Letters to the Editor

    Teach for America redresses inequalities


    “You want to change things.” My mind toyed with the statement, and I took the Teach For America flyer from the bulletin board, tucking it in my planner. At home, I logged on to http://www.teachforamerica.org and realized that I had four more years before I could join the movement toward educational equity as a corps member. I was a freshman then — a budding idealist, keen to fight the social inequalities our country face.

    Now a senior at UCSD, I find myself considering the question that many of us are facing: What will I do next year? Friends are receiving job offers, and I find myself in the midst of applications, trying to figure out what I am to do with my life. I’ve done the 9-to-5 office job, and know there must be more — something challenging and rigorous that will keep me excited to go to work. I know that I want to change things.

    In the fall of 1988, Wendy Kopp had that same idea. Working on her senior thesis, Wendy laid plans for Teach For America. Upon graduation from Princeton University, she and other recent graduates rallied 500 accomplished peers to commit two years to teach in urban and rural public schools. After the commitment, these corps members would take the insight gained through the experience to effect long-term change through every sector. Today, 12,000 individuals have joined the corps.

    As we consider our next steps, this is an opportunity to take on important responsibilities and have a meaningful impact. The problem that Kopp considered still challenges us to take action. Today, nine-year-old children growing up in low-income communities are, on average, three grade levels behind their peers in higher-income areas. They are seven times less likely to graduate from college.

    I’m inspired to join other recent graduates who are committed to teach for two years in low-income urban and rural communities, and who want to become life-long advocates for change. No matter my ultimate career choice, I will be part of a larger movement, working to expand educational opportunities for students.

    There are 14 UCSD students who are in the middle of their first year in the classroom with Teach For America. On Feb. 10, UCSD alumna Rebecca Meyer will return to campus for a documentary screening. In 2002, CNN cameras followed four corps members as they trained and entered their classrooms, working to close the achievement gap. I hope you will take time to witness what this experience can look like in action.

    As June approaches, many of us are considering what career plans lie ahead. Many of us are also aware of the inequalities students are facing in low-income schools. Looking around campus, let us remember why particular students have not had an equal opportunity to receive higher education at the same level that we have. I hope that our graduating class will be a catalyst to this social justice movement, and will take on the challenge to have an impact on a child’s opportunities.

    “You want to change things.” Come find out how on Feb. 10 at 6 p.m. in the North Conference Room at Student Center.

    — Kathy Ha

    John Muir College senior

    Good teaching at the heart of UCSD


    In an opinion piece last week (“Research focus neglects undergrads,” Jan. 31), Brian Uiga raises several important issues relating to the quality of undergraduate education at UCSD. I applaud his concern, because it is only by constructive criticism that UCSD will continue to improve. Uiga mentions several good ways to improve education at UCSD. They require funding that may not be available in the current budget environment, however, so let me make two suggestions that do not have that difficult requirement.

    1. Implement the Boyer Report. A few years ago, a national blue-ribbon panel (the Boyer Commission) outlined a blueprint for improving undergraduate education at a research university. Most importantly, the commission highlights the need to give undergraduates an education in research: http://naples.cc.sunysb.edu/Pres/boyer.nsf.

    One of these suggestions, a capstone research experience during the undergraduate years, is mirrored in the requirements of Sixth College, for instance. Why aren’t all of the Boyer recommendations part of the educational fabric here? Undergraduates should benefit from the research powerhouse that is UCSD.

    2. Evaluate faculty teaching with as much care as faculty research. Four years ago, UCSD medical students addressed the problem of poor teaching in partnership with the administration. Administrators were given statistically significant survey data showing which professors and which courses were using outmoded and inadequate teaching styles.

    In most cases, faculty were able to fix problems once they were identified. In a few cases, however, lackluster professors had to be given “offers they couldn’t refuse.” Would the undergraduate administration be as receptive to student partnership as UCSD School of Medicine? Administrators should let the people actually present in the classroom — students! — determine whether a professor needs a pat on the back or a little extra help.

    Ultimately, there are synergies that make UCSD work as a research university. Researchers who are good at professing new knowledge to their peers tend to be good at teaching more widely known knowledge to students. Students who are successful in the classroom tend to be able to identify good and bad teaching. Administrators who care tend to be capable and willing to make needed changes, despite resistance. How are we — as students, professors and administrators — going to contribute to making UCSD even better?

    — Eric S. Frechette

    Immediate Past President, UCSD Graduate Student Association

    CALPIRG works on behalf of students


    This week CALPIRG (California Public Interest Research Group) will be running its quarterly pledge drive at UCSD. CALPIRG is a student organization whose focus centers on campaigns geared toward helping the environment, alleviating the problems of hunger and homelessness, keeping our water safe, and helping students fight the rising costs of education. CALPIRG is a student organization that is run and funded by you, the students. Thirty thousand students in the UC system are able to pool their financial resources together through supporting CALPIRG to hire experts to work on our behalf on the issues we care about. With this support, CALPIRG is able to give students a voice in a political system that is dominated by special interests and to let politicians know that students care about what is going on around them.

    Recent CALPIRG achievements here at UCSD include last week’s press conference, which revealed unfair business practices within the textbook publishing industry that force students to spend up to 20 percent of their annual college expenses on textbooks. We were covered by local TV, radio and newspapers and really got the word out to publishers that we’re on to them and won’t put up with rising textbook prices any longer.

    On the environmental front, we’re running a campaign this year to help pass the Solar Homes Bill in the state Legislature, which would drastically reduce the reliance on nonrenewable sources of energy and help keep the rising costs of electricity down in California. Locally, we participate in regular beach cleanups through our Water Watch project to make sure we’re doing our part in the La Jolla community.

    In the wake of the tsunami disaster that affected millions of people in South Asia and portions of Eastern Africa, CALPIRG is working as part of a broad-based tsunami relief coalition on campus to raise funds and goods for the international relief efforts.

    All of this is on top of the numerous achievements CALPIRG students have accomplished over the years: We helped pass the Clean Water Enforcement Act, now the country’s toughest clean water law; helped raise $2,000 for the San Diego Rescue Mission last year alone; helped secure lower interest rates on certain student loans, saving many borrowers up to $1,000; and registered thousands of students to vote last quarter alone.

    All these achievements are only possible with your help. Without pledging CALPIRG members, CALPIRG would not be able to run these campaigns and hire advocates who represent your needs and interests in the state and national capitals. For those who have pledged already, I thank you for your continued support, and for those who haven’t, please take the time to consider pledging to help CALPIRG keep getting results on the issues we all care about.

    —Victor DeVore

    President, CALPIRG at UCSD

    Women don’t innately differ from men


    I thank columnist Evelyn Hsieh for bringing the topic of gender difference to the attention of UCSD students. (“Men and women still different,” Jan. 24). I think this is an important issue to identify in today’s society because we should be aware that subconscious stereotyping of an “equal” culture such as women can influence the way they form their own identity, causing women to conform to the stereotypes. While I appreciate the attention to this matter, I absolutely cannot condone your suggestion that certain “innate differences” do exist in the mental and emotional state of women in comparison with men. This is a stereotype in itself — exactly what women today are trying to shake off from a past of inferiority, especially in the career field.

    The reason for the skew of female undergraduates toward the arts and social sciences is a result of this exact mode of thought — the idea that women are naturally better in these areas because of some biological difference. If women are led to believe that this is the case by articles like this one, the numbers will never spread out over the plane of diverse undergraduate majors. We should be trying to solve the problem of unequal distribution and realize that women are still coming through the last phases of obtaining equal recognition in many areas of life; we should not be justifying the exact stereotypes that discourage women to enter these fields.

    I don’t think this article can speak on behalf of the entire female sex, enforcing the stereotype that as an entire gender “we’re pretty emotional and analytical” because this is a misunderstanding of many women, who do not display these traits any more than men. Not only are false stereotypes of women asserted in this article, but claims grouping men together with gender-specific attributes also assign them traits more favorable to a career setting than those of women. Men are portrayed as “objective in their thought processes,” while the claim that women are defined as emotional, implies that they are not capable of this type of objective thought and, therefore, much less credible, especially in the workplace.

    The fact is that women have overcome periods in history when the popular social standard was that they were not as capable of doing many of the things they excel at today. They have broken out of traditional female roles of professional and educational obscurity and now have demonstrated success in majors such as biology, in which they are the majority (as referred to in the article). This is proof that women are still in the process of gaining rightful recognition and canceling out stereotypes that, when internalized, can unintentionally affect their perception of identity and self-worth. What this article has subjected all of its readers to is sex-based stereotyping implying that women share these traits as a whole and not as individuals. I for one do not want this article speaking for who I am.

    Overall, I am speaking out against stereotypes of all races and religions, genders and gender identities, ethnicities and sexual orientations. We should identify the problem, not come up with excuses why there will always be unequal distribution for women among social and natural sciences. The best way to help is to break down stereotypes imposed on women by society. I have a feeling that women will make their way equally into science-based majors. But views as expressed in this article only make it harder.

    — Nicole Bianchini

    Revelle College junior

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