I’m walking alongside the mural called “Beautiful Struggle” in front of Oakland High School. Frida Kahlo, Che Guevara, and Malcolm X are just a few of many social activists portrayed here. This mural also reflects a student body made up predominantly of students of color. Oakland High is 51 percent Asian, 29 percent Black, 16 percent Latino, and one percent white.
California has nearly a 1,000 charter schools, making it the most in the nation. Thirty-five of those are in the Oakland Unified School District. Charter school popularity has spurred education pedagogy research, the documentary Waiting for Superman, and has left lots of people wondering what these independent schools have to offer.
Urban Debate has existed since 1985 and has continued to evolve – making it a national and local phenomenon. The Bay Area Urban Debate League sponsored a recent tournament at UC Berkeley, where 400 Bay Area high school students showed up ready to debate.
At Castlemont High School in East Oakland, wedged between the parking lot and football field, live four chickens and two roosters.
There’s also a small but incredibly abundant garden, which under the supervision of garden coordinator Frankie Grace, is entirely run and maintained by students. On the day I visit, Graces is kneeling alongside them, chatting happily and pulling weeds. She lets three of the seasoned students direct what work needs to be done.
A group of enthusiastic men just finished discussing typical PTA issues at the Claremont Middle school in Oakland: issues like what their next fundraising event will be and where to hold their next meeting. What sets this group apart is the fact that it's composed of men. They call themselves ‘The Knights of the Roundtable."
These days, we often hear that the gender gap is closing. Girls in high school are excelling in reading and writing, and they’re making gains in math and science. Moreover, women are applying to colleges in greater numbers than men – and earning more degrees.