with the will of the American people, and he also attacked the media for not shedding a light on President Bush’s dastardly deeds. By watching The Stephen Colbert Report citizens often get to see a part of the story that would otherwise go unreported by the mainstream media.

Mr. Colbert has successfully used a form of ambiguous satire to successfully shed light on important issues. Some other journalists have seen the success of The Stephen Colbert Report and have copied his technique; most notably Keith Olbermann host of MSNBC’s Countdown with Keith Olbermann who each night airs a segment called “The Worst Person in the World”. Keith Olbermann like many others in the business have realized that comedy can play an important role in how we get our news. Apparently, 11% of our 18-29 year-old population has already discovered the importance of satire in the newsroom. Through realizing the importance that satire plays in exposing unsavory activities, the youth have opened themselves up to another stream of consciousness that allows them to make more informed decisions.

What are the alternatives?

Two weeks ago oil was at $145 a barrel putting a gallon of gas at a little of 4.23. We see oil as a primary source of energy but we hear every day that there are alternatives to oil but what are these alternatives? Who will end up paying the price? There is coal, nuclear, wind, and solar energy but how do they work and what effects will it have on the environment.

When people hear of nuclear energy some of the things that come to mind is the atomic bomb, deadly radiation, alongside three mile island and Chernobyl. Nuclear energy is one of the leading form of alternative energy in France which is 75% of the energy that they produce in their country. Did you know the United States has over 100 nuclear facilities and gives us 20% of our energy. Unlike the nuclear bomb the energy in a power plant is contained and created through nuclear fission. Nuclear fission is a process by which they take an isotope known as Uranium 238 and bombard it with many atoms, as these atoms become bombarded they split and hit other U-238 atoms making a reaction which yields a large amount of energy.

One of the positive sides of nuclear energy is that it does not put carbon in the atmosphere unlike fossil fuels and its waste is generally easy to dispose of. The problem with nuclear is you hear the same thing from people saying that they would not want a nuclear power plant in their backyard. This is do to the fear that is put into them by years of hearing about nuclear disaster and the threat of a terrorist attack on nuclear power facilities. Although since the mid 1970’s no nuclear power plants have not been built due to environmentalists. This has stopped the production of new plants that would be more efficient and cost effective alongside safer.

Nuclear power has its waste highly regulated by the government as the waste from this product is sent underground. Nuclear waste passes through areas by trucks which is a big scare for people who are afraid of a nuclear explosion. Nuclear waste does not yield a nuclear reaction as in the case of the nuclear bomb if there is a crash with a truck with nuclear waste the effects of nuclear radiation occur over long periods of time and will not have any short term effects on the environment.

What is the future of nuclear energy in the Untied States and as well as the world? Well the next step seems to be a reaction know as nuclear fusion. The best way to see nuclear fusion is just the the sun, nuclear fusion occurs as a giant mass takes in hydrogen and at high temperatures produces high yields of energy. The main problem with nuclear fusion is that it we can not reach a temperature that is as high as the sun. The next best thing we can do is cold fusion which occurs at a colder temperature but yields the same result. Unlike nuclear fission or coal this releases nearly no harmful waste materials and has such a high output of energy it would replace almost all other fuel sources.

50 percent of energy in the United States come from coal, this is a statistic that shocks most people as they only see coal as something to heat their barbecues with and wouldn’t think it would be viable as a reliant power source. In the US we have the largest amount of coal supplies and is a lot more clean than many people think of. The main problem with coal is that it is hard to mine coal and leads to many deaths of people mining it. Another problem is that when you burn coal you put sulfur dioxide in the air, luckily we have better techniques now that allow less sulfur dioxide into the air then we did 50 years ago. Also the United States has enough coal for the next 200-300 years which makes it viable to use as we shift away from oil in the coming years.

Wind and Solar are two technologies that are up and coming and provide energy sources that rely on the environment to power us and produce no environmental risks. Solar energy is basically harnessing the awesome power of the sun and putting it to work. Scientists say that the the sun puts out 1360J of energy per second in to a meter squared of area on a surface. Today solar panels are used to absorb this energy to try to use it to heat homes alongside other energy sources. The main problem is that solar cells are highly inefficient and can only have an efficiency rating in the teens of percentages.

With wind power we use windmills to catch the power of the wind so we can turn a turbine to produce energy. People think this is a good idea but objection comes from people who live out in the areas that windmill farms are not pleasant to look at. These last two forms of energy have not produced the kind of energy needed for the demands of the American people.

-Matt Fischofer

Crossing the Bridge to Green: the real solution to America’s energy crisis

Crossing the Bridge to Green: the Real Solutions to America’s Energy Crisis

 

With oil over four dollars a gallon, many Americans are pleading for a quick fix to our growing energy problems that have reached a peak in 2008.  How ever, this is an unrealistic request, seeing as it will take many steps to quench our thirst for oil and the new energies we so desperately crave.  With promising technologies like cellulosic ethanol, wind, and solar energies twenty to thirty years away from having any effect, many experts suggest building a bridge to green.  Though controversial, experts show just how cost efficient, quickly effective, and surprisingly environmentally friendly these solutions are.

 

Lets start with a button pushing issue: Offshore drilling.  As of right now, president George W. Bush lifted a 27-year executive ban on offshore oil drilling.  This decision came in reaction to record high prices at the pump, which were driven up due to speculation and weaning supply.  Currently, 700 billion dollars of our money is being sent to hostile nations like Iran and Saudi Arabia for foreign oil. These nations refuse to increase production despite the growing worldwide crisis.  In fact, king Abdullah of Saudi Arabia attributed the reasoning of his decision due to the “selfish interest, and increased consumption” of the west.  Speculators see these hostile sentiments of the mid-east as ample opportunity to bet that oil prices will rise (often contributing to rising prices themselves).  These problems combined equate to the suffering of oil addicted Americans at the pump.  “The higher cost of energy is not just affecting Americans through the price of a gallon of gas, it’s affecting the cost to put food on their table”, says John Derrick, director of research at U.S. global investors.  So, with 83% of Americans in approval of permanently lifting the ban, is it time to do so?

(CNN poling data, July 2008 )

 

The economic benefits of such a decision are clear: quick relief.  Since the ban was lifted a week and a half ago (July 2008), crude prices dropped from 147 dollars to 123 dollars a barrel, according to market data.  There is an estimated 116 billion barrels worth of oil in the OCS (outer continental shelf).  Scientists from Exxon-Mobil say that some of this oil could be available within one to two years.  Yet, the democratically controlled congress won’t budge.  Their argument is not as compelling as it once sounded.  Congress claims that the oil will not be available for ten or more years. This is false, according to scientists who have studied the area (OCS) extensively.  Another faction of their argument is that oil companies already have 68 million acres of land to drill.  The land has been proven to be an uncertain supplier, and possibly dried up. This has been proven due to technology that reads electromagnetic waves in the earth’s crust that detects crude reserves.  Regardless of when the oil is usable from the OCS, it will bring down prices (as it has shown through the recent decline in crude prices).  Speculators cannot rely on conflicts in Africa and the mid-east for reasons to bet on a rise in prices, because we will dictate our own oil market.  We will have the measures in place to control our own oil production until we have alternative energy at our hands. 

 

 

 

 

Aside from the fact that drilling in the OCS is cost efficient and effective, many feel it is not environmentally friendly.  This is surprisingly untrue.  The ban was originally set in place to combat the poorly maintained facilities on the OCS back in the 70s.  Since that time, we have seen improving technology that have attributed to safer, more environmentally friendly practices. (CNN report)  Since the 70s, we have seen drastic declines in oil spills from rigs.  Barrels that have dropped into the sea have declined from 1,000,000 in the 70s to under 1,000 after the turn of the 21st century.  In fact, only 1% of oil in the sea is attributed to rigs offshore. The majority of oil in the sea is due to tankers importing oil. (Recent study performed by the U.S. department of interior, Mineral management service, Pacific OCS).  In ANWR, many residents are for the drilling in their region.  According to ANWR.org, these are some of the reasons:

Only 8% of ANWR would be considered for exploration, 250,000-735,000 jobs would be created, Prudhoe Bay (explored land) studies show that there is no direct impact on animals, such as the caribou (who went from 3,000 to 32,000 animals since exploration).  With these perspectives, it is tough to argue that the technology is environmentally unfriendly.

 

Another hot button issue is an essential piece of the bridge to green: Nuclear energy.

The founder of Greenpeace, Patrick Moore, says, “nuclear energy … remains the only practical, safe, and environmentally-friendly means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and addressing energy security.”  Nuclear plants emit zero carbon dioxide into the environment.  Unlike Nuclear plants, old, coal-fired plants contribute to 93% of nitrogen oxide, 96% of Sulfur dioxide, 88% of carbon dioxide, and 99% of mercury emissions, according to the U.S. clean air council.  How ever, many environmentalists fear another disaster, like Chernobyl or Three Mile Island.  Both of these disasters occurred due to poor design and maintenance.  As of right now, over 400 nuclear reactors have operated every day without serious incident (100 of those reactors in the U.S. already).  In fact 1/3rd of the cost goes to maintenance and infrastructure safety.

 

The environmentally safe features are proven, but what about the cost? A single facility costs around 11 billion dollars to build.  Also, in order to meet with regulations, facilities have to update their reactors every 10-20 years, costing additional billions.   It is not impossible to afford though.  Many countries, like France have heavily relied on nuclear energy.  79% of their energy is from nuclear energy alone, and much of that is exported.  When compared to the continually rising costs of solar panels, nuclear energy comes in much cheaper according to Patrick Moore.  Also, nuclear power, like in other countries is subsidized, ultimately decreasing the cost.

 

Environmentally friendly, but a bit expensive to maintain, nuclear energy has proven already that it is a viable source of alternative energy.  France has built functionally safe facilities in five years time.  This means we could have clean energy that could fuel our homes and businesses as soon as 2012!  The U.S. already has 100 reactors. Yet, we will need even more to make an impact. 

 

Finally, one will need to eventually have more fuel-efficient cars in addition to wind, and solar energies.  How ever, many car companies are only just beginning to switch green, as plummeting SUV sales call for a change.  In Europe, they pay ten dollars a gallon for gas!  Their cars are very fuel efficient, getting well over 30 MPG rated.  American companies like GM and Ford build many of these cars. With the increase in production of these fuel efficient and smart cars, we can start seeing changes soon.  First, legislation will need to be passed in order to prevent car companies from manufacturing cars under 30 MPG.  Both candidates have a plan to make this possible.  By 2012, all major car companies will have electric cars, and fuel-efficient vehicles to reduce consumption of oil regardless of any legislation. (NY auto show)  In order to allow ethanol to replace oil, it will take at least 30 years.  Ethanol is also very expensive (more so than oil – at its average price before 2008).  It would also outsource a lot of farming in order to meet production needs.  How ever, like Nuclear power, the benefits are clear.  Brazil took hint at the embargo of the 70s and is completely reliant on ethanol.  Like the cars being produced now here in the U.S., Brazil’s cars are flex-fuel vehicles (vehicles that can run on alternative fuels).  With the car companies and farmers working together, Brazil’s success can be ours by 2030.  The only con is being able to produce ethanol on farms without disrupting the production of other necessities like food.  Researchers are working on a way to synthesize production in order to combat with this problem. Although solar and wind are cutting edge as well, these alternatives cannot yield enough power alone to fuel the U.S. (according to recent studies) Hopefully with enough research, we can find a way to combine solar, wind, and even hydro energy in a cost efficient and productive matter. 

                       

So, as for now the future is ethanol, and nuclear power. Both have proven to be the most effective, cost-efficient, environmentally friendly cures to America’s oil addiction.  How ever, it will take some time, as that particular future is over 30 years away.  So, for now we need to make the bridge to green by domesticating oil production and bringing down the prices of crude.  After that, it will be up to us to increase fuel efficiency in the vehicles we drive.  This will allow us to cut back on oil, and use less of our own product.  Simultaneously we need to give incentives to our investment class, in order to make them put the necessary funds behind ethanol and green energy research.  America is at war with it’s self. We need to stop the partisan politics and free Americans from the strangle hold of the gas pumps; and that starts here and now, with the facts about the real non-partisan, spin-free future of energy.

 

Mary Kate

NCLB II: Who Really Knows What’s Best?

No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) forces low-income students to be “test-takers” and learn rote tasks which, some say, are preparing them for a life low-skilled jobs and poverty while students in mid to high-income households are being prepared to be creative thinkers. With the upcoming reauthorization of NCLB and upcoming presidency, there are a lot of opinionated individuals. Have a conversation with a future policy maker, two high school teachers and a potential high school teacher and you can see everybody thinks they know what’s best for our children, but does anybody really?

Some say it’s a law that looks good on paper but its primary purpose is lost in translation or difficult to put into fruition.

Like many times before, many political observers predict that the Republican and Democratic parties will not be able to make a decision on the reauthorization of the law because it has so many intricacies such as making a school day longer to give kids time to meet the standards or giving more money to low-income schools.

Presidential candidate Barack Obama fully supports the law, but says it wasn’t executed as best as possible. If he makes it as our nation’s President, you will see the law, but with more flexibility in the application process for a student who is zoned for a “bad” school to be bused in to a “better” school.

“I do not like the idea of school choice for all who want it simply because people buy houses in areas where the schools are better. It is not fair for them because the schools will be overcrowded. This may sound harsh but you should go where you are zoned. If the schools aren’t good where you live, maybe our parents shouldn’t have had kids if they couldn’t afford them,” says a Long Island High School teacher who wants to remain anonymous.

A policy major at Nassau Community College says, “It’s a problem that we are running away from the problem.” He then continues in the other direction, “It leaves behind the children who need the help the most.”

Obama also would want to move away from traditional testing as well making the way students show what they know more of a holistic assessment, instead of one test score, which is helpful for students with disabilities and English Language Learners, who may show what they know in multiple ways, instead of a standardized test.

Presidential candidate John McCain also supports the law and even voted for the law as a senator. He believes it is a good beginning but still requires some changes such as testing children with disabilities and English language learners.

With so much money spent on education, the latest authorization may also offer more time students to meet the standards, costing $150 million a year, approximately $1,200-$1,400 per pupil a year.

John Giangrasso, a 25 year old, who is working towards becoming a high school teacher, says, “It may sound like a lot, but it doesn’t. It should be $500 million.”

“What John might not realize is the paycheck he will be receiving and the lack of it if and when yet more tax money is taken out of his already measly paycheck to sponsor such endeavors,” says fourth year special education teacher, Vicky Young.

So, with NCLB already being highly debatable among the masses, some zero in even more, focusing on the low-income students, and how this law effects them, their communities and the people who teach, or will, teach them.

Primary criticism says that NCLB can reduce effective learning because it makes teachers “teach to the test” and Vicky Young agrees. “There is no time for a teacher to want to expand on any topic because they are always preparing for a standardized test, or even a standardized practice of a standardized test. You don’t have time to build model roller coasters out of pipe insulation to teach acceleration and force or create a monster coordinate grid in the playground with chalk that they could walk on. That would be seen as “fun” and when my kids (students) were seen by the principal doing these things, who would get in trouble? Me. These are the kinds of things that get kids going, especially the kids where I work, in East New York, who could care less about test prep!”

She does believe that we are preparing low-income students how to have low-skilled jobs. But she has to stop herself, because she knows her special education students are already at a disadvantage, aside from being poor. “I think for some, we just have to focus on showing them how to attain and maintain a better quality of life for themselves, and it’s definitely not perfecting quadratic equations.”

But shouldn’t children in every school in this nation be taught the same material so they have the same opportunities? Right now, each state has different state standards. Our policy student feels the states should have autonomy and have different standards. “It’s a sticky situation that should be up to the state of New York how to spend it.”

Will education ever have simple answers? Probably not. We all come from different places and have had different experiences that shape us to disagree with even ourselves when it comes to education policy. Maybe we should leave it to the kids.

Product Of Your Environment: Different Perspectives From Different People

John Giangrasso, Future High School Teacher

Nassau Community College Policy Student

Vicky Young, Special Education Teacher (4 years), low-income school

Long Island High School teacher (10 years)

Age

25

20

28

33

Schooled at

Valley Stream Public Schools, Community College

Lawrence Public Schools, attended college in London

Queens Public and Catholic Schools, was a NYC Teaching Fellow

Flushing Public Schools, has two masters including school administration

Continuing arts and music in schools

Against

“When you graduate, arts and music will do nothing. I know because I was caught up on it and you’ll never be able to support yourself.”

For

“It lets people’s minds work differently. Finland’s schools focus on play and discovering the world on their own and their test scores are the highest in the world.”

For

“Studies have shown that kids who have art and music in their classrooms, do better in all of their classes because it gives them self-esteem.”

Mixed

“I don’t like limiting kid’s experiences. On the other hand, I can understand because we need to teach them to read, write, count and some higher order thinking. It’s great if a kid can sing, paint, or play an instrument, but, many consider that a hobby.”

Should there be merit pay for teachers of students who score high?

Yes

“That’s how they do it in the business world.”

Yes

“Teachers won’t get better without motivation.” He once had a (high school) teacher say, “I would love to stay and help you, but I would be breaking my contract.”

No

“It doesn’t take into account students with disabilities, and I would never get that raise!”

No

“This will cause teachers to cheat so they can get their bonus. Do you really blame them? What if you teach lower levels of kids? How about special ed? They will never see merit money.”

Did your schools prepare you?

No

“I don’t think my high school prepared me for shit. There was no emphasis on work and the future. I did awful at Nassau Community College at first.”

Yes

Yes

“For me, I had a mixture of gifted classes, private and public schools, progressive and traditional teachers. I think the diversity helped me a lot.”

Yes

“I didn’t do crap in school but I always listened and always did well on tests. I wasn’t lazy, I just didn’t see the point in some assignments. I did fine.”

Catherine Livigni