March 27, 2012

Fighting Ugliness

I was depressed after our IEA convention in Chicago a couple of weekends ago.  The mood was pessimistic, and the enthusiasm was mixed.  Our pensions are being attacked by a group of billionaires out of Chicago, and the only hope we have of stopping it is by making the public aware that all middle-class and poor people are under attack by pernicious groups like the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club out of Chicago.  We have to spend money, money that we are struggling to hold onto, to get the message out.  Meanwhile, our ESPs that are in our organization are fighting to gain merely a living wage, which most of its memberships are not getting.  If we fight, we hurt those whom we need badly to be with us.  I did not know where to go with these emotions.  I could not write convincingly to address these issues.

Watching the Trayvon Martin debacle unfold has been tough to follow.  While groups like the Civic Committee continue to attack with their ultra-conservative ideologies, racism in the form of these “stand your ground” laws that were sanctioned and pushed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a right-wing group (shockingly enough) are finally showing their ugly ramifications.  The way the police have handled this is no accident.  This is what these laws were designed to do:  kill the ones who are not whom we want them to be in the name of self-defense.  If Trayvon had killed Zimmerman because Zimmerman was stalking him, he would have been arrested instantly.  We all know that.  However, according to how the law was written, Trayvon should have been not only exonerated for doing so, he should not have even been processed.  But because he was African American, and, as Zimmerman put it,” they always get away with it,” he was put down like a dog and left with no dignity.  His killer walks free.

I was watching Chris Hayes’ show, and I was stunned when the reporter for the New York Times said that he was encouraged by the social media in helping to get the movement started that got this story to a point in which the authorities in Florida are becoming more and more uncomfortable with the public atmosphere.  He was optimistic with the direction this was taking.  On Lawrence O’Donnell’s show on Monday night (3/26/12), he was to talk to the lawyer of Zimmerman, but the lawyer bolted minutes before the show started.  What happened after that was a great discussion of what questions should be asked of the cowardly lawyer and why those questions were necessary to be addressed by Zimmerman and the authorities.  He also got on a reporter for the Orlando newspaper and slammed her for being a shill for the Sanford Police Department by posting false information as facts in her article.  It was powerful stuff.  I was getting my rage on again.  I stopped moping and started focusing.  

I will talk more later about this because this is pointing to our problem as a profession and to our dilemma as public workers.  However, the time has come to stop playing nice.  The right questions must be asked.  The right pressure must be applied.  We must press for justice for ourselves.  

March 26, 2012

Paul Mann Youth Activist Award, due March 28

Honor our Youth!
            The NEA Peace and Justice Caucus has initiated an award program to honor youth activism. As our students develop their critical thinking skills and independent belief systems, we believe it is important that they understand that they can be instruments of change, and can find their own avenues for expressing their beliefs.
            Please nominate a youth organization or individual youth activist who has been outstanding in the struggle for human rights, social justice, peace, and/or youth empowerment. You may nominate a young person, elementary through grade 14.  The student selected will be invited if possible to the  2012 Iowa State Education Association Delegate Assembly in Des Moine, IA, or to the sponsoring state education association affiliate’s Representative Assembly to receive their award.
 Due date: March 15, 2012.  Due date extended 
NEA Peace and Justice Caucus
Paul Mann Youth Activism Award
Name of Nominee: _________________________________________________________________________________ School_____________________________________________   Gradelevel/Age___________________________________ Address__________________________________________________City/State/Zip_______________________________________                                    Phone (c) ______________  (h)___________ ________________ email: _________________________________________
Nominated by______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Local and State Education Associations: _____________________________________________________________ Address_______________________________________________City/State/Zip___________________________________Phone (c) ______________________  (h) ____________________ email: _________________________________________ State Representative Assembly date, location________________________________________________________
Description of the nominee’s activism and achievements: ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Please return this sheet and supporting materials by March 15, 2012
Supporting materials could include copies of brochures, flyers, news articles.
Send to:  NEA Peace and Justice Caucus                                                       

March 15, 2012

Crisis in the Gulf: U.S. Policy Toward Iran

Statewide tour by James ZogbyPresident of the Arab-American Institute lecturer and scholar on Middle East issues, U.S.-Arab relations, and the history of the Arab American community, Dr. Zogby appears frequently on television and radio. A regular guest on all the major network news programs and a
featured blogger on The Huffington Post, he is the author of several books including Arab Voices and What Arabs Think: Values, Beliefs and Concerns.
  • Des Moines, 7:00 PM Tuesday, March 20th,
Plymouth Congregational Church, 4126 Ingersoll, Des Moines
  • Cedar Falls, Wednesday March 21st, NoonUNI
Multi-Cultural Center (E. side of UNI campus)
  • Iowa City, Wednesday, March 21st, 4:30PMhistoric Old Capitol on U of I campus
  • Cedar Rapids, Wednesday, March 21st
7:30 PMKirkwood Training & Outreach Services Center, 3375 Armar Dr, Marion,IA 
"the region is a tinderbox, and it is as if everyone is too busy playing with matches to think of the consequences"
Free & open to the public @ accessible to allSponsors: Veterans for Peace,Iowa United Nations Association, American Friends Service Committee, Arab-American Institute, Iowa Physicians for Social Responsibility, Iowa NEA Peace & Justice Caucus

March 11, 2012

Finding Information

MSNBC has two new shows on that is chock full of information:  Up with Chris Hayes and MHP (Melissa-Harris Perry.)  These shows run consecutively from 7AM until 11AM Central Time.  Chris Hayes's show spent its complete two hours on Sunday, Mar. 11 talking about Israel.  This topic is so complex that even two hours was not long enough to get all the information needed to get a decent idea of the intricacies of this topic, but it was more information than I have ever seen on a TV show.  Even one of the guests stated that she was concerned that the topic was glossed over after they were done.  She was probably right, but the attention span of the average American viewer is more around 12 minutes, much less the 120 minutes the show donated to this topic.  When we are inundated by crazies proclaiming that we must protect Israel at all costs with their 30-second dumb-speak messages, we really need people to sit down and watch programs like this so that we can understand some of the issues in a fuller sense.  Instead, many of our fellow inhabitants prefer to let someone else do their thinking for them, rather than think for themselves.

MHP's show is the strong in that it deals with race politics much of the time.  No show ever dares do this, but MHP, through her apprenticeship with Rachel Maddow and others, has learned to present this material in a way that is educational and palatable.  The guests teach with their knowledgable and informative ways that allow a race discussion to be rational.  I know many people fear talking about this because they are afraid to expose any hidden racism they may have in them, but these discussions take that fear away.  I thoroughly enjoy and admire MHP for her skills.  I wish all my friends (heck, all people, but I know that's not going to happen) would watch this show, and I push it constantly to anybody who listens to me blather on as I do.

Bill Maher on his show the Friday before the Up show with Israel had Christine Pelosi, daughter of Nancy Pelosi, go to Mississippi to film comments of people about politics.  She insists that this was an honest accumulation of comments.  These have to be seen to believe.  I lived in the South for four of my adult years; so, this was no great surprise, but I know many of my students do not believe life is as described in this video.

I have always maintained that education is the key to removing obstacles of advancement in this country.  I have read countless reports about how teaching reading to inmates in jail made a huge difference in their lives.  I have seen changes in my students as they become more educated in our school system--becoming more rational and open to opinions different from their own.  Programs such as Up and MPH give education in their rational discussions and presented research results.  We, as teachers, know that blocking ignorance via education is a slow and sometimes painful process, but when it works, it works wonders.  Mississippi is the poorest and worst educated state in the country.  We can debate why it is this way, but I think it is safe to say that the bad education is its greatest obstacle to a rational understanding of almost every aspect of life.  What motivation do we need as teachers to know the job we are performing is important?  I think the answer to that is "Look at Mississippi."

P.S.  I will  be at the Illinois Education Association RA meeting at the Hilton in downtown Chicago from Thursday 3/15 to Saturday 3/17.  I will be sitting with the District 18 group.  If any of one happen to be there, please stop by and say hi.  I'd love to meet you.

March 6, 2012

Iran's Nuclear Program--Pooof!

You know, I try.  I really, really try.  I try to keep rational, particularly when unexplainable events occur that do not square with the given “facts.”  I have been a science teacher and student for over forty years.  I have learned to ask questions.  I have learned that sometimes the answers have to be dug out from wherever they are hidden.  I can speculate as to what the answer might be, but until I get the facts, I struggle to come to a conclusion that I am willing to defend.

Anonymous, the hacking group, got into the files of Stratfor, a private security company out of Texas.  They dumped 5.5 million emails onto Wikileaks, who promptly released some of the emails on Feb. 26, 2012.  While there were a number of interesting notes, the most striking one, as identified by Susie Madrak of ( deals with Iran’s nuclear program.  Ms. Madrak’s presentation is an excellent, albeit short one.  In an email of Nov. 14, 2011, and another subsequent analysis, Israel seems to have already sabotaged the Iranian nuclear efforts.  As reported in some mainstream media outlets, a number of Iranian scientists in Janurary of 2012 were found murdered.  

So, what does this point to?  I think the answer is pretty obvious.  If these emails and news accounts are true, Iran is without a nuclear program.  Then why do we have the drumbeat by Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich, John Bolton, etc., ad nauseum?  This is where the proof is needed.  Speculate all you want.  Ms. Madrak makes an interesting point about the European Union trying to divert attention away from their economic disasters.  Others may state that the military-industrial complex is very concerned with our pulling out of Iraq and the eventual pull-out of Afghanistan.  This will hurt their profit margin.  Others say that this is Israel trying to take advantage of a weak Iran by forcing its military onto the country that can not defend itself nuclearly. 

I just don’t know, but one thing is clear.  There has been very little written about this whole state of affairs in our newspapers and even less covered on the airways.  Why is that?  Why is there a taciturn resistance to the facts that have emerged?  We find very little being written/spoken about Wikileaks and Bradley Manning.  Why is that?  Are people afraid that if the truth is discovered that more people will take to the streets in protest to our warrior behavior?  We are a country on the verge of financial collapse.  This is the ideal time to make the military spending be scaled backed by at a monumental level to concentrate on protecting our own people and less on sacrificing poor people to defend our corporations and Friedmanian experiments around the world.

March 4, 2012

Defend Northwestern High Schoolers!

Defend Northwestern High Schoolers punished for standing up for a better education!

Demand that their suspensions be revoked!

Call Principal Batenga and other school officials - see info below

Solidarity statements and other inquiries can be sent to

Thursday, March 1st was a National Student Day of Action in which students around the country organized demonstrations protesting education budget cuts, educational inequality, and advocating for quality and affordable education for all.

Students at Northwestern High School in Prince George‚s County Maryland planned a walkout and rally as part of the National Student Day of Action. Over 300 students planned to walk out to protest unsanitary conditions in their school, enormous class sizes, cuts to the ESOL program, and denial of promised pay raises for their teachers. The students also were asking for more teacher/parent/student input in the curriculum and demanding an apology for a group of Filipino teachers who were fired and deported after not having their work visas renewed.

The Administration at Northwestern discovered the walkout plan early in the day by trolling Twitter and put the school on lockdown. Police blocked the doors and canine units waited in the school's parking lot. They held student leaders in the Principal‚s office all day, threatened them with expulsion, and at the end of the day suspended four students for 5 days requiring that when they return their parents must accompany them to classes all day.

Northwestern is a high school where a majority of the students are Black and Latino. The student organizers' mission was to walk out for a better school and a better education. Instead the Administration violated their civil liberties, squashed these students' free speech, and punished them for wanting to improve the school environment for themselves and their teachers. Instead of having a dialogue with students, the Administration at this school chose to make an example of several students and punish them harshly knowing this could affect these students ability to get into college.

We ask you to stand in solidarity with the students at Northwestern. We cannot let school officials succeed in punishing them for wanting changes to their school and quality education. Support these students by contacting the following school officials and demanding that their suspensions be revoked and removed from their permanent record:

Mr. Edgar Batenga

William R. Hite, Jr., Ed.D.

Amber Waller
Board of Education Member, District 3
301 952-6115

Jane Spence
Instructional Director of High School Performance

Northwestern Vice Principals:
Mr. Douglass Jones, x-2318
Ms. Patricia Cox, X-2237
Mr. Robert Pollard, X-2280
Ms. Jennifer Love, x2280
Mr. Arrington, x2265