What’s Bangladesh? Thinking outside the Bay

jdutton2.jpgEvery day on this blog, we talk about students and their education. So, I figured, why not have some teenagers tell us about it, firsthand? Meet Jesse Dutton-Kenny, a Skyline High School junior, who will occasionally share her musings with us. -Katy

I have been enrolled in Oakland Public Schools for my entire academic career and, believe me, I have a lot to say. 

 Something that has been on my mind this past year or so is the lack of knowledge that many students have about the world and the international communities around them. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a teacher mention a foreign country and have a a classmate respond with “What’s that?”

 I really feel that with impending global crises like global warming it is especially important that students know where we are in the world and know a little about our foreign policy seeing as we will be the ones to inherit the earth.

 Teachers can play a big role in this too. So far this year, I have heard of at least four trips out of the country at my school that are available to students who are willing to spend a couple thousand dollars or work off the payment. Personally, I have applied for a trip to Mali in West Africa through the organization Building With Books, and a European tour trough Italy, France, and England with one of Skyline’s World History teachers.

I really recommend that students, parents, and teachers all explore their international travel options because it will really help later in life (plus it will make high school much more enjoyable!)

I can’t say for sure how often I will be able to post entries, what with the multiple AP classes I decided to take as a junior, but I will do my best to give you readers a peek into the brain of an Oakland Public School Student as often as possible.

– Jesse

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Concerned Oakland Parent

    Jesse: Thank you! Many parents, including myself, often discount Oakland schools because we feel we have the experience to analyze what school is best for our kids. When I look at my own daughter I think, well, look at Bishop O’Dowd or Campolindo High – look at how many AP classes they have – that must be best.

    You sound like an intelligent, well-rounded person with youthful wisdom. This is what I really want for my daughter, not a life full of AP classes. I agree with you about traveling – I didn’t leave the country, with the exception of Mexico and Canada until I was in my mid-30s and spent a month in Turkey. It’s a beautiful place you should experience sometime. My wisdom about myself and my beliefs would have been so much deeper if I had the opportunity to travel while in high school. And you’re also right about working off the fee. The work helps build camaraderie with the people from your school community and builds in a work ethic that I as an employer in Oakland am looking to hire.

    I know you are very busy with school and your life, but would you please write occasionally? You are the link for many parents like me who didn’t give Skyline a fair shot. We want for our kids what you have, and you are our reminder. Thank you.

  • Hills Neighborhood Mom

    Jesse, thanks for sharing! You sound like a very accomplished young lady with big plans! I’m all for international travel and experiences – something that is sadly lacking among most residents of this country – and wish you all the luck in exploring the world. That will be an education in and of itself. I hope you get to go on your trip to Mali. Please continue to share with us!

    I’ve travelled widely (including to Africa, but not to Mali yet) and have already taken my own young children abroad! The world is so much bigger than our little corner in the Oakland hills and I want them to see that first-hand. :-)

  • Jesse Dutton-Kenny

    Thank you both so much for your response. It is great to see parents recognizing the opportunities avaliable in Oakland Public. I’ve seen many many great people come out of this school system and I hope that parents continue to enroll their students in Skyline, it is a great school despite the many obvious challenges that come along with a public high school. I will try to write about once a week, and I hope you continue to read this blog. Thank you again!

  • Jesse Dutton-Kenny

    One more quick comment:

    In response to “Hills Neighborhood Mom”, I unfortunately was not accepted to the trip to Mali (there was some stiff, and excellent, competition). So two other girls from Skyline, who are also juniors, will be traveling there over the Spring Break. However, I will be traveling through Europe at the end of March and will of course, post something about my trip upon return. Perhaps a “What’s Bangladesh? Pt. 2″?

  • Johnathan Bennett

    I find it a bit hypocritical that you talk about global warming…yet you are taking two trips to foreign countries. Last I checked, taking planes to Africa and Europe are extreme polluters…

  • Also an Oakland Student

    Hey Jesse (or @Concerned Oakland Parent or even @Hills Neighborhood Mom), ever try saving yourself a few hundred or even a thousand dollars on plane tickets, and actually try venturing down your adjacent neighborhoods once in a while? What neighborhoods, you might ask…

    I’m talking about the flats of Oakland, people – you know: Fruitvale, East Oakland, West Oakland, etc… You might perceive them as being breeding grounds for crime, but there certainly are pockets of prosperity, culture, and diversity all around those places. Now, aren’t those the types of things you were aiming for when you (I assume) wanted to travel in the first place?

    Heck, you could have just taken the bus and found all that “exploration” you were looking for right in our city.

    Sorry to be the devil’s advocate here folks, but seriously Jesse, stop bashing us Oakland students by writing things like: “Something that has been on my mind this past year or so is the lack of knowledge that many students have about the world and the international communities around them.”

    I may look like one of those types of clueless students whom you have alluded to thus far, but I am by no means ignorant or do I “lack” anything…

    Let me put it this way:

    -I am so sorry that I cannot afford to take those grandiose trips around the world that you have mentioned because I am too busy helping my single mother…
    -I sincerely apologize for lacking knowledge about other countries because I am so caught up in my homicide/poverty/minority-ridden world…
    -and finally, I am so sorry that I, quite frankly, believe there are more pressing matters to attend to than escaping Oakland to seek understanding abroad…

    Please Jesse, let my words be that one seed that fills your mind with this thought while you travel this year:

    …you may wish to seek some greater understanding about the world we live in today by traveling to places afar, and that is commendable, but realize this – in order to truly understand where you are traveling to, you must know where you are coming from!

    Have you any first-hand knowledge of the issues that face my community? Have you any INTEREST in even finding out? More importantly, have you ever asked your fellow classmates what their world is like? What languages they speak? Perhaps even uttering a “how are you”?

    Please tell me that you are, please prove me wrong! And please, Oakland Tribune, let this continue, it is cool! (but have more kids from more diverse backgrounds!)

  • Sue

    I already knew that Skyline has plenty of motivated and accomplished students, like you Jesse. My son is a sophomore there, and some good friends of our family have a son who graduated from Skyline last year. There are many good and excellent teachers there too.

    Our family has encountered only one significant difficulty at that school, and we’re happy with the work and effort being made to resolve it. It isn’t perfect, but it’s a very good school, and we’re happy that our son is there, and more than happy to be able to help fix what isn’t quite right. It will be an even better school by the time our 5th grader gets there.

    Thanks, Jesse, for showing what my words can’t ever show – what a quality education looks like in the 21st century in Oakland.

    Also, I hope you’re getting some sort of acedemic credit for writing here – if not at Skyline, maybe through a community college english or journalism program? It will look really good on your college applications next year.

  • Concerned Oakland Parent

    Dear Also an Oakland Student:
    I live near Fruitvale, in fact, I could toss a stone onto Fruitvale Avenue standing on my roof. I shop in the Fruitvale district for food and it’s where my young daughter has learned most of her Spanish. As for East Oakland, I worked at the Credit Union on the corner of International Blvd. and Auseon – one could say, in the Heart of East Oakland. The prostitutes used to check themselves in the glass door before moving on to the next customer. I shop in Chinatown, and in Acorn Plaza in West Oakland – I do this because I want a real grocery store to stay in West Oakland – if it moves, as most have, fast food and junk will become all that’s available.

    And please do not assume that those of us who know about other countries and have traveled did not come from HORRID backgrounds, because if you want to know a little more about me, you can check my other posts. Your life is probably similar to the life I had growing up.

    What I absolutely know, with not a single doubt, is education is THE ONLY WAY OUT. There is no other way. Knowing about other counties and their people is part of the education. I also know that if I had been given the opportunity to work off the cost of travel in high school, I would have done it in a heartbeat. And yes, Jesse does have more privileges than you, she was born white, she probably is not poor, probably has a two parent, intact family. This is not her fault any more than your situation is your fault.

    Jesse is in public school. She is out there with her name on her post listing her views. She has a right to them as much as you have a right to your views. She is taking AP classes. She is seeking the best education possible. I admire her. And I admire you for bringing up the subjects so many of us often do not have to or want to hear. But please, Oakland Student, do not assume that because we have traveled or we admire Jesse, that our lives were not like yours – do not assume we want nothing to do with flatland neighborhoods, because you will be wrong.

  • Jesse Dutton-Kenny

    In response to “Also an Oakland Student”.
    I must say, I was a little offended by some of your comments, though I completely understand where you are coming from. So I will respond to your questions so that you can have a clearer understanding of MY background before you assume that I have no interest in my community.

    “Have you any first-hand knowledge of the issues that face my community?”

    As I said, I go to a school with over 2,400 students from all over Oakland. Furthermore I volunteer weekly with Building with Books in places all over Oakland, Richmond, and San Francisco. Furthermore, I live off of 35th avenue (near Allendale) so yes, I do have a comprehensive knowledge of these areas. I say this not to retaliate but to inform you of my background.

    “Have you any INTEREST in even finding out? ”

    This question bothered me a bit. Why cannot I not care about the global community and my own, which I do.

    “More importantly, have you ever asked your fellow classmates what their world is like? What languages they speak? Perhaps even uttering a “how are you”?

    I have. I have many friends who live in flatland neighborhoods. I have been to their homes. I have met their families. I live there as well. As for languages, one of my closest friends lives right near me and speaks five languages. I resent the fact that you would doubt whether I have asked my classmates how they are doing. If you are implying that I am bashing Oakland students, I think you should look at the fact that I am an Oakland student as well and have more respect for my classmates than I do for anyone else I know. I was not targeting Oakland students in any way, it’s not our fault that we have no Geography class at Skyline. I was merely speaking to what I have observed.

    Please take the time to look at all sides before you judge me, you might find out some new things about me.

  • Timmy

    I appreciate the lively discussion this blog article has stirred. I have no interest in taking sides but simply want to note the deep feelings the subject has touched. The reality of social class and THE PERCEPTION of social class differences are, I hope, issues we Americans – including American residents AND “illegals” – can talk about in order to better harmonize our voices. This kind of blogging does just that. Hats off to Katy Murphy, Jesse Dutton-Kenny and all the contibutors. Raise your voices and our spirits!

  • Katy Murphy

    Hello, my dear readers. A quick note about this blog to all of the newer participants:

    The purpose of The Education Report is to discuss and debate tough issues relating to education. Unlike many online forums, in which witty insults are freely traded, this one aims to keep the discussion focused on the issues — and away from personal attacks.

    So far, I’ve found your discussions to be constructive and enlightening. You have had intense, heated debates without going after each other. I’ve rarely needed to delete comments that would undermine the civil, dynamic forum you have created. But I have, and I will.

    A good rule of thumb: If you focus on the issues or opinions someone has raised, rather than on the person who wrote them, your comments will almost certainly be published. I look forward to reading them.

  • teacher

    Also An Oakland Student:

    You might want to check out what Malcolm X said about his travels around the world; it opened his thinking enormously. Gandhi lived in South Africa before become a revolutionary leader in India and saw how injustice existed in similar forms everywhere. John Kennedy inspired Americans by turning our attention out toward the larger world and launching the Peace Corps.

    I do agree, though, that there are many adventures and journeys to be had here at home that we take for granted. Even the dreaded Los Angleles harbors worlds upon worlds of representatives of all the world’s cultures.

  • Kellor a parent of a 4th grader at Crocker Highlands

    As a parent who wants a full education for my daughter -I love that our schools are offering both local and world travel and volunteer opportunities for our youth. These only enrich all involved.
    Plus they spark the quest for more learning. It gives me hope for the future of our schools in Oakland. Jesse I am very impressed with all you do to volunteer with others both in Oakland and in the world.

  • Mark

    Glad to hear from wonderful students like Jesse. Oakland schools have a bit of a reputation that many of us may fail to realize that there lots of creative, intelligent and motivated students attending and excelling in OPS. Jesse you demonstrate great insight into a pervasive problem with us: we are ethnocentric. It is more of an issue for us “older folks” and I take heart that the younger generation, your generation, is volunteering at historic rates. Your interest in others, whether it be the ‘international other’ or the ‘down the street other,’ serves us all. For when we all have broader concern for others, we will get better at meeting the needs of others, doing business with others and living with others. I have had ten years of college and earned no less than four degrees, but I learned far more when I travelled abroad studying other languages and cultures. So Jesse please keep sharing your insights, dreams and desires as it’s so refreshing to hear young people like you who have a heart for learning about others; not simply wanting to get the latest ipod.

  • jkenny

    Thank you all again for your input.