Heather L. Barmore
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    Change In Action at Babble Voices

    Friday
    May092014

    What can we do to #BringBackOurGirls?

    Since Sunday - actually, since news of this story broke in April -  I have been at a loss for words on what to say about the kidnapping of over 200 young girls from their school in Nigeria.

    The only way for me to speak on this horrific event has been in short bursts in 140 characters or less which led to a tweet complaining about CNN's coverage of this story which ended being featured on one of the network's Sunday morning shows; Reliable Sources.

    The events the surrounding the kidnapping and disappearance of these girls have weighed on me heavily. First, it was confusion combined with sadness because I am an American and I have to wonder how this is possible. How is it possible for over 200 children to be taken from their school? It is one of the moments where I am aware of what happens outside of the borders of this country but I still manage extreme naiveté. Then came anger because the mainstream media wasn't covering it in the way that other events have been covered thus my jab at CNN.



    The network continued to oversaturate the airwaves with the flight plan of Malaysian Air Flight 370. In fact CNN's incessant need to tell us exactly where the plane went down has turned into a bit of a joke which, it shouldn't be. A plane crash is a tragedy in itself but CNN has been quick to give us every single detail of that flight meanwhile neglecting to mention that CHILDREN had been KIDNAPPED. Oh wait, Nancy Grace did use her hour of airtime to discuss the disappearance of Madeline McCann. So, at least one abducted child mattered. While I have to give credit to reporter Brian Stetler for highlighting the underreporting of this story, I also am annoyed by the claim that it's difficult to report on such an event without images of weeping parents in the background (watch the segment below).



    Hold up. NO ONE who watches the news is capable of understanding the plight without of what is happening in Nigeria unless there is a photo? Not a single person who regularly watches cable news can understand the anguish that might come from the parents of these over 200 children who were kidnapped in the middle of the night? No one can imagine and then quickly retreat because it is actually unimaginable what it might be like to learn that the child who you entrusted in a school is now missing? Really? Not one of us can imagine such a thing because there isn't a photo to go along with the story. I know that we have become a very visual society but news is news and this is news and should be reported to the best of the ability of a network photo or not. Would it would be better optics if the girls had blond hair and blue eyes? (http://www.dirtandnoise.com/2014/05/bringbackourgirls.html) Yes, I just went there.


    *deep breath*

    I couldn’t figure out why this event has held me in its grasp for so long. I feel called to do something though I am not sure what. I am just one person, is what I tell myself. There is nothing I can do. It’s that they are young black girls trying to get an education. They have families who sent them to a boarding school knowing that it might not be the popular decision. In the middle of the night a long-standing terrorist organization kidnapped them because according to their religion these girls do not have the right to be educated. The only thing these girls are useful for is…I have to pause because I cannot bring myself to think of what is happening to them.

    I am an educated black woman living in the United States where I fight like hell to make “free and appropriate education” a reality. I have a job where I track what is going on with public education around the state and country and it makes me ill to think that there are places around the world where girls are not permitted to receive an education. This is nothing new, of course but that doesn’t keep my heart from breaking and my fingers from pushing out information as fast as it comes through my timeline. As I said, what else can I do?

    ***

    On Saturday I spoke on a panel as to how to use your blog and social media savvy to be a change agent. Little did I know that by Sunday morning that we collectively would be in the middle of a trending topic as people from around the world took to their keyboards. The collective lot of us have brought attention to a tragedy. We used our status as individuals who are a part of a global society to do something. Even though it was as simple as going to find out more or follow a hashtag or even read this post. We did something to show that people are paying attention and that this girls are important.

    Now what? Well, I, for one, will keep reading and disseminating information. You should do the same. Make use of the Girl Rising action pack. Do what you do best which is to continue to make others aware. Call your member of the House. The Senate has already passed a bipartisan resolution and it is time for the House to do the same. Here is a link to the resolution and here is where you can find your Representative’s contact information. Below are more resources. Share and share a lot.


    Everything You Need to Know About the Schoolgirl Kidnapping in Nigeria

    Six Things You Should Know About Nigeria's Mass Kidnappings


    Nigerian Twitter Feeds to Keep you up to date

    Honoring the Missing Schoolgirls

    Teju Cole's Twitter feed (a great resource as it gets to the complicated nature of the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag)

    Sunday
    Mar092014

    What's Happening in Ukraine?

    True story: Last night I was at a party when a shouting match began over the situation in Ukraine. I will admit to my part in this fiasco which is that I am the one who brought up Ukraine/Russia/Crimea after another disagreement was occurring on something that I deemed to be unimportant compared to the possibility of World War III. After mentioning how Russia would like to respond to sanctions, I walked out of the room with my glass of vino only to hear a once calm discussion escalate and the next thing I realized was that people are really quite passionate when it comes to international affairs.

    I have seen a few people ask about the details of what's happening in Russia. In lieu of my terrible explanation of this international crisis (I keep thinking of Russia coming in, upset over how the US was dealing with foreign policy, and taking Alaska but that's not quite right) I have put together a list of resources from people far smarter and globally aware than I will ever be. So, if you're interested in what's going on and/or you are preparing talking points for an upcoming dinner party, well, here you go:

    "The Hills" Explain Explains Vladimir Putin Invading Ukraine

    Gwen's Take: Five ways to understand Ukraine

    A 35 Step Guide to Understanding why Russia Decided to Follow the Olympics With a War

    Why is Crimea so Dangerous?

    What politicians said about Ukraine on the Sunday shows via The Fix


    What's Going on in Ukraine? An up to date guide

    Friday
    Feb282014

    A Few Resources for Special Education (and why we need more)

    I spent much of the week scouring the Internet for information on New York State's special education schools and programs. As well-versed as I am on both state and federal education policy, I am woefully lacking when it comes to how we address special education in this country. Federal law dictates that a free and appropriate education is provided for all students and yet how parents get to that 'appropriate' education seems rather complicated. Appropriate education comes with miles of paperwork to determine eligibility for special education, early intervention services, and individual education programs (IEPs). As I was only looking for funding methodologies - a disaster in it's own right, at least in New York - I couldn't imagine the life of the parent who must search for information on a diagnosis or a potential diagnosis. I mean, we all know the perils of Google (Pain in your arm? YOU'RE DYING. GOOD LUCK!) but as the education conversation has turned to how all students can be competitive and career/college ready, I have to wonder why there is no real investment for students with special needs.

    During my searching/analyzing/summarizing I had to appreciate the work of the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD):

    The National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) improves the lives of all people with learning difficulties and disabilities by empowering parents, enabling young adults, transforming schools, and creating policy and advocacy impact.

    Our Vision: We envision a society in which every individual possesses the academic, social and emotional skills needed to succeed in school, at work and in life.


    Though NCLD deals exclusively with learning disabilities many can learn from their example of making the complicated far more manageable. I found that much of the information for students with disabilities and their educators led to detailed (Read: dry) statutes and funding structures thus leaving much to be desired for those who simply want basic answers. NCLD has a collection of e-books along with a myriad of resources to help parents as they work to educate their children. I always talk about the need for parents to feel empowered on behalf of their children and the resources that NCLD provides at least gets parents towards that first step of being their child's best advocate. I'll also be referring to these guides as I work my magic with legislators to present to them the need for real reform when it comes to special education:

    IDEA Parent Guide

    Determining Appropriate Assessment Accommodations for Students with Disabilities 

    Preschool Services Under IDEA


    Budget Cuts and Special Education Funding

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