Saturday, May 30, 2009

Fair Pay for Teachers

It is time for our western societies to pay our teachers a fair wage. A fair wage will afford the recipient the opportunity to own a home and a comfortable lifestyle.

Why would you teach? Would you embark on an education program to become a teacher if you knew that your student loans would be forgiven? If they were going to be forgiven then why bother charging them in the first place?

Some people "dream of teaching but fear an oppressive combination of low wages and high debt."

Loan forgiveness is a system of forgiving loans to people who pursue careers like teaching and nursing. That is, jobs that are important to society but are not high paying jobs. (Nursing is well paid, according to a friend, in California but these statistics are country wide.) Included in these positions would also be "public interest lawyers."

In Kentucky "about 7,500 teachers, nurses and public interest lawyers have benefited from the state's loan forgiveness program since 2003 at a cost of $77 million to the state."

"There is no clear accounting of how many people were swayed by loan forgiveness to pursue teaching, or how many might be deterred by the absence of such programs. But the anecdotal evidence suggests the programs matter."

The New York Times ran an article on May 27th, "Recession Imperils Loan Forgiveness Programs" detailing some of the forgiveness loan programs that are in jeopardy and some that have been eliminated. There is an underlying question here that is not being addressed. Of course the article is worth writing and reading and publishing but like many other issues the underlying question is not addressed.

Why are professionals, like teachers, which are absolutely necessary to society not paid well? It is so simple and obvious that it is overlooked time and time again. Many, if not all, western societies take pride in education and development of its youth and the next generation but, at least in the U.S., they continue to underpay teachers (and other professions). I am no push over for unions and I believe they have a function and a necessary one but isn't this one of their primary jobs - to get their members paid fairly.

Is there a teacher in San Francisco that can afford a mortgage in San Francisco on their teacher's salary? I imagine there are many many other geographical areas that we can say the same about.

Why should an energetic individual interested in teaching have to go into debt hoping for it to be forgiven so that they can teach our children? Why can't they go into debt for college like everyone else and assume that they can repay their loans when they begin earning a fair salary? Do we as a society really want to carry on the ideology that teachers should spend their lives penniless while their young educated students go off and enjoy good salaries.

The favorite educators of our youth should not be bound by the meagre salaries our society pays them. It is time to pay our educators what they deserve and then we will probably have many many more good people wanting to teach.

Source for this post:
Glather, J.D. (May 27th, 2009). Recession imperils loan forgiveness programs. New York Times. P. B1.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Future of Newspapers

The Mayo News presents itself in electronic form and it is aesthetically and practically pleasing.

The ongoing debate about the future of newspapers has many concerned about the future of journalism itself and the dissemination of valuable information to the people. Most newspapers have some kind of internet presence and electronic version of their paper. What I have always found about these electronic publications is that they are a world away from their physical edition. Aesthetically, the electronic versions require a totally different approach and way of reading.

But now I have found one that impresses. I am a proponent of the simple and the beautiful. I have asked before why newspapers don't just put the physical paper version up on the internet. It seems so simple and obvious that perhaps they didn't want to see it. Sometimes the most obvious remedy is the best.

If the audience is buying your paper the way it is then it stands to reason that they like it the way it is. Why change the look? Why don't newspapers just simply put the physical version online. One newspaper has done this (perhaps more) and this paper is The Mayo News. The Mayo News is the local newspaper in the locality where I grew up in the west of Ireland in County Mayo. It has won many awards in Europe for newspaper design.

The Mayo News presents its digital edition as an option. You must click on the digital edition tab and follow on. What you get at the end is the physical newspaper layout, but on your computer. What a simple solution to the question of how to go digital.

I think (and I have thought for some time) that this is the way to transition to digital newspapers and hold the audience. The audience is familiar with the look of the paper. It has been aesthetically pleasing enough before and keeping the same aesthetic electronically will provide continuity which is of the utmost importance when building and keeping an audience.

The turning of the page even comes with audio (although it sounds electronic) to make one feel that they are dealing with paper. This might not be where it all ends but this is a good start.

Friday, May 22, 2009

American Idol

It is difficult to imagine a show that would rival the variety shows of old when I was a young lad. Everyone in the household would be engaged in watching the one show, and from the eyes of a child it seemed as though this was the only show to watch. But viewing the American Idol finale has to be the closest we can come in these modern days.

What a show! How many stars (whether ancient or not) can you fit on to one show. How do you decide how many to include? Queen, Queen Latifah, David Coook, Keith Urban, Black Eyed Peas, Cyndi Lauper, Lionel Richie, Carlos Santana, Kiss, Rod Stewart...
Is this overload or what?

It's just one big advertisement. It seems that American Idol has the perfect captive audience for all of these artists to advertise their wares - a captive huge audience. Almost 100 million votes were cast on the finale to bring the season votes cast to approximately 624 million votes. How much does that add up to for AT&T in texts alone? As Ryan said "Your voices across the country that got us here," I couldn't help thinking that if the texting was a lot less Ryan might be out of a job.

The production used every aesthetic element known to humanity in an attempt to heighten the experience and keep the huge audience tuned in. Again it was almost overload. From the use of desaturation in the intro. to every camera angle imaginable to weird/creative lighting and, of course, the inferior audio on Adam and Kris at the start, it was too much. Is it necessary to present two people, Danny Oakey and Lionel Richie, dressed in black on a big stage and use every angle (and every aesthetic tool) in an attempt to energize the production. Could we not just see them and hear them singing the song.

The production felt like it was over produced. Just too much. I needed to take a breath and look away from time to time.

The Golden Idol Awards are either a joke or a disgusting abuse of some normal people. I'm not too sure which. Obviously some of the individuals are aware of the joke but I wonder if some are taken advantage of. And then the introduction of Catriona Darrell, a.k.a. Bikini Girl...

Bringing the show to the lowest common denominator seems to be comfortable for the producers. The cut-aways to Simon and Randy "gasping" were adolescent and pointless. All the camera angles were directed to objectification of the female. In 2009, chauvinism once again wins out by instigating a "bikini war." Kara Dioguardi showing her "bikini." Wow, what a way to be a "strong woman," a spokesperson for females. Are we to accept that it was for charity and therefore the chauvinistic undertones are acceptable? Do we overlook the ridiculousness of the event because she has a body that is accepted as the cultural ideal and therefore it was o.k? Do we admire this successful woman for singing on stage and then "ripping" her dress off? Is this the role model we hope for on a prime time show aimed at a young audience? Is this what we want our adolescent women to be looking up to?

I say no.

So much potential. So many opportunities squandered. When will we/they start using TV for the good of society. Here is (according to many) the democratization of the media. A show where unknowns become known through the votes of the proletariat. A place where the proletariat get heard.

A place where the producers decided to have a bikini war in front of 30+ million people. What a waste.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Lieutenant of Inishmore at The Berkeley Rep: A Review

As I close in on the end of my first semester teaching at SFSU I have asked the students in class to be true to themselves. I remember my dad quoting Shakespeare (I believe) with, "to thine own self be true."

I have seen many shows at the Berkeley Rep over the years and I love the theatre. The Berkeley rep is a fine place and produces some fantastic shows. I have in my favorite playwrights list at the top both Martin McDonagh and David Mamet.

My inclination is to always find the positive in reviewing any performance, especially theatre, because I believe in the need for it to be supported for survival. But I must be true to myself and review as it is.

So I will focus on the positive...

The special effects on stage in The Lieutenant of Inishmore at the Berkeley Rep are excellent.