Friday, February 29, 2008

1 in 100 Americans in Prison or Jail

Sumitted by BJS on ScienceBlog, a recent report by the Pew Center, found that a higher ratio of Americans are in jail or prison this year.

Here are some excerpts/main points:

  • At the start of 2008, 2,319,258 adults were held in American prisons or jails, or one in every 99.1 men and women, according to the study. During 2007, the prison population rose by more than 25,000 inmates
  • 36 states and the Federal Bureau of Prisons saw their prison populations increase in 2007
  • While one in 30 men between the ages of 20 and 34 is behind bars, the figure is one in nine for black males in that age group.
  • Men are still roughly 13 times more likely to be incarcerated, but the female population is expanding at a far brisker pace.
  • For black women in their mid- to late-30s, the incarceration rate also has hit the one-in-100 mark.
  • In addition, one in every 53 adults in their 20s is behind bars; the rate for those over 55 is one in 837.
  • Last year alone, states spent more than $49 billion on corrections, up from $11 billion 20 years before, a 315 percent jump

At this rate, it'll be cheaper and safer to lock up law-abiding citizens and let the inmates run free. Be sure to read the entire article.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Inferiority Complex of low SES blacks

Today at work – yes, I’m still hanging in there – one of my 2 employees did and said something that really disturbed me.
While completing an assignment - which included proof reading, making some corrections and putting everything in the right format (font, spacing, etc) - he exhaled loudly and complained. He didn’t want to finish the work and exclaimed that “these white people were getting on my nerves. They can do all of that kind of stuff. I can’t do it.” Do what I asked. “All of that specific stuff. White people are better at that stuff.” I asked why. Does being black mean we are any less capable of doing detailed work? “Yes”, he replied. I corrected him. The other co-worker chimed in too. I finished by saying that as long as he had that type of attitude he had counted himself and every other Black person out.
But his remarks aren’t uncommon. Actually, among all of the team members (15 in all), such subtle remarks about black people’s inferiority and white peoples superiority are made often. These young (and not-so-young) Black adults from this crazy poor neighborhood all express in one way or the other that being Black means 2 things.
1) Exempt from meeting standards. e.g. don’t have to be professional; don't have to treat others with respect – namely members from partner agencies and organizations, people in the office building; feel entitled to do whatever and it should be okay - everyone else should just know and understand that we’re black and that means we can be loud, cuss, talk about personal business; not dress appropriately; show up late, etc.

2) Can never achieve true success. e.g. Black people can’t afford to live in lofts or nice homes; people in certain neighborhoods or businesses don’t want us someplace and therefore we should avoid certain things; can never really be promoted or have real authority in a company, successful blacks are tokens or puppets that work at the will of (often lower-ranking) white people, etc.

Crack smoking, ain’t it? That’s why every chance I get I introduce them to successful black people – accoutants, Engineers, COOs, Supervisors, etc., if possible people from their neighborhood or similar neighborhoods. They seem excited to meet a successful black person, ask good questions, and seem inspired. But they still say crazy stuff like this.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Are you being included in the scientific audience?

As an African-American Scientist I often feel like I am straddling the line of two worlds.

1. Black people World (defined as an African-American cultural experience).
Science, in any of its forms, is a non-traditional career path among blacks. Even among educated blacks and young professionals I and other Blacks in science and engineering are looked upon with an odd gaze. "Wow. That's interesting. How did you get into that?" are common replies. Then someone may ask about some hot topic in science. The conversation doesn't usually get deep. But I end up giving quick and dirty lectures about the topic, just enough to accurately inform them but not bore the mess out of them.

2. Science & Academia World (defined by graduate school & research cultural experience).
Black people and Brown people are just not common members of the science academy. So, my presence is often greeted with neutral surprise or excitement. Though I hate the idea of tokenism it does come to that at times. On a good note, all advertisements about African-American Science Fellowships come to me. On a not so good note, I get exhausted from the many request to 'represent' the department at events designed to show our diversity. "Call on someone else", I think; but there isn't anyone else.

So, I often try to blur the lines - Making science careers seem as common as business suits when I'm with black people and making sure the academics know that blacks and browns are viable candidates for research opportunities. But the truth of the matter is that Blacks (and Latinos and Native Americans) are woefully under-represented in science. Perhaps that has something to do with the audiences science news, science media, and science literature targets. Science magazines for example, target middle-class colleged audiences. That's great and fair, but at the same time this just leaves most poor people out of the loop. And from personal experiences, poor people (no matter what color) and Black people just don't seem to bite. It could be due to confusing jargon, talking over people's heads, too much information, boring delivery, snooty lecturers, or the information just isn't relevant. Whatever the reasons, the idea of Defining scientific audiences is an important one to consider if the science community wants a more scientifically literate citizenry.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

NCLB = More High School Drop-outs

Here is a link from from Fred Bortz on ScienceBlog No Child Left Behind = More High School Dropouts. I spent some time working at an at-risk high school - "Fair Eastside" it was. This school was pre-occupied with state standardized tests and the kids didn't give a care. The school also had a drop-out rate of about 50%. Crazy. Most educators I know absolutely dislike the focus on testing vs. learning. Reminds me of Haberman's Pedagogy of Poverty. It is real.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Ready to Quit Job, But riding the fence.

I hate my job. Why? My boss is an idiot. But is that enough of a reason to quit one’s job? Reasons I want to quit.
1. I complain about my boss and the professional environment he has created and maintained ALL of the time.
2. I haven’t made any real progress on my dissertation in months. I should have graduated in Dec, now May. And if I don’t get a move on and really focus and bear down, another commencement date could pass me by.
3. I’m an ill-fit within the existing work setting and the rest of the ‘team’.
a. It is illogical – they do things that don’t fit the stated mission or contract or miss deadlines and deliverables and look puzzled when other people/groups look smugly at us. b. It is unprofessional – for example, a subordinate from another team got out of line with me in front of the director, he said nothing and when I said something he implied I was over reactive. I went to HR and did all of the necessary things. Long story short, the behavior and all of the behaviors of the employees (which have been a matter of complaint within and outside of the agencies for years) never registered as problematic to him. So, no-shows, extreme tardiness, threats, fights, thefts, meeting disruptions, and profanity are nothing. Geesh. This guy is thick.
c. The program lacks direction and accomplishment – he’s been directing this program for nearly 10 years and he can’t decide what a standard is or how to enforce standards. He also has NO idea of what happens to people after they matriculate out the program.

Quick note about the job - It is a Social Service Agency. And yes, assume all of the bleeding heart, bad spending thoughts you might associate with a poorly-run welfare program. Among the program’s many objectives, a main one is to help poor African-Americans from this particularly shitty neighborhood in the Agency’s service area transition into mainstream.

Here’s the rub.
1. I really like the fact that I have some opportunity to share my experiences as a once poor Black Kid (from a neighborhood a lot like the one my employees are from) who has gone to college, finished and just about completed doctoral studies. I like the fact that I can introduce them to several successful black people and show them that being Black and/or poor does not limit you.
2. Upper-management has FINALLY registered that something ain’t right with our department. There have been two meetings in a week to deal with this mess. I’ve now been pulled aside in the hall 3 times by the VP and acting CEO to be patient and that things will change. He must KNOW that I am nonplussed and ret’ to go.
3. My employees, albeit rough around the edges, are doing better and seem to be seeing the light (I am biased, I will admit). They have come up with some exceptional ideas that would be perfect deliverables for the program. Things aren’t going as fast as I would like, but the motivational hurdle seems to have been lowered. Part of me really hates to leave them hanging. Because the Director and the other supervisor lacks the technical skills to help them get it done (both are idiots) and lack the professional inclination to care about doing a job thoroughly and well – or wouldn’t know if something was done thoroughly and well unless someone told them. –Okay, is it obvious I have no respect from my team members? Is that another reason to leave a job? You have no respect for boss or colleagues. They are all ….what? I can’t bring myself to insult sheep or Neanderthals, but you get my drift.
4. I have really great health insurance. Perhaps I can buy in for the next 4-6 months, just enough to get me to September when I can take another job – in academia more than likely.

Finally, here is my question. Have I been in the lofty, padded-walls halls of the Ivory Tower so long that I am sure I don’t know what a realistic job environment is like? Considering that I am a scientist – so I have some work options available to me in academia and government institutions – is this work environment typical or can I leave this job knowing that leave non-sense behind as well?

Thanks for your listening ear.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Science Blogging and the AfroSphere

Over MLK 2008 weekend there was a science blogging conference: NC Science Blogging Conference. There were many panels including one on Gender and Race in science. An over view/transcript of the panel can be read at Christina's Library Rant.
This conference, in its second year is a lot like the upcoming Blogging While Brown Conference in its aim and intentions. I couldn't make it to the Science Blogging Conference and likely won't attend the Blogging While Conference this summer. So I am very happy that recaps were posted on blogsites.

Check out some revelations on this topic - Science Blogging.
2008 North Carolina Science Blogging Conference
Science Cafe: Public Understanding of Science
Gender and Race in Science Blogging panel at the NC Science Blogging Conference

Okay, I think it is important to infuse more science info into the melinated blog universe. I know we have all have alot to say and surely it includes more than politics, social commentary, and entertainment/celebrity gossip.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Wanted: NSF Engineering Program Director for Diversity

My Engineering references can be light at times, I'll admit. But here's an opportunity to make Black History!
The National Science Foundation is announcing an opening for a special job in Engineering: Program Director for Diversity for Engineering.
Check out the announcement: here

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Viral Tagging - Blogs I like and Blogs that Like me

Thanks for the shout out from Urban Science Adventures. That blog tagged this blog, so here I go.

Links I like:
Electronic Village. They publish the monthly Black Blog Ratings as well as some intriguing social and political commentary. Using the metaphor of an African Village, they invite readers to be a part of an e-community, take a seat under the Boabab tree (subscribe), and drum beat (pass on important posts.

BDPA Foundation. It took forever to figure out what those letters stood for - Black Data Processors Association. This the blog to their Education Foundation. As a compliment to this site's dedication to informing more people about STEM (Science, Techology, Engineering, & Math), BETF are a great resource for Technology and some Engineering information. They also share info about programs and scholarships in different U.S. regions.

Education & Class. I stumbled across this one, actually a 6 degrees of separation thing, someone drum beat it (reference to Electronic Village) and I came across it. It's this blog's soul mate. It also blogs about education and socio-economic class issues. But it focuses more directly on education, education funding, and pedagogy.

ScienceBlogs. I'm a scientist first and this is nerd nirvana. A collection and community of 70 science-related blogs. Everything from Acids, Astronomy, Atoms to Medicine, Microbes, Neurology, Oncology, to Zoology and Zygotes.

Consuming Consciousness. I can't remember how I discovered this site...Surely I was procrastinating especially well one night to have discovered it. But if Education and Class is this blog's soul mate, this Consuming Consciousness would be its best friend. This blog is also about socioeconomic issues and class, but it is also about food and nutrition - the politics and pragmatism of it. The blog lists recipes and offers great recommendations for healthy living and eating.

Is that 5? Like Urban Science Adventures, I also like Planning and Preparing for College and Young Black Professional Guide (that was the first website to Blogroll this site...Thanks so much), and the science-related blogs. So some of my thunder was stolen. But everything is good.

Also, click on some of the listed pages below. Some really interesting things going on out on the web.

"The rules are like this:“This link loving in 2008 came from Not Much More Than This. I have randomly selected 5 of you below to be tagged and I hope that you will similarly publish this post in your blog. You will have to tag 5 other bloggers and just keep adding on to the list. (Do not replace, just keep on adding! Yes we hope it will be a long list!). It’s real easy! Tag others and see your Technorati Authority increase exponentially!The benefits of Viral Linking:- One of the fastest ways to see your technorati authority explode!- Increase your Google PageRank fast- Attract large volume of new traffic to your site- Build your community- Make new friends!"Now, add/tag 5 of your friends blogs…The Strategist Notebook Link Addiction Ardour of the Heart When Life Becomes a Book The Malaysian Life What goes under the sun Roshidan’s Cyber Station Sasha says Arts of Physics And the legend lives My View, My Life A Simple Life What Women REALLY Think Not Much More Than This Jayedee Jenn Beth Christie Marla Cailin Simone FlipFlopMom Katrina Gill’s Jottings Work of a Poet WakelaModern Day GoddessLivin With Me A Simple Life Verb Random Thoughts I’m Running to Win Two Regina’s Family Seasons Lifesong The Laughs Will Go OnMilitary MomTheVasquez3Brik-See-Us Five Dollar Shake , My Three Wisemans , You Better Recognize , Miscellaneous Matters , Opinionated Black Woman, The Happy Go Lucky Bachelor, Slausin-Ass Slaus, Word On The Street, Invisible Woman, Darkbrotha, The Black Actor, The Happy Go Lucky Bachelor, The People Who Could Fly Project , The Luscious Librarian, Sincere Thoughts Urban Science, Black Girl on Mars, The Global South, Brooklyn Circus, She Real Cool, Planning and Preparing for College Science To Life Young Black Professional Guide Science, Education, and Society Jessie's Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory Adventures blog site
Electronic Village; BDPA Foundation; Education & Class; ScienceBlogs; Consuming Consciousness

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Darwin Days are here again

February 12 is Charles Darwin's Birthday. Though impossible, if he were alive he would be 199 years old.

Darwin's contribution to science and biology have had a tremendous impact. Darwin's Theory of Natural Selection has shaped biology research and the study of evolution. Check out the links to learn more about evolution and natural selection -- the bedrocks of life science.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Black History on NPR

Sunday Weekend Edition of NPR featured a story about a Black History Month Program at the Smithsonian : Play Celebrates Untold Stories of Black Inventors. Read the write and listen to the broadcast.

Also worth checking out are the related links, especially:
Tell Me More, January 29, 2008, Making Black History Month Fun for Kids. An audio you must dowload and listen to.

News & Notes, Feb. 28, 2007, A Black History Month Pop Quiz. It's an audio that you MUST dowload and listen to. Is Black History month outdated, no longer relevant? Hold your opinion until you hear this segment.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Do you have a sweet tooth? There is a reason why.

Food Science and Nutrition Science explores not only the the importance of food in our lives, but also the history of food and human nutrition evolution. A recent article on has a very interesting article about our (humans) affinity to sweets: Why We Love the Sweet Life.
A preference for sweets may have been favored and selected to aid our primate ancestors to find ripe, nutritious, energy rich fruits.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Economic Mobility

Related to the post I made the other day, another a blog I relate to talks about this very topic - Economic Mobility. Check it out.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Black History Month Scientists Spotlight I.

In reference to my lack of Engineering coverage on this blog, the first Black History Month Scientist Spotlight will introduce you to Dr. Eugene DeLoatch and Dr. Michel Reece, both of Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland.

They were featured in Episode 116 of the Delta SEE (Science and Everyday Experiences) Radio Program. Download the program and share with others.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Getting a Good Job vs. Finding the Perfect Career

I visited with family and friends of family this weekend. Catching up was nice. But visit after visit, the conversation was all about economics -- the economics of poor folk. Everyone was on the same tip - I'm going to truck driving school and make some good money. Great, I thought. Driving trucks is great. Entrepreneurship is wonderful. But I've always been concerned about false hope of entrepreneurship. Owning your own business is good, but if you don't plan, budget, save, invest, and spend wisely, then the moment you stop working, then you're back to being as broke as you were before.

I see it all the time, with my family, friends, former students, even my own employees. They want more, but have no idea what to do. They are tired of being broke, are eager to try this job and that job, anything that pays good money, but still are chasing the rabbit. What's up with that? I thought of one friend in particular. I thought she could really benefit from what I called a career fitting. Just like getting fitted for a tuxedo, or ladies for under garments, one should be sized up (by a capable and experienced fitter) to find the career that wears best on you. I thought mysellf very clever, such a perfect phrase to describe the best way to help people figure out their life's work. I was going to copyright the term, but before, I did a quick google of the term. Seems someone else has also (independently) arrived at the same phrase and definition. So please, check it out. They defined and outlined it so perfectly, so why reinvent the wheel?

But I think it's the perfect thing to help folks like my employees and others from the working class poor transition into a more financially secure lifestyle.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Bad Behavior and Future Success

I've worked with high schools and it can be frustrating. And though all teens are a pain the neck, I was up-in-arms over the youth I worked with at "Fair East-side". They were bad. Unruly. Foul-mouthed. Promiscuous. Violent. Unashamed. But I also saw their human side. The youn man who came to school smelling of weed who slept in 1st period everyday. I soon found out he was the only able-bodied, sane-minded person in the house and sold drugs all night to keep food in the house and a roof over his, his ailing grandfather and (I suspect) cracked out mom's heads.
No easy answers. All hard questions.

But they were all knuckle heads. Just didn't want to listen. Angry. Many for good reason. Others because of lack of patience with older adults and the 'failure' to comprehend socially accepted ways of behaving.

I'm no psychologist, sociologist or social worker, so I won't pretend to know all of the right things to say. And I am aware of the challenges but it just still seems to me that...Not acting right can get you in a whole heap of trouble and block your blessings.

Take my employees. Though adults, they are emotionally & psychologically grown-ass high schoolers. Immature. Behave unprofessionally. Easily riled. Take all criticisms personally. Want to react (and often) fight if anyone calls them on their inappropriate behavior. Uncouth..Not only are they unprofessional, undisciplined, they are oblivious. They fail to take note of the models of professional behavior of others around them (me, other supervisors, adminstrative personnell, etc.) They have to be reminded of what they are doing wrong, what to do right..ALL OF THE TIME. I really hate that part of my job (and no, I can't get rid of them. The social workers who I work with and work for, aren't as frustrated or alarmed by their behavior as I am. Interestingly, they also don't offer any assistance with addressing these behavior issues).

But a team of researchcers, funded by the NSF, have found that young children who are disruptive (read, bad assess) in school can keep up educationally. However, if these behavioral problems aren't stemmed and continue it can interfere with some aspects of academic achievement. But even more compelling is the relationship between bad behavior in school and lack of success later in other words the inability to get along well with others, take direction, improve performance, can interfer with one's chances to a land good education &/or job opportunities.

I swear I see that in my crew of employees. And they even talk about how much time they spent in trouble in school, dropping out, fighting (all of the time) cursing out teachers, etc. Billy Bad Asses they were and still are.

And this isn't lack of intelligence. No the opposite. My employees are smart, not formally educated, but full of potential. And the study hints to the same thing. I think these little devils are bored, finish their work early and then terrorize their classmates in the freetime. Teachers & other students get tired of them and socially ostracise them (I don't blame them. I want to pitch them off of a tall bridge, too.) Having failed to become 'properly' socialized they don't the same kind of education (formal or informal) or chances as other, well-behaved children. They just don't fit it. They aren't invited to participate in door-opening activities and clubs. And I think this might be especially important for black kids from the hood who have been bussed into wealthier schools with white students or to an intergrated school. They miss out on better educational opportunities or job offers. They're the smart, but unrefined and failed to meet their potential, and become the you-just-don't-belong-here adults.

What to do? What to do?

Friday, February 1, 2008

National Science Foundation - 2007, A Year in Review

As a receipient of a fair share of NSF money, and as a show of appreciation of your financial contributions to my education and research, (yes, thank you U.S. tax payer) here is a look back at some of the NSF-supported advances and activities reported last year.

NSF Discoveries - 2007
You can check on this one daily and get a new morsel of great information everyday.
I missed the one about children's behavior and academic acheivement and career success. I'll definitely be pulling some of these out and serving up as main dishes at a later time.

Enjoy your serving of science.