A Future Educator Talks Being an Active Advocate for Her Students (by Guest Blogger Kelsey Robertson)

Kelsey Robertson was a student in my Enhancing Youth Literacy course and is a future educator.  Read her post about how to be active in fighting educational inequity in big and small ways. Before class, I was aware of the … Continue reading

Getting Fired Up About Social Issues…and Actually Doing Something About Them (by Guest Student Blogger Emily Jasperson)

Note: In the next few days, I’ll be posting the action plans of three students who have given me permission to share their work here.  These three students have all committed to expanding their roles as involved community members and will be experimenting bravely with the ways they become more deeply involved and invested.  Read on (and for the next few days) for some excellent and practical ideas about how to keep the work going.

Our first action plan comes from Emily Jasperson, a future teacher who is finding ways to integrate community work into her daily life.

How easy it is to get all fired about social issues, like all the things we’ve discussed in class this summer, just to finish the final project and go about life as it was before. Why is this? This has happened to me a few times throughout my college career. First after taking ED 420 and learning about the ills of the education system, and second when I took a minorities class that detailed the struggles of various minority populations around the world now and in history. I became so frustrated and wanted so much for things to be different. It all comes down to a feeling of powerlessness because these issues are so huge. Although I personally cannot erase poverty and racial disparities, there are little things I can do to make a difference for people in my community. This is what I have learned this term while working with SUN at James John. I realized that there are so many programs out there like SUN, that really need extra help in the way of volunteers, and this is something I can do. My helping to stuff envelopes or to clean up a cluttered office space translates into more time that the staff of such organizations gets to spend actually helping people.

                  I have decided that I would like to continue my community involvement beyond the scope of this class. I am going to talk to Koali about continuing my service with SUN at James John into the school year to continue the relationships I have started with the children and staff. I feel that SUN does such great things and I really would like to be a part of the positive change they are creating for many families in Portland. I really like the resources they have for families outside of the programs at elementary schools, like health services and school-readiness programs, among many others. All of these things are set up to benefit children in the long run, which is something I am passionate about. Having worked with kids for quite some time now, I really appreciate the importance of a good education for them and would like to work to see it happen. I am grateful that through this Capstone experience I have been presented with so many ways to get involved and help make a change.

                  My plan for continuing community involvement is going to last for six months. This is about the amount of time I have left in school, which means I won’t be working very much, thus freeing up more of my time not spent in class. These six months will start in September, when school starts and SUN is back in session. Until then, I have the Oregon Zoo Urban Overnights trip with the James John SUN kids to look forward to and I am going to start looking for one-time volunteer opportunities through Hands On. This will give me a chance to get involved with other organizations not necessarily affiliated with schools or children, thus enriching my volunteer and community involvement experience. There are so many great things to help out with in Portland! In addition to this, I have chosen three steps from “Fitting Activism Into Your Daily Life”:

  1. Share Your Sources of Information with Others

I have already been doing this a bit since I started following PDXEAN on facebook and d2l. Through that, I have found Rethinking Schools and The Huffington Post education section which I have now also been following. I share articles with friends that I find to be particularly poignant or outrageous, or that deserve discussion. I have always felt that I didn’t know very much about current issues, especially those in education, and having access to these things has greatly widened my understanding of educational issues affecting our kids today. I will continue to follow these and share them with friends and family through facebook.

  1. Check Out or Join a Movement or Organization

This is something I have never done before, but have always wanted to. It has always seemed to me that I haven’t had time, or that I wouldn’t know where to look for organizations that I could possibly be a part of. Again, I am thankful for all this class has opened up to me! I joined Women for Change and Children First for Oregon, in hopes of staying current on education and general issues that are affecting children here in Oregon, and also to be able to find out ways I can physically help out in the effort. The sources of information I follow aren’t always about issues that are affect those in my own state, so this is a good way to keep informed about things I can really make a difference about and hopefully see results.

  1. Go Big and Go Small

I have never participated in something for a BIG cause, but I would like to. By paying attention to issues detailed through Women for Change and Children First for Oregon, I may be able to find some ways to help out or speak out on some big issues that affect the nation or the world, not just here in Portland. I did a bit of volunteering a few years back to get people my age to vote, and I don’t know how successful I personally was, but it felt good to be involved in something that was a lot bigger than myself and even my community. The small things I would like to do will most likely be found through volunteer opportunities on the Hands On website. I have looked at these for the past couple of weeks but haven’t done any of them yet. I like how they seem so simple but really can make a big difference for a neighborhood or organization. Some are as simple as pulling ivy or cleaning trails, and while this doesn’t seem like a big deal, it can mean that people enjoying nature can have a positive experience making them want to come back and ultimately help preserve our natural areas. Small things turn out to yield big benefits!

                  All of this sounds great on paper, but how am I going to actually commit to it? Since I will be accountable to the SUN staff at James John, it will be easy to stick with that commitment. Also, I would be spending so much time with the kids that I would feel I would be letting them down if I didn’t show up. Fortunately for me, right now my schedule is pretty open so I should be able to find time to do a lot in the community. Aside from SUN, I am going to look at the Hands On website each week to find an opportunity to help out in some way. I would also like to enlist the help of my friends as well for volunteer buddies! It’s a great way to hang out while also doing something positive for our neighbors. I would also like to start a volunteer journal to track my progress and record my experiences. I have heard that altruism is a great way to lead a fulfilling life and I think that writing about it will present the personal benefits of volunteering, which I don’t often think about. I don’t mind having my plan shared on PDXEAN, it may actually make me feel a bit more accountable to the words and thoughts I have written here. Also, periodic check-in emails would be great! It’s always nice to get a bit of reinforcement. I look forward to the next six months of community involvement, and will strive to continue volunteering far beyond that date. 

Letting Your Passion Fuel You to Work, to Dream, and to Volunteer (by Guest Blogger Tyler Kennedy)

Tyler Kennedy is a forward thinking, passionate community activist in the Summer 2012 Enhancing Youth Literacy class going and inspired a project to get PSU students even more involved in educating the public on issues that impact Portland Public Schools.  Here is his action plan.

I feel very passionate about many things. Sustainability, education, poverty, energy, and more. I feel that we have the means to change the world if we only get organized. One way to help with both sustainability and poverty, as well as helping on a local level is to volunteer at the local food bank. I’ve done this already once before and I would like to do it again.

Additionally, I am very interested in the “sports buddies” program. I’m an avid Blazers and Timbers fan and would love to be able to help a child by playing or watching sports with them. I almost asked to exchange numbers with an UB student just to go play basketball with him, but didn’t, because I wasn’t sure how appropriate that would be. I would like to look into the sports buddies program a little more before I commit, however.

Also, I’d love to continue working with upward bound in the fall. I really enjoyed working with the kids on their math and I’d love to continue helping out in this way. I feel like if I can make even a small difference in any of their lives then it’s worth it, and as we’ve seen from the readings and information this term that one-on-one relationships can be great ways to achieve that.

 

 

 

 

Action Plan:

I am going to give myself 3 months (I hope to only need 1, but life is unexpected) to find a new job. After I’ve found a new job I can begin working on my dream of designing card and board games. But while I’m chasing my dream, I’d like to keep volunteering.

Before the 3 months are up, I must continue to talk about issues of education and sustainability with my peers, coworkers, friends, and family. I need to direct people to the information that I’ve found and make sure that I encourage them to share it with others. Being informed is the best way to bring about change on a local or even national level.

Also while I’m looking for a new job I intend to become and stay more informed. I need to continue to grow my knowledge base when it comes to education and sustainability. I need to broaden my horizons when it comes to looking for and dispersing this information. In particular, I need to pay closer attention to local and state legislation and politics.

After my 3 months are up (or once I find a new job, whichever comes first) I will start volunteering regularly. I hope to fit in some spot moments prior to this deadline, however at the very least I must be regularly volunteering once I’ve gotten a new job. The top candidates for me in terms of volunteering are the Oregon Food Bank, Sports Buddies and Upward Bound. I feel that all three are examples of ways that I am able to connect with the community; simply doing what little bit I can to directly make someone’s life better that needs help.

I believe that these are achievable goals and that I can likely do even more once I get into a rhythm or a habit with these first steps. I’m a firm believer in the activist side of things though, and I would love to continue working to spread information and promote volunteering and activism in others.

 

 

Conclusion:

The major barriers that I see to actually excetuing something like this is to fall into a weekly pattern that doesn’t fit volunteer or activism in. Finding a new job could take longer than anticipated. I am trying to chase my dream of producing games for a living and while I realize that this will take a large portion of my time I’ve accounted for that in my plan and have not proposed too lofty of goals for myself, however it would be easy to get caught up in my passion and not give or find time for these causes.

The solutions I feel are simple, however. My passion is what is fueling my drive to find a new job, to chase my dream, and yes, to volunteer. I know that I will do something in relation to sustainability or education awareness, and my real concern lies more with not doing enough. I believe though that I am more than capable of keeping myself on track and that once I start it will be easier and become more and more habitual. I wouldn’t mind you checking up on my progress however, especially given that I know myself and I tend to work better in all scenarios when I’m under a little bit of pressure.

Connecting with Kids Through Coaching (by Guest Blogger Kyle Arntson)

Kyle Arntson has taken two education-based Capstones and has continued his love for working with youth (especially through sports and coaching) over the course of multiple terms…and is dedicated to infusing his post-college life with opportunities to volunteer his skills to support young people.

After taking two University Studies classes I have found that I love working with children, specifically helping them workout, staying fit and understanding the fun they can have while they do it. My first volunteer experience was with Parkrose High Schools Unified basketball team, and my second was working with the students in the Upward Bound Program, where I worked with incoming freshman on their writing skills. While helping with Upward Bound’s summer program I also worked with the students in their fitness class, where the students participated in a variety of physical activities such as yoga, basketball, workout videos and many more fun activities. While participating and observing the students in a physical fitness environment I couldn’t help but notice how close all the students became while working as teammates, and through pushing one another to try their best. I truly believe that children need good exercise, not only for their body’s physical fitness but also as a way to stimulate their brains. With school budgets taking continuous hits, Physical Education programs are seeing devastating blows which is affecting the children in multiple ways. My interest in future volunteer work is definitely to continue to work with kids through sports and fitness activities. I plan to sign up to become a Big Brother, specifically a Sports Buddy. I live in Clackamas County so I believe that is where I will look to dedicate my time with a young man.

I will be graduating tomorrow afternoon, which means I will have a huge work load off of my shoulders. I plan to register with the Sports Buddies program within the next month, giving myself a little time to catch up on the rest of my life and find a time that will best work for me to dedicate my time and energy to staying physically active with a young man. Aside from my time spent with the Big Brother Big Sister program, I have chosen three of “Fitting Activism into Your Daily Life” steps.

The first of the three that I have chosen is the Go Big & Go Small step. After looking at the possibilities available, I will be spending time with the “Reach Out and Read” program. This activity is located in Lake Oswego and will involve sorting donated children’s books by content and age appropriateness, once sorted they will be distributed to local Doctors offices. I plan to participate in this activity during their morning sessions, and as often as they need me until October, when I officially start my new job. At this point I will look to volunteer during the evening hours and the frequency will depend on my jobs work load. I hope to begin my participation with this program within a week or so from graduation. This task is easy enough and I know I will not want to spend all my time working on my garden and house.  

The second “Fitting Activism into Your Daily Life” step I have chosen to participate in is to contact my local schools in Gladstone and ask how I can become involved with their local Libraries in the Love Your Library step. I actually live one block away from Gladstone’s Public Library, so I’m hoping that I can find an opportunity there. If the schools I contact have another idea for me I am more than willing to participate any way I can with what they might have in mind. I really enjoyed reading to my girlfriends 2nd graders last school year, and hope to have the chance to do something along those lines in one of my local libraries. My hope is that I can get involved in a Library program at the beginning of the school year, if there are not opportunities sooner than that as I will be contacting the schools and Libraries within the next week or so, again after I have a little time for myself after graduation.

The third “Fitting Activism into Your Daily Life” step I plan to participate in is the “Simply Connect” step. As I have said I love working with children in a sports and fitness atmosphere, so I plan on contacting Travis and Kesia at Parkrose High School, and stay involved with their Unified sports program. Travis had told me that he would enjoy coaching the basketball team this next year with me, and that there are many other sports they participate in that he needs someone to help him with. I plan to email Travis within the next few days to reestablish contact with him, and see what opportunities are available with him and the Parkrose High School. This participation during basketball consisted of one, two hour practice a week as well as two or more tournaments. I really hope that this option works out for me, because I had such a great experience in that program the last time I volunteered.

I believe in sticking to what I commit myself to, by signing up for volunteer positions I am going to hold myself accountable for each event or time frame that I commit to simply by giving the volunteer sites my word that I will be where I commit to being, while on time and full of energy. The barriers I see that could present themselves while volunteering is my new work load come October 1st of this year. I will be working as a salesman for Albina Fuel, and do not yet know how demanding my work load will be. However, I feel that with the sites I want to volunteer at there are afternoon and evening times available, which will give me great flexibility to work around my new carrier. A second barrier I see presenting itself would be the need to spend time around my house, taking care of the essentials while trying to begin new projects. After owning a my own home from three years now I understand that things can come up around a house that might require immediate attention, which might take up whole days at a time. I feel I can hurdle this possible barrier by balancing work, volunteer time, and house work to try and prevent any huge problems that could occur. I believe it will be easy enough to stay on track with my goals if I take the approach that they are part of a “job” that I will have committed to. Keeping a schedule as consistent as possible will be key factor in helping me manage my volunteer time, just like it would in all aspects of life. 

Portland Public Schools: Bond Measure, For Better or Worse (by Guest Student Blogger Maria Baker)

NOTE: The following is a post from guest student blogger Maria Baker, who volunteered this summer through the James John SUN Program and participated in my UNST 421: Summer Youth Enrichment course.

Portland Public Schools are not exactly known for providing excellent education. There is constant debate over how to improve low state test scores and graduation rates. An upcoming 482 million dollar bond proposal for Portland Public Schools might be just what they need. The average age of a public school in America is about forty years old; this is a point of embarrassment as with age come pest infestations, leaks in pipes and roofs, hazardous materials like lead and asbestos and overfilled classrooms. To add insult to injury, Portland’s average age for schools is about sixty-five years. This is why the bond proposal to be voted on in the fall is so important.

Nobody wants to be put in an unsafe situation but that’s what thousands of students are subjected to each and every day they go to school here in Portland. If an earthquake were to hit Portland, many of our public schools would not stand a chance. About seventy million from the bond would go the help twenty-six schools remodel for seismic strengthening and improving roofs. They are necessary repairs if we want students to have the chance to learn in a safe environment.

There are four schools in Portland that are in such a state of disrepair that they must be replaced completely. Grant, Franklin, and Roosevelt high schools and Faubion K-8 would need 278 million dollars from the bond for the modernizations. These are the schools that need our help the most. They are literally falling apart, and they hinder students from learning at their greatest potential. Not only are the buildings dangerous but they are inefficient. After controlling for poverty, Students score about 10 percentile points lower on state tests if they attend a school in sub par condition. I would imagine it would be quite depressing and difficult to learn in a stuffy unventilated, outdated and vandalized classroom. Upon touring some of the PPS facilities, A writer for the Willamette Weekly commented they witnessed “schools that look like they belong in Detroit (sorry, Detroit) rather than the City of Roses”. This comment really struck me because I think Portland is such a beautiful and thriving city, how can this be going on here?

 A recent PARADE article “Rebuilding America’s Schools” highlighted how a bond could turn a school around in the right direction. Santa Ana high school in California was in a lower income area, and like most schools around the nation it needed a facelift badly. A 200 million dollar bond was approved to improve 56 schools. Santa Ana high school received forty million to remodel and since then vandalism has nearly stopped and attendance has increased. The article also mentions another bond measure success story coming out of Kentucky. The rebuilding of Richardson Elementary cut its energy costs to be about a quarter of an average school’s. The 2700 solar panels that cover the roof not only generate enough for the school, but also for the rest of the school district. To make it even better, the entire district consumes less energy than the panels produce and the district is able to sell back that extra energy to the grid. I was really inspired by this because it visibly shows how a renovation can contribute back to the community which supported it.

Portland Public Schools needs our support in order for anything to happen. Last years proposed bond to rebuild PPS was favored in early polls but it ended up being narrowly rejected by voters. Critics of the bond include homeowners on a fixed income as the bond would raise income taxes $1.10 per $1000 of assessed property value for the next eight years. I think that board members really tried to budget this years bond; it is nearly one dollar less per $1000 than the rejected bond from last year. If the bond passes then it will be the largest local government bond measure in Oregon history. The problems in our public school system is also fittingly the largest educational need in our state’s history as well so for me passing this bond measure makes complete sense. For better or worse Portland students must continue their education, so why would we not try to help?

Have your own input on the bond that you think PPS should hear? E-mail schoolmodernization@pps.net

 

Paying for Public Education? (by Guest Student Blogger Kelsey Robertson)

NOTE: Kelsey is a student in the Portland State University Capstone titled “Enhancing Youth Literacy.”  This summer, she supported Upward Bound staff and students in nutrition and literature courses.  She has already made a plan to continue her work with Upward Bound in the fall!  Her questions on families having to pay for public education are extremely relevant to local discussions on limited access to free day-long kindergarten programs and school budgets that are so tight that  teachers and families have to bring basic supplies to class that should be provided (paper for photocopying, for example).  Read Kelsey’s words here:

In elementary school, my school always asked families to pay for bits and pieces of our education throughout the school year. Between field trips, extra books, transportation, and school gear, we ended up paying a large amount. I was lucky enough to have parents who could handle the extra costs, but for families already struggling to get by this can be a huge source of stress. Schools argue that the funding isn’t coming from elsewhere, so families should contribute. We have a right to a free, public education. Should K-12 schools be allowed to charge students for some of these ‘extras’ to make up for budget deficits?

The ACLU says no, and has filed a lawsuit against the state of California. Parents are coming out and telling horror stories of amounts contributed, teachers who denounce children whose families are unable to pay, and students falling behind because of the inability to pay for textbooks. Educational inequity is rampant in California, and the expectation that families contribute financially is increasing the gap.

What are your thoughts? Have you experienced having to pay for K-12? What about the students you were working with in your capstone placement? What do you think will come of the ACLU lawsuit?

 

The DREAM Act: Taking Funding Away from American Children/Students? (By Guest Student Blogger Kristin Saito)

Note: As part of this week’s multi-faceted discussion series on the many perspectives and issues associated with the DREAM Act, immigration and education, we have a post by Kristin Saito from the Enhancing Youth Literacy Capstone.  Kristin volunteered this summer with the Upward Bound Program on the Portland State University campus.  Here is Kristin’s post:

The DREAM Act, which stands for the Development, Relief and Education  for Alien Minors, would provide conditional permanent residency to illegal individuals of good moral character who graduate from high school, arrived in the U.S. as minors, and lived in the country for 5 consecutive years prior to the bill’s enactment (Wikipedia). The DREAM Act insists upon responsibility and accountability for young people before they are able to embark upon the program and face a long, exacting process of over 6 years to complete it before they can apply for citizenship (The Washington Times Community). The DREAM Act would give more than 2 million young immigrants, who were brought to the U.S. before the age of 16, the chance to become legal residents.

The DREAM Act could cost upwards of $20 billion and would cost taxpayers approximately $6.2 billion per year in tuition subsidies. The Center for Immigration Studies says that $6.2 billion is a conservative estimate and does not include the “modest” number of illegal immigrants expected to attend private institutions (Fox News).

President Obama has said that “It’s heartbreaking to see innocent young people denied the right to earn an education, or serve in the military, because of their parents’ actions” and that immigrants are a part of the American family (The Washington Times). President Obama was correct in stating that immigrants are a part of the American family, illegal aliens, however, are not. Illegal aliens have no rights under the United States Constitution and are, therefore, not being denied a right to earn an education.

During this term we have been discussing our public school system and how it has been failing our youth. There have been many suggestions that if more money were allocated to the public school system, the problems would be fixed, or at least have a higher chance of being fixed. The money that is being spent on the illegal immigrants could be spent bettering our own youth. It seems that we need to take a look at our priorities and show that OUR children really are the focus of our legislation.  My question to all of you is, how can one justify spending $20 billion on children that are not citizens of our country when there are so many American students that need help?

Works Cited

Fox News. “DREAM Act Would Cost Taxpayers $6.2 Billion Per Year, Group Says.” December 2, 2010. http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2010/12/02/dream-act-cost-taxpayers-billion-year-group-says/

The Washington Times Community. “DREAM Acts sparks debate, misinformation, and fear.” July 13, 2011. http://communities.washingtontimes.com/neighborhood/ad-lib/2011/jul/13/dream-act-sparks-debate-misinformation-and-fear/

The Washington Times. “Obama targets Republicans for blocking DREAM Act”. September 14, 2011. http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/sep/14/obama-targets-republicans-blocking-dream-act/

Wikipedia. “DREAM Act.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DREAM_Act

Why Is the Discussion on School Reform Dominated by Charter Schools? (by Guest Student Blogger Maria Baker)

Note: Maria Baker is our fourth guest student blogger of the week.  She is currently taking the Summer Youth Enrichment Capstone at Portland State University and volunteered this summer at the James John SUN Program.  Her bigger questions about why discussion on school reform is dominated by charter schools is an important one to be asking!  Is the charter schools model significant enough to take over the conversation?  Who is in charge of guiding these conversations, and why is this model so talked about?


Charter schools are a big discussion point among the US educational system, but they only enroll about three percent of public school students. The specialized approach to learning is designed for disadvantaged or unhappy students in traditional public schools. When you factor in the lottery style admittance though, charter schools seem more like a special privilege rather than a program that will save the education system. With all the problems in the traditional educational system, should charter schools really be given so much time and effort when it only serves a small population?

 

Are Our Schools Putting the Needs of Adults Before the Needs of Children?: Reflections on Charter Schools and *The Lottery* (by Guest Student Blogger Emily Jasperson)

Note: In the Summer Youth Enrichment Capstone, Emily Jasperson volunteered this term through the James John SUN summer program and worked with elementary school students. She has a background in childcare and is thinking about becoming a teacher. She is the third student blogger in this series.

With all of the obvious issues with public education in the United States today, it is clear that something needs to be done to close achievement gaps and find new and better ways to educate our future. Charter schools attempt to accomplish these goals, and actually appear to do it quite nicely. After watching The Lottery, I think of these institutions in an entirely new way and find myself really agreeing with their practices. Before, I had heard mostly negative things about them. Like they were only for the rich and privileged, and while some are, a majority are located in poor communities, transforming struggling children’s lives for the better.

            One of the things that impressed me most about Harlem Success, the charter school featured in the film, was the high level of teacher support and encouragement. Most everyone can agree that a teacher has a great deal to do with the success of his or her students. The teachers at Harlem Success are routinely observed and evaluated, then given suggestions and guidance based on these observations. This does not happen in public schools. Here, teachers are spread too thin and do not feel supported, or so I’ve heard. With 100% of its students passing tests, it’s quite clear that they are doing something right.

            Another aspect of this charter school, and many others, is the emphasis placed on graduation. Even in kindergarten classrooms the graduation year of the students is prominently displayed. The goal for students at Harlem Success is graduating and going on to college, not test scores. And it actually works! Children at these schools are told, and it is expected, that they will graduate. In public schools in similar areas one is almost expected not to graduate. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have no expectations set out for your life, well no positive ones at least. It’s sad that this is a reality for many children today.

            With all of the positive outcomes of charter schools, there is still opposition. Watching the parents opposing Harlem Success was confusing to me. Don’t they realize that kids just like their own are receiving an education far better than they get at public school? Perhaps they just fear change, or maybe they are misguided about what charter schools actually are and do. In the film, there was talk about the teacher’s union and how charter schools are in direct conflict with their views. It does seem like charter schools are threatening the institution and bureaucracy of public schooling. The founder of Harlem Success made a great point when she said that we needed to stop “putting the interests of adults above the interests of children.” Why is this so hard for so many people to see? Does everything have to be about big business in this country, even when it comes to kids? Clearly, charter schools are doing something right, but when will the public school system start adopting their effective practices and actually educate our children for their futures?

Sex or Education: Which is the Biggest Factor in Sex Ed Curriculum? (by Guest Student Blogger Bryan O’Connell)

Note: This post references a recent article in the Huffington Post titled “Mississippi Sex Education: Majority of School Districts Choose Abstinence Only Curriculum” and was written by guest student blogger Bryan O’Connell.

According to a 2000-2009 survey by the United Nations Statistics Division, the U.S. has one of the highest rates of live births among teenagers out of all industrial U.N. nations (40-50 per 1,000 women aged 15 to 19). Of our states, Mississippi has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy.

“Mississippi Sex Education: Majority Of School Districts Choose Abstinence-Only Curriculum,” posted on huffingtonpost.com, is a recently-posted article describing the adoption of abstinence-focused sex education curriculums by most Mississippi public school districts.

Due to in-class analysis of the factors influencing educational policy, I felt compelled to further contextualize Mississippi’s decision to now mandate sex education, which apparently had been more absent prior to the current date. The lack of sex education and new limited curriculum strike me as being representative of an attitude conducive to teenage pregnancy; an attitude of approaching the well-established problem by ignoring it. The question this raises for me is “why would Mississippi limit providing comprehensive sexual education to a population in which teenage pregnancy runs rampant”?

An investigation of the demographics of Missisissippi will reveal that, aside from being the state with the highest teen pregnancy rates in the industrial nation with the most teen pregnancy, Mississippi is also our most religious, and most impoverished, state (Newport, Handley). I do not see these as mere coincidences. Mississippi’s religious population likely objects to promotion of education regarding pre-marital sexual relations. More importantly, does Mississippi have the budget for it? Is the U.S.’s teen pregnancy rate a result of attitudes towards sex, or attitudes towards education?

 — Bryan O’Connell

Works Cited

Handley, Meg. “The 10 Poorest States in the Union.” Usnews.com. U.S.News & World Report LP, 23 Sept. 2011. Web. 31 July 2012. <http://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/slideshows/the-10-poorest-states-in-the-union/3&gt;.

Newport, Frank. “Mississippi Is Most Religious U.S. State.” Mississippi Is Most Religious U.S. State. Gallup, Inc., 27 Mar. 2012. Web. 31 July 2012. <http://www.gallup.com/poll/153479/mississippi-religious-state.aspx&gt;.

“United Nations Statistics Division – Demographic and Social Statistics.” United Nations Statistics Division – Demographic and Social Statistics. United Nations, n.d. Web. 31 July 2012. <http://unstats.un.org/unsd/demographic/products/dyb/dyb2009-2010.htm&gt;.