The Houston Independent School District has voted to ban the use of race-based mascots and team names.

The move will change the mascots of the Lamar High School Redskins, the Hamilton Middle School Indians, the Welch Middle School Warriors and the Westbury High School Rebels. The “Rebel” name has been seen as a reference to the Confederacy during the Civil War.
The decision has been a divisive one in the community, with supporters championing the decision and opponents crying foul over “political correctness” and the end of tradition. [Al-Jazeera America]

As a New Yorker, even one who watches “Friday Night Lights,” high school football feels like a distant, abstract issue. But as someone who grew up in Houston, I can tell you: this is big, and speaks to the evolving consciousness of the country on this issue, even in places like Texas, where football is life.  

"According to Capital News Service, 62 high schools in 22 states are known as Redskins while 28 high schools in 18 states dropped the nickname within the last 25 years." [Houston Chronicle]

But don’t be surprised when this feeds into conservative arguments that they’re losing their country.
Photo of Lamar Redskins by Smiley N. Pool/Houston Chronicle

The Houston Independent School District has voted to ban the use of race-based mascots and team names.

The move will change the mascots of the Lamar High School Redskins, the Hamilton Middle School Indians, the Welch Middle School Warriors and the Westbury High School Rebels. The “Rebel” name has been seen as a reference to the Confederacy during the Civil War.

The decision has been a divisive one in the community, with supporters championing the decision and opponents crying foul over “political correctness” and the end of tradition. [Al-Jazeera America]

As a New Yorker, even one who watches “Friday Night Lights,” high school football feels like a distant, abstract issue. But as someone who grew up in Houston, I can tell you: this is big, and speaks to the evolving consciousness of the country on this issue, even in places like Texas, where football is life.  

"According to Capital News Service, 62 high schools in 22 states are known as Redskins while 28 high schools in 18 states dropped the nickname within the last 25 years." [Houston Chronicle]

But don’t be surprised when this feeds into conservative arguments that they’re losing their country.

Photo of Lamar Redskins by Smiley N. Pool/Houston Chronicle

Graduation Day at Sing Sing prison

Here’s an amazing statistic for you, about recidivism rates.

Of the 26,867 inmates who left New York prisons in 2008, nearly 40 percent returned to prison within 3 years. However, there are important exceptions: Among those are the maximum security inmates behind the walls of Sing Sing in Ossining, NY who have obtained a masters degree in Professional Studies — a one-year graduate degree administered by the New York Theological Seminary. Their recidivism rate over 31 years has been just 10 percent. The rate for those who’ve left with a degree in the last five years? ZERO.

"Education," said Dale Irvin, the president of New York Theological Seminary, "is the surest indicator of low recidivism rates."

Listen in to the latest Micropolis story and hear how a number of people — including convicted murderers — have turned their lives around while becoming assets to the prison community. 

PS 244, in Flushing, Queens, became the first public school in a major American city to offer an all-vegetarian menu. 

Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott turned up to eat with the kids, though he could’ve probably looked a little happier, right?

On yesterday’s menu, above, were black bean and cheddar quesadillas with salsa and roasted potatoes.

Third graders who spoke with NY1 gave it rave reviews.

"When you’re healthy you can do better on tests, and you can fight more diseases," said one student in the cafeteria.

"It’s green so it can make your eyes better, and it can also help your muscles to become stronger, and it also has a lot of protein, not a lot of sugar," said another student. [link]

Other items on the menu include roasted chickpeas, braised black beans with plantains, tofu vegetable wrap with cucumber salad, vegetarian chili served with brown rice, falafel, and roasted tofu with Asian sesame sauce.

Photos by Kendall Rodriguez for the New York Daily News

"There are more black men in jail than in college."
True or false?
For years, it’s been an article of faith that an African-American man was more likely to end up in prison than in an institute of higher education.
Even President Obama, in his first campaign, said, “We have more work to do when more young black men languish in prison than attend colleges and universities across America.”
Charles Barkley said the same thing to Bob Costas.
But the statement is wildly off the mark. An urban legend.
"Today there are approximately 600,000 more black men in college than in jail, and the best research evidence suggests that the line was never true to begin with," wrote Ivory A. Toldson, editor-in-chief of the Journal of Negro Education, in an article for The Root, last week.
The original myth, which he called “arguably the most frequently quoted statistic about black men in the United States,” was created by the Justice Policy Institute in a report called “Cellblocks or Classrooms.” It came out in 2002.
Toldson wrote that today, “black male representation in higher education is proportional to black male representation in the adult population.” The problem is that most of those students are under-represented at competitive colleges and over-represented at community colleges and online institutions.
In New York, where the overall prison population has dramatically come down — along with crime levels — Toldson told me the numbers reflected the changing scenario across the nation.
"In 2009, the total (all race) male prison population in New York state was 57,177. (DOJ) In 2010, the number of Black male college students in New York state was 90,558. (American Community Survey, U.S. Census)"
-Photo from the Gates Foundation via Flickr

"There are more black men in jail than in college."

True or false?

For years, it’s been an article of faith that an African-American man was more likely to end up in prison than in an institute of higher education.

Even President Obama, in his first campaign, said, “We have more work to do when more young black men languish in prison than attend colleges and universities across America.”

Charles Barkley said the same thing to Bob Costas.

But the statement is wildly off the mark. An urban legend.

"Today there are approximately 600,000 more black men in college than in jail, and the best research evidence suggests that the line was never true to begin with," wrote Ivory A. Toldson, editor-in-chief of the Journal of Negro Education, in an article for The Root, last week.

The original myth, which he called “arguably the most frequently quoted statistic about black men in the United States,” was created by the Justice Policy Institute in a report called “Cellblocks or Classrooms.” It came out in 2002.

Toldson wrote that today, “black male representation in higher education is proportional to black male representation in the adult population.” The problem is that most of those students are under-represented at competitive colleges and over-represented at community colleges and online institutions.

In New York, where the overall prison population has dramatically come down — along with crime levels — Toldson told me the numbers reflected the changing scenario across the nation.

"In 2009, the total (all race) male prison population in New York state was 57,177. (DOJ) In 2010, the number of Black male college students in New York state was 90,558. (American Community Survey, U.S. Census)"

-Photo from the Gates Foundation via Flickr

The teachers of Sandy Hook Elementary

I find it almost impossible to write meaningfully about the children who died at Sandy Hook Elementary. Not just because it’s emotionally overwhelming — it is — but because it is simply inexplicable. Beyond what language can contain.

Instead, I’d like to say a word about the 6 women who died at the school that day:

  1. Dawn Hochsprung, 47, School principal
  2. Anne Marie Murphy, 52, Teacher
  3. Lauren Rousseau, 30, Teacher
  4. Mary Sherlach, 56, School psychologist
  5. Victoria Soto, 27, Teacher
  6. Rachel Davino, 29, Teacher

As a child growing up in Texas, my Hindu parents taught me to regard education — the acquisition of knowledge — as a serious thing. That it is in fact sacred, the preserve of deities like Saraswati and Ganesha. When you’re a kid, that can be a little abstract, but certain basic rules — no defacing books, no touching books (or even paper) with your feet — take root.

One of the most fundamental principles, as far as they were concerned, was that teachers were to be respected. So for my folks, and for me now as an adult and parent, it was always mystifying to see teachers in this country, and teaching, be disparaged. Legitimate public debates over education reform seemed to cross a line at some point when they allowed the regular and casual vilification of teachers, to suggest that as a group they’re underperformers, or couldn’t make it in the ‘real world.’

And then things like this happen.

No teacher should think their lives are on the line when they enter a classroom, but tragedies like Newtown are stark reminders of the responsibility school instructors bear on a daily basis. My hope is that Victoria Soto — the 27-year-old Sandy Hook teacher reportedly shot dead as she rushed her kids into a storage room — will be remembered as not just an individual hero, but someone who helped redefine her profession.

Because just as we acknowledge with police officers and fire fighters, and with members of our military, the pay for teachers is rarely equal to the work put in. But the least we can do as a society is accord honor to those willing to serve.