the mindful mission
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Today is the 26th anniversary of the death of Dorothy Day.
Up until a few years ago, I had no clue who she was. I believe I had heard the name, but could not have told you a thing about her.
But in recent years I have had the opportunity to read her books and other materials written about her.
Dorothy Day did not create something original with the Catholic Worker Movement. But she did create something new and something special that was based off of the literal teachings of Jesus.
Court Says No
Posted by Dave on 11/22/06 at 08:34:59 am
I wrote about the Las Vegas ban on feeding the homeless a couple of months ago. I was horrified about the ban then, and still am.
But the good news is that a judge has thrown the ban out:
The sad things is that the city wants to continue to press forward with the bill, making slight changes in a hope to clear the judicial hurdles. But at least the ban has been stopped for now.
Posted by Dave on 11/18/06 at 10:11:59 am
These are some pretty cool photos on Flickr.
Take a look at the realities of the lives of the homeless. Some may make you smile, some may make you hurt.
(Red)emption - Reminder
Posted by Dave on 10/31/06 at 05:39:44 pm
Hey all...just a reminder about Mike Todd's (Red)emption Campaign.
$10 is all we ask for. I have had over 1,000 hits since I posted about this last week. Just think if each of you would have sent in $10.
Also...post about this on your blog. The more people involved the better.
How much is ten dollars? Not very much for many of us. Think about skipping 2 or 3 Starbucks visits, 2 trips to McDonalds, a 12 pack of beer, a movie ticket, or not buying (half of) that CD that you wanted. It may not be very much, but it can go a long way.
The goal is to have 1,000 donors of $10 each.
Become one of the 1,000.
Posted by Dave on 10/30/06 at 02:47:28 pm
The annual study taking a look at the most dangerous cities in the country have been released.
Here are this years "Top 4" (i.e. most dangerous):
The good news in this is that Camden, NJ, having sat at the top of the list for the last two years, has dropped from the top four. I have written a good amount related to Camden, having visited there twice in conjunction with my thesis research. I am not sure why the violence in Camden has been reduced, though I am sure that many will point to the newer gentrification of the down town area. And of course not being in the top four is not the same as saying violence has been reduced. Instead it is only saying that the cities in the top four have had rates of violence that increased more than what has occurred in Camden. But nonetheless, Camden's improve place on the list is good news.
Of course, each of those in the top four (along with Camden) are places of great poverty. Detroit and Flint are famous for their job-loss in recent years due to the failings of the American automobile industry. And Camden has long been devastated by the loss of industry along the riverfront. But interestingly, it is not just lack of industry - many of these cities have significant minority populations, which are disproportionately impacted by poverty.
Does anyone care that these violent cities are are also devastating poor? And does anyone care that many of these devastatingly poor cities have such large proportions of minorities? And does this list actually lead to change? Or does it just scare people way, creating an even less likely chance of change actually occurring?
IMPORTANT - (Red)emption
Posted by Dave on 10/24/06 at 03:04:59 pm
Mike Todd is running a great campaign related to the Product (Red) Campaign.
If you don't know about the Product (Red) Campaign, here is a summary from the Gap press release:
Ten Dollars from each reader. That is not very much money. Many of us spend more than that on fast food each week.
I don't get that many hits, but I get over a hundred a day. What if each of you gave ten dollars. That would be $1,000 heading towards alleviating poverty.
What if each of my returning readers gave ten dollars? That would mean that hundreds of dollars would be going towards this important goal of doing something about poverty.
Doing something like this can be challenging and frustrating. I did something similar to Mike a couple of years ago to help bring Kasey home. The joy of the donations came hand in hand with the frustrations of having so many readers not do anything. Don't get me wrong - I thought it was incredible to see people I did not even know give money to help someone else they did not know. I was overjoyed at the money that I was able to raise in order to help out the Clarks. (an aside...Mike linked to me during my fund drive and lead to significant money being donated!!) But the thought of wanting to do more was always there. Go donate ten dollars to this campaign that Mike is running. It is worth it - worth it for you, worth it for Mike, worth it for me, and worth it for everyone that this will help out.
Ten dollars can go a long ways.
Are you willing to rise to the challenge?
The Working Poor
There is too much to summarize, to go read it.
This was written a year ago right after Katrina, so this seems like a good time to have you read it again, or read it for the first time.
Race or Class
If you had to choose one or the other, which would you say is a greater factor related to inequality in America - race or class?
And if you would like, you could say gender or religion.
I know...this is way too big of a question for a blog post. So answer it anyway!
And by the way...I hate this question. But I would like to know how some of you will respond.
There is lots of talk about inequality resulting from the Paul Krugman article in the NY Times. It is behind the great wall of ripp-offs (i.e. NY Times Select), so I have not read it. Essentially Krugman says that politics/government policy significantly matters in the context of income inequality.
Several bloggers have responded, both in favor and opposition of Krugman's thesis:
All are worth taking a look at.
Posted by Dave on 08/17/06 at 11:57:18 am
Question for my readers.
Would you support a form of affirmative action that assisted those from lower economic levels (in contrast to a system that assisted those minority races/ethnicities)?
Education - Part I: Tutoring
This is Part I of an education series that I am going to be doing. I know this is long...but I hope you take the time to read it. It is worth it!
I have been thinking a lot lately about my current job as a tutor. Next week I move to full-time, and I have wrestled with really wanting to be there for several reasons, most of which I cannot talk about here.
But one of my biggest issues is that I believe that what I do is perpetuating the cycle of economic and educational inequality. Interestingly both Time and Washington Monthly have addressed some of the same thoughts that I have been having about my job. You can view them here:
Let me back up and give some context on a couple of things – education and social class. Education is one of the most important things in our society. The better education that you have, the better off you will be. I would never say that getting more education is a bad thing. The way that our educational system is structured in America is a significant factor in stratification and inequality. In this context it is necessary to look at social mobility and class movement in the United States. Wealth and class levels are directly related (statistically) to the wealth and class levels that your parents existed in. Now this does not mean that one cannot move up (or down) class levels. There are always exceptions. But generally this is little social mobility in the United States. Many in this country wish to believe that America is a land of opportunity (and for some it is), yet the reality is that wealth is inherited, social class is passed down, and one typically remains at a similar level of economic prosperity as their parents and grandparents.
It is well documented that the income levels that one reaches improves significantly with every level of school completed. In turn education becomes a primary way to improve one's social/economic standing. Yet education costs significant money. And worse, good education (or improving one's ability to receive more education) costs even more money. On top of that, our society still views "prestige" as an important factor in success. By this I mean that one views an education from Harvard as being better than a school like the University of Illinois. In reality these undergraduate educations are probably pretty similar – large classes taught by graduate assistants, little access to professors, etc. Classes are (technically) taught by equally qualified professors covering similar content. Yet in most fields the student who graduated from Harvard would probably have a better chance of getting the same job.
The average tuition at the eight Ivy League schools is over $30,000 per year, not including room and board and other fees. This would mean that you end up paying close to $40,000 a year for a college education, totaling $160,000 if you actually finish in four years. So immediately those of us in lower economic brackets are at a disadvantage. This same principle holds true at the primary and secondary school levels. Private schools often offer better educational opportunities and in turn offer better chances of being accepted into the better universities. Yet these private schools (both elite prep schools and less elite parochial schools) also cost significant money. Very few people can afford to send their child(ren) to such schools.
In turn the educational system in America helps continue the cycle of economic inequality. Rich people stay rich, while the poor stay poor because of their inability to afford the opportunities that the wealthy children can.
So what does this mean in terms of tutoring?
Tutoring is expensive. Parents pay anywhere from 20 to 50 dollars per hour to get academic tutoring for their children at various tutoring centers or private tutors (no…I do not make nearly that much). The students that I have vary in their amount of hours per week – some are there five hours a week while others are there for twenty. So do the math. If an average tutoring center costs about $35 per hour, that would mean that some of these parents are paying $700 per week to have their child tutored. The question then becomes why? None of the students are stupid. Few are truly struggling at the level that they should be at. Some are better than others, but few, if any, are in danger of failing out of school.
The motivation for the tutoring is to get into a better school. How do they do that? By significantly improving their tests (ACT/SAT) scores. A 100 point increase on the SAT is a significant increase in the context of college admissions. So these parents pay significant money to improve the test scores of their children so that they can get accepted into (allegedly) better universities so that they can have a more successful life.
This is where it gets hard for me. If I had the same ability to give my children better opportunities, would I do the same thing? I am not sure (partly because I could tutor them myself if needed!). I do know that it is important to do what is best for your children, so I am not necessarily blaming any of the families that get tutoring. I am not frustrated with tutoring as much as the system.
Some high school student in the projects of Chicago may be really intelligent, yet lack the test taking skills and strategies that are needed to do well on a test like the SAT. At the same time a student from a rich suburb such as South Barrington, IL (no...I do not have any students, that I know of, from South Barrington) may be significantly less intelligent than the student from the projects, but they have the financial resources to pay for significant tutoring. In turn the wealthy student will probably do better on the SAT and have a much better chance of getting into a better school - or any school at all.
So that is what I do. I am part of the perpetuation of the cycle of inequality through my ability to tutor students.
Unfortunately it does not stop with tutoring. Parents are paying thousands of dollars to "consultants" to dress up their applications and essays in order to improve their chances of getting into schools. Some are even going as far as paying someone else to take the tests for them!
So it is difficult. I believe strongly in education. And I believe strongly that I am helping the students that I am tutoring. But I also know that what I am doing is also making things worse for those that cannot afford the same opportunities.
College admission is a zero-sum game. If one person gets admitted, that means another person probably is not going to be admitted. A university can only admit so many students. And when those with significant financial resources have the ability to improve themselves, it means that those without the financial resources have a lesser chance to be admitted to the prestigious universities.
So...anyone out there want to donate to my "start a tutoring center in the projects" fund?
Poverty, Katrina, Race, and Class
Posted by Dave on 08/07/06 at 04:50:27 pm
Here are some more related poverty links, all via Mother Jones:
Orlando: No Homeless Meals
How sad is it that a city feels the need to criminalize the hungry?
Do they really need to make it more difficult to get food?
Posted by Dave on 07/22/06 at 11:25:32 am
Las Vegas is criminalizing feeding the homeless.
This is an outrage.
Expensive to be Poor
Posted by Dave on 07/21/06 at 08:50:59 am
You can read the actual report here.
The poor are constantly treated to higher prices - car insurance, groceries, gas, appliances, etc. Often you find few large grocery stores in low-income areas, forcing the community to spend more money on food at corner markets than they would be paying at the suburban grocery store. Gas prices are almost higher in low-income areas. All of these things perpetuates the cycle of poverty. Many claim that wealth and one's economic standing is earned. Yet it is significantly more difficult for one who is poor to move up than it is for one with money precisely due to the reasons above (among other, like lack of a quality education).
Our society has created a permanent lower class, one that cannot break out of its cycle of poverty.
And few people care, and few people talk about it. Why? Because doing something about poverty is not a politically viable option. Low-income individuals have lower voting rates, which in turn creates little motivation for politicians to do anything about poverty. And churches are more obsessed with having more people, bigger buildings, and better sound systems than they are in doing something about poverty. Not only that, but too many Christians believe that the government should not be involved in issues related to poverty. Yet what can the church do about higher gas prices, more expensive groceries, and high costs of insurance? There are issues that can not be impacted by the church, but instead need the government to step in and make a difference. While church members can be vocal and attempt to force the corporations to stop their predatory practices, little will change without government regulations.
Yet where is the church? Supporting the very politicians who refuse to ever vote against a corporation.
Looks like both the church and the government have confused priorities.
Homeless World Cup
This is really cool...
According the LA's Homeless Blog, the results of last years tournament were that lives were truly changed:
I love seeing authentic action that makes a difference on people's lives.
John Edwards says that he can do it. Ezra was there to listen, and then report.
This guy is good...and could just be our next President.
The Swimming Gap
Take a look at The Swimming Gap, looking at the gap between blacks and whites in the context of learning how to swim and drowning. Zuzu takes a great look at the gap and privilege.
I have been thinking a lot about this lately as several people have drowned in the Chicago area over the last couple of weeks, many being minorities or from low-income families.
Pope, Darfur, and Hunger
I really have a love/hate relationship with the Pope. Well...not really hate, but a dislike.
But today the relationship falls on the love side.
From Dom Helder Camara [hat tip sIGNS oF tHE kINGDOM]
Time to think...
Think about it...
Posted by Dave on 04/05/06 at 03:28:06 pm
Someone has done a great job documenting Camden through photos.
If you are at all interested in seeing where I spent the last few days, check out this link.
Click on "ENTER CAMDEN, NJ DATABASE."
Click through some of the pictures. The Camden Community Houses are in the Waterfront South neighborhood, which is towards the bottom near the river if you can find it.
Posted by Dave on 04/03/06 at 10:17:16 pm
Brad Plumer, at Mother Jones, discusses child poverty:
As I sit here in Camden, I see the results of poverty. I sit and listen to the stories of the children at the school. I see the adults who live in Camden who have grown up in poverty.
As I talked before, I realize the important of relationships in dealing with the poverty. But that is at the micro-level. There is also a need to deal with poverty at the macro-level. There are so strucutural problems that lead to and create poverty. And there are also structural solutions that can help solve poverty. So why don't we do what is needed to be done? Brad Plumer has thoughts:
Lets be honest. Neither party wants to do anything about child poverty, because neither party cares. There is little political advantage in doing something about poverty. Few people care. Few people are interested. Because it does not impact them (at least directly). And they do not see it or experience it.
And until the people in this country start caring, and showing that they care, politicans will continue to do little. They may place a little band-aid on the problem, or they may simply ignore it. But they simply will not do much about it until it hurts them to not do anything about it.
We need to be the people that make sure that it hurts to not do anything.
Simple changes go a long way, both on the micro and macro-levels. As Mother Teresa said:
Think about it
Posted by Dave on 03/07/06 at 10:43:58 am
How often do you think about poverty?
And how often do you really think about what it means to be poor, even in the United States.
the mindful mission
criminal justice/death penalty