Top High Schools 2014

Top High Schools 2014

First off, a very eager shout out to our local Minnesota Schools who were recently listed in the Daily Beast Top Schools survey. It is an interesting rubric that used 6 criteria to measure all public schools. Mixed in with stats like GPA and graduation are other factors like college placement and “rigor” which looks at extra curricular activity. I have no idea of the algorithms that are involved, but it certainly sounds like a somewhat valid method not all based on test scores which seems to be the “industry standard.”

Edina High School placed highest at 53rd. They were followed by Eagan, Orono, Chanhassen, Eden Prairie, Chaska & Eastview; with other districts like Apple Valley, Andover, Rosemount, Champlin & Blaine among the cut below 500. It is not surprising that states like Texas, New York and California seemed to dominate the list. But without taking any merit away from these fabulous schools – you can see that the issue of privilege and affluence continue to dominate. Just like the last blog post I made about Ivy League colleges. There is not a single school on this impressive roster coming from Minneapolis or St Paul. Other cities like Denver, Miami, Dallas, Chicago or even Buffalo managed to make an impact with at least a single school noted. What are we missing in the process in spite of our great business economy and employment rates in the Twin Cities? It would seem the socio-economic climate is right for success here. Is it a matter of priorities? A lack of leadership and vision? I have no answers and I assume that the puzzle is so big that any answer would be hard to suggest.

Again, I go back to what I know in my arts advocacy; And not that it is the answer that would solve all the gaps here. But we need to keep making our voice heard that the arts do have a measurable impact in students lives and the leadership legacy they continue after school. And I can vouch that each of the schools that did make this list have much to offer in the realm of theater and music programs; each and every one of them. I’m just saying!

The “ME” Generation

The “ME” Generation

This was a term I heard often growing up. Many of us in the so-called baby boom were doted on by our parents who wanted to give us so much more than they had. But catapulting ahead another 25 years and there is now a chasm of haves and have-nots. We keep talking about the divide in classes and I think it is very apparent among the current crop of students.

This is an interesting perspective from William Deresiewicz in a SALON article of all places. He comments on the millennium generation, privilege, and the pedigree of Ivy League Schools. Ironic especially since he formerly taught English at Yale! He refers to this current crop of “sheep” as a herd that is rewarded for conforming and punished for rebellion. “They’ve been told their whole life how wonderful they are.” And then leave with a sense of importance as they are funneled into generic jobs of consulting and investment banking. Harvard admits 2,000 students out of 35,000 applications. Yes there is a “process” much like we saw in the Tina Fey film Admission. Yet, these Ivy League students remain suspiciously affluent.

Meanwhile Public Institutions go through round after round of cuts, while Yale has an endowment of 20 Billion! These credentials don’t necessarily make one an “excellent sheep.” In fact he goes on to say that they tend to be timid and risk-averse because the system requires perfection rather than taking any sort risk and exploration. He points out a marked connection between academically accomplished vs. intellectual shallowness. These elite students graduate to become our leaders which is just another form of entitlement that begins back in our very classrooms and takes root for the rest of their lives. It breeds inequality. And also makes a bold campaign for quality investment in higher public education. A very complex conundrum. Read about it: 

Full of Themselves

 

Back To School Kindness

Back To School Kindness

Since it has crossed my path twice in the last two days, here is a short missive on the “1st Day of School” Trauma that many will be experiencing over the next week. I was always the fierce independent type and have a photo of me beaming as I stepped onto that first school bus. But for many others, it will imprint a separation anxiety that is brand new. As I was speaking to my friend Annie last night, she was speaking that she left her very animated daughter paralyzed and clinging to her when dropping her off for Day One in Kindergarten.

change someone's story 1This is a blog article from an invested parent named Rachel and her writings of a Hands Free Mama. She speaks to the fears of both the child and parent on this incredible life journey moment. For her daughter it involves a move into a new district and fresh start in new surroundings. In this case it was an informed school teacher with welcoming hands that made all the difference in the world. So this is a challenge for any of us in the Education realm to remember that we can be THAT person. It may be a small gesture, but can make a lasting impact. Read below;

Unschooling

Unschooling

I am sharing information that was just viewed in a Facebook share. It was shared by a school teacher in light of the back-to-school onslaught here in MN as well as the rest of our country. Although I can certainly understand the logic of the parent, my background as both a teacher and artists raises my eyebrows heavily with alarm.

The author is Ben Hewitt, a writer and farmer in very rural Vermont. And the emphasis of his entry is a concept called “unschooling.” This is a step removed from even home schooling where children are taught by parents. This approach goes one farther to say that learning from books is restrictive and youth do best when left to run free and explore their natural instincts. Instead of solving algebra problems they are seeming to forage berries in the woods. He mentions that they can read and do math, but is that nearly enough to succeed in today’s world? Granted not every vocation or job expects these things, but I am of the mind that in today’s demanding world, the more skill sets one is equipped with, the more likely they are to have a fighting chance. Curiosity is a great instinct, but I don’t know that survival skills and discipline alone are enough.

The first of the major faults I find with this philosophy is that anything of substance they learn, will need to come from the parents. I can tell from the multitudes of students coming through our doors at YPC, that family is not the core asset many of them have handy to lead them into their futures. And even if they do have that parent support, aren’t we all limited by the single set of skills we are able to impart? This assumes that every child will follow in his parents footsteps. I was one of a lucky few that stumbled onto the arts before I ever realized there could be a career in it. Otherwise I would have ended up working in a shop like my dad or a VA hospital like my mom. My exposure was limited outside the world of high school band.

Secondly, I do understand his mantra at classrooms often being a sterile and confined cubicle and that motion & activity can and do stimulate learning. But even with academia being under the microscope for standardized testing (which I highly question), one cannot deny that an educational setting opens doors of possibilities. Yes there is the required algebra and literature. But by the time I graduated, I had been exposed to architecture and design, philosophy, world history and genetics that fought for my attentions. And this was at a rural school in a blue collar district. As I graduated I was faced with decisions I would never have even guessed at if I was “unschooled.”

So while I understand his reasoning and honor his opinions, to me it equates to dropping out of the system and I wonder is that what our youth really needs at this point in history? Read the full article below:

We Don’t Need No Education

the Teacher’s Dilemma

the Teacher’s Dilemma

Even though we are in the middle of summer break for Public Schools, I found this blog post a great reminder of the partnership we have with our school teachers who are usually our Arts Advocates on the front line. It is a Huffington Post Blog by Peter Greene that speaks to the “elephant” in the our classrooms.

There Is Never Enough“… enough time, enough resources, enough support. There are great game plans in regard to syllabus and curriculum, but when it comes down to implementing all the great plans – Peter says it can often become “educational triage.” He goes on further with the metaphor of a beautiful Victorian mansion that looks lovely in theory. But there is never enough paint, the wood is old and likely rotting, many of the crevices are too high to reach with a ladder that is too short. And furthermore, there is the onslaught of observers that constantly point out how “you missed a spot here” or “you should try to fix it this way…”

The article itself has much humor. Others may find it as griping and a vehicle to vent. But for those of us that have a connection to arts and public education – we will likely understand exactly what he is talking about. Somehow, teachers may not have the solution, but boldly continue to take on the mounting challenge. Read the full post:

Peter Greene – The Hard Part

Letting Artists Soar

Letting Artists Soar

Since this came my way via two separate people, the universe is telling me to Pay It Forward. One from a former YPC student now interviewing to return as staff. The other from a teaching colleague via Facebook. It is about Eric Whitacre, renown choral composer, arts advocate and classical music poster boy who was just in the Twin Cities conducting the MN Orchestra and Chorale.

On his FB post, he refers to a difficult passage in his piece Equus. He comments that he finds the piece difficult at best, even though he wrote it and was having trouble with 16 measures of complex rhythms. During rehearsal, the process of breaking it down was getting worse and all involved were frustrated at solving it in the short time involved. Whitacre even acknowledges his own faults at trying to make it work for all.

So out of this frustration, he decided to experiment and told all members that when it came to the fractured section, he would just put down his hands, stop conducting, and let the members themselves continue on solo. And to his surprise, all 200 musicEric_whitacreians forged on without any problems. He did the same in both concerts; “I would get to letter ‘K’, put my hands down and do a little dance, smile, and the players would take the reins.” He finishes by saying it is a powerful lesson learned time and again to allow artists to do what they do best. We should be leaders that only need to guide and let the artists soar. I think this can apply to any age.

The Burden of being Famous

The Burden of being Famous

This is a topic that rubs people both ways. It applies especially to athletes and Hollywood celebrities. There is one school of thought that they should do what they are paid for and leave political agendas at the door. And then others, like myself, that applaud them for using their clout and access to make a statement. I think it is imperative to make a difference in the world and why not use your influence to make a voice heard? Isn’t that what many of us do on Twitter and Facebook? Why not take it to a larger audience?

I bring this up after viewing both Jennifer Lopez and her introduction by the notable Rita Moreno at this weekend’s GLAAD Media Awards. Yes another gratuitous pat on the back for celebrities, but this is more about what they do when they are not in front of the cameras. Somehow I knew nothing about the show the Fosters on ABC Family network. Why would I ever watch it? But JLo is the executive producer who took the risk and put her name on the project that allowed it to succeed where it has become popular and been given an important seal of approval as Teen Choice Winner. It looks at family life for a pair of lesbian parents, their nuclear family of both maternal and adopted childreimagesn, racial issues and teen well being. Any one of these topics is worthy of attention.

In her speech, she speaks very strongly about her gay aunt as a positive role model for her and why she felt compelled to Stand Up and give credibility to make this show happen. She speaks of strong words like “love” and “loyalty” against adversity as we continue to make leaps forward in the world. How could this possibly be out of line and criticized for having a point of view and making your voice heard? Kudos to her and others. I will definitely tune in and see what the show is all about now!

Looking and Feeling Pretty

Looking and Feeling Pretty

I am not the type to be a hater and respect everyone’s hope to be seen as a beautiful creature that is uniquely their own. But I have had several exposures to this young Ukrainian woman who is being referred to as the Human Barbie. She was featured in an GQ interview where she spoke about her quest to obtain a perfect form – but as in any eating disorder et al, there is a danger in perception and the tipping point can get very warped.

Her name is Valeria Lukyanova. She denies rumors of extensive plastic surgery, but there is no reality to her appearance; esp when compared to former photographs. First there are the impossible measurements; what she has on top is not in alignment with the bottom. Her thinness is attributed to a liquid-only diet. There are even rumors of having her eyelids scraped to imitate the vacant Barbie doll eyes.

Valeria-LukyanovaAgain – beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But yet body image in our young women is such a dominant weight hanging over them and yet we both perpetuate and aspire to this female image that is nowhere near realistic. We are offering a special session this summer that needs an audience of young girls. Through theater and other role models we are trying to empower them to be true to themselves.

link to Grrl Power class – scroll down for details