This small-town school didn't have money for a science fair. So parents made their own.

Teaching kids about science can have amazing benefits, but it costs money — which is what one small town in Ohio didn't have.

The city of Springboro operates their schools on a shoestring budget. With a per-pupil cost well below the state average, extracurricular activities in the district have had to be scaled back — including those related to STEM education (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).

Springboro High School. Photo courtesy of Karen DeRosa.


In fact, budget cuts to STEM education are a nationwide problem, and education cuts have a disproportionate effect on middle- and low-income families. All of which will contribute to the United States falling even further behind in STEM careers worldwide.

Luckily, a group of moms in Springboro decided to take matters into their own hands.

They started STEMfest — an annual science and technology festival run entirely by volunteers and funded completely by donations.

"[Parents could see] the limits of the school district in terms of both human resources and capital," says Karen DeRosa, a STEMfest volunteer and former communications director for Springboro schools. "They really wanted to bring more STEM programs to students."

Springboro STEMfest. Photo courtesy of Karen DeRosa.

The event, sort of a cross between a career day and a science fair, was put together in seven weeks from conception to execution and was a bigger success than anyone could have predicted.

"At first they wanted one large room, thinking they may have 10 or 15 exhibits," DeRosa recalls. "But they kept calling me and saying they needed more space ... they grew to nearly 30 exhibits their first year."

STEMfest, now in its second year, is officially a local phenomenon.

Photo courtesy of Karen DeRosa.

Exhibitors fill the high school gym and parking lot with interactive stations related to a wide range of science fields and geared toward students of any age.

"They can focus on activities for young students; we could have very complicated high school level, college level things; and we can have everything in between," DeRosa says. "It's really kind of a great family event."

From building with Legos to advanced robotics, music to finger-painting, STEMfest has something for everyone.

All of it is free and not for profit, and DeRosa says that seeing the community engaged with science and tech is a reward in and of itself. "When the organizers look around and see the place is full ... it's exciting."

The event also offers kids the invaluable opportunity to get hands-on experience with cutting-edge technology.

At one station, kids got to work with 3D printers making small handheld objects. At another, they learned to program basic robots. Since 3D printing and automation are industries on the rise, kids at STEMfest are engaging with the jobs of the future. And since STEM industries in general are some of the fastest growing in the United States, getting to work directly with industry-leading technology is a huge advantage.

Photo courtesy of Karen DeRosa.

According to Education Week, you can't start STEM education early enough — children are naturally curious scientists and engineers, and nurturing that curiosity has a direct connection to kids pursuing the vital science and technology careers of the future.

Karen DeRosa agrees. "We think that natural curiosity is so vital to tap into," she says. "And the traditional classroom and traditional curriculum can’t always reach everyone with the same level of interest or activity. STEMfest gives that opportunity."

Photo courtesy of Karen DeRosa.

Most of all, STEMfest shows how powerful a community can be when they're driven to inspire.

Springboro had to overcome a dire lack of funding to pull off STEMfest, and they did it because they worked together as a community. Parents, teachers, students, and anyone else who could spare money or time came together to create a uniquely engaging and inspiring event.

Photo courtesy of Karen DeRosa.

When an absence of federal money leaves gaps in education, communities have the ability to step up and fill those gaps. It takes a village to raise a child, but it also takes a village to inspire them and help shape them into the leaders of the future.

That's exactly what Springboro is doing.

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Whenever someone's words or behavior are called out as racist, a few predictable responses always follow. One is to see the word "racist" as a vicious personal attack. Two is to vehemently deny that whatever was said or done was racist. And three is to pull out the dictionary definition of racism to prove that the words or behavior weren't racist.

Honestly, as soon as someone refers to the dictionary when discussing racism, it's clear that person has never delved deeply into trying to understand racism. It's a big old red flag, every time.

I'm not an expert on race relations, but I've spent many years learning from people who are. And I've learned that the reality of racism is nuanced and complex, and resorting to a short dictionary definition completely ignores that fact. The dictionary can't include all of the ways racism manifests in individuals and society, and the limitations of dictionary definitions make it a poor tool for discussing the topic.

Since "racism" is such a loaded term for many people, let's look at such limitations through a different complex word. Let's take "anxiety." According to Merriam-Webster, "anxiety" is defined as "apprehensive uneasiness or nervousness, usually over an impending or anticipated ill."

Now imagine thinking that you understand everything that encompasses anxiety from reading that dictionary definition. Imagine thinking you could recognize the signs of anxiety in someone based on that definition alone. Ridiculous, right? The dictionary doesn't explain that some people's anxiety manifests as anger, even though it does. It doesn't say that anxiety sometimes manifests as withdrawal or aloofness. It doesn't say that you often won't see obvious signs of fear or nervousness in someone experiencing anxiety.

The dictionary doesn't offer anything close to the reality of what anxiety is or looks like. It would be silly to say that someone isn't experiencing anxiety because they're not clearly showing signs of nervousness like the dictionary definition implies. Just as the dictionary definition of anxiety is not comprehensive, neither is the dictionary definition of racism. Yet people keep using it to "prove" that something or someone isn't racist.

Fox News analyst Brit Hume just pulled that trick on Twitter to try to back up his claim that Donald Trump's "go back to" statements to four Congresswomen of color weren't technically racist.


The first Merriam-Webster entry for "racism" reads "a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race."

Merriam-Webster

First of all, I'm not sure how this definition actually makes Trump's statements not racist. A belief is not always conscious, so even assuming that his racism is unconscious, a white man telling four women of color to "go back to" their countries of origin—despite three of them being born in the U.S. and the fourth being a naturalized citizen of the U.S.—is pretty objectively racist. No one knows exactly what is going on in the President's head, but such statements only being made to women of color would certainly be consistent with the behavior of someone with a belief in white people's inherent superiority.

But that simple definition isn't truly definitive, either. Shortly after Hume's tweet, Merriam-Webster pointed out a usage note for the word "racism," which clarifies that dictionaries do not provide the be-all-end-all definition of words.

Anti-racism advocates have tried time and time again to explain that racism is not as straightforward as someone saying, "I think I'm superior to people who don't share my skin color." Racism is almost never that blatant, and yet oodles of Americans refuse to call anything less than that kind of bold statement "racism." We have a long history showing exactly how white supremacy—the origin of racism in the U.S.—exerts itself in both strong and subtle ways, and thousands of hours and pages of education from experts describing how racism works on an individual and societal level. But people still insist on the simplistic narrative of "Racism=hating people of a different race."

I've seen many people, including Brit Hume, argue that the word racism has lost all meaning. Frankly, that's a copout. Racism—as both a conscious or unconscious belief of racial superiority and as a system of racial prejudice blended with power dynamics—has a broader meaning than one person hating another person for the color of their skin. But that doesn't make it meaningless.

I've also seen people complain that "everything is racist these days," but no, it's really not. We simply understand more about racism now, thanks to the field of race studies and to people of color offering their time and energy to explain it, so it's easier to identify in its various forms. In my experience, when someone's understanding of racism reaches a certain stage, they start recognizing it in places where ignorance or unconscious bias may have caused them to miss it in the past. That's not imagining racism where it doesn't exist or "calling everything racist these days"; that's simply seeing reality more clearly.

When you really dive deep into the historical, psychological, and sociological reality of racism in America, it becomes painfully obvious that racism is far more prevalent and enmeshed in our society than most people think. Until defensive, mostly-white folks stop automatically denying racism every time the word is used and stop throwing around dictionaries to avoid having to do that deep dive work, we're not going to make real headway on this issue.

Let's stop pretending that the definition and supposed overuse of the word "racism" is the problem, when the problem is racism, period.

Democracy
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If you're a woman and you want to be a CEO, you should probably think about changing your name to "Jeffrey" or "Michael." Or possibly even "Michael Jeffreys" or "Jeffrey Michaels."

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The "New CEO Report" for 2018, which looks at new CEOS for the 250 largest S&P 500 companies, found that 23 people were appointed to the position of CEO. Only one of those 23 people was a woman. Michelle Gass, the new CEO of Kohl's, was the lone female on the list.

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The music mogul first announced his plan to build low-income housing on Twitter late last year.

"We're starting a Yeezy architecture arm called Yeezy home. We're looking for architects and industrial designers who want to make the world better," West tweeted.

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At Trump's 'Social Media Summit' on Thursday, he bizarrely claimed Arnold Schwarzenegger had 'died' and he had witnessed said death. Wait, what?!


He didn't mean it literally - thank God. You can't be too sure! After all, he seemed to think that Frederick Douglass was still alive in February. More recently, he described a world in which the 1770s included airports. His laissez-faire approach to chronology is confusing, to say the least.

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