Stuff YOU Should Know

Posted by on Nov 3, 2016 in Stuff You Should Know

Bilingual Education Returning to California

In 1998, 61 percent of California voters passed Proposition 227, which limited bilingual education in California schools by requiring parents to sign a waiver if they wanted their child to participate in a bilingual program. Next month, however, bilingual education will be back on the ballot again. If Proposition 58 passes, it will allow schools to teach children in their native language as well as in English.

Hispanic female teacher in front of blackboard. Credit: Blend Images/Alamy

Bilingual education is back in the California education discussion. Credit: Blend Images/Alamy

This shift in attitude is largely the result of the widespread realization in recent years that bilingualism is actually an advantage. When Proposition 227 passed in 1998, it was because parents worried that bilingual education would delay their children’s ability to speak, write, and read proper English. They feared that their children would not do well on standardized tests, which are given largely in English, and that they would not be able to go on to college. For a while, it seemed like they might have been correct: immediately after Proposition 227 passed, which limited bilingual education in schools, test scores for ELLs (English Language Learners) improved. However, these scores have since dropped again. Today in California, 1 out of 5 children still are not proficient in English.

Proponents of bilingual education point out that it will allow children to hold onto their native language and cultural ties. Furthermore, studies have shown that children who have the “bilingual advantage” generally graduate high school and attend college at higher rates, and are more likely to get better-paying jobs someday, than those who speak only one language. And while Proposition 58 would not force ELL students to participate in bilingual programs if they don’t want to, it would give ELL families choices about the kind of education they want for their children.

What Do You Think? Are you in favor of bilingual education for English Language Learners? Why or why not? Be sure to give evidence to support your reasons.

Are You Washing Your Hair Too Often?

How often do you wash your hair? If you’re like most Americans, you shampoo four to five times per week–way too often, according to beauty experts, who recommend cutting down to once or twice a week at most. Shampoo strips away natural oils and can leave your hair dry and damaged. Wetting hair also calls the individual strands to swell and contract, which causes damage, and can even encourage your hair to get greasier to compensate. Moreover, shampooing your hair less frequently reduces your exposure to potentially harmful chemicals, cuts back on plastic bottles in landfills, and saves water.

How often you should shampoo your hair depends on the type of hair you have. Thick, curly, or wavy hair can go longer between washings, while oil builds up more quickly and visibly in straight or thin hair. Women with textured or very curly hair can even wash with conditioner several times a week and only shampoo once or twice a month.

How you are washing your hair might also be wrong. Shampoo is meant to clean the scalp and roots of your hair, not the hair itself. Scrub your scalp with the pads of your fingers, then use a conditioner (which has a mild cleanser in it) from roots to tips. Between shampoos, try rinsing with water, or washing with conditioner only.

Several healthy alternatives to shampoo also exist. A mix of apple cider vinegar and water can soften, shine, and clean hair. Sprinkling baby powder along your scalp helps absorb excess oil. And using a dry shampoo along your hairline and part, even after workouts, can also help extend the number of days you can go between washings.

Besides being good for your hair and the planet, imagine how much time you will save by not shampooing and drying your hair so often. So what are you waiting for? Join the “no ‘poo movement” today!

Dig Deeper Using the Internet, examine the history of hair washing in the United States. How often did Americans wash their hair a hundred years ago? Fifty years ago? Compare your shampooing habits with those of people in other countries, such as Italy, Spain, or Australia. Why do you think these differences exist?

California’s “Bonus” Army

Ten years ago, during the height of the Iraq War, thousands of California National Guard members were given hefty bonuses of up to $15,000 to re-enlist for another term. Now, the Pentagon is demanding that up to 6,500 of the soldiers pay that money back. If they refuse to, they face debt collection, wage garnishments, tax liens, and high interest charges.

The California National Guard gave out the bonuses–as well as student loan payments–so that they could meet their enlistment targets during the longest period of war in U.S. history. However, bonuses were only supposed to go to certain soldiers, such as those in high-demand assignments or noncommissioned officers. To meet their quotas, the California Guard gave out millions of taxpayer dollars in incentives up front, then later backtracked to see if all 14,000 soldiers who received the bonuses were actually eligible to do so. Army Master Sgt. Toni Jaffee, the California Guard’s incentive manager, was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison for fraud as a result.

Meanwhile, soldiers are struggling to find money to repay the debts, or to endure the long, drawn-out appeals process. So far, more than $22 million has been repaid to the federal government. The California Guard has said that it would be glad to waive the soldiers’ debts, but they can’t because they are acting under orders from the Pentagon. Overpayments like this happened in every state during the Iraq War, but California is receiving the most attention because the California Guard is so large, and because bonuses were handed out here more liberally than in other places.

Last Wednesday, Defense Secretary Ash Carter ordered the Pentagon to temporarily stop collecting debts from California soldiers while Congress and the Pentagon search for a fair, long-term solution to the problem. The goal is to make a decision about all cases no later than July 1, 2017.

What Do You Think? Should California Guard soldiers have to repay the bonuses they received during the Iraq War if they weren’t supposed to receive them? Why or why not? If not, then who should be responsible for returning millions of dollars to the taxpayers?

Merger or Monopoly? AT&T Plans to Buy Time-Warner

In October, AT&T announced its plans to buy media giant Time Warner for $85.4 billion. If it goes through, this merger would create a company that would be able to both produce content and deliver it using wireless phones, broadband, and satellite TV.

It is possible that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) won’t allow the deal to go through. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and others have argued that the merger would consolidate too much power into one single media company. However, AT&T and Time Warner (home of HBO, Warner Bros. movie studios, and popular cable channels such as CNN, TNT, and TBS) point out that there is nothing wrong with a vertical merger: in other words, since one company creates content, and the other supplies it, they are not in competition with each other and so the merger should be allowed.

But what would such a deal mean for consumers?

Basically, AT&T wants to create content and deliver it to you at the same time. Merger supporters argue that this will provide you (the consumer) with a wider range of content and more options in terms of how you receive it. Eventually, they hope to be able to provide an alternative to cable and pay TV altogether, by delivering content directly through peoples’ mobile devices.

However, there are many potential risks involved when the same company controls both information and the way in which you receive it. If the deal goes through, it means that “Time AT&T” (or whatever the newly combined company is called) could prioritize its content over other content, making it so that you would only be able to access Time Warner shows. It could also mean that you won’t be able to access Time Warner content unless AT&T is your provider. Both of these scenarios damage competition, and limited competition historically drives up prices for consumers. Finally, many people are also concerned about privacy: the deal would give AT&T access to even more of your private information.

Dig Deeper Using the Internet, research the term “network neutrality.” How would network neutrality be affected by the potential merger of AT&T and Time Warner? Write a short paragraph explaining what you have learned and whether, in your opinion, a deal like this one should be allowed to go through. Be sure to give reasons to support your claims.