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When Shanitta moved to Baltimore from North Carolina in the middle of her Senior year, she couldn’t help notice how much influence Johns Hopkins had on Baltimore. Initially, she assumed their hospital mush be the best, but upon closer inspection, she found that their impacts on the city, while massive, have not always been positive. Here are the fruits of her research:


Despite the positive things that John Hopkins Hospital  has done for the world and even Baltimore, I will argue that overall Hopkins has had a negative effect on our community and even communities in other countries.  There are three main arguments that I make. First, Hopkins has been responsible for the lead paint poisoning of hundreds of Baltimore children. Secondly, Hopkins has made millions of dollars from research using the cells of a Baltimore women named Henrietta Lacks without her or the Lack  family’s permission. Lastly, Hopkins professors were part of a study that infected Guatemalans with several venereal diseases from 1946 to 1948.

Many people think Johns Hopkins hospital is the best hospital in Baltimore. It is certainly more popular than other hospitals in the city.  It is highly rated in many areas by U.S. News and World Report. However, many people do not know that  Hopkins’ experiment have caused the lead paint poisoning of Baltimore children.  In 1993 through 1995, Hopkins did “a study of different ways of getting rid of lead paint in homes, during which children were knowingly exposed to high levels of lead.”  This effected at least 100 families.Kennedy Krieger Institute part of Johns Hopkins Hospital created a study to find cheaper, less dangerous ways to remove lead from homes. They paid landlords to do the removal. Kennedy Krieger did not tell the families that this was happening or that the lead paint was dangerous. So the families stayed in the houses. My question is why didn’t they get hotel rooms for the families or at least recommend that they stay with family during the work? They did not even tell families what the lead paint could do to humans.  This caused lead poisoning and brain damage to 100’s of children. Some say that the research made homes safer for families across America but this does not change anything for the 100’s of children affected in Baltimore.

The second reason I think Johns Hopkins Hospital has had a negative effect on the my community is because they took advantage of a black Baltimore woman named Henrietta Lacks. A Johns Hopkins doctor, George Guy treated a Baltimore woman named Henrietta Lacks, for cervical cancer in 1951.  He saved her cells for research. He never told her so he never got her permission for the research. He called the cells He-La cells and used them in research to cure cancer. He also gave them away to other scientists, again without permission from the family. This was a good thing because Henrietta’s cells helped cure millions of people who had cancer. But then years later researchers and medical companies who had some of her cells began making millions of dollars from her cells.  Henrietta’s cells were being sold and resold much the way black people were sold as slaves. Also the cells were being used in ways that were not just benefitting medicine. Henrietta’s family were not told the whole truth about what was happening . Henrietta’s daughter was so upset about how her mother’s cells were being used that she had two strokes.

Hopkins counter argument is “  We are deeply committed to ensuring the appropriate protection and care of medical information related to Henrietta Lacks and her family. In 2013, Johns Hopkins worked with members of the family and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to help broker an agreement that requires scientists to receive permission to use Henrietta Lacks’ genetic blueprint, or to use HeLa cells in NIH funded research”.   However the fact remains that the Lacks family is still very unhappy with the current result.  “Lawrence Lacks, a retired Amtrak engineer, said he remembers when Hopkins doctors came and asked his family for blood samples in the 1970s. They gave the samples not knowing they were being used to research the HeLa cells”. He and his family know that many drug companies, writers, Hospital and other institutions are making money from their grandmother’s cells. Even artist are drawing her cells and selling the artwork

Lastly “ Hopkins faces a  one billion lawsuit over its  role in government study that gave subject sexually transmitted diseases”. ( scott dance Baltimore sun 04-01-2015) Johns Hopkins professors approved a study in  Guatemala in 1946 where researchers“deliberately  infected” Guatemalans with syphilis,gonorrhea,and chancroid. Some of these people were prisoners and mental patients. The victims and their families are suing because they  claim that Hopkins doctors were on the panel committee that made the decision to go ahead with the study knowing what was going to happen to the Guatemalans. This decision was ethically and morally wrong because Hopkins doctors allowed the researchers to infect the victims with horrible diseases without getting their permission. This is very similar to what researchers did to black men in the Tuskegee experiment in the 1932 to 1972.

Johns Hopkins agrees that this Guatemalan study was “ deplorable “ and “unconscionable” but they are not responsible just because independent doctors that happened to work at Johns Hopkins approved the research project. However several Johns Hopkins doctors were also researchers in the project.

Its sad that many lawyers were  saying that the lawsuit probably would not succeed because Hopkins does not have individual control of what its doctors do on their own time. In the end the lawsuit was dismissed for reasons that had nothing to do with Hopkins. In the end I think that Johns Hopkins was responsible because it was their doctors who not only approved but was apart of this incredibly harmful and immoral study.

I have given three examples of how Johns Hopkins Hospital has had negative effects on communities in Baltimore and  elsewhere in the world. In Baltimore they have been responsible for the lead paint poisoning of thousands of children through their lead paint removal program in the inner city. Johns Hopkins used the cells of a poor black woman without her permission  and gave her family no control over or payment for the use of her cells in research. Even while companies that received her cells made millions of dollars. Finally, Hopkins doctors approved and participated in studies that infected people with horrible diseases without their permission. In the end, Johns Hopkins has many excuses for these destructive actions but they have never  admitted guilt or publicly apologized for them, except for Henrietta Lacks and then only because the family complained publicly. They have to be sued in court in order to respond. By then it’s too late for the victims. Their lives have been destroyed.


Eleazar the Omniglot

Posted: May 15, 2018 by teachkirsch in Uncategorized

One of my students, Eleazar, came to Baltimore from Guatemala in 2014. When he arrived, he spoke only academic Spanish, because his mother tongue is a tribal language called Mam. Here in Baltimore, he improved his Spanish through conversations with other Central American immigrants while he learned English in school. Here are some of his musings about language:

Hello my name is Eleazar I am going to explain about my first language is MAM that is the first language I learned when I had 4 years old. My grandparents only can talk in Mam because they could not speak Spanish well. Then when I was in school they always spoke to me in Mam and I was learning day by day and by the time I was 6 years old I could speak well in Mam. then when I went to school  people and everyone spoke mam the town is called Concepcion and already understood what they said and I stared to talk with the people who were with me in the town and also with my cousin.s I used to get together and they talk only in Mam although they could also speak in Spanish.

I will give some examples in Mam.

Numbers: 1 jun 2 kan 3 ox 4 kyaj 5 jwe 6 waqaq

How are you? chitoc tal tat

What is your name? tetville tat…  

How did I stared to learned Spanish? I had 6 years old when I stared to go in school and it was little hard to learn Spanish because I just can speak Mam and all the teachers can speak Mam and they had the patience to teach us in Spanish. Already with time I could speak a little Spanish but always when I arrived at home my Grandparents always spoke in Mam because that is the first language at home. Then when I went to school I met with my friends who could speak in Spanish and I asked them the great favor so they could teach me what they already knew. With their help I was learning fast and also when it was lunch time I always spoke Spanish a bit. Also I had the great help of a guy that took me to a town called Cuilco. It’s a place where they only speak pure Spanish and my uncle took me to work with him already when I was 12 years old and every time I did not understand what I wanted I always asked him. 

This is how I learned English well: it was 2014 when I came here to United States.  I was stared to came to school in August well my first day was so sad because I don’t what they talk about. But I make friends and I ask like how they did learned but they tell me just pay attention. So my first year I just learned little bit because I stared like in the middle school but my second year was better because I make a lot of friends who speak English and also my teachers they teach me how to said the words in English. That helped me a lot. Also I found a job so that too help me because my boss give me to be a server so when I worked I make little conversation with the costumers.  I was like so scared when we present our projects here in class but now I am so proud because I learned more this year and also I feel my English I am make better and thank you teacher because you are a great teacher.

It is important to know language because you can talk with many people if you go somewhere. For example if you go to the restaurant when you travel. Also is very important because you can introduce the people who don’t speak another language. You can help the people who don’t speak a language like some people from Guatemala who cant speak Spanish. They can only speak Mam. I can speak MAM, Spanish and English, so in the future I can help the people if I to Guatemala.

It is very important to learn languages because you can find any kind of job. It  is important to learn new language because like Jennifer Smith says in her article THE BENEFITS OF LEARNING A SECOND LANGUAGE, learning a language “opens up a world of new opportunities if you choose to learn a commonly speak language such as Spanish, French or German you can travel practically anywhere in the world and not have trouble with translations.” This means is very good for everyone if you go somewhere like Brazil or Barcelona and you can speak any kind of language so you can travel. Also you can have a lot of opportunities in every where like like if you go to Guatemala and get a great job in a Hotel or in a restaurant.  Also help peoples like introduce peoples who is traveling from another country and also like teach them who don’t speak English. Like here, the teachers teach us how we can learn English so that is the first rule, so the same we can do for  people who can’t speak any language. In the future if I go to Guatemala I can give the classes to the peoples who would like to learn English that I can help.

In conclusion it’s important to become an Omniglot so you can help other people and yourself.


Companies lie

Posted: February 5, 2018 by teachkirsch in Uncategorized

After Jose read 1984 by George Orwell, he noticed some striking similarities between the ways the Ministry of Plenty dealt with food and the way agrobusiness food companies deal with our food. Here are his thoughts:


In 1984 the ministry of plenty has decide to publish an increase of chocolate rate, but instead the ration of chocolate has been reduced from 30 grams to 20 grams. People reacts like if were an achievement, because they are controlled by Big Brother.

The way of how ministry of plenty lie about the rate of chocolate is similar to the way of food companies lie to us, and not only food companies, because every company does to get every drop of money from our wallets.

as short a time ago as February, the ministry of plenty had issued a promise (a “categorical pledge” were the official words) that there could be no reduction of the chocolate ration during 1984 actually as Wiston was aware, the chocolate ration was ti be reduced from thirty grams to twenty at the end of present week” George Orwell 1984 (pg 39)

In 2018 companies are doing something similar, but instead of lying to you, they take advantage of our ignorance, they know we are lazy enough to read the content of their products, so they can do little changes like reduce the amount of our food from 7.02 to 6.87, as you can see the difference could mean nothing for us, but for them is a save of money and resources, because they low the rate but not the price, this can mean nothing for our wallets, but for them it means a lot of save of money saved.

We become accustomed to being lied, we have become accustomed that much that we take it as something normal, a price to pay for comfort, but in some aspects they are going so far. Have you noticed that some containers have a little hole in the bottom? Well it has its function, helps the containers to be more resistant to the transportation, to carry better little hits, but is true that it has a logical principle, but it does not specifies the curvature of the container, some companies take advantage increasing the curvature to have more profit margin, as the result of people paying the same or more, for a subtly lesser amount, an insignificant amount for one person, but for a company that sells million is an important change, and they do not lie to you, if you read the container tells you the amount that has, but who do that? And more with a product that you buy everyday?” you tube , tri line (6 maneras que tienen las empresas de engañarnos cada dia.)

Cellphones companies does the same as food companies, every year they offer new cellphones changing something (often the name or number) and say that is new, Apple knows how to play this, they already have loyal customers ready to pay for their new products.

You can see how they change almost nothing, is almost the same product and its price is higher than the old one.

Open letter to the CEO of Baltimore City Schools

Posted: March 23, 2017 by teachkirsch in Uncategorized

Good morning Dr. Santelises,

I hope this finds you well. I teach 12th grade English at Patterson High School. When you were CAO, I deeply appreciated your commitment to academic excellence and rigor. In your brief tenure as CEO, I have seen that several of your initiatives make more sense academically than some initiatives I have seen in my 11 years with BCPSS.

However, the trend this year to close the grading window on the date the quarter ends is antithetical to rigor and high standards.

My students are writing 2-4 page research papers on Hamlet. In order for me to grade these carefully, I need more than an hour and a half, which is the time I have between the end of Quarter 3 and the close of the grade posting window. If I make the essays due before the quarter ends, I don’t have the authentic deadline of the quarter’s end to enforce the reality of deadlines. Moreover, if I make the paper due before the end of the quarter, I have to waste several instructional days with “filler” work that won’t take very long to grade.

Please extend the posting windows to give teachers at least a full weekend after the end of each quarter to carefully grade our students’ work.


Iris Kirsch

The Battle of Mondawmin

Posted: May 4, 2015 by teachkirsch in Uncategorized

We will post some thoughts on this whole situation from room 201 itself this week, but I thought I’d add this important piece of truthtelling to the conversation.

The Baltimore Eclipse

Caution: this post contains some graphic images & videos of organized police violence against black youth.

Most of the injuries, arrests, looting, arson, and property destruction occurring during the so-called Baltimore Riots took place (so far) on the night of Monday, April 27. They followed a confrontation between heavily armed police and school-age children which took place at Mondawmin Mall, starting at 3PM. This event should be considered a critical moment in the unfolding of the “Riots” because it marked the beginning of organized police action and was narratively linked to the wave of mayhem which moved, from 3PM to midnight, along North Avenue, and south-eastward down Pennsylvania Avenue. With blame still flowing freely in the commentary on this incident, it is crucial to understand how things began. Juvenile delinquency? Political rage? Police provocation? Where is the evidence? Who else played a role? We know that the citizens of Baltimore are justifiably angry, and…

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This did not come out of Room 201. Kate Drabinski is a local professor. But I think this is an important time to hear some truth about this situation.

What I Saw Riding My Bike Around Today

Cops in Riot Gear at Mondawmin Mall at Liberty Heights and Reisterstown RoadHere’s what I saw on my bike today. I saw my dentist in Waverly, people waiting for the bus at 33rd, the quick shift of neighborhoods from Greenmount to Barclay to Guilford, Calvert, and St. Paul. I saw the last round of flower trees by the art museum and Hopkins, and the bright greens of Gwynns Falls. I saw some guys playing basketball in Druid Hill Park, and three joggers making their way around the reservoir. I followed the sound of the police helicopter around the park, past the conservatory, and up to Liberty Heights Avenue where I took a left.

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March Madness usually means Basketball, but what’s making teachers in Baltimore crazy this month is SLOs!

SLOs, or Student Learning Objectives are the new, softer way to attempt to quantify what happens in classrooms. The idea is relatively simple: set some goals for what you want your students to learn, and then see if they’ve met them.

As with most of what is proposed in education, the basic idea is good. But it’s also far more complicated than it seems. My wonderful former principal, Karen Lawrence used to say “we’re not making cars here, these are human beings.” It’s easy to see if you’ve welded the car door on correctly. It’s much harder to tell if a young person has been well educated.

Now to the actual business of the SLO. The idea is that each teacher selects one goal we have for our students for the year, measures student ability at the beginning of the year, sets specific targets for how much students will improve over the course of the year, and then measures what students know by the end of the year.

Even if that system worked perfectly, we’d have the obvious problem of teaching “to the SLO” rather than “to the test.” But this is Baltimore City Public Schools, so we don’t have to worry about any problems that can only arise if the system works perfectly.

Last year was the first time SLOs were implemented in Baltimore, but mid-year it was decided that our scores would not count towards our evaluations, so it was something of a practice run. Then, at the end of last school year, the School Board decided to change the rating scale by which they rate our performance. This is convoluted to explain, so I’ll let you read more here if you’re interested. Similarly, I’ll send you here for an overview of our merit-pay contract, and suffice to tell you that the last-minute changes made by the school board cost many teachers significant raises. The Baltimore Teacher’s Union’s negotiating committee filed a grievance on our behalf. This allowed the school board to tell us nothing about how evaluations would be calculated this year, because they claimed they could not tell us anything until the grievance was settled.

So all this year, teachers in Baltimore have known that our pay would be linked to our evaluations, but have not known what our evaluations would be based on. When we grade our students, we’re expected to use rubrics with which the students are familiar. Yet we do not get the same courtesy.

In mid-January I started to hear a rumble that SLOs were coming. Eyebrows were raised around town: how could something that was supposed to be a year-long process be implemented half way through the year? But we were in for an even bigger surprise. The final data, demonstrating student learning, had to be collected and reported before the end of March! So somehow, teachers were supposed to write SLOs in February, submit them by February 26th, get them approved by administrators by March 9th, and still collect the END data by March 31st.

Even if we had no snowdays during that time period, and even if every school in the district weren’t implementing Common Core aligned PARCC testing for the first time ever during that same time, this would be a charade. Rating teachers based on what we can impart on our students in a month? Come on! It feels like we’ve been written into a bad movie against our will. The next few months will tell if it’s a comedy or a tragedy.