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April 25, 2013

The worst schools in Detroit are charter schools

Charter schools, public-private affairs that are legally allowed to bypass nearly all of the rules that apply to education and labor, are being hardsold by the education "reform" movement as the key to our nation's education problems. Despite the fact that on average our schools are quite good and have improved slightly over the last fifty years this message is winning. But test results in Ohio and Detroit are painting a bleak picture: Charter schools are bombing hard, and ruining kids' lives. MEAP Scores Show Failing Detroit Schools Are Charter Academies - Yahoo! News
Are some schools failing students? Yes, say MEAP scores. And in Detroit, it's predominantly charter academies. Excellent Schools Detroit, a coalition of local leaders and educators, used MEAP score results to identify which Motor City elementary and middle schools are meeting MEAP objectives and which aren't. The Detroit Free Press published Excellent Schools Detroit's findings for parents to use when selecting a school. It showed that of the 20 top-performing elementary programs, 12 are in Detroit Public Schools, seven are charter, and one is private. The eight worst-performing schools are academies. Concerns have been raised that evaluations were based on MEAP performance alone. Excellent Schools Detroit said a broader review would be issued in July evaluating other factors.

April 24, 2013

Why YA Sex Scenes Matter

This is a good piece. A good rebuttal to the voices who claim sex has no place in YA books. Why YA Sex Scenes Matter | shattersnipe: malcontent & rainbows
Or maybe there’s as many sexy books for boys as for girls, and it’s just that people are more freaked out by the latter than the former, perhaps because the raging, overtly romantic teen-girl fandoms outstrip in their sudden visibility the quieter teen-boy fandoms, because caring about stories and fictional couples and queuing for hours to see your favourite literary idols are all acceptable things for girls to do, but which for exactly that reason boys are likely to be stigmatised for doing, even though that sort of sexist double standard is, well, a sexist double standard. But the point, the point, is that whenever I hear someone talking about how it’s wrong to have sex and sexiness in YA novels, what I actually hear is this: I’m terrified that the first fictional sex a teenage girl encounters might leave her feeling good about herself. I’m terrified that fictional sex might actually make teenage girls think sex can be fun and good, that reading about girls who say no and boys who listen when they say it might give them the confidence to say no, too – or worse still, to realise that boys who don’t listen to ‘no’ aren’t worth it. I’m terrified that YA novels might teach teenage girls the distinction between assault and consensual sex, and give them the courage to speak out about the former while actively seeking the latter. I’m terrified that teenage girls might think seriously about the circumstances under which they might say yes to sex; that they might think about contraception before they need it, and touch themselves in bed at night while fantasising about generous, interesting, beautiful lovers who treat them with consideration and respect. I’m terrified of a generation of teenage girls who aren’t shy or squeamish about asking for cunnilingus when they want it, or about loving more than one person at once, and who don’t feel shame about their arousal. I’m terrified that teenage girls might take control of their sexuality and, in so doing, take that control of them and their bodies away from me. Which is also why I get so angry whenever I come across negative sexuality in YA novels: books where the brooding hero treats the heroine badly, ignores her when she says no, abuses her trust and feelings and slams her bodily against walls, and where she’s made to feel uncomfortable about and disquieted by her feelings, because not only do such romances fail at sex-positivity, but if that’s your bag, then every other form of pop culture is ready and willing to oblige you. Sex/y scenes in YA matter because YA novels aren’t contraband. It’s not like sneaking a glance at the late night movie, then frantically switching channels when your parents inevitably walk in during the naked bits, or covertly trying to hide a Mills and Boon under your bed, or having to clear your browser history and check that the door’s locked if you want to look at porn or read slashfic on the internet. You can read YA novels openly – on the bus, at school, at home – and never have to worry that someone’s going to find your behaviour suspicious. Sex/y scenes in YA matter because, by the very nature of belonging to a permitted form of media, they help to disassociate sex from surreptitious secrecy: they make it something open rather than furtive, something that rightfully belongs to you, the reader, because the book was meant for you to read and remember. It doesn’t matter if the scene is detailed or not, if it’s only fiery kisses or much, much more: the point is that you’re allowed to have it, allowed to enjoy it, and that perhaps for the first time in your life, you’re viewing something arousing that doesn’t make you out to be a sex object in heels, but an active, interesting heroine who also happens to have a love life.