In the early evening of April 17, 2013, a fertilizer storage and distribution facility on the small town of West, Texas, blew up, killing 15 people, injuring 160 more and leveling much of the town. The plant was last inspected by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in 1985. The company had apparently failed to report the amount of dangerous ammonium nitrate the facility stored. Among the buildings destroyed was the West Middle School, which fortunately was not occupied at the time. But ineffective safety regulations, coupled with public ignorance about chemical plants, are putting millions of U.S. schoolchildren at risk, according to a new interactive map put together by the Center for Effective Government (CEG).
Seattle’s Garfield High School has once again moved into collective struggle!–and we may to find out today if one of us is to be displaced from the building or if the power of protest has kept us safe from the budget-cut ax for now. The Seattle School District announced on Friday, October 17, that Garfield High School would be forced to cut and transfer one teacher in a core subject area by Friday, October 24—or come up with $92,000. But on Thursday October 23, almost the entire building emptied in a mass walkout of students and educators against the budget cuts and has so far convinced the district to delay the cut. The morning of the walkout, one of my colleagues was in the middle of reading the list of grievances that the rebellious colonists proclaimed against the British in the Declaration of Independence. As he told it, the students didn’t yet grasp the world-historic nature of the defiant document and were slouching in their seats, somewhat uninterested.
We have essentially two sets of youth policies in Baltimore, as is true in most large urban settings. We have a group of policies that are aimed at kids who we think are causing trouble or are likely to get into trouble, and then we have policies that apply to the rest of youth and that provide them with opportunities for development that all of us would like to see all children have. And we’ve got to somehow reconcile the fact that we have these two systems, one that affects primarily kids of color from the poorest of our communities, and the other that apply to the more privileged kids, and especially to white kids. So the first question is: are we providing all children with the right set of opportunities for them to grow in healthy ways?
It is our responsibility to see that children are able to mature into healthy strong adults whose lives will bear fruit. That means we need to understand child development and carefully craft our lessons and experiences and stories to meet the children where they are. Asking them to do tasks before they are cognitively ready for them is not only ineffective, but directly harmful, bringing stress and alarm into what should be a joyful process of self discovery. Too much stress and alarm, we know now, stops development and maturation in its tracks. A test that makes a child vomit is harmful not only to the child, but to the nation. Children who are asked to do repetitious tasks that are “boring”, who are pushed to meet “standards” that are not developmentally appropriate, will not become children who love learning They may be able to score well on multiple choice tests, but their capacities for independent thought and creativity will be stunted. They may be “career ready”, but will in no way be prepared for the enormous challenges that face us as a species.
Oh, I think there’s no question about that, the notion that you first had to, so to speak, unleash the great potential capitalism had for improving everybody’s economical lot and the kind of constraints that had been developed not only by the New Deal, but by progressive movements throughout the 19th century and early 20th century in the United States, where it had been increasingly understood that while American economic institutions were a good thing, so to speak, and needed to be nurtured and developed, they also posed a threat.
Despite the furor over the Washington Redskins and Columbus Day, the most serious discrimination against Native Americans doesn’t take place at a football game or during a poorly-named day off from work. It starts in schools, and pervades all aspects of a Native American’s life as time goes on. Native American children attend dilapidated, below-standard schools, some of which date from the Great Depression era. The government is supposed to look after the federally-financed schools, but this task is seemingly beyond their ability, or just beyond their ability to care.
It’s boycott time again. With less than two weeks to go before voters in Oregon and Colorado decide on ballot initiatives to require mandatory labeling of foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs), the Junk Food Giants are at it again. According to the latest numbers provided by the pro-labeling campaigns (as of October 22, 2014), the opposition in Oregon has raised $16.5 million to defeat Measure 92, while opponents of Colorado’s Proposition 105 have raised $14.3 million. Monsanto is the largest donor to both campaigns, with combined donations totaling approximately $8.8 million. While Dow has spent only $668,000 in both states, DuPont Pioneer just yesterday dumped a whopping $3 million into the Colorado NO on Prop 105 war chest.
This week has been a challenge for many of us, including me. Unlike some with whom I spoke, I have never been followed by security throughout a department store, had taxicab drivers refuse to pick me up, or been seated by the bathrooms of a half-empty restaurant. But those indignities — and far worse — are not uncommon to people of color, including our students, faculty and staff. Many of their life experiences, described to me in stark and painful terms, have weighed on me as peaceful demonstrations and teach-ins have played out this week. Also weighing on me has been the concern expressed by some students and parents who were worried about a non-peaceful outcome to this demonstration.
One of my students was contacted by a Teach For America recruiting representative, and asked if she was interested in getting involved with the organization. She sent me the note, and I replied that TFA was not welcome in my teacher preparation classes (á la Mark Naison!). I received a reply asking for a meeting, to discuss my “problems with TFA.” And so I met with the two TFA recruiters, both of whom had taught for three years as TFA corps members and then moved into leadership/management roles with the organization. The discussion went just about as well as I thought it would. They asked how they could work more effectively with traditional teacher education programs, and I asked them how they justified sending out recruits with five weeks of “training” into some of the more challenging classrooms in our state.
Furious over the Philadelphia School Reform Commission’s move to unilaterally cancel its teachers’ contract, 3,000 people shut down North Broad Street on Thursday, vowing more disruptive action if the panel’s action is not undone. The eyes of the nation are on Philadelphia, said American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten, in town for a massive rally held before an SRC meeting. “Philly is ground zero for injustice,” Weingarten told the crowd of sign-waving teachers, counselors, nurses, and supporters. “The SRC has become a morally bankrupt institution.” “We’re not rolling over and we’re not taking it,” said Jerry Jordan, president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.
I honestly don’t know what to say about the disappearance of the 43 students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Normal School. Sin Embargo has an overview of the situation as of this morning, focusing on the investigation and the political aspects of the situation. The foreign media, as expected, has seen this as somehow related to the narcotics export trade (which, of course, would not exist without the huge buyer’s market in the United States). That the alleged head of the alleged gang that allegedly kidnapped the students allegedly committed suicide and that PAN is now demanding the PRD state government resign, while the Peña Nieto administration worries about the economic fallout from reportage on this, raise the kinds of questions that the historian in me wonders whether they even need to be asked at this time, or if they can only be addressed when there is more information.
Charters are privately run but government-funded schools that are supposed to be open to all. Policymakers and many parents have embraced charters as an alternative to poorly performing and underfunded traditional public schools. As charters have grown in popularity, an industry of management companies like Mitchell’s has sprung up to assist them. Many of these companies are becoming political players in their states, working to shape the still-emerging set of rules charters must play by. A few, including Mitchell’s company, have aligned themselves with influential conservative groups, such as Americans for Prosperity and the Koch-supported American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC. This new reality — in which businesses can run chains of public schools — has spurred questions about the role of profit in public education and whether more safeguards are needed to prevent corruption.
The National Science Foundation has awarded grants of $4.8 million to several prominent research universities to advance the use of Big Data in the schools. Benjamin Herold writes in Education Week: “The National Science Foundation earlier this month awarded a $4.8 million grant to a coalition of prominent research universities aiming to build a massive repository for storing, sharing, and analyzing the information students generate when using digital learning tools. “The project, dubbed “LearnSphere,” highlights the continued optimism that “big” educational data might be used to dramatically transform K-12 schooling. “It also raises new questions in the highly charged debate over student-data privacy.
The Powerhouse Science Center is one of three science museums in the country, along with the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry and the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, to participate in Native Universe, whose goal is to build bridges between the two diverse approaches to understanding our world, particularly in evaluating and dealing with climate change. It is the successor to a previous four-year project, Cosmic Serpent, that began the collaborative process. “This is so beneficial to us,” said Sarah Margoles, director of education at the Powerhouse. “We serve such a diverse community with so many Native American neighbors. How can we say we serve the whole Four Corners region when we only use this one specific way of learning, this one specific way of teaching, which is from the perspective of Western science?”
The occasion was the launch of world tour of the Big Book: Pages for Peace Project. A decade in the making, the book started when middle school students solicited and received original messages of peace from the likes of the Dali Llama, Maya Anelgou, Nelson Mandela, President Jimmy Carter, the late Senator Ted Kennedy and thousands of others from all over the world. It is these letters, poems, and artwork that populate the Big Book: Pages for Peace. “It has taken you ten years to create this extraordinary book,” Ban Ki-moon said in his video address, “at twelve feet high and (twenty feet wide, when open) it truly lives up to its name. You have 3,500 messages of peace from all over the world, and now with mine you have 3,501. What an amazing achievement, and what a fantastic commitment.”