Classroom Sharing Poses Challenges

A science classroom at the Franklin build site awaits sink installation. Science classes are very equipment-driven, so those teachers will have less classroom movement than some teachers in other subjects. Photo by Anna Maré.

The Franklin community has been through a multitude of changes in the past few years. With the move to Marshall and the impending return to the original campus, students and teachers have experienced a lot of different learning environments. One big change that awaited teachers at the Marshall campus was an increase in classroom sharing among the staff. In the 2015-16 school year, some teachers were required to share classrooms while others weren’t. This year, the decision was made that all the staff would share, although some teachers would have to move around more than others.

There is a common misconception that teachers didn’t have to share classrooms at the old Franklin site. It was not very common, but some individual teachers did. Classroom sharing didn’t become school-wide until Franklin made the transition to the Marshall campus. It was a big adjustment for everyone, and many teachers had concerns about the effect it would have on their      teaching. As the school year went on, teachers began to adapt to the changes, but some still had difficulties sharing spaces.

In May, there was a PPS board meeting in which three Franklin teachers spoke regarding their experiences with classroom sharing. Rhonda Gray, a social studies teacher, noted that her transition from teaching in one classroom to two has damaged relationships with students because of the movement, and said that moving classrooms was not worth its disadvantages.

The teachers were not just at the meeting to explain the downsides to classroom sharing, but also to show that the plans to share rooms at the new Franklin building were not supported by teachers. The new modernized building is being built to facilitate classroom sharing for teachers and students. In addition to their classrooms, teachers will have conference rooms where they can meet with smaller groups of students. Math teacher Shauna Ewing said that these plans simply aren’t enough for her to teach to her full potential. “A room across the hall where I can meet with students is no substitute for a classroom,” she said in the May board meeting. Both Ewing and Mercedes Munoz, another Franklin teacher who spoke at the meeting, explained that the physical appeal and environment of their classrooms suffered due to sharing, and that a conference room would not fix that issue.

Despite the concerns from teachers about the negative impact of sharing classrooms, there really is no alternative, due to the consistent increase in students attending Franklin and the need to decrease class sizes. At this point, classroom sharing is built into the plans for the new building. Principal Juanita Valder said that despite all the concerns about sharing, it was inevitable. Classroom sharing is dependent on the amount of teachers and students at the school, and “Franklin has just exploded in growth, so we’re impacted a lot more,” she said. Valder explained that if we were in the old Franklin building with its previous layout, teachers would have to share due to our larger size. The goal with the new building is to make transitions as seamless as possible and take full advantage of the space we have.

Valder acknowledged that classroom sharing causes stress for some teachers, and she said she plans on sitting down with some of them when creating next year’s master schedule to get input on how to alleviate as many moving issues as possible. “We need to figure out the best way that’s going to meet what teachers need to do the best job they can in supporting and welcoming students into their rooms,” she said.

The new year marks just eight short months until Franklin students return to the new building. Adapting to the new environment may pose some challenges for the community, but there are hopes that the new, modernized building will bring more opportunities for students to make the most of their learning experience.


Franklin Should Be Quakers No More

Benji, the current mascot of the Franklin Quakers. Photo by Mabel Miller.

Recently, a proposition was made by a Franklin parent that our mascot, the “Quaker,” should be changed because it could be seen as being religiously offensive. The Franklin fight song has the line, “Fight Quakers, fight, fight, fight!” which isn’t in line with the Quakers’ nonviolent practices. While people opposed to changing the mascot have argued that it isn’t offensive, there’s another issue at play: Benjamin Franklin was never a Quaker. There seems to be no expectation for mascots in any league to be historically accurate, so it isn’t surprising that out of the nine Portland Interscholastic League (PIL) teams, only three of them have mascots with a legitimate connection to their school. However, a mascot exists to represent the school— as well as the teams that play for it— so shouldn’t there be some ounce of historical accuracy in this representation?

Portia Hall, a history teacher at Franklin explained, “A mascot is designed to have a rallying cry so that people can get excited about their school. It doesn’t actually have to reflect the school, but as a history teacher, I’d like it if it was historically accurate.”

As Hall explained, most PIL mascots aren’t valid representations of schools’ names. For example, Benjamin Franklin wasn’t even born in Pennsylvania, where the Quakers lived. He did spend most of his life there and is widely associated with it, but he was from Massachusetts and was not a Quaker. The Wilson “Trojan” mascot doesn’t make sense either, since Woodrow Wilson was a US president, and the Trojans are people from the ancient Greek city of Troy. Grover Cleveland was not a “Warrior,” and the Lincoln “Cardinals” have no relation to our 16th president Abraham Lincoln at all.

As the Benson “Techmen” show, not all of the PIL mascots are inaccurate. Simon Benson founded Benson Polytechnic as a school of trades, and since it offers technical education, the “Techmen” makes sense. The Roosevelt “Rough Riders” demonstrate how educational mascots have the potential to be. The “Roosevelt Rough Riders” was a nickname for the first U.S. Volunteer Cavalry organized by Theodore Roosevelt during the Spanish-American war.

Alumni in particular are against changing any of the mascots because of their personal memories; people who feel a connection to schools’ communities view the change as an attack on the community as a whole. However, if the PIL schools took the time to have a civil conversation, thoughtful changes could be beneficial to the schools and could shape what they want to represent.

“It’s an opportunity to learn about history,” Hall said. Having a historically accurate mascot offers a teachable moment; it doesn’t have to be for technicality or out of obligation; it offers an opportunity for students and families to learn more about their schools and the history behind them.


Myths About Muslim Americans

The Muslim Community Center of Portland (MCCP) is a place of prayer, as well as other events in the Oregon Islamic Community. Photo Courtesy of MCCP.

“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear,” respected author H.P Lovecraft once wrote, “and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” Ignorance of the unknown, and the fear generated from it, is a powerful and often misguided force.

Such is the case with the perception of Islam, which has gone in the minds of many Americans from an equivalent to Judaism, Christianity, and other popular religions to a looming, threatening force that brings down towers and harms the general public, following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 and the rise of such extremist groups as The Islamic State of Iraq and The Levant (better known as ISIL or ISIS) and Al Qaeda. This fear, combined with the lack of understanding of what certain elements of Islam are, give rise to what many refer to as “islamophobia,” a fear or prejudice towards Muslims or their religion.

This ignorance is based not on an innate lack of understanding or unwillingness to learn, research suggests, but rather the inaccessibility of the culture and religious practices of Muslims to modern Americans. In its Religious Landscape Study, The Pew Research Center concluded that in the U.S., less than 1% of American adults identified as Muslim. In comparison, Judaism, a relatively small religion, has a little over twice as big of a population in the U.S. at just under 2%. Both are dwarfed by Christianity, which is the faith of choice of approximately 71% of Americans, according to the same study. Because of the lack of Muslim people, the opportunities for the average American to interact with Islamic culture are severely limited.

Worldwide, the Muslim faith is the second biggest and fastest growing religion, and is expected to overtake Christianity as the world’s largest religion within the century. Surprisingly, the Middle East, a region associated with Muslim people, only makes up a fifth the worldwide Islamic population. Rather, 62% of all Muslims live in the Asia-Pacific region.

The difference in ideals between the Muslims in these different regions is huge. For example, in Afghanistan, located in Southwest Asia, 99% of Muslims support the implementation of Sharia, a form of holy law, according to Pew Research Center. In comparison, in a central Asian country like Turkey, only 8% of the Muslim community believes in the same enforcement. Different Muslims, like many other groups of religious people, have diverse outlooks on life and theology based on upbringing, political alignment, and area of origin. The difference between Sunnis and Shiites, the two main and heavily divided sects of the Muslim faith, further complicate these issues, with each group having different ideals and religious practices, often creating conflict between the two groups and confusion for outsiders.

Extremist groups, such as ISIL, are examples of one extreme end of the Muslim faith. Terrorist actions and suicide bombings create fear throughout the worldwide community, leading to policies in government securing their countries by limiting immigration. During his campaign for president, the now elected Donald Trump called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” talking on issues such as support for Sharia, the concept of Jihad, and an observed hatred of non-Muslims throughout the American Islamic community. Oddly enough, one of the two primary sources featured in the official statement released on his website, the Pew Research Center, appears to contradict both this idea and the results of studies carried out by the Center for Security Policy, President-Elect Trump’s other primary source.

The Center for Security Policy reports that a quarter of American Muslims believe in violence against Americans, whereas the Pew Research Center only polled 1% support for frequent violence in the name of Islam, with an additional 5% acknowledging support for it in very rare and situational cases. Humanitarian groups, and the general public, would most likely criticize the ethics of ever believing in any form of violence towards the public in the name of religion. Regardless, the difference between a totaled 6% support versus a 25% rate of support is quite huge, even without the further polarizing differences in what was studied between the studies. Although neither source’s data has been proven to be inaccurate, it is notable that the Center for Security Policy openly leans towards certain political ideas and candidates through the banners featured on its website, whereas the Religious Landscape Study presents no obvious political agenda to its readers.

That same landscape study also showed a general trend of more integrated and liberal policies throughout Muslims in the United States. Polling found that American Muslims generally had more non-Islamic friends than their worldwide counterparts, and that over half of American Muslims believed that people of other religious beliefs can go to heaven, in comparison to an 18% median worldwide. This heavily suggests a strong cultural difference between Muslims in the U.S. and Muslims worldwide, and hopefully a shift in culture towards an accepting, open society within the community and outside of it.

Culture and the view of theology has consistently shifted throughout history, while also retaining some similar patterns and ideas. For all, education is necessary in understanding each other’s cultures and views. As Marie Curie, the discoverer of Radium and one of the most influential female physicists of all time once put it, “Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”


Sex Education Should Be Taught Sooner

The wrapper of a condom, one of the many forms of contraception that should be taught about in school. Photo by Mabel Miller

Public schools in Oregon are required to teach sex education twice and to varying “age appropriate” levels between seventh and twelfth grade (once in middle school and once in high school), but many schools wait until nearly the end of that range.

According to the American Psychological Association, concepts of sexual and gender identity start as early as 10-14 years old. Knowing this it should come as no surprise that teenagers experiment with sex. In fact, by graduation, 41% of US high schoolers reported having sex in a survey conducted by the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Because puberty can bring an understanding and interest in sex, sexual education should be taught as early as possible in high schools.

The issue of stunted sexual education was apparent here, at Franklin, as well. The way the health curriculum is set up at Franklin, students are unable to take sexual health until their junior year. Given that, based on a CDC survey in 2013, 20% of high school freshmen report being sexually active. This leaves a vast number of students having sex with their only guaranteed source of sex education being the usually brief discussions in middle school.

Luckily, this shortcoming did not go unnoticed. The Franklin health department has decided to change the curriculum to address issues like sexual health earlier. They plan on switching what is currently covered junior year with what is taught freshman year (nutritional health). “We felt that some of these issues needed to be tackled sooner,” Ms. Feuz, a health and physical education teacher, said. “The sex ed., the depression, the mental disorders, the drugs and alcohol, because typically it is the freshman year that they are exposed to these.” Though these changes are definitely a step in the right direction, they will not be fully put into place for about another two school years. This is to ensure that students that started with nutritional health their freshman year are taught the rest of the health curriculum their junior year.

The new timing of sex education at Franklin will allow every student to have the knowledge and resources to make smart choices about their health, but national progress on this issue is still very limited. Only 24 states require sex education to be taught in public schools. Continuing to push for sex education in schools through a vote or a voice is essential to change this.