17 de abril de 2014

Advierten que en escuelas precarias se aprende menos

POR ALFREDO DILLON

Un estudio señala que la infraestructura impacta fuerte en el rendimiento de los alumnos. Docentes y padres denuncian las malas condiciones edilicias de muchos colegios en la Provincia.
Clases en el patio. En la Escuela Secundaria N° 2 de Monte.


17/04/14
Tuvo que pasar casi un mes para que se resolviera el conflicto salarial docente en la provincia de Buenos Aires. Y cuando los maestros y sus alumnos volvieron a las aulas, comenzó una nueva batalla: la que exige, cada día, enseñar y aprender enescuelas con serios problemas de infraestructura, a lo largo y a lo ancho de la provincia.
El panorama que trazan los testimonios relevados por Clarín se cristaliza enpostales de la vulnerabilidad. Techos que se caen o están a punto de derrumbarse, en Mar del Plata. Paredes electrificadas en San Isidro. Aulas inundadas desde hace semanas, en San Pedro. Columnas a punto de ceder en Castelar. Comedores clausurados en La Matanza. Baños precarios compartidos entre alumnos, docentes y directivos, en Los Hornos. Escuelas quellevan años esperando un arreglo o muebles nuevos.
La cuestión edilicia no es solo un tema de arquitectos y plomeros: también es un problema educativo. Un estudio del Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo (BID) analizó la infraestructura escolar de distintos países latinoamericanos, incluyendo Argentina, y la comparó con el rendimiento académico de sus alumnos: la conclusión fue que las condiciones edilicias impactan en los aprendizajes. En otras palabras, es esperable que en edificios escolares precarios los alumnos tengan peores desempeños que sus pares que asisten a escuelas bien equipadas y mantenidas.
“Hay cuatro elementos claves en los aprendizajes escolares: los educadores, los estudiantes, el contenido (lo que se enseña) y los recursos físicos (infraestructura y equipamiento). Las deficiencias en alguno de estos elementos tienen efectos negativos en lo que aprendan los chicos o los jóvenes ”, explicó a Clarín Jesús Duarte, uno de los autores del informe.
El estudio halló, entre otras cosas, que las escuelas con peores condiciones de infraestructura son las rurales y las que atienden a los sectores más pobres de la población –que son, precisamente, las que necesitarían mayores recursos para compensar las carencias de los hogares–. Tres factores son cruciales para favorecer los aprendizajes de los chicos: en primer lugar, la existencia de agua potable, desagüe y baños en número adecuado; también la conexión a servicios públicos de electricidad y telefonía; y, finalmente, la presencia de espacios de apoyo a la docencia, como bibliotecas, laboratorios de ciencias y salas de computación.
Las recomendaciones contrastan con las realidades que describen padres, docentes y directivos de la provincia. Margarita Cuellar, docente en la Escuela N° 20 de San Isidro y la N° 22 de Villa Jardín, enumera: “Paredes con humedad, bombas de agua que no funcionan, vidrios rotos, estufas que son una mera decoración en invierno, comedor sin sillas ni mesas”. Y concluye: “ Es difícil aprender y enseñar en un ámbito que por sí mismo te violenta ”.
Germán Gómez, profesor en la Escuela N° 1 de Villa Adelina, sintetiza los problemas edilicios a partir de una escena que se repite todos los días: “En el horario de llegada, se pierden fácilmente de 10 a 20 minutos de clase mientras los chicos se pelean por los bancos sanos, que son muy pocos”.
La situación no es muy distinta en la Escuela N° 24 de Boulogne, donde la docente María Rosa Gatica describe: “Se llueven los techos y hay goteras en toda la institución. El agua se filtra por los circuitos eléctricos y el subsuelo se inunda siempre. El comedor ni se puede usar durante días de mal tiempo”.
Los especialistas señalan que el espacio escolar impacta no solo en los aprendizajes, sino también en aspectos más difíciles de medir, como la motivación y la autoestima de la comunidad educativa. Una pared descascarada, un aula con ventanas rotas o un techo con goteras contribuyen, sutilmente, a desmotivar a docentes y alumnos.
Según Verónica Toranzo, docente y autora del libro Arquitectura y Pedagogía , “el diseño del espacio escolar puede aportarles a los chicos mayores recursos para el desarrollo de su creatividad, esparcimiento, aprendizaje, mejores vínculos. Un espacio agradable y confortable aumenta el sentido de pertenencia y, por lo tanto, es cuidado por quienes lo habitan y transitan. El riesgo de accidentes también aumenta en un espacio abandonado, con mobiliario en mal estado, que lleva años así”.
Estas miradas le dan su verdadera dimensión a la crisis ediliciaque atraviesan tantas escuelas de la provincia y del país (ver “La escuela que se llevó la lluvia”), pese al aumento de la inversión y las mejoras de los últimos años. La Federación de Educadores Bonaerenses está preparando un informe detallado de la situación para presentar ante el gobierno provincial. Mientras tanto, docentes y padres siguen esperando soluciones.

Los edificios también enseñan

POR RICARDO BRAGINSKI






17/04/14
Fue mencionado como al pasar, en medio del larguísimo conflicto docente con el que se inició este ciclo lectivo. Entre una y otra cifra de porcentajes de aumento salarial que circulaban, algún dirigente gremial mencionaba que también estaban reclamando por la infraestructura de las escuelas. Casi nadie lo escuchaba entonces. Parecía ruido de fondo.
Pero la situación de los edificios escolares tiene implicancias que van más allá de las buenas condiciones en las que un trabajador debe desempeñarse o un chico estudiar. Diversas investigaciones, que se iniciaron en los Estados Unidos en 1993, muestran que las aulas rotas, la falta de bancos o las grietas en los techos impactan directamente en el aprendizaje.
El BID estudió lo que pasa en las escuelas latinoamericanas (muchas de ellas, argentinas). Descubrieron notables diferencias en el rendimiento de los chicos de tercero y sexto grado en Lenguaje, Matemática y Ciencias, d e acuerdo al tipo de edificio en el que estudian.
Lo más lamentable es que estas diferencias profundizan la brechaentre los chicos de los diversos sectores. Los más pobres suelen estudiar en edificios más descuidados, y esto suma dificultades al aprendizaje, que ya tienen por provenir de familias en las que, muchas veces, los padres no fueron a la escuela.
Pocos advierten que en las escuelas no sólo enseñan los maestros,también lo hace el mismo edificio: el espacio en el que los chicos pasan largas horas de sus vidas.
Si realmente apuntamos a una educación de calidad y a obtener mejores resultados, todos los chicos debieran estudiar en edificios escolares especialmente creados para este fin, en buenas condiciones y –en lo posible– adaptados a los nuevos enfoques pedagógicos. Estos espacios no son un lujo, como muchos creen.
Hoy son una necesidad.

Taking Stock: Do MOOCs Work Best For Educated People?

 | April 16, 2014


college-library
UTC Library/Flickr
After just a few years, an explosion of interest, a lot of criticism and some iteration, the MOOC craze has recently come under close scrutiny. A recent University of Pennsylvania study of the 16 courses that the university offered through Courseraindicates that classes with thousands of students may not close the college gap as quickly as some champions had hoped.
On average, the University of Pennsylvania completion rate for its MOOCS was just four percent, although completion rates went up when the expectations for the class were lower. “One thing that did seem to make a difference was the number of expectations on the users,” said Laura Perna, co-author of the study on KQED’s Forum program. “Those who had fewer homework assignments, for example, had higher persistence rates.”
“If there is any overall pattern so far it is that students who are beginning students, more remedial students, they’re going to have problems.”
Another study conducted by Ezekiel Emanuel at the University of Pennsylvania found that 80 percent of MOOC users already have an advanced degree. Combined these studies cast doubt on the original hope that MOOCs would provide low-cost higher education to people across the world that don’t have access to traditional universities, but do have access to the internet and a motivation to learn.
A collaboration between another MOOC provider, Udacity, and San Jose State University has also soured the perception that MOOCs can help struggling students in the U.S. get remedial help. San Jose State targeted underserved students with remedial MOOC-style classes because those courses are in high demand. But many of the students that need remedial help were also less familiar with computers, had unstable access to the internet and learning challenges that made it difficult for them to succeed in regular classrooms as well. Students in the San Jose State Udacity classes did worse than their counterparts in normal classrooms.
“If there is any overall pattern so far it is that students who are beginning students, more remedial students, they’re going to have problems,” said Peter Hadreas, philosophy chair at San Jose State and a MOOC skeptic on KQED’s Forum program. “Students who already have degrees who take MOOCs do much better.”
Sebastian Thrun, founder and CEO of Udacity, doesn’t disagree with Hadreas, but he also doesn’t see that fact as a bad thing. “We have a lot of data that the dominant part of our students are actually people who would not partake in education and they enjoy the convenience of being able to learn at home, at their own pace,” Thrun said. He sees MOOCs playing a crucial role in helping adults retool their skill sets to meet modern workforce demands. Tech companies like Facebook are contracting with Udacity to develop in-service training for their employees because its cheaper and easier than sending them to off site trainings.
A sophomore at San Jose State University called into Forum saying he had taken a Udacity computer science course through the university and liked it more than other courses he has taken. “Whenever I had a problem or question there was always someone there to answer it, which was really helpful when there was a concept I couldn’t grasp,” he said.
On-demand mentoring is one way that MOOCs have been improving pass rates. “Being there at the right time, when a student gets stuck, doesn’t mean you have to spend hours and hours with that same student,” Thrun said. He estimates on average each student needed three to six hours of help over the course of the semester. But mentors found that many students had the same questions, so they could efficiently disseminate answers using Udacity’s platform.
Even if MOOCs don’t end up proving to be a panacea for the rising costs of education, these initial experiments show that they could still be an important player in adult education. The skill gap in the American workforce continues to widen and being able to quickly and cheaply acquire a few new skills to become more competitive in the job market could benefit those lucky people who already have some academic acumen. A McKinsey report estimates that by 2020 85 million jobs worldwide will require skilled labor.
Re-educating people who were lucky enough to get college degrees in the wrong fields won’t likely be enough to meet that demand. Which brings back the initial hope that MOOCs would be a way to educate the masses.
“The motivation was very much to be able to deliver excellent education for less money,” Hadreas said of the San Jose State experiment. But, teachers who have participated in both Udacity and edX have found that course preparation and execution is time consuming and not necessarily cheaper or easier than normal classes when done well.
“I want to establish an honest dialogue about what works and doesn’t work,” Thrun said. “And I want to establish a space where we can experiment with these things instead of shying away and very quickly labeling something as not working.” Two years isn’t much time to solve the world’s higher education problem, and while MOOCs have lost some of their initial sheen, as they experiment, they may come up with something better.

Why are black students being paddled more in the public schools?

100+ Hechinger Report by Sarah Carr  /  

LEXINGTON, MISS. — Students in this central Mississippi town quickly learn that even minor transgressions can bring down the weight of the paddle. Seventh grader Steven Burns recounts getting smacked with it for wearing the wrong color shirt; Jacoby Blue, 12, for failing to finish her homework on time; and Curtis Hill, 16, for defiantly throwing a crumpled piece of paper in the trash can.
In Holmes County, where 99 percent of the public school children are black, students say corporal punishment traditionally starts at daycare and Head Start centers, where teachers rap preschool-age students lightly with rulers and pencils, cautioning: “Just wait until you get to big school.”
At “big school,” the wooden paddle is larger — the employee handbook calls for it to be up to thirty inches long, half an inch thick, and from two to three inches wide — and the teachers sometimes admonish errant students to “talk to the wood or go to the ‘hood” (slang for choosing between the paddle and an out-of-school suspension).
“It’s not really about you learning to listen, it’s about you feeling pain,” says Kameisha Smith, a 19-year-old college student who attended public schools in Holmes County and is helping to organize a student-led resistance to the practice.
Kameisha Smith, now a college student, was paddled three times between the ages of 10 and 14 in Holmes County public schools. (Photo: Jackie Mader)Kameisha Smith, now a college student, was paddled three times between the ages of 10 and 14 in Holmes County public schools. (Photo: Jackie Mader)
In recent months, school districts have come under heavy criticism for suspending and expelling black students at much higher rates than white ones, starting in the youngest grades. During the 2011–12 school year, for example, black children made up only 18 percent of the preschool students included in one national survey, yet nearly half of the preschoolers suspended multiple times.
“We must tackle these brutal truths head-on,” said Education Secretary Arne Duncan during a January press conference at which he issued new federal guidelines for school discipline. The guidelines call for schools to reduce their reliance on suspensions, through such strategies as improved training for staff members and partnerships with community groups and juvenile justice organizations.
Yet both the guidelines and the national conversation have overlooked the brutal truths when it comes to physical discipline in the schools, which still occurs tens of thousands of times a year. As with suspensions, black children are far more likely to get paddled at school than white ones. In 2012, for instance, black children made up 18 percent of the student population but 35 percent of reported incidents of corporal punishment in states that allow the practice, according to asurvey from the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights.
In Mississippi, where about half of all public school students are black, these racial gaps have widened slightly in recent years: in 2012, black children accounted for about 64 percent of those paddled, up from 60 percent in 2000.
The national conversation over corporal punishment is muted partly because schoolhouse paddling is limited predominantly to one region: the South. Only 19 states (including just a few in the West and Midwest) permit the practice, while students can (and do) get suspended in all states.
“During slavery, we were whipped on the back, beat on the back and dehumanized. The sad part is that we are doing it…to ourselves now.” Joyce Parker
But there are other, more complicated reasons that the debate over paddling has taken a different course. In communities like Lexington, the wielders of the paddle and its most vocal defenders are mostly black. Critiques of the practice have become conflated with attacks on the black community’s right to self governance, even when those critiques are voiced by other African-Americans. It’s one of the ironies of the debate that defenders speak of corporal punishment in terms of black self-sufficiency — emphasizing a community’s right to determine how it educates its children — while critics speak of it in terms of black subjugation.
“We feel as if we know what is best for our kids,” says Troy Henry, an African-American board member of St. Augustine High School in New Orleans, who three years ago fought against an effort to abolish corporal punishment at the all-male and historically black Catholic school. He added that the paddle helps enforce the importance of rules and boundaries. “The margin for error is much smaller in black communities, especially for black boys,” he says.
But Joyce Parker, the African-American founder of a community organization in Greenville, Miss. opposed to corporal punishment, said the paddle symbolizes a “legacy we’re trying to outlive.”
“During slavery, we were whipped on the back, beat on the back and dehumanized,” she said. “The sad part is that we are doing it…to ourselves now.”
Signs of change
Even in Mississippi, where a higher percentage of students get physically disciplined than in any other state, the paddle is slowly starting to lose some of its might. The number of beatings fell 33 percent between 2008 and 2012, according to a report by the Clarion-Ledger newspaper in Jackson.
A retired paddle kept at Lexington’s Nollie Jenkins Family Center goes by the name “Mr. Feel Good.” (Photo: Sarah Carr)A retired paddle kept at Lexington’s Nollie Jenkins Family Center goes by the name “Mr. Feel Good.” (Photo: Sarah Carr)
In Holmes County, where Lexington is located, 83 percent of the residents are black; the median household income is about $22,000; and the average life expectancy — 66 for men and 73.5 for women — is the lowest of any county in the United States.
Holmes County’s nine public schools enroll about 3,000 students. School staffers paddled students 351 times during the 2012–13 school year, according to state figures provided in response to a public records request. That number has fluctuated in recent years, dropping from more than 300 incidents in 2009 to 68 in 2011–12, and bouncing back up in the last school year.
Holmes is not an anomaly, but the prevalence of the practice varies widely throughout the state. In 2012–13, three dozen Mississippi districts reported more cases of corporal punishment than Holmes County, with a few large districts paddling their students more than 1,000 times. Other districts are bowing to criticism and using the paddle less. A few, including Jackson Public Schools in the state’s capital, have banned the practice altogether.
The recruitment of younger teachers through alternative programs like Teach for America has contributed to the decline, because they are far less likely to embrace corporal punishment.
Like many small towns in the region, Lexington has a rich history and an en- during charm. B.B. King briefly lived here as a young adult, and jazz bassist Malachi Favors and blues musician Lonnie Pitchford were both born here. The commercial center is shaped like a square, as in the famed college town of Oxford 110 miles to the north, with businesses ringing the picturesque courthouse in the center.


On one weekday afternoon in winter, however, a busker carrying a placard with the word cash appeared to be the only sign of life in the square. She tried to attract customers to a small storefront advertising payday loans and title advances. Given the dearth of people, the busker might as well have been addressing her vigorous shouts and motions to the wind.
Debate over the issue of corporal punishment has pitted parents against kids, neighbors against neighbors, and superintendents against principals in some instances. But opponents of corporal punishment have never gained enough traction to eliminate the practice districtwide. (In Mississippi, the decision about whether to paddle is left up to individual communities.)
Defenders of the practice in Holmes argue that corporal punishment is not only a rite of passage and an effective discipline tool, but mandated by the biblical proverb “Spare the rod, spoil the child.” They also claim there’s a disproportionate need for the paddle in a place where poor children of color will be afforded few breaks down the road if they don’t learn to follow the “rules” early on.
Anthony Anderson, a minister and member of the Holmes County Board of Education, says students who learn the importance of “rules and regulations” will be less likely to get into trouble — or act out violently — as adults.
“There was no other alternative given in the Bible,” he adds.
“Reasonable and moderate”
Students at Lexington’s Nollie Jenkins Family Center, which hosts different afterschool workshops, are pushing back hard against this ethos. They believe the opposite to be true, arguing that paddling is an act of violence that simply begets more violence.
As part of a grassroots campaign, the students are collecting signatures, lobbying school board members and spreading word of their dissent via social media. They face an uphill battle, since a majority of the school board supports the paddle.
Kameisha Smith, who attends Tougaloo College in Jackson, says she was paddled three times between the ages of 10 and 14 as a student in Holmes County public schools. One time, everyone in her class received the punishment for laughing and snickering when they were supposed to be standing silently in line. A second time, a teacher was disappointed with her work. She can’t recall the reason for the third paddling.
Students at the county’s career and technical school have traditionally been responsible for designing and building the paddles that will be used on their peers (and, occasionally, on themselves). Some of the paddles have names scrawled on them by students or staff. A retired paddle kept at Nollie Jenkins Family Center, for instance, goes by the name “Mr. Feel Good.”
It’s most common to get paddled on the rear, according to several students at the family center. Typically, students are told to bend forward and place their hands on a desk or wall before the paddle is administered. The district’s employee handbook states that only a principal, assistant principal or “designee” can wield the paddle; for children in grades seven and above, the staff member must be the same gender as the student. The handbook also states that “corporal punishment shall be reasonable and moderate” and should be preceded by “less stringent” measures such as counseling. It does not specify how many times a child can be struck or on what part of the body.
But students complain that teachers sometimes stray from both the letter and the spirit of the regulations: administering the paddle without permission of the principal, failing to find a female staff member to paddle older girls, or adding embellishments — holes in the wood, wrapping two paddles together with tape — that make the blows hurt more. Occasionally, they say, students get injured, particularly if a student gets hit on the hand.
Three years ago in Mississippi’s Tate County, in the northwest part of the state, a 15-year-old’s family sued the district, alleging that the teen fainted and pitched forward while being paddled, shattering five teeth and breaking his jaw. (Last year, a judge dismissed the family’s federal claims, citing, among other reasons, a Supreme Court ruling that the Eighth Amendment prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment does not apply in school corporal punishment cases.) Similar lawsuits crop up every few years. Mississippi law states that teachers and administrators cannot be held liable in such suits if they follow school district rules and act without “malicious purpose.”

Curtis Hill, 16, vividly remembers “Big Daddy,” the two paddles wrapped together that a teacher used on students’ hands and bottoms when Hill was in the fourth grade. He also remembers the fractured wrist he says one student suffered as a result of a paddling in middle school.
Yet Hill says his family members continue to support corporal punishment.
“My mom, my granddaddy, my aunt, they like it because the preacher said —”
“Spare the rod, spoil the child!” one of his classmates interjects.
In Hill’s view, though, the paddle is mostly about “belittling” children.
“It makes you feel like nothing,” he says.
Powell Rucker, the superintendent of Holmes County schools, says it’s rare for school staff to stray from the district rules when it comes to administering the paddle. “I have not seen that frequently,” he says, adding that staff members who deviate are disciplined. Rucker says administrators do not routinely hit students on their hands, but that sometimes students stick their hands in front of their bottoms at the last minute, which can cause increased pain. “With the paddles being as small as they are, there have been no major injuries,” he says.
For Rucker, who physically disciplined his own children, paddling is a religious imperative. “You can’t change the Bible,” he says. “You just can’t.”
“The way you were brought up”
In addition to citing the Bible and the need to teach children boundaries, defenders of corporal punishment often cite the paddle’s crucial role in their own upbringing. “You can’t easily dismiss the way you were brought up,” says Nathaniel Christian, a minister in Holmes County, who has conflicted feelings about corporal punishment.
Many parents in the county accept paddling as a kind of cultural legacy that should be passed on to their own children. Families who don’t want their children to be paddled in school can sign a form exempting them — an option that some 20 percent of families choose, according to Rucker.
Some parents, however, say they have felt pressured into condoning the paddle. Otherwise, school officials will call them repeatedly, interrupting them at work, and issue suspension after suspension to their children.
Mary Pickett, the parent of a first- and a second-grader, says she disapproves of corporal punishment because it does little to address the root causes of a child’s misbehavior. She signed the form forbidding the paddling of her children. Not long after, she received a call from her son’s teacher, who said he was “hollering” and that Pickett needed to come pick him up. Arriving at the school, Pickett says administrators tried to “push the issue,” telling her they wouldn’t have to call her so much if she allowed them to use the paddle. “I told the principal, ‘If I allow it, they will beat the hell out of them every day,’” she recalls.
Rucker says that parents who won’t permit paddling and dislike out-of-school suspensions should be willing to come in and sit with their children if they’re constantly interrupting other students’ learning time. “In order to have some means of control, educators are forced to contact parents” in some cases, he says. Rucker adds that district staff members usually do not call parents without provocation.
LaShunkeita Clark, another parent, thought she had decided against corporal punishment and signed the form prohibiting school staffers from striking her 13-year-old daughter. But while she was serving as a substitute teacher at her daughter’s school one day, she realized how hard it is to break from tradition. Her daughter, Ayana, began “cutting up” and misbehaving in front of her mother and other students. Feeling disrespected and embarrassed, Clark’s first instinct was to resort to physical discipline. So she allowed an administrator to strike her daughter that day.
In some Mississippi communities, newcomers who find the idea of paddling children abhorrent can feel pressured to accept the practice. Eight years ago, during Robyn Gulley’s first week teaching second grade in the Delta, her mentor rapped disobedient students with a ruler and encouraged Gulley to do the same. Gulley, who is white and grew up in Colorado, tried to find alternative ways to reprimand students. She hung a paper clip with each child’s name on it, for instance, and moved down the clips of troublesome students.
Yet when she called the parents of students with chronic behavior problems, they often responded: “Whup ’em — you just need to wear ’em out.” And when she brought unruly students to the principal’s office, the administrator told her, “Well, you need to paddle them.” Eventually, she stopped taking students to the office and dealt with the problems as best she could on her own. But Gulley continued to worry that spurning the paddle would be construed as disrespectful. She was one of only a few white teachers in the school; most of her colleagues were experienced educators who had grown up in the community. “If I didn’t do it, the implication was that I thought I was better than them,” Gulley recalls.
During her second year of teaching, Gulley paddled students twice. (The district permitted teachers to paddle students in the main office as long as two witnesses were present, Gulley says.) The first time, she struck a younger student who constantly jumped out of her seat and made rude, taunting comments to classmates. The second time, Gulley paddled students who had been involved in a fight, but only after the principal challenged her to do so.
Gulley, who now teaches at a charter school in New Orleans, says she met several wonderful parents who physically disciplined their children. But she questions the efficacy of the strategy. “The feeling after you paddle a child is terrible,” she says. “You are angry. They are angry. And I do not think it is effective. It’s especially not effective for a white person doing it to a black child in an all-black community.”
Seeking alternatives to the paddle
Even some adamant supporters of corporal punishment, like Rucker, do not believe that paddling always works. For some students, Rucker thinks that better counseling and social services are needed.
“But we can’t afford it,” he says, adding that the school receives only enough funding to provide one counselor for every 500 students.
Opponents of corporal punishment say they recognize that they have to present effective alternatives if they hope to change minds. “Something has to go in its place,” says Smith, the college student. She and others at the Nollie Jenkins Family Center have been trying to promote peer mediation, in which students step in to counsel one another through crises and conflicts.
One of the biggest challenges they face is that corporal punishment is not only embedded in schools, but in homes and hearts. And for many adult supporters of the practice, parents and educators alike, corporal punishment is part of their identity, tied in with personal journeys of overcoming obstacles and growing into accomplished adults.
This can make it complicated to attack corporal punishment on the grounds of racial disparities, at least in communities where black leaders and parents might view the attack as an encroachment of their civil rights — not as an enhancement of their children’s.
Moreover, those who cling to the paddle view hard discipline as preparation for the hard challenges many poor black children will face. For these children, the stakes of disobedience, whether perceived or real, will likely be much higher once they leave school and go out into the world. And teachers, parents, and other caregivers are left with the complicated task of explaining this reality to the children, without victimizing them in the process.
“There’s a whole part of corporal punishment that’s a reflection of American society, of who we are and where we came from,” says Gulley. “In a lot of ways, we’re stuck.”
Sarah Butrymowicz contributed material to this report.

Gabriel García Márquez morre aos 87

RIO - Gabriel García Márquez morreu nesta quinta-feira, aos 87 anos, na Cidade do México. Ainda não há informações sobre a causa da morte, mas o autor de "Cem anos de solidão" chegou a ser internado neste mês por conta de uma infecção.
Aos 22 anos, Gabriel García Márquez tinha acabado de abandonar a Faculdade de Direito para se dedicar à vida de boêmio literato. Instalado em Barranquilla, no litoral caribenho, flanava por aí de camisa florida e bigode frondoso, lia e escrevia sem parar, sobrevivendo com os trocados que ganhava num jornal local. Um dia veio procurá-lo, na livraria onde batia ponto, uma senhora que ele a princípio não reconheceu. Era sua mãe. Vinha pedir ajuda para vender a casa dos avós, na cidadezinha colombiana de Aracataca, onde ele havia nascido, em 1927, e vivido até 8 anos de idade. O reencontro com a terra natal abriu os olhos do aspirante a escritor para o potencial literário de memórias de família e lendas populares, que alimentariam nas décadas seguintes a obra do ganhador do Nobel de Literatura de 1982. Em sua autobiografia, “Viver para contar”, de 2002, García Márquez recordou aquela viagem como a decisão mais importante de sua vida.
Criado pelos avós, ambos exímios contadores de histórias, García Márquez teve com eles as primeiras lições de narrativa. O avô, Nicolás Ricardo Márquez Mejía, um temido coronel que o neto só chamava de “Papalelo”, descortinou para ele o mundo das relações de poder. A avó, Tranquilina Iguarán, cheia de superstições e histórias de fantasmas, apresentou ao jovem as maravilhas e terrores do folclore. Em dezenas de livros de ficção e não ficção publicados ao longo de seis décadas de carreira, muitos dos quais se tornaram clássicos do século XX, como “Cem anos de solidão”, “O outono do patriarca”, “Amor nos tempos do cólera” e “Crônica de uma morte anunciada”, García Márquez expressou uma visão de mundo que abarcava tanto os meandros da política latino-americana quanto a dimensão fantástica da existência.
A capital de um universo ficcional
Esse estilo começou a se consolidar em seu primeiro romance, “A revoada”, publicado em 1955. Foi nele a primeira aparição da cidade fictícia de Macondo, que criou ainda sob o impacto do regresso a Aracataca. Assim como sua terra natal, Macondo era um povoado colombiano empobrecido, dominado por uma companhia bananeira, mas com um rico repertório de histórias locais. A cidade surgiu em vários outros livros do escritor, como “Ninguém escreve ao coronel” (1961) e “Cem anos de solidão” (1967).
Foi este último que projetou o nome de García Márquez no cenário mundial. Aos 40 anos, ele já havia lançado outros cinco livros de ficção, mas nunca tinha ganhado um tostão com literatura. Mantinha-se como jornalista, primeiro em vários veículos colombianos, como “El Universal”, “El Heraldo” e “El Espectador”, onde aproveitava as horas vagas para escrever ficção (nessa época descobriu Kafka, que o impressionou muito, pois não imaginava que era permitido escrever sobre coisas como um homem que vira uma barata). Depois foi correspondente na Europa, nos Estados Unidos e no México, onde se instalou no início dos anos 1960 com a mulher, Mercedes Barcha, e o filho Rodrigo. Na capital mexicana, em 1964, nasceu seu segundo filho, Gonzalo.
Foi nessa época, enquanto dirigia numa estrada mexicana, que o escritor vislumbrou aquela que seria a frase de abertura de “Cem anos de solidão”: “Muitos anos depois, diante do pelotão de fuzilamento, o coronel Aureliano Buendía havia de recordar aquela tarde remota em que seu pai o levou para conhecer o gelo”. Gostava de dizer que, depois disso, deu um cavalo de pau, voltou para casa e se trancou pelos anos seguintes para escrever o romance que conta a história de sete gerações da família Buendía.
“Cem anos de solidão” acompanha a intrincada árvore genealógica dos Buendía, na qual o autor parece se divertir com a repetição de nomes (Aureliano, Amaranta, Remedio, José Arcadio), em uma narrativa repleta de personagens e situações fantásticas: o patriarca José Arcadio, fundador de Macondo; Úrsula Iguarán, a mulher que vive mais de 115 anos; José Arcadio Segundo, único sobrevivente do massacre dos grevistas da companha bananeira de Macondo; Maurício Babilônia, sempre envolto em uma nuvem de borboletas amarelas; ou o cigano Melquíades, cujos pergaminhos preveem glórias e tragédias da família.
Com mais de 30 milhões de exemplares vendidos em cerca de 35 idiomas, “Cem anos de solidão” se tornou não só o livro mais popular de García Márquez, mas também o emblema de uma geração da literatura latino-americana identificada com o rótulo do “realismo fantástico”. A partir de meados dos anos 1960, enquanto o continente ia sendo encoberto pela sombra de ditaduras militares, autores da região alcançaram uma projeção internacional inédita. Além do colombiano, fizeram parte do chamado “boom” da literatura latino-americana escritores como o argentino Julio Cortázar, o mexicano Carlos Fuentes, o cubano Alejo Carpentier e o peruano Mario Vargas Llosa.
Fidel: Identificação política e pessoal
A relação entre García Márquez e Vargas Llosa, também premiado com o Nobel em 2010, se tornou símbolo do “boom” e de suas contradições. A amizade inicial se desdobrou em admiração literária (o peruano publicou em 1971 o elogioso ensaio “García Márquez, história de um deicídio”), mas com o tempo os dois se afastaram, inclusive politicamente. Esquerdista na juventude, Vargas Llosa se alinhou ao neoliberalismo e chegou a concorrer à presidência do Peru, em 1990, quando foi derrotado por Alberto Fujimori. Admirador de primeira hora da Revolução Cubana, García Márquez se aproximou de Fidel Castro e defendeu o regime da ilha em várias ocasiões. Mas a divergência mais famosa entre os dois, em 1976, não teve fundo político: por ciúmes da mulher, Vargas Llosa deu um soco em García Marquez, que saiu com um olho roxo. Nunca mais se reconciliaram.
A atuação política de García Márquez rendeu-lhe admiradores e críticos. Muitos nunca o perdoaram por não denunciar os abusos do regime de Fidel, de quem se tornou amigo. Segundo o biógrafo inglês Gerald Martin, autor de “Gabriel García Márquez: uma vida", o líder cubano achava o escritor “pessimista e fantasioso”, mas gostava de suas observações políticas e sentia-se próximo dele por também ter crescido em uma região dominada pela United Fruit, multinacional americana de alimentos que inspirou a companhia bananeira de Macondo.
Deixa a mulher, Mercedes Barcha Pardo, e dois filhos, Rodrigo e Gonzalo García Barcha.

Losing Ground in the Amazon



Continue reading the main storyShare This Page
Continue reading the main story
A global forest mapping system developed by a team of scientists from the University of Maryland, Google and the United States government is now able to pinpoint exactly where and at what rate deforestation is occurring around the world. The results are alarming. The world is losing the equivalent of 50 soccer fields of forest every minute. In Brazil — home to 60 percent of the Amazon rain forest and a major component of the planet’s climate system — the rate of deforestation jumped 28 percent during 2012-13. Environmentalists say a 2012 change in Brazil’s regulations governing forest conservation is partly responsible.
Brazil had been making good progress. From a high of 10,588 square miles in 2004, deforestation dropped to 1,797 square miles in 2011; the number of metric tons of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere dropped as well, from 1.1 billion metric tons in 2004 to 298 million metric tons in 2011. These successes resulted from aggressive enforcement of the country’s 1965 Forest Code, and a 2006 soy moratorium, a voluntary pledge brokered by the Brazilian government, agribusiness and environmental groups to prevent trade in soybeans cultivated on deforested land.
Soybeans aren’t the only cause of deforestation in Brazil, but they are a major factor. Brazil is now the world’s second-largest producer of soybeans after the United States. Soybeans have been a boon to Brazil’s economy, and global demand is growing. Under intense pressure from agricultural interests, Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies approved legislation in July 2012 that rolled back many provisions of the 1965 Forest Code, reduced the amount of reserve areas in the Amazon and gave amnesty to past violators. To her credit, Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff, thwarted some of the most damaging provisions of the new legislation, but the rate of deforestation still rose.
The soy moratorium has been extended until the end of 2014, by which time Brazil plans to have in place new mechanisms to monitor soybean cultivation on deforested land. These mechanisms must be backed by credible enforcement. And developed countries need to do more to help Brazil, Indonesia and other nations whose forests are at risk protect a resource in which everyone has a stake.

India's Youth Challenge



Continue reading the main storyShare This Page
Continue reading the main story
Of the estimated 814 million citizens eligible to vote in India’s general elections that began on April 7, some 150 million are first-time voters between the ages of 18 and 23. How they vote may well determine the results, scheduled to be announced May 16. But will a new government be able to fulfill the aspirations of India’s young citizens?
India is experiencing a youth bulge. Nearly two-thirds of Indians are under 35; half are under 25. By 2020, India will be the youngest country in the world, with a median age of 29 years, compared with a median age of 37 years in China at that point. India’s large youth population, often called a “demographic dividend,” could potentially make India the biggest consumer market and the biggest labor force in the world.
India’s youth came of age in the late 1990s and early 2000s during a period of relatively high economic growth, which put a television in the majority of Indian homes and made cellphones ubiquitous. Young Indians have grown up more connected to the world — beyond their village, their caste, their co-religionists or their income level — than any previous generation. They can see on their televisions how the rest of the world — and India’s privileged classes — live.
Unfortunately, most do not have the remotest chance of acquiring the skills and education that would raise their living to those levels, even assuming enough jobs were created to employ them. India’s education system is simply not delivering: A recent report from Pratham, a nonprofit education advocacy group, found that half of India’s 7-year-olds cannot identify letters, and one in five 10-year-olds cannot read sentences. Manufacturing is not expected to generate enough jobs; a recent report indicates more people will be working in agriculture in India in 2019 than in 2012.
The new government will need to act quickly to demonstrate that it can do better than its predecessors. It will have to jump-start the faltering economy, provide access to affordable, improved education for boys and girls in all regions and help the private sector create tens, if not hundreds, of millions of decent-paying jobs. Unless it can do that, India’s youthful demographic dividend could turn into a demographic liability.