Tue01272015

Schools

MVLA revisits prospect of ninth-grade PE exemptions

MVLA revisits prospect of ninth-grade PE exemptions


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
The Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District Board of Trustees is scheduled to vote on a proposal to exempt ninth-grade student-athletes from taking PE. Students take part in a physical education class at Mount...

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Community

Midnight Express offers late-night rides from SF

Midnight Express offers late-night rides from SF


From Midnight Express Instagram
A group of millennial-aged Santas celebrating a night on the town prepare for a safe ride from San Francisco to their South Bay homes, courtesy of Cory Althoff’s new Midnight Express shuttle.

It’s no understatemen...

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Comment

More open than ever: Editorial

One of the Los Altos City Council’s objectives for 2015 is implementing an open-government policy. The title of the policy may be somewhat misleading, because it’s not as if the city has had a closed-government policy. But the new proposal goes beyon...

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Business

Cassidy Turley, DTZ plan to combine

Cassidy Turley, DTZ plan to combine


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Cassidy Turley, which has offices at 339 S. San Antonio Road, is combining with DTZ following its recent acquisition.

Commercial real estate services companies DTZ and Cassidy Turley have joined forces to operate as a sin...

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Books

Gawande's

Gawande's "Being Mortal" proves an important book on aging


Books about death and dying are usually not on my list of “must reads.”

I couldn’t resist, however, the best-selling “Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End” (Metropolitan Books, 2014) by Atul Gawande.

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People

JUDY HOFFMANN

JUDY HOFFMANN

Judy Hoffmann passed away unexpectedly October 17, 2014 in New York City. It was only fitting Judy would be traveling and enjoying special adventures in so many different places until the very end.

Judy has lived since 1969 in Los Altos with her h...

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Travel

Cuban photographer slated to appear at Foothill

Cuban photographer slated to appear at Foothill


Courtesy of Raúl Cañibano
Cuban photographer Raúl Cañibano is set to appear at Foothill College tonight. His work – including the image “Series: Guajira’s Land, Viñales, 2007,” right – is on display at the KCI Gallery t...

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Stepping Out

TheatreWorks launches '2 Pianos' in Mtn. View

TheatreWorks launches '2 Pianos' in Mtn. View


Suellen Fitzsimmons/Special to the Town Crier
Christopher Tocco stars in TheatreWorks’ “2 Pianos 4 Hands,” which opened last week.

TheatreWorks’ production of “2 Pianos 4 Hands” is scheduled to run through Feb. 15 at the Mountain View Center fo...

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Spiritual Life

Start something great by ringing in the new year with prayer

There is a tradition, which I’m told originates in the Midwest, that calls for people to pray in the new year. A few years ago, I was invited to a friend’s house and a number of people stayed up until midnight (approximately two hours pa...

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Magazine

Christmas At Our House home tour celebrates 26 years

Christmas At Our House home tour celebrates 26 years


Courtesy of Christopher Stark
Homes on the St. Francis High School Women’s Club’s Christmas at Our House Holiday Home Tour showcase a variety of architectural styles.

The days grow short on sunshine but long on nostalgia as the holidays approach...

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School days: No Shoes, Please

It is commonplace for the school year to begin in mid-August, but it still takes me by surprise. Just like when I notice reminders for December holiday shopping airing well before Thanksgiving, I find myself thinking, “Already?” I realize that the school year ends earlier as a result, but when I see the traffic heating up and kids walking around with their backpacks during August, I still feel as if something is getting cut short. But then again, from a minimized vacation point of view, I know it could be worse.

After graduating from college, I taught English in Japanese public schools for a year, arriving during the sweltering month of August, which is the summer holiday for Japanese students in its entirety.

This being Japan, I was of course sent immediately into a classroom where students from several municipal schools had been enrolled in summer English-language instruction with a newly arrived American sensei. No grades or evaluations were required for the course, but that didn’t necessarily mean those kids didn’t experience pressure and imposition. But together we sweated it out – literally – and no one dared complain, least of all the newly arrived American sensei.

At the time, I thought, “Wow. American kids sure have it easy by comparison.” Here were approximately 35 middle school students, wearing light cotton shirts and blouses with oppressively heavy skirts and pants; the boys all had black military-style caps and shaved heads. I learned later that the uniforms were adaptations of early 20th-century European naval and military dress. The shaved heads were considered a bit archaic even back then – in cosmopolitan Tokyo, for example, male students were allowed a respectful amount of hair on their heads.

But it really wasn’t about the uniforms per se. It was about a bunch of kids – mostly against their collective will – spending two weeks of their already short summer break practicing their limited English skills in a stuffy classroom while temperatures peaked at decidedly over 100 F on a daily, unrelenting basis. That’s a challenge even in shorts and a tank top with your hair styled anyway you like.

This was my intro into a stricter educational system than I had been accustomed to, and it was really only the beginning of a genuinely eye-opening experience.

When my own kids were attending primary and secondary schools, and as I work with middle and high school students today, I still remember that year when I was making the rounds in Japanese classrooms. Sometimes I think what the American system offers by comparison is laudatory, sometimes I think it’s horrible. Regardless, public education is revealing. You can tell a lot about a country’s values by how it chooses to educate its youth, which is why the current U.S. debate over public education – government’s role, cost, curriculum, access and inequality, teachers, family support structure – is so fundamental, going well beyond when a school year begins and ends.

I still feel sorry for kids trudging back to school in mid-August. But ironically enough, year-round schooling doesn’t strike me as such a bad idea, either.

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