Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Time for the People to Speak Up

Anyone who thinks the government doesn't impact their lives should look at the work of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). One can argue that clean air and water are two of those "inalienable rights" endowed upon all Americans. Imagine what the pursuit of happiness looks like in Flint, MI these days?

When government leaders change, decisions are made that alter the course of government programs. Changes to government environmental protections can have huge impact in our lives.

In a Democracy, people have opportunity to make a difference in important issues in society. We can elect new candidates who support ideas we agree with, we can run for office ourselves, and we can actively support these new candidates in their election campaigns.

Knowledge and understanding of current events, issues, and potential solutions to problems is an important factor in the success of government in a Democracy. If the people don't know what's going on, the political leaders will decide for them what's best.

In the 1970's, I was fortunate enough to participate in the YMCA's Youth and Government program for high school students. Young people got together to analyze important issues in California and wrote bills, resolutions, and judicial opinions on them.

Not only did we learn politics, but we learned that in order to make change you have be the catalyst of that change. I recall the first year I did this program we wrote a bill to require helmets for anyone riding a motorcycle. Today, I believe it's impossible to imagine a world where people would be allowed to ride a motorcycle on the streets without a helmet.

Fast forward to 2018 and we have a president and Congress that wants to reverse rules and laws at a dizzying pace. In particular they have targeted automobile mileage standards.

These changes are disappointing for me personally on multiple levels. Beyond the continued divisive nature of these political actions, this particular move also seeks to end something I saw as important back in 1978.

As you can see from our Senate Resolution 215, in 1978 we were seeking to use government to encourage more fuel efficient vehicles. The resolution sought a rating of 25 MPG or better.

At the time, I can recall paying anywhere from 50 to 75 cents a gallon for gas. About 15 years later I purchased a 3-cylinder Geo Metro that averaged 50 MPG and today I drive an all electric vehicle half the time.

Some estimates say that we pay at least five times as much for gas as we did in 1978. Why shouldn't we expect our cars to get five times the mileage today?

I believe that not only can we meet the original goals for MPG, and other sustainability efforts, but we should be able to exceed them. If we truly want to make America great, this is a perfect example of where we should be reaching higher and not going backwards.

It's time for the people to speak up.

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Saturday, March 17, 2018

Back to school

After almost 30 years as an educational media and technology administrator I became a full time  teacher for the first time in 2015. Of course, one doesn't really just "become a teacher" at any time in life much less when you are already past the 50 year mark! It's hard work no matter how young or old you are. 

Studying with my kids!
Completing a teaching credential and Master's Degree in Education three years later wasn't easy either. Actually, the work truly wasn't difficult because I enjoyed doing it all. And, sometimes I got to do my homework with my two college students! The problem of course is there was never enough time.

Teaching full time and going to school full time is probably one of life's greatest challenges. I highly recommend it to anyone who is up for a roller coaster adventure for a daily life. 

Some days I feel like I'm "Teaching for America's Future." But I want to be clear that I don't work for Teach for America.

However, the school where I teach certainly fits the profile of Teach for America's focused efforts. When I became a full time teacher, I also decided to change school types. I ended up going from the priciest private schools in the Bay Area, to some of the highest of poverty schools.

The work feels like I'm teaching for America's future because recent studies on teacher shortages in America show that high-poverty schools are significantly more impacted by teacher shortages than all other schools.  Ninety percent of low-income schools have trouble hiring teachers for Special Education. 1 in 5 teachers in low-income/high-poverty schools are considered unqualified because they are teaching without a credential or they are teaching outside their primary subject area. And those that are qualified don't last long in these schools.

Mimi Lakritz - May 1981
"Standing on the shoulders of my ancestors"
For those who knew me growing up, there may be no surprise that I made this change given the fact that my Dad was a teacher at the same public high school for 37 years.

The real story about me today is about going back to school and going back to where I came from. I came from school and I've always loved school. My family was full of teachers and it still is full of teachers.

Another interesting family connection is that my Mom also went back to school when she was older. She completed her Masters Degree in Social Work in 1981 at the age of 48. We were all very proud of her when she did that. Now I know a lot more about what it took for her to do that at her age and under the circumstances of those days.

These past three years have been a long and challenging journey. Completing a Masters Degree is an important and valuable accomplishment for me. I learned so much and certainly could not have survived in the job had I not done this preparation.

Being a "new teacher" has had it's perks. I got to go to new teacher workshops at the beginning of the past two school years and I have had a mentor working with me weekly for the past year.

Teacher shortages wont go away unless we can convince more people to look seriously at teaching. Perhaps we need to promote teaching a little differently.  Unique teacher appreciation gifts, like the one I got my first year at my school, can be an important way to support teachers.

Unique teacher appreciation idea

I also enjoy teaching with technology and all my students got iPads these past two years so that helps extend their learning as well as my teaching. All students should be learning with technology. This program is crucial to the goal of bridging the digital divide for many of our families who cannot afford Internet access at home.

For now, I know I'm doing my part to prepare our young people to know the history of America and what it means to be good citizens of our young country. I've completed my own work and on June 1, 2018, I will graduate for the first time since 1983. I feel pretty good about all that.

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