Sunday, December 30, 2007

Black Blogging Year in review...comment (The Afronet is all about Business, Politics, Entertainment & Social Issues)

In my year long effort to survey of internet media outlets (websites, Black Blogs, and online commentaries) the Afronet (Black-blogosphere, and Black website services) are all about
1. Business and Economics
2. Politics & other legal stuff
3. Entertainment including videos, hip hop, fashion, and sports
4. Social issues (how black people are suffering, struggling, falling behind and otherwise still trying the catch up; and though Education is an oft addressed topic it is often packaged as a social issue and not a self-standing issue in and of itself).

I'm rather disappointed that science, technology, education, and the arts are hardly ever (if ever) addressed.
Scanning the headlines of YBPGuide, or AfroSpear feeds, there is hardly a discussion topic that isn't one of the aforementioned. I'm not proposing that the fine bloggers should discontinue their posts, but I am suggesting that the net be cast farther and wider to include a greater variety of blog topics.
So in response (sort of) to Black Blogging year in review, I have a few comments for "what to do in 08". Black Blogging in 08 should include more topics on the following:
a) Science: including health, medicine, and lifestyle issues as well as info about natural and physical sciences discoveries and careers
b) Technology: by this I mean more than a review of the hottest new cell phone, music, and video gadgets. I mean biotech, engineering, mechanics, etc. Also include info about study and career options in Engineering and Technology.
c) Education: with commentaries offered by educational professionals and not politicians and lobbyists ranting about the state of Black children's education. Discussions could include best practices, pedagogy, teaching and learning philosophies.
d) Arts & Fine Arts: that would include introductions and discussions about literature, artists, the fine arts, and reviews.

By the same note, I am REALLY hungry for websites (like Black America web, BET) that are popular among African-Americans to also follow suit. These are matters and subjects of importance and interest to the Black Diaspora as well.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Political Environment & Green Movement in America...comment

Specific to AAEA's point that Blacks are more involved in the political movement than the environmental movement, you're absolutely right.

There's more history and momentum in the polical ring. It's familiar. Since the Civil Rights Movement, there have been a number of organizations that rally people around these issues. Why? Because people know EXACTLY how political and economic matters directly and immediately impact them.

That's not quite the case for einvironmental issues. And that goes for the general public but it is especially true for African-American and economically disadvataged groups. And who or what organizations are the trusted authorities on matters related to the environment for these groups? No one. I imagine you want AAEA to be that authority. Maybe one day it will, but not today.

For one, your organization is primarily focused on environmental justice issues. That's why I think the political comparison matters so much to you. EJ is important, but before advocacy comes awareness. Quality and widespread Environmental Education is key to getting people more involved in the green movement. People just don't know or understand or care to understand how environmental issues impact their lives.

And if Black people don't know the basics, then how on earth do you make the great leap that there should be more Black people in high positions in popular Environmental organizations?

The truth of the entire matter is that there are relatively few Blacks in the application pool to select from. The lack of diversity in these organizations has little (perhaps nothing) to do with discrimination and everything to do with lack of interest in the discipline by Black college students. This is a PIPELINE issue. First, most black students aren't terribly interested in majoring science in college. Of those that do, many switch majors or drop out for various reasons, not the least of which is poor academic and social preparation for the demands of college science. Of that small number MOST declare an interest in health related science (pre-med, nursing, get the picture). Within communities of color, interest in nature, ecology, environmental science, makes you an oddball. Careers or interests in natural resources are unconventional. Let's not forget that. And as an African-American scientist, I know all too well that the pipeline trickles at the grad school and higher level. I imagine the contributors to the AAEA blog know that too.

However, it has been my personal experience that participants of the GREEN movement are actually very liberal and egalitarian. They want more diversity (ethnic and socio-economic).
And as a member of the Green movement and several scientific professional societies I know it to be true. Almost all have a diversity initiative that they work hard for.

And to absolutely frank, I find the remarks made on the blog and the linked article Environmental Groups Ignore Diversity Survey inflammatory and anatagonistic. Maybe those other organizations didn't complete the survey because of your organization's obvious bias. You attack the organizations that don't participate and those that do participate you accuse them of being discriminating. Can't win for losing. This might be hard to accept, but maybe AAEA should do a survey to access its professional reputation and/or credibility within the environmental movement. I don't know. I've never heard anything ill, but I've known about AAEA for a while now and I decided not the become a member and my mind still hasn't changed. Why? I thin the organization is more an EJ organization and I'm an Environmental Educator. The organization just doesn't fit my interests. And though those other organizations are politically involved, EJ isn't their primary focus either. Those other organizations are primarily focused on Conservation, Preservation, and Education. Again, a fit issue.

But, I want it to be known that there are several initiatives designed to increase the number of young people from under-represented groups to pursue careers in the environment and natural resources. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I think you get the picture.

Minorty Environmental Leadership Development Initiative
The American Institute of Biological Sciences posts a Diversity Outreach Directory
Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences
The Wildlife Society has a Minorities in Natural Resources Committee

Thursday, December 27, 2007

When Communities go to school...comment

Since I am an advocate of education reform in general and urban education in particular, my interest in SuperSpade's proposal piqued my interests.

A few things.
Most NCLB supplemental education services are remediation only. That means tutoring or doing more of the same. Some kids need this. But most kids are bored by it. I feel if you're going to have supplement ed, then supplement, not repeat. Offer students fun, active learning opportunities. Educational field trips or speakers or presentations are just what most children need to help lessons come to life. Science is a perfect example. Talking about and defining diffusion is almost meaningless. Host an after school activity where kids actually observe the process of diffusion. Take examples from real life. Invite local college science professors or students to come to present.

Parents and teachers are often put at odds with each other, especially in urban school districts. This sad relationship and the focus on "Count Day and Standardized test performances" are products of what Professor Haberman calls the Pedagogy of Poverty. I think it's a shame because most adults (parents, teachers, school administrators, and community members) want our children to safely and successfully matriculate through school, even if we can't agree to what that means.

Having Community members (such as scientists, engineers, technicians, and business professionals) become apart of the "learning support team" is a great idea. And one that has been bounced around a lot. Urban youth do need more than school personnel and parents in their ear. They need a whole community. Former National Urban League President, Hugh Price, has been a proponent of community support for years. He summarizes his vision, plan and successes in his book, Achievement Matters. It is an easy read and a perfect place for SuperSpade to start for his proposal.

However, I am concerned about the time commitment of his proposal. (Yes, our children are worth it, but...) Two months in the summer, assuming a few days a week, half days, and participating during the school day may very hard to pull off. Typically, younger professionals are very interested and eager to participate in such programs, but often don't have the flexibility at their jobs at that point. It's just hard to negotiate so much time, even for something so great and important.

Good luck with everything.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

New Journal coming in 2008 - Environmental Justice

Environmental Justice is a law or legal journal by design but should be very interested to environmental scientists and advocatates (like myself). It is a peer-reviewed journal that will present findings and reviews by professionals who study the legal issues related to the health and well-being of populations. This is of special importance to urban, low-income, and/or minority groups who are more often than not the victims of environmental (in)justice.

Check it out. Should make some interesting fodder for the black legal eagles who blog.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Community Service for Public Housing

From USA Today
Monday, December 24
Nashville, Tennessee - Some public housing residents in Nashville are turning into volunteers as they face a year-end deadline to fulfill community-service requirements. If they don't comply, about 200 residents could be evicted. The affected residents are required to serve for eight hours each month under the Quality Housing and Work Responsibility Act of 1998. Quick summary and pdf summary.

Okay, I never knew there was a 'work requirement' if you will , for public housing subsidies. To be honest, 2 hours a week is a walk in the park committment. But this does opens the door to the question: "Is it fair to make people be civically engaged?" I don't know. As a socialist-leaning person (lower case s) I think is a good thing. I am in favor of programs that promote and encourage civic engagement of citizens. I think community service for high schoolers is a good idea. I also support incentives to encourage people to do national service like AmeriCorps and Peace Corps. But I keep arriving at a conclusion -volunteerism, philantropy, etc are on the Self-actualization side of the Maslow's hierarchy. It's been my personal experience that even among the poor, under-educated, and under-served, people often are generous, supportive, and charitable. But having a strong service-centered ethic is something that is often comprehensively and wholistically supported. If for whatver reason, you're more concerned about shelter, food, and or safety, you're less likely to be as or more concerned about giving back or stocking pantries.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Top 25 Science News Stories of the Year 2007

In my committment (however sporadic) to keep the Black Blogosphere abreast of science news and issues, I'm posting a link to Scientific American's list (and links) to the most newsworthy and influential (to policy/society) science news stories of the year. With upcoming holiday parties, get togethers and other opportunities to "recap" the superlatives of the year, here is a year in review - Science-style. Enjoy.

Top 25 Science Stories of 2007

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Is this why Negroes just can't act right?

I supervise 5 employees. And I've struggled (internally and externally) about what to do with them. The problem: They all are un-disciplined and behave unprofessionally. I've rung my hands and held my forehead. I've emplored my boss to help me help them.

I spend 90% of my work day micromanaging them. (And I hate micromananging. And why should I have consistly tell Adults what to do all of the time?) It goes like this:
Stop that.
Put your cell phone away.
Don't curse.
Don't call each other that.
Don't use the N-word.
Why didn't you come to work yesterday.
Keep up with the group.
Where are you?
Where did you go?
Wake up.
And let's not forget the constant need to remind them what were doing each and every minute of each work day. I give them calendars, I tell them to take notes. And still they seem lost.

I'm supposed to supervise them in doing environmental remediation work and preparing them to give environmental education lessons to groups. I am so far behind schedule. They simply aren't ready. They're just too unprofessional and potty-mouthed to put before a group of children, seniors, heck anybody. And yes, I and my agency have presented professional development seminars, we've discussed the do's and don'ts, etc. But nothing has changed.
And I keep coming up the the same answer. They don't care enough to want to perform their duties better.

Straw breaking the camel's back incident:
Last week, my employees and I all were participating in a training program. The program covered topics and principles that are necessary for one of our essential functions: Provide environmental education lessons to general audiences and school groups. On day one, 3 of my employees were uninvolved. Even after a stern talking to, they remarked: "This is boring. These white people are boring. What are they talking about? Why are we here?" No matter how many times and ways I explained that this training will equip them with the skills necessary to present quality programming to people, they still didn't get it or rather they didn't care to get it.
I was so frustrated I decided that "These Negroes just don't want to learn!"
By the third day of the 4 day training, 2 of them had walked out of the training remarking how they didn't need the certification or care to have it.

So Sunday, I'm reading an issue of Science magazine and come across this article: Preschool Program Improves Cognitive Control. Cognitive control (or executive function as they call it) are those "soft" skills that make earnest learning possible. In other words, it's the ability to inhibit yourself, resist distractions or acting out in class, it's the foundation of basic memory and recall -so that you don't ask your teacher 10x "what did you say?", and it's your ability to deal with minor changes or adjust to lessons learned in different contexts. Real basic right?
Then the light bulb went off. These are all of the issues I'm dealing with DAILY with my employees. As the old folks use to say "They have no home training or common sense." They are off the chain. They are undisciplined. They have poor COGNITIVE CONTROL.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Graduation weekend - but I'm not walking

Okay, I was supposed to graduate this weekend. But I didn't. Why? Like so many other ABDs, I accepted a job. I was working diligently at first. Working 8 hr days (sometimes I was able to shave a couple hours off of the work day) and spend 2-6 hrs working on my data or revising chapters. But then one day I just fizzled out. I remember exclaiming how tired and anxious and overwhlemed I felt and I sat it down for a little while. Nearly 2 months later and my cohort is walking this weekend. My friend and colleague will be wearing my cap & gown & hood to the ceremonies. (Yes, I purchased my regalia..and ain't it a little ironic that I won't be the first and only one to wear it). Oh well.

So how will next semester get better? I'm quiting the job and becoming a Stafford Fellow. I am walking in May. Wish me luck and pray for I.