Alexi Nunn Freeman, a lawyer for the Advancement Project, told us a storyabout five year-old Ja’eisha Scott who was arrested by the police in her kindergarten classroom for having a temper tantrum. This sounds extreme; but according to Freeman, it is part of a recent national trend.
The Advancement Project is a non-profit civil rights action group that has been following the emergence of a school-to-prison pipeline, and specifically, the impact of zero-tolerance discipline policies in schools. Freeman explains that in the 1980’s, practices meant for the war on drugs were adopted in schools as well, resulting in the criminalization of minor classroom misbehavior.
Check out an excerpt of the interview below.
Turnstyle: What are the trends you have seen over the past few decades in the use of discipline in schools? What’s the reason for the increase in discipline in schools?
Freeman: School discipline policies are directly related to the war on drugs that was going on in the 1980’s. Practices and policies that we were implementing on drug laws have really taken stance in the schools.
Things like having mandatory minimum sentencing laws, or having three strikes and you’re out, or the idea of aggressively policing minor offenses — these are things that were happening as a result of the war on drugs and we were implementing these processes in schools. When this started happening we really noticed a direct effect on young people; the schoolyard scuffle, or the talking back to a teacher, would now be classified as assault or as disorderly conduct, and that would result in students being arrested or suspended.
Turnstyle: How have policies changed?
Freeman: Back in the day when I was in school, [things like talking back to a teacher] weren’t appropriate for the schoool environment, but they resulted in a trip to principal’s office, or a call home. But now, they’re resulting in extended time out of school, and in the worst cases actually being arrested for these types of things. This has ballooned over the last ten years.
We also noticed these policies are implemented in many districts [and] are often very much implemented in urban districts that have with high populations of low-income students, and high populations of students of color. So you notice that the impact of these policies disproportionately affects these students. The policies also make their way into other schools as well, but again, students of color, students with disabilities and now LGBTQ students, are disproportionately affected.
Turnstyle: In schools, are you seeing a backlash against these more punitive approaches, and trying to reverse this pattern?
Freeman: In the last couple years there has been some great community push-back and changes in policy. We were not allowing students to make mistakes and were harshly and swiftly punishing students instead of getting to the root of the problem and figuring out how can we prevent this stuff from happening again … We were responding with exclusionary policies and practices.
Turnstyle: Can you give us an example?
Freeman: In Baltimore in 2008 – 2009, we worked with the district to revise their policy. They had an exorbitant number of out of school suspensions. Out of school suspensions were used more than anything else, rather than in-school suspension, rather than parent-teacher conferences. It was [being used] for things like classroom disruption, defiance, or not obeying school policy — very subjective offenses.
But when we worked with them to revise their policy and focus more on effective prevention and intervention strategies, focused on keeping students in the school, the [policy revision] had dramatic results. Over five years, out of school suspensions have gone from over 26,000 to under 10,000. At the same time, their graduation rates have reached record highs. Baltimore is a district that has a high population of black students, so we’re really having an impact on young black males, which is a population that is often disproportionately affected.
Urban culture brand Мишка has released what might be the very first uber-posse cut. In what they describe as “a beastly rendition of what happens when rappers can only keep it real,” Мишка gathered 26 of most obscure and outlandish rappers and put them together on one single 22-minute track produced by Ryan Hemsworth.
“These are the names, faces, and voices of the folks who dedicate their lives to preserving one of the greatest cultural traditions of the United States, and make incredible music while doing it.” Mishka (via: Soundcloud)
I haven’t heard of most of these new rappers, but I did hear Kool A.D. of Das Racist and the emerging Oakland cloud-rap duo Main Attraktionz sprinkled among the crowd. The best rap names out the new guys are Big Baby Gandhi and Himself the Majestic who deliver some decent rhymes.
Featuring (in order of appearance):
MondreM.A.N., Squadda B, TRPLBLK, Chavis Chandler, Kool A.D., Big Baby Gandhi, Key Nyata, Isaiah Toothtaker, Joeybagadoughnutz, Dizzy D, Supa, Snaxx, Left Leberra, Don D, Rod Fuego, 9Gs, Zachg, Lakutis, Fat Tony, Lofty305, Lowercase, Himself the Majestic, Shady Blaze, Keyboard Kid, Antwon, Western Tink & Chippy Nonstop.
A couple recent cases of undocumented young people committing or attempting suicide while being held by immigration services have sparked discussion around the mental health issues that these young people face.
Dr. Roberto Gonzales, of the University of Chicago, specializes in the experiences of undocumented young people in their twenties and early thirties here in America. Listen to an interview with Gonzales above.
If you wanted to hear new music from Bay Area artists a decade ago and you didn’t live in the area, you were just out of luck. If you did live in the area, you would have to drive to independently-owned record stores like Rasputins or Amoeba to find the latest tunes. And for the most part, this provided rappers to make a nice living right here at home. But what about the rest of the world?
Davey Boy Smith is a London-based DJ, and co-manager of hip hop site Southern Hospitality, who is responsible for bringing the Bay Area’s hyper localized rap scene to the UK. This year DBS has teamed up with Bay Area radio DJ, DJ Amen, for the Bay Area’s own showcase at SXSW called Young California. We talked with Davey Boy Smith as he gears up for this years most cracking music conference.
Turnstyle: It’s safe to say that Southern Hospitality specializes in hip hop from the south and Bay Area regions. Where did your affinity for Bay Area rap come from?
Davey Boy Smith: You might say that, but we’re DJs first and foremost, and the music we draw attention to on the blog is for the most part an extension of what we play in the clubs, or a prediction of which artists are going to be making great music in the near future. It just so happens that artists from the south and Bay Area make incredible club (and car and couch) music.
Southern Hospitality does have an affinity for Bay Area rap, though. In fact, you could say that without Thizz, there would be no Southern Hospitality in its current form. Back when myself and Rob Pursey used to write for UK rap magazine Hip-Hop Connection before it closed down, we really got to know one another through our shared love for Mac Dre, Thizz, Treal TV etc. This was back when it was all happening and pretty much no one outside the west coast was being exposed to it. We were even meant to do a massive feature on all the key Thizz-related artists but that got shelved for some reason.
Prior to the whole Thizz movement, we would listen to artists like Too Short and E40 but wouldn’t necessarily think of them in terms of a Bay Area scene. Thizz was a brand you could believe in, and coupled with the whole hyphy and ecstasy culture, it really just caught our attention and inspired us.
People need to know that Mac Dre and Thizz are the common denominators in a lot of what’s popping in the Bay right now, whether directly with the same people behind the scenes or a direct influence in style of music and energy.
The fact that you’ve got people like Kreayshawn signing major deals, IAMSU! on the verge, Drake showing love to Mac Dre, and just the Bay sound being so relevant right now brings both myself and Rob a lot of pride.
TS: SH has become one of the most well known platforms for Bay Area artists. What are the perks of being an honorary Bay Area music “factor”?
DBS: We definitely get a lot of love out in the Bay, from the artists, their managers, labels etc. We genuinely appreciate that and it’s all love back. We spent some time with Berner, let’s put it that way. And we’ve got a mixtape coming out very soon with DJ Amen. So stay tuned!
TS: The line up for Young California shows a wide range of what the The bay and Los Angeles have to offer. How difficult was it for you, and DJ Amen, to pick the line-up?
DBS: There were a few people involved in choosing the line-up. I don’t think anyone thought it was difficult. While they are, like you say, quite diverse, they’re all artists that excite us and crucially have potential to be global stars. The response to the event from our DJ and industry friends has been overwhelming, and the thought of all these artists performing in front of them is a beautiful thing. We’re very proud to be involved with the Young California movement. Much love to Amen, Will and Stretch for making this possible.
TS: I can assume SXSW this year will be your first time meeting some of the artists you’ve been endorsing. Which artists are you excited about seeing rock the Young California showcase?
DBS: We were involved with the Vibe and SMC event last year so we got to see Roach Gigz and Young L perform. This year, we’re most excited to see IAMSU! and the HBK Gang, A.k.a. Frank (whose My Dick Ain’t Racist song is massive at our parties in London, everyone knows every word to that track) and the legend Andre Nickatina. It’s going to be a legendary event. We can’t wait!
99% Invisibleis, as producer Roman Mars tells it, a “tiny radio show about design, architecture & the 99% invisible activity that shapes our world”. Don’t let the “tiny” fool you: there’s nothing small about the ideas Mars explores.
Episode 48: The Bathtubs or the Boiler Room
This week’s 99% Invisible is a little special– well, then again, aren’t they all– so instead of the usual verbatim post we’re encouraging you to go over to the 99% Invisible website and check out the photo gallery there as NPR Congressional Correspondent Andrea Seabrook (that’s her above, chilling in a tub) leads Team Invisible’s Sam Greenspan on “an unsanctioned, exploratory mission through the depths of the US Capitol Building.”
It’s the hidden world of the Congressional baths on this week’s 99% Invisible!
New episodes of 99% Invisible, air weekly on 91.7 KALW in San Francisco. Fridays at 7:35am and 4:30pm, Saturdays at 8:35am, and Tuesdays at 10:55pm. Also, 24/7 on Public Radio Remix.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Syrian expatriate “Ali Mohamed Al-Issa,” now residing in the U.S., writes about how he and his fellow citizens have been emboldened over the past year to speak more freely about their country’s revolution. He is using a pseudonym to protect his family in Syria—where the struggle for democracy ensues.
When I was growing up in Damascus, Syria, my parents used to stress to us that while the Baath dictatorship offered us little, we had an obligation to give back to the society itself, because it defined us.
I left Syria five years ago to get a better education and training in the U.S. so that one day I could go back home and try to bring about some change to the country.
When I first got to the U.S., I was surprised to learn that many Syrians here, though they shared my passion for the country, didn’t understand my desire to return. They argued, “The system is what will end up changing you, rather than you changing the system.”
I saved the advice I heard and continued my journey inside the U.S., feeling no need to rush. After all, my country has been in a status quo for decades. The system was so corrupt, and the regime seemed so unbreakable, that it seemed unlikely that any change could happen before I finished my years in the States.
The story started to change when I went back home for the holidays in 2011. I was in Damascus when the Tunisian revolution erupted, and succeeded in a matter of few weeks. My parents and I talked about the possibility of a domino effect of the Tunisian revolution, and we assumed Egypt would be next, but expected Syria to be the last piece in the game.
Had I known Syria was only three months away from becoming a falling piece, I would have definitely stayed. The two months that followed my return from Syria changed everything. These were probably the best days of my life. The domino effect happened faster than anyone had predicted. As Egypt, Yemen, Libya and Bahrain were all launching their revolutions, and some already ending them too, I passively wondered, “Why does Syria have to be the last?”
Then on March 15th, 2011, the Syrian revolution started. The first protest was in the southern city of Daraa. Three days later was the day the Syrian revolution was scheduled to go large scale—the “Friday of Rage.” Three o’clock in the morning Pacific Time was the zero hour. Many of my friends and I awoke by that time, turned on Al-Jazeera and waited. By 3:30 a.m. the first video was uploaded to YouTube, and with that video everything changed.
It is hard to express the mixture of feelings we had while we watched. The part that can be explained, though, is the sadness we felt for not being there. It was also hard to imagine how it felt being in a protest in the heart of Damascus. No one could answer that question, as no one dared to talk about it on the phone or online. The barrier of fear was starting to break, but it would take months before it broke on a large scale.
Whenever I opened the topic with my mom on the phone, she would pretend my voice was breaking up. My friends would avoid my Facebook comments and posts. It was too soon to get beyond the idea that Big Brother was still watching us.
Conversations Emerge From Hiding
On my Facebook news feed for the first few weeks of the revolution, it did not feel like there was a revolution going on in Syria. Facebook status updates might sound like a minor issue for someone who hasn’t experienced living in Syria. The fact of the matter, however, is that Facebook updates tell a major part of the story. These updates were a projection of the Syrian society and the change that was happening on the ground. For me, the revolution was fated to be successful when it succeeded in its first few weeks in breaking the barrier of fear and the thought that Big Brother is watching, as reflected in the process of changing the nature of Facebook statuses throughout this period.
This was even a concern for those of us outside the country who harbored thoughts of returning one day. The first status I ever wrote on the issue was not until ten days after the revolution started. On March 25th, 2011, I wrote, talking about freedom, “I can already smell it… and it smells sweet.” I was thousands of miles away from Syria, and I still felt scared after updating this vague status.
A few months later, I was explicitly writing stuff like “Bashar Assad, you are a criminal of war, we will hang you soon.” The relationship between Facebook statuses and the revolution is no different for people on the inside. My friends who regularly protest in Damascus went from writing stuff like “I’m leaving my house…” to imply they are going on a protest, to now explicitly announcing the time and location of the protest they are going to.
Communication between Syrians has also been an indication of the changing social dynamics as a result of the revolution. After March 15th, I lost some very good friends who de-friended me because of my political stance, and I got in touch again with activist friends who I hadn’t talked to in years.
Communication also went through the gradual process of breaking the barrier of fear. When I first started communicating with my family and friends in Syria, we had to come up with a safe communication system to avoid any risk. It started with coded conversations, like, “By the way, as it turns out, I have some friends who were really nice today.” That was how I implied to my mom that some of my friends were going to a particular protest. She didn’t miss a beat, and replied in code, “I know you have some nice friends. But I also know that your friends hang out in downtown San Francisco. And downtown San Francisco is really dangerous. Don’t ever think about going with them, because you know what happens in downtown San Francisco.”
As my friends in Syria grew more bold, we moved into a less cautious communication system. We would talk explicitly about the revolution online, but by translating our conversation into a random language through Google translator. Everyone was trying to figure out a way to get away from the government’s internet service provider. Today, as in the case with our Facebook statuses, I explicitly discuss the revolution with my friends in Syria on the phone and on chat without any coding or fear.
Today, when I logon to my Facebook, it is like life in Syria has stopped except for the revolution. The discussions I read are no longer about soccer, cars, new cafes, or a favorite actress, but rather about freedom, a civil democratic nation, new constitution, civil rights, and minority rights.
Though the Syrian revolution is nowhere near the end yet, it has already succeeded in achieving one of its major goals: awakening Syrian society and reactivating the role of youth as part of the nation. Citizens are no longer scared to speak out and discuss. This successful social change guaranteed that the revolution will be successful, not only to topple the regime but rather to build a new nation.
In 11 months, the Syrian revolution, through its civil movement, raised an army of civil open-minded activist ready to build a new democratic nation. All the people who initially criticized my idea of going back to Syria are now waiting themselves for the day the revolution is successful and are all ready to go back and participate in shaping the future of our country. The revolution has revolutionized the people, and we owe it to the estimated tens of thousands of martyrs, missing, and detainees.
Each week in the Game of Buzz, tech and entertainment reporter Noah Nelson looks at how these two forces are changing each other.
They get ya early.
My life of technological fetishism started in elementary school, a fascination born in part from the efforts of the long-since defunct toy company Worlds of Wonder. This was the Fremont, California, outfit that brought the audio animatronic Teddy Ruxpin bear and Lazer Tag play sets to market. The company ultimately fell thanks stock shenanigans.
I longed for a Teddy Ruxpin, something we just couldn’t afford when I was a kid, and spent a fair amount of time each Sunday putting the demo unit through its paces at the local Toys R Us. When clearance sales hit on the Lazer Tag gear, I picked up a kit, blindly hoping that one of the other neighborhood kids would follow suit. I’ve actually held onto the pistol, somehow, figuring that one day I’ll finally get a match going on.
That day may be coming soon, even if it means shelling out 70 bucks and keeping my iPhone charged.
Worlds of Wonder may be long gone, but the march towards technologically advanced toys that are indistinguishable from magic has continued. The Lazer Tag brand, which has bounced around for a few decades under various manufacturers, finally winding up as a sub-unit of Hasbro’s Nerf, is poised for a comeback. Hasbro has been redesigning the product line to incorporate iPhones and iPod Touches. An app can let a solo user play with virtual opponents, or act as head’s-up display in multiplayer, real-world conflicts.
How any work will get done in offices when these things hit in August is beyond me.
Activision’s Skylanders game was a big hit over the holiday season, introducing the elementary school set to a collection of figurines that unlocked digital avatars in a reboot of the once-beloved Spyro the Dragon franchise. It’s the ultimate twist on atomized DLC for video games: a physical component that acts as download code and jump drive all in one.
But that’s not what makes the Skylanders figures magical. These things are jump drives you don’t plug in. Place a Skylanders figure on the “magic portal” and your character appears in the game, with all the customizations you made the last time you played. Take an identical looking figure and pop it on the portal? Different customizations.
The developers– Toys for Bob– are taking the wireless abilities up a notch with this year’s release. Skylanders Giants will take advantage of wireless power transfer to light up the figurines. It’s the same technology that is already being used to charge up cellphones, but here it’s being used to create sheer delight.
Which is, indeed, how technology gets us hooked. That sense that anything is possible is instilled in the play cycles of kids enmeshed in a world of wondrous toys. Not just pieces of interactive content on a screen, mind you,
In the coming months the state of California will see much of its juvenile state prison responsibilities handed down to counties. It’s all part of a reform effort spearheaded by Governor Jerry Brown called “realignment.”
Turnstyle sat down with Sumayyah Waheed—the director of the Ella Baker Center’s Books Not Bars campaign, which encourages families to champion alternatives to the state’s youth prisons—to talk about these reforms.
Turnstyle: Do you consider this a step forward for California’s juvenile justice system?
Waheed: Yes, definitely. While we’ve been working on this campaign, it’s actually been since 2004, so it’s been eight years and we’ve seen a huge difference. The state has moved away from its state youth prisons, in keeping more youth local. Since we started, it was 4,500-5,000 youth across the state in youth prisons and now it’s 1,100—so it’s dropped down dramatically. It went from eight youth prison to three today, so we’ve seen five youth prisons close, and it’s just been going in that direction for a while now. And so we see great promise in cutting off the rest of the beast and releasing the hundreds of millions of dollars that are being wasted on the current system, for better approaches and better treatment for youth that will actually make our communities safer.
Turnstyle: What are the benefits and the challenges to realignment?
Waheed: The immediate benefit is spending money on something that works better at the local level. Some of the challenges in doing this are in planning for the best kinds of programs to take youth. [Another challenge is] insuring that counties can actually do better with the money because we have 58 counties in California and some of them do better than others.
One of the biggest concerns is around the possibility that some counties will just be lazy and decide that instead of developing programs for those youth who would have gone to DJJ [Department of Juvenile Justice], they will just send them to the adult prison system, which unfortunately, is possible under our laws. At Books not Bars, we’ve brought proposals to actually de-incentivize that, so that counties would have to pay if they wanted to send more youth to the adult system.
Turnstyle: How does the juvenile justice system affect families and young people?
Waheed: It’s really stressful for the families. The thing I hear most often from families again and again is that you’re locked up right there with their child. For a mom she can’t really separate it, knowing that her child is locked up isn’t something she can just put aside. For families there are the everyday challenges of planning around visitation, and the hours of travel, and the money, and staying in a hotel over night depending on how far it is. And then there are the challenges of youth who are facing trouble inside in, trying to advocate for them to be safe and then at the same time trying to get something better for all youth.
Turnstyle: And do you feel that keeping youth at the local level will actually help with the issues that families deal with, like the separation and anxiety, and the day-to-day problems they face?
Waheed: It definitely helps. Right now you have some youth from L.A. who are in Stockton—so being in their county is going to make a huge difference. At the local level there are more avenues for having a voice. At the state level there’s Sacramento and most parents can’t make it out there on a regular basis. By allowing youth to be closer to their families it allows the families to be engaged in insuring that the youth can actually come out and do better once they’re out.
Turnstyle: What counties are you looking to as leaders, and what counties are you most worried about and why?
Waheed: Alameda County has been really optimistic. The chief probation officer David Muhammad comes from Oakland and has had experience with the system and really believes in his ability to keep the youth local and do a better job than the state has. And that’s just one example. In Santa Clara County we’ve promoted as reforming their juvenile system.
And then there are the counties that are just kind of what you described, very invested and addicted to the punitive approaches and that’s Riverside and Orange County, the more conservative counties where the emotions of the “tough on crime” and fear mongering distract people from the actual results which is that prisons don’t actually make us safer, whether they’re for youth or adults.
Turnstyle: In your ideal world, what is the best case scenario of what juvenile justice reform would look like here in California?
Waheed: Going back to Chief Muhammad: I think he’s the one who said that our jobs are to put ourselves out of business. Ideally there wouldn’t be a need for a juvenile justice system because we’d have real systems of support—so that youth who have had troubles have more productive ways to work them out and have their needs met.
A recent photo of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Photo Credit: Medill DC
Just a few days ago, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in Tunis, Tunisia, meeting her counterparts from dozens of countries and issuing an ultimatum to Syrian President Bashar Assad to silence his guns and allow in humanitarian aid.
Syrian tanks continue to batter homes, and no aid is getting in. So what are allies of the Syrian people to do?
“We have to continue to consult with those who truly are friends of the Syrian people,” Clinton said, “which of course includes the United States and the many governments and organizations that gathered in Tunis on Friday. We are doing everything we can to facilitate humanitarian aid.”
She added that the United States and others must continue to “ratchet up the pressure” because Syria “is an increasingly isolated regime.”
And, she said, nations must “push for a democratic transition by working with and trying to build up the opposition so they can be an alternative.”
Syria is “one of the most highly militarized, best defended countries on Earth,” Clinton said, “because of course they spent an enormous amount of money with their Iranian and Russian friends so equipping themselves.
“Even if you were to somehow smuggle in automatic weapons of some kind, you’re not going to be very successful against tanks. So the dilemma is how do we try to help people defend themselves … ?”
A New York federal court today dismissed a lawsuit against agribusiness giant Monsanto brought by thousands of certified organic farmers that they hoped would protect them against infringing on the company’s crop patents in the future.
The Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association and several other growers and organizations do not use Monsanto seeds. But they had hoped that the judge would agree that Monsanto should not be allowed to sue them if pollen from the company’s patented crops happened to drift into their fields.
Instead, the judge found that plaintiffs’ allegations were “unsubstantiated … given that not one single plaintiff claims to have been so threatened.” The ruling also found that the plaintiffs had “overstate[d] the magnitude of [Monsanto's] patent enforcement.” Monsanto brings an average 13 patent-enforcement lawsuits per year, which, the judge said, “is hardly significant when compared to the number of farms in the United States, approximately two million.”
The company, meanwhile, asserts that it doesn’t exercise its patent rights when trace amounts of its patented traits inadvertently end up in farmers’ fields.
Dan Ravicher, executive director of the Public Patent Foundation and lead lawyer for the plaintiffs, told The Salt that Monsanto remains a “patent bully” and that the judge’s decision was “gravely disappointing.” The plaintiffs have not yet decided if they will appeal.
Much of the corn, soy, canola and cotton grown in the U.S. is genetically modified. Among them, corn is the most likely to cross-pollinate with plants in nearby fields. That means that genes from genetically modified crops can drift or “trespass” into organic fields.
As Dan Charles reported last year, most organic corn in the U.S. typically contains anywhere from half a percent to 2 percent GMOs, according to companies that sell such corn to organic dairies or poultry farmers. It has been that way since genetically engineered corn and soybeans came into wide use more than a decade ago.
But organic farmers say that GMO contamination could hurt the value of their crop, and they fear lawsuits from Monsanto for possessing their GM genes without paying for them. The documentary Food Inc. portrayed the company as aggressively suing farmers who save its patented seed.
Last year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Advisory Committee on Biotechnology in the 21st Century began discussing ways to protect organic farmers from contamination.
“Beyond whatever happens with this suit, there are some very legitimate issues behind it,” Doug Gurian-Sherman, a senior scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, tells The Salt. “There is already a significant burden to organic food production, and there is more coming. It raises the question: Is it possible for organic agriculture to survive in the face of GM crops?”
Monsanto sees it differently, however. In a statement on the judge’s decision, executive vice president David F. Snively said, “This decision is a win for all farmers as it underscores that agricultural practices such as ag biotechnology, organic and conventional systems do and will continue to effectively coexist in the agricultural marketplace.”
I’m going to go out on a limb here and promise you that this will be the first of two posts on Present Shock, the Douglas Rushkoff book that has been getting a mountain of attention in the tech press since it was released earlier this month.