Sunday, May 21, 2017

More on segregation in Alabama schools

A few months ago I wrote about segregation in the Tuscaloosa school district.  Now I just read another great article about how white Birmingham, AL suburbs are conforming new school districts so they won't have to integrate with poorer, blacker students from the rest of the county.  And lest we Northerners become too complacent about this problem, the article references something I'd linked to a while ago, about a black NYC parent trying to select a school for her child.

I think the key lesson here is that, until parents in the US become more interested in improving their nation as a whole than in giving their kids unfair advantages in an immoral system, it will be damned hard to improve life across the board.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Reading instead of writing

Lately I've been writing a lot less, both on my blog and in my diary.  This may surprise some people to hear, since my blog continues to publish a post every two days or so.  But usually what I do is pre-schedule a lot of posts when I am in a prolific writing mood.  So what you're reading now was often written weeks before.

Anyway, I've been reading a lot recently.  Novels, memoirs, some history.  Lots of women authors, since I usually read men and wanted to change and challenge my routine (among other things, I'd highly recommend She's Not There, a memoir by Jennifer Boylan about being transgender).  Above all, I've just been more interested in hearing other people's perspectives, absorbing what they have to say, as opposed to pontificating myself about this or that topic.  I guess we all go through phases, sometimes feel one way and other times another way, and I think that's all to the good.  Especially for me, it's probably healthy to listen to others instead of my instinct to opine and have others listen.  Life is just too varied and broad to cling too tenaciously or dwell too long on the necessarily narrow experiences and ideas of any one person, including oneself.

Monday, May 15, 2017

What is aid meant to do?

Here is a call for a comprehensive review of the foreign aid delivered by the US, framed by the author as a way to regain wide buy-in for foreign aid from Republicans.  I think the last paragraph is the most relevant, for the US or any country, to be clear on what they are trying to achieve through their aid.

"Finally, a review should include a conversation about the basis on which the United States sets its priorities for allocating aid — whether it is determined by need, merit, national security, the potential return on investment, or other reasons. There is no single right answer, nor are the many justifications for aid spending necessarily discrete. But understating the values that are the basis of U.S. aid would help us better understand what America’s goals should be, and what it expects aid to accomplish. The answers could provide some surprises in terms of finding common ground, and would provide a much clearer explanation to a skeptical public about the importance of global development."

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Gangs in middle-class neighborhoods

This is a fascinating and sad account of how gangs have become more prevalent in one specific area of Chicago, the Pill Hill neighborhood so named for the prevalence of doctors and other professionals that used to live there.  It is the personal story of one family, from the Great Migration, to entry into the middle-class, to present-day kids fascinated by the thug life.  It reminds me a lot of similar trends in Colombia, where sordid gangs and violence are so prevalent in the culture that even middle-class kids are swept up.  I guess I understand to some extent--economically comfortable kids in suburbs throughout the US and probably in other parts of the world have long been drawn to the mystique of the criminal life.  Witness upscale suburban teens listening to music from the inner city in the 1990s, adopting some of the outward aesthetic styles of gangster rap.  The difference is that economic and physical security is much more tenuous in places like Colombia or Chicago's South Side.  So kids that may flirt with the thug life in these latter contexts don't have the barrier of affluence or whiteness or geographical remoteness that can shelter the rich kid in Malibu or Iowa or Glenview, Illinois.  After a point, the normal, middle-class kid that was just going through a phase begins to look, especially to outsiders, more and more like the "authentic" hard-core guys that are in the life with no exit.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Ode to Chicago

This is a nice piece from Chicago magazine on reasons to love the city.  It's much more in-depth and thoughtful than Chicagoans' typical boosterism.  There's stuff in here that I didn't even know about. 

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Communism vs. Socialism

From time to time I become unsure what I and others are talking about when we refer to Communism or socialism.  Here is an article gathering a few different takes.  My summary is that Communism has come to describe the totalitarian-style states of the late 20th century Iron Curtain, while socialism more broadly refers to any organizations of economic production by means other than a laissez-faire market.  In this sense, almost all countries have lots of socialist aspects of their economies, like public schools, roads, healthcare, social security, price controls for certain products and services, etc.  But there are only a handful of Communist countries left in the world (Laos, Cuba, North Korea, China, and Vietnam, to be specific).