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After a Year Teaching High School, Tony Danza Says We Owe Educators an Apology

Dismal parental involvement, fights, and low test scores opened the actor's eyes to the tough reality in Philly schools.


Don't be surprised if the nation's teachers start a fan club for actor Tony Danza. Unlike the countless policy makers and talking heads who offer up suggestions for improving education without ever teaching a day in their lives, during the 2009-2010 school year the actor ditched Hollywood for a gig teaching tenth grade English at Northeast High School in Philadelphia. Now Danza's written a book, I’d Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had, about the experience.

What's Danza apologizing for? He readily admits that he wasn't the best student in school, and since he'd earned a degree in history education, he wanted to make a difference. Perhaps he's also regretting the disrespectful assumption too many in our society make: educators don't really want to work hard and are incompetent.


During his year in the classroom, Danza dealt with the tough challenges so many teachers face: Over 60 percent of Northeast's majority minority student population are economically disadvantaged and the year Danza taught only 58 percent of his eleventh graders scored proficient in English on the state test. Danza also had to figure out what to do when half of his class failed their first quiz, when students skipped class, got into fights, and got busted for cheating.

"The question I still wrestle with" writes Danza in an op-ed for USA Today, "is 'in the midst of a tough economy and continuous budget cutting, how do we send a message to students that being in school and making the most of their time there is important?'" Danza says his experience taught him that "teachers have no problem being held accountable by parents. In fact, they crave parent involvement."

What teachers need parents to do, says Danza, is "persuade their sons and daughters to take part in their own education." That can't happen, though, if parents don't get involved. "There were evenings when, as an English teacher hosting an open house for parents, I stood mostly alone," says Danza. And, although he heard plenty about how teachers need to engage students, "kids have to understand that it’s their responsibility to do well—no matter who their teacher is or the quality of their school."

While Danza raises good points—we do need students and their parents engaged in learning—there's also the reality that the industrial model our schools operate under squashes their creativity and enthusiasm. Instances like that of Jada Williams, the 13-year old eighth grader from Rochester, New York who was driven from her school after her English teacher didn't like her essay where she detailed how overcrowded classrooms and worksheet-heavy instruction create an experience akin to slavery, also make clear that racial discrimination is still a very real problem in our schools.

Ultimately, what we don't want is to waste our time pointing fingers and assigning blame. Danza has clearly had enough of teachers shouldering the responsibility of fixing every woe facing schools. Indeed, if we really want to improve education, what we'll need is a commitment from everyone—teachers, students, and parents—to make it happen.

Articles

The healthcare systems in the United States and the United Kingdom couldn't be more different.

The UK's National Health Service is the largest government-run healthcare system in the world and the US's is largest private sector system.

Almost all essential health services in the UK are free, whereas in America cost can vary wildly based on insurance, co pays and what the hospitals and physicians choose to charge.

A medical bill in the US

One of the largest differences is cost. The average person in the UK spends £2,989 ($3915) per year on healthcare (most of which is collected through taxes), whereas the average American spends around $10,739 a year.

So Americans should obviously be getting better care, right? Well, the average life expectancy in the UK is higher and infant mortality rate is lower than that in the US.

RELATED: The World Health Organization declares war on the out of control price of insulin

Plus, in the U.S., only 84% of people are covered by private insurance, Medicare or Medicaid. Sixteen percent of the population are forced to pay out of pocket.

In the UK, everyone is covered unless they are visiting the country or an undocumented resident.

Prescription drugs can cost Americans an arm and a leg, but in the UK, prescriptions or either free or capped at £8.60 ($11.27).

via Wikimedia Commons

The one drawback to the NHS system is responsiveness. In the UK people tend to wait longer for inessential surgeries, doctor's appointments, and in emergency rooms. Whereas, the US is ranked as the most responsive country in the world.

RELATED: Alarmingly high insulin prices are forcing Americans to flock to Canada to buy the drug

The New York Times printed a fair evaluation of the UK's system:

The service is known for its simplicity: It is free at the point of use to anyone who needs it. Paperwork is minimal, and most patients never see a bill. … No one needs to delay medical treatment until he or she can afford it, and virtually everyone is covered. …

According to data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States spent 17.2 percent of its economic output on health care in 2016, compared with 9.7 percent in Britain. Yet Britain has a higher life expectancy at birth and lower infant mortality.

Citizens in each country have an interesting perspective on each other's healthcare systems. UK citizens think it's inhumane for Americans have to pay through the nose when they're sick or injured. While Americans are skeptical of socialist medicine.

A reporter from Politics Joe hit the streets of London and asked everyday people what they think Americans pay for healthcare and they were completely shocked.

Health

Bans on plastic bags and straws can only go so far. Using disposable products, like grabbing a plastic fork when you're on the go, can be incredibly convenient. But these items also contribute to our growing plastic problem.

Fortunately, you can cut down on the amount of waste you produce by cutting down on disposable products. And even more fortunately, there are sustainable (and cute) replacements that won't damage the environment.

Coconut bowls


Cocostation

Who says sustainable can't also be stylish? These cute coconut bowls were handmade using reclaimed coconuts, making each piece one of a kind. Not only are they organic and biodegradable, but they're also durable, in case your dinner parties tend to get out of hand. The matching ebony wood spoons were polished with the same coconut oil as the bowls.

Cocostation Set of 2 Vietnamese Coconut Bowls and Spoons, $14.99; at Amazon

Solar powered phone charger

Dizaul

Why spend time looking around for an outlet when you can just harness the power of the sun? This solar powered phone charger will make sure your phone never dies as long as you can bask in the sun's rays. As an added bonus, this charger was made using eco-friendly silicone rubber. It's win-win all around.

Dizaul Solar Charger, 5000mAh Portable Solar Power Bank, $19.95; at Amazon, $19.95; at Amazon

Herb garden kit

Planter Pro

Put some green in your life with this herb planter. The kit comes with everything you need to get a garden growing, including a moisture meter that helps you determine if your herbs are getting the right amount of food to flourish. All the seeds included are certified to be non-GMO and non-hybrids, meaning you can have fresh, organic herbs right at your fingertips.

Planter Pro's Herb Garden Cedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazonedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazon

Reusable Keurig cups

K & J

Keurig cups are convenient, but they also create a ton of plastic waste. These Keurig-compatible plastic cups are an easy way to cut down on the amount of trash you create without cutting down on your caffeine. Additionally, you won't have to keep on buying K Cups, which means you'll be saving money and the environment.

K&J Reusable Filter Cups, $8.95 for a set of 4,; at Amazon

Low-flow shower head

Speakman

Low-flow water fixtures can cut down your water consumption, which saves you money while also saving one of the Earth's resources. This shower head was designed with a lighter flow in mind, which means you'll be able to cut down on water usage without feeling like you're cutting down on your shower.

Speakman Low Flow Shower Head, $14.58; at Amazon

Bamboo safety razor

Zomchi

Instead of throwing away a disposable razor every time you shave, invest in an eco-friendly, reusable one. This unisex shaver isn't just sustainable, it's also sharp-looking, which means it would make a great gift for the holidays.

Zomchi Safety Razor, $16.99; at Amazon

The Planet
Instagram / Leonardo DiCaprio

This August, the world watched as the Amazon burned. There were 30,901 individual fires that lapped at the largest rainforest in the world. While fires can occur in the dry season due to natural factors, like lightning strikes, it is believed that the widespread fires were started by loggers and farmers to clear land. Brazil's president, Jair Bolsonaro, cites a different cause: the actor Leonardo DiCaprio.

DiCaprio wasn't accused of hanging out in the rainforest with a box of matches, however President Bolsonaro did accuse the actor of funding nonprofit organizations that allegedly set fires to raise donations.

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The Planet