Monday, June 11, 2007

No. 8 - Overheard 4

"Do you get Spam?"

"No, I had too much of it back in the war."

"Well, it was probably good back then."

"It was."

- A group of old men in Madison New Jersey, at the tail end of a conversation discussing the merits of various e-mail service providers.

Monday, February 19, 2007

No. 7 - Overheard 3

What some people say is, "why we even gotta finish high school when we is so close to the last days."

Thursday, February 01, 2007

No. 6 - Overheard 2

At Rohs' Street Cafe in Cincinnati.

"Have you met Bailey?"


"He's like the chillest cat ever."


"He's so chill he's almost gone."


"Bailey the Beatnik."

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

No. 5 - Apparently Context Can Make all the Difference

Sunday, November 12, 2006

No. 4 - Overheard

At Il Postale in Sunnyvale last night, I was seated with my brother and a couple of friends in an exterior courtyard, the chill kept down by portable heaters. The conversation at the next table over included something like the following, spoken at high and increasing volume by elderly people who seemed like npr conributors:

"We had tickets, but I think we're going to trade them in."

"Who else was speaking."

"Maya Angelou."





"Oh. Yes. She's very good.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

No. 3 - "I guess I sold my vote to buy a coat"

So says a homeless man, hired from a shelter in Pennsylvania for $100 and two meals, who was bused to Maryland to pass out misleading "sample ballots" at a polling location for the GOP.

Read the full story at the WaPo.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

No. 2 - Contemporary Youth Culture

The other day, enroute to Cincinnati, I was listening to a story on News and Notes recapping the results of the Boys and Girls' Club "Youth Report to America." The "Youth Report" was a national survey compiled and given by teens to teens ages 13-18.

Here is one particular statistic that caught my ear in the radio program:

What makes someone successful?

Knowledge (15510) 33.63%

Much was made of this figure in the radio interview, as well as the 47.91% of respondents who strongly agreed that college is necessary to meet their career goals.

I found the results interesting, and somewhat encouraging, but I don't know if I agree with the broadly optimistic "our peers place great importance in education" sentiment that the two high achieving teens stress in the interview. I'd actually feel better if more emphasized knowledge than a college degree... the thing behind the piece of paper rather than the symbol.

And perhaps I've retained a somwhat cynical state of mind from the attitudes expressed by the students of similar age that I taught at the Clintondale Continuing Education Center. Many felt that a college degree could open up doors to employment, but a majority placed little to no value on knowledge as a tool for self-improvement.

The methodology of the survey stresses an attempt to capture the opinions of a diverse group of teens, so I'm left wondering which sample group is more skewed: a) the last chance high school kids I taught, combined with anecdotal evidence I have from a neighbor who teaches in Detroit public schools OR b) A sample selected by high achieving kids who are active within their own communities.

It's also a bit deflating to note that 35.14% of respondents selected either money or fame as the key to success. That's more distressingly familiar to my teaching experience; a kid may not know where he's going to live next month, but at least he's got an LED belt buckle.

Also worth discussing are the responses relating to violence, but that's a conversation for another time.

You can read the whole report in pdf form.