Monday, February 25, 2008

The Best, The Worst, and the WTF… Of Oscars 2008 ~ Special Guest Post

Lately I've gotten a few offers to co-write/guest post on other people's blogs. I think that its a wonderful idea and I've been waiting for someone to actually go through with it - and they did! I may just make this a semi-regular thing. So now, I present to you a very good friend of mine's thoughts on the Oscars last night:

Note: Do remember that these are the thoughts from another person. If you don't like it, don't dare take it out on me. This is merely to provide readers with a fresh (and hopefully comedic) look on new things I myself won't really write about.

The Best, The Worst, and the WTF… Of Oscars 2008
By Brandon Lewis

In a big F.U. to its own country, the Academy awarded all of the big acting honors to European actors! Daniel Day-Lewis, a British actor and previous winner for 1989’s My Left Foot, won for his movie There Will Be Blood. French actress Marion Cottillard (don’t feel stupid, I never heard of her either) won Best Actress for La Vie En Rose. In another upset, British actress Tilda Swinton upset acclaimed actress Ruby Dee for Best Supporting Actress. Finally, Spanish actor Javier Bardem took home Best Supporting Actor.

Stripper Glory. Diablo Cody won Best Original Screenplay for the movie Juno, but that’s not the best news. New York’s favorite “tell people’s business” newspaper The New York Post revealed that she used to be a stripper before she became the most sought-after writer in the business (that no one has heard of). Who said strippers don’t have talent? LOL.

Michael Who? Unless you are a major movie buff, you probably never heard of 4 of the 5 nominated Best Picture nominees. Little promotion made Michael Clayton, There Will Be Blood, No Country For Old Men, and Atonement strangers to viewers, leaving little to care about.

Where Are You? No offense to Miley Cyrus or Heidi Klum, but where the hell was the movie stars? Remember the days of Tom and Nicole, Ben and Jennifer (Lopez), damn, even Cher! Instead, we get The Rock. The Rock!!! Are you serious? Next year, please, get the actors back.

Jon Stewart’s opening monologue. It was painfully unfunny. It was so obvious that the writers who were just three weeks ago were striking whipped that up at the very last minute. Even Jon Stewart, who has been a good host in the past, looked uncomfortable up there.

Honestly, the whole damn show sucked. From the out-of-place, choppy clip shows to the weird award ordering, the usually perfect award ceremony began to show some cracks. Yeah, it was always long, but seeing those great moments that only the Oscars could deliver made up for it. There were none. It was a glorified clip show, and people viewed it that way. Viewership was down 21% this year. I think it’s time for a tune up of Hollywood’s oldest vehicle.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Final for Sociology Class ~ Tracking in Schools: A Discussion

Out of randomness I've decided to post this up here. I guessing that I'm going to post some of my other papers up here as well. So as background info, this paper was my final for the sociology course I took at Hunter College here in New York. I must say that I had a great time in the class and it did help expose to something I can later pursue when I actually get to college.

Tracking in Schools: A Discussion

Methods used in educational systems across the nation have always been a popular topic of discussion. Most apparent are the reforms that have been taking place, attempting to fix problems that arise from the usage of an outdated idea. One such reform is replacing the use of tracking student’s academic careers with organizing children into age groups. Tracking is a fundamentally flawed system that leaves room for sociological issues to occur, some of which include large, widening gaps between the students’ test scores and perceived social class. In addition to this, it also limits the potential educational success every child has the possibility of reaching, which is something no educational structure nor authority should have the power to do.

As defined in Sociology: The Essentials by Andersen and Taylor, tracking is “the separation of students according to some measure of cognitive ability.” Historically tracking has been around for many years and is thankfully declining in use. Students are placed into different levels and the curriculum is shaped towards each level’s ability of comprehension. The ideal concept behind tracking is that everyone should be able to learn at a greater degree due to having the planed course of subjects edited to their benefit. Yet, in practice, the actual result prevalent in observations made is quite the opposite. It is explained that “students in the lower tracks learn less because they are, quite simply, taught less. They are asked to read less and do less homework. High-track students are taught more; furthermore, they are consistently rewarded by teachers and administrators for their academic abilities. “(Pg.361 Ibid) By placing children into certain tracks we are harming their education instead of enhancing it.

Stratification is a significant result found in the implementation of tracking. In the article, The Stratification of Socialization Processes, author James E. Rosenbaum explores the severe use of tracking in a town called Grayton school’s system. At one point he states, “Thus, the Grayton track system produces a highly rigid stratification system in many ways resembling a caste system.” (Pg.3) Caste systems are sociologically renowned for their brimming levels of stratification. By Rosenbaum drawing such a connection between the two, one can see just how extreme the difference between each existing track can be. He has alluded to the clear-cut grade contrast of each track and the popular problem of tracking, favoritism. Furthermore, keeping in continuation of the caste system archetype, those higher up in the rankings are happier with the arrangements while the others are more inclined to be disheartened. “Observers in Britain and the United States have argued that secondary school stratification polarizes the student body into pro-school and anti-school factions. College-bound students conform to the school’s demands, while others resist.” (Pg. 4, The Variable Effects of High School Tracking) This illustrates how the lower ranking members can grow to become angry at the conditions and try to oppose them, only strengthening the polarization.

Adam Gamoran’s Measuring Curriculum Differentiation also looks at the issue of stratification between the children. He notes “…student’s positions in the curricular hierarchy are linked to stratification in the wider society…” (Pg. 1) In other words, there are cases where tracking can be seen as a mirror of the board differences between groups in society. Where a person is located on a societal scale is allowed to affect the expected rate of academic performance others hold for them. This logic is dangerous for kids coming from lower and middle classes seeing as how class is in no way a portrayal of intelligence.

Being placed in a so-called ‘low’ track has its mental effects on kids. Michael D. Wiatrowski, in his work Curriculum Tracking and Delinquency, expresses what some of those impacts are for those who are not considered great candidate for college. “Students in noncollege curricula are believe to suffer loses in social status in school, decreased commitment to educational goals, lower self-esteem and poorer self-concept, and are thus more likely to become delinquent than college-bound students.” (Pg.2) These conflicts within their own personal judgments of themselves can hurt these children in and out of matters relating to school. One could say that tracking systems punish these kids twice. First by making it hard for them to compete on an academic platform with others, and twice by creating emotional strife. These kinds of issues can also manifest themselves in the children’s intimate lives for some period of time even after they’ve graduated and moved on past the need for any schooling. It does not make sense that while we are trying to educate students, we are also corrupting them so that they can’t lead seemly normal lives.

Tracking has repercussions on the chances students are exposed to as well. In Jeannie Oakes’ article entitled Can Tracking Research Inform Practice? Technical, Normative, and Political Considerations, she looks into what can be learned from tracking’s past data. “Finally, tracking influences students’ attainment and life chances, over and about their achievement. Track placements are quite stable, partly because early assignments shape students’ later school experiences. By high school, track location has a far-reaching influence – with college-track students enjoying better prospects for high school completion… than their otherwise comparable non-college-track peers.” (Pg.3) Her statement mentions the notion of life-chances. As seen in her example, the tracks have an eminent amount of power in dictating where one ends up later on after high school. The higher up in the tracking system you are, the most chances you have in succeeding in school, and sequentially the rest of one’s life.

Along with the more internal complications tracking brings in schools, it not without its share of social backlash. It has the prospect of becoming more political in nature. “Tracking is accompanied by public labels, status differences, expectations, and consequences for academic and occupational attainment. Thus, tracking becomes part and parcel of the struggle among individuals and groups for comparative advantage in the distribution of school resources, opportunities, and credentials that have exchange value in the larger society. This political dimension often encompasses highly charged issues of race and social-class stratification.” (Pg. 3 Ibid) This comment represents a conflict theorist perspective on the situation. It views tracking as something that provides grounds for members of different tracks to quarrel over the assets that the school has to offer. The sheer fact that they are at odds with each other means that in the end, the overall education received will be at a lesser quality than if they were all in mixed classes. Then everyone would be more likely to receive the treatment they are entitled to.

While succeeding in school is of great relevance, life outside in the real world is a lot more demanding. When children are being partitioned there is rarely, if ever, any consideration of more personal skills. As it was put in the collection of sociological readings known as Sociological Footprints, “we also don’t know the extent of the social-class gaps in noncognitive skills – such character traits as perseverance, self-confidence, self-discipline, punctuality, the ability to communicate, social responsibility, and the ability to work with others and resolve conflicts. These are important goals of public education. In some respects, they may be more important than academic outcomes.” (P.330) The theory of symbolic interaction is most pronounced here, with functionalist undertones. Tracking does not truly take into account social interaction has it is being implemented. The traits needed for interaction between individuals can be taught in school, if everyone is only exposed to those that are really the same as them then the traits listed above cannot be properly assimilated. Thus one of the societal purposes of schools, which is socialization, is not fulfilled, leading to a likely gap in non-cognitive abilities. This outcome completely derails the functionalist conviction of schools being vessels that instills values needed by society.

The integration of students from all academic standings is the self-evident alternative to tracking. Andersen and Taylor refer to this as the detracking movement. They describe it as “based on the belief that combining students of varying cognitive ability benefits the students more than tracking… Students of high and low ability can thus learn from each other; the high-ability students are not seen to be ‘held back’ by students with less ability but are enriched by their presence.” (Pg. 361, Sociology: The Essentials) When classes are mixed, schools can correctly do their societal duty as detailed in the previous paragraph. This is in stark contrast to how “observers and survey researchers have found … students tend to form friendships with others in the same track.”(Pg. 4, The Variable Effects of High School Tracking) There is not much of an enrichment of school if it is a group of similar students. As explicated, a large part of learning is done, not from the teachers, but from the peers’ communication with each other. Limiting the number of peers that they may come into contact with, in turn limits their capacity to learn.

In the end, recent years have shown that the use of tracking, as a whole, has been on the downswing. Educators have been gaining awareness to the negative effects discussed here and turning to the method of mixing students together, so that each class has a good variety of students. They have utilized that tactic in hopes of providing a richer education of all of the students. Needless to say, systems of education are all still inherently plagued with difficulties due to each individual participant’s distinct learning or teaching style. And probably always will be. Yet, one can see that they are now in a more desirable state than they were years ago. Students are no longer afflicted with the stigmas fabricated by the concept of tracking.

From my own point of view, I do see how tracking is a negative idea. However I understand why tracking seems to be a good idea, especially when schools are given inadequate funding. There are simply no funds to provide students that in need with the proper individual attention. After speaking with two of my own teachers about this topic, it is now truly apparent that they struggle to find the right balance of teaching to help all the children in the classroom. They also brought up how the No child Left Behind law is, in their eyes, nothing more than an upgraded form of tracking. They also informed me of how when some of their colleagues had moved past the planned curriculum in order to help students, they got mad and reported that teacher on it. So after writing this paper, and listening to actually first-person accounts, I must say that there really does not seem to be any real action that can fix the issue. It looks as if it people will continue to go around in circles with it while no substantial improvements are made.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Encore Une Fois questions and answers

I've finally got around to posting this up. Been working on it for a while ago and (sadly) I've yet to post it up. Just remember all of these writings in other languages have little mistakes, so I'll gladly take corrections.

Chapter one pg.8
1. Qui va être le narrateur de cette histoire?
2. Où Nicolas et ses amis font-ils leurs étudies?
3. Comment se comportent-ils?
4. Faites le portrait de Nicolas.
5. Faites le portrait d'Alceste. Quel est son principal trait de caractère?
6. Faites le portrait d'Agnan.
7. Pourquoi l'appelle-t-on le chouchou de la maîtresse?
8. Quelle est la conséquence heureuse des lunettes d'Agnan?
9. Faites le portrait de Clotaire.
10. Pourquoi ne peut-il pas jouer à la récré?
11. Qu'est-ce que c'est qu'un cancre?
12. Comment Geoffroy est-il habillé?
13. Qu'est-ce qu'Eude aime bien faire?
14. Quel est le métier du père de Rufus?
16. Faites le portrait de Louisette.

1. Nicolas va être le narrateur.
2. À une école parisienne.
3. Ils sont insupportsblrd, msid ils sont toujours sympathiques. les math.
4. Il est huit ans. Il porte une chemise et un short. Il a les cheveux ébouriffés.
5. C'est le gros qui mange tout le temps. Son principal trait est que il est gros.
6. Agnan est toujours le premier de la classe. Il porte une vester et une cravate.
7. Il s'appelle 'le chouchou' parce que la maîtresse l'aime bien.
9. Clotaire est toujours le dernier en tout. Il ne répond jamais aux questions de la maîtresse parce qu'il ne comprend jamais bien ses questions. Il a le bras cassé.
10. Il ne peut pas jouer à la récré parce que il a le bras cassé.
11. C'est cancre est un "lazy student".
12. Geoffroy est habillé en vrai cowboy.
13. Il aime bien se battre avec ses copains.
14. Le père de Eude est agent de police.
16. Elle est la voisine de Nicolas. Elle a un shoot terrible quand ils jouent ensemble au foot-ball. Louisette a les cheveux blonds et les yuex blue.

Monday, February 18, 2008


Yesterday during my usual conversations with a few friends of mine the topic of passing judgments on people came up. particularly people you've never met. You see, one of my friends was around some other someone else while she was talking to us and that person got mad at me for saying that I did not really like her - and then things spiraled into an argument. Everyone seems to think that I was wrong for not liking a person I have yet to meet but - obviously - I think otherwise. I am fairly dependent on my instinctual feelings about people. I find that it really leads me wrong because most people even up acting in the way that I figured they would. When it comes to the person in question, whenever I hear their voice I feel something like dread pooling within me. This alone is reason enough not to even bother with the girl, seeing as how I rarely get this feeling just from talking with a person. And after last night, her actions have only proved my instant aversion for her. I think of it like this - Lets say you're walking down a street in a neighborhood that you know does not have the best reputation. But nevertheless, there you are walking along and ahead of you, you spot a group of people. automatic you get a bad feeling about them. For one reason or another its just there. You feel it eating at you. Now do you continue to walk down your path, passing them or do you cross the street to the other side that appears to be clear? More than likely you cross the street. I've yet to met a person that would contiune on, disregarding their instincts because its wrong to judge people or some dumb excuse like that. There is a reason why we have that sense and its a good idea to listen to it, no matter how mean that makes you appear to others.

Japanese grammar book - chapters 5 and 6 questions and answers

chapter five


chapter six
6。アリさんと さとうさんはどこで休みましたか?


Japanese grammar book - chapters 7 questions and answers

So some more Japanese practice....



Friday, February 15, 2008

Thursdays Olpc

Thursday night I did get around to working on the wiki, though it was not much. Basically I added some more pages to the RSS reader section. Also, the more I write, the more I develop a nice little map of how all the pages will(hopefully) connect to each other. Sort of like a little road map, relating pages to others with similar/necessary content in order make the most of what one just read. I figure that making sure that, at the very least, I create the outline of connective as I write will benefit in the long run - I won't have go back and shift things around as much if I already have the foundation laid out. However, now that I think about it, this really just seems like a logical progression of things that I should have realized would be essential since the beginning. Yet, since this is my first wiki, I suppose its better for me to get it now before it became harder to weave later. Anyways this week should see some heavy work being done so look forward to some more posts here later.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Why I'm happy that I took an SAT class

At must say that at first, I thought that I could study for the SAT on my own and still come out of it with a good grade. Though, now that this course is coming to an end, I have to say that I was wrong. I just finished checking my scores and from the first week to now my score went from a 1410 to a 1650. While this is still a bit lower than where I want it, I think that I can take care of the studying from here on out.

The course itself is about 6 or so weeks long and the last class is the Tuesday after next, though my final exam is tomorrow. Before I signed up I heard a lot from different people on whether or not there was any value in taking a class in preparation for the test. Many of those who were against it were against the SAT in general and felt that it was not all that of an important factor I should overly worry about. But my logic was that getting as high on the SAT as I can would help me out out in the long run and as much time that has been taken out of my days, I believe it will all soon come back to reward me in the end (and if by any chance it does not, I'd rather know the results of my made attempt, rather than feel like I should have done something when I could have).

So to end this post I would like to pass on this word of advice to those trying to decide if a class would be good for them: Do what feels right. If a course of some kind will help make you feel more comfortable with the SATs then by all means go ahead and look into one(link goes to the one I took). But if you think its a waste, then don't bother. You would only get as much out of it as you put in.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Lack of OLPC updates

There has been no new updates on my part for the OLPC wiki. This new term keeps pilling me down with work and I can't bring my head out of it long enough to post something (and yet I still find time to blog...funny huh?). On Thursday I have internship so I'm hoping to use the night before for the wiki. I'm aiming for a couple of hours of nice uninterrupted work should do wonders for making sure I'm back on track with things. Also the upcoming week off from school I'm planning to do some work to make sure I'm on top of some other things as well. I've noticed that one of my problems (or quite possibly the main problem) is time managing. I don't do good work unless I feel a certain way and I can't seem to force myself back into that anymore. I've been feeling very lazy all of a sudden and this is not the time for it! I want to see if applying any of these time managing techniques I've found will help to make me more productive. If I do get around to it, I'll put some of my findings here later.

In other news, on Friday I got my report card... And it was not all that bad. Only two Bs while everything else were As. I must say that I'm fairly happy with them and they give me something to aim to beat in order to end my junior year well. Well I was quite pleased with what I got, there were a few of my friends and acquaintances who went ballistic. I really did not see the point their behavior but alas, I bit my tongue and just watched. And just earlier today I found out about some English honors club my school is thinking about getting into so thats something I definitely I'm aiming to check out tomorrow.

Friday, February 8, 2008

The Monkeysphere

I've just finished reading an article a friend gave me today, which you can find here. Its about an interesting concept of the Monkeysphere. The Monkeysphere is basically the group of people that you actually consider to be human. They are human because they are the ones that you are in contact with. Everyone else outside the sphere you don't register has human, and thus you allow your actions to be what they will, never taking into account what they would mean for others. It truly is a fascinating outlook on society and I recommend at least glancing over it. Hopefully it'll give you something to ponder as you go about your day as usual.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Second Semester Begins

As I stated before, Friday was the first day of the new term. Now I must admit, there are some things that are bothering about all of this. But there are other issues I feel that they did do a good job at. I ended up being put into all of the so called 'harder' classes for English, History, and Math. And it was not what I was expecting. It looks as if there are more crowded than there were last term. And that really defies logic. How can there be more kids in the classes I was placed into when most of them never signed up for such courses? And now, I'm going to have to deal with people who are merely going to get in the way and drag everything down like last term.

Also as if to add insult to injury, it seems that on our transcript we don't get the classes labeled as "Honors". Instead its going to be "Enriched", if anything is there at all. So long as something is written, conveying that these classes are 'more difficult' than the others I'm okay. Though I must say that 'Honors' sounds so much better that 'Enriched'.

Another thing was how the schedule was revamped. Last term the time blocks for all of the classes were at best spasmodic. There was no standard block of time for them. However, this time around, everyone gets a 55 minute cut of the day. The only two drawbacks for this is that lunch now starts 15 minutes later and we sometimes have to revisit a class we already had earlier in the day, but that is a small price to pay so that the classes are long enough to remain engaging. No more short periods that end right when things were getting interesting and overbearing periods so long that the teacher themself is repulsed from being trapped in the same room with us.

Oh boy, this term is going to be something else...