Inauguration lessons, anyone?

At a staff meeting yesterday, we discussed possible story ideas for coverage leading up to, and on the day of, the presidential inauguration.

Schools, of course, came up.

I’m sure many Oakland teachers are using this historic event, and the enthusiasm surrounding it, as a teachable moment. Please, fill me in! I’m interested in class (or school) projects, or even just class discussions, related to Barack Obama’s inauguration.

I plan to visit at least one classroom for this story — with a photographer — in January. If you’re interested, send me an e-mail at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com, or call me at (510) 208-6424.

I also welcome you to share your plans, thoughts, and ideas on this forum. Has Obama’s popularity among young people made it easier to interest kids in the political process?

image from seiu_international’s site at flickr.com/creativecommons

Katy Murphy

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

  • John

    I do believe Obama’s popularity among young people has made it easier to interest kids in the political process? Unfortunately, their interest is too often helped along by idiot teachers like this:


    I hope every teacher uses the upcoming inauguration as a ‘teachable moment,’ and not as the back drop for a classroom revival meeting. Amen!

  • Nextset

    As part of the lessons I hope the teachers cover the Electoral College and the Primary System that requires the eventual winner of the Presidential Races to go through an endurance contest which weeds out anybody who can’t field broad support across the USA. This system is integral in having a winner who can claim he’s representative of the whole country. This keeps down the Civil Wars.

    My OUSD-product relatives never got a clue about this process and typically spouted off how “unfair” everything is – with no clue about why and how the system was created. I fear that is how their OUSD education went altogether, superficial with a complete non-exposure to historical facts and data about just about everything.

  • Catherine

    Ms. Morici, a teacher at Skyline High school, is taking a group of Skyline students to Washington for an up close inauguration lesson. They don’t have tickets to the event yet but are hoping to get them through Barbara Lee’s office, otherwise they will be on the Mall watching it all unfold on the big screens. What a great opportunity!

  • Steve Neat

    As a public school teacher and advocate for public education, I am very disappointed in the choice of Arne Duncan for Secretary of Education. The CEO of Chicago Public Schools (his title really is CEO) has, among other things, expanded no-bid crony contracts, opened 3 military academy high schools in Chicago, fought even small efforts to integrate the most segregated major public school system in the country, opposed federal oversight of special education programs, overseen the expansion of Chicago’s unaccountable charter school system to over 100 schools, and mercilessly imposed scripted, teach-to-the-test learning in Chicago. He has also been working closely with Eli Broad since 2002 in an effort to mold public education into a top-down, quantifiable-by-numbers system based on the business model. Current and former OUSD State Administrators Randy Ward and Vince Matthews were trained at the Broad Foundation’s institute for urban educational leaders. We need to make it clear that a man like Arne Duncan is not a “consensus choice” and he is not the choice of America’s public school teachers.

  • Nextset

    Steve Neat: Your list of policies and accomplishments of Duncan makes me feel a lot better about Obama’s choice.

    And by what experience do you believe that teachers’ opinions and policy wishes have any clout in public policy anyway? Public School teachers are not respected much anymore – especially in matters of policy setting. Sad, but true. The public school teachers are considered little better than USSR/Russian Factory Workers turning out cars no one anywhere on Earth wanted to buy.

    And more news for you. Integrating segregated school systems isn’t on any serious list of desired policy either. Been there, done that, got the T shirt. Forced integration makes things worse.

    Open enrollment is fine as long as it comes with set minimum standards for the different schools. (such as is the norm in colleges – Community College/reflection in a mirror, vs State University/1960 High School Grad standard and accepted application, vs University Level/Top Tier IQ w/competitive admit)

    Fixing schools systems in place is what people want. Not “integration” or least of all forced busing.

    People are tired of the money pit public schools that turn out gangbangers. The business model with quantifiable numbers is what is desired. And we don’t need to spend a lot of money on non-performers either.

  • ex-OUSD staff

    Nextset – This statement: ” The business model with quantifiable numbers is what is desired. And we don’t need to spend a lot of money on non-performers either.” begs the question – Can you name some schools run on the “business model” that are “performers?” As far as I know, business model schools have been no more or less successful than schools run in the traditional manner. Also, would those business model schools be run in like Lehman Brothers, AIG, Ford, General Motors, Chrysler, Washington Mutual, the Oakland Raiders (21 wins and 68 losses in 5 1/2 years) and our “business model” war in Iraq? It is knee jerk conservativism to assert that the for-profit model is the best way to run everything. For some tasks the non-profit or government model is the better choice. It is necessary to look critically at the results and avoid ideology to discern the appropriate tool for each task.

  • Jose, Former Student

    Why is a teacher from Skyline High School taking students to Washington, D.C. for the president’s inauguration when 97% of the 9th, 10th and 11th graders at the school failed the state test on Algebra which is an 8th grade level course?

    Why don’t the use the money from the trip to tutor these students in math? This is why people think our schools are a joke. What is Ms. Morici thinking?

  • ex-OUSD staff

    You left some things out…
    Why do we teach social studies at all when kids are failing math?
    Why do we provide sports when kids are failing math?
    Why do we provide music when kids are failing math?
    Why do we have even a skeleton crew of gardeners left on staff when kids are failing math?
    Why do we make any effort at all to make our schools not seem like 19th century English workhouses when kids are failing math?
    But seriously, perhaps the kids who are going to DC are not the same ones who are failing math. Is it their fault that their classmates do not do their homework?
    And since when does OUSD pay for anyone to travel? I haven’t heard of anyone who went anywhere (whether it was to Joaquin Miller Park or Spain) that got two cents of support from the OUSD. The teachers, the students and the parents raise all the funds for trips themselves.

  • Skyline teacher

    Jose: This money, like that all for all other national and international educational trips organized by high school teachers, has been raised by the students going on the trip from their families and fundraisers, like brownie sales.

    Skyline has plenty of tutoring opportunities after school, for math and everything else. Most go underutilized because kids don’t want to stay on campus a minute longer than required.

    Different kids, different motivations.

  • Skyline teacher

    Oh, and that D.C. trip has been in the works for over a year and has nothing to do with Obama winning.

  • Nextset

    Ex-OUSD Staff: If the students have raised the money for the DC trip and they have chaperones and clearances for deportment to go, they should go.

    Math is not for everyone and only basic math is needed for the lower classes anyway.

    While it is nice for people to follow a college-bound class schedule, only a small number of OUSD are college bound. The rest need to discover America because they are going to live and work in it.

    Travel is broadening for everybody, not just the swells.

  • John

    “…otherwise they will be on the Mall watching it all unfold on the big screens. What a great opportunity!”
    I have the better opportunity of watch it on a local big screen in a warm comfy room while saving on air fare and motel accommodation costs!

    But then not all big screens are created equal, so I can’t be 100% sure my viewing experience will be superior on all counts, and my videos of the Smithsonian can’t compete with actually being there – if they go? D.C. can be quite a party town when there’s a changing of the brass.

    Does anyone know if we’ll be able to watch the swearing in of the new Secretary of Education on any of the cable channels? And for heavens sake, at least let the man get sworn in before we start swearing at him! Some folks need to learn “tolerance!”

    Oh ye of little blind faith (i.e. Neat), give “the change (you) can believe in” a chance, ya all who voted for him.

  • Jose, Former Student

    Your method of education seems to be keep the students dumb in Oakland.

    Ninty-seven (97%) are failing Algebra at Skyline in 9th -12th grade which is basic math. This is a insult.

    I get it. The trip is really for the adults to miss work and subs can come in and teach their classes.

    What is wrong with me to think they are interested in preparing more than 3% of these students with the academic skills to have choices at Skyline?


    Do you know what the average absent rate is of teachers at Skyline? I had a sub a few times a week when I was a student at the school.

    When teachers are traveling on trips it cost the district, tax payers and especially the students who are left behind with subs who can not teach English, Algebra, Physical Science, History, Music, PE, Etc.

  • Nextset

    Jose: I agree that teacher absenteeism – especially unscheduled absences is to be avoided. I do feel that the field trips – especially long onces across the country – and so important they get priority treatment.

    While it is possible that the students who actually go on these trips have been cross country with their families anyway, so many CA kids have never even left the state and many not even seen the Ocean. It’s important that an opportunity to travel exist and even more so to do it without their families.

    High school kids are coming to understand the nation and their place in it. They need to understand that Calif is a weird little place and there is much more to the USA than the Bay Area. I wish a lot more OUSD kids could be sent cross country for 2 weeks as part of a student trip.

    They might just learn to understand how George W could win the Presidency, How Prop 8 could win so handily, and why all the other things in political and social life are the way they are.

    When I was in 12th grade I had the pleasure of a 2 week school trip to DC, ground travel through Amish Country and NYC. Hanging out with the Macon GA HS Students in DC was a real eye opener for all of us Bay Area kids – we’d never seen such alcoholism & devoted girlfriends…(they were nice kids and they did apologize for the broken furniture).

    Travel is broadening and OUSD kids need a lot of broadening. They’d understand that they and the Bay Area are not the center of the universe.

    And having been around a bit it’s just easier to join the Service or go away to college or just set out to seek your fortune.

  • Sharon

    Several years ago, an OUSD teacher told me that he had one class of students where 50% of them had been to Europe at some point in their lives (a class with a cluster of “academically advanced” kids). That same year, he had another class where 50% of the students had never even been to San Francisco. Those kids were not immigrants, they were largely Oakland natives. The teacher taught 7th grade English/History.

    I support travel opportunities for our public school kids whenever the teachers are willing to create them.

  • Nextset

    Sharon: When I was in primary school the parents had a lot to do with the field trips – mothers went along to help the teacher chaperone. We usually chartered a bus and the parents made the arrangements to pay for that and sort out the collection of the money from the student’s families. In High School there was a 2 week trip to NYC and Washington DC every year which was open to kids 15-18 who had clearance from the dean of students to go and had the $$ to pay their share of the expenses. And you had a year(s) to raise that money to make the trip sometime before graduation.

    There were other trips to other places for various student groups, these were announced long in advance and people had time to raise the money if they were motivated to go.

    Additionally there were numerous private trips where students took friends on vacations and planned trips. I seem to remember that many families took other (friends) children with them on major and minor trips. There were long weekend trips for the various boy scout and explorer groups – some parents would accompany. Most of the student groups that formed for the various special interests – including political groups – made a point of taking a trip somewhere. It was how you got people to join up. These trips were typically Co-ed also.

    We still talked about them and passed around the photos at the high school reunions.

    If the kids nowadays aren’t into this game they don’t know what they are missing. Any excuse will do to hit the road when you’re a teen!

  • Sharon

    Hi Nextset: Things have really changed. My 89-year-old neighbor had two kids. When his kids were in junior high, he was one of the active parents who took kids on boy scout trips, etc. with other dads. He says a lot of fathers participated during early 1960’s when his older child was in junior high, and that the activities were always a lot of fun.

    He told me that by the time his younger child was in junior high (early 1970’s), a lot of dads had disappeared, mainly due to divorce. The activities weren’t much fun to do anymore because there weren’t enough parents who were willing to pitch in. Eventually, many parent-supported activities at the school just withered away and died.

    I know this is off-topic from “Inauguration Lessons” but just about any topic on this blog connects with another.

  • Jose, Former Student

    I am not against the trips, however, teachers are out of school too much. Visit Skyline anyday and you will see subs showing movies because they can not teach the subject material.

    I bet this is the case at many of the other high schools in Oakland. Why don’t they go on their trips during the summer? It would save alot of money and be better for the students to have a regular classroom teacher during the day.

    Check this out. My sister said her teacher at Skyline this year took a vacation to Europe this semester and they had all kinds of subs for at least l0 days.

    This is wrong because it is cheating students.

  • Nextset

    Sharon: The intact families I’m thinking of nowadays tend to send their kids to schools with similar families. You wouldn’t want to have your child in any school dominated with the products of single mothers. Yes there are exceptions, but as a rule when you select the school you send your kids to, you select the society those children will become part of. And if the family has anything they are going to want their kids to be part of the top half of society not the bottom half. Assortive mating starts early – especially in Los Angeles where the reserve private pre-school slots from the maternity ward or sooner.

    This is why better families don’t send their kids to OUSD. Too Bad, So sad. That doesn’t excuse OUSD from not doing the best they can with the students they do have.

    Jose: teachers have contracts and the contracts don’t usually include taking a European vacation during school term. At least no school that I’ve been to had such a thing occurring. It’s one thing to be out ill or out on jury duty. It would be a breach of contract to take off like you describe without agreement of the employing school.

  • Sharon

    Nextset: I’ve been reading “Marriage and Caste in America: Separate and Unequal Families in a Post-Marital Age” by Kay Hymowitz, and she has a perspective on what you say. She claims that the absence of marriage is the cause of the widening gap in American social structure, and explains how it hits African American children especially hard. I have a few beefs with some of the things she says, but quite a number of her points are spot on. This sensitive topic definitely ties w/the education issues, but it isn’t much publicly discussed.

  • Nextset

    Sharon: I have a copy of that book. I think the problems tie to other causes as well. The book cover is a hoot though, a contemporary white family looking at a black family in a historical museam.

    Blacks are an endangered species. A few more generations like this, and blacks – as we know them – will no longer have any significant social or economic or political power in this society. The rising and disparate mortality rate is an issue to me also. I don’t think there is much that can be done to stop the trends. And it’s hard to argue that anything can be done.

    You want everyone (at least all Americans) to do well over time but when it comes down to it, life & human society is a competition and it always will be. Look what happened to the Native Indians. And is that a problem? Not really. It’s just evolution in action.

    No matter how good or how bad the public schools are there are plenty of public school students who do well and plenty of students who get themselves killed and institutionialized so quick they can’t reproduce or their bio-kids can’t survive and prosper either.

    And yet be bemoan the schools (teachers?) and never turn our demands and critism on the students in any particular school.

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  • Jill Thomas

    Hi Katy,

    I’m a teacher at Life Academy. We are trying to find a way to show the inauguration ceremony and speech to our whole school. If you can believe it, this has presented a problem because we do not have functional TV’s that get reception. Have you heard from any other Oakland teachers who have figured out how they are going to give students the opportunity to watch this historical event? Any tips would be much appreciated!

    I have, by the way, inquired with a few theaters in Oakland about renting their space for the viewing. This might be a story if it comes to fruition.

    Jill Thomas