Shawn Says

… it's what I'm thinking

Britney Insulted Her Fans (… and we’re only a little mad)

Britney Spears is God’s gift to pop music. There, I said it.

Now that I found you have gotten that off my chest, let me just add… What the f_ck, Brit! I have been a Britney fan ever since her first appearance on US radio. 92 ProFM, a Cumulus affiliate station based out of Providence, RI, was the first radio station in the United States to play the now iconic “… Baby One More Time“.  Anyway, Britney has been gimme more than a goddess, more than perfect, and more than everything. Always.

My roommate recently asked me why I was such a big fan? It made me think for a second. I mean, of course there’s the fact that she’s flawless. But what else…

For me, Britney represents hope. She represented rebellion my first step into gay culture. “…Baby One More Time” was first album that I had ever purchased (with my mom’s money, of course). She was the first outlet I had into pop culture, media, and what being a teenager was all about. Britney encouraged me to grow into who I would become, and, even though she had no idea who I was, I knew that she accepted me. I knew that she was proud of me, and as a young person trying to figure life out that meant everything.

I suppose that through the years I have held onto those memories. The memories of little me growing up with Britney. Watching her every step. Every move. Every album release. The support she inadvertently provided me as a struggling gay youth is incomprehensible. She made me stronger.

My love for Britney is deeply rooted in some cognitive psychological experience; however, she kept my love by continually being a total badass. She danced with a snake named Banana, kissed Madonna, dated teen (and adult) heart throb Justin Timberlake, traveled the world, and helped bring the worlds most brilliant advertising campaign to life (who cares that it was for Pepsi):

This groovy masterpiece…

 

This magnificent visual feast…

 

The decades of sex appeal here…

 

And the fab trio of ass kickers…

 

Us fans were willing to see passed the “Spearsgate” that was 2007. Hell, we were even willing to get over the fact that “Unusual You”, “Toy Soldier”, and “He About to Lose Me” never made it as radio singles. But…

… how the hell did “Britney Jean” come to fruition? Okay, fine, I get it. Britney has no fucks left to give because she is the queen. But for an album that was marketed as “special for the fans” and her “most personal album yet”, there really was a lack of substance. And to add insult to injury, the substance that was present on the album, such as “Hold On Tight”, “Now That I Found You”, and “Don’t Cry”, was completely ignored. Hell, even “Brightest Morning Star” is better than “Perfume”. I have had to watch Team Britney sabotage her career over and over again. Why? To make her seem normal again? Fuck that. I call bullshit.

But like I stated in the title, we are only a little angry. We know that Britney would never knowingly allow these “mishaps” to occur, for she is perfect.

Her management on the other hand…

#BritneyArmy for life.

 

Closing the Achievement Gap in Connecticut

The Achievement Gap refers to the difference in educational progress in White students and their Black and Hispanic counterparts as well as socioeconomically troubled students and their well-off counterparts.  According to an article in the CT Mirror published in November of 2013, “… Connecticut has had the worst achievement gap in the nation between its minority students and their peers in learning to read and do math” (Thomas, 2013). A number of organizations, including the Board of Education, are currently working to close this gap (“Connecticut Commission on Children,” 2013).

The success of students in Connecticut and across the United States is measured through standardized testing. NAEP, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, tracks success and improvement through the administering of twelve subject area assessments, including civics, reading, science, math, and language to name a few (“Nations Report Card,” 2014).

CT Ed Reform, an organization aimed to help identify current issues within the Connecticut schooling systems, identifies the greatest factors contributing to the achievement gap as:

a) A lack of accountability throughout our system

b) Not setting high expectations

c) The need for more effective teachers and school leaders

d) Inefficient and opaque ways of funding education

e) Complacency with chronically low-achieving schools

This same organization recognizes that low-income also correlates with subpar academic success (“Connecticut Council for Education,” 2014).

One issue currently being tackled by the Connecticut Business and Industry Association (CBIA) is education reform. The main goal that they hope to realize is to “Provide all young people with the education they need to be productive citizens and contributors to Connecticut’s economic vitality.” Through issue initiatives and policy lobbying, CBIA will work to help close the achievement gap (CBIA Government Affairs, 2014). Noted on the CBIA website, Governor Malloy recently announced the creation of a new state agency called the Office of Early Childhood (OEC). The office will focus on:

a) Improving academic programs and teacher training,

b) Increasing access to early care and education programs, and

c) Providing a comprehensive, collaborative system for delivering improved programs and services to children up to age five and their parents

The State of Connecticut recognizes the achievement gap issue and offers a few resources to struggling school districts—with funding being the greatest contributor. Through Education Cost Sharing, the State of Connecticut provides funding to municipalities to level the “playing field” in regards to the resources that a school may offer to its students between high-income communities and low-income communities.  Information from the State of Connecticut’s List of Statutory Formula Grants, revised in June 2012, includes data that identifies the top five cities and towns during fiscal year 2013-2014 that currently receives the most funding through Education Cost Sharing, and they are:

1) Hartford, $192,781,001

2) Bridgeport, $168,599,571

3) New Haven, $146,351,428

4) Waterbury, $118,012,691

5) New Britain, $76,583,631

Among many other factors, the wealth of the community is the greatest driving force when the State determines the funding allowance via Education Cost Sharing. This funding is guaranteed under law; however, many individuals still find this financial safety net unfair. The five cities and towns that receive the least funding through Education Cost Sharing are:

1) Cornwall, $85,322

2) Warren, $99,777

3) Bridgewater, $137,292

4) Lyme, $145,556

5) Sharon, $145,798

These figures may seem significant, but the report does not go into detail as to the number of students or the demographics benefiting from the Education Cost Sharing.

Currently, the cost of enrollment per pupil in the State of Connecticut is approximately $13,000, which is one of the highest figures in the United States (Busemeyer). It is also worth mentioning that these financial figures do not include the fiscal assistance from the state for Capital Improvements to educational facilities. In conclusion, it is not just about the money. While funding does play a great role in the success of educating the youth of Connecticut, it is only a piece of the puzzle. Qualified and ambitious educators, willing leadership, and informed parents fuel the fire of success. Connecticut needs to address its Achievement Gap in full force.

 

Am I Homophobic?

I begin this quest of a blog with an internal dilemma:

Am I homophobic?

As a gay American male, I am suppose to long for acceptance, tolerance, compassion, blah, blah, blah… But what I am finding lately is that I just want to be left alone. It is a really interesting concept, and I hope that I can find some sort of answer with no level of hypocrisy.

I want to be like everyone else. Not in the sense that I want to “blend in” and be some solid grey matter with zero identity, but I want to live in a society that doesn’t humor ideas of gay marriage, same-sex weddings, same-sex parenting, etc., etc., etc.

To be completely honest, I think the fact that we talk about marriage equity is great, but can’t we leave it as just that? Equity? Why is it that everything in the LGBT community has to be titled with the word “gay”? My marriage one day to another man should be thought as just one word– not some hyphenated phrase to make someone feel more comfortable with acknowledging it. (Not to mention that placing the word “gay” or the phrase “same-sex” makes it unequal. Again.)

Marriage equity has its foundation rooted in the idea that a civil union is not good enough for gay and lesbian couples because of the fact that the rights between couples within a civil union and a couple within a marriage differ greatly. What’s more, civil unions reinforce the idea of “separate but equal“. A civil union is an illusion– it’s all smoke and mirrors.

One must wonder if linguists had such trouble in defining other  words, like swag.

What is marriage? Marriage is a social and legal bond joining two people together. That’s it. Well, legally speaking, it is much more complex than one sentence (i.e., benefits available through the federal government), but we’ll regard the abridged version for ease-of-use purposes. Why are Americans so ignorant when it comes to civil rights issues?

So am I homophobic for not tolerating words like “gay” or phrases like “same-sex“? I don’t think so. I’m sure someone, somewhere, has an issue, but that’s ignorance. And a story for another day.

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