Chicago schools debut Latino studies

Kindergarteners will learn about the Mayan counting system.

Kindergarteners will learn about the Mayan counting system.

Chicago Public Schools will teach an interdisciplinary Latino and Latin American Studies curriculum to all K-10 students, Melissa Sanchez reports for Catalyst Chicago.

“Kindergartners can learn about the Mayan counting system while they’re learning numbers, and fifth-graders can learn about African influences on South American percussion during music class,” she writes.

“The history of Chicago cannot be written without celebrating the contributions of immigrants from Central America, South America and the Caribbean,” CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said in a district news release.

More than 45 percent of CPS students are Latino.

On The White Rhino, a Chicago English teacher named Ray Salazar called the curriculum well-intentioned but over-simplified.

Chicago already is piloting an African and African American studies curriculum that was released last year.

For $999, adults can go to ‘preschool’

Brooklynites who want to fingerpaint, play dress-up, snack and nap can pay $999 for five weeks of Preschool Mastermind, which bills itself as the world’s first preschool for adults.

Artists transform ‘prison-like school’


wynwood miami artist
Before and after for a Miami middle school in the newly artsy Wynwood neighborhood. 

Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood, once known for empty warehouses, drugs and gang violence, is now a mecca for artists, reports Eleanor Goldberg in the Huffington Post. Jose de Diego Middle School, where 96 percent of students live below the poverty line, no longer looks like a stark white “prison.”

This year, Principal April Thompson-Williams persuaded the district to fund an art teacher for the first time in years. And she worked with local arts groups to get the school painted for free.

“Immediately, I was overwhelmed by the amount of wall space,” said Robert de los Rius, owner of, “just amazing canvas for art.” He organized the painting: 73 artists from Miami and around the world participated.

He also launched a fundraiser to develop an arts program called the “RAW Project” –- Reimagining the Arts in Wynwood.

“This is a critical time where kids choose who they want to be, what they want to be and what they want to get into,” Diana Contreras, a Miami artist who participated in the project, told HuffPost. “And they need a way to express themselves.”

Students feel calmer and safer in the new environment, Thompson-Williams said. The middle school is losing fewer students to charters.

Rock on

The Louisville Leopard Percussionists play Led Zeppelin in this video.

Via Jay P. Greene.

It’s OK for my kids to watch TV

Cragger the crocodile and Laval the lion in Lego’s Legends of Chima

I Refuse to Feel Bad About Letting My Children Watch TV, writes Mike Petrilli in The Atlantic.  And he’s not just talking about educational fare.

Currently it’s all about Legos in our house, and not the building-block variety. Ninjago. The Legends of Chima. Mr. Rogers these are not.

But these programs offer something valuable nonetheless. Many of them portray valor, heroism, and bravery, all within story lines akin to the world’s great epics. I’m particularly smitten with Star Wars—a child of the ‘70s am I—which, I think, deserves its place in the panoply of great epics right along with the Iliad and the Odyssey, or more recent creations such as the Lord of the Rings.

An introduction to epics via pop culture will prepare his sons to read The Odyssey some day, he believes.

And there’s another thing: “Frankly, I don’t want either of my sons to be that kid, the one who can’t carry on a conversation about Star Wars, or Wii, or the NFL, on the playground.”

Santa’s transcript

He may be a slow learner, Santa Claus has earned mostly A’s and B’s over the centuries at North Pole University, according to a transcript released by National Student Clearinghouse.

Santa passed courses in Reindeer Behavior, Quantum Mechanics Time Travel, International Business Logistics and Behavioral Science: The Naughty vs Nice Debate to complete a bachelor’s degree in business administration and adolescent behavior.

His only C’s were in a beard-trimming elective and a course called Avoiding Grandmas and Other Pedestrians. He took a P.E. course on weight management pass/fail and managed to pass.

Have a merry Christmas — or enjoy the Chinese food.

A Jewish parent’s guide to Christmas specials



Dahlia Lithwick offers a Jewish parent’s guide to TV Christmas specials.

In her generation, Jewish kids were permitted to watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas, A Charlie Brown Christmas and The Year Without a Santa Claus. Their children also can watch them.

Jewish parents avoid Jesus, Santa (and Rudolph), saints and resurrections (including Frosty), Lithwick writes.

“Perhaps my favorite e-mail laying out a Unified Theory of Jewish Christmas Viewing drew the line thus: ‘claymation and puppets, esp. from Europe = yes; cheap animation and pop music, esp. from US = no’.”

Yet “apparently all Jewish children are permitted to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas,” even though it ends with Linus reciting Luke 2:8-14: “Fear not: For behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you.”

 . . . there’s something about that poor schlump of a Charlie Brown and his inability to get into the spirit of Christmas (much less receive a single Christmas card) that speaks to the Jewish people. Indeed, if there is a more profoundly Jewish line than Linus’ “How can you take a wonderful season like Christmas and turn it into a problem?” I have yet to hear it.

Many Jewish kids watched the Grinch every year, because the Boris Karloff version was “a classic.”

But dig a little deeper and what surfaces is a universal (and discomfiting) sense that the Grinch is a fundamentally Jewish show because the Grinch himself is a fundamentally Jewish character. I got one e-mail that concluded, “Who is more of a Grinch than a grumpy old Jew?” And a Jew with a heart problem no less?

The Year Without a Santa Claus clearly violates the “No Santa” rule, and yet is considered Jewishly acceptable, she writes. Perhaps Jews like to see Christmas under threat — even if it’s saved in the end, Lithwick speculates.

I didn’t watch Christmas specials as a kid or a parent, except for Charlie Brown. Well, I did love Menotti’s opera, Amahl and the Night Visitors, if that counts.

Learning from TV

Fordham’s Netflix Academy is a list of free streaming videos on science, history and literature.

Via Walking with Dinosaurs, “my five-year-old already has a rudimentary understanding of evolution (paving the way for many scientific and theological conversations in the years ahead) and has absorbed key vocabulary, to boot (carnivore, herbivore, omnivore, Cretaceous, Jurassic, etc.), writes Mike Petrilli.

Tribal folklore gets its own video game

Never Alone, a new video game by E-Line Media, is based on Native Alaskans’ tribal folklore. Developers worked with the Cook Inlet Tribal Council.

Reviews are strong, reports NPR.

Nutcracker field trip is back on

The Mouse King dances in the Joffrey Ballet’s version of The Nutcracker in Chicago

It’s a Christmas miracle! An elementary school PTA in a Boston suburb will not cancel its annual trip to see The Nutcracker.

Someone complained children would see a Christmas tree on stage, reports WHDH. Other parents complained when the PTA decided to end the optional trip.

The Nutcracker does indeed have religious content, notes Reason.

Everyone in the ballet is celebrating Christmas, a Christian holiday commemorating Christ. Same thing happens in A Christmas Carol, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, A Christmas Story, A Charlie Brown Christmas, White Christmas, Black Christmas (a slasher movie) and—heck—Handel’s Messiah.

. . . How about all those Renaissance paintings of Mary and Jesus? Should the PTA ban trips to the art museum?

“Kids can be exposed to ideas and cultures different from their own”  without feeling offended. Or they can decide not to go.