Thursday, November 26, 2009

Educate to Innovate!

So, I am so excited to hear that someone is finally praising scientists and engineers like athletes and movie stars. Science can be cool, and President Obama recognizes this.

White House Begins Campaign to Promote Science and Math Education

President Obama made a statement about this new campaign:

If you win the N.C.A.A. championship, you come to the White House,” he said. “Well, if you’re a young person and you’ve produced the best experiment or design, the best hardware or software, you ought to be recognized for that achievement, too.

“Scientists and engineers ought to stand side by side with athletes and entertainers as role models, and here at the White House, we’re going to lead by example. We’re going to show young people how cool science can be.”

I am so excited to see "Educate to Innovate" begin. Science societies are promising to volunteer and work with students in the classroom, leading up to a National Lab day in May. Change can not take place over night, and these programs may not necessarily solve all of our education woes, but I think programs like this, that get students more excited about academics can never be bad.

Because President Obama is so popular, especially among the younger generation, kids are likely to listen to him when he speaks. He is taking his back to school speech one step farther with this campaign.

I may not necessarily agree with all of President Obama's policies, but this one I can certainly say, that I think this is a great idea, and will hopefully get many students more interested in science and math.

Friday, November 20, 2009

tuition blog update.

So, i thought i would do a brief follow up of my previous blog on tuition increases.

This article
pretty much says everything I wish I had said first.

Though we are in a recession, and many people are being severely hurt by tuition increases, our educations are becoming better.
"Over the 1967 to 2007 period, the average annual growth rate of tuition paid was 6 percent at the most selective colleges, but the growth rate in their resources was 13 percent and the growth rate in their subsidies was 25 percent!"

In response to the comments about USC spending their money on beautification, I think that it is a necessary expense. Though, I do not know to what extent the school uses its money on beautification projects, i know that many people are drawn to the university because of its campus. It is a beautiful campus and many people would not be willing to attend if the campus mirrored the neighborhood that it sits in.

Also, many students complain that they do not feel safe in the area, and when USC spends the money to try to improve the area, they complain that their tuition is being wasted on frivolous things like purchasing more property, etc. You can't have your cake and eat it too.

You pay for quality, and that is what we are receiving attending USC. A quality education, at a price that reflects as such. I am still a firm believer that in the end, the price is worth it.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

"Race to the Top" or "Race to the Flop?"

Last Thursday, U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan released the final application for the Race to the Top fund, a revision of the proposal released by the Department of Education in July. Race to the Top is a federal grant that will award pieces of more than $4 billion to states who “have led the way in reform and will show the way for the rest of the country to follow,” says Duncan. Though, in theory, it is good to allow states to spread their figurative wings in creating their own reform, it is a bad idea to turn reform into a competition. Instead of calling this a “Race to the Top,” the Department of Education should reconsider and call it “Another Bad Attempt to Reform Education.”

This $4.35 billion dollars is an unprecedented amount of federal sponsored money for reform, especially education, which is too often put on the back burner. Since there is this huge amount of money to be spent on education, it is imperative that all states get at least a portion of the money. Instead of turning it into a contest, where the top performing states get the most money, it should be divided up amongst the states based on population. The larger states should get a bigger cut of the four billing dollars. However, the government wants states to use this money to implement change, and just handing them the money will in effect, keep them from doing just that.

It is important that at least some of the money is conditional to keep states from using it without actually making any changes to their systems. I would propose the same type of competition for at least a portion of the money, but there should be a base amount given to every state to give them a jump start in changing their education systems. With at least a small portion of money, states will be better able to do the necessary research and start up programs for reform. Then, once every state has had an equal opportunity to get programs going, the rest of the monies can be rewarded based on the quality and effectiveness of said reforms.

If the government insists upon making this a competition, it should at least begin with a level playing field. Not every state has the means to start up programs without initial financial help. The way I see things going right now, is that the larger, more financially stable states will be able to provide the best reform programs and will receive the most “Race to the Top” funding, while states who need the money more will be unable to really participate. It is a vicious cycle. The states without enough education funding will not receive any of this money, and things will not change, while the big states with more money are just going to get more money.

Though I am excited to see our government finally instituting education reforms (the last time anything major was done was in 2001 with the No Child Left Behind Act, and we all know how well that worked out), I just wish that they would make a few changes first. Let’s give every state a chance to make some change, and finally fix our evident problem with education. Now that this program has already been started, I am excited to see if it actually works. I am guessing that we are going to see rich education states just get richer, without actually seeing very noticeable change. But, there are always surprises.

Friday, November 6, 2009

you cant put a price tag on a college education

As a college degrees become more sought after, universities are able to charge higher prices in order to obtain them. On November 1, 2009, the Chronicle of Higher Education released the newest list of colleges and universities in the United States that have exceeded costs of $50,000.(see the list by clicking here) This year the list has 58 schools that exceed that price mark- last year there were only 5! As a college degrees become more sought after, universities are able to charge higher prices in order to obtain them. Sarah Lawrence College tops this list with costs exceeding $53k, while my own School, USC is number 32 on the list with estimated costs at around $50,500.

I know that the schools on this list are all private institutions that do not receive funding from their states, which is why their tuition is significantly greater than most state schools, but the students do not complain about their high tuition as much as all the students going to state schools in California. With all the recent economic turmoil and budget cuts in California, there has been tuition increases at the University of California schools, as well as the California State University schools. There have been protests and rally's about these recent tuition increases, which reached around 10% at the beginning of summer.

Students need to realize that you can not put a price on your education. A college education offers you so much more in life experience than just the degree alone. In college you make professional connections that will help you to get a job later in life, and create invaluable friendships. Most of the lasting friends people make in life are during their years in college, and you can not put a price on them. If you were to ask any student at one of the colleges on the 50k list, they would tell you the same things I just wrote, which is why they do not mind paying a little extra for their tuition (not to mention, these are some of the highest ranked universities in the nation). Not all of the schools on the list are top tier schools though, yet students still have no problem paying the high prices to attend.

I know that it sucks to have to pay a little extra for tuition, but the fee increases do not outweigh the experience in college. In fact, there are fee increases every year anyways, just not as significant. I just with that instead of complaining about tuition, these students would just embrace the college experience and they will be able to see that it it worth the price. The experiences they have will last a lifetime.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Indie film brings up a lot of controversial issues

I am not a big indie film buff, but saw this movie for a class I am taking. From my knowledge, indie films are basically any film that is not made by a studio- regardless of how much it costs to make. The film "The New Twenty" cost about 500k dollars.

When I sat down to watch “The New Twenty,” the only thing I knew about the film was the title. I went into the screening with a completely open mind, and had no idea what I was getting myself into. This film, about five best friends living in New York City, was written and directed by Chris Mason Johnson. It was produced in 2009, and filmed in New York City. “The New Twenty” follows the lives of five late- twenties people who have been best friends in college. It shows the ups, and downs of their friendship, and their ultimate separating of ways. The movie is set in the year 2006, just seven years after the five characters all graduated from college. There are two gay men, one woman, the alpha male, and a heroine addict. The alpha male, and the woman announce their engagement, at the beginning of the film, and for the next seventy minutes or so, we are shown a glimpse of each of the characters lives, at that moment in time. We watch two men fall in love, another man desperately seeking companionship, the self destruction of another character through his drug dependency, and a couple break up.

In this film, Chris Mason Johnson is trying to make several, very subtle, yet loud statements about a lot of different issues. The most noticeable to me was that he wanted to show how people, no matter how good of friends, will ultimately separate. Be it through time, or other circumstances, all friendships are probably going to end. The film shows how one circumstance, one person, can change an entire dynamic between friends. A lot of mainstream films and television shows depict friendships that last through unthinkable events. In reality, people change, grow apart, and I think that Johnson really shows this well in “The New Twenty.”

I feel like casting and character development played an extremely important role in telling this story. There was a very diverse cast which consisted of the not- so- typical “Hollywood” type actors. The characters seemed very real. They were not extremely good looking, and were very believable in this setting. The ensemble consisted of a brother and sister, Tony and Julie, who are Asian American, Felix, Andrew, and Ben. Ben and Tony are both gay, while Felix and Andrew are straight. Johnson wanted to show that gay men and straight men can be friends, without any awkward jokes, or typical “gay man falls in love with straight friend” type situations happening. This was another one of the subtle issues he touched on in “The New Twenty.” There is such a huge stigma in society today that gay and straight men can not possibly have a normal friendship, and Johnson wanted to show that this is not true.

Johnson also wanted to bring to the screen a gay relationship, especially because it is so rare in the mainstream. Of course it is definitely becoming more common and more accepted, it is still way underrepresented. The gay topic is very relevant in today’s society with all of the hype surrounding Proposition 8 and gay marriage. He doesn’t really bring any of these issues into the movie, but by having a gay couple, and gay characters in the film, he is definitely making a statement about it. He seems to just want to show that gay people are normal, and love just like everyone else.

For a nanosecond, the film mentions the disease almost always associated with gay men- HIV. There is a brief second where Tony is confronted with the news that his boyfriend is positive, and must decide how important he is. He freaks out for a minute, but then comes to the realization that his feelings are stronger than the disease, and they work out their issues. Despite the fact that his boyfriend Robert has tested positive, he is healthy, and Tony deals with it. The film comes back to this topic just a few times throughout the movie, but it is downplayed compared to many of the other things going on.

One of the other issues brought up in this film was the use of heroine. One of the characters, Felix, clearly has a problem with the drug, but none of the other characters want to admit it. Because he does not “shoot up” he does not necessarily have a problem. There is a scene where two of the characters are talking to another friend, and she calls Felix an addict. They both become very defensive and say that he is not an addict, and does not have a problem with the drug. It is this same night that he overdoses, and almost dies. A lot of people who have friends that use this drug do not believe they have a problem because they are not injecting it. The only people who are addicts use needles; everyone else uses the drug for recreational purposes. This film draws a new light on the subject, a subject that I knew literally nothing about before watching.

Through the intertwining stories of these five characters, we can see how circumstances changed the way they viewed each other and their friendships. While stressing this main issue, Johnson was able to tackle a lot of smaller issues. He then tied them all together to show just how people who are very different can coexist and become friends. I really enjoyed the cast selection, and felt that the actors did a good job portraying each of their different characters. I loved the diversity of the cast, both ethnically, and socially, and how Johnson seemed to blend them so well. The characters were very believable as friends, and I didn’t necessarily feel like I was watching a movie. I felt more like I was a fly on the wall of these people’s lives and watching in real time. Because it was an indie film and none of the actors were big stars, I was able to really let myself get into the movie, which does not happen as often in mainstream films.

I liked how the film showed something so real, and did not try to change anything. I liked how real the film felt, and I really enjoyed the New York setting. The film feels extremely New York, and if it had been set somewhere like Los Angeles, it would be completely different. I think that Johnson was able to really bring up a lot of very relevant issues, without throwing them at you head on. I like the subtlety of the movie, and how it made very heavy issues a little lighter, without actually taking away from them. Not to mention, the film had an amazing soundtrack. Overall, I would recommend this film to a friend.

please visit to view the film credits and trailer

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Marching band is Physical Education

I recently read that in many school districts across California, it has been determined that classes such as marching band, JROTC, cheer, and others, no longer qualify for physical education credit as it is outlined by the National Association for Sport & Physical Education (NASPE). However, classes like marching band may better fulfill these standards than regular physical education courses.

It is absurd to believe that marching band does not fulfill every one of the six standards outlined by NASPE. According to the National Organization for Music Education (MENC), members of marching band participate in warm-up calisthenics, endurance training, and marching for miles. Not to mention that some students carry instruments weighing over twenty pounds!

Although I never played in the marching band, I have two older brothers who were heavily involved in the band. I used to watch them perform on the weekends, and in one Saturday they would perform a thirteen minute routine, and march several miles in a parade. Not to mention the numerous hours of practice they would have each week to prepare for these events. My older brothers would come home from practice, and events exhausted.

Not only does marching band give students the opportunity to participate in this high level of physical activity, it also allows for leadership. Both of my older brothers became section leaders and one was even given the role of assistant drum major. But even on top of all the hard work and dedication that marching band requires, there was still plenty of time for fun. These students become a family, and if you were to ask any student who participated in the program, they would more than likely tell you that marching band was the highlight of their high school career.

Now, thanks to NASPE, and the physical education teachers who are pushing to eliminate this, and other similar programs, from receiving PE credit, these programs are in jeopardy. However, there is now legislation in Sacramento that will allow these classes to continue to be substituted for PE credit. If passed, assembly bill AB351, co- authored by Assembly Members Mary Salas and Fiona Ma, will allow students enrolled in marching band, JROTC, cheer, and other similar courses to be exempt from taking physical education courses. Because these courses are academically challenging, physically demanding and provide important leadership skills, they should qualify for PE credit.

This bill has already been approved by the California Assembly Committee on Education, and is to be heard by the state assembly in the near future. The San Diego Unified School District grants its support for this bill, and I think that it is important for others to join in their support as well. If this bill does not pass, it is possible that these enriching activities may no longer be enjoyed by students. We all need to band together, to help this bill get passed, for the sake of these programs, and the students who participate in them.

Friday, October 16, 2009

my high school experience.. sort of.

I know that it is all too often that high school is referred to as a prison for teenagers, but I am still going to roll with that same analogy. If you walk onto any random high school campus in Los Angeles, or some other surrounding area, you are going to feel like you literally just stepped into the gates of a state penitentiary. Often times the school will be surrounded by gates and in some cases, students have to walk through metal detectors to even get inside. Are we serious? Is that really what it has come down to? Thanks to all of those special individuals who thought it would be exciting to play "Call of Duty Seven: High School War" in real life at their school. Anyways, I digress. Short from the orange jumpsuits, high school students are treated like cattle as they are ushered from class to class without even enough time to use the restroom in between. My experience from high school went like this:

7:09am- arrive at school
7:10am- bell rings, better hurry to class
7:15am- late bell rings, class is started
8:22am- first period ends, better start running
8:27am- late bell, second period starts
the classes went like this through four periods until lunch. now, notice the mere five minute break in between classes- this was supposed to be enough time for students to cross the entire campus AND use the restroom and do whatever they needed to before their next class starts. unfortunately, at my high school there was only like one bathroom with maybe 3 stalls on the entire campus open (they had to close all the other ones due to vandalism- thanks wannabe gangsters who are probably the reason for the prison-like state of high schools).

10:30am- bell rings, fourth period starts
10:47am- raise my hand me:"may i use the restroom?" teacher: "no, you should have done that before class" me:"there was a line out the door, i would have been late to class" teacher: "should have hurried faster to get there before there was a line" me:"i am going to pee all over the floor if you dont let me go, it is an emergency" teacher: "fine, go" (ok, now this scenario is a little exaggerated, i never actually threatened to pee on the floor, or anything like this, but it definitely was irritating) NOTE: I am pretty sure that inmates get to use the restroom whenever they want.
11:35am- bell rings, LUNCHTIME YAY!
...ok, so not really yay. lunch time was only like 25 minutes long and you had to stand under some tree to keep away from the swarm of seagulls who came at lunch to pick at all the garbage most kids were to lazy to throw in the garbage can that was sitting right next to them- anyways the tree was to keep you from getting pooped on- which didnt always work. i never actually got the poo on me, but i had a couple of friends who did, and it was hilarious. sucked to be them though. anyways- lunch was not that exciting and the food sucked.

**I feel like this story is also necessary to show how stupid the discipline system is in high schools. Let me set this up for you, It was like one month before graduation in my senior year of high school, i am a straight A student, and had never in my life needed any kind of disciplinary action. So i am walking back to class one day after lunch and i get stopped by one of the mom's who thinks she has an important job because she has a whistle and gets to scream at high school kids. She tells me i am in violation of the dress code because there is a hole in the knees of my jeans, which, i know is kinda lame, but everyone was wearing them. So anyways I am like busting up laughing because that is the most retarded thing i have ever heard of in my life, plus there was like at least 5 other girls standing around that i could see wearing jeans that were ripped in places that let their whole asses hang out, yet i was in trouble because there was a hole in my jeans. whatever, so i get taken to the office and they tell me i have two options- i can call my mom for a change of clothes (yea right, my mom is not going to come down and bring me some clothes) and two- i can go sit in detention for the rest of the day. i flip out! they are going to make me sit in detention and miss my ap physics class and lit class because i have holes in my jeans? THERE IS A PROBLEM HERE! so anyways, they got mad at me when i tried to tell them i am a straight A student and can't miss these classes- but they make me sit in detention anyways- while some idiot who is sitting out by the baseball field smoking weed gets to go to his under water basket weaving class. REALLY?

anyways, enough of my tirade about the indolence of the disciplinarians in high schools.

After lunch the day usually went pretty quickly and we all got to go home at like 2:15pm.

Now back to the prisoner part. We are all wearing orange jumpsuits and they decided it would be easier to assign us numbers instead of calling us by our names- its just easier that way. from day one in class all we hear about is the standardized tests at the end of the year and making sure everyone is up to the proper standards. no actual teaching is done. there is no personal touch from the teachers- just straight reading from books of standards. who really gives a flying shit about these tests anyways? certainly not the kids taking them, and why? they dont affect us in any way possible- why should we care? by the time the repercussions of low test scores come around, we will all be graduated, that is, those of us who dont decide to drop out to have our illegitimate child of become a gangster. THANK YOU MR.BUSH and NO Child Left Behind! Let's just keep teaching kids stupid standards, instead of something they will actually use. LOVE THE STATUS QUO!

The moral of this story is, let's make a change. Let's stop giving students numbers and give them names. Encourage them to succeed. Don't take away programs that allow them to develop their talents and passions. These programs keep them focused and motivated. Show them that they can do whatever they want. Teachers, If you take an interest in a student, they will automatically be more respectful and reverent of you. Let's make a change on the smallest levels, and then it can grow to much larger scale.

**I am not sure where I was actually going with this totally random escapade on high schools, but thanks for reading!

***Also, these stories come solely from my high school experience and I in no way claim that every high school is this way.