No. Music. Period. (well just for a day)

No Music Day was on November 21, just a few days ago. I know what you are thinking… how ridiculous does that sound? But in fact it goes much deeper than just alleviating music for the day. It’s about taking out the headphones, looking around and recognizing others with a little old-fashioned eye contact and a smile. When traveling especially (or in high school hallways) there seems to be two skinny white wires peeking through every girls’ long  hair, or behind a Burton hoodie. What if the headphones were out, what if your iPod was dead? Then what would you do? How about turning to the person next to you on the train and striking up a conversation, hey that person might introduce you to her hot-as-hell niece who is studying the same thing as you at university and maybe that very niece will be your future wife… just saying, it could happen. If you have the headphones in, that serendipitous situation just might not occur. Now, by no means am I anti-music, AT ALL, in fact I appreciate it in all capacities, I do, however, support the notion and the effort in enjoying social interactions, slowing things down a bit and striking up a conversation with a stranger. The quiet man in his late 70s (who didn’t have his iPod in) next you in seat 4C en route from San Francisco to Philadelphia just might be the neighborhood physician from your husband’s hometown in South Africa, what a small world! Afterall, it happened to me.



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I recently read an interview with Clint Eastwood in GQ magazine. He is the director and producer of Invictus, a movie coming out in December about the 1995 South African rugby team; I blogged about it a few posts ago. When the article asked why he was driven to do this movie, he mentioned that the way South Africa was fourteen years ago reminds him a lot of the United States in present day. Not in every way of course, and not literally. But he is right. The state of mind is a bit depressed this day and age, wouldn’t you say? I know the recession is a reality and for many has been life altering in a negative way, but I think we can use a bit of optimism and learn from some other nations who have really been through the ringer. Mr. Eastwood says, “We’re becoming more juvenile as a nation. The guys who won World War II and that whole generation have disappeared, and now we have a bunch of teenage twits.” Now I certainly don’t wholeheartedly agree with this statement especially since I’d like to teach those so-called teenagers he is referring to, however, I do think that we shouldn’t give up on our youth and that we can still mold them into responsible human beings who will take this country far. As teachers it is important to encourage our students to see what it’s like on the other side of the fence and especially to know that the grass isn’t always greener. It takes a lot of experiences, and many times mistakes, to realize this. Last week in my Educational Psychology class there was a question about our responsibility as teachers, specifically, should there be a curriculum requirement for service learning. I responded with a zealous, “YES, OF COURSE!” naively assuming that everyone felt that way. I wrote how it is our responsibility to shine some light and open some eyes for students who don’t have the drive or resources to see what else is out there. My professor explained that he believes service learning is a great experience for students, but that you just aren’t going to save everyone. He is a school psychologist here in South Jersey and he brings up the issue of social services in schools quite often. Perhaps I have lack of experience and as my years a teacher go on I will see things more frankly, but I can’t help but think that exposing students to others’ cultures and circumstances will only do more good than harm for them, and for we teachers as well. Let’s not be discouraged by the text messaging maniacs, but show them what is hard in life, how to deal with it, and how to conquer it.

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So, do you agree?

I recently found the following article posted on Vagablogging a site dedicated to long-term travel. The author discusses the misconceptions of why we do, or do not, travel as much as citizens from other countries. Do you agree with what the author is suggesting? Please comment!


The world according to Americans. Photo posted by Switch

Although there are a lot of people in other developed countries who don’t travel, Americans tend to get singled out as the worst offenders. Backpackers love to repeat the statistic (myth?) of how few Americans hold passports as proof.

This article from Brave New Traveler, Are Americans afraid to travel? tackles this recurring phenomenon. In the comments,  readers named some of the main obstacles to travel. Here are some of the usual suspects:

–U.S. media overstates the danger of foreign countries.

–Misconceptions about the cost of travel.

–Puritan work ethic discourages travel as a waste of time.

–Materialist culture encourages consumption over travel.

–Americans have less vacation time compared to Europeans.

–Americans have to spend more of their incomes on health care, education, and other social services, because the U.S. government provides fewer of these. This leaves less money for travel.

–America lacks the “gap year” culture that is popular in other countries, e.g. Australia.

I could go on forever, but I digress. When we eliminate the external factors like those previously stated, are Americans themselves just plain not interested in going outside their own country? (FYI: I’m American)

Would you say there are other developed countries who also have lots of people who don’t want to travel? I’ve had friends from countries other than America say that they also felt like outcasts back home for traveling.

On a more humorous note, some travelers have said they actually like the status quo. If even an extra 10 percent of the American population decided to travel abroad every year, that would be about 30 million more people clogging up planes and hotels. That’s the equivalent of almost the entire population of Canada hitting the road.

Worldwide tourism infrastructure could collapse under the demand of that many travelers. And would we really want to run into a hometown neighbor when we’ve climbed to the top of a mountain for that magical sunset?

So maybe we should just keep those exotic cultures and beautiful landscapes for ourselves? Just kidding! Posted by Marcus Sortijas

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Making a difference.

This article from a website dedicated to the good news from South Africa (shouldn’t all places have that!) discusses how the anticipation of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa is helping to help underpriviliged children overcome social problems. It is just one example of how sports can heal. Below is an image of the Alexandra township in Johannesburg.

Alexandra Township- Johannesburg

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Sports. They bring us together.

So for the last two weeks in a row we got out of our Wednesday Educational Psych class early. Why you ask? For a little reason called the Philadelphia Phillies. Am I the biggest Phillies fan around? Certainly not. Am I complaining about getting out of class early? Certainly not. I actually asked my professor after class if he was a big Phillies fan, the truth is, he isn’t either, but it’s the idea of the masses that sways him to dismiss us early. He says he’d get trampled if he didn’t let us out early. I don’t necessarily agree with it, but I’m not going to cry over it. The idea that people come together through sport is a really interesting concept. It can bind together those who do not usually see eye to eye and it can certainly polarize others. On December 11th there is a movie coming out about the 1995 Rugby World Cup; it highlights this unification on a grand scale. The tournament took place in South Africa a year after the end of Apartheid. The country was on show for the rest of the world to see and it had a long way to go to earn the trust of other nations. South Africa was mistrusted and considered a racist country up until that point. It was at this tournament that South Africa had to prove its readiness to move on from a tainted past. The movie is called Invictus (the title of one of Nelson Mandela’s favourite poems) and it is about South Africa’s journey as a country to this tournament. It tells the story of a rare relationship between a black man and a white man in post-Apartheid South Africa. It takes us on a journey of how the universal language of sports can bring together those who at one time were filled with such resentment and hatred. I think this story can be transcended to many corners of the globe where there is an abundance of conflict. It takes something that all can relate to for people to be unified. Sports are a great way to emphasize teamwork and conflict resolution; they can bring together those who would not normally interact and can bring peace and healthy competition to places of previous unrest. Take a look at the trailer for Invictus; see you at the theatre on December 11th.


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The rest of the world is playing together, why aren’t we?

You cannot turn on the radio or television in South Africa without hearing the latest rugby scores from Australia that day, or the latest business news from Hong Kong or find out who Prince Harry is dating this month, oh, in a plethora of different languages of course. It seems, that without trying, South Africans are naturally diverse and naturally interconnected with other countries. While I sit at my laptop in the United States, I have to consciously seek out news from other countries, it seems that we are very isolated from the rest of the world. Perhaps one of the main things that separates us is the kinds of sports we play. Believe me, my father is in his 29th year as a high school football coach here in South Jersey, I love American football. But because we don’t have that common ground in sports, something that brings people together, we have to make a serious effort to get news from different sources to be in the know about other parts of the world. ESPN is certainly not reporting the newest rugby and cricket scores to us, why would they? During my time spent in South Africa I worked for a sports news production company. We mainly did outside broadcasting for rugby and cricket throughout South Africa and the UK. The major event I was involved with each year was the Junior Rugby World Cup in Belfast, Northern Ireland in 2007 and Wrexham, Swansea and Cardiff, Wales in 2008. The footage we would shoot during these assignments was used for South African sports news each night, on their version of ESPN. We worked for South African television, shot a few magazine news shows for Zimbabwe and teamed up with a Welsh production company for the few weeks we were travelling. Every country was interconnected. It seems that everyone had a fundamental general knowledge of other countries and cultures without that really being the mission, just by participating in common sports. I began to feel left out until on my second world cup assignment I spotted the US junior rugby team in my terminal at Heathrow. Hooray! Did you know we have a US junior rugby team? Well we do! Perhaps the players’ parents and myself are sadly the only ones who know. Anyway, I was proud to see the red, white and blue uniforms and even teared up during our national anthem when the US played South Africa. Throughout these trips I felt lucky to be a part of the journalistic crew who hung out late in cafes editing their work. I could not help but notice how knowledgeable everyone was about each other. It was not necessarily because they were reading up on Fijian politics or Scottish history, but by playing this common sport, they are linked in a way that the United States is just not. It is like a certain camaraderie or club that we are not a part of. They travel the world all year round and have worldwide tournaments together. I got a glimpse into this club and it has fascinated me since, is there something other than sports that ties these countries together? Altogether this is not a talk to promote rugby, or to discount American sports, but to observe that the rest of the world is “playing” together, why aren’t we?

Below is a highlight video from the Junior Springboks run in Wales from May 2008. Enjoy!

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New Jersey v. T.L.O.

Hopefully it is understood by all in our communities that schools are deemed the right, and obliged to act as loco-parentis, Latin for acting in place of a parent, for all students. Administrators and teachers are all taking on this responsibility when they become employees of a school district. I believe most schools put in their utmost effort to ensure that the school is as safe as it can possibly be. I know in my field placement we have had many fire and evacuation drills along with meetings that reiterate the zero tolerance rule for drugs and alcohol. This is all in order to create a haven for learning. In the court case from 1985, New Jersey v. T.L.O., an administrator, who had the reasonable suspicion a female student possessed cigarettes, and marijuana paraphernalia, searched the young woman’s purse. T.L.O., as the juvenile is called to protect her identity, felt that this violated her Fourth Amendment right to a reasonable search and seizure. The New Jersey Supreme Court agreed that the search was a Fourth Amendment violation, however, the United States Supreme Court deemed that it was constitutional because a search by a school official does not violate the Fourth Amendment so long as the official has reasonable grounds to believe that a student possesses evidence of illegal activity or activity that would interfere with school discipline and order.

Twenty-four years later, another case comes across the table of the United States Supreme Court, Safford Unified School District v. April Redding. In this case, a female high school student was actually strip searched because it was under suspicion that she had over the counter painkillers, ibuprofen, in her purse or clothing. The student was so scarred from this strip search that she transferred schools and her mother took the case to the highest possible court. The strip search in question was eventually deemed unconstitutional in an 8-1 decision on June 25, 2009.

I truly respect and uphold the idea that as employees of a school district it is our responsibility to keep the school as safe as possible. In the case of New Jersey v. T.L.O. I agree with the Court’s decision. In order to protect the school and enforce the zero tolerance policy on drugs and alcohol, I believe searching T.L.O.’s purse was the right thing to do. I do believe, however, that the Safford Unified School District v. April Redding is a completely different story. I understand that a zero tolerance policy on drugs means that there are no gray areas, but to strip search a teenage girl, for whatever the suspicion may be, is completely inappropriate. If the administrators who performed the search deemed it so necessary, they should have called the student’s parents or guardians and had them present at the time. In this article even Justice Ginsberg gave a rare interview during the pending case empathizing with the student’s embarrassment and humiliation at the time. I do think this was taken into consideration. This particular case was heatedly debated in the months preceding the decision. Some considered it a strict violation and intimidation; others believed it would cause school administrators’ hands to be tied when dealing with searching in schools. I think the mission to uphold safety in our schools must be strictly enforced, however, when a situation goes this far, there are many decisions that could have been made to keep it from going to the Supreme Court and still do the right thing.

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