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WEDNESDAY: Understanding The Roots of Public Education

3 Oct

BLACKADEMIA – (As heard on TOUCH 106.1 FM in Boston and How We Do It Radio on Blogtalkradio.com) Following my Sept 26th installment, a parent asked me about “Intellectual Enhancements” and why they can’t be provided by the school system? Isn’t this why we pay taxes? There are actually two answers to this question. For one thing, what I’m describing as “Intellectual Enhancement” activities are the kinds of things that many students who attend private school regularly engage in with their parents outside of school. Among those with the resources to pay for their children’s education often comes an understanding that school is only half of the educational picture for your children and the rest is their home environment. The second part of the answer lies in the history of public school, whereby we can understand that enhancing the intellect is not in the root history or precise mission of public schools and the compulsory education acts that sparked them across the country.

Compulsory Education is the act that made attending school mandatory, initially from grades kindergarten to six, eventually up to eighth and now up to grade 12 or the age of 16. In Massachusetts, this act was adopted in 1852 and the objective was to provide youth with the basic skills of reading, writing and arithmetic, a.k.a. “The Three Rs”. This was not so much an act of altruism or Rousseaun enlightenment as much as the fact that we were entering the Industrial Revolution. The writing was on the wall, and the workers of this new phase of American industry were going to need to know how to read it. Booker T. Washington understood the situation, which is why so much of his rhetoric (shrewdly and pragmatically designed to raise funding, support and political influence for himself and Tuskeegee) was geared towards labor and trade as the foundation for Black advancement, as it appeared to be less threatening than Dubois more intellectually driven philosophies. The foundation mission of compulsory education, (regardless of the historic “education will save children’s souls” rhetoric and sales pitches that accompanied it’s lobby) is to make people serviceable to industry through the three Rs and conditioning (sitting in rows, responding to bells and buzzers, etc.), as one might notice that the set-up of a private school classroom is often different from that of a traditional public school.

With an understanding of this history, it’s easy to see that there are certain inherent deficiencies at the philosophica foundation of public education that we as parents truly need to compensate for as we navigate through the K – 12 years with our children. Providing intellectual enhancements for your child is not a new concept by any stretch of the imagination, just something that not all parents are aware of or believe that they are capable of providing. Here again, there are resources available to  us through our communities, e often just have to take the time to find them. Libraries, museums, cultural events, “mind builder” activities, and the like are a good way to start.

Just remember: the future of our community is in your hands.

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BLACKADEMIA WEDNESDAY: Let There Be Music… Open The Pathways

26 Sep

BOSTON (As Broadcast on Sept. 26, 2012) This is a point that will be revisited several times in this series: The seven arts and sciences are the basic building blocks of a society. Although the exact titles my vary, some version of these seven elements can be found as the principle elements of any society that has ever existed and continued. The one element that does not vary from society to society is music… the universal language and oft ignored bridge for people of different learning styles.

Every generation has it’s music and self- expression; thus I’m not going to knock the current sonic path that music has taken, except to say that it is void  of the complexities and challenges found in the music of older generations. Suffice it to say that the music of today is a cruel, karmic answer to the electronica explosion of the 1980’s causing many musicians of those days to ask, “can music get any blander and more sterile?” Leave it to generation “Y-Not” to prove that it could, but I digress. The point is, listen to some music that stretches and challenges the mind.

Pregnant women are often advised to play music for infants in utero to stimulate cerebral activity prior to birth. While the Western scientists who documented the positive effects of this practices focused on classical music, elements found in jazz, African drumming, Native American, Blues and Caribbean music provide the same stimuli. For example, the parts of the brain stimulated by Bach would also be stimulated by Thelonius Monk, Parliament Funkadelic, and Louis Armstrong; the parts stimulated by Mozart would also be stimulated by Duke Ellington, Quincy Jones… the parts stimulated by Liszt and Chopin will also be served by Oscar Peterson and Art Tatum.

For the visual/ tactile learner, music is the auditory path to both mathematics and logic/ reasoning skill development. The polyhedron for example (a 3 dimensional, spherical object comprised of twelve distinctive, flat sides and twelve lesser sides created by the joining of the larger) is said to be the visual representation of a chromatic (12- tone) scale. The beats in a measure, intervals between notes, and note values (quarter note, half note, etc.), and chord structures are applications of algebra, geometry, and trigonometry; and the pitch and value of tones and notes are applications of calculus.

Unfortunately, many schools and school systems across the country are cutting or have cut their music programs drastically or have gotten rid of them all together. So, as parents it’s up to us to see to it that our children are both exposed to music as well as encouraged to gain experiences with a musical instrument.

During the week, in the evenings for at least 30 minutes a session, set aside some time to turn off the television  and listen to music together. While your favorite albums and artists are fine, take this as an opportunity to challenge yourself and your child and listen to music that is not a part of your routine. Music of different styes and cultures. This is how I discovered that I liked the bagpipes and the kalimba. Mix it up! Play some classical, jazz and punk, or some Afro Latin, Indian and Ska in the same evening. Create a list of musical vocabulary terms (measures, keys, scales, chords, melody, phrases, themes, variations, etc.) and incorporate this into the discussion about what you’re listening to. The same way that all great writers are great readers, all great musicians are great listeners.

For younger children, starting around ages 4 or 5, encouraging them to learn and play hand drums and hand percussion instruments strengthen eye – hand coordination, sequencing, and fine motor skills. If a child moves on to other instruments, these skills are essential; and even if they don’t, these skills are essential in other aspects of their life.

Many folks use the expense of instruments and music lessons as the central excuse to not expose their children to musicianship. Thanks to stores like Target, Wal-mart and Best Buy, such instruments as guitars, keyboards and drums can be purchased relatively inexpensively. Within the last twenty years, pianos have become one of the most given away items in America. The reason for this is the decline in American families having music and the playing of instruments as a staple in American life. As people get older and/or pass on, the old pianos found in their parlors and basements become items placed on Craigslist by younger relatives who see no value in owning one.

As for musical instruction, if the lessons offered at the local music store or community arts academy are prohibitive, a little research and ingenuity can help you find your way around it. There are often older musicians in the community who offer lessons at little or no cost, just to keep their own chops up. There are community- based music programs like bands and orchestras that also offer training and experiences to newcomers. also, thanks to technology there are computer programs, DVDs, and books for beginners in music. See what works for you and your child.

BLACKADEMIA WEDNESDAYS with Mwalim DaPhunkeeProfessor

Every Wednesday

@ 9AM on 106.1 TOUCH FM http://www.touchfm.org and
@9PM on How We Do It Radio http://www.blogtalkradio.com/howwedoitradio
or at Blackademia.wordpress.com

WEDNESDAY: The Seven Year Plan… Part 2 of Thinking About College

19 Sep

by Mwalim DaPhunkeeProfessor (MJ Peters)

BLACKADEMIA with Mwalim DaPhunkeeProfessor –
Every Wednesday @ 9AM on 106.1 TOUCH FM http://www.touchfm.org and @9PM on How We Do It Radio http://www.blogtalkradio.com/howwedoitradio

BLACKADEMIA with Mwalim DaPhunkeeProfessor – Every Wednesday @ 9AM on 106.1 TOUCH FM and @ 9PM on How We Do It Radio http://www.blogtalkradio.com/howwedoitradio

BOSTON (As Broadcast on Sept. 19, 2012) Looking at societies and communities outside of the USA, it’s not hard to see that we are at the bottom of nations that make education a priority. Americans are in fact a culture of people who are known for having contempt for education and the educated. As we talk about dwindling resources and over-crowded schools systems, students from nations and communities with much less then our worst funded schools system produce students who can come to any college in the USA and sweep the Deans List. As a people, it would be to our advantage to acculturate some of these attitudes and approaches when it comes to our own children’s education.

One key is to start the journey to college by the end of the fourth grade. As parents, we really should start promoting good study habits from kindergarten, but if we have been a little slack (as many of us are) we really need to start focusing by the time our student is reaching age 10. We also need to accept the fact, for a myriad of reasons, that schools in general are not able to provide for the education of our children alone. A lot of it falls back into our hands. The key to producing an academically successful child is your efforts in providing intellectual enhancements beyond the classroom experience.
1) Television is Not The Enemy, Poor Scheduling Is – In short, homework should be done and ‘free reading’ should be completed before the television goes on. In addition, the television your children watch should be mentally stimulating. If there are favorite shows, they can be part of the television time. Cable offers a myriad of educational and education enhancement programming, some can be found even on such channels as Disney, Nickelodeon, History Channel, etc.. In addition, it is possible to by DVD and DVD sets of programs, movies and shows that address reading, writing, critical thinking, and positive social skills in a fun and entertaining way. One process that works is also called “earned tv time.” For every half our of non- homework related reading, writing, or practicing an instrument, a kid can earn an hour of television or video games.

2) Make a weekly visit to the library. For younger kids, many libraries offer stories hours and movies. As kids get older, it’s good get into the habit of going to the library and each of you (yep, you too) take out a book or two. Allow them to select books that speak to their interests but will also challenge their reading levels. Which leads to:

3) Have a vocabulary word of the day. Each day introduce a new word, what it means and how it’s used in a sentence. Hint, pick words found on practice copies of the SAT. The optimum house-hold dictionary is the Oxford. Random House and Webster are okay, but have limitations and the best way to master the language is from the roots.

4) Converse. Regular discussions about various topics: politics, music, arts, history, family stories, memories of your youth, movies, books, television shows, where folks feel free to share and exchange opinions, ideas, and points of view stimulate critical thinking. Studies have shown that young people coming from homes where regular conversation is a part of the environment do better in humanities (English, history, writing, etc.) and social sciences then young people who don’t.

5) Explore after-school programs. In this world, it is not always feasible for parents to be able to dedicate this kind of time on a daily basis due to work and household obligations. However, take a little time to explore the after-school options offered in your community, through the school, community centers, churches and the like. Take the time to find out what the structure and ‘culture’ of the program is. Does it provide some or all of the preceding elements described? Does it have a staff a director who can provide some of the elements that for what ever reason you cannot?

It has been said that if you do something for 30 minutes each day for 21 days, you create a life habit. At least an hour of intellectual enhancements per day for seven years will do incredible things as well.

WEDNESDAY: Thinking About College? Turn It Into A Plan!!!

12 Sep

by Mwalim DaPhunkeeProfessor (MJ Peters)

BLACKADEMIA with Mwalim DaPhunkeeProfessor – Every Wednesday @ 9AM on 106.1 TOUCH FM and 9PM on http://www.blogtalkradio.com/howwedoitradio

BOSTON (As Broadcast on TOUCH 106.1 on Sept. 12, 2012) A question on many parents and high school student’s minds is, “When should I start thinking about college?” The answer to that question is: 5th Grade. The study habits that lead to a successful academic career should begin in elementary school, and the preparation for advanced studies should be actively nurtured by the time a student reaches 5th grade (more on this next week) However, it’s never to late!
While traditional college is not for everyone, it appears that there is now a type of college for everyone. One thing to pay close attention to with many colleges: there are a number of trade schools that call themselves colleges but if you check, they do not offer liberal arts degrees or much in the way of majors outside of a given field. Also, there are a lot of programs calling themselves colleges that are not accredited as colleges or universities, in which case a degree from them is really just certification that you took classes in a given area. Most of the websites for colleges and universities demonstrate their accreditation on the site. If they don’t and it’s a school that you’re interested in, call them and ask.
The next question that should be on a high school students mind is, “which college do I want to go to?” tenth and eleventh grade are good time to start checking out colleges and making some choices about which ones appeal to you. Thanks to the Internet, you can conduct a cursory exploration of as many as twenty colleges in a day, and if possible should be followed up by a physical visit to the school during your junior year. If your parents are unable to take you to visit the schools of your choice, look into various community programs that often visit and tour colleges, including the historically Black colleges and universities primarily found in the southern part of the country.
The question that is possibly most pressing on your parent’s minds: How are we going to pay for college? The good news is that there is money out there and a lot of it goes unclaimed. Government based grants and loans are just a piece of the picture and are often not enough to pay for tuition, fees and books; not to mention that many middle- income families do not qualify for many of the government- based grants. The answer is research! Both the internet and the downtown branches of the public library have books and listings of private scholarship sources, ranging from $500 – 40,000 you just need to look for them and apply. Some are based on academic achievement, some are based on interests and hobbies, some are based on ethnicity, or the region that you live in. If you go to Google and type in “college scholarships+ ….” and after the plus size type in a subject, “African American,” “minority,” “[city and state that you live in],” “[hobby, sport, or activity,]” you will find that literally millions of sites will come up. Take some time to look through them and you will be pleasantly surprised at the results.
By junior year of high school, you should have a short list of colleges, universities and/or trade schools that you will be applying to. Another good master list to have in your possession is this one: Free College Applications which lists all of the colleges that waive application fees for qualifying students. This is also a good time to go over your resume and see if document your work, volunteer and hobby activities, including clubs and civic (community, church, etc.) activities. This is a good time to start collecting the applications form the schools of your choice and see what the requirements are, as well as get ready to take the S.A.T. (Scholastic Aptitude Test). On these applications, check out the essay requirements and start outlining your college essay.
The essay is an extremely important element in your essay, as this is an opportunity for admission officers to find out things about you that your grades, SAT score(s) and. resume do not. Not only is this an opportunity to tell your story and talk about your dreams and goals, but it also tells the reader how you think critically and process information, simply by the way you’ve represented your point of view in the essay. The essay can be the difference, for example, between an A student getting rejected from the same school that accepted a B+ student, all because the B+ student represented themselves more clearly and critically in their essay.