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Advice from a millionaire rapper, convicted felon

Grammy-winning rapper T.I. visited West Oakland’s Cole Middle School today to speak about the importance of education and smart choices (and to perform some of his 1,500 court-ordered hours of community service following a plea agreement in a federal weapons case).


image of T.I. at Cole Middle School by D. Ross Cameron/Tribune staff

T.I.’s advice included catchy one-liners like “School is an investment that will get you paid later on,” “Trust me, there’s nothing sexy about being 32 years old and staying with your mama,” “You can be smart and still be cool,” “Being stupid don’t make you a gangster,” and “Not thinking, being stupid, can kill you.”

For the most part, the kids seemed to be soaking up every word. Some looked positively transfixed by the star power in their midst. Maybe they came away inspired by T.I.’s message of hard work and staying out of trouble.

I wonder, though, how the impact of the rapper’s words stacks up against his life story, in the kids’ minds. They are well aware of the fact that T.I. is rich and famous — even though he dropped out of school in ninth grade, and even though his rap sheet includes 32 arrests, by his count. They probably also know he’s recently been convicted of weapons violations.

When I posed that question to Jumoke Hinton Hodge, a community activist and the Oakland school board member-elect for the West Oakland district, she said she felt I was asking it “from a dominant culture perspective.”

“Sometimes our role models are the people who didn’t finish high school,” Hinton Hodge said. She pointed to another famous high school dropout, Bill Gates, and asked whether anyone would question his motivational speaking credentials (Gates dropped out of Harvard).

Maybe not, I said, but Bill Gates hasn’t been arrested 32 times.

No, Hinton Hodge said, but it’s not so simple: “It’s really easy, if you live in the ghetto, to get caught up and go to jail 32 times. … I’m tired of people acting like we don’t live in different worlds. … Unfortunately, or fortunately, the model for them is a dude who’s been busted 32 times, has just come off house arrest and has made millions of dollars. … That’s our reality.”

What do you think?

Katy Murphy

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

  • Nextset

    This is a very odd thing and I don’t see any value and some harm in exposing such a man to schoolchildren. Who at OUSD approved this?

    I’d have no problem in presenting dying AIDS patients to students, and I do believe the schools should bring in a steady flow of people to discuss their careers with schoolkids. Convicts are generally not people we want to model behavior to students nor people we want to students to emulate or get attracted to. Rappers are generally not very useful for these show and tell presentations.

  • newwriter

    Katy–you, like any person, have biases and beliefs that you hold and that come through in your ideas, your thoughts and what you write. Don’t be ashamed of them, but know that they are there.

    The tone and wording of this article, or any article, illuminate your biases and the possibility of a ‘dominant culture perspective’ as Ms. Hinton Hodge speaks of. Think of this ideology as you have ideas, have thoughts, and decide what to write and the tone of your articles. Your idea of a role model may be very different from someone else’s….you just have the power of a job where lots of people read your opinion or how you veil your opinion in your words. Be aware of that ‘dominant culture perspective’ as you write about and support the kids of Oakland.

  • Ex Oakland Staff

    “Being stupid don’t make you a gangster,” What does this sentence mean? Is the speaker implying that being a gangster is a career to which students should aspire and they are mistaken if they try to reach this goal through stupidity? Is the corollary: “Being smart does make you a gangster?” To Hinton Hodge: During my time in OUSD, less than ten of the hundreds of students I taught were on parole. To get jailed 32 times you really have to be looking for trouble and consistently doing things that are detrimental to yourself and your community. Most young people in Oakland do not behave this way. Who made the decision to bring this guy into the schools and what does that decision show about their expectations for Oakland youth?

  • Ex Oakland Staff

    Scrolling down the blog I see a posting went up a few days ago about two incidents involving firearms at school last week. I think we all agree that firearms in the wrong place are a very bad thing. Why is T.I. is doing community service? Weapons violations!
    If T.I. is such a valuable role model, why wasn’t he doing community service before he was ordered to by a judge?
    Hinton Hodge compared T.I. to Bill Gates. Unlike T.I., Gates has been doing community service for the schools for years and he didn’t have to be forced into it by a judge.

  • John Garrett

    On the one hand, T.I. is someone disadvantaged kids can relate to. He started with nothing and achieved financial success and fame. That is admirable.

    On the other hand, he is notorious for his brushes with the law, including a recent conviction on weapons charges. Therefore, presenting him as a role model to students at Cole Middle School, site of a gun scare last month, is problematic.

    I’m not saying T.I. is a bad person (although he may be). As member-elect Hodge implies, arrests do not always equal guilt or conviction and racial profiling does occur. It is possible, too, that his bad behavior is largely from long ago, and his recent weapons charge is a detour on a straight and narrow path. Or maybe T.I. was merely in the wrong place at the wrong time on a few dozen separate occasions. Who knows.

    I’m just saying this particular choice of speaker seems unfortunate due to the recent weapons scare.

    I know there are other role models for those children without the same issue. School officials may have felt T.I.’s fame makes him uniquely able to influence those kids than another figure, but I question their judgement. I would have sought someone else.

  • http://futureoakland.wordpress.com dto510

    Ms. Hodge is incorrect – Bill Gates completed high school. He dropped out of Harvard.

  • aly

    as an oakland teacher, and someone relatively engaged in the hip-hop scene, i am troubled and annoyed with the choice to bring T.I. to cole today.

    my high school students would be wowed by his presence, simply because he’s so famous, but even they would tell you that T.I.’s words don’t carry weight with them; he’s another fool that got caught up in the game when he should have been out, and even worse, he used his money and fame to get out of serious time when a “normal” person would have been done for decades. this fact is not lost on our kids and puts him on the same plane as enron execs in their eyes.

    most significant to me is the fact that T.I.’s most recent brush with the law for attempting to purchase illegal, unregistered firearms occurred LAST OCTOBER. this is not, as ms. hodge says, some distant past. this is his current reality, and to attempt to explain otherwise is willful ignorance. T.I. has been a successful, wealthy artist for the last 5 years (his first record came out in 2001, but he wasn’t commercially successful until 2003). why does someone with money, people, and fame need to make illegal weapons deals in drug store parking lots? and what makes someone with that type of decision-making ability the right person to come speak to a group of middle school kids?

    not to mention that for a 28 year old man, 32 arrests is staggering. and though i agree with ms. hodge that in poorer neighborhoods especially, black citizens are unfairly targeted while being simultaneously shut off from many valuable opportunites, i’m not sure that can justify being cited 32 times.

    katy- can you elaborate on the 32? does it include his juvenile record or just adult? either way it is high, but if we can get an idea when the accumulation began it may seem slightly less damning.

    finally, what bugs me the most is that if we are interested in using hip-hop to reach our kids, there are plenty of more positive, LOCAL, role-models to choose from: zion I, any member of the hieroglyphics, and gift of gab (blackalicious), to name a few. why are we giving some guy from atlanta a chance to earn his community service hours with our kids when what he is most famous for with them is his arrest last year?

    i appreciate that with the rash of gun-related incidents in the last month our district wants to reach our kids. this was just the wrong way to do it.

  • aly

    also, in response to ex oakland staff: there are a surprising number of kids in OUSD on probation. i currently teach about 15 students on some level of probation in my small alternative school, and i know there are many more in the comprehensive setting. unless their probation conditions are school-related or you have issues with that student, it is easy to have a kid with a PO and never even know it.

  • Oakland Teacher

    There are PLENTY of African American role models who came from “the ghetto” who haven’t been arrested. And although perhaps our president-elect isn’t from “the streets” per se, he did grow up without a father, and hardly in wealthy circumstances.

    Yes, some folks do just get caught up by circumstance, but, as an 18 year veteran teacher of Oakland students, I can tell you that many students make the conscious choice (aided and supported by aware, hands-on parents) to stay on the far side of trouble with the law. One thing they DON’T do is hang out on street corners all day and night.

    Aly: use capital letters. You teach English, don’t you? Your writing….in any forum…ought to model the best of English writing and not show the lazy habits of text-messaging. Not to criticize, but really…how can I take your comments seriously when you are not able to even demonstrate use of the shift key? Your students are looking to you as a role model, so step up to the plate, girl!

  • Katy Murphy

    Thanks for the correction about Gates, Dto510. I should have caught that, and I’ve made the change.

  • cranky teacher

    Wow, this is a first: I actually agree with Nextset on something! Maybe there is hope for the Middle East. This was an idiotic decision to bring T.I. into a middle school and Hodge is using phony logic to excuse it.

    This is just a example of two things I believe to be true:

    – Oakland adults are desperate. The decades of crime, the hopelessness, the dismal cycle of self-destruction … it takes down so many young people right in front of our eyes that people inevitably start hoping for magic bullet solutions. For Nextset, it is extreme discipline, for others it is revolutionary political theory, for still others it is an obsession with educational “best practices” or scripted curriculum that can supposedly turn average teachers into miracle workers.

    Turning to self-obsessed criminal celebrities is clearly an act of desperation, a hope that this one moment can spin kids into caring about their present, their future — giving hope. However, there is a HUGE difference between bringing in a thoughtful rapper like Gift of Gab or Lyrics Born or KRS One versus a guy who is proud to be a “gansta” and boasts about (and likely) his arrest record to show how “hard” he is.

    – The second thing, which is pretty obvious, too, is that we are a celebrity obsessed culture where being famous trumps everything, to the point where it no longer matters WHY or HOW you became famous. For theoretically wise community elders like Hodge to fall into this trap is just embarrassing.

    Sure, it’s a lot sexier to bring in a criminal/rapper. But it would be better to bring in some of the many non-white men from rough backgrounds who show up to work everyday, take care of their children and generally try to act like adults even though they don’t have a college education or a great paying job.

    As for the laws of unintended consequences: I remember when I was in high school a well-meaning teacher brought in a career heroin addict to talk to us about the horrors of a lifetime in jail and shooting up. All I could thing at the time was, this guy is looking buff and handsome for a guy addicted for half a century — maybe heroin isn’t so bad?

    Two more thoughts:

    – Obviously K. Murphy has her own biases. But I give her credit for giving Hodge a clear platform to express her alternative views, and then encouraging a discussion about it here.

    – Bringing up Bill Gates is just as wrong-headed as bringing up T.I. Both are huge EXCEPTIONS to the rule — they are both geniuses in their own fields, and NOT models for the average student to find success. Just like Superstar teachers are not something that can be rolled out of the teaching credential schools like an assembly line, and the vast majority of high school athletes will not earn scholarships much less turn pro, holding up rap or founding a multinational corporation as a viable career path seems disingenous at best and harmful at worst.

    Finally, Aly, keep on doing what your doing: We are online and writing in no-caps is perfectly acceptable tradition for those who write a lot in message boards, etc. Oakland Teacher: That is not text; she spelled out all the words and did not use acronyms.

  • G. Bird

    The effects of T.I.’s presence in the school will be fleeting. I’m more worried that Oakland now has a school board member who honestly believes “It’s really easy, if you live in the ghetto, to get caught up and go to jail 32 times.”

    For as long as this is the message that we are sending our students, we are going to have students who believe it is their destiny to be criminals. We should be setting higher expectations than this. And when we see the disproportionate number of poor minorities in prisons, we should put some of the blame for this unfortunate reality on people like Jumoke Hinton Hodge, who foolishly suggest that breaking the law is an unavoidable consequence of living in the ghetto. Children live up to the expectations we set for them. Nice work, Ms. Hinton Hodge.

    How little faith we have when we suggest that nothing can be done to escape the circumstances we are born into. How little hope for change.

    Would this not have been the perfect opportunity to say, “There is a better way than getting arrested 32 times, and it begins with getting the best education you can.” That is the message I would expect from a member of the school board.

    Is this what OUSD means when it says “Expect Success?”

  • maat

    Peace!
    Well I am off to a great start it seems. I haven’t even been sworn in. I will continue to talk with Katy of the Tribune because I think her work is important. And I can only hope that the severe judgment that arises from blog entries and news articles will subside so that real dialogue and solutions can be discussed.

    Bill Gates and TI, you are right, bad comparison – two different worlds,culturally different, and many other attributes, we don’t even know, make them different and move through the world different. But each have valuable stories and lessons to share with children.

    TI was invited to Cole School because students would listen to him. TI was invited because he had a positive message based on hardship. The example of his life any many regards was an example of how not to do it. He stated that clearly – don’t do what i do! Being stupid doesn’t make you a gangster: translation – Being smart is okay and cool, don’t play stupid trying to impress the world and aspire to the lifestyle of a gangster.

    The dominate culture comment. Many don’t believe it, but do the survey ask around. others know exactly what I am talking about. And some folks who get the benefit of the dominant culture know exactly what I am talking about – there are a select few that will tell you the truth. Katy heard me and it didn’t stop the dialogue nor did she get defensive.

    Please quote me, “The dominant culture will NOT stop the education and success of students of color, poor performing students and students of OUSD from being successful. Only the lack of quality instruction at schools and personal responsibility of families and students will keep us where we are…uneducated and unprepared for the 21st Century.”

    TI touched some students…Bill Gates will touch a few more…And what will you do?

    btw
    not my word: role model
    What she didn’t write: “OUSD must be responsible for ensuring no child is arrested 32 times, what can we be doing better: TEACH THEM”
    LOCAL Artist Galore: Goapole, Tacuma King,Greg Hodge, Brown BuFLOW(cole graduate founder), Ise Lfye,Queen,Silence the Violence, Rahemma – Dancer. The Bay Area artist represented but you know Oakland is seduced regularly by celebs…humm what is that about “mature adults of Oakland”??
    Great TI quote, ‘Do the things you don’t like – they prepare you to do the things you love!’

    peace
    jhh

  • maat

    Next Month Restorative Justice Circle with community members, students and teacher at Cole. We are continuing the dialogue.

  • Jason Chen

    Hey look, you people elected Hinton Hodge and this is what you get. “Dominant culture perspective” ahahaha, this is going to be a fun four years-more ebonics nonsense and the schools still in the toilet! Way to go Oakland!

  • Jose, Former Student

    Katy,

    I had to have a background clearance through the DOJ to volunteer in OUSD school. I was told it was the law and it made since to me.

    Did this guy get a DOJ clearance? Maybe it does not apply when you are connected with someone in the district.

    Could you check this out?

    Thanks,

  • Sharon

    Newwriter: If you rewrote Katy’s article and edited OUT the ‘dominant culture perspective,’ and edited IN a ‘non-dominant culture perspective,’ how would it read? It might help those of us who are members of the dominant culture to understand things better.

  • Nextset

    Hinton Hodge is a good representation of Ghetto thought. Cleaned up – but ghetto thought.

    This is why OUSD and it’s students are just not going to make it. They are being given enough rope to hang themselves. And they will have a good (comfortable) time doing it too.

    We save kids when we keep them out of their comfort zone. That isn’t going to happen in OUSD.

  • aly

    the lowercase is just a stylistic preference. this is a comments section, not a term paper. i guess it is rooted in my love of ee cummings; i stopped using caps outside of formal writing over 10 years ago. it is interesting that it could be connected to my place as a teacher. although, really, if my lack of capital letters makes my thoughts less valuable to you, i can’t imagine you were really taking me seriously to begin with.

    ms. hinton hodge: i appreciate that T.I. came in to warn against making the same mistakes he did, but that logic is does not seem to be effective with our kids. it twists itself into “i made those mistakes and still am getting by; just figure it out.” often my students tell stories about sitting around getting high after telling their siblings/nieces and nephews to leave the room. they openly admit that the younger kids KNOW what is happening behind closed doors and will eventually pick up the habits themselves. they reveal that as younger kids, they were treated similarly and it made less-beneficial choices that much more enticing. “do as i say not as i do” is hollow for students so acutely aware of justice, fairness and hypocrisy.

    if we don’t model the behavior we want to see, we won’t see change. they need to be shown people that resisted the all-too-tempting pathways to trouble and continue to succeed. they need to know the options that exist outside of illegal activity. plus, as i stated in my fist comment, T.I. has only been able to continue out of this latest mess because he could afford more than a PD who was overburdened and just told his client to plea out at the first shot. our kids know that, but still try to trick themselves into thinking “it won’t happen to me.”

    finally, i whole-heartedly agree with the fact that dominant cultural bias is ever-present; it represents itself with blinding ignorance all over newspaper comment sections (not a reference to the comments on this blog. read the comments whenever there is a shooting and someone dies; it is nauseating). it is disheartening and makes my blood burn to read comments such as Jason Chen’s above. clearly people separate themselves from our kids and community based on their much more privileged experiences. that being said, i still disagree that dominant cultural bias is what makes T.I. a questionable choice for a guest speaker. his exceptionally crime-ridden past/present is what makes him a poor candidate for a guest, not my white privilege.

    i look forward to your time with our school board. oakland is needy right now, but we have a lot of strength. obviously you did something you felt would help encourage our community and even though i disagree with the action, i am genuinely grateful that you care enough to TAKE action. thank you for caring enough to put yourself out there for the abuse that will surely come your way. education is a risk, and urban education is russian roulette. if the answer already existed, then we wouldn’t be struggling. thank you for joining us in the fight to find what works for our kids. i second you in your proclamation that the dominant culture will not stop our kids from success.

    cheers.

  • Nextset

    Aly: Thanks for posting.

    Your decision not to use Caps is an important signal to everybody that is dealing with you – and it fits with the rest of your posts.

    I’m guessing from what I see that you are relatively young and believe the “rules” don’t apply to you or to your favorites. Your commentary about the dominant culture is frankly, childish. There is no other way to put this. And it’s not that I don’t have respect for your viewpoint – it is yours to have. My conclusion is that you have both been sheltered from reality as well as not being trained in why things are the way they are at the moment – and why they are going to be what they are becoming. You need experience in history. If you survive this Brave New World you’re going to get it.

    It appears that you are a teacher in a public “alternative school”. I am familiar with life in such a school having once subbed in one for a few weeks in ’81. I could make the observation that the students are not well served by your perspective – that they are critically in need of more structure, more perspective and more discipline.

    But you are willing to work there and I sure as hell am not – so to each his own.

    Looking forward to more of your posts.

  • Tracy

    I really hope that some of you bloggers get paid for the immense energy you spend on these entries. I enjoy reading the critiques of the educational system. I enjoy the amount of knowledge that you have collected through obscured data, outsider observation and second hand analysis.

    Nextset- You have so many negative connotations in your writing-I feel so bad for you. Highly educated, experienced in stuff?, worldly?, -Why not make some changes for our world-?!!!
    WE NEED A STRONG LEADER LIKE YOU! Make the change! Be the Change!
    Be the next Senator for Illinois! NEXTSET-hmmmm.
    Good Luck-
    t

  • Nextset

    Tracy: Do you really think we need to be writing so much when things are going well? And who and what are you anyway? Do you meet a payroll? Do you hire and fire people? Do you work with people in crisis?

    The reason blogging on policy goes on, is that the writers are dissatisfied with what is happening to people. People are important – abstract discussions on money and statistics are just a means of measuring and expressing quality of life for people.

    I see Oakland Black folks are roadkill on the side of the street. And I don’t like it. My family came to Oakland from MO in 1949. I remember when things were better and were expected to be better for each new generation. Not anymore.

    So I complain here about it.

    And the funny thing is that not all people are having problems with getting their younger generation into business and professions – it’s mainly some people. Gee, wonder why? Could it be that the public schools we depended on to lift the lower class up has reversed polarity and is taking the middle class down? Or are things really not that bad…

    Brave New World!

  • Cranky teacher

    Of course there is a dominant culture perspective. Katy has it, I have it — we are both white in a racist country. Less racist but still emerging from centuries of acculturation. Hell, I’m in the “dominant culture” in most categories: Education, language, color, physical ability, hetero, etc.

    As an OUSD teacher making 40K, I’m not sure how dominant I am class-wise, though. ;-)

    However, NOT having a dominant culture perspective does not mean you are always right. Or vice-versa.

    No caps or not, Aly is correct: Kids see RIGHT through these “as I say, not as I do” games.

    Here’s a model: The security guard at our school, a single dad, raising his twins to be moral adults, coming to work every day, chaperoning the sports events, a role model for showing up for people and the community. You bring in TI and you humiliate guys like that (or teachers like me) as “suckers” working for the man. TI HAS made it, despite doing everything wrong, that’s what the kids (and I) see.

    It’s like brining in Mark McGwire to tell kids not to do steroids like he did, because it hurts your health. Well, most young men would gladly trade their long-term health to be the biggest home run hitter in major league history!!

    Tracy: My posts ARE too long, but I don’t spend “immense energy” on them. When you are immersed/thinking about this stuff all the time, it just comes spilling out when we get a venue. I limit myself to 20 minutes, max. Still, I am grateful for the cogent conversation — and we even got a school board member into the conversation!

  • aly

    Nextset:

    your sweeping generalizations and assumptions about me are fascinating. i have read your posts on many of the articles and you strike me as hardly more than a troll. your constant criticism without suggestion for solution is pretty useless, and your perspective on our children makes me curious if you aren’t part of what hurts them so much.

    it is entertaining that a few weeks of subbing over two decades ago gives you the idea that you are able to judge with what my kids are like and what their needs are. it is entirely ridiculous, however, that you use my lack of formality on a message board as the basis for an assumption that i lack of discipline, structure and perspective in my classroom. how all of that can be deduced from what comes down to the appearance of my words influenced by fantastic writers (i neglected to mention that it was reinforced by an appreciation for bell hooks), i’m baffled. i would wager that if you were to walk into my room you would applaud rather than denounce me, but you don’t deserve the honor.

    recognizing the dominant cultural view is necessary to make forward progress; if you don’t wake students up to the fact that if you don’t play the game, you can’t win, then nothing will ever change. the rules always apply, but it is pretty smart to assume that i equate rules of language with policies that are far more serious and life-altering. i feel like we probably have similar ideas as to what is hurting our kids, but your presentation is so judgmental and pejorative, it makes it impossible to approach you in a collegial way.

    i wish that there was still a raging fire in our community like frederick douglass, w.e.b. dubois, richard wright, james baldwin and earnest gaines all expressed. i wish my kids were instilled from birth with a desire to push harder because of how despicably the dominant culture views them. few things in this world feel better than succeeding and proving doubters wrong.

    instead, they are defeated. they are tired. they are hopeless. their actions do not come out of laziness, as i imagine you believe they do; they come out of exhaustion. how sad to be exhausted at the age of 14, 15 or even 18. recognizing their exhaustion doesn’t excuse them from having to push through it, but it does validate them so they can begin to work against it. i don’t pity my kids; i am angry for them, and i want them to be angry, too. they need to succeed not only for themselves, but for their peers and their children. they need to prove to this world that their judgments of black, so-called ghetto kids are dead wrong. my room holds minds that should be revolutionizing science, computers, literature, government and business. i can only do my best to help them change their course and become their best selves. if anyone had ever told them they deserved more before they got to me, they never would have ended up in my classroom.

    if you care so much, start with oakland’s elementary schools. start tomorrow. go tell all of those children that they are beautiful. they are brilliant. that college is not an option; it is an expectation. that 1 trip to jail, let alone 32, is in no way, shape or form excusable because of where they live. tell them that they are responsible for where they end up, but that you are there to help them get there. tell them that if their parents, who may have had no business having a child to begin with, cannot support them emotionally or educationally because they are trying to support them financially, that you will be there. give them your cell phone number. take their calls at 11pm, on saturdays, whenever they need you to help them make a decision that will end this cycle of hopelessness and blame-shifting.

    if you care so much, get off the internet and go do something about it. but wait- you “sure as hell” aren’t willing to work with my amazing students, so i guess the internet will have to do.

  • aly

    ps- tracy, i may or may not have been in mind when you asked about the time spent here, i have spent so much time recently because i care an enormous amount about my kids and feel it is important to voice dissent about district actions that i believe hurt them while voicing support for those i believe positively impact them.

    on top of it, i work way too hard and see far too much growth in my kids to let anyone judge me or them based on something as superfluous as what my comments LOOK like. ya dig? :-)

  • Nextset

    Aly: The problem with my analysis of your position is that I have seen people with your attitude and viewpoint for generations and I have seen what happens to them and what happens to their students.

    And that is why my position towards you is as harsh as it is.

    I’m just one person and maybe you’re an original. Anything is possible. I really don’t think so. You’re no different than all the others before you who have taken the free spirit approach – signified you your decision to come up with your own standards of writing style.

    And that is a powerful signal – more than you know. It’s a signal that old folks like me can read like a book.

    We’ve seen this before. We are familiar with the signs.

    Good luck with your students. Keep posting your observations.

  • Sharon

    Aly: Just an observation from one of your readers who is interested in what you have to say. I find it quite laborious to read the exclusively lower case prose of your longer submissions, so sometimes I just give up. E. E. Cummings (e e cummings) and Bell Hooks (bell hooks) limited themselves to the lower case in their poetry. I know this blog isn’t a formal setting, but the orthographic conventions for letter case and punctuation developed for a reason. They serve as cues to readers, and define the structure and pace of the text.

    I suspect you will think I’m a pill for mentioning it, but that’s a risk I’ll take.

  • maat

    Thanks Aly! I totally feel you. Youth can get a mixed message, but it is what we do as adults to translate and redirect, right!?

    What Cole does the morning after TI visiting, is what I think needs to be checked. Did anyone encourage students to write or speak on what the experience was like? What were the contradictions in this human being that they saw or felt?

    Did anyone ask them was TI their role model? My 15 y/o has a different perspective. I should get her to blog

    Please know that “OUSD” was concerned about the contradictions but folks took a risk. And unfortunately he did pull way too much energy away from the local artist.

    They will keep the flow going next month.

    Looking for healthy caring adults all the time to show up…Maybe Nexset will venture out and see a classroom
    Lot has changed since 1981 – hey I graduated in 1981 fo’sure times have changed!

    On another topic…Alice Walker does a poetry contest every year with OUSD students – she is a great model.
    Need to get more buy in from teachers!!! ope all of you that care about education will check out the students!

    In service…looking forward

  • aly

    sharon: i appreciate your feedback. my frustration with the “no caps” criticism was that a really minor detail was being used to make outlandish assumptions about what kind of educator and thinker i am, and that people were using their time to critique appearance instead of the ideas themselves. i do punctuate appropriately, so hopefully that will be helpful in the issue with pacing, which i appreciate can be difficult to decode in writing with no clues. thank you for the constructive criticism and i will consider a change. this is definitely a strong aesthetic preference for me :-/

    nextset: there not much more to do than sigh. your pre-judgments are just so off-base and you are so convinced that your assumptions are right that i feel it is not possible to convince you of how wrong you are about me. if you knew more about writing on the internet you’d know that this is hardly “my own style.” in professional settings- email, papers, memos, notes, lesson plans… whatever- i use the conventions. in a blog, not so much. and that is not unique. so… continue to insist that something so miniscule means something so much more (putting extra on it, as my kids say!), and i’ll continue to crank out students with high GPAs, increased test scores (only high school with double-digit percentage improvement in the district last year), and successful, self-assured young adults.

    ms. hh: we’ll be preparing entries for the alice walker contest. i have some brilliant writers this year!

  • Mr. G

    1)OUSD is in program improvement.
    2)OUSD invited a rapper/criminal to speak with students at a local middle school.
    3)Teachers at said middle school then spent additional instructional minutes making sure rapper/criminal didn’t give kids the wrong impression.

    Are you people out of your freaking minds?

    If they wanted to be really honest about it, they could have started the assembly by saying, “for the next couple of days, we’re going to do everything we can to make sure you fall further behind your peers.”

    Jose asked a reasonable question that I think deserves an answer. Does OUSD allow convicted felons to volunteer at all of its schools? Will O.J. be at Hillcrest anytime soon?

  • Cranky teacher

    Mr. G: T.I. was not a “volunteer.” He was a guest speaker — a school “visitor.” Different rules apply. So, Jose’s question is actually not relevant.

  • Cranky teacher

    I’m disappointed that we have got way off topic about blog capitalization style when the central issues of what message was sent by this invitation are interesting enough.

    Hodge, for example, ducks the issue of how the invitation supports the idea that wealth, notoriety and celebrity are good indicators that you have something meaningful to say. Was that considered?

    My students debated this topic on Thursday. Class was about evenly split: The more ghetto self-identified kids defended the invitation by saying that alienated kids like them won’t easily buy advice from anybody who didn’t go through what they do — although one pointed to Michael Eric Dyson as somebody who had it hard and came up without thugging, while another mentioned Common as being a rapper with more gravitas, so to speak.

    That led into an interesting class discussion on the theory of “dominant cultural perspective,” as well as kids talking about who is “really black” or “really ghetto” and who gets to decide that.

    So, while I wouldn’t have invited T.I., I did vicariously get a good teaching opportunity out of it, so thank you Cole!

  • John

    Aly: as you can see i’ve mastered the no capitalization thing, but can’t figure out how to add a smiley face to my postings. i’ve liked yellow smiley faces ever since one debuted as a safeway super market “since we’re neighbors let’s be friends” logo. i want them to start appearing in my posting to help offset the negative impression some folks have about me.

    i know a smiley face won’t make me look too smart, but want people see my cute and happy side. i notice cranky also employing a ‘smiley face’ in her post and am starting to feel left behind. sharing your smiley face posting technique with me would be a wonderful demonstration of professional courtesy.

  • aly

    haha i do a colon dash close parentheses. i actually surprised myself with it showing up all fancy like.

    cranky: we did a really awesome lesson on it, too and i was so impressed with the thoughts my kids had. one of the most interesting points that was made was that many of them have had really similar experiences to TI- poor, many encounters with the law, currently on some sort of probation or even house arrest, and others- but that because they aren’t rich, they wouldn’t be chosen to speak to a group of their peers. another student added to this that having TI come is not the same as someone that has had trouble and gotten out of it because of how much trouble he’s still in.

    their final observation was that bill gates would not be effective with them because they would know that he came from something so different from them that his advice wouldn’t seem applicable. so it is true that they need someone who reflects their experience, but they also said that someone with NO criminal history who came up from oakland would be more valuable than TI.

    thanks for making this discussion possible, katy, even though it got really sidetracked for a bit <3

  • Sharon

    Here are worthwhile role models that the staff and board members of Cole Middle School, etc. need to know about.

    Expose the students to, (maybe form a club?), and then discuss , “The Pact” or “We Beat the Street” and “The Bond” by The Three Doctors.

    These are three men who grew up in Newark, NJ under the stereotypical and difficult, poor, urban family situations (one had significant trouble w/the law). They met and became friends in high school and then made a pact with each other that they would all go to medical school. And they did.

    Lacking sufficient mentoring and role models, they decided that they would provide that type of support to each other. Two became doctors and one became a dentist. They all have returned to serve Newark by providing care to the community, and have been mentoring and sharing their story with kids ever since.

    Please look at their web site at http://www.threedoctorsfoundation.org/. They deliver a much more useful message to kids than any criminal Rap artist possibly could.

    Some philanthropist reading this comment should buy 20,000 copies of their books and donate them to OUSD’s kids. In fact, OUSD should splurge and bring The Three Doctors here as featured guests for some special big event.

    I saw them at the Oakland Museum lecture hall a couple of years ago while they were on a book tour for “The Bond.” Most of the kids in attendance that night were from a local charter school. OUSD missed providing their kids with a great opportunity that time.

    Dump people like TI. These guys are the real thing.

  • john

    It is true about where you come from in life, but the man that is a “role model” that is being stood up for had a chance to change his life with the MILLIONS he has earned being a rapper and chose not to. I am a convicted felon with no money and a life that shows the real side unlike the one that stands out. If the “rapper” would of lost the chance of living a real life it would be sad for his family and everyone would see it, RIGHT? Now what about the ones that have only messed up once that don’t get that second chance? What about my 3 daughters is it sad for them? Now how do you answer that?