TIME Television

Superfan Creates Her Own Simpsons Kitchen

"Who wouldn’t want corn cob curtains?"

Only a superfan would consider buying a green stove.

Meet Marcia Andreychuk of Calgary, who together with her significant other Joel Hamilton, turned their period kitchen into Marge’s from The Simpsons.

“I’m attracted to the quirky,” says Andreychuk. “Who wouldn’t want corn cob curtains? My significant other and I wanted to do a retrovation, keep old make it new, so we had the bizarre idea, why not take what we already have and turn it into the Simpsons kitchen?”

Andreychuk says her countertop was only $20, though her dream is to buy brand-new “retro-looking appliances.”

But what about a blue wig?

This article originally appeared on EW.com

TIME society

This Ridiculous Video Wants to Convince You That Taking the Bus is Actually Cool

Extra legroom included

When it comes to cool methods of transportation, the bus is usually not the first thing that springs to mind. But a new promotional video from Canada’s Edmonton Transit System wants to show you that the bus is actually awesome.

The bus has everything: “personal climate control” (by opening windows); “freedom to text safely”; and of course, “extra legroom.”

In an actually cool development, the ad also promises real-time bus information on your smart phone. Okay, maybe not quite cool, but definitely convenient. A for effort, Edmonton.

TIME Education

Why More Urban Parents Are Choosing Homeschooling

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Frustrated with the public schools, middle-class urbanites are embracing an educational movement

Angela Wade’s children hadn’t reached school age yet, so she had given little thought to where, or how, they’d be educated. But from the moment she set foot in her local public school—to vote on Election Day—she knew that she wouldn’t be sending her kids there. It wasn’t that the academics weren’t up to snuff or that the Astoria, Queens, elementary school suffered from a bad reputation. But what she saw in the hallways and on the cafeteria walls surprised this former New York City public school teacher with an education degree from NYU. “There were licensed characters painted on the wall. You know—Dora the Explorer and all these things,” she says. “I just feel like that’s not really the place for advertising.”

For Wade and her husband, and for city dwellers with concerns ranging from classroom environment to the Common Core, public school is out of the question. And for them, as for many urban middle-class families, paying hefty private school tuition is not a realistic option, either. “It wasn’t so much a decision of what we were going to do—it was what we weren’t going to do,” she says. In the end, the Wades opted to homeschool. “Homeschooling is in some ways the easiest option. We’re driving our children’s education. We’re giving up a lot to do it, but in the end we thought it would make us most satisfied.”

At first, the Wades knew no other homeschoolers, and, like many young parents in the city, they had no family nearby, so they prepared themselves to go it alone. Before too long, however, they found a growing network of urban homeschoolers. “In a city like this, you can find your tribe,” says Wade. “You can find your homeschoolers. And there are a lot of us.”

Not so long ago, homeschooling was considered a radical educational alternative—the province of a small number of devout Iowa evangelicals and countercultural Mendocino hippies. No more. Today, as many as 2 million—or 2.5 percent—of the nation’s 77 million school-age children are educated at home, and increasing numbers of them live in cities. More urban parents are turning their backs on the compulsory-education model and embracing the interactive, online educational future that policy entrepreneurs have predicted for years would revolutionize pedagogy and transform brick-and-mortar schooling. And their kids are not only keeping pace with their traditionally schooled peers; they are also, in many cases, doing better, getting into top-ranked colleges and graduating at higher rates. In cities across the country, homeschooling is becoming just one educational option among many.

As recently as the mid-1970s, as few as 10,000 children were homeschooled in the United States. The practice was illegal in 30 states, and those who opted for home education mostly clustered in rural areas. Many of the original homeschoolers took inspiration from the writings of John Holt, a former fifth-grade teacher, whose two books, 1964’s How Children Fail and 1967’s How Children Learn, were highly critical of traditional compulsory education. The system had similar contempt for homeschoolers, tending to treat the students as truants and the parents as criminals.

Homeschooling’s expansion began in 1978, when the Internal Revenue Service under President Jimmy Carter threatened to revoke the tax-exempt status of Christian day schools that it accused of using religion-based admissions standards to circumvent federal antisegregation laws. The move to shutter these schools politicized evangelical Christians across the South, Midwest, and West. The IRS ultimately caved on its threats, but the evangelicals took a message away from the battle: the federal government—as embodied by the newly established Department of Education—was out to get them. “What galvanized the Christian community was not abortion, school prayer, or the ERA,” Moral Majority founder Paul Weyrich told sociologist William Martin for his book With God on Our Side. “[It] was Jimmy Carter’s intervention against the Christian schools. . . . [S]uddenly it dawned on them that they were not going to be left alone to teach their children as they pleased.”

Rather than wait for the next federal attack on their values, many evangelicals instead chose to educate their children where they felt the long arm of the government could never reach—in the home. By 1983, with the rise of the Religious Right and the formation of the Home School Legal Defense Association, the number of homeschooled children in the United States had ballooned to between 60,000 and 125,000. Thanks largely to the state-by-state advocacy of HSLDA lawyers, legal barriers to homeschooling began falling in the 1980s. By 1993, the practice was legal in all 50 states, though some remain suspicious (see sidebar, below).

Since then, the homeschooling population has continued to grow dramatically, while also becoming more secular. In 2002, according to a DOE survey, 72 percent of homeschooling families cited “a desire to provide religious instruction” as one of their reasons for educating in the home. By 2012, 64 percent cited religion as a motive for homeschooling; only 16 percent called it most important. “Most people assume we’re doing it for some sort of strange, creationist religious reason,” says Rachel Figueroa-Levin, a homeschooler who lives in Inwood, a middle-class neighborhood at the northernmost tip of Manhattan. “But we are stereotypical secular Jews.” Indeed, concern about “the environment of other schools” has supplanted religion as the Number One reason given for homeschooling, according to the DOE survey. Ninety-one percent of homeschooling parents cited school environment as at least a contributing factor.

Over the last few decades, the homeschooling population has also urbanized. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 28 percent of the nation’s nearly 2 million homeschoolers, or roughly 560,000 students, live in cities. That’s almost as many as live in suburbs (34 percent) or rural areas (31 percent). Boston, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles are home to swelling communities of homeschoolers. And in the nation’s largest city—New York—the number of homeschooled students has risen 47 percent, to more than 3,700 children, over the last five years.

Like other homeschoolers these days, urbanites choose homeschooling for various reasons, though dissatisfaction with the quality and content of instruction at local public schools heads the list. “I got through public school, but it was never something I thought was an option for my children,” says Figueroa-Levin. A native Staten Islander, she is a columnist for amNewYork, a free daily newspaper, and creator of the satirical Twitter account @ElBloombito, which gained 76,000 followers for its gentle skewering of former mayor Michael Bloomberg’s halting attempts at press-conference Spanish. She calls her local public school “awful,” but she’s not interested in moving to a more desirable school zone, as some New Yorkers with small children do. “We like where we live. We have a nice-size apartment. Sacrificing all that for a decent public school just doesn’t seem worth it,” she says.

But even after more than a decade of aggressive education-reform efforts, the “decent public school” remains a rarity in New York and in other American cities. With urban public schools inadequate or worse and quality private schools often financially out of reach, “homeschooling becomes an interesting study in school choice,” observes Brian Ray, founder of the National Home Education Research Institute (NEHRI) in Portland, Oregon. “You pay taxes, so the public school system in your city gets that money, then you can make the ‘choiceǒ of paying even more to send your kid to a private school, or to a Catholic school. More and more people are saying, ‘I’m going to homeschool.’ It’s not that weird anymore.”

Homeschooler Gwen Fredette lives in Philadelphia with her husband and four children. “Our school system has a lot of problems,” she says. That’s an understatement: Philadelphia public schools are in flat-out crisis. After a video of a 17-year-old student knocking a “conflict resolution specialist” unconscious at Southwest Philadelphia’s Bartram High went viral last year, a social studies teacher at the troubled school told thePhiladelphia Inquirer, “I had a better chance in Vietnam. . . . Here, you lock your door and pray no one comes in.”

Nor is violence the only concern in the city’s public schools. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study found that 60 percent of West Philadelphia schools had serious problems with mold or water damage. Budget shortfalls have left schools without nurses and made a collapsing public-education system “a chronic and seemingly immutable fact of life,” according to Philadelphia Magazine. Academic outcomes are horrendous. Just 10 percent of graduates from the city school district go on to get college degrees. The National Assessment of Educational Progress ranks Philadelphia near the bottom of participating cities: less than 20 percent of the city’s fourth- and eighth-graders score proficient or better in math and reading.

Fredette took one look at her local zoned school and, like Angela Wade, ruled it out. But she and her husband didn’t want to abandon a life that they enjoyed. “There are so many great things about living in the city—you kind of agree to take the good with the bad,” she says. Fredette loves that her older children use public transportation to get around. They have made friends from different cultures and backgrounds, something she’s not sure would have happened in the suburbs.

On the other side of the country, in Los Angeles, the entertainment industry has long sustained a homeschooling culture for performers. “Thousands and thousands of homeschoolers” live in the area, says Anna Smith, who runs Urban Homeschoolers, an “a la carte educational service” for about 40 homeschooling families in the Atwater Village neighborhood of northeast L.A. (See “City of Villages,” Winter 2014.) “There’s a great support network because there are tons of parents,” Smith says. At Urban Homeschoolers, younger students take courses such as “Wonder of the Alphabet” and “World of Numbers.” High school–aged kids can select from titles including “Conversational Spanish” and “The Legacy of the Cold War.” In a nod to homeschooling’s countercultural roots, there’s even a course called “Skepticism 101,” which promises to let students do their own “myth-busting.”

One myth that needs busting is that homeschoolers dream of re-creating the one-room schoolhouses of yesteryear. “Public schools were designed in a time when people were working in factories and offices and had the same job for 30 or 40 years. That’s not the way the world is anymore,” says Smith. “Nowadays you can get anything customized,” she says, including children’s educations, and modern communications technology and Internet-based curricula have enabled homeschoolers to do just that. Customization is not typically what traditional schools do well—certainly not in the sclerotic school districts of the nation’s biggest cities.

Lousy as the public schools often are, urban parochial schools don’t always measure up, either. Ottavia Egan grew up in Italy, the daughter of an American mother and an Italian father. Today, she lives on 72nd Street on Manhattan’s Upper East Side with her husband, Patrick, and their four kids. The Egans’ middle school–aged daughter had attended a local parochial school, where the books assigned tended toward “junky” literature, paranormal horror stories, and vampire-themed fiction. “These were the only kinds of books my daughter would read willingly. I had to plead with her to give the classics a try,” she says.

Ottavia admits that the thought of detaching from the traditional school model terrified her. She worried that, as a homeschooler, she would have to do everything herself. But she soon sensed that she had made the right choice. “My daughter is the type of kid who needs to ask a lot of questions. On the first day, she had 12 questions for me in the first hour. She never would have had those questions answered at school.”

Some ambitious homeschoolers craft personalized educational programs from scratch. Many others purchase off-the-shelf curriculum and supporting resources—lesson plans, reading materials, and tests for subjects ranging from American history to advanced Latin to calculus—from well-established companies, such as Sonlight and Oak Meadow. Some companies even operate as accredited distance-learning schools, providing students with what amounts to a correspondence course. According to the HSLDA, four major curriculum types predominate: the “traditional” approach, which uses textbooks and workbooks to teach reading, writing, grammar, and spelling through repetition; the “classical” model, which emphasizes grammar, logic, and rhetoric for the study of the great works of Western literature; “unit studies,” which employs a multidisciplinary approach to exploring particular themes; and “unschooling,” a student-directed approach, popular with countercultural types, that rejects formal, curriculum-based education and lets children explore subjects at their own pace.

“I knew I wasn’t going to just wing it—especially on math,” says Wade, who initially relied on library books to flesh out lesson plans that she wrote herself. Eventually, she gave in and purchased subject-matter curricula from Sonlight. It wasn’t cheap: the second-grade curriculum package with “everything you need to teach one child for one year” in history, geography, math, science, language arts, and handwriting costs $849. But Wade notes that if her children were in private school, “we’d be spending at least that much on books and materials.” Plus, she hopes to use the materials for her other children, and she notes the time she has saved by not having to write her own lessons and tests.

By contrast, Amy Millstein, a resident of Manhattan’s Upper West Side, is an unschooler. Her two children direct their own learning by following their natural inclinations and organic interests. Millstein offers support, when called for, and guidance, when asked, but she doesn’t otherwise shape—or interfere with—their education. The idea behind unschooling, which can work well with certain kids, is that people learn something only when they’re truly interested in learning it. “Of course, there will be holes in their education,” she concedes. “But I have holes in my education, and I went to school.”

The current crop of homeschoolers has one major advantage over the movement’s pioneers: modern technology has put all of history’s collected knowledge at their fingertips. No homeschooling parent need become an expert on differential equations or Newton’s Third Law of Motion. He or she can simply visit YouTube’s Khan Academy channel and find thousands of video lectures on these topics. Rosetta Stone, the well-known foreign-language software company, offers a specially tailored homeschool reading curriculum for just $99 per year. Wade’s children use a free website called Duolingo to practice Spanish. And many popular curriculum packages and distance-learning education programs provide Skype-based tutorials, online courses, and other learning supports.

Cities offer homeschoolers rich educational opportunities. The Fredettes of Philadelphia have used their storied city to supplement American history lessons. Their travels have brought them to the Liberty Bell and Constitution Hall, of course, but they’ve also visited a glassblower’s studio, taken archery classes, and toured the facility where the Inquirer, the nation’s third-oldest daily newspaper, is printed. “We even went to the Herr’s potato-chip factory and watched the chips coming out of the machine,” recalls Fredette. The children’s favorite trip was to the studios of FOX 29 News, where, as part of a unit on meteorology, they watched a live broadcast of the midday weather report, complete with green screen.

Boston is known as a college town. Kerry McDonald lives across the Charles River in Cambridge—“between M.I.T. and Harvard,” she says. On her City Kids Homeschooling blog, McDonald writes: “We use the city as our primary learning tool, taking advantage of all its offerings, including classes, museums, libraries, cultural events, and fascinating neighbors”—including a Tufts University biology professor who brings home snails and mollusks for the kids.

It’s no surprise that New Yorkers see their city as “the best place on the planet to homeschool a kid,” as Millstein puts it. She and her husband own a locksmith business in Manhattan and live with their two children in the neighborhood behind Lincoln Center. When her 14-year-old daughter expressed an interest in taking pictures, Millstein enrolled her at the International Center of Photography in Manhattan.

“The resources we have here in New York City are amazing,” Wade enthuses. “We study an artist and then we go to the museum and actually get to look at that artist’s paintings.” Ballet for Young Audiences, a repertory dance company that plays to public school kids on field trips, needed dancers for a production of Snow White. Wade’s nine-year-old daughter got the job—she was, after all, free during the day. Homeschooling allows kids the flexibility to pursue a passion without schedule or space constraints, whether it’s taking a morning ukulele class at the local guitar shop—as McDonald’s son does—or a midday outing to an L.A. beach.

Homeschooling has its critics. Some say it’s a choice reserved for those with the household wealth to get by on one income—a notion most homeschoolers reject. Too often, they say, the extra money that comes from having both parents work goes mostly to cover day care or after-school expenses, making the choice of one parent (typically the mother) to stay home and teach the kids a financial wash. Other critics charge that by withdrawing their children from struggling public schools, homeschoolers do a disservice to the system. But Wade and others point out that they still support the public school system with their dollars. “I pay school taxes,” she says. “But my children are not sitting in a school all day costing the city money.”

“Socialization” is by far the most frequently voiced concern. How will children learn to be well-adjusted members of society, the thinking goes, if they aren’t in school with other kids their age? Won’t they become social outcasts? Homeschoolers, particularly urban ones, view the question as ludicrous. Cities are social places.

Anyone fearing that homeschooled kids are being improperly socialized should visit the Yonkers home of Anne and Erik Tozzi. The couple met at Oxford, where Erik, a native New Yorker, spent a year studying medieval history. The Tozzis say that living on a closely packed city street has been a social asset for their five homeschooled children. Yonkers is New York State’s fourth-largest city, and the Tozzis’ backyard abuts those of other houses brimming with kids. On a sunny day recently, the neighborhood bustled with young people zooming from yard to yard, shooting baskets, playing tag, and shouting with abandon. Most of the Tozzi children’s neighborhood friends attend traditional schools, and some express jealousy of what goes on in the Tozzi house all day—not much, they imagine. “We get that a lot,” says Anne, in her plummy Birmingham accent. “ ‘Oh, I wish I was homeschooled,’ because they think it means you get to sleep all day. They don’t realize that we’re actually doing schoolwork.”

Schoolwork for the Tozzi children, who range in age from two to 14, can mean a day spent at their book-strewn dining-room table discussing Chaucer or a visit to the Museum of Natural History or the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan. Anne holds an M.A. in classical art history and worked as a rare-book specialist for Christie’s in London and New York (where she once handled a first edition of The Canterbury Tales). The family makes frequent visits to the New York Botanical Garden, with its 50-acre tract of old-growth forest, and the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, less than ten miles away on the Saw Mill River Parkway.

Last year, the older Tozzi kids worked with students from around the country to write a radio script, which they produced for an all-online course. They took online classes in Latin, religion, and math with teachers based in other cities. They used Skype for live class lectures and to communicate with other students for their projects. “They did a lot of e-mailing each other and ‘meeting’ outside class times to study and prepare, which tapped into their developing maturity and independence,” says Anne. The younger children used Skype for a weekly “Story Time” with a teacher.

Some critics claim that homeschooled kids won’t be prepared to do college-level work, but available data suggest otherwise. In 2009, NEHRI’s Ray looked at the standardized test results of 12,000 homeschoolers from all 50 states, as well as Guam and Puerto Rico. He found that homeschoolers scored 34–39 percentile points above the norm on the California Achievement Test, the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, and the Stanford Achievement Test. A recent study published in The Journal of College Admission found that homeschooled students had higher composite ACT scores than their non-homeschooled peers and graduated college at higher rates—66.7 percent, compared with 57.5 percent. “In recent years, we’ve admitted ten or 12 homeschooled students” per year, says Marlyn McGrath, admissions director at Harvard, where each class numbers about 1,600.

Other skeptics, still focused on socialization, warn that homeschoolers may have trouble in the less structured environment of college life. Not true, says Celine Cammarata, a 25-year-old graduate of the William E. Macaulay Honors College at the City University of New York. A native of Greenwich Village, Cammarata was unschooled. She never wrote a paper or took a test before sitting for the SATs at age 15. It was her traditionally schooled peers, she says, who found freshman year so challenging. “A lot of kids struggled with the autonomy they were given. I was already used to taking care of my own education, so it was less of a big transition for me,” she says. Despite never receiving a grade before entering college, Cammarata earned a 3.98 GPA while majoring in behavioral neuroscience. She works as a lab manager at Cornell University’s College of Human Ecology and is thinking about graduate school. Her brother, also unschooled, graduated from Harvard Law School.

An alumnus who does admissions interviews for another Ivy League institution confirms Cammarata’s experience. He finds the homeschooled kids he interviews more self-assured than their peers from traditional schools. “They are much better at interacting with me as an adult,” he tells me. “They know who they are—much more so than the prep school kids.”

Neither dropouts nor go-with-the-flow conformists, the new urban homeschoolers defy easy labeling. They don’t like what they see in the public schools, but they don’t necessarily want to tear them down. They want control, but mostly in the service of flexibility. They tend to reject newfangled educational theories, but they aren’t such traditionalists that they can’t see the educational value of Skype. They are religious—some of them—but their faith compels them to engage with their neighbors, not withdraw into isolation. Above all, they want a better education than their children can typically get sitting in a traditional classroom for six hours every day. Most homeschooling parents sound satisfied with their choice.

Ottavia Egan’s daughter, for instance, now in the seventh grade, is thriving. The vampire books are gone, replaced by historical fiction and classics. “She’s happy,” her mother says. “She likes to read. What more could you want for a 12-year-old girl?”

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME U.K.

Half of Younger Brits Don’t Identify as ‘Completely Heterosexual’

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Dimitri Otis—Getty Images

But three quarters of the general population say they're 100% straight

A new poll found over half of younger Britons said they were not 100% heterosexual when asked to rank their sexual orientation on a scale.

In a poll conducted by YouGov, 1,632 British adults were asked place themselves on the Kinsey scale, which measures sexual orientation on a range from 0 (completely heterosexual) to 6 (completely homosexual). Out of the general public some 72% chose 0; but in the 18 to 24 age range, only 46% said they were completely heterosexual.

While only 2% of respondents identified themselves as bisexual, it appears that many acknowledge some sexual fluidity outside such labels. Six in 10 respondents overall and 74% in the 18 to 24 range agreed that “sexuality is a scale—it is possible to be somewhere near the middle.”

TIME Appreciation

Tennessee Town Helps Girl Celebrate Her Birthday After No Friends Show Up to Party

Happy birthday to Taliyah!

They say it takes a village to raise a child. Well, Spring Hill, Tennessee, is doing it right.

The town quickly sprang into action once they heard no one showed up to Taliyah Sassmannshausen’s birthday party at a local home, according to WKRN.

Over 30 friends had RSVPed to attend the little girl’s celebration, which included a water slide and cake, but by some sad coincidences, none of the invited guests turned up. An hour into the party, surrounded by just a few adult family members, Taliyah started asking where everyone was.

Determined to give her daughter the cheerful birthday bash she deserved, mom Lauren Sassmannshausen posted an open invitation to the party on the community’s “I Heart Spring Hill” Facebook page.

“Does anyone have any kids that want to come over and celebrate my daughter’s birthday with us? Not one person has shown up except a few adults and she keeps asking me where her friends are,” Laura posted on the closed group. “It is seriously breaking my heart, we have PLENTY of food and drinks. We don’t care about presents, she just wants friends.”

Word of Taliyah’s unsuitable birthday situation spread quickly. Ten minutes after Laura’s call for help, the first of a steady stream of new friends arrived. Over 75 caring Spring Hill residents ended up stopping by to celebrate Taliyah’s 5th birthday.

 

“NEVER in my life would I have thought we would have so many people care about a child they didn’t know. I want to thank all of you from the bottom of my heart and I want to express my gratitude to you all for coming out and making my baby girl’s birthday so very special,” Laura wrote in a Facebook post following the event.

A party with a bleak beginning ended with a giant pink cake and dozens of new friends singing “Happy Birthday” to their little buddy Taliyah.

This article originally appeared on People.com

TIME society

Policing My Hometown Is a Labor of Love

Zocalo Public Square is a not-for-profit Ideas Exchange that blends live events and humanities journalism.

A California deputy chief explains the challenges of protecting the city he grew up in

We hear a lot these days about rifts between police and the communities they serve, especially in communities of color. I come from both worlds: I am a deputy police chief in my hometown of Salinas.

You read a lot about crime in East Salinas, but I’m proud to have grown up there. The city was different and smaller (about 80,000 vs. 155,000 today) when I was a kid. My family was typical; on both sides, I had grandparents from Mexico who came here to work in fields and packing sheds.

My schools—Fremont Elementary and El Sausal Middle—had an assigned police officer (an early version of today’s school resource officers). I made friends with those officers. Those relationships—and the fact I had strict parents whose rules kept me away from drugs and gangs—led me to consider law enforcement as a career.

After high school, I enrolled at Hartnell Junior College. The college had a campus safety program run by the Salinas Police Department; I enrolled in classes and patrolled the college, providing security services and parking enforcement. Before I graduated, I became a reserve deputy with the Monterey County Sheriff’s Department.

After Hartnell, I was accepted to Fresno State but put my education on hold to pursue my career. I applied for jobs with the sheriff’s department and the Salinas police. The sheriff’s department offered me a job first, so I took it. After the academy and training, I worked in the King City substation, but I wanted to come home and work out of the Salinas station, which serves unincorporated areas like Castroville and Prunedale.

After time on patrol, I took a job as an investigator in the sheriff’s coroner division. I felt the pull of Salinas. I applied with the police department and was hired. I’ve done a number of different jobs—training officer, SWAT, detective, the gang unit—and found time to complete bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Over the next 20 plus years, I was promoted to sergeant, lieutenant, commander, and then, in 2013, I became one of two deputy police chiefs.

I work at staying grounded in the community. I’ve been on the board of directors of three local nonprofits—our own Police Activities League, Second Chance Youth & Family Services, and Sun Street Centers, a drug and alcohol abuse program.

The Salinas crime picture is complicated. Start with socioeconomic disadvantages, absentee parents, educational challenges, then add in the glamorization of gang lifestyles in music and movies, and the intrinsic desire of kids to belong to something. The gangs are better armed than they used to be, and the prison gang and drug cartel influences have made the problem even more challenging.

While the problem is real, the perception of violent crime in East Salinas has been overstated. Gangsters are a small number of people here. Most people are honest and hardworking and want a safe place to live, work, and raise a family.

In the police department, we are trying to use technology to work smarter and target the most violent individuals. The days of just driving around and trying to arrest gangsters are over. We rely on intelligence and statistical analysis to identify troublemakers. We combine that with place-based policing, as part of our overall violence reduction strategy.

This worked particularly well in the neighborhood of Hebbron, where two officers took care of quality-of-life issues and really got to know the people there.

Unfortunately, we had to temporarily shut down our place-based policing program—and all our other special units. We are more than 30 officers below our budgeted force. The attrition and retirement rates have been outpacing our hiring efforts.

Police recruitment and staffing are problems everywhere—and the recent media coverage of alleged police misconduct is not helping matters—but Salinas has special challenges. We’re just an hour’s drive from Silicon Valley, where police recruits can make three times the salary and not have to put their lives on the line.

I see hope in the improvements people are making in neighborhoods, the work that planners are doing to attract small businesses, the investment by Taylor Farms in its new headquarters downtown. If we can make Salinas peaceful and safer, the future could be very bright.

Right now, we’re focused on the fundamentals—and on building our ranks. We have 13 people in the academy and need more. Our goal is to better reflect the community we serve. We even have a grant for eight school-based police officers, and I’d love to have the people to staff it. I know firsthand the impact even one officer in one school can make on a kid in Salinas.

Dan Perez is a 30-year veteran of local law enforcement. He is the married father of three who enjoys photography and travel in his spare time. This essay is part of Salinas: California’s Richest Poor City, a special project of Zócalo Public Square and The California Wellness Foundation

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME society

Here Are Some of the Craziest Words People Are Using as Baby Names

Twin Babies
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From Awesome to Zeppelin

A few months ago, we shared a list of the craziest new baby names parents had coined in 2014. Now, we’d like to call attention to a more specific baby name trend: turning words into names.

Sure, word names have been around for a while (think Rose, Grace or Faith), but as Nameberry points out, it seems the craze started to get a bit out of hand in 2014. Here’s a look at some of the most outrageous words-turned-names that appeared on the official Social Security list in 2014.

  • Alias–Well, this is just confusing. An alias, by definition, is a false or assumed identity. But in this case it’s being used as someone’s primary identity. It doesn’t make any sense. Just call your kid Joe or something.
  • Awesome–You want your kids to be confident, yes, but literally being called “awesome” every single day? That might cause some unnecessary arrogance.
  • Boss–Nobody can be called Boss except The One True Boss, Bruce Springsteen. Sorry.
  • Couture–There will be so much pressure on these girls to dress well all the time. Also, you know everyone will have a tough time pronouncing “Couture” correctly.
  • Eliminate–Why?
  • Gamble–What are the parents who chose this planning to name their next child? Rollthedice?
  • Halo–If parents named their kids after the violent video game, then no. But the Beyoncé song? Yes.
  • Harsh–This kid will probably get a lot of Clueless references directed his way.
  • Indica and Sativa–Everyone is totally going to assume this kid is high all the time, and that’s just not fair.
  • Kindle–Maybe the babies named Kindle will find friends named Nook, and feel less alone.
  • Zeppelin–No complaints here. This is actually a totally badass name.

(h/t Nameberry)

Read next: Brienne is the Name of 4 Girls Born in the U.K. in 2014

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TIME society

Let This Daredevil Talk You Down While He Climbs Down a Giant Crane

This footage will either cure your fear of heights or just send you into a panic attack

Daredevil James Kingston used a GoPro camera to film himself walking down a crane in Romsey, England. As if the descent was not harrowing enough, watch him carefully walk around a baby pigeon because he doesn’t want to scare it. In between bouts of heavy breathing, he manages to crack a couple of jokes, like, “I also need the toilet, so I should probably head down anyway.”

Past stunts Kingston has pulled off include climbs up cranes in the English city Southhampton, Dubai, Munich and Hollywood, California.

TIME society

Great-Grandmother Graduates College After Going Back to Heal Her Broken Heart

School took her mind off her husband's death

Jean Kops, 87, went back to college to heal her broken heart after her husband of more than 50 years died. And this Saturday, she’s going to graduate.

Kops first began classes at the University of Nebraska 70 years ago, the Omaha World Herald reports, but in 1948 she got married to Lyle Kops and quit school to live on his ranch. Jean and her husband had five daughters and were happily married until he died in 2011.

Kops didn’t know what to do without her husband, so her daughters urged her to go back to school, and she decided to go back to the University of Nebraska.

After two years of taking classes with students younger than her grandchildren (including Human Sexuality, where she told the class what it was like to be a virgin when she got married), Kops is finally going to get her college degree.

What’s next? “I’ll find something!” Kops said.

[Omaha World Herald]

TIME technology

I Found My Soulmate on Tinder

xoJane.com is where women go to be their unabashed selves, and where their unabashed selves are applauded

We got married after knowing each other for six weeks

xojane

On Feb. 12, 2015, Elliot and I began chatting on Tinder. Eighteen hours later, we met in real life. Six weeks to the day of our first meeting, we got married at the scale replica of the Greek parthenon here in Nashville, Tenn.

You read this correctly: I got married to a man I met through Tinder after knowing him for six weeks. You might think I’m absolutely insane, but I’m pretty confident I’ve made the right choice. In fact, I think Elliot and I are soulmates, which wasn’t even a concept I believed in seven weeks ago. I’m not foolish enough to think things are always going to be easy for us, but I couldn’t be a bit happier, and neither could our families.

Tinder is Very Effective

Six weeks ago, I was a few months out of a very long term relationship. To be honest, I was feeling more than a little bitter about my prospects of ever dating — let alone getting married — again.

After a positively horrifying 18 hours on OkCupid that culminated in 500 creepy matches and a date with a Vanderbilt medical student who tried to undress me outside a bar, I wasn’t feeling hopeful. One Thursday morning in mid-February, I ran an elimination algorithm on my chances of ever finding a man I’d be willing to sleep with on a recurring basis. Forget marriage; I’d settled for the idea of “tolerable for brief periods on a recurring basis” at that point. The results? There were less than 900 men in the entire world that I’d even be willing to allow in my presence.

I might sound picky or snooty, but I think I’m more realistic than anything else. I’m trained as an engineer, and I appreciate other people with a neurotically structured approach to getting stuff done. I’m a pretty hardcore metal head and I’ve got something of a ridiculous knowledge of obscure thrash bands, especially Russian ones and old ones. Health is massively important to me. Oh, and I’m a practicing witch and also collect some oddities. It’s safe to say that through both choice and experience, I’m a darn weird chick and I wasn’t getting any more normal.

I decided what I needed was best summed up with the Type O Negative’s lyrics “She’s in love with herself.” I vowed to not date anyone seriously, but just find some men I could tolerate on a semi-regular basis, and keep them at a good arm’s length. I downloaded Tinder and wrote a bio that explained I was only looking for someone to “buy me vodka once a week.”

Four hours later, I swiped right and immediately matched with a long-haired blond boy who plays guitar in one of Nashville’s best thrash metal bands. We started talking and stuff became super weird. Weird how? We texted for four hours, and it was clear that we had all sorts of commonalities when it came to music, lifestyle, preferences and more. And oh my goodness, the chemistry that was flowing between us. It was absolutely insane.

Out of my requirements on the bio, he only met 2 of the 5. Elliot isn’t tall (5’ 10’’), I wouldn’t quite describe him as overeducated, and he’s every bit as much of a clumsy, klutzy hot mess as I am. But he’s nerdy, charming, gorgeous, and one heck of a rising metal star. I believe in his talent, and I believe he’s my soulmate, and I don’t believe in much of anything.

Eighteen hours later, I took a long lunch break from work and drove across Nashville. I was less than a mile away from meeting Elliot before I realized how incredibly foolish I was potentially being. I got out of my car, shaking, and fell into the arms of this man who was even prettier than his pretty Tinder pictures. I felt like I’d missed him for years, and maybe even more, like I’d finally come home.

The rest of the story? We both knew immediately that something really weird was up. Lots of people have decent chemistry, but this was something entirely different. We kept talking after that first meeting, and pretty much haven’t stopped since. We’ve spent less than a handful of nights apart since we met on Feb. 13, and have this incredible ability to get completely lost in conversation for hours or even days.

No, Really. Why Did You MARRY Him?

Elliot and I have yet to disagree on anything significant, except for the fact that I think brown rice is really kinda vile (I’m sorry, but I do). Aside from that, we’ve had commonalities and even weirder circles. I quickly uncovered that the lines on our palms matched.

On our third date, I took him to a psychic in hopes she could help him with some ancestor work he was interested in doing. She did help get him pointed in the right direction, but also suggested strongly that he and I were soulmates. At his first show I attended after two weeks of dating, dozens of people commented on how “cute” we were together. Some well-respected musicians who headlined the show thanked me for his ridiculous shredding guitar solos that night.

Our time together has ranged from the totally mundane (going for walks and out to breakfast like normal people) to the absolutely ridiculous. I never thought I’d have the ability to get lost in someone’s bed for 24 hours, but I finally found it. I know that’s the stuff of romance novels, and I’m a girl with a serious need for personal space. And I’m here to tell you that the level of chemistry where you get absolutely lost staring at each other’s faces to the point your phone dies and you’re late for work? So late for work you’re absolutely outside of time and your co-workers file a missing persons report? Um, right. This type of chemistry exists, and it’s real, and I found my very soulmate on Tinder.

After we’d been dating exactly one month, Elliot drove me an hour south to rural Middle Tennessee to meet his family in his small hometown. His mother and I immediately connected on vintage clothes and art, and I felt immensely like I was at home. It didn’t matter that I grew up across the country in rural Northwest Washington where grunge was born, and I was sitting in the very elegant home of a proper Southern lady. I wanted her to be my Mama. During the drive home, Elliot asked me to marry him. I did something really mature like covering my face and shrieking “no” repeatedly.

That night, we went to a metal benefit concert. He asked me again, I accepted. The engagement was announced on stage while the entire venue cheered for these two young lovers. A week later, we decided to get a marriage license and elope, with the intention of keeping the marriage secret for at least several months. We told our families, and our very normal parents weren’t shocked like they should have been. In fact, my Mother asked “What took you so long?”

We married at the Parthenon, with the reasoning that it was the largest pagan temple in the Southeast United States. Our vows referenced our love for graveyard walks and metal shows. Our wedding night included massive amounts of delicious food (our favorite), Cheap Trick covers at a beloved Nashville music venue, and running around Nashville’s downtown party district in our wedding clothes. We ate at Waffle House at 6 a.m. to renew our energy before finally crashing at around 8 or 9 in the morning. Our secret marriage lasted a grand total of 28 hours before we announced it on Facebook.

Honestly? Is That Crazy?

I’m not saying it’s easy to get married to someone six weeks after meeting. It’s hard. We’ve certainly caught our fair share of concern from friends, some of which hasn’t been comfortable or remotely kind.

The logistics of managing adult stuff like moves, leases, and even legal name changes so quickly is downright tough. However, Elliot’s stated that he knew he wanted to spend every minute of the rest of his life with me, and I couldn’t disagree one bit.

I know the statistics on divorce. I’ve been through a failed, long term relationship, and I know that extricating yourself from years of living with someone is expensive, tough, and painful.

While Elliot and I have never fought so far, I understand that there’s a good chance we’ll hit snags. However? I’m hopeful and I don’t think I have any reason not to be. Regardless of what some people think, I believe I was born to love this man and his music, and this control freak is finally, finally learning to go with the flow.

Jasmine Wilkes Gordon wrote this article for xoJane

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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