In an unmarked grave in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx lies the five-foot-seven-inch body of a man responsible for bringing untold amounts of sunshine to New York City’s youth. During his eighteen-year tenure as Superintendent of School Buildings for the New York City Board of Education, Snyder built public schools with windows that made up nearly sixty percent of the buildings’ facades, much of the remaining space covered in lavish ornamentation. “There is not a dark corner in the whole structure,” social reformer Jacob Riis wrote of Snyder’s design in his seminal 1902 text "The Battle With the Slum." “Literally, he found barracks where he is leaving palaces to the people...I cannot see how it is possible to come nearer perfection in the building of a public school.”
Increasing the accessibility of cultural capital: "In New York, a place whose cultural institutions attract people from around the world, there are residents who not only have never visited those institutions but also some who have never even been uptown."
"Them and Them." "Rockland County, New York's East Ramapo school district is a taxpayer-funded system fighting financial insolvency. It is also bitterly divided between the mostly black and Hispanic children and families who use the schools and the Hasidic and ultra-Orthodox Jewish majority who run the Board of Education and send their children to private, religious schools." Also see: A District Divided. [more inside]
Joel Klein wrote an essay in the Atlantic about the reasons for the current problems in the primary educational system.
An Urban Teacher's Education is a intelligent, touching and very personal blog about the challenges that a high school teacher faces in the Bronx. [via]
"Chinatown" communities across the United States (New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston, San Francisco) are undergoing a shift in linguistic identity, as recent immigrants are more likely to natively speak Mandarin (the official spoken language of China, Hong Kong and Taiwan,) instead of Cantonese. [more inside]
The Museum of Modern Art began working in late 2007 to renovate its Web site substantially for the first time since 2002. It knew that it wouldn’t be just updating a few pieces — it would be entering a whole new era. Earlier this month, the new site launched, and is an almost complete reconstruction of how the museum presents itself online. It features livelier images from its collection and exhibitions, increased use of video and the new interactive calendars and maps.
In Middle Class, Signs of Anxiety on School Efforts. The New York City Department of Education has made a number of changes to gifted and talented and special admission programs, and has increased the emphasis on test preparation. These changes (it is suggested) may start pushing middle-class parents out of the (relatively few) public schools regarded as good. Parents who can afford the $20k tuition and who can manage the admissions process will go to private school ... one supposes those who fall short on either front will go to the suburbs.
The main business of Napanoch, N.Y., is a maximum-security prison, Eastern New York Correctional Facility, also known as Happy Nap... There is, however, a reason that inmates call the prison Happy Nap. Eastern is more relaxed than other maximum-security prisons, or 'maxes,' in upstate New York, with less hostility between staff and prisoners, and as a result fewer U.I.'s, or 'unusual incidents' -- stabbings and the like. It is said that the farther upstate you go, the harsher the prison conditions can be. Among New York's maxes, Eastern has one of the best reputations. It is one of only three maximum-security prisons in the state where you can still get an education -- not just in manual skills, but a proper college education with a degree at the end, thanks to privately financed initiatives. Uncaptive Minds
Sensitivity or Censorship? A fascinating article in the NY Times reveals that the the New York Board of Education is editing literary passages used on its high school exit exam to remove passages that might "make a student feel ill at ease" while taking the test. Deletions include all references, no matter how innocuous, to drugs, alcohol, homosexuality, God, race, Congress, unpaid U.N. dues, nudity, sex, violence, and much more. Some of the quoted authors, including Annie Dillard and Frank Conroy, are pretty upset with the state, especially since the passages don't indicate that they have been "revised." On the other hand, standardized tests are often criticized as being culturally biased so maybe this is a justifiable attempt to make students from different backgrounds feel equally at ease in taking the test. What do you think?