Thursday, May 31, 2012

A 'Menial' Conservative Argument

Occasionally, when I have cited what some consider to be 'liberal' or progressive intellectuals, I'll be referred to 'conservative' academics and scholars as some sort of counterbalance. If the progressive intellectual I reference happens to be black, then of course, the effort to show me that a conservative point of view has 'intellectual' credence - the 'see, there's even a black man who agrees with us - and he's smart' syndrome.

One such reference will be to Thomas Sowell. Now Sowell can indeed make some rather prescient points. But in the main he tends to sound like an angry uncle using multi-syllabic words, or highly conceptual, loosely related illustrations. To be more frank, he sounds like a number of black conservatives with chips on their shoulders because they're not as popular as their progressive counterparts.

This particular column responding to another intellectual's point that teens need 'meaningful work' is a case in point...

"The dangers that a lack of realism can bring to many educated people are completely overshadowed by the dangers to a whole society created by the unrealistic views of the world promoted in many educational institutions."

"It was painful, for example, to see an internationally renowned scholar say that what low-income young people needed was “meaningful work.” But this is a notion common among educated elites, regardless of how counterproductive its consequences may be for society at large, and for low-income youngsters especially."

"What is “meaningful work”?"

"The underlying notion seems to be that it is work whose performance is satisfying or enjoyable in itself. But if that is the only kind of work that people should have to do, how is garbage to be collected, bed pans emptied in hospitals or jobs with life-threatening dangers to be performed?"

"Does anyone imagine that firemen enjoy going into burning homes and buildings to rescue people trapped by the flames? That soldiers going into combat think it is fun?"

"In the real world, many things are done simply because they have to be done, not because doing them brings immediate pleasure to those who do them. Some people take justifiable pride in working to take care of their families, whether or not the work itself is great."

"Some of our more Utopian intellectuals lament that many people work “just for the money.” They do not like a society where A produces what B wants, simply in order that B will produce what A wants, with money being an intermediary device facilitating such exchanges."

"At the very least, many intellectuals do not want the poor or the young to have to take “menial” jobs. But people who are paying their own money, as distinguished from the taxpayers’ money, for someone to do a job are unlikely to part with hard cash unless that job actually needs doing, whether or not that job is called “menial” by others."

Sowell's point is relevant in this way - for the most part, teenagers need to work. Whether it is 'meaningful' or not. They need the experience, the discipline and the opportunity to learn accountability. 'Meaningful' can mean that they learn that they learn - as I told my youngest daughter - if you don't want to flip burgers at McDonald's, you need to get an education!

As a teenager I worked in the kitchen of a hospital. It was meaningful because I learned that I don't want to wash dishes for a living!

But Sowell's categorizing of firefighters, soldiers or 'menial' health care jobs that people do out of a sense of maturity and are in some way not 'meaningful' is a pretty specious argument. He misses the point that many of us make when we talk about teens having work that gives them an experience that helps them understand the meaning of work and leads to opportunity.

My brother, for instance, wanted to be a doctor, but for reasons only he can answer, never got past pre-med. He never lost the desire to work in the medical field. He took one of those 'meaningless' jobs as a hospital operating room orderly. It actually opened up a door to becoming a firefighter and then a paramedic. He's been a Dallas firefighter and paramedic now for more than 30 years! The 'meaningfulness' in that hospital operating room orderly job? It kept him connected to his dream. He had doctors, nurses and someone to help point him to opportunities beyond that menial job, to another job that 'needs doing'. And he has rushed into burning buildings and treated sick and elderly because it is 'meaningful' work.

What teenagers need is work, for the experience, for the discipline and for the accountability - and for the paycheck, definitely. But they also need work that is 'meaningful' in that they need to learn that even 'menial' jobs can open doors to work that can feed their souls, their families and help others. They need to be shown and taught pathways  that can lead them out of menial jobs and  poverty.

I don't know of anyone who suggests that the poor or the young ought not have to do 'menial' work. What some of us do argue is that the poor or the young shouldn't have to be consigned to dead end work if they don't want to be. The jobs in which people take pride as they care for their families are not always 'great' jobs; but they ought to be jobs that really do enable them to earn enough to care for their families. Which means 'menial' work needs to pay more (which requires a progressive minimum wage) or it means education and training that takes people beyond low-wage work.

Sowell may be a conservative intellectual. But at least on this point his reasoning is off. All work should be respected and encouraged. What we should eliminate, in every way we can, is the oxymoronic category of 'the working poor'. Any reasoning that suggests that there is something wrong with that, is itself, intellectually deficient.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Homelessness in Dallas: A Mixed Bag of News

The Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance (MDHA), released it's Annual Point in Time Homeless Count and Census report yesterday. How is Dallas progressing? Well, the news is mixed...

"The number of chronically homeless people — defined as those with disabilities who are homeless long term or repeatedly — dropped to 407 in 2012, down from 1,181 eight years ago, the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance reported."

"But the outlook wasn’t as good for a different group of homeless people: families with children. In just two years, their numbers in Dallas have gone up 36 percent."

"The count had Mayor Mike Rawlings and others saying Dallas is on track to become the first major city in the U.S. to end chronic homelessness by 2015, a goal Dallas leaders set in 2004."
"“This is an accomplishment we should all be proud of,” Rawlings said at a City Hall news conference to announce the count results. “Every year we want that number to get lower, and as we counted this year, we saw that it was down significantly.”"
You can find the MDHA report here.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Kingdom Values

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

I John 4:10-12 (New International Version)

Saturday, May 26, 2012

For Those Who Would Change the Wind

Isaac Hayes

Actor, Singer, Musician

"If you enjoy the fragrance of a rose, you must accept the thorns which it bears."

Friday, May 25, 2012

A Penny Wise and Pound Foolish Education Policy

All expert economic analysts tell us that our country is in the midst of a soft recovery from the worst recession in our country's history.

Texas, however, seems to be weathering the storm better than most states.

At the same time the very thing that would strengthen our future. Yet the commitment to adequately fund public education in preparation for the growing number of children - particularly minority children - the employees and employers of the future, is missing.

My column in the Dallas Morning News, speaks to our state's 'penny wise and pound foolish' attitude toward our Texas' future...

"Short term, our state’s employment figures are good news. Nationally, the unemployment figures reflect a stubborn sluggishness, yet Texas’ outlook is comparatively robust. Our April unemployment figures were 6.9 percent, compared with the nation’s figure of 8.1 percent, about the state’s unemployment average one year ago.""Regionally, those numbers look even rosier: Dallas’ unemployment figure sits at 6.5 percent (down from 7 percent in March); Fort Worth is 6.3 percent (6.9 percent in March). Even more positive are the figures from Austin, 5.5 percent, and Midland, 3.5 percent. By any measure, these are encouraging numbers."
"Impressive job growth was seen in manufacturing, trade, transportation and utilities industries. Construction jobs also showed a slight increase."
"However, economic analyst Ray Perryman offers a word of caution that should temper our enthusiasm: “The bigger concern is the long-term consequences for economic growth if we fail to provide adequate resources to accommodate the education and infrastructure needs of an expanding population.” In other words, refusal to invest in components critical to economic recovery, particularly in the area of education, could result in capping the potential of what appears to be a growing economy."

Sunday, May 20, 2012

A New Commandment

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34, 35 (New International Version)

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Friday, May 18, 2012

Another Reason to Invest in CitySquare: City Square Legal Action Works

One of the programs that makes CitySquare unique is it's public interest law firm. CitySquare L.A.W. (Legal Action Works), takes the cases that other firms usually won't take - because the clients can't afford to pay.

That's another aspect of poverty that you generally don't hear about, at least as it to relates to our law practice. We know our poor and low income neighbors usually don't have the money to defend themselves in criminal trials. But that's also true when it comes to divorce, domestic violence and custody cases as well. CitySquare LAW fills that gap.

This month's "'D' Magazine" profiles our law firms fine work.

Suffice it to say we're all proud!

"CitySquare’s LAW (Legal Action Works) Center helps low-income Dallas families and has become an integral part of CitySquare’s mission to strike at the root causes of poverty in Dallas. The LAW Center office can be best described by what it lacks: no fine wood crown molding, no library full of thick books, and no leather couches. Efficiency is key, and no dollar is wasted on extravagances. On days when the attorneys aren’t in trial, the dress code is a polo shirt and jeans." 

"At the moment, LAW Center has three attorneys and two support staff. The offices are on the third floor of CityWalk@Akard, where they are close to some of their clients. The decor is plain and serviceable. Each office is no larger than a confessional. Boxes of file folders tower next to the desks. College degrees and children’s art adorn the walls. The doors are always open, and staff meetings are held only when the stars align with their schedules. It’s the energy of type-A personalities, passionate and in close quarters..."

"People often misunderstand the needs of the poor. Charitable organizations can waste resources treating symptoms without fixing the unjust system that created the poverty. They feed the hungry without fixing the famine. Moved by the plight of poor families, businessman Jim Sowell and Preston Road Church of Christ launched the Central Dallas Food Pantry in 1988, but they soon realized that the needs of the poor were far more complex than just hunger. A food pantry wasn’t enough."

"In 1994, Larry James stepped in as president and CEO of the nonprofit. They changed the name to Central Dallas Ministries and expanded in other areas, adding a workforce component to the organization. More recently, they changed their name to CitySquare and added low-income housing. Their building, CityWalk@Akard, is the first affordable housing development in downtown Dallas in living memory. But housing wasn’t enough."

"“We’re trying to go way beyond charity,” James says. The organization uses a learn-by-listening approach. James trusts that the poor know their situations better than anyone. “From the early going, we were hearing people ask about legal representation.” With criminal cases, CitySquare can refer people to the public defender’s office, but many wanted to know about civil court. So the organization created the LAW Center, and CitySquare found where it could make its greatest impact in fighting poverty..."

Legal issues can be devastating and are compounded when people attempt to represent themselves or ignore the problem, which is often the case with the impoverished. “Poor people, low-income people, do not show up in civil and family law courts in Dallas County with much of a chance,” James says. “When they show up with our lawyers, we almost never lose. We settle a lot of stuff out of court. But when we go to court, since ’99 I can count on two hands the number of times it got handed back to us. We kick butt, because these lawyers are 

"Ken Koonce joined the LAW Center as a calling of faith. He had worked in business litigation, handling collections, business torts, and insurance disputes. It was good work, but none of it satisfied his need to help others. As James explains it, “Ken was tired and disillusioned. He came to me. He said, ‘I want to move into nonprofit work and I want to work with you guys doing something.’ ” James eventually convinced Koonce to return to where his talents were. “I finally told him, ‘Ken, you’re going to remain frustrated because your talent and your gift is the law.’ ” Koonce decided to give his law career a second chance as the director of CitySquare’s program in 2005. He describes his calling this way: “It’s an opportunity I never saw coming but didn’t want to refuse.”

Still another reason to invest in our work! 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Everything Old is New Again

Are you letting the JP Morgan $2 billion 'mistake' become background noise while you're busy doing something more important? You might want to pay attention. This is essentially the same unregulated financial sleight of hand that nearly imploded the U.S. economy, sent Iceland into bankruptcy (that's right an entire country!), and planted the seeds of the European financial crisis.

Want a 'simple' explanation? Sorry there isn't one! BUT, Khan Academy to the rescue!

Watch this, because while we're hearing that we need less regulation and poor people are continually blamed for the slow recovery of our nation, Wall Street is at it again...

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A 'Homeless Bill of Rights' - Really!

Talk about a commitment to do something big! While other states are cutting funding for the most vulnerable American citizens, politicians are trying to pass legislation that recognizes and protects the dignity and well being of it's homeless population. The state senate recently passed a 'Homeless Bill of Rights'!

"The Rhode Island Senate passed legislation Wednesday backed by Senator John J. Tassoni Jr., that aims to establish a “Homeless Bill of Rights” in Rhode Island."
"According to the General Assembly, the legislation will "guarantee that no person’s rights, privileges or access to public services will be denied or abridged solely because he or she is homeless"."
"Rhode Island will be the first state in the nation to adopt such a law if passed by the General Assembly."

How does a 'homeless bill of rights' look?

"The bill guarantees rights to homeless individuals including:
•The right to be free from searches or detention
•The right not to face discrimination while seeking or maintaining employment due to lack of a permanent mailing address
•The right not to be criminally sanctioned for unobtrusively sleeping in a public place

•The right to emergency medical care

•The right to vote, register to vote and receive documentation needed to prove identity for voting

•The right to protection from disclosure to law enforcement agencies

•The right to confidentiality of personal records and information

•The right to a reasonable expectation of privacy of personal property"

Senator Tassoni goes on to say, “We can’t just shrug and say ‘too bad’, we need to do more...We must keep working, and work harder, to move Rhode Islanders off the street and into more permanent, safe housing.”

Imagine, legislation that actually preserves the rights of the most poor among us - amazing!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Destination 2020: Ambitious and Refreshing

New DISD Superintendent Dr. Mike Miles
I'm pretty sure someone will pick this apart, but at first blush newly appointed Dallas Independent School District Superintendent Dr. Mike Miles plan to reform the school district looks ambitious and promising.

And most refreshing - virtually no mention of standardized test scores...

Suggesting a context conflating objections to excessive reliance on standardized test scores is with arguments against all standardized testing is a straw argument; it is clear that the new superintendent is aiming for real world positive outcomes.

'Destination 2020' deserves a serious look - and broad support...
Dallas ISD Superintendent Mike Miles' "Destination 2020" action plan

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Verdict is In: Standardized Testing Isn't Working

Increasingly, it is being shown that 'high stakes testing' does not achieve the results originally touted. It's not only the negative physiological issues related to the stress of a school system over reliance on test results. It's the fact that it simply isn't an effective measurement of whether or not children are learning. Demanding more or 'better' tests, only line the pockets of those designing the tests themselves and become self serving arguments of politicians who want to brag about school rankings. In the meantime, our children are suffering. And the cynical truth is, school districts know it, educators within the districts know it, politicians know it and empirical data is bearing it out.

"A new study by researchers at The University of Texas at Austin and Rice University reveals that Texas' public school accountability system, the model for the national No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), directly contributes to lower graduation rates, a new study by researchers at The University of Texas at Austin and Rice University shows."
"Each year Texas public high schools lose at least 135,000 youth prior to graduation, and a disproportionately large number of those students are African American, Latino and English Language Learners (ELL)."
"By analyzing data from more than 271,000 students, the study found that 60 percent of African American students, 75 percent of Latino students and 80 percent of ELL students did not graduate within five years. The researchers found an overall graduation rate of only 33 percent."
""High-stakes, test-based accountability doesn't lead to school improvement or equitable educational possibilities," said Linda McSpadden McNeil, director of the Center for Education at Rice University. "It leads to avoidable losses of students. Inherently the system creates a dilemma for principals: comply or educate. Unfortunately, we found that compliance means losing students.""
"The study shows that as schools came under the accountability system, which uses student test scores to rate schools and reward or discipline principals, massive numbers of students left the school system. The exit of low-achieving students created the appearance of rising test scores and a narrowing of the achievement gap between white and minority students, thus increasing a school's ratings."
"According to researchers, this study has serious implications for the nation's schools under the NCLB law. It finds that the higher the stakes and the longer such an accountability system governs schools, the more likely it is that school personnel see students not as children to educate but as potential liabilities or assets for their school's performance indicators, their own careers or their school's funding."
"The study shows a strong relationship between an increase in number of dropouts and schools' rising accountability ratings, finding that:

•loss of low-achieving students helps raise school ratings under the accountability system;

•the accountability system allows principals to hold back students who are deemed at risk of reducing the school's scores; many students retained this way end up dropping out;

•the test scores grouped by race single out the low-achieving students in these subgroups as potential liabilities to the school ratings, increasing incentives for school administrators to allow those students to quietly exit the system;

•the accountability system's zero-tolerance rules for attendance and behavior, which put youth into the court system for minor offenses and absences, alienate students and increase the likelihood they will drop out."

"The discrepancy between the official dropout rates, which are in the two to three percent range, and the actual rates is attributable to the state's method of counting. The method does not include students who drop out of school for reasons such as pregnancy or incarceration or declare intent to take the GED."

Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA), lists 433 school districts across Texas who have adopted a resolution concerning our state's overemphasis on 'high stakes, standardized testing in Texas public schools'. Nationally, parent groups, education and faith based organizations are adopting similar resolution.

The awareness is growing that we somewhere along the line, we have begun testing for the sake of testing and our children are paying the price.

If your school district's board of trustees hasn't adopted this resolution, let them know its time to sign it. It's time to start truly educating our children instead of training them! Our future...indeed our present, depends on it.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

For Those Who Would Change the Wind

Nicholas Katzenbach

65th United States Attorney General

"I think you need both legal and social change... You can't just [address bias] with legislation but it can help."

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Aren't There Alternatives to Standardized Tests?

There's still time to register to see CitySquare's free screening of 'Race to Nowhere'.

One of the most common reactions to pointing out the problems with our education system's over dependence on standardized testing is 'How do you hold students and teachers accountable? How do you measure student performance, without testing?'

These questions, expressed in various forms, show how entrenched we have become in the status quo and are in themselves evidence of the problem over reliance on the tests promote.

First, no one says 'do away with all testing'. Second, the idea is measuring student achievement and teacher accountability, neither of which can be determined with a test alone.

The Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE), provides on it's website a white paper which provides an guidelines for assessing student performance that includes all stakeholders, including students and teachers. Standardized tests are not eliminated, but other assessment measuring practices are called for which help to truly indicate whether or not students are learning. The emphasis is placed on superior curriculum development, rather than making the test the summum bonum end game, which leads to the 'drill and kill' class time that some teachers feel or are in some cases actually forced to employ.

Called 'Performance Counts: Assessment Systems that Support High Quality Learning', the paper written by Linda Darling-Hammond on behalf of the Council of Chief State School Officers, calls for school assessments that...

  • address the depth and breadth of standards as well as all areas of the curriculum, not just those that are easy to measure
  •  consider and include all students as an integral part of the design process,
  • anticipating their particular needs and encouraging all students to demonstrate what they know and can do
  •  honor the research indicating that students learn best when given challenging content and provided with assistance, guidance, and feedback on a regular basis
  • employ a variety of appropriate measures, instruments, and processes at the classroom, school, and district levels, as well as the state level. These include multiple forms of assessment and incorporate formative as well as summative measures
  • engage teachers in scoring student work based on shared targets

The report calls for a system in which..
  • All students have a clear idea of how learning progresses and what theycan do to improve. Next generation learners are encouraged to demonstrate their learning as a continuous process.
  • Parents understand the expectations for their children’s learning as well as the information they receive from school, district, and state assessments.They can work with educators to support their children’s growth and progress.
  • Teachers are skilled at developing and using a range of assessments based on standards, learners’ needs, and their professional judgment. Scoring student work based on shared learning targets is common classroom practice for teachers. Teachers are well educated and supported in these new expectations.
  • Supportive educators, including school principals, administrative staff, and leaders at the school and district levels, understand the standards and assessment elements and create conditions for successful learning.
  • Student achievement information generated at all levels of the assessment system becomes part of the longitudinal state data system and contributes to a rich profile of accomplishment for every student.
Read the rest of the report here...

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Envisioning America's Tomorrow - and Today

There are two narratives regarding America's present; two narratives call on voters in this year's presidential election to make a decision on the direction for the future.

One narrative says that we are in the midst of a disaster: high gas prices; sputtering employment; jerky improvement in the housing market are among the signs that if we don't make a change in the White House and adopt an ideology that shrinks government and taxes, America will no longer be the most powerful nation on earth.

The other narrative posits that while we are struggling to pull out of the greatest economic decline this generation has ever seen, there are nascent signs of growth that are encouraging...

Unemployment is lower than it has been in three years; a rebounding stock market; public sector growth; the recovery of the auto industry and an actual national health plan (if the Supreme Court doesn't kill it) are all signs that America's economy is healing - even if the patient is still ill.

Washington Post columnist David Ignatius suggest that the latter narrative is the more accurate. Indeed, if we are taking a long term view instead of one governed by a presidential election cycle, America is actually poised to be more powerful than we've ever imagined. That, according to Ignatius, is especially true in the area of energy and manufacturing.

Of energy he says...

"America is entering a new era of energy security: "...Robin West, chairman of PFC Energy, a Washington-based advisory group. He argues in a series of recent reports to clients that, because of the rapid expansion of oil and gas production from shale, America is likely to become by 2020 the world’s No. 1 producer of oil, gas and biofuels — eclipsing even the energy superpowers, Russia and Saudi Arabia."
"West explains that the natural-gas boom will mean a dramatic change in energy imports and, thus, the security of U.S. energy supplies. He forecasts that combined imports of oil and natural gas will fall from about 52 percent of total demand in 2010 to 22 percent by 2020. The totals are even more impressive if supplies from Canada are included."
"“This is the energy equivalent of the Berlin Wall coming down,” contends West. “Just as the trauma of the Cold War ended in Berlin, so the trauma of the 1973 oil embargo is ending now.” The geopolitical implications of this change are striking: “We will no longer rely on the Middle East, or compete with such nations as China or India for resources.”"
"Energy security would be one building block of a new prosperity."
Of manufacturing Ignatius suggests...
"...according to BCG [Boston Consulting Group], [there] is a “reshoring” back to America of manufacturing that previously migrated offshore, especially to China. The analysts estimate that by 2015, China’s cost advantage will have shrunk to the point that many manufacturers will prefer to open plants in the United States. In the vast manufacturing region surrounding Shanghai, total compensation packages will be about 25 percent of those for comparable workers in low-cost U.S. manufacturing states. But given higher American productivity, effective labor costs will be about 60 percent of those in America — not low enough to compensate U.S. manufacturers for the risks and volatility of operating in China."
"In about five years, argue the BCG economists, the cost-risk balance will reach an inflection point in seven key industries where manufacturers had been moving to China: computers and electronics, appliances and electrical equipment, machinery, furniture, fabricated metals, plastics and rubber, and transportation goods. The industries together amounted to a nearly $2 trillion market in the United States in 2010, with China producing about $200 billion of that total."
"As manufacturers in these “tipping point” industries move back to America, BCG estimates, the U.S. economy will add $80 billion to $120 billion in annual output, and 2 million to 3 million new jobs, in direct manufacturing and spin-off employment. To complete this rosy picture, the analysts forecast that in about five years, U.S. exports will increase by at least $65 billion annually."
There's a huge difference between viewing our present as the end of all things versus seeing where we are as the beginning of something challenging but knew. I tend to think vision doesn't have quite as much to do with how you see where you'll be tomorrow, but how you see where you are today. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

Recovering Better Than We Think?

With the news that the nation's economy only generated 115,000 new jobs in the month of April and that unemployment only declined .1% to 8.1%  is the economy stalled, stalling or headed for disaster?

Daniel Gross, columnist for Newsweek and The Daily Beast, says that if you see the glass half-empty, you're probably buying into the wrong narrative. There is, according to Gross, an innovation taking place that is causing a recovery that is different, leaner, but a recovery nonetheless...

"Given the magnitude of the economic fall, it’s no surprise that declinism quickly emerged as the time’s chic intellectual pose. Left and right, highbrow and lowbrow, ideological and pragmatic, historians and futurists—all came to an agreement: the U.S. had a very slim hope of recovering from its self-inflicted blows. The lion was now a lamb, shorn of aggression and vitality, unable to compete with rivals like China. Much like Japan, which has endured two decades of stagnation and misery since its real-estate bubble popped in the late 1980s, the U.S. had fallen and couldn’t get up."

"As is frequently the case, however, the conventional wisdom is wrong. The U.S. economy suffered a wipeout in the Great Recession of 2008–09, much like 1970s icon Steve Austin. Austin, played by Lee Majors, was an astronaut who crashed to Earth and then was rebuilt with typical American optimism. “We can rebuild him,” the voice-over for the opening of The Six Million Dollar Manintoned. “Better than he was before. Better, stronger, faster.” Like the world’s first bionic man, the U.S. economy has come back—better, stronger, and faster than most analysts expected, and than most of its peers."
"In fact, the lows of March 2009 marked the beginning of an unexpected recovery—not the beginning of an era of irreversible stagnation. The U.S. economy went from shrinking at a 6.7 percent annual rate in the first quarter of 2009 to expanding at a 3.8 percent annual rate in the fourth quarter of that year—a turnaround unprecedented in modern history. The stock market has doubled since March 2009, while corporate profits and exports have surged to records. The U.S. economy has regained its 2007 peak, and is now growing at a 3 percent annual clip—a more rapid pace than any other developed economy. The crucible of the recession forged an economic structure that is more resistant to shocks than the brittle vessel that shattered in 2008. Meanwhile, Europe continues to grapple with insoluble banking and sovereign debt crises, and developing-economy juggernauts like China and Brazil are showing signs of cracking."

It's been clear to many, that economic recovery - true economic recovery - calls for playing longball and not the quick fixes of the old ideology that got us into trouble in the first place. The real question is do we have the patience - and the imagination - for a different kind of economy.

Time, and this year's election, will tell...

Read the rest of the article here...

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Kingdom Values

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

"Christianity preaches the infinite worth of that which is seemingly worthless and the infinite worthlessness of that which is seemingly so valued."

Dr. Condoleeza Rice's Reflections on Race in America

Former Secretary of State
Dr. Condoleeza Rice

"[Race] is a birth defect with which this country was born out of slavery; we're never really going to be race blind. I think it goes back to whether or not race and class -- that is, race and poverty -- is not becoming even more of a constraint.
"Because with the failing public schools, I worry that the way that my grandparents got out of poverty, the way that my parents became educated, is just not going to be there for a whole bunch of kids. And I do think that race and poverty is still a terrible witch's brew."

Saturday, May 5, 2012

For Those Who Would Change the Wind

Wilt Chamberlain

Legendary, Hall of Fame Professional Basketball Player

"I believe that good things come to those who work."

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Widening Economic Gap for Black Americans

In communities of color,  economic security, whether in the form of income, wealth or inheritance lagged behind that of white Americans. They were hit harder by the Great Recession and are recovering slower than the rest of the country...

"The economic recovery following the worst recession since the Great Depression is quickly approaching its third anniversary in June. Many people probably don't feel up to celebrating as they struggle to find good jobs and pay their bills while continuing to feel the economic pain left over from the Great Recession."

"This is especially true for communities of color, as we document with our colleague, Jane Farrell, in a recent reportreleased by the Center for American Progress. Our research shows that communities of color generally enjoy less economic security than whites, often substantially so, and in some instances, the gap in economic security by race and ethnicity has widened during the recession and the subsequent recovery. This is particularly the case for African Americans."

"The economic security of communities of color lags behind that of whites in large part because they have less access to good jobs. The portion of all communities of color without employer-provided health insurance, for instance, tends to be greater than that of whites, even though some communities of color -- Latinos and Asians -- have similar employment opportunities as whites. The share of African Americans without health insurance in 2010, the last year for which data are available, was 20.8 percent, and the respective share for Latinos was 30.7 percent during the same time. This compares to 18.1 percent of Asians and 11.7 percent of whites without health insurance in 2010. Having a job is clearly not enough to enjoy the same economic security as whites, although it is a good start."

"This gap in access to good jobs is even clearer when we look at what communities of color are earning, compared to their white counterparts. As of the fourth quarter of 2011, median weekly earnings for African Americans were $617 (in constant 2011 dollars) and Latinos earned $549. In comparison, whites earned $774."

Read the rest of this column here...

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

CitySquare Hosts Screening of the Documentary 'Race to Nowhere'

On March 10, at 7:15 pm, CitySquare will host a free screening of the documentary, 'Race to Nowhere'. The screening will be held at Dallas' Angelika Theater, 5321 Mockingbird Lane.

'Race to Nowhere' speaks to the toll high stakes standardized testing and the pressure to be 'successful' is taking on the lives of students, parents and the education system itself.

Vicki Abeles, the film's director, became concerned about the subject because of effects of this pressure on her own daughter. She makes the compelling case that education must include more reasonable approaches to homework, to standardized testing and the role of extracurricular activities in the life of American children.

'Race to Nowhere' will certainly get you thinking about what we are doing to education in our country and should spark a thought provoking conversation afterward...


Register for this free screening here...

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

SNAP Benefits Keep American Families from Falling into Poverty

With the proposal by Congress to cut some $33 billion from SNAP (food stamps), comes the question: what's the more effective propsal to keep millions of families from falling deeper into poverty and food insecurity? I mean, besides waiting for prosperity to 'trickle down', eventually...?

"Food stamps have long been a favorite whipping boy of politicians looking to beat up on government spending. But the massive food-assistance program does help keep people out of poverty, according to new research."

"Food stamp benefits led to a decline of 4.4 percent in poverty from 2000 to 2009, according to a new report from the USDA's Economic Research Service."

"The impact was particularly strong for children, who are more likely to live in poverty than adults. Child poverty was reduced by 15.5 percent, on average. The researchers also looked at the depth and severity of poverty, and found that severity was reduced by 21 percent. They say looking at this gives a better measure of the role of food stamps in improving the lives of Americans, compared to just a straight look at the poverty rate."

"In 2009, 21 percent of all children, or 15.5 million, lived in poverty. That's up from 16 percent in 2001, an increase attributed to the economic downturn. And that's including the buffering effect of food stamps."

"A family of four would have to earn less than $23,050 to be considered poor in 2012, according to the the Department of Health and Human Services."

"There's no question that a lot of people are affected by the food stamp program, which is formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Last year, 44.7 million Americans got food stamp benefits in an average month. That added up to $72 billion in benefits for the year."

Read the rest of the article here...