Tuesday, July 29, 2014

What do You Want From Your College Experience

In the spring of 2008, I did a daylong stint on the Yale admissions committee. Wethat is, three admissions staff, a member of the college dean’s office, and me, the faculty representativewere going through submissions from eastern Pennsylvania. The applicants had been assigned a score from one to four, calculated from a string of figures and codesSATs, GPA, class rank, numerical scores to which the letters of recommendation had been converted, special notations for legacies and diversity cases. The ones had already been admitted, and the threes and fours could get in only under special conditionsif they were a nationally ranked athlete, for instance, or a “DevA,” (an applicant in the highest category of “development” cases, which means a child of very rich donors). Our task for the day was to adjudicate among the twos. Huge bowls of junk food were stationed at the side of the room to keep our energy up.
The junior officer in charge, a young man who looked to be about 30, presented each case, rat-a-tat-tat, in a blizzard of admissions jargon that I had to pick up on the fly. “Good rig”: the transcript exhibits a good degree of academic rigor. “Ed level 1”: parents have an educational level no higher than high school, indicating a genuine hardship case. “MUSD”: a musician in the highest category of promise. Kids who had five or six items on their list of extracurricularsthe “brag”were already in trouble, because that wasn’t nearly enough. We listened, asked questions, dove into a letter or two, then voted up or down.
With so many accomplished applicants to choose from, we were looking for kids with something special, “PQs”personal qualitiesthat were often revealed by the letters or essays. Kids who only had the numbers and the résumé were usually rejected: “no spark,” “not a team-builder,” “this is pretty much in the middle of the fairway for us.” One young person, who had piled up a truly insane quantity of extracurriculars and who submitted nine letters of recommendation, was felt to be “too intense.” On the other hand, the numbers and the résumé were clearly indispensable. I’d been told that successful applicants could either be “well-rounded” or “pointy”outstanding in one particular waybut if they were pointy, they had to bereally pointy: a musician whose audition tape had impressed the music department, a scientist who had won a national award.
“Super People,” the writer James Atlas has called themthe stereotypical ultra-high-achieving elite college students of today. A double major, a sport, a musical instrument, a couple of foreign languages, service work in distant corners of the globe, a few hobbies thrown in for good measure: They have mastered them all, and with a serene self-assurance that leaves adults and peers alike in awe. A friend who teaches at a top university once asked her class to memorize 30 lines of the eighteenth-century poet Alexander Pope. Nearly every single kid got every single line correct. It was a thing of wonder, she said, like watching thoroughbreds circle a track.
These enviable youngsters appear to be the winners in the race we have made of childhood. But the reality is very different, as I have witnessed in many of my own students and heard from the hundreds of young people whom I have spoken with on campuses or who have written to me over the last few years. Our system of elite education manufactures young people who are smart and talented and driven, yes, but also anxious, timid, and lost, with little intellectual curiosity and a stunted sense of purpose: trapped in a bubble of privilege, heading meekly in the same direction, great at what they’re doing but with no idea why they’re doing it.
READ: I'm a Laborer's Son. I Went to Yale. I Am Not "Trapped in a Bubble of Privilege."
When I speak of elite education, I mean prestigious institutions like Harvard or Stanford or Williams as well as the larger universe of second-tier selective schools, but I also mean everything that leads up to and away from themthe private and affluent public high schools; the ever-growing industry of tutors and consultants and test-prep courses; the admissions process itself, squatting like a dragon at the entrance to adulthood; the brand-name graduate schools and employment opportunities that come after the B.A.; and the parents and communities, largely upper-middle class, who push their children into the maw of this machine. In short, our entire system of elite education.
I should say that this subject is very personal for me. Like so many kids today, I went off to college like a sleepwalker. You chose the most prestigious place that let you in; up ahead were vaguely understood objectives: status, wealth“success.” What it meant to actually get an education and why you might want oneall this was off the table. It was only after 24 years in the Ivy Leaguecollege and a Ph.D. at Columbia, ten years on the faculty at Yalethat I started to think about what this system does to kids and how they can escape from it, what it does to our society and how we can dismantle it.

Ayoung woman from another school wrote me this about her boyfriend at Yale:
Before he started college, he spent most of his time reading and writing short stories. Three years later, he’s painfully insecure, worrying about things my public-educated friends don’t give a second thought to, like the stigma of eating lunch alone and whether he’s “networking” enough. No one but me knows he fakes being well-read by thumbing through the first and last chapters of any book he hears about and obsessively devouring reviews in lieu of the real thing. He does this not because he’s incurious, but because there’s a bigger social reward for being able to talk about books than for actually reading them.
READ: Can World of Warcraft Save Higher Education?
I taught many wonderful young people during my years in the Ivy Leaguebright, thoughtful, creative kids whom it was a pleasure to talk with and learn from. But most of them seemed content to color within the lines that their education had marked out for them. Very few were passionate about ideas. Very few saw college as part of a larger project of intellectual discovery and development. Everyone dressed as if they were ready to be interviewed at a moment’s notice.
Look beneath the façade of seamless well-adjustment, and what you often find are toxic levels of fear, anxiety, and depression, of emptiness and aimlessness and isolation. A large-scale survey of college freshmen recently found that self-reports of emotional well-being have fallen to their lowest level in the study’s 25-year history.
So extreme are the admission standards now that kids who manage to get into elite colleges have, by definition, never experienced anything but success. The prospect of not being successful terrifies them, disorients them. The cost of falling short, even temporarily, becomes not merely practical, but existential. The result is a violent aversion to risk. You have no margin for error, so you avoid the possibility that you will ever make an error. Once, a student at Pomona told me that she’d love to have a chance to think about the things she’s studying, only she doesn’t have the time. I asked her if she had ever considered not trying to get an A in every class. She looked at me as if I had made an indecent suggestion.
There are exceptions, kids who insist, against all odds, on trying to get a real education. But their experience tends to make them feel like freaks. One student told me that a friend of hers had left Yale because she found the school “stifling to the parts of yourself that you’d call a soul.”

MAP: America's 10 Richest Universities Match These Countries' GDPs
“Return on investment”: that’s the phrase you often hear today when people talk about college. What no one seems to ask is what the “return” is supposed to be. Is it just about earning more money? Is the only purpose of an education to enable you to get a job? What, in short, is college for?
The first thing that college is for is to teach you to think. That doesn’t simply mean developing the mental skills particular to individual disciplines. College is an opportunity to stand outside the world for a few years, between the orthodoxy of your family and the exigencies of career, and contemplate things from a distance.
Learning how to think is only the beginning, though. There’s something in particular you need to think about: building a self. The notion may sound strange. “We’ve taught them,” David Foster Wallace once said, “that a self is something you just have.” But it is only through the act of establishing communication between the mind and the heart, the mind and experience, that you become an individual, a unique beinga soul. The job of college is to assist you to begin to do that. Books, ideas, works of art and thought, the pressure of the minds around you that are looking for their own answers in their own ways.
College is not the only chance to learn to think, but it is the best. One thing is certain: If you haven’t started by the time you finish your B.A., there’s little likelihood you’ll do it later. That is why an undergraduate experience devoted exclusively to career preparation is four years largely wasted.
READ: Send your kid to the Ivy League! A rebuttal.
Elite schools like to boast that they teach their students how to think, but all they mean is that they train them in the analytic and rhetorical skills that are necessary for success in business and the professions. Everything is technocraticthe development of expertiseand everything is ultimately justified in technocratic terms.
Religious collegeseven obscure, regional schools that no one has ever heard of on the coastsoften do a much better job in that respect. What an indictment of the Ivy League and its peers: that colleges four levels down on the academic totem pole, enrolling students whose SAT scores are hundreds of points lower than theirs, deliver a better education, in the highest sense of the word.
At least the classes at elite schools are academically rigorous, demanding on their own terms, no? Not necessarily. In the sciences, usually; in other disciplines, not so much. There are exceptions, of course, but professors and students have largely entered into what one observer called a “nonaggression pact.” Students are regarded by the institution as “customers,” people to be pandered to instead of challenged. Professors are rewarded for research, so they want to spend as little time on their classes as they can. The profession’s whole incentive structure is biased against teaching, and the more prestigious the school, the stronger the bias is likely to be. The result is higher marks for shoddier work.
It is true that today’s young people appear to be more socially engaged than kids have been for several decades and that they are more apt to harbor creative or entrepreneurial impulses. But it is also true, at least at the most selective schools, that even if those aspirations make it out of collegea big “if”they tend to be played out within the same narrow conception of what constitutes a valid life: affluence, credentials, prestige.
Experience itself has been reduced to instrumental function, via the college essay. From learning to commodify your experiences for the application, the next step has been to seek out experiences in order to have them to commodify. The New York Times reports that there is now a thriving sector devoted to producing essay-ready summers, but what strikes one is the superficiality of the activities involved: a month traveling around Italy studying the Renaissance, “a whole day” with a band of renegade artists. A whole day!
I’ve noticed something similar when it comes to service. Why is it that people feel the need to go to places like Guatemala to do their projects of rescue or documentation, instead of Milwaukee or Arkansas? When students do stay in the States, why is it that so many head for New Orleans? Perhaps it’s no surprise, when kids are trained to think of service as something they are ultimately doing for themselvesthat is, for their résumés. “Do well by doing good,” goes the slogan. How about just doing good?
If there is one idea, above all, through which the concept of social responsibility is communicated at the most prestigious schools, it is “leadership.” “Harvard is for leaders,” goes the Cambridge cliché. To be a high-achieving student is to constantly be urged to think of yourself as a future leader of society. But what these institutions mean by leadership is nothing more than getting to the top. Making partner at a major law firm or becoming a chief executive, climbing the greasy pole of whatever hierarchy you decide to attach yourself to. I don’t think it occurs to the people in charge of elite colleges that the concept of leadership ought to have a higher meaning, or, really, any meaning.
The irony is that elite students are told that they can be whatever they want, but most of them end up choosing to be one of a few very similar things. As of 2010, about a third of graduates went into financing or consulting at a number of top schools, including Harvard, Princeton, and Cornell. Whole fields have disappeared from view: the clergy, the military, electoral politics, even academia itself, for the most part, including basic science. It’s considered glamorous to drop out of a selective college if you want to become the next Mark Zuckerberg, but ludicrous to stay in to become a social worker. “What Wall Street figured out,” as Ezra Klein has put it, “is that colleges are producing a large number of very smart, completely confused graduates. Kids who have ample mental horsepower, an incredible work ethic and no idea what to do next.”
For the most selective colleges, this system is working very well indeed. Application numbers continue to swell, endowments are robust, tuition hikes bring ritual complaints but no decline in business. Whether it is working for anyone else is a different question.

It almost feels ridiculous to have to insist that colleges like Harvard are bastions of privilege, where the rich send their children to learn to walk, talk, and think like the rich. Don’t we already know this? They aren’t called elite colleges for nothing. But apparently we like pretending otherwise. We live in a meritocracy, after all.
The sign of the system’s alleged fairness is the set of policies that travel under the banner of “diversity.” And that diversity does indeed represent nothing less than a social revolution. Princeton, which didn’t even admit its first woman graduatestudent until 1961a year in which a grand total of one (no doubt very lonely) African American matriculated at its collegeis now half female and only about half white. But diversity of sex and race has become a cover for increasing economic resegregation. Elite colleges are still living off the moral capital they earned in the 1960s, when they took the genuinely courageous step of dismantling the mechanisms of the WASP aristocracy.
The truth is that the meritocracy was never more than partial. Visit any elite campus across our great nation, and you can thrill to the heart-warming spectacle of the children of white businesspeople and professionals studying and playing alongside the children of black, Asian, and Latino businesspeople and professionals. Kids at schools like Stanford think that their environment is diverse if one comes from Missouri and another from Pakistan, or if one plays the cello and the other lacrosse. Never mind that all of their parents are doctors or bankers.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t a few exceptions, but that is all they are. In fact, the group that is most disadvantaged by our current admissions policies are working-class and rural whites, who are hardly present on selective campuses at all. The only way to think these places are diverse is if that’s all you’ve ever seen.
Let’s not kid ourselves: The college admissions game is not primarily about the lower and middle classes seeking to rise, or even about the upper-middle class attempting to maintain its position. It is about determining the exact hierarchy of status within the upper-middle class itself. In the affluent suburbs and well-heeled urban enclaves where this game is principally played, it is not about whether you go to an elite school. It’s about which one you go to. It is Penn versus Tufts, not Penn versus Penn State. It doesn’t matter that a bright young person can go to Ohio State, become a doctor, settle in Dayton, and make a very good living. Such an outcome is simply too horrible to contemplate.
This system is exacerbating inequality, retarding social mobility, perpetuating privilege, and creating an elite that is isolated from the society that it’s supposed to lead. The numbers are undeniable. In 1985, 46 percent of incoming freshmen at the 250 most selective colleges came from the top quarter of the income distribution. By 2000, it was 55 percent. As of 2006, only about 15 percent of students at the most competitive schools came from the bottom half. The more prestigious the school, the more unequal its student body is apt to be. And public institutions are not much better than private ones. As of 2004, 40 percent of first-year students at the most selective state campuses came from families with incomes of more than $100,000, up from 32 percent just five years earlier.
The major reason for the trend is clear. Not increasing tuition, though that is a factor, but the ever-growing cost of manufacturing children who are fit to compete in the college admissions game. The more hurdles there are, the more expensive it is to catapult your kid across them. Wealthy families start buying their children’s way into elite colleges almost from the moment they are born: music lessons, sports equipment, foreign travel (“enrichment” programs, to use the all-too-perfect term)most important, of course, private-school tuition or the costs of living in a place with top-tier public schools. The SAT is supposed to measure aptitude, but what it actually measures is parental income, which it tracks quite closely. Today, fewer than half of high-scoring students from low-income families even enroll at four-year schools.
The problem isn’t that there aren’t more qualified lower-income kids from which to choose. Elite private colleges will never allow their students’ economic profile to mirror that of society as a whole. They can’t afford tothey need a critical mass of full payers and they need to tend to their donor baseand it’s not even clear that they’d want to.
And so it is hardly a coincidence that income inequality is higher than it has been since before the Great Depression, or that social mobility is lower in the United States than in almost every other developed country. Elite colleges are not just powerless to reverse the movement toward a more unequal society; their policies actively promote it.

Is there anything that I can do, a lot of young people have written to ask me, to avoid becoming an out-of-touch, entitled little shit? I don’t have a satisfying answer, short of telling them to transfer to a public university. You cannot cogitate your way to sympathy with people of different backgrounds, still less to knowledge of them. You need to interact with them directly, and it has to be on an equal footing: not in the context of “service,” and not in the spirit of “making an effort,” eitherswooping down on a member of the college support staff and offering to “buy them a coffee,” as a former Yalie once suggested, in order to “ask them about themselves.”
Instead of service, how about service work? That’ll really give you insight into other people. How about waiting tables so that you can see how hard it is, physically and mentally? You really aren’t as smart as everyone has been telling you; you’re only smarter in a certain way. There are smart people who do not go to a prestigious college, or to any collegeoften precisely for reasons of class. There are smart people who are not “smart.”
I am under no illusion that it doesn’t matter where you go to college. But there are options. There are still very good public universities in every region of the country. The education is often impersonal, but the student body is usually genuinely diverse in terms of socioeconomic background, with all of the invaluable experiential learning that implies.
U.S. News and World Report supplies the percentage of freshmen at each college who finished in the highest 10 percent of their high school class. Among the top 20 universities, the number is usually above 90 percent. I’d be wary of attending schools like that. Students determine the level of classroom discussion; they shape your values and expectations, for good and ill. It’s partly because of the students that I’d warn kids away from the Ivies and their ilk. Kids at less prestigious schools are apt to be more interesting, more curious, more open, and far less entitled and competitive.
If there is anywhere that college is still collegeanywhere that teaching and the humanities are still accorded pride of placeit is the liberal arts college. Such places are small, which is not for everyone, and they’re often fairly isolated, which is also not for everyone. The best option of all may be the second-tiernot second-ratecolleges, like Reed, Kenyon, Wesleyan, Sewanee, Mount Holyoke, and others. Instead of trying to compete with Harvard and Yale, these schools have retained their allegiance to real educational values.
Not being an entitled little shit is an admirable goal. But in the end, the deeper issue is the situation that makes it so hard to be anything else. The time has come, not simply to reform that system top to bottom, but to plot our exit to another kind of society altogether.
The education system has to act to mitigate the class system, not reproduce it. Affirmative action should be based on class instead of race, a change that many have been advocating for years. Preferences for legacies and athletes ought to be discarded. SAT scores should be weighted to account for socioeconomic factors. Colleges should put an end to résumé-stuffing by imposing a limit on the number of extracurriculars that kids can list on their applications. They ought to place more value on the kind of service jobs that lower-income students often take in high school and that high achievers almost never do. They should refuse to be impressed by any opportunity that was enabled by parental wealth. Of course, they have to stop cooperating with U.S. News.
More broadly, they need to rethink their conception of merit. If schools are going to train a better class of leaders than the ones we have today, they’re going to have to ask themselves what kinds of qualities they need to promote. Selecting students by GPA or the number of extracurriculars more often benefits the faithful drudge than the original mind.
The changes must go deeper, though, than reforming the admissions process. That might address the problem of mediocrity, but it won’t address the greater one of inequality. The problem is the Ivy League itself. We have contracted the training of our leadership class to a set of private institutions. However much they claim to act for the common good, they will always place their interests first. The arrangement is great for the schools, but is Harvard’s desire for alumni donations a sufficient reason to perpetuate the class system?
I used to think that we needed to create a world where every child had an equal chance to get to the Ivy League. I’ve come to see that what we really need is to create one where you don’t have to go to the Ivy League, or any private college, to get a first-rate education.
High-quality public education, financed with public money, for the benefit of all: the exact commitment that drove the growth of public higher education in the postwar years. Everybody gets an equal chance to go as far as their hard work and talent will take themyou know, the American dream. Everyone who wants it gets to have the kind of mind-expanding, soul-enriching experience that a liberal arts education provides. We recognize that free, quality K–12 education is a right of citizenship. We also need to recognizeas we once did and as many countries still dothat the same is true of higher education. We have tried aristocracy. We have tried meritocracy. Now it’s time to try democracy.
William Deresiewicz is the author of Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and The Way to a Meaningful Life,coming out August 19 from Free Press. He taught at Yale from 1998 to 2008.

Southwest Foundation Golf Outing August 15 at Wirth Golf Course

It's still a little wet in Hopkins, so we've moved the festivities to higher ground!
2014 Al Crary Golf Outing
The location has changed but the purpose has not. Come tee off with us and enjoy some fun, food and prizes to support the Southwest High School Foundation and the Al Crary Fund.             
1:30 Shotgun Start; 4 Person Scramble

$100/player by July 31 ( $110 August 1 and after).
Includes: Golf, Cart, Prizes, Dinner (at the course after the round).
$150/sponsored hole 
Donations are currently being accepted for the golf event and raffle.
Questions or to make a donation, please contact- 

Thank you for all you do to help us support Southwest students, families and alumni!
Make Check Payable to: Southwest High School Foundation
Please send checks to:
Paul Roach, SW HS Foundation
Forward this email
STAY CONNECTED   Facebook    Twitter    LinkedIn    Pinterest
Forward this email

Southwest High School | 3414 West 47th Street | Minneapolis | MN | 55410

PE Credit by Assessment for Sports - only 10 spots available


Copied from MPLS Facebook 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

For Your Summer Reading - the Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

This is the third work of the author, Gabrielle Zevin.   A good summer read with good characters and  decent plot.   It is about people and making the most of what you are given.  There are sad parts and a couple uplifting.

The library is air conditioned and full of friendly people.  Still time to to finish the common book and several others. This book by novelist Zevin would be a good addition to you summer reading list.

Four Weeks To Finish Southwest Common Book

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Southwest, the Destination Spot for Many

Teresa Blascyk and Lona Tenpas, two Southwest Science teachers, made a huge sacrifice for the Southwest students and parents and completed a trip to the Galapagos Islands this summer.  In their search and scientific explorations they came across this anxious native creature who had heard about their arrival and wanted to express her/his desire to make the journey back with them.  You will have to talk with them about their harrowing adventures and the task of explaining to this delightful sea island inhabitant the residency rules for enrollment in Southwest.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Novel- All The Light We Cannot See


This new novel by Anthony Doerr is a worthwhile summer read.  The story of two children growing into teens right before and during World War II.  There are war images in the background and provide a motive for some of the activity.  But the novel is about being part of the moment.  What do we see?  What do we learn? 

The two stories are separate and then intertwine for a short period of time.  A young blind girl gives the story its title.  However are not all the characters blind in some way?  Even with perfect eyesight do we see?

Southwest Graduates Orfield and Shaw Named National Merit

National Merit Scholarship Corporation
(NMSC) announced
approximately 1,600 additional winners of National Merit Scholarships
fi nanced by colleges and
universities. These Merit Scholar designees join approximately 2,500 other college-sponsored
award recipients who were announced in late May.

Samuel F. Orfield
Probable career field: Architectural Engineering

Jonah Shaw

Probable career field: Physics

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Three New Counselors for Next Year

Counselors are out of the office until August 1st, 2014.

Important Information:

·          9th Grade Orientation for Southwest High School will be Thursday, August 21st from 4-8pm. Our Link Crew will be here to welcome you and help you learn about Southwest, your schedule, and our community.

·          Graduating Seniors: All Final Transcripts were sent in June. If you college has not recieved your transcript, please let your counselor know in August, and we will re-send it.

·          The new counselor for last names A-D is Jenny Fleming. You can email her atjenny.fleming@mpls.k12.mn.us. If your last name begins with E, your new counselor is Shelly Landry. You can email her at shelly.landry@mpls.k12.mn.us.

Katherine VanPernis is also our new half time counselor and she will continue her work with Southwest College and Career.  You can email her at Katherine.VanPernis@mpls.k12.mn.us

If you or your family member is experiencing a mental health crisis, please call MN Crisis Connection at612-379-6363.

Southhwest Incoming Freshmen Off to the Computer World

Silicon North Stars

I want to be chosen for this program because I want to have a lot more knowledge about the internet and technology around my house so I could be able to help my peers and friends and show them new things I learned. I also want an inside look on what happens in the big networking companies so in the future I will be able to have my own big website. I want to have a career in technology and be a professional and create my own opportunity's in my future. I want to learn to work in big pairs coming up with big ideas having group discussions and making dreams into a reality. I want to join this program because I want to benefit my future and have a better chance at moving up in the world to see and do better things I never thought of I want to move my family into better places and I'm hoping the Silicon North Star program can help me achieve those dreams.
Southwest Class of 2018
Mar'tnua Bunton
Have you ever wondered if the Googleplex in California really has ping-pong tables and arcade games for employees or if Facebook would be a fun place to work? This summer, a group of MPS middle school students will get an inside look at some of the world’s top tech companies including Apple, Indiegogo, TaskRabbit and more.

Michael Hopewell

I am interested in traveling to Silicon Valley to participate in this opportunity for three reasons. The first reason is because of the experience it will give me around technology for future careers. The second reason is because technology and building things using technology is my main hobby. I love to see what I can build or create using old and modern technology. My final reason is because of my future goals. I would like to go to M.I.T. University or Stanford University and graduate with a master’s in Architecture, Graphic Design, or Computer Science. In conclusion, I believe me traveling to Silicon Valley will help me gain experience around technology and help me achieve my future goals.

The eight students from five middle schools were selected to participate in the first Silicon North Stars Youth Program, a one-week program that gives a select group of high-potential eighth and ninth graders from Minnesota the opportunity to spend a week in California's Silicon Valley. Students will learn about technology and the internet directly from internet and technology leaders from top companies, startups and venture capital funds.
Students will start the week with a series of lectures, tours, discussions and group activities at companies throughout the area. The program will culminate in a final project in which students will work in pairs and pitch their own tech startup. It won’t be all work for students - evening activities will give participants the chance to explore and learn about the Bay Area.
The Silicon North Star program also includes a paid STEP-UP Discover internship with Reve Academy that includes courses in Work Readiness and Web Design with the MPS Fast Track Scholars Program and two leadership development sessions prior to the trip. The trip is from July 13-19.

Southwest Students Play Basilica - Stero Confessions

Arriving 20 minutes late for sound check with a crooked trucker’s hat on and a skateboard in hand instead of his guitar, Max Timander could’ve easily passed for any teen slacker.
But the still slightly babyfaced singer/guitarist in the teen punk/fuzz-rock band Stereo Confession actually had a good excuse for being tardy to last month’s Varsity Theater gig: He and his bandmates were finishing up at producer Ed Ackerson’s esteemed Flowers Studio — session time that Timander helped fund through many hours of bagging groceries at his neighborhood Kowalski’s. The south Minneapolis native has been working his way through the local music scene since he was 12, when his music blog gained local attention.
“I’ve built up a lot of friends and connections over the years, and I think that’s paying off now,” said Timander, 17, who just finished his junior year at Southwest High School alongside his bandmates Jordan Blevins (drums) and Noah Swanson (guitar).
A month or two before school let out, Stereo Confession’s unabashedly juvenile new single “Video Games” went into regular rotation at 89.3 the Current. Since then, the quartet has been earning more and more gigs, allowing them to truly make the most of their summer break. The day after school ended, they piled all their gear and some friends into three cars to play a show in Duluth — the only downside of which was the realization you have to be 18 to get a hotel room.
Next up: Stereo Confession opens the Basilica Block Party on Friday via the all-local Vita.mn stage, where Black Diet and Carroll are also set to perform, followed by Frankie Lee, BBGun and Jillian Rae on Saturday.
Gaining Current airplay means a lot to any local band, but especially this one. It validated them in the eyes of club bookers and older bands prone to shrug off a teen act. It also was just a personal thrill to musicians young enough to have grown up on the nine-year-old station.
“My other band got played on the Current maybe three times, and we were like, ‘This is great! We’re going places!’ ” recalled new bassist Theo Pupillo, 19, who previously played in the La Crosse, Wis., group Neon.
“Video Games” came from the first in a series of one-day recording sessions with Ackerson, dating back to winter. “We basically go back in the studio whenever we have the money,” Blevins said. They hope to have their debut album out in the fall.
Running buddies going back to preschool, the drummer and the frontman started Stereo Confession when they were 14 and could barely piece together a song. Through a couple different lineups, Stereo Confession spent the next three years banging away in the basement at the Timander house, where both parents coached Max on starting his music blog, AreYouRockin.com. The blog gained enough momentum for the 12-year-old scribe to land on press mailing lists. Jeremy Messersmith even dropped off his latest album at the time.
Now that he’s on the receiving end, Timander says he’s not afraid to earn bad marks from his fellow music bloggers. “We’re looking for an 0.0 [rating] from Pitchfork,” he said. “It’s a real goal.”
Pitchfork will probably go the other way, though. Once he put down his skateboard and picked up his guitar, Timander tore through sound check at the Varsity last month with impressive efficiency. He and the band then sped through a high-energy 40-minute set, highlighted by the Nirvana-gone-surfing noisemaker “Hang 10,” plus one apropos cover: Wavves’ “King of the Beach.”
These guys are well on their way. It’s too bad they still have another year of high school in their way. College, it seems, is something only mentioned when Mom and Dad are in the room.
After graduation, Blevins said, “We just want to all rent a house together in Northeast and spend as much time as possible working on our music.”
They might not be great role models for other kids, but other bands might learn a thing or two from Stereo Confession.

Basilica Block Party
With: Edward Sharpe & Magnetic Zeros, Michael Franti, Train, Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite, others
When: 5 p.m. Fri.-Sat.
Where: Basilica of St. Mary, 1600 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls.
Tickets: $60 per day; $100 two-day pass.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Southwest Students On to National Youth Slam

Meet the 2014 Be Heard MN Youth Slam Team!!!

LaresaLaresa Avent
Laresa Avent is a young artist who believes very much in community and the importance of education. Laresa is not just an artist, but she is also an activist and an educator. She words closely with planned parenthood as a peer ed teacher. Laresa strongly believes that in orders to have a strong and vibrant community there needs to be a strong and vibrant educational system. Laresa speaks about community in majority of her art work. Laresa sings as well as writes and performs spoken word. She volunteers with many community based programs. Some being Out front MN working with passing the Safe Schools bill and speak in out about bullying awareness. She has also worked with Human Trafficking Prevention organizations to help bring awareness to the issue. She uses her artwork to speak out about a lot of issues that arent talked about by youth. Laresa understands the power art has and she is constantly teaching herself better ways to utilize that power. Laresa uses her art to speak for those without voices and that is the most important part of her artwork.


Anders Billund-Phibbs
If you were to ask Anders Billund-Phibbs what inspires him, he would say the ability of people to change each other and their communities. As a 16-year-old poet, he has volunteered for local political campaigns, participated in local theater, and will be leading the Southwest High School Spoken Word Club next year


Fatima Camara is the alternate
TruArtSpeaks is a developing non-profit organization based out of the Twin Cities, Minnesota. We find our roots in the land of 10,000 lakes and all that it has to offer. Our work focuses on the importance of supporting, encouraging, developing, and creating spaces for youth and community voice while utilizing elements of Hip Hop and Spoken Word culture.


Monday, July 7, 2014

Southwest Class of 2008 Claire Richards passed away yesterday

7/7/14: Please read the update below dear friends and family. 
Dear Claire, 
As hard as it is to send this update, we know that you would have wanted to keep your loving friends updated in a timely fashion.   You passed away yesterday afternoon, on the 6th of July, here at home surrounded by family members, a hospice nurse, and your cat, of course.  We know you were hoping to pass away on the 7th of July because 7 is your special number, and you were close.    Your passing was as Ruggero anticipated, and we know that he was able to coach you through some of what would happen in those last few hours.   
It is hard to imagine that anything (including cancer) could be stronger than all the love that surrounds you, but so it is, and maybe someday your fellow scientists and mathematicians can find out how to eradicate this disease.   You would want people to learn from your experience to prevent other melanoma cases –primarily doing skin checks and knowing your body and acting when something seems amiss.
There was a beautiful service this morning with you – at 5:00 a.m. with the sun rising - and many prayers to be with you as you walk the road with the spirits who live without end. 
We waved to you as you turned the corner.   We forgot to tell them to honk the horn, but instead the birds were chirping away to greet the sun.
As those who knew you already know, your life was not about cancer.   To the very end, it was about joy, gratitude, caring, optimism, fun, dancing, radiance, math, physics, music, and especially friends and family, and most especially love.   We will do whatever we can to honor you by trying to be more like you.   You are an amazing person Claire.   Even in dying and death, you were full of grace and gratitude at every step of the way.    We thank you so much for teaching us how to live and love. 
Your family - with you forever and wherever you may go.

Southwest Common Book For All Students

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down is the title of the Southwest Common Book.   By asking all students to share in reading a common book in the summer we hope to encourage discussions over a common experience.  We do expect the book to be read at the end of summer and the start of the new school year.

Cultural differences and misunderstandings promotes discussions about who we are and what can we share from the strengthens of our own backgrounds and traditions.  All of us are on a journey in one form or another.  The idea of moving - whether forced or voluntary - is an emotional journey on which we can build understandings and relationships.

The book is dated having been written in the 90s about the 80s and which the author acknowledges.  The difficulties of language, cultural and religious differences is real today as it was then.   The book traces the family's plight through war, immigration, relocation, personal tragedy and the sickness of a child.  Medicine, people's attitudes and blind prejudices are woven into a narrative of confusion,  hope, trust and life.   There are more questions than answers.

The book is worth the read and deserves dinner time conversation and self-reflection.  This is a true story about real people and Minneapolis is mentioned frequently.  This is not the tale of some distant situation.  It is in our backyards and neighborhoods.  It is a book for today.

Southwest Common Book - the Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Slow the Summer Slide by Dr Dave Walsh

How to Slow the Summer Slide and Enjoy July With Your Kids

School is out for the summer and kids are finding themselves with a lot more time on their hands. So far my grandchildren are having no trouble filling that time up. Last week I watched them jump in and out of the kiddy pool in our backyard, covered in watermelon and grass, before racing off to finish building a "pig pen" they'd been working diligently on all week.
As this scene demonstrates, there is obviously a lot to gain in the summer months - more time for free play, family meals, adventures outside, and time with friends.
But many take for granted that all kids experience summer months as carefree and enriching. We would be remiss not to pay attention to what can be lost in the summer months as well. It isn't just that some kids are missing out on pool parties and popsicles, but on key opportunities for learning.
The so-called "summer slide" has serious implications for the achievement gap.
The research is clear that all kids experience learning losses when they do not engage in learning activities throughout the summer. Yet the pattern is more alarming when you start to sort the data by income level. A recentlongitudinal study found that the gains that low-income students made in reading during the school year (on par with middle-income students) slipped away during the summer. In fact, evidence shows that two-thirds of the 9th grade reading achievement gap can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities during elementary school.
Many families struggle to find appropriate activities for their kids and teens after schools close their doors for the summer. We obviously have to have a national conversation about how to provide better funding for accessible, high quality and developmentally appropriate summer programs (many of which have been shown to reverse the summer slide). In the meantime, there are things that ALL parents can do with the children and youth in their lives to ensure that summertime is also learning time:
  • Read, read, read! Then read some more. Visit the library, read out loud, start a book club, attend events at the library, create a cozy reading space in your child's room or in the backyard. Let your teens choose what to read and avoid criticizing their choices. Instead engage them in a conversation about your concerns and see what they think about it.
  • Look for quality summer programs. Most communities have lots of options that range from free to very expensive. Visit the program and ask your child questions about what he or she is doing each day and what they like about it. Check out the National Summer Learning Associationfor more resources.
  • Don't think flashcards. You won't stave off the summer slide by making your child regurgitate information all summer. Summer is the time to scaffold classroom learning with experiences, conversations, ideas, and play.
  • Think engaged learning. Think of the world as your child's classroom in the summer. Most communities have lists of free activities for different age groups - take advantage of museums, nature preserves, libraries, science centers, community events, music and art.
  • Revisit school-year subjects in fun ways. Have fun revisiting the major curricular areas from the year before. For example, if your child learned how to add, cook together and add up the tablespoons you need to add to the recipe. If your child learned about the civil rights movement, look for free speakers, films, or art that touch on the same themes.
  • Don't schedule out free play. Evidence shows us that when kids engage in free play they are building executive function, conflict resolution skills, and creative problem solving. High quality programs shouldn't be so over-scheduled that there is no time for free play. Here are some tips for getting the most out of unstructured time with little kids.
  • Use technology to create. There is nothing wrong with using technology in the summertime but avoid it becoming the default activity. Encourage creative uses of technology - create a family photo book, learn how to code, make a mini-documentary, or interview family members and edit the videos.
  • Move. The research on the benefits of exercise and movement for mood, cognitive development is overwhelming. Run, jump, bike, walk, play, spin, chase, kick, and throw.
  • Volunteer. Summer is a great time for kids and youth to lend their time and energy to causes that they care about.