Saturday, March 29, 2008

Ebonics Essay

Ebonics-Slang, Dialect or Language?

African American Vernacular English

In 1996 a debate raged in the world of education over a resolution in the Oakland, CA school district to begin teaching children of African descent using Ebonics. On Dec. 18, 1996, the Oakland Unified School District had decided that the "primary language" spoken by many of its 28,000 black students was not English but a distinct language--not a dialect, not nonstandard speech--called "Ebonics" (a combination of "ebony," meaning "black," and "phonics"). They asserted that deficiencies in black educational achievement could not be remedied unless the this language difference was recognized and somehow dealt with. In the debate which followed, people tended to line themselves up into two camps. There were those who insisted that Ebonics, also called African-American Vernacular English, was a distinct dialect or language deriving from African languages that had incorporated a large amount of English vocabulary. On the other side were those who contended that Ebonics was nothing more than nonstandard English, or slang, even, spoken by uneducated persons of African descent and others who had “incorrectly” learned English.

Now is Ebonics just "slang," as so many people have characterized it? Slang refers to the small set of new and (usually) short-lived words like chillin ("relaxing") or homey ("close friend") which are used primarily by young people in informal contexts. Ebonics includes many of these words, but also includes many non-slang words like ashy (referring to the appearance of dry skin, especially in winter) which have been around for a while, and are used by people of all age groups. Ebonics also includes distinctive patterns of pronunciation and grammar, the elements of language on which linguists tend to concentrate because they are more systematic and deep-rooted. In essence, Ebonics has definite rules for how it is spoken that are consistent and have been for a long time. But is Ebonics a different language from English or a different dialect of English? Linguists (language experts) tend to avoid questions like these, noting, as the 1997 resolution did, that the answers often depend on social and political considerations rather than on linguistic ones. For instance, spoken Cantonese and Mandarin are mutually unintelligible, but they are usually regarded as "dialects" of Chinese because their speakers use the same writing system and see themselves as part of a common Chinese tradition. They can not understand each other's speech, but use the same characters in writing. By contrast, although Norwegian and Swedish share many words and their speakers can generally understand each other, they are usually regarded as different languages because they are spoken in different countries. Despite this, most linguists might agree that Ebonics is more of a dialect of English than a separate language, since it shares most of its vocabulary and many other features with other informal varieties of American English, and because its speakers can understand and be understood by speakers of most other American English dialects. At the same time, Ebonics is one of the most distinctive varieties of American English, differing from Standard English [SE]--the educated standard--in several ways. Consider, for instance, its verb tenses and aspects. ("Tense" refers to WHEN an event occurs, e.g. present or past, and "aspect" to HOW it occurs, e.g. habitually or not.) Let's take a look at some of the rules of Ebonics that separate it from Standard English (SE). What follows is a description of variations in the construction of verb tense and aspect. As used in Ebonics:

1. Present progressive: In Ebonics one would say, “He runnin” to mean what in SE would be said, "He is running" or "He's running". (IS is dropped).

2. Present habitual progressive: An Ebonics speaker would say, “He be runnin'” to indicate that someone usually runs or runs habitually. In SE, "He is usually running" or “He runs all the time.”

3. Present perfect progressive: In Ebonics one says, “He been runnin” for the SE "He has been running" (has is dropped).

4. Present perfect progressive with remote inception: “He BIN runnin” (emphasis on BIN) means in SE, "He has been running for a long time, and still is!"

OK, so it's not just slang, but an English dialect, sharing a lot with other English varieties, but with some pretty distinctive features of its own. What about the idea that Ebonics is simply "lazy" English, as though it were the result of snoozing in a hammock on a Sunday afternoon, or the consequences of not knowing or caring about the rules of "proper" English? Well, if you remember the Linguistics principle that all languages are rule-governed, you'll probably see that this idea is as ridiculous as calling .Ebonics a different language. One reason people might regard Ebonics as "lazy English" is its tendency to omit word-final consonants, especially if they come after another consonant, as in "tes(t)" and "han(d)." But if one were just being lazy or cussed or both, why not also leave out the final consonant in a word like "pant"? This is NOT permitted in Ebonics, and the reason is that Ebonics does not allow the deletion of the second consonant in a word-final sequence unless both consonants are either voiceless, as with "st," or voiced, as with "nd." In the case of "pant," the final "t" is voiceless, but the preceding "n" is voiced. Not only is Ebonics systematic in following this rule, but even its exceptions to the rule--negative forms like "ain'," and "don'"--are not random. In short, Ebonics is not lazy English any more than Italian is lazy Latin. To see the (expected) regularity in both we need to see each in its own terms, appreciating the complex rule that native speakers follow effortlessly and unconsciously in their daily lives. Talking about native speakers naturally brings up the question of who speaks Ebonics. If we made a list of all the ways in which the pronunciation or grammar of Ebonics differs from that of SE, we probably couldn't find anyone who uses all of them 100% of the time. Although its features are found most commonly among African American speakers ("Ebonics" is itself derived from "Ebony" and "phonics," meaning "Black sounds"), not all African Americans speak it. Ebonics features are more common among working class than among middle class speakers, among adolescents than among the middle aged, and in informal settings (a conversation in the street) rather than formal ones (a sermon at church) or writing. These differences are partly the result of differences in environment, education and social network, and partly the result of differences in identification. Lawyers and doctors and their families have more contact than blue collar workers and the unemployed do with Standard English speakers, in their schooling, their work environments, and their neighborhoods. Moreover, working class speakers, and adolescents in particular, often use Ebonics to emphasize their Black identity, while middle class speakers (in public at least) don't.

Another part of the debate in academia were questions about the origins of Ebonics; Where did it come from? Some contended that most of the distinctive pronunciation and grammatical features of Ebonics came from African languages, since West Africans acquiring English as slaves restructured it according to the patterns of African languages. A second view is that African slaves learned English from White settlers, and that they did so relatively quickly and successfully, with little continuing influence from their African linguistic heritage. Vernacular or non-standard features of Ebonics are seen as transfers from dialects spoken by colonial English, Irish, or Scotch Irish settlers, or as features which developed in the 20th century, after African Americans became more isolated in urban ghettos. A third view, the Creolist view, is that many African slaves, in acquiring English, developed a simplified fusion of English and African languages which linguists call a pidgin or creole, and that this influenced the subsequent development of Ebonics.

Those in Oakland stated that the language their students spoke was a different language. They intended to institute something very like an English as a Second Language program to bring their students up to speed. The academic success of their students, they insisted, was at stake. Some in the debate argued, however, that the Oakland school board was simply seeking extra funding that adding additional second language programs, which and Ebonics program could be labeled, would bring. In the end, no such program was instituted and the debate faded from public scrutiny.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

HW for tomorrow/Reminders

ELA: Finish your WWW packet

Math: Do your worksheet

100BC: Read for 2 steps

PPC Elections News:

Do your posters for your campaign. Work on your speeches. You will make your speeches on Monday!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Power Point Class Elections

Power Point Class Elections

There are going to be three parts of the PPC elections. First, the class has to decide who is eligible to apply to be class co-presidents and to be the class secretary. Second, those students who are eligible to apply for any of the positions will make posters and write speeches expressing why they would make the best president as well as ideas they have about making the class a stronger community, about ways the class learning could be more fun, and about ways that students could have a stronger voice in school policy. Third, after a week of campaigning, there will be a class election where each student will have the opportunity to list his or her preference for candidates.

Eligibility requirements:

Student arrives to class on time at the beginning of the day and after lunch
Student wears uniform daily
Student respects all staff, students, and school property
Students does class work and homework
Student has good attendance
Student has a grade point average of 75 or higher.

Responsibilities and role of co-presidents:

Co-presidents, one boy and one girl, will work together to be the voice of the student body. Several responsibilities co-presidents will have are to:
- organize an effective way to gain feedback from the students for Ms. Simmons so that she could know the best way to engage students in lessons
- assign student jobs bi-weekly
- make sure that all students are doing their student jobs
- make sure the class is orderly and clean
- plan classroom parties and decide what each student will bring to contribute to the party
- come up with suggestions for new seat arrangement when Ms. Simmons wants to change where students sit
- be model students
- meet with Ms. Simmons for lunch one a week to discuss ideas and to request approval from Ms. Simmons

Responsibilities and role of class secretary:

The class secretary’s responsibilities are to:
- attend weekly meetings with Ms. Simmons to write down meeting notes
- help co-presidents assign student jobs and seating positions
- make welcome signs for visitors to the class
- be a model student
- write down materials needed for classroom parties and keep track of who is bringing what
- keep track of the student feedback to share with Ms. Simmons at meetings

Sunday, March 23, 2008

WWW #17

Mediocre (adjective)
Belittle (verb)
Enrage (verb)
Problematic (adjective)

ELA and 100BC Homework for the week


Read for 4 steps
Write a book report about the 4 steps you read

Find the definitions of your WWWs and write them ten times.
Write sentences using WWWs
Do a Type 4 (2nd draft) of your Ebonics position paper. Make corrections and re-write. Be sure to SKIP LINES.
Read for 2 steps.


Write a paragraph addressing the following question:
Based on what we have read so far, what are some things that you have in common with Maleeka?
SKIPS lines.

Focus content areas for the essay are:
1) At least 10 sentences with capital letters at the beginning and proper end punctuation
2) Verb tense consistency
3) Subject / Verb Agreement

Write a paragraph using your WWWs

Read 2 steps


Study your WWWs
Read for 2 steps.

Read for 6 steps
Write a reflection essay. I will tell you the topic in class.

Happy Easter and Reminders

Hope that you all enjoyed the break.

ELA: Remember that you have a WWW quiz tomorrow, Monday.

Math: There is no math HW.

100BC: Read for 8 steps. I am checking logs.

Our trip to Vermont is coming up! Woohoo!

Monday, March 17, 2008

What is theme?

Before diving into the book, let us define one important term: THEME

A theme is a main idea or concept that an author writes about in a book. The theme of a fable is its moral. The theme of a parable is its teaching. The theme of a piece of fiction is its view about life and how people behave.

The Outsiders was about a group of boys, but it was also about Identity and about seeing beyond appearance and other superficial elements of people to understand the similarities we all have. Those ideas are themes.

The book we are about to read is about a girl named Maleeka, a 7th grader in an inner city school. But, the book is also about ideas. It is about the search for identity and about developing healthy self-esteem or a healthy self-image.

While reading this book I want you all to look for evidence of this theme. Be prepared to compare thematic elements of this book to other books we have read this year, too, like The Outsiders.

In fiction, the theme is not intended to teach or preach. In fact, it is not presented directly at all. You extract it from the characters, action, and setting that make up the story. In other words, you must figure out the theme yourself.

The writer's task is to communicate on a common ground with the reader. Although the particulars of your experience may be different from the details of the story, the general underlying truths behind the story may be just the connection that both you and the writer are seeking.

Finding the Theme

Here are some ways to uncover the theme in a story:

1) Check out the title. Sometimes it tells you a lot about the theme.

2) Notice repeating patterns and symbols. Sometimes these lead you to the theme.

3) Ask yourself: What allusions are made throughout the story?

4) What are the details and particulars in the story? What greater meaning may they have?

Remember that theme, plot, and structure are inseparable, all helping to inform and reflect back on each other. Also, be aware that a theme we determine from a story never completely explains the story. It is simply one of the elements that make up the whole.

WWW #16

Self-esteem (noun)
Turmoil (noun)
Degrade (verb)
Insult (verb)

Homework due tomorrow, March 18

ELA: Write your WWW 10X and find definitions
Study your WWW words

Math: No homework

100BC: Read for two steps

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Very Brief History of the DR

History of the Dominican Republic

By: Dr. Lynne Guitar, one of the foremost historians of the Dominican Republic.


For at least 5,000 years before Christopher Columbus discovered America for the Europeans, the island, which he named Hispaniola, was inhabited by Amer-Indians. Anthropologists have traced multiple waves of indigenous immigration from two principle places. Some of the early Amer-Indians came from Central America (probably Yucatan and/or Belize) and some came from South America, descendants of the Arawakan Indians in Amazonia, many of whom passed through the Orinocco Valley in Venezuela. It is from the blending of these waves of indigenous immigrants that the Taíno Indians, the people who welcomed Columbus on his arrival, are believed to have originated.

The word Taíno meant 'good' or 'noble' in their language, which they showed Columbus and his Spanish crew with their peaceful and generous hospitality. Early Spanish chroniclers document they saw no Taíno Indians fighting amongst themselves. By the end of the 15th century, the Taíno were well organized into five political units called cazicazgos and were considered to have been of the verge of civilization and central government. Recent estimates indicate there were probably several million Taíno living on the island at this time.

When Columbus crossed the Atlantic with his crew of Spaniards, he made stops on what is now known as the islands of the Bahamas and Cuba before landing on the island he named Hispaniola - the Taíno called it Quisqueya, Haití, or Bohío. But it was Hispaniola that got the Spaniards excited for several reasons. Columbus' journal is full of descriptions indicating how beautiful the island paradise was, including high, forested mountains and large river valleys. He described the Taíno as very peaceful, generous and cooperative with the Europeans, and as a result, the Europeans saw the Taíno as easy targets to conquer. In addition, they saw the Taíno had gold ornaments and jewelry from the deposits of gold found in Hispaniola's rivers. So after a month or so of feasting and exploring the northern coast of Hispaniola, Columbus hurried back to Spain to announce his successful discovery - but he had lost his flagship and had to leave many of his crewmen behind.

Spanish, French and Haitian Conquests

On Christmas Eve 1492, after returning from two days of partying with their Taíno hosts, Columbus' flagship, the Santa Maria, ran afoul on a reef a few miles east of present-day Cap Haitien, after the entire crew had fallen asleep. With the help of the Taíno, they were able to salvage all of the ship's valuables, but the ship itself was lost. Before departing, Columbus was forced to create a small settlement and leave behind a group of 39 of his crewmen. He named this settlement Navidad.

Within a short time after Columbus' departure, the Spanish settlers began fighting amongst themselves, with some even killing one another. They offended the Taíno by forcibly taking their wives or sisters and forcing them to work as their servants. After several months of this abuse, a chief by the name of Caonabó attacked the settlement and killed the Spanish settlers. When Columbus returned to the island with a large expedition the following spring, he was shocked to find the settlement burned to the ground and empty.

The first permanent European settlement, Isabella, was founded in 1493, on the north coast of the island, not far from where Puerto Plata is now. From there the Spaniards could exploit the gold in the Cibao Valley, a short distance away, in the interior of the country. The Spaniards brought horses and dogs, and combined with their armor and iron weapons, as well as their invisible allies, disease germs against which the Taíno had no immunities, the Taíno were unable to resist for long. An expeditionary force was sent to capture Caonabó and another to put down a unified force of thousands of warriors at the site today known as Santo Cerro, after which the Taíno were forced into hard labor, panning for gold under conditions that were repressive and deplorable.

Columbus' brother, Bartholomew, was appointed governor while Christopher continued his explorations in the Caribbean region. After the discovery of gold in the south, Bartholomew founded the city of Santo Domingo in 1496. The Spaniards were jealous of the Columbus brothers' (Italian) leadership and so began accusing them of mismanagement when reporting back to Spain. These complaints had them relieved of their positions and both men were brought back to Spain in chains. Once there, it became evident that most of the accusations against them had been grossly exaggerated and Queen Isabella ordered their release.

Their successor as governor of the new colony, Nicolas Ovando, of Spain, decided to take action to "pacify" the Taíno once and for all. He arranged for the widely respected Taíno queen, Anacoana, the widow of Caonabó, to organize a feast, supposedly intended to welcome the new governor to the island. When 80-plus of the island's chiefs were assembled in Anacaona's large wooden caney ('palace') near the site of today's Port au Prince, in Haití, the Spanish soldiers surrounded it and set it on fire. Those who were not killed immediately were brutally tortured to death. After a mock trial, Anacaona was also hanged. Ovando ordered a similar campaign to kill all the Taíno chiefs in the eastern part of the island. With few remaining Taíno leaders, future resistance from the Taíno was virtually eliminated.

Unlike Europeans, Africans, and Asians (who had exchanged diseases for centuries along with commercial goods), the remaining Taíno did not have immunities to the diseases that the Spaniards and their animals carried to the Americas. Forced into brute labor and unable to take time to engage in agricultural activities in order to feed themselves, famine accelerated the death rate. To escape from the Spaniards, some Taíno adopted the tactic of abandoning their villages and burning their crops. They fled to less hospitable regions of the island, forming cimarrón ('runaway') colonies, or fled to other islands and even to the mainland. Smallpox was introduced to the island in 1518 and the Taíno death rate accelerated. After 25 years of Spanish occupation, there were fewer than 50,000 Taíno remaining in the Spanish-dominated parts of the island. Within another generation, the survivors had nearly all become biologically mixed with Spaniards, Africans, or other mixed-blood people--had become the tripartite people today known as Dominicans. Some modern historians have classified the acts of the Spaniards against the Taíno as genocide.

In the first decade of the 1500s, one of the Taíno chiefs, HatÃey, escaped to Cuba, where he became involved in organizing armed resistance to the Spanish invaders. After a brave but uneven struggle, he was captured and tortured to death. The most successful resistance against the Spaniards took place from 1519 to 1534, after the Taíno population had been almost completely decimated. This occurred when several thousand Taíno escaped their captivity and followed their leader Enriquillo to the mountains of Bahoruco, in the south-central part of the country, near the present border with Haiti. It was here, after raiding Spanish plantations and defeating Spanish patrols for 14 years, that the very first truce between an Amer-Indian chief and a European monarch was negotiated. Enriquillo and his followers were all pardoned and given their own town and charter.

By 1515 the Spaniards realized that the gold deposits of Hispaniola were becoming exhausted. Shortly thereafter, CortÃz and his small retinue of soldiers made their astonishing conquest of Mexico, with its fabulous riches of silver. Almost overnight the colony, which was usually called Santo Domingo after its capital city, was abandoned and only a few thousand "Spanish" settlers remained behind (many of whom were the offspring of Spanish fathers and Taíno mothers). Columbus' introduction of cattle and pigs to the island had multiplied rapidly, so the remaining inhabitants turned their attention to raising livestock to supply Spanish ships passing by the island en route to the richer colonies on the American mainland. Hispaniola's importance as a colony became increasingly minimized.

By the middle of the 17th century, the island of Tortuga, located to the west of Cap Haitien, had been settled by smugglers, run-away indentured servants, and members of crews of various European ships. In addition to capturing livestock on Hispaniola to sell for their leather, Tortuga became the headquarters for the pirates of the Caribbean, who predominantly raided Spanish treasure ships. This area became the recruiting grounds for expeditions mounted by many notorious pirates, including the famous British pirate Henry Morgan.

The French, envious of Spain's possessions in the Americas, sent colonists to settle Tortuga and the northwestern coast of Hispaniola, which the Spaniards had totally abandoned by 1603 (under royal mandate, the island's governor, Osorio, forcibly moved all Spaniards to a line south and east of today's San Juan de Maguana). In order to domesticate the pirates, the French supplied them with women who had been taken from prisons, accused of prostitution and thieving. The western third of Hispaniola became a French possession called Saint Domingue in 1697, and over the next century developed into what became, by far, one of the richest colonies in the world. The wealth of the colony derived predominantly from cane sugar. Large plantations were worked by hundreds of thousands of African slaves who were imported to the island.

Inspired by events taking place in France during the French Revolution and by disputes between whites and mulattos in Saint Domingue, a slave revolt broke out in the French colony in 1791, and was eventually led by a French Black man by the name of Toussaint L'ouverture. Since Spain had ceded the Spanish colony of Santo Domingo to France in 1795, in the Treaty of Basilea, Toussaint L'Ouverture and his followers claimed the entire island.

Although L'Ouverture and his successor, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, succeeded in re-establishing order and renewing the economy of Saint Domingue, which had been badly devastated, the new leader in France, Napoleon Bonaparte, could not accept having France's richest colony governed by a Black man. Succumbing to the complaints of former colonists who had lost their plantations in the colony, a large expedition was mounted to conquer the Blacks and re-establish slavery. Led by Napoleon's brother-in-law, General Leclerc, the expedition turned into a disaster. The Black army definitively defeated the French, and the Blacks declared their independence, establishing the Republic of Haiti on the western third of the island of Hispaniola.

The French retained control of the eastern side of the island, however, and then in 1809 returned this portion to Royal Spanish rule. The Spaniards not only re-established slavery in Santo Domingo, but many of them also mounted raiding expeditions into Haiti to capture Blacks and enslave them as well. Due to the neglect of the Spanish authorities, the colonists of Santo Domingo, under the leadership of José Núñez de Cáceres, proclaimed what came to be called the Ephemeral Independence. In 1822, fearful the French would mount another expedition from Spanish Santo Domingo to re-establish slavery, as they had threatened to do, Haiti's president Jean-Pierre Boyer sent an army that invaded and took over the eastern portion of Hispaniola. Haiti once again abolished slavery and incorporated Santo Domingo into the Republic of Haiti.


For the next 22 years the whole island of Hispaniola was under Haitian control - Dominicans call the period "The Haitian Occupation". Due to their loss of political and economic control, the former Spanish ruling class deeply resented the occupation. During the late 1830's, an underground resistance group, La Trinitaria, was organized under the leadership of Juan Pablo Duarte. After multiple attacks on the Haitian army, and because of internal discord among the Haitians, the Haitians eventually retreated. Independence of the eastern two-thirds of Hispaniola was officially declared on February 27, 1844, and the name República Dominicana (Dominican Republic) was adopted.

The La Trinitaria leaders of the move for Dominican independence almost immediately encountered political opposition from within, and in six months were ousted from power. From this time on the Dominican Republic was almost constantly under the rule of caudillos, strong leaders who ruled the country as if it were their personal fiefdom. Over the next 70 years, the Dominican Republic had multiple outbreaks of civil war and was characterized by political instability and economic chaos.

For the next quarter of a century the leadership seesawed between that of General Pedro Santana and General Buenaventura Báez, whose armies continuously fought each other for control of government. In an effort to maintain some type of stability, the two military leaders and their armies resorted to outside assistance. In 1861, General Pedro Santana invited the Spanish to return and take over their former colony. But after a short period of mismanagement by Spaniards, the Dominicans realized their mistake and forced the Spaniards out so they could restore the Republic. Another attempt was made for stability when Dominicans invited the United States to take over a decade later. Although U.S. President Grant supported the request, it was defeated by the U.S. Congress and the idea abandoned.

During the 19th century, the country's economy shifted from ranching to other sources of revenue. In the southwestern region, a new industry arose with the cutting down and exporting of precious woods like mahogany, oak and guayacán. In the northern plains and valleys around Santiago, industry focused on growing tobacco for some of the world's best cigars, and on coffee.

In 1882, General Ulysses Heureux came into power. His brutal dictatorship consisted of a corrupt regime that maintained power by violent repression of his opponents. General Heureux handled the country's affairs so poorly that it regularly rocked back and forth between economic crisis and currency devaluations. Following his assassination in 1899, several individuals came to power, only to be rapidly overthrown by their political opponents, and the country's internal situation continuously degenerated into chaos.

Around the turn of the century, the sugar industry was revived, and so many Americans came to the Dominican Republic to buy plantations that they came to dominate this vital sector of the economy. In 1916, Americans, wanting to expand their influence and power in the Dominican Republic, used the First World War as an excuse to bring in U.S. Marines to 'protect it' against vulnerability to large European powers such as Germany. They had used this argument just prior to send in U.S. Marines to occupy Haiti.

The U.S. occupation of the Dominican Republic lasted 8 years, and from the very beginning the Americans quickly took over complete control. They ordered the disbanding of the Dominican Army and forced the population to disarm. A puppet government was installed and obliged to obey orders from the occupying U.S. Marine commanders. A re-modeling of the legal structure took place in order to benefit American investors, allowing them to take control of greater sectors of the economy and remove Customs and import barriers for any American products being brought into the Dominican Republic. Although many Dominican businessmen experienced losses due to these changes, the political violence was eliminated and many improvements in the Dominican Republic's infrastructure and educational system were introduced.

Trujillo, The Dictator

One of the changes the Americans made was to establish and train an Army, which had previously been done in next-door Haiti. Their reasoning was that an internally trained Army would maintain law, order, and public security. In both the Dominican Republic and Haiti, the end result was to shift power away from civilians to the military. During the time of the American occupation, the head of the Dominican Army was a former telegraph clerk by the name of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo. This unscrupulous strongman utilized his position in power to amass an enormous personal fortune from embezzlement activities, initially involving the procurement of military supplies. Although the Dominican Republic had its first relatively free elections after U.S. forces left in 1924, within a short time Trujillo was able to block any government reform actions, and in 1930 he took complete control of power.

Using the Army as his enforcer, Trujillo wasted no time in setting up a repressive dictatorship and organized a vast network of spies to eliminate any potential opponents. His henchmen did not hesitate to use intimidation, torture, or assassination of political foes to terrify and oppress the population to ensure his rule and amass his fortune. Before long he consolidated his power to such a degree that he began to treat the Dominican Republic as his own personal kingdom. He was so arrogant and confident that, after just 6 years at the head of government, Trujillo changed the name of the capital city from Santo Domingo (which name had existed for over 400 years), to Cuidad Trujillo (Trujillo City).

Trujillo received American support of his leadership because he offered generous and favorable conditions to American businessmen wanting to invest in the Dominican Republic. More importantly to the U.S., after World War II, Trujillo showed his political support of the U.S.A.'s stand against the evils of Communism. By 1942 Trujillo even arranged to repay all of the foreign debt due to the U.S., which had for decades limited economic initiatives of the Dominican government. But after several years of confiscating ownership of the majority of the most important domestic businesses, he began to take control of major American-owned industries too, in particular, the very important sugar industry. These take-over activities, combined with Trujillo's meddling in the internal affairs of neighboring countries, led to increasing U.S. disenchantment with the Dominican Republic's dictator.

One of Trujillo's most notorious acts was committed against the Dominican Republic's neighbor, Haiti. For centuries there had been a lack of clear definition of the location of the border between the two countries--a source of aggravation and conflict for both. Not only had the border areas been an area of incessant smuggling activities, but also thousands of Haitians had begun to settle the lands around the ambiguous border. Trujillo had never hidden his racist ideas about the "inferiority and unattractiveness" of the black-skinned Haitians, so in 1937, after first negotiating an internationally lauded border agreement with Haiti's president, he ordered his Army to oversee the massacre of all Haitians on the Dominican side of the border. It is estimated that as many as 17,000 unarmed men, women and children, many of whom had lived in the Dominican Republic for generations, were slaughtered in a bloodbath of violence. Most of this massacre took place around the border town of Dajabón and the aptly re-named Massacre River.

In an attempt to deflect international criticism of this horrendous massacre, Trujillo offered to accept into the Dominican Republic as many as 100,000 Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany. But when it came to action, approximately 600 Jewish families were offered refuge in 1942, settling in what is known today as the El Batey section of Sosua (about 20 kms east of Puerto Plata). Of these families, only a dozen or so remained permanently in the area.

Trujillo remained in power for more than 30 years, but toward the end of his reign he succeeded in alienating even his most avid former supporters, including the U.S. The final straw came when he was linked with an abortive assassination attempt against Venezuelan President Rómulo Bétancourt. A year later, on May 30, 1961, Trujillo's personal automobile was ambushed upon returning from a rendezvous with his mistress, and the dictator and his chauffeur met a violent end. When he died, he was one of the richest men in the world, having amassed a personal fortune estimated to be in excess of $500 million U.S. dollars, including ownership of most of the large industries in the country and a major sector of productive agricultural land. The anniversary date of his assassination, May 30 th , is celebrated as a national holiday in the Dominican Republic.

Modern History

After Trujillo's assassination, his vice-president at the time, Dr. Joaquín Balaguer, took control of the presidency. A year and a half later, Juan Bosch, of the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD), was elected president. Bosch's socialist program was judged to be too extreme by the U.S., who were then paranoid about the possible spread of Communism after Fidel Castro's successful revolution in Cuba, and because the Dominican Army had maintained Trujillo in power for so many years. The Army's proponents maneuvered to block every one of Bosch's legislative reforms, and only 9 months later they engineered a coup d'état to oust him from the presidency.

The following 2 years saw political and economic chaos in the Dominican Republic. This culminated when the dissatisfied working classes, allied with a dissident Army faction, rose in rebellion and took action to re-establish constitutional order on April 24, 1965. U.S. President Lyndon Johnson ordered the U.S. Marines to occupy the Dominican Republic under the pretext that Communists were responsible for the political uprising.

A year later, former leader Dr. Joaquín Balaguer was elected president once again, with U.S. help, in what was acknowledged by all observers to have been a rigged election. Balaguer remained in power for the next 12 years, winning re-election in both 1970 and 1974. In both instances the opposition parties maintained that the elections would again be rigged, so they did not even nominate candidates to participate in the electoral races.

In the elections of 1978, the Dominican citizens showed their desire for change by electing Dr. Antonio Guzmán of the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD). Balaguer and his supporters had become aware of the pro-PRD movement during the campaign and election, and unwilling to cede defeat, attempted to put an end to the vote counting in order to maintain Balaguer in the presidency. But under international pressure, particularly President Jimmy Carter's government in the U.S., Balaguer was forced to admit defeat and step down.

Just before Guzmán's 4-year term ended in 1982, he committed suicide, allegedly after becoming aware that close family members were involved in massive corruption and embezzlement of government funds. Dr. Salvador Jorge Blanco, of the same political party, replaced Guzmán as president. Blanco continued in the time-honored Dominican Republic tradition of rewarding family members, close friends and political supporters with lucrative governmental posts. His term in the Dominican Republic Presidency was, in the end, marred by allegations of massive corruption and misappropriation of government funds. He was later found guilty of both and convicted to 20 years in prison.

Thoroughly disillusioned by the mismanagement and corruption of the leaders of the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD), Dominicans returned to the polls in 1986 to opt again for Dr. Joaquín Balaguer. Due to divided and disorganized opposition parties at the next elections in 1990, Balaguer was once again re-elected. With all of his years as President of the Dominican Republic, he had become almost as dictatorial as Trujillo.

During this period, the international community condemned the Dominican government for their continued exploitation of Haitian braceros (sugar cane workers). It has been alleged that thousands of these workers were forced to do backbreaking work for long hours under the hot sun, under the supervision of armed guards. International observers reported that laborers were forced to survive in deplorable living conditions. They were paid only pennies for their toil and were not permitted to leave their places of employment, conditions that have been likened to slavery. In June 1991, bowing to international pressure, all of the Haitian workers were deported. It is suspected that some of these working and living conditions continue to exist for Haitians in the Dominican Republic today--thousands of Haitians work in mainly heavy manual labor and low-paying jobs in the construction and agricultural industries within the Dominican Republic, jobs scorned by the bulk of Dominican citizens. Given the chaotic state of Haiti, it is understandable that anything offered in the Dominican Republic is more than welcomed in terms of work and living conditions, for something is better than nothing.

In 1994, at 88 years of age, Balaguer once again declared victory in an election that the O.A.S. and other international observers unanimously agreed had been rigged. Thousands of names of supporters of his main opponent, Jose Francisco Peña Gomez, of the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD), had been removed from the voting. In an effort to avoid a major outbreak of violence, Balaguer and Peña Gomez met and negotiated an agreement whereby Balaguer promised to remain in power no longer than 2 years and not to run for re-election after that. Run-off elections scheduled for May 1996 had early returns showing Peña Gomez holding a plurality. On July 2, 1996, Dr. Leonel Fernández and his Dominican Liberation Party (PLD) edged out Gomez because Balaguer gave his support to help Fernández come from behind and win with 51% of the vote. According to international observatory organizations, the election was declared clean. The Dominicans seemed to accept the vote with little protest and waited, hoping to see significant government reforms from Fernández.

Leonel Fernandez

Part of Leonel Fernandez's reforms depended on his party gaining a majority in the elections for the National Assembly in May 1998. A few weeks before the elections were held, Peña Gomez died of cancer. The Dominican Republic declared a two-day mourning period to honor the politician who many believed would have been president had past elections not been tampered with. Election results in the National Assembly election gave a majority to the Peña Gomez party, which opposed Fernández's, showing people's shifting opinions and the beginnings of true democratic elections in the Dominican Republic.

In 2000, Fernández was voted out of office in remarkably free and fair elections, particularly by Dominican standards. Although the country was enjoying its greatest economic growth and success in its history, voters chose Hipólito Mejía of the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD), due to their increasing distaste over the alleged corruption permeating the Fernández administration. The election gave Hipólito and his party control of the executive branch, a majority in the upper house legislature, and near control of the lower house.

Up until 2001, tourism and manufacturing sustained the Dominican Republic's economy with an impressive seven percent average annual growth. Added to the expansion in these sectors, the Dominican Republic received substantive remittances from Dominicans living outside the country, the majority of whom were now living and working in New York.

The following two years saw the hopeful signs exhibited early in Hipolito's administration give way to political scandal as well as a global recession. In 2003, the Dominican Republic's third largest private financial institution, Banco Internacional (Baninter), went into bankruptcy due to enormous fraud engineered by the bank's owners and administrators. Shortly thereafter, two other major Dominican banks also declared bankruptcy. The impact on the Dominican economy was devastating. By January 2004, a mere seven months after Baninter's collapse, the peso-to-dollar exchange rate had fallen to 50:1 (down from 16:1, where it had held steady from 1996 through 2002). To make the economic situation even worse, for a time the International Monetary Fund (IMF) suspended their loans to the Dominican Republic, citing Hipolito's purchase of two private energy facilities (which were once owned by the Dominican Republic and sold to private holders by Fernandez during his administration) and spending on public programs they believed were used solely to boost Hipolito's reputation with the country's poor. The loans were eventually dispersed but not before the peso's exchange rate went down even further against the U.S. dollar.

During Hipolito's time in office, he orchestrated a constitutional amendment allowing sequential presidencies (which was previously prohibited), although he vowed publically over and over that he would not run again in 2004--but he did. In May 2004, the country's citizens, desperate for a return to prosperity, and despite having accused his previous administration of corruption and fraud, again voted in Dr. Leonel Fernandez and his Dominican Liberation Party (PLD). Although all educated Dominicans knew it would take severe measures and many years to restore the country to prosperity after the economic chaos of 2003-04, in less than a year it was clear that the hoped for miracle--a return to the stability, economic growth and success their country experienced in the 1990's--was not going to happen. Complaints began to arise, especially from the resource poor masses who, along with the tiny middle class, are hardest hit by the new taxes that have been levied to secure and pay back the billions of dollars in international loans that the Fernandez administration took out to stabilize the country's finances and help bring about positive change; unfortunately, one of Fernandez's most expensive projects is an underground Metro system for Santo Domingo that has already cost many times its proposed total and is nowhere near completion. At least Fernandez did manage to stabilize the peso, but there are accusations that the peso has been pegged artificially high against the U.S. $ and that when it falls, the country will again fall into economic chaos.

Despite inflation, increasing taxation, growing complaints and general strikes called against his administration, Fernandez is running again for the presidency in 2008, promising the country's citizens that the next time around he will devote more money and energy to education and the needs of Dominicans in the countryside. So far, Fernandez has managed to avoid the accusations of personal corruption that plagued his predecessors, but the same cannot be said of those who assist him within his administration. Only time will tell if he will be another Trujillo or Balaguer, running the country for decades as if it were his personal estate.

Even with its many problems, in recent years the Dominican Republic has evolved into a reasonably free and Democratic nation. Political demonstrations take place openly and freely in the streets, and politicians are able to campaign without being censored. Average Dominican people are involved in the political arena and the country's newspapers provide a free and open flow of information for its citizens. Despite these advancements, the country is still watched over by the National Police and Army, who tend to act in the interests of the politicians holding power. This threat of force, along with continual widespread corruption among those in power, need to be overcome before the Dominican Republic can call itself a true and developed democracy.

HW due on Thursday, March 12

ELA: Write your essay on your worksheet from class!

What do you think of the tactics the Spaniards used to conquer the Tainos? Were the tactics fair? Why or why not? Use information from the text to back up your statement.

Math: No homework

100BC: Read for 2 steps

Announcement: You all have been improving. Let's be the strong PPC that we are!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

HW due Wednesday, 3/12

Math: Woohoo! You are done with your 7th grade state exams! Enjoy the night off from math HW!

ELA: Read the packet on the history of the Dominican Republic. If you lost the worksheet from class, look on the blog for the text.

100BC: Read your packet for 100BC reading!

CONGRATULATIONS on a job well done. I have a good feeling about your academic success on the tests!!!! Now, on to 8th grade math!! WOOHOO! We are going to be so ready for college!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Essay Competition

PPC, I have had you write many essays similar to the essay for the contest below. Please let me know if you are interested:

Phi Sigma Pi is a national honor fraternity
, and we are their national philanthropy. They are sponsoring an essay contest that is just for our students on why education is important. Winners will have their essays published online and in their print magazine and will also receive a $500 savings bond (first place) or $200 savings bond (second place). The contest is open to students in grades 1-12 and there will be a first and second place winner chosen from grades 1-4, grades 5-8, and grades 9-12. I'm looking forward to having many students from New York City win this contest!

For all of the rules and the entry form please go to

HW due on Tuesday

Math: No HW. Go over notes on this blog or in your binders.

ELA: Write your reflection essay about what you learned today about the history of the Dominican Republic

100BC: Read 1 step

Go to sleep by 9PM today. You have book 2 tomorrow and need to be well-rested. Book 1 was a piece of cake today!

I send you all my love and good vibes.

Friday, March 7, 2008

A note before the math test...

Ladies and gentlemen,

On Monday, we will have our state math test. I am not worried because I know that you all will do well. This Sunday is Daylight Savings Time, which means you move your clocks one hour ahead and lose an hour.

Please make sure you get to school by 8. Testing will begin at 9PM. If you come in afterwards, you will have to make up your test. Sorry.

Make sure you eat breakfast on Monday and that you sleep well this weekend. Think positive thoughts and remember all the hard work we did this year. We have learned so much, and I am so, so proud of you. I love you all very much--most of the time! Ha! Just kidding. I love you all always.

Ms. Simmons

Poetry Contest Information

Poetry Contest for Students

The World Trade Center Tribute Center is sponsoring a poetry contest for students in 4 - 12th grades. Students are asked to write about the theme, "What is different since September 11?" A panel of judges will select poems to be read at the Community Poetry Reading on April 27. Please e-mail all entries by Thursdsay, April 10.

You all are amazing writers. Work your magic! This is a great opportunity.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

HW for tomorrow, March 6

ELA: None.

100BC: Read for 2 steps.

Math: Take Book 1 of 2007 State Test

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Surface area formulas

Surface Area Formulas
(Math | Geometry | Surface Area Formulas

(pi = pi = 3.141592...)

Surface Area Formulas
In general, the surface area is the sum of all the areas of all the shapes that cover the surface of the object.

Cube | Rectangular Prism | Prism | Sphere | Cylinder | Units

Note: "ab" means "a" multiplied by "b". "a2" means "a squared", which is the same as "a" times "a".

Be careful!! Units count. Use the same units for all measurements. Examples

Surface Area of a Cube = 6 a 2

(a is the length of the side of each edge of the cube)

In words, the surface area of a cube is the area of the six squares that cover it. The area of one of them is a*a, or a 2 . Since these are all the same, you can multiply one of them by six, so the surface area of a cube is 6 times one of the sides squared.

Surface Area of a Rectangular Prism = 2ab + 2bc + 2ac

(a, b, and c are the lengths of the 3 sides)

In words, the surface area of a rectangular prism is the are of the six rectangles that cover it. But we don't have to figure out all six because we know that the top and bottom are the same, the front and back are the same, and the left and right sides are the same.

The area of the top and bottom (side lengths a and c) = a*c. Since there are two of them, you get 2ac. The front and back have side lengths of b and c. The area of one of them is b*c, and there are two of them, so the surface area of those two is 2bc. The left and right side have side lengths of a and b, so the surface area of one of them is a*b. Again, there are two of them, so their combined surface area is 2ab.

Surface Area of Any Prism

(b is the shape of the ends)

Surface Area = Lateral area + Area of two ends

(Lateral area) = (perimeter of shape b) * L

Surface Area = (perimeter of shape b) * L+ 2*(Area of shape b)

Surface Area of a Sphere = 4 pi r 2

(r is radius of circle)

Surface Area of a Cylinder = 2 pi r 2 + 2 pi r h

(h is the height of the cylinder, r is the radius of the top)

Surface Area = Areas of top and bottom +Area of the side

Surface Area = 2(Area of top) + (perimeter of top)* height

Surface Area = 2(pi r 2) + (2 pi r)* h

In words, the easiest way is to think of a can. The surface area is the areas of all the parts needed to cover the can. That's the top, the bottom, and the paper label that wraps around the middle.

You can find the area of the top (or the bottom). That's the formula for area of a circle (pi r2). Since there is both a top and a bottom, that gets multiplied by two.

The side is like the label of the can. If you peel it off and lay it flat it will be a rectangle. The area of a rectangle is the product of the two sides. One side is the height of the can, the other side is the perimeter of the circle, since the label wraps once around the can. So the area of the rectangle is (2 pi r)* h.

Add those two parts together and you have the formula for the surface area of a cylinder.

Surface Area = 2(pi r 2) + (2 pi r)* h

Tip! Don't forget the units.

These equations will give you correct answers if you keep the units straight. For example - to find the surface area of a cube with sides of 5 inches, the equation is:

Surface Area = 6*(5 inches)2

= 6*(25 square inches)

= 150 sq. inches

HW due March 5

Math: Do your worksheet

100BC: Read 1 step

ELA: Do a brainstorm of your essay (Type 1)
Then, write a 5-page essay addressing the following:
You are a 13-year old adolescent in the 7th grade. You walk into school to learn that the love of your life has been hit by a car.

Focus Content Areas:
Subject/Verb Agreement
Sensory details

Monday, March 3, 2008

HW for March 4

ELA: If you have not finished your immigration story, please finish it.
Write a summary of the book you are reading now.

100BC: Read for 2 steps

Math: Do the review worksheet

We need our MOJO back. Come on, PPC!