The History and Challenges of the Harlem Education System

December 2, 2015 by  
Filed under Education

Comments Off on The History and Challenges of the Harlem Education System

By Phineas Upham

During the early 1990s, New York City was facing a major problem with a large section of its population. The economic decimation that the 1980s brought to New York changed the city for the worse in a way that non-natives have a hard time grasping. Black Americans felt these strains the hardest. Their communities lost businesses, which meant people lost jobs as more manufacturing and packaging was moved to other parts of the country.

Those who didn’t leave the city were stuck in places like Harlem. By 1993, Harlem was predominately black and most of its residents lived well below the poverty level. As a result, East Harlem was consistently testing in the bottom rungs for math and reading.

By that time, institutionalized racism had largely been abolished but the effects of a segregated New York were still being felt. Overcrowding in the 1930s led to racially segregated schools. As a result, it was difficult for students to find racially mixed high schools and that lack of diversity was not working out to Harlem’s favor.

New York’s response to this challenge has been to open greater numbers of charter schools. This has both negatives and positives. Education quality has gone up, but the statistics behind graduation rates have not improved (or have proven to improve under conditions, such as not counting the number of incarcerated students who drop out of school). Harlem has recently put more emphasis on teaching talent, which is good considering the district was once used as a punishment for teachers that the New York School District wanted out. There are also rumors that Columbia University will seek expansion into the area, citing blight as a factor for eminent domain.

Phineas Upham is an investor from NYC and SF. You may contact Phin on his Phineas Upham website or Twitter page.

Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan: Lifelong Companions

September 2, 2015 by  
Filed under Education

Comments Off on Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan: Lifelong Companions

By Samuel Phineas Upham

The story of Helen Keller really begins with Anne Sullivan. Nicknamed “Annie” from a young age, Anne grew up in a poor family. After her mother died, and her father abandoned the family, Anne and her brother were sent to a local almshouse in Massachusetts. When she was eight years old, she contracted trachoma. The disease brought painful infections and partial blindness to the young girl, but surgeries helped to mitigate the symptoms for a time.

Unfortunately for Anne, there was no cure. She remained blind for life. She hoped for prospects outside of being a housemaid, and she found those prospects in the Perkins School for the Blind in Boston. She completed her graduate degree at the age of 20, and tried to pursue a career in education.

At the same time, Arthur Keller was searching for someone to tutor his young daughter Helen. Helen was born both deaf and blind, leaving her almost completely language deficient. With Anne’s help, Helen was able to break through that barrier of language and learn to communicate with the world around her.

By age 11, Helen had already written a story. By 22, she had written an autobiography for herself with help from Anne Sullivan. She gave readers a glimpse of her life in the 1908 story The World I Live In, and dabbled a bit in socialism and political activism in 1913.

Keller died just a few weeks shy of her eighty-eighth birthday. Keller’s ashes were placed next to her lifelong companion, Anne Sullivan’s ashes at the Washington National Cathedral.

About the Author: Samuel Phineas Upham is an investor at a family office/ hedgefund, where he focuses on special situation illiquid investing. Before this position, Phin Upham was working at Morgan Stanley in the Media and Telecom group. You may contact Phin on his Samuel Phineas Upham website or Facebook.