Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Hey folks, Poppa Large (aka Oliver) here. Sorry for being the infrequent poster I am (and as always, thanks to Jason for holding the site down with his rigor and foresight). As a quick update, my daughter is now four years old and after many years of insisting that we were "one and done," there's some (slight) shift around the resistance to having a second kid. We'll see though, we'll see.

I'd also like to congratulate my co-blogger at Poplicks, Junichi Semitsu, who recently became a Rice Daddy himself with his first child, a half Japanese/half Lebanese son.

Just saw this article that I thought would be of particular interest here: Jeff Yang writing about how first-born Asian American kids buck the conventional wisdom.

Would love to hear what folks here think about this and how it conforms to their own experience.

I know for me, it sounded rather on-point. I was definitely the rebellious first-born (though not in the awry-with-the-law sort of way) while my younger sister is the one who actually went into our dad's line of work (albeit temporarily).

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Deep Foundation

Over the past several years, I've encountered increasing numbers of young Filipino-American kids from the generation right behind ours. It's refreshing to know that their desire to reconnect with the culture of their ancestral homeland is more fervent than ever before.

I had the privilege of seeing Deep Foundation in our fall fundraiser for READ Philippines. I got goosebumps back then, and I got them again tonight, while watching this.

I know that our own kids will probably stop looking to us as suitable role models once they hit their teen years. When that time comes, I really hope that culturally literate kids like these will be around to serve as positive role models for them.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

A Dollar and A Song

I've gotten into the habit of including a You Tube video in my posts to distract from the monotony of text. When it came to choosing a video for money, I found it harder than usual to decide on one video that would best accompany the post.

I ended up selecting the Flying Lizards cover of Money. But wonder if one of these wouldn't have been more appropriate:

What's your favorite money song? Why?

A Dollar and A Dream

Starting in elementary school, my sister and I got a dollar a week in allowance. It may not seem like much now but back then it was enough for two Spider-man comics or four Hershey's bars or a large handful of Bazooka Joe bubble gum. I know because between us, my sister was the saver. There was always something that I "needed." My allowance was spent as soon as it was in hand.

Outside of being told to save it or hearing my father complain about how quickly we run through it, money wasn't spoken about in our house. It wasn't until college when it actually became something seriously discussed. But by then it was too late for me. I had already developed a habit of "need." And that habit would go unchecked even after college when I feeling the weight of my student loans and credit card bills.

I had been living well above my means and it was my sister, the saver, who bailed me out. I don't want to think about what would have happened if things turned out differently. What if my sister had "needs" too? What if she couldn't bail me out? There were alternatives but none that wouldn't have left a lasting scar on my credit report (impacting my ability to make certain positive decisions about the direction my life would take). Given a second chance to get things right, I decided then that I needed to reevaluate my "needs."

My eldest is only starting to learn about money. He is learning to identify the values of different coins and how one coin can be broken down into other coins (e.g. a quarter can be two dimes and a nickel). As a teacher, the act of breaking one value down into smaller values is a "real" hands on way of teaching number sense. As a parent, it is a nice start to frank ongoing conversations about money and its role in life. While you don't want to teach greed or miserly behavior, you also don't want to ignore lessons on budgeting and financial responsibility. Lessons that should not be left until times of fiscal hardship to be taught.

The lead article in the February issue of the ASCD's Education Update (Volume 51 Number 2) stated financial literacy as an "imperative in economic hard times." It described the initiatives some states are taking to provide their students with "strategies to help their students deal with with the real economic world so that it doesn't overwhelm them after they graduate."

While I am disheartened that the program I am associated with was not mentioned in the article, I am happy that personal finance education has hit the mainstream. Perhaps I am being overly optimistic but dedicating the lead story in its Education Update signifies that the ASCD and like organizations are ready to bring the current niche subject of financial education into the mainstream classroom (potentially, as a regular part of the school day). 

Kiplinger editor, Janet Bodnar also writes its money advice column for parents, "Raising Money Smart Kids." While I have not agreed with all of her advice, I do agree with her top six suggestions: "Start early. Start small. Keep it simple. Make it fun. Set a goal. And reward your children's efforts."

As teachers, the challenge of "starting early" is integrating essential life skills in saving  into the growing regimen of high stakes tests. Any program in financial literacy that is adopted would need to provide opportunities for students to practice and hone those academic skills which are rigorously tested.

As parents, the challenge of "starting early" is one of routine. How do we insure our children remember the importance of saving without seeming like we are nagging (potentially causing the opposite effect)?  We also have to readily identify opportunities for our children to practice the money skills we teach them.

My wife and I have taken tiny steps to look for opportunities for our eldest to practice "money skills." Simple things like estimating the change he should get back when he purchases something at the store. We have been trying to implement allowance based on chores and homework. The challenge remains instilling it as habit. It is easy enough when the waters are calm but given a particularly hectic day or two, it can take weeks before we get ourselves back on track. However, we keep trying.

There are a lot of financial literacy materials out there for us to use. In addition to most banks and financial institutions having educational materials, there are also a number of not-for-profit organizations and foundations providing teaching resources. Among them, the non-profit organization, Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy. They provide a "clearinghouse" of educational resources and reports on the state of financial literacy in the US.

I strongly believe that the overwhelming number of choices we have in financial literacy materials is a good thing. However, I also believe that the most effective resources at our disposal is good old common sense, establishing effective money habits, and a cliche here and there; "If it sounds too good to be true," "You don't get something for nothing," "Neither a borrower or a lender be," and so on.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Happy 3-Year-and-1-Month Birthday To Us!

So, apparently, we missed our own 3rd blogaversary—-which all of you know is totally uncharacteristic of us Rice Daddies because we never forget our loved ones' birthdays and anniversaries cuz we're cool like that. But anyway, 3 years and one month ago today, on February 6, 2006, a group of Asian American dads launched this virtual place to talk about dadhood and stuff, and spotty posting schedules and disappearing contributors notwithstanding, we're still here.

In the last year, we've welcomed new voices to these pages and welcomed new arrivals into our families. Actually, that's why I missed our blog birthday, since we've been a little busy at the household in a strange land lately. The picture with this post is from last week, of The Pumpkin (at age 4-and-1/4) and her new little sister/best friend/pet/new toy, The Button (at almost 2 months). [You can go here for the reason she got her nom de blog and another reason I missed the blogaversary.]

We wanted to remind you of all the ways, besides commenting, that you can participate in this community. Upload your latest kidpix to our Flickr pool, from whence we get the photos at the top of your screen. Give back to the next generation by donating to our Donors Choose Rice Daddies Empowerment in Diversity Challenge (and tell your teacher friends about it too). And if you are a Rice Daddy (or soon to be one), and you would love to add your voice to the conversation here, we'd love to have you. Just email me and we'll set it all up (you don't have to have your own blog elsewhere).

Also, I wanted to give you a heads-up about an exciting new project coming from two of our own, InstantYang and RakuMon (plus their compatriot and fellow rice daddy Parry Shen), the awesome Secret Identities Asian American Superhero Anthology. It's being released in April, so check out the website for blogposts, multimedia, and tour updates. It's no coincidence that this project was birthed by a group of Asian American dads, thinking about the legacy of positive images and empowerment they can help leave to their and all our children. [And I'm really excited to have a small part in it as the author of a one-page section intro.]

Finally, thanks to all of you who read and comment and link and come back even when content isn't updated as frequently as you'd want. Thank you for continuing this journey with us, into the fourth year and beyond!

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Korean Karaoke

This is too funny for words. I thought you'd all get a kick out of it. All that's missing is a bottle of soju, sliced pineapples, and a plate of ojinga.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Tales of the 2nd Grade Nothing

We should be able to look every second grader in the eye and say, ‘You’re on track, you’re going to be able to go to a good college, or you’re not,’ Right now, in too many states, quite frankly, we lie to children. We lie to them and we lie to their families.

Where were you in second grade?

If you were to tell me 10 years ago that I would be married and a father of two, I would have responded: Really?

If you were to tell me 15 years ago, I would be working on Wall Street, I would have told you: Never!

And yet, here I am. Married with children and working on Wall Street.

In college, I was going to change the world through art and poetry. In high school, I took a career aptitude test that said I would be best suited to be a Forest Ranger or a Radio Broadcaster. In middle school, I failed my first test because it was either that or get beat up for ruining the curve. In elementary school, I stuttered, wore thick horn rims too large for my face, and couldn't do math.

If I were me then, now - If I were eight today - and Arne Duncan came to my school would he let me go to his "good" college? Would I be among his... I don't know... Anointed? Chosen? It's like something from science fiction. Do you remember Gattaca?

What a dumb thing for someone in such a high profile and influential position to say! When I first heard his statements on the news, I was angry as a parent, as an educator, and as a former second grader whose family was new to the U.S., who stuttered, had vision problems, and probably had one or more as-of-then undiagnosed learning disabilities!

I am still angry! But not unreasonable. Sadly, I understand where Mr. Duncan comes from. It is a "know your place" mentality that eagerly pigeon-holes people not like him into serviceable and digestible caricatures and stereotypes. For Asians, it perpetuates harmful myths about our households, our role as citizens, and ignores the impact of educational initiatives/programs on our community.

And of course data will be collected to create and justify the molds that Duncan and his supporters will establish in their "Gattacization" of education. I am not saying data is not useful in informing how teachers teach, how students learn, and how critics criticize. I am saying data is just numbers. Who will be allowed to determine what the numbers mean? And who will be collateral damage in the narrowing definition of effective teaching and learning?

Watching the trailer for Gattaca, it is unsettling how well it reflects the world Duncan and his cronies wish to create. The world where a test or a battery of tests in second grade will determine an individual's future prospects.

Diane Ravitch makes some keen inferences in her post on the blog that captures her virtual dialogue with Deborah Meier, Bridging Differences. She points out that appointing Duncan as Education Secretary extends the harmful policies of No Child Left Behind into at least the next four years. She notes that Arne Duncan chose to visit a charter school in Brooklyn instead of a regular public school. She is peeved about his desire for more testing and greater expenditures for churning out data. And she is befuddled by the very comment I am so angry about.

She writes:

Wow! More testing is needed. In New York City right now, students take a dozen tests a year. How many more should they take? How much of the stimulus package will be used to promote more testing across the country?

Are we lying to children? Deborah, you were principal of an elementary school. Could you look second-graders in the eye and tell them that they were on track to go to a good college—or not? Did you know? Did you lie and say that they were when they were not?

In 2008, the Asian Legal Defense and Education Fund released, Left in the Margins: Asian American Students and the No Child Left Behind Act. The report presented the predominantly negative impact NCLB policies on Asian American students. Much to my dismay, it didn't rally against testing enough. Instead it requested additional resources be devoted to preparing students for the tests.

I began the year writing about the need to dream, especially in this day and age. My wife and I have this ongoing argument about what education could be and what education is. She thinks I'm an idealist. She thinks I am well intentioned but ignoring reality. She and many parents like her believe the defining characteristic of a good school is one that prepares students to do well on high stakes tests. Subject matter is secondary. After all, students are not judged on their grasp of subject content but on their test scores.

(There is a difference between content knowledge and test knowledge. The former being familiarity with the subject itself. The latter being only familiar with the components of the content that are most tested.)

To bastardize the line from Gattaca: Where is the test of dreams? Ambition? Innovation? and Resourcefulness?