Sunday, May 15, 2016

On the Mississippi Delta Region

On the Mississippi Delta Region: Not to be confused with the Mississippi River Delta, which is mostly in Louisiana, the Delta region is actually a large portion of Northwest Mississippi. Because it sits between two major rivers (the Mississippi and the Yazoo), it frequently floods. And after the Native Americans were forced from the area in the 1830s, other peoples moved to settle there. With over 7,000 sq. miles of arable land, the Delta region produced everything from sugar cane to rice to indigo to tobacco, and especially cotton. Unfortunately, the production of these various cash crops first came from slave labor (before the Civil War), and then from cheap (sharecropping) labor (after the War). Sharecropping originated in the Delta, and it became the primary way for former slaves to earn a living. Sharecroppers would often relinquish a portion of whatever crops they grew (usually cotton) as a form of rent. Yet in the early 1900s, demographic shifts began to change the Delta region. As black Americans migrated North in search of industrial jobs around World War I, a swarm of Mexican-American laborers filled the Delta's agricultural void. Thus, the region's cultural diversity, particularly in terms of food, started to flourish.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

On Special Education and IEPs

On Special Education and IEPs: Ever since the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, American public schools have been required by law to accommodate students with special needs. Indeed, the earliest needs focused mainly on physical disabilities such as deaf-blindness, diabetes, and orthopedic-related injuries. More specifically, it was Section 504 of this 1973 law that made way for "plans" to be incorporated into a student's public school schedule. This concept was further developed in the 1990s after the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA) became law. By this time, mental disabilities had shot to the forefront of special education, and thus, individualized education programs (IEPs) were born. IEPs are effective mechanisms for helping students work around their disabilities, but not every student with a disability requires one. It's important to treat IEPs as a kind of "last resort" for students having academic troubles in school. General education teachers can make a variety of changes to their instructional methods and classroom set-ups before eliciting the help of a special educator. Lastly, the biggest misconception surrounding IEPs is that they serve as "remedies" for a student's disability. Unfortunately, that disability will probably still remain, long after the student has tested out of his or her IEP.