This Week in Alts: Things black mothers fear, problems with the new GED test, and Wisconsin's Hmong community

Association of Alternative Newsmedia, "'More Alt Than Ever': Alt-Weeklies 2014 Year in ReviewAAN asked its member publications, including City Paper, to submit the stories they're most proud of from the last year (the headline is a quote from City Paper's submission). More than 26 papers submitted their favorite stories, including some that have appeared in this blog series.


Creative Loafing, "Things black mothers fear" On Tuesday night, yet another black teen was killed by police: 18-year-old Antonio Martin, who police say had a gun, was shot outside a Mobil gas station in Berkeley, a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri. Earlier that day, Atlanta, Georgia's Creative Loafing published a first-person essay from Carla Aaron-Lopez, who has a 2-year-old son. "Race relations in America make me feel like I'm standing chest deep in a pit of quicksand with my arms holding up my son while I slowly move to break free," she writes. "I may be devalued, overlooked, and underpaid for the rest of my life as a black American woman, but it is my sincerest hope that something will change for the betterment of all American children, not just my son alone." Pair it with this video from the Minneapolis City Pages, which shows the stunning display of thousands gathering in the Mall of America to protest police brutality against American-Americans.


Cleveland Scene, "Nearly 500,000 Fewer Americans Will Pass the GED in 2014 After a Major Overhaul to the Test. Why? And Who's Left Behind?" OK, this story is technically from last week, but it deserves to be shared anyway. At the beginning of 2014 (as City Paper's Edward Ericson Jr. wrote about in January), the General Education Development test (GED) changed dramatically: It's now taken on a computer, instead of on paper; it costs $120, instead of $40; and the questions have been drastically changed in an attempt to measure college preparedness. But as one GED instructor says in the Scene's story, "90 percent of the people here aren't going to college if they pass the test and to say that the purpose of the GED is to prepare people for college is foolish. These people just want to improve their jobs."

Since the changes to the GED were implemented, Scene reports, there's been a serious drop-off in the number of people passing the test: "In the United States, according to the GED Testing Service, 401,388 people earned a GED in 2012, and about 540,000 in 2013. This year, according to the latest numbers obtained by Scene, only about 55,000 have passed nationally. That is a 90-percent drop off from last year. And there are serious repercussions. As national economic policy is emphasizing more adult education programs, and most jobs (even Walmart shelf stockers) require a high school diploma, the new GED test has pretty much moved the goal posts way back. And that includes the incarcerated, where so many prison re-entry education programs include getting the high school drop-out population to pass the GED test."


Isthmus, "The Hmong community has found a voice in UW professor Yang Sao Xiong" This story from the Madison, Wisconsin alt-weekly is from last week, too, but it's another great read worth sharing. It's about Yang Sao Xiong, the University of Wisconsin-Madison's first professor in Hmong American Studies and "the only tenure-track faculty in his field in the world," and the community of Hmong people in Wisconsin, most of whom were refugees out of Laos after the country fell under communist rule in 1975. Isthmus explains, "Of the 260,000 Hmong living in the United States, Wisconsin is home to almost 50,000—the third-highest population, after California and Minnesota. Members of the Hmong community in Wisconsin, as in other states, have typically struggled with poverty, achievement gaps and prejudice." Isthmus uses Xiong's appointment, and the local controversies that led to his position being created, as a way to talk about the needs of the Hmong community and the ways in which the university can work with the greater community. (If you have some vacation days over the holidays and you want to read more about the Hmong community and the struggles the Hmong people often have with the cultural gap when they come to the U.S., find a copy of "The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down," by Anne Fadiman.)

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