Thursday, June 16, 2005

Catholic Schools and Vouchers is an article about Catholic schools in Milwalkee. Amy Welborne posted the link on her blog, but I'll comment on the article here. I live in suburban New Orleans. My civil parish (county) is divided by the Mississippi River. The eastbank, where I live, is basically white middle class white collar suburbia. The westbank is more mixed racially and more blue collar. On the eastbank over half the school-aged children are in non-public schools, primarily those run by the archdiocese. Of the group of about a dozen couples we were friends with at the time we had our first child, we are the only ones who have used the public schools, and the funny thing is, we have been very happy. Both my mildly autistic son and my artistically talented daughter have had their needs met; probably better than they would have been in the Catholic school down the street.

I'll admit I'm a big fan of the idea of public schools. I like the idea of all the kids in the area attending the same school, learning that people who are different from them, whether in race, income level, handicap or other category, can be good people and their friends. I'm sure its to some extent a chicken or egg thing, but it seems public schools are best in those areas where the majority of the community's children are in them, and the community supports the schools.

There is a bill before the Louisiana Legislature right now to allow children from failing schools to receive vouchers to attend private schools. The chief support for the bill is coming from the archdiocese,. Which claims it wants to make alternatives available. I do not support the bill. Why? Because I see it as more a way to pump up enrollment of inner-city Catholic schools than as a way to help a substantial number of children who are attending substandard schools. The archdiocese has said that no school would be forced to take voucher children and that it believes about 1200 slots are available for voucher children. While helping 1200 students is a noble goal, there is currently a program in place that would allow them to reach far more children, if helping the children rather than preserving the Catholic schools, was the goal. The state is looking for entities to take over failing public schools (the overwhelming majority of which are in inner-city New Orleans). The archdiocese runs one of the largest school systems in the state. Why has it not formed a related but not religious entity that could use the administrative expertise of the archdiocesean school system to run schools that do not promote religion? Could it be that they aren't likely to do substantially better than is being done right now when forced to take a school full of un-screened non-expellable students?

Also, what about the Catholic identity of the schools? Many of our inner city schools now have large non-Catholic populations. My guess is that many if not most of the voucher students would be non-Catholic. Is teaching Catholicism rather than generic morality important? How do you do that with a large non-Catholic population?

In my opinion, if the archdiocese really wants to serve the poor, it should form an affiliated corporation, plug into the expertise of the archdiocesean department of education, solicit donors and apply to run failed public schools. If it wants to preserve Catholic education in the inner city it should solicit donations to allow parishioners to use the parish school rather than getting involved in programs likely to bring a large number of non-Catholics into the school. Vouchers allowing any holder to attend a Catholic school help only the few who are able to both obtain the voucher and find a slot and may lead to the watering down or elimination of the Catholic identity of the school.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Nursing in Public

The New York Times had an article about a pro-breastfeeding demonstration, held in response to some on-air remarks of Barbara Walters. It's funny how my attitudes about nursing in public have changed with each child. With my oldest, I rarely nursed in public and when I did, it was covered with a blanket. My middle child would be nursed in public if necessary, but generally I tried not to do so. Now, nine years later, my baby is basically fed when and where she wants to be fed (and at 13 months she still loves to nurse). I try to be discreet, and to stay away from those who are uncomfortable seeing me, but I'm not going to be tied down, and my baby doesn't like bottles.

I work full-time and have with all three babies. I've also nursed all three for over a year. As far as I know, I was the first woman in my office to bring a pump to work with my first baby. As such I was afraid to pump except at lunchtime. I was new to my job with my second child and again was not comfortable pumping except at lunch. In the intervening nine years, several other moms, including those both higher and lower on the totem pole than I am, have pumped at work, and not just on their lunch hour. Between thier examples and the fact that smokers are given a morning and afternoon break to damage their health, I figured I could take such a break to preserve my baby's health. I moved my computer screen such that my back was to the glass wall when looking at it, and I use the lock on my door when I'm pumping. No one has complained to me, and I hope other mothers see that it can be done.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Summer Reading

In this area, a Catholic school standard is the summer reading list. My son has to read two books from a list and the ones he has chosen are Mr. Popper's Penguins and Call of the Wild. I loved Mr . Popper when I was a kid, but never read Call of the Wild. My son, as you may have noted in earlier posts, is on the mild end of the autism spectrum. He learned to read easily and when he was in  in kindergarten and first grade he was one of the best readers in his class. However the older he got, the more his language and attention problems caused problems with his reading. Summers have always included weekly trips to the library but his chosen reading material has always been far below grade level. He got Mr. Popper today and started to read it. While it is somewhat below his level, the story is more about activity than relationship and that makes it more enjoyable for him.

My daughter brought home the same list this year that she got last year, and since it isn't mandatory, I'll just let her read what she wants. She has really become a reader this year. Right now she is reading Caddie Woodlawn which was one of my favorite childhood books. Not only did Caddie have spunk, she lived right down the road from my grandmother. She is also reading Bud Not Buddy .

I'm going to try to get both the big kids hooked on The Chronicals of Narnia this summer. I started reading The Magician's Nephew to them tonight, and when I finish it, I will go on to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Then if they want to hear "the rest of the story" they can read it themselves.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Drug Reactions

Resource Shelf has a link to a database by the Canadian goverment tracking adverse reactions to drugs. Put in the name of a drug and see the reported reactions and outcomes.

Today's Sin

No, I'm not going to confession online, I'm writing about a topic that came up at the office today. Am I the only one who thinks that in our society the only recognized sins are "intolerance" and "judgmentalism"? If I say that someone ought not do something (particularly if that "something" goes against traditional sexual morality) then I am intolerant or judgmental, which are bad things. However, the people calling me intolerant or judgmental are not, I guess, because ????

Summer Vacation

The kids are done with school so vacation has begun. NO HOMEWORK until August!! Now that I have all this extra free time, what am I going to do? I am going to try to make it to daily mass at least once a week. The parish near me has mass at 6:00 p.m., which I can make after picking up the baby. I am also going to try to make adoration once in a while if the baby cooperates. We joined the neighborhood club this year so I plan to do some swimming, and evening walks with my husband are nice.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Hide and Seek

As I mentioned in my intro, I'm a paralegal. One of the things I am often asked to do is locate people. Most of these people are not hiding and are not hard to locate. Their names and phone numbers are in my local White Pages. Other times it is not that easy. Either people are deliberately keeping a low profile or they just don't have listed phones. Our firm subscribes to Accurint, the database that was hacked around Christmas time. During the training session, the sales rep. told us that they buy data from all sorts of places, and that one address they have on his brother is an apartment he (the rep) rented one summer during college, using his brother's name. They had every apartment in which I ever lived, except for the one over some people's garage where I lived for three months right after college. They also provide a list of neighbors' names and phone numbers, as well as a list of names and phone numbers of people they think are related to you. It is kind of scary to think that such information is so easily available, but at least with Accurint, a subscription is necessary, and they only sell to businesses with a legitimate use for the information.

A resource that does much the same thing as Accurint is Knowx. Knowx requires a subscription but sells them to anyone with a credit card. It's prices for searches and records are reasonable, though likely high enough to put off nosy neighbors. Zabasearch allows anyone to enter a name and to retrieve a person's address (with a link to several mapping sites) and month and year of birth. For a fee they will provide a complete background check.

Proud Mother Bragging

This is the last week of school, and that means it is time to hand out awards. I have to say that I'm proud of my kids for theirs. My son had the most Accelerated Reading points in his grade. He got hooked on Harry Potter and read four of the books this year (actually this semester) thus earning a large number of points per book. For those of you unfamiliar with the program, Accelerated Reading assigns a point value to a large number of books based on their length and reading level. Students read the books and then take a computerized test on them. If they score 100% on the test, they get 100% of the available points; if they get less than that, they get that percent of the available points, as long as they get at least 70%. Both my kids' schools not only assign point targets per nine weeks but also provide prizes for those who exceed them.

I almost missed seeing my daughter get most of her awards. Our last name is near the beginning of the alphabet and her class was the first one up. One thing I like about her school is that at awards time they find something about which to award each child. As the parent of a son who struggles and a daughter who doesn't, I appreciate the acknowlegment that a child is working. My daughter got awards for good grades in most of her subjects, but the best came at the end of the presentation. In Louisiana, all public school fourth grade students have to take the LEAP, a high-stakes (flunk the test, flunk the grade) criterion referenced test. Since the school is graded on how well the children do, they want to motivate the children to do their best. Part of that m motivation is a large trophy that is presented to the student with the highest overall LEAP score. Tonite there is a waist-high trophy sitting in my daughter's room.

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