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.”
CHILPANCINGO, Mexico —Protests against the disappearance of 43 students in southern Mexico intensified on Saturday when a group of masked youths blocked a main highway and hijacked four trucks and four buses. The group, students from the Ayotzinapa rural teacher’s college, blocked the highway connecting the state capital to Mexico City at around 4 p.m. With rocks in hand and faces covered with t-shirts and bandanas, the students forced the trucks and buses to pull over and commandeered the vehicles. The students have been protesting the disappearance of 43 students who vanished on Sept. 26, after they were attacked by police in the city of Iguala.
The latest move by Corbett and the Philadelphia School Reform Commission (SRC), which replaced an elected school board after the 2001 takeover, is to unilaterally cancel the city’s contract with the 15,000 members of the Philadelphia Federation of teachers. Monday morning, the SRC held a surprise meeting—announced, not on their website as usual, but with an advertisement in the legal section of the newspaper over the weekend. Normally, said Kati Sipp of the Pennsylvania Working Families Party, the commission meets on Thursday evenings, at a time when parents and students can attend, rather than at a time when school is in session and many parents are at work. “It was clearly designed to not be a public event,” Sipp said.
Two days after the Philadelphia School Reform Commission unilaterally canceled its teachers’ contract and announced it would impose changes, hundreds of high school students went on “strike” Wednesday to support their teachers. Dozens of students from Science Leadership Academy in Center City and as many as 175 from the High School for Creative and Performing Arts in South Philadelphia boycotted classes. They held peaceful, upbeat demonstrations outside the two magnet schools. Twenty-five students from the Franklin Learning Center in Spring Garden demonstrated outside district headquarters at 440 N. Broad St. “There’s a lot of talk about teachers going on strike,” said Cy Wolfe, a theater major at CAPA who helped organize what he called the “Philadelphia Student Strike.” Co-organizer Leo Levy, 16, a junior at Science Leadership, said the event was held “to show student solidarity with the plight of the teachers and to show how invested in a proper education the student body really is.” On Monday, the SRC voted to cast aside the expired Philadelphia Federation of Teachers contract and require teachers to begin contributing to the cost of their health insurance premiums on Dec. 15.
After experimenting with tuition fees, all the federal German states have been persuaded to reverse their decision. In the UK and US, there is no political will to change the policies which are blighting whole generations. The only way forward is to copy German protest movements. “What Germany has done is fabulous and it’s not surprising that people in the US don’t understand it. What I really liked was the reversal of their decision to impose them,” she said. “It’s a great shame that the UK has gone to a system like ours because it’s a disaster to be avoided at all costs. British students coming out with that much debt will be very unhappy in a generation or two, just as we are in the US. I’d love to see a 180 degree turnaround in the UK as well, but I can’t see it happening. The same neoliberal economic assumptions are driving policies in the UK as in the US, even though they are not justified by data.”
They were there to protest against what they see as egregious overreach by the conservative majority on the Jefferson County school board. They chanted slogans and waved signs saying “Get Koch Industries Out Of Our Schools” and “We Have The Right To Know Our Past!” Several students, Wallen included, addressed the assembled crowd from the back of a pickup truck. “Just because we’re teenagers, doesn’t mean we’re apathetic about education!” said one. While the students addressed the crowd on the green, hundreds more were already queueing to get into the meeting-room itself. As the marchers set off along Golden’s main street waving their banners, others began to file in to the fifth floor meeting room, escorted to the lifts in small groups by security guards.