Social Justice Advocacy in Detroit

Advocating for Social Justice

Most of us are in a hurry to avoid the harsh winter wind and snow-Wayne State University Law School graduate Lisa Walinske embraces it.

At least she did for for 25 days in December of 2017 in an effort to raise money and awareness for her organization ReDetroit East NPO, Inc- which provides free and low cost legal services for the underprivileged.

She camped out in a small shelter of scrap plywood and plastic tarp on Jefferson Avenue in Detroit, braving the cold Michigan December, sleeping in her sleeping bag.

According to the article in Wayne State University News, Lisa Walinske states:

“On the streets in the shack, I was exposed to the elements and a steady stream of people of all kinds. Some people brought gifts, donations, snacks, supplies. Some people came with their pain and shared stories of deep wounds of injustice.”

Walinske has earned over $22,000 through a Go Fund Me campaign, which surpassed her goal of $18,500.

She is leading a purpose filled life, utilizing her education to level the playing field for those that might not have the knowledge, networks, or other resources to navigate the complex legal system which often neglects their needs.

Walinske states, “I believe in standing up for justice, which sometimes means upsetting the status quo. My goal in starting the center was never to take Legal Service Corp. funds (which come with restrictions), and to bring the law back to the people — all people.”

Questions for Discussion

  1. Why did Lisa Walinske sleep in a tent for 25 days in December?
  2. How is she using her education to serve the community?
  3. Why does she think it is necessary “…to bring the law back to the people-all people?”
  4. What other ways might someone advocate for social justice?
  5. How is “justice” defined?
  6. What questions would you ask Ms. Walinske about her experience?

For a link to the article from Wayne State University news, please click here. 

 

Celtic Resources to Enrich St. Patrick’s Day 2018

While many folks will be spending St. Patrick’s Day in the U.S in the traditional way, listening to the Pogues and wearing funny green hats, we here at Wide Open Research prefer to take a more scholarly approach and get lost in the many wonderful Celtic resources out there.

So, first I will likely get up and listen to the Pogues perform, “If I Should Fall From Grace From God.” Then I will eat yogurt, which is not really Celtic at all, but what I usually eat for breakfast.

Then, it’s right to work.

First, I will check out the UC Berkeley, Celtic Studies Webpage, one of the most venerable programs in the U.S. This site contains a link to an interesting story about the best cities in the U.S. to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, which uses an interesting formula, as well as a brief interview with professor Daniel Melia.

Then I will linger a bit on the website and imagine that I have an abundance of time and money and can spend time in California, taking both their courses Celtic 105A, Old and Middle Irish, as well as 173, Celtic Christianity. Having neither the time, nor the money, I will simply google onward!

Why, not take a youtube break and listen to James Joyce reading from Ulysses posted by Dor Shilton.  As I am certainly no Joycean scholar; I can only appreciate this as a fan. The sound quality is quite poor, but for me it only adds to the aching beauty and melancholy, as we must concentrate to listen through the mists of time.  The cadence and tonal quality of his voice is musical, almost meditative, and best appreciated not in an effort to comprehend, but as a balm, to soothe the soul and as a reminder that language can be beauty incarnate.

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While not specifically devoted to Celtic Studies, the University of Edinburgh, Celtic and Scottish Studies has a link to internet resources that should serve as a nice resource to bookmark.

Wow, I’m getting a bit tired now, so much learning, so little time! I think I shall end my wild St. Patrick’s Day celebration with a bit of Yeats, my entry point for Celtic beauty, way back in 11th grade English. I think it shall be of course, a lovely reading of When You Are Old, through the wonderful Poetry Foundation website.

“And I loved the sorrows of your changing face…”

Sigh.

So, how does a Wide Open Research reader integrate these themes? One of my favorite lessons from student teaching was an assignment when the students read a poem and then drew an image or scene from the poem. Their insights and acuity were wise and inspiring. I would simply say, the best way to  honor the spirit of the Celts is to honor creativity itself, especially through songs, stories, poetry, folklore, and a deep appreciation for the power of language to resonate across time, between cultures, and into the fiber of our souls.

I also am a big fan of memorizing poetry or a soliloquy-its good for the brain and for the “soul.” I think it should be a graduation requirement (along with writing at least one scholarly research paper. )

For more great poetry, check out the work of Robert Fanning. 

Please note:This post was update from a 2017 post. Thank you!

 

Rust Belt America-Flint in Perspective

Those of us who live in Michigan, are well versed with the challenges facing the Flint community over the last several decades (and longer.)

Beginning with the hit by Michael Moore- Roger and Me which explored the devastating impact that the decline on the auto industry had on the community, through the Water Crisis, the emergency manager, and so on, a multi-disciplinary course called “Rust Belt America-Flint in Perspective,” could be an important addition to a university curriculum or upper level high school thematic unit.

An important element to the Flint story would be the work the many glimmers of hope-including the Flint Institute of Arts, currently undergoing a major expansion. They are putting on an important exhibit through the end of March, curated by the Smithsonian Anacostia, called Ubuhle Women: Beadwork and the Art of Independence, which I also wrote about here.

I would encourage anyone who is able to visit the Flint Institute of Arts to catch this moving, challenging, and ultimately hopeful exhibit.

To add to the inspiring work to improve the lives of the citizens of Flint, I would like to point out the work of Michigan State University researcher Joshua Introne, assistant professor in the Department of Media and Information. Introne’s work is an app that would help turn Flint from a food desert into a food oasis.

A food desert is an area with limited access to healthy, fresh food options. Through this app, “Flint Eats” Introne hopes to provide a flow of information to consumers and retailers to improve access to healthy food.

As reported in the MSU Today article by Kristen Parker,”The key is that we have to build some trust back into the community,” We have to give residents a sense of ownership over the food system. The project is not an app. The project is trying to address some fundamental social and economic problems. The app is really the visible part of this much larger effort.”

Here’s hoping Introne’s work succeeds and is one of many bright spots to emerge from Flint.

Questions for Discussion

  1. What is the a food desert?
  2. What factors contribute to a food desert?
  3. How does the Flint Eats app address a root cause of the food desert in Flint-identify the root cause.
  4. What other solutions to address this issue might you consider?
  5. Below is a sample list of topics/questions  for a course called, “Rust Belt America: Flint in Perspective”-what would you add or change?

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RUST BELT AMERICA: FLINT IN PERSPECTIVE TOPICS

  1. Naming the Rust Belt- What is the Rust Belt?  How is it named? Who is able to name a region?
  2. Why is Flint, a city with a current population of about 97,000 important to study? What are the historical trends and demographics of Flint? In what ways do demographics define a city/region? How can you examine Flint from the lens of human geography?
  3. Boom and Bust Cycles in Flint- Examining the Economic History of Flint.
  4. Flint and the World: Macroeconomic backdrop to the Crisis
  5. Timeline of Crisis: What actually happened and when did it happen? An urban studies/journalism perspective.
  6. The Crisis and Citizens-how did the crisis impact citizens and how did they respond? How were self-governance and representative democracy impacted? A political science perspective.
  7. The Crisis and Children-how did this affect the most vulnerable and what are the long term impacts of lead on brain development-a neuropsychological and mental health perspective.
  8. Flint and Culture: How did artists respond to the crisis? An MFA perspective.
  9. Flint in the Media: How has Flint been portrayed in the media? A media studies perspective.
  10. Flint and Opportunity: What are some promising developments in Flint- a business/entrepreneur perspective.
  11. What does Flint mean to the region, the country, the world? Is the “Rust Belt” still a meaningful name? A summation and next steps.

I would love to hear what you think about the questions posed above and to hear about other good news coming from Flint.  Please plan a visit to check out the Flint Institute of Arts and best of luck to the Flint Eats team!

 

“Big Frog/Small Pond?”-University of Michigan Research

I often am intrigued by how people make decisions. Rarely, is it rationally. Whether it is choosing an automobile, a home, a college, or a career, there usually is some latent force that propels individuals to choose-often  without considering even the most basic facts of the options at hand.

This sort of unconscious motivation is not particularly new to any student of psychology/philosophy or even just a curious observer of human nature.

I love it, however, when researchers actually are able to identify the processes by which we humans function and are able to articulate them.

So, I was very pleased to read about University of Michigan doctoral candidate, Kaidi Wu’s research which identified the role of culture in individuals making college/ career decision.

Specifically, Wu’s research noted that Chinese individuals were about twice as likely as European-Americans to choose to be the “little frog in the big pond.” That is, to enroll in a top college, even when their grades were below the average, than European-Americans. Similarly, they prefered to work in a top 10 company, again almost twice as frequently as European-Americans.

Wu emphasizes the importance of cultural values and norms in making a decision, suggesting there is no gold-standard for decision making.

I think a follow up study in which students were asked to articulate their “reasons” for this decision which might help reveal the extent they themselves are aware of the impact that culture makes in decision making.

To read more about the research, please read Jared Wadley’s article from Michigan News.

Questions for Discussion

  1. Why is understanding the decision making process important?
  2. Why did Wu choose this sample population?
  3. How large was the sample size-do you think this is a sufficient amount for this research?
  4. What would you choose- to be the big fish in the small pond, or vice-versa? Why do you think you chose this way?
  5. What additional information would you need to be sure it is “cultural appropriateness” and not some other factor contributing to this decision?
  6. How could one study whether or not the individual made the “right” decision for themselves?

 

Do Video Game Ratings Labels Work?

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Yes, according to Iowa State University marketing professor Russell Laczniak.

In an excellent article posted by writer Angie Hunt, Laczniak states, “Parents must actually mediate kids purchase and play of video games, which requires effort and time.”

Professor Laczniak and his associates conducted the research by surveying 220 families online. The survey had questions for parents as well as children. Interestingly, the research respondents were primarily dyads of mothers and sons. He focused on children in the age range of 8-12 as that seemed to be a heightened time of cognitive change and growing influence of peers.

It is essential that parents must actually intervene and influence both the purchase of video games, but also the time that their child spends on video games. So, parents need to set clear limits and implement them consistently in order to have a positive impact.

So, what is this positive impact-simply reducing the number of hours playing video game? According to Laczniak and colleagues, the impact is so much more.  The article suggests that when video game use is limited in this age group, the children are less likely to demonstrate acting out behaviors. This comes as no surprise to most of us who have worked in education for a while, but is important to have yet more data that leads to this conclusion.

Previous research notes, that a particular parenting style also has the most impact on successful implementing the limits- parents who are warm and restrictive as opposed to “anxious” tend to have the best results. I think there is a body of evidence that shows that this is important in any parental interaction, not simply in the limitation of video game watching. Please also check out the science tab of Wide Open Research for further information on being a digitally wise parent or educator.

This is great research and all parents and educators would want to read the article. Teachers of Psychology, Child Development, Parenting, Marketing for sure could use this for a productive discussion. Teachers of an Intro to Law, or Media Studies course could use this to discuss the larger legal and cultural role that video games play in our society.

A few takeaways for teachers and administrators to share with parents:

  1. Read the labels on video games and follow their guidance.
  2. Calmly and firmly tell your child that you will not buy or let them play video games that are “too old” for them. Explain that you are trying to help them become the best students and people possible and this is going to help. Do not have an extended debate.
  3. Provide an alternative activity for the child.
  4. Network with other parents and educators who hold similar values. Common Sense Media is a great resource. 

Question for Discussion

  1. What is your experience in playing violent video games?
  2. Why do they hold such a fascination in our culture?
  3. Are these games popular throughout the world? Where?Who tends to play these games the most?
  4. What are some limitations of this research?
  5. How could professor Laczniak and his colleagues conduct follow up research?
  6. What do you think of the suggestions noted in the article regarding other ways companies could show a game’s rating? What other ways can you think of to help parents make more informed choices regarding video game use?
  7. Perhaps the creative teachers would like to help their students develop Public Service Announcements, to help parents use this research?
  8. What else does this inspire you to “learn, dream, do?”