Educate All Students: Larry Miller's Blog

August 17, 2016

Milwaukee’s War on Black People

Filed under: BlackLivesMatter,Milwaukee Community Devastation — millerlf @ 11:29 am

 

Sarah Lazare
August 15, 2016
Alternet
Protesters taking to the streets today say that police violence against black residents of Milwaukee remains systemic. “You see anger, just the anger and the frustration of a community that has suffered atrocities and oppression on behalf of what they deem to be the police oppressive system, that has never seemingly been held accountable for taking the life, like the young man said, of their loved ones,” Muhibb Dyer, a community activist said.

Maria Hamilton, mother of Dontre Hamilton, leads the march Monday along Water St. during a Coalition for Justice rally at Red Arrow Park in downtown Milwaukee, Calvin Mattheis,

Donald Trump supporter and Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke has built a national profile by openly declaring war on the Black Lives Matter movement, from the floor of the Republican National Convention to the pages of national media outlets, once even proclaiming on social media that racial justice protesters will “join forces” with ISIS.

Now that some Milwaukee residents have staged days of open rebellion against police violence following the cop killing of 23-year-old Sylville K. Smith, Clarke is ratcheting up his rhetoric. During a press conference on Sunday, he employed dog-whistle racist language, stating that “the urban pathologies have to be addressed to shrink the growth of an underclass.” Clarke went on to argue that, from Baltimore to Ferguson to Milwaukee, there is a “war on police,” and vowed to escalate his crackdown on demonstrators. Meanwhile, Gov. Scott Walker on Sunday declared a state of emergency and activated the national guard against protesters.

But in a city that has been called the most segregated urban area in America, angry demonstrators are telling a different story, of a state-sanctioned war against poor black residents. This perspective was described by Sedan Smith, who identified himself to local outlet CBS 58 as the brother of Sylville Smith.

“It’s the police. This is the madness that they spark up. This is what they encourage. This is what they provoke. This is what you get. You take a loved one from something, this is what you get,” Smith declared on Saturday, standing in view of an auto parts store engulfed in flames. “I don’t know when it’s going to end. But it’s for y’all to start. We’re not the ones that’s killing us. Y’all killing us. We can’t make a change if you all don’t change.”

Before Sylville Smith was killed, Milwaukee was already reeling from former Milwaukee police officer Chistopher Manney’s killing of Dontre Hamilton, a mentally ill black man, with 14 gunshots in 2014. While Manney was fired from his position, he did not face any charges for the murder, and Milwaukee residents staged Black Lives Matter demonstrations to protest his impunity.

Protesters taking to the streets today say that police violence against black residents of Milwaukee remains systemic. “You see anger, just the anger and the frustration of a community that has suffered atrocities and oppression on behalf of what they deem to be the police oppressive system, that has never seemingly been held accountable for taking the life, like the young man said, of their loved ones,” Muhibb Dyer, a community activist and co-founder of the organization Flood the Hood with Dreams, told Democracy Now.

But in Milwaukee, injustices against black people extend far beyond policing. A 2013 study from the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee found the state has the highest incarceration rate for black men in the country at 13 percent. Report authors John Pawasarat and Lois M. Quinn note:

The prison population in Wisconsin has more than tripled since 1990, fueled by increased government funding for drug enforcement (rather than treatment) and prison construction, three-strike rules, mandatory minimum sentence laws, truth-in-sentencing replacing judicial discretion in setting punishments, concentrated policing in minority communities, and state incarceration for minor probation and supervision violations. Particularly impacted were African American males, with the 2010 U.S. Census showing Wisconsin having the highest black male incarceration rate in the nation. In Milwaukee County over half of African American men in their 30s have served time in state prison.”

Not surpringly, Wisconsin’s budget allots more for incarceration than for schooling. Four out of every five African-American children in Milwaukee live in poverty.

A report released last year by the University of California at Los Angeles found that schools in Milwaukee suspend black students at nearly two times the national average. Meanwhile, Wisconsin has the worst achievement gap between white and black students in the United States, thanks largely to the Milwaukee public school system, which has been systematically defunded and privatized for more than two decades.

Racial disparities extend to home lending. A study released in July by the National Community Reinvestment Coalition found, “In the Milwaukee Metropolitan Statistical Area, whites represent 70 percent of the population, yet received 81 percent of the loans. African Americans are 16 percent of the population yet only received four percent of the loans.”

NPR’s Kenya Downs wrote an article last year raising the question, “Why is Milwaukee so bad for black people?” Downs wrote: “Milwaukee is a vibrant city known for its breweries and ethnic festivals and can be a great place to live — unless you’re black. Statistically, it is one of the worst places in the country for African-Americans to reside.”

When Baltimore erupted in uprisings last year following the violent death of Freddie Gray in police custody, angry protesters, most of them black youth, were widely demonized. Yet a recently released Department of Justice investigation into that city’s police department vindicates protesters’ outrage, exposing law enforcement’s atrocities against poor black communities, including systematic harassment, violence and degradation.

Now, like their counterparts in Baltimore, the black youth of Milwaukee are being demonized as thugs and criminals by the police department entrusted to protect and serve them. Bolstered by a hate-fueled presidential campaign, Sheriff Clarke is escalating his demagogic incitement against the very people he and his city have failed.

Sarah Lazare is a staff writer for AlterNet. A former staff writer for Common Dreams, she coedited the book About Face: Military Resisters Turn Against War.

This article was made possible by the readers and supporters of AlterNet.

 

Preview YouTube video FULL SPEECH: Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. Republican National Convention

Preview YouTube video Sheriff David Clarke Gives Epic Press Conference Following Milwaukee Mayhem

August 15, 2016

The Case for Ethnic Studies in All Schools

Filed under: Ethnic Studies — millerlf @ 11:43 am

In 2010, a coalition of students, parents, teachers, and community advocates organized to win a pilot Ethnic Studies course in five San Francisco high schools. After implementation of the pilot, we continued to work together to evolve the curriculum and plan for its future expansion throughout district.

In 2014, Sandra Fewer, a San Francisco Board of Education Commissioner and former parent organizer for Coleman Advocates for Children & Youth, authored a landmark resolution to expand the curriculum. In December of that year, the policy was passed, providing access to Ethnic Studies classes for every San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) high school student.

Approximately 90 percent of SFUSD pupils are students of color and yet the curriculum remains overwhelmingly Eurocentric, leading many young people to disengage from their academic experience.

Extensive research, including a report from the National Education Association, demonstrates that Ethnic Studies, a curriculum that does reflect the experiences of students of color, has a positive impact on student academic engagement, achievement, and empowerment.

The SFUSD Ethnic Studies curriculum supports students to think critically about race, ethnicity and culture in the context of their own identifies and their lived experiences. By exposing students to the histories of diverse cultures, it offers a more accurate sense of the nation’s complex, multicultural history.

The curriculum is grounded in a social justice framework that provides students with the critical lens necessary to analyze oppression and address issues in their own lives. Some courses also provide hands-on service learning opportunities that support students in making positive changes in their communities.

In the advocacy efforts to win expansion of Ethnic Studies in SFUSD, students consistently testified about their frustration at the absence of historical and cultural figures from communities of color and the dominance of White ones in school curricula. That void, they said, made them feel excluded from what was being taught in most classes.

“It is just wrong that so many kids never learn anything in history that they can relate to or that has anything to do with their heritage,” said Alejandra Mendez-Ruiz, SFUSD senior and a Coleman youth leader.

“It makes us feel invisible and like we don’t have any value. Students in my Ethnic Studies class were way more attentive than in my other classes because we were learning about people that look like us and come from the places our families come from. When you walk into a class and see someone of your own background on the big projector instead of the same old Caucasian male as the hero, it makes you more curious and more excited about learning.”

SFUSD teachers also testified to the power of the curriculum, making the explicit link between Ethnic Studies and the school-to-prison pipeline. They talked about witnessing struggling students improve when they began to learn about their culture’s history – the achievements of the Black Civil Rights movement or the Chicano Movement, for example.

Students became more invested in their own education and felt more embraced by the school community, which had positive affects on the larger school climate.

At San Francisco’s Balboa High School, an Ethnic Studies course is used as an “early retention strategy” for outgoing middle school students identified as “at risk” of failing or dropping out. Earlier this year, Stanford University released findings from a controlled study that revealed that taking this ninth-grade Ethnic Studies course boosted the grades, attendance and course completion rates of participating students.

The academic benefits of the course were so significant, the researchers who conducted the study said they were “shocked” by their own findings.

“Schools have tried a number of approaches to support struggling students, and few have been this effective,” said Emily Penner, co-author of the Stanford report, according to the university’s news service. “It’s a novel approach that suggests that making schools relevant and engaging to struggling students can really pay off.”

Despite the abundance of evidence about the positive impacts of Ethnic Studies, many efforts around the country to expand the curriculum have faced aggressive opposition. Legislators in some states have proposed cutting the curriculum altogether, arguing that it is “anti-American” and teaches divisiveness.

An effort in Texas to add a Mexican-American course as a high school elective failed – in a state where Latinos are the largest ethnic group in public schools. And it wasn’t until July of last year that a federal appeals court ruled that a 2010 Arizona law banning Mexican American studies is discriminatory.

The good news is that a number of individual school districts require Ethnic Studies or are moving in that direction. And while California Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed legislation last year that would have made Ethnic Studies courses a statewide requirement, the movement to win future legislation of this kind continues to grow.

California has one of the largest and most diverse student populations in the country, with young people of color making up nearly 75 percent of the student population. We should be setting an example for the nation by ensuring that all students have access to Ethnic Studies courses that broaden and expand their minds, affirm their sense of self and community, prepare them for the diverse workforce of the 21st century and lead to increased engagement and improved academic outcomes.

For those of us that have seen first-hand the many benefits of Ethnic Studies, we will continue to fight for expansion of these courses as an essential component of the quality, culturally relevant education that all our young people deserve.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.

Kevine Boggess is policy director for San Francisco-based Coleman Advocates for Children & Youth, a community organization that supports human rights and dignity for all people.

The Long-Term Effects of Social-Justice Education on Black Students

Filed under: BlackLivesMatter,Ethnic Studies — millerlf @ 11:42 am

A new study shows such courses prompted self-exploration and openness in marginalized kids.

Melinda D. Anderson Jul 19, 2016 The Atlantic

Last summer, the high-school English teacher T.J. Whitaker revised the reading list for his contemporary literature course with the addition of a new title—The Savage City, a gritty nonfiction account of race and murder in New York City in the 1960s. The 24-year teaching veteran said he chose the book to give his students at Columbia High School in Maplewood, New Jersey, a chance to read “an honest depiction of the Black Panther Party and the corruption that existed in the NYPD during the ‘60s.” In a school where black students are half of the student body—and a photo of two white peers in blackface caused an uproar in May—Whitaker’s classroom is a space for students to examine issues such as oppression, classism, and abuse of power. And it’s yielding results.

When the South Orange-Maplewood School District recently considered restoring school resource officers, law-enforcement officials assigned to school campuses, the move was met with sizeable opposition from juniors and seniors in Whitaker’s class. They organized fellow students to attend the public forums and testify on their experiences with local police—both in school and the community. And notably, they relied on Whitaker’s class discussions to bolster their arguments.

Transformative social-justice education is often viewed as a path to more equitable classrooms and cross-racial understanding, at a time when public-school classrooms are increasingly segregated. Most frequently associated with the Brazilian educator and theorist Paulo Freire, it is an approach growing in popularity and interest nationally. But for students from marginalized and disenfranchised groups—those most in need of upending the status quo—what is the payoff? And how can teachers steeped in this method affect their learning?

A new study from Pennsylvania State University seeks to answer these lingering questions. Marinda K. Harrell-Levy, an assistant professor of human development and family studies at Penn State Brandywine, set out to explore the long-term impact of a transformative social-justice course on black adolescents. The class, a junior-year requirement, intended to motivate students to become social agents in their schools and communities, and included a service learning component. In 2010, as part of a larger research project, Harrell-Levy followed up with 13 black students who graduated from an urban parochial high school in 1995 to 2009, and, though the sample size was small, she found that the benefits of their mandatory social-justice class extended well into adulthood.

“We know that if you teach … anything related to civic development, it’s very likely that within the next week or two after taking the course, students are going to have a positive feeling about their experiences,” she said. “[But] how do they feel … years later? Is it still resonating?” Harrell-Levy’s goal was to discover how the social-justice class helped a socioeconomically diverse group of black teenagers see themselves in society. What the study revealed was a deep-rooted link between the course, career choices, and the former students’ civic and social-justice values.
“[These] thought-provoking conversations made them consider, or reconsider, their own perspective on what it meant to be black.”

Black alumni of the class, many years after graduating, uniformly credited the social-justice course for provoking a process of self-exploration that altered their sense of justice and influenced their self-identity. Eleven of the 13 reported identifying or revising career interests while taking the course, prioritizing professions to improve their community. Helping convicted felons return to the workforce, pursuing a degree in social work, and working in the education field all flowed from their enrollment in the social-justice class.

“Jenna” (pseudonyms were used in the study to protect the identity of the student participants) pointed to the course as giving her “a different moral standpoint and a different conception of justice.” Her knowledge of civic issues like capital punishment increased, she said, inspiring her to enroll in law school “to contribute to a socially just world.” Likewise, conversations with participants like “Patricia” showed how the social-justice class ignited “the power of her own agency”—a sentiment widely shared, in which students saw themselves as capable of changing conditions in their own lives as well as larger institutional injustices.

The former students were very forthcoming, said Harrell-Levy, sharing all types of experiences they were going through, from “My father was in jail” and “My mother was addicted to drugs” to “I was in a foster home during half of my time at the school”—underscoring how their teachers incorporated those experiences into the learning process. “They felt that they were relevant. That their experiences were relevant. There was this nexus of culture and pedagogy that was happening with the students and with the teachers that made the learning process that much more meaningful for everybody,” said the study’s lead author.

Additionally, the research showed that the race of the teachers was not an impediment to the course’s mission—a crucial takeaway given that just over 8 out of 10 public schoolteachers are white. “They didn’t ignore the fact they are white,” said Harrell-Levy, stressing that “colorblind ideology” was rejected. Instead, recognizing that her students looked at her as “this privileged white lady who had the luxury of illuminating about issues [of diversity],” the teacher brought the students’ reluctance into the classroom discussion as a learning point.

An unexpected outcome for the researchers was how the course allowed students to unravel issues of advantage among black students based on class—an aspect that seldom surfaces in social-justice discourse. The predominately black Catholic school included a mix of students attending through school vouchers, athletic scholarships, academic scholarships and other financial means. According to Harrell-Levy, the combination offered a unique opportunity for the teachers to challenge intra-racial stereotypes. Participants who described themselves as “privileged” or “sheltered” revealed that their opinions of the “black poor”—and more generally, those living in poverty—were effectively confronted through the social-justice curriculum.
“We’ve got to give them the tools…to process in ways that are healthy and will actually build our democracy.”

“All of these … thought-provoking conversations made them consider, or reconsider, their own perspective on what it meant to be black. Their own perspective on what it meant to be poor and black. Their own perspective on what it meant to be [economically advantaged] and black. That was a type of conversation that teachers willingly let [happen].”

Leigh Patel, an associate education professor at Boston College and a sociologist of education, characterized the study as a nuanced take on race and class, and a departure from the study of blackness and black youth as a monolithic topic. She cautioned, however, that understanding the full scope of transformative social-justice education should extend beyond the individual to the collective impact.

“Are we transforming individuals’ [career] pathways [or] are we transforming a collective population’s realities of wellness and suffering?” asked Patel, noting that the drawback to focusing primarily on “individualistic, live-your-best-life” measures is that inequities are never experienced exclusively by individuals. By contrast, Patel cited United We Dream, the Dream Defenders, and We Charge Genocide as “explicit projects of social transformation” that are “fundamentally collective.”

Where Patel and Harrell-Levy found firm agreement was on the critical need to rethink teacher training and professional development to incorporate transformational social-justice teaching. “What’s required here is a certain vulnerability that you don’t really expect [and] teachers don’t generally want,” said the Penn State researcher. “The teachers in the study, on a regular basis, had to expose themselves in order to connect with the students. At the very least, teachers need to understand the impact that they’re having on students’ identity. Whether it’s intentional or unintentional, it’s happening.”

In the wake of recent fatal police shootings of black men, the Black Lives Matter Movement, and heightened interest in how black youth are processing these events, Harrell-Levy said the time is now to revisit the role of teachers and schools. “There’s a lot of emotion surging through a lot of [youth] right now, who don’t have any experience on what to do with it, and how to deal with it,” she said. “There’s a mental toll to … literally seeing life leave bodies on YouTube, again and again. We’ve got to give them the tools…to process in ways that are healthy and will actually build our democracy.”

Albuquerque Public Schools Add Ethnic Studies to High School Curriculum

Filed under: Ethnic Studies — millerlf @ 11:42 am
 Currently, only three Albuquerque high schools offer ethnic studies courses, including Chicano Studies, Mexican-American literature, and Native American studies. Last December, Families United for Education approached the Albuquerque Board of Education to advocate for ethnic studies courses across the district. Last week, about 40 teachers and community members came together for a three-day workshop to begin planning the curriculum, according to the Albuquerque Journal.

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Albuquerque’s population is 46.7 percent Latino or Hispanic, 42.1 percent non-Hispanic white, 4.6 percent Native American and Alaskan Native, 4.6 percent two or more races, 3.3 percent African American, 2.6 percent Asian American, and 0.1 percent Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander.

RELATED: Students Call For Ethnic Studies in Portland High Schools

The 2015 four-year graduation rate at Albuquerque Public Schools is 61.7 percent, according to the New Mexico Department of Education.

Families United for Education is committed to continued family and community engagement, Emma Sandoval said. “The next step for Families United is to advocate for ethnic studies to be integrated in the core curriculum for K-12 in the Albuquerque Public School district,” she said.

Stanford study suggests academic benefits to ethnic studies courses

Filed under: Ethnic Studies — millerlf @ 11:42 am

A high school ethnic studies course examining the roles of race, nationality and culture on identity and experience boosted attendance and academic performance of students at risk of dropping out, a new study by scholars at Stanford Graduate School of Education (GSE) found.

The study looked at ethnic studies classes in a pilot program in San Francisco high schools, and compared academic outcomes for students encouraged to enroll in the courses with similar students who did not take them.

The researchers found that students not only made gains in attendance and grades, they also increased the number of course credits they earned to graduate.

“What’s so unique about this program is the degree to which it helped the students who took it,” said Emily Penner, co-author of the paper and a postdoctoral researcher at the GSE. “Schools have tried a number of approaches to support struggling students, and few have been this effective. It’s a novel approach that suggests that making school relevant and engaging to struggling students can really pay off.”

Thomas S. Dee, a professor at Stanford GSE and director at the Stanford Center for Education Policy Analysis, was the other author of the report, which was posted Jan. 11 as a working paper on the website of the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER).

District debate

The findings come as educators and policymakers in Arizona, California, Oregon and other states debate adding or taking away such curriculum from their schools. While ethnic studies proponents contend the courses can help address academic disparities by aligning individual student experiences with curriculum, opponents have argued they are anti-American, teach divisiveness and may displace opportunities for students to take electives of their choice.

Last year, California Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed legislation proposing to require ethnic studies courses statewide, and the Arizona legislature also balked at a similar measure.

Still, a number of California school districts – including Los Angeles, Pico Rivera and Oakland – require ethnic studies or are moving in that direction. San Francisco voted to expand its program to all 19 high schools last year when early findings from this study indicated positive gains for students.

Significant gains

The study was conducted in collaboration with the San Francisco Unified School District as part of a research-practice partnership with the GSE.

Bill Sanderson, assistant superintendent at SFUSD, said the partnership “allows the district to validate promising practices and expand successes in multiple schools to have the greatest impact on students.”

The ethnic studies course offered in San Francisco focuses on the experiences and identities of racial and ethnic minorities, uses cultural references in teaching and aims to enhance social and political awareness. In one lesson, for example, teachers ask students to look at the role of advertising in reinforcing cultural stereotypes and the idea that some values and people are “normal” while others are not.

“Culturally relevant pedagogy embeds several features of interventions designed to reduce stereotype threat, such as explaining stereotypes and identifying external forces that contribute to academic challenges,” Dee said. “Ethnic studies may be effective because it is an unusually intensive and at-scale social-psychological intervention.”

For the study, Dee and Penner gathered data from three San Francisco high schools participating in the pilot ethnic studies program from 2010 to 2014.

Enrollment in ethnic studies was automatic for students who had eighth grade GPAs below 2.0 and voluntary for those with GPAs above 2.0. The scholars narrowed their observations to a population of 1,405 ninth graders, and compared attendance rates, GPA and grade credits earned for students who came in closest to each side of the 2.0 threshold. Looking at students near the cutoff allowed for the best analysis of the program because a student with a 1.99 GPA, for example, was likely to be very similar to a student with a 2.01 – except that one student was encouraged to enroll in the course, while the other was not.

“It’s similar to a randomized trial where one group of people are assigned to a treatment and another similar group is asked to take a placebo,” explained Dee, a senior fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.

The researchers found that attendance for those encouraged to enroll in the class increased by 21 percentage points, GPA by 1.4 grade points and credits earned by 23.

Boys, Hispanic students stand out

There were positive effects across male, female, Asian and Hispanic groups of students, the study said, but the improved outcomes were particularly concentrated among boys and Hispanic students.

The study also found significant effects on GPA specific to math and science. Grade point grew in English language arts, as well, but less so. Sample sizes of white and black populations, specifically, were too small to reliably estimate separate effects.

“To be confident we were getting the effect of the course and not the fact that these kids were flagged as needing extra help because of their GPA, we looked for similar patterns in high schools that did not offer ethnic studies,” Dee said. “We found no evidence the early warning indicators were causing the effects.

“The results are highly encouraging,” he added. “This is the first causally credible evidence on the academic effects of culturally relevant pedagogy.”

Dee and Penner cautioned, however, that the study had the benefit of examining a well-implemented program whose enrollment formula enabled a research design that allowed for causal inference.

“The evidence for San Francisco is very strong,” said Dee. “Whether what works there would work in other school districts is not yet determined. But the magnitude of the effects in San Francisco merits enthusiasm.”

The paper was funded through the Stanford-SFUSD partnership and a Postdoctoral Training Fellowship from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences. The researchers presented their findings at the Association for Public Policy and Management conference in November 2015. The paper has not yet undergone peer review.

Media Contacts

Thomas S. Dee, Graduate School of Education: tdee@stanford.edu

Emily Penner, Graduate School of Education: epenner@stanford.edu

Brooke Donald, Graduate School of Education: (650) 721-1402, brooke.donald@stanford.edu
Clifton B. Parker, Stanford News Service: (650) 725-0224, cbparker@stanford.edu

August 13, 2016

How Black Lives Matter Activists Plan to Fix Schools

Filed under: BlackLivesMatter,Charter Schools — millerlf @ 8:08 am
Emily Deruy August 5, 2016
The AtlanticActivists are calling for an end to charter schools and juvenile detention centers.
Black Lives Matter activists have already successfully pushed some colleges to address racism on campus and make curriculum more inclusive. But the movement as a whole has been less visible in the K-12 space. That’s changing.

 

As my colleague Vann Newkirk has noted, the Movement for Black Lives Matter coalition recently published a platform outlining a range of specific policies it would like to see take shape at the local, state, and federal levels. The education proposals are rooted in the K-12 space, activists who helped draft them told me, because the U.S. public-school system is so broken that college is never an option for many young people of color. And while many universities are privately controlled, the group sees an opportunity to return control of K-12 public schools to the students, parents, and communities they serve.

 

Public schools, even in the nation’s most affluent cities, remain highly segregated, with black children disproportionately likely to attend schools with fewer resources and concentrated poverty. There are more school security officers than counselors in four of the 10 biggest school districts in the country. And whereas spending on corrections increased by 324 percent between 1979 and 2013, that on education rose just 107 percent during the same time.

 

The coalition’s proposals are wide-ranging and, depending on who is talking, either aspirational or entirely unrealistic. They range from calling for a constitutional amendment for “fully funded” education (activists say federal funding is inadequate and not distributed equally) and a moratorium on charter schools to the removal of police from schools and the closure of all juvenile detention centers.

 

Mostly, said Jonathan Stith, the national coordinator for the Washington-based Alliance for Educational Justice and one of the lead authors, the propositions are an attempt to crystallize what the movement supports and to provide activists with a platform from which to move forward. “It’s always been clear what we’re against, but [articulating] what we’re for, what we want to see, was a real labor,” Stith, 41, said. The document is also an effort to connect education priorities to health care, the economy, criminal justice, and a range of other public-policy areas, and to, as Stith put it, force progress “in concert.”.

 

The plan, which lambasts the “privatization” of education by foundations that wield fat wallets to shape policy and criticizes charter-school networks for decimating black communities and robbing traditional neighborhood schools of resources, drew immediate criticism from education reformers who see charters and groups like Teach for America (the plan calls for its demise) as providing badly needed services to students of color. Some of these reformers said it signaled that the movement was cozy with teachers’ unions and the status quo. Lily Eskelsen Garcia, the head of the National Education Association, one of the country’s two main teachers’ unions, wrote in an emailed comment, “The NEA is honored to stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter and proud to be a partner with the organizations that support community-based solutions to support students and public schools.”

 

But Hiram Rivera, the 39-year-old executive director of the Philadelphia Student Union and another author of the platform, pointed out that the plan offers plenty for the unions to dislike, too, such as community control of curriculum, and the flexibility to hire and fire teachers. “The education system in this country has never worked for poor people and people of color,” said Rivera. “We’re not calling for the status quo. We don’t want things to continue as they’ve always done.”

 

Stith (who has a child enrolled in a charter school and said the desire to eliminate them “comes from a lived experience”) and Rivera think that reformer-union dichotomy ignores the movement’s broader goal of returning control of schools to parents, students, and local communities. “A lot of the real issues get lost,” Rivera said, citing curriculum, school safety, resources, and college-and-career preparation as examples.

 

The Philadelphia Student Union, as its name suggests, works directly with young people to improve schools in the city, which has been reeling from a lack of funding that saw nurses and counselors cut from school rosters. (The plan calls for free health services.) Rivera was able to incorporate young people’s voices into the education platform. Students, he said, told him they do not feel safer with police officers in schools, and school closures, often in impoverished communities, leave them feeling set up to fail by the system.

 

“The education system in this country has never worked for poor people and people of color.”

While the education platform covers a broad array of issues, both Rivera and Stith hope activists at all levels will see it as a starting point; they’re also optimistic that it will give community members who may not have seen a clear way to take action the framework they need to get started. “Visions change as time and conditions change,” Stith said. He noted, for instance, that parents in Illinois have pushed for elected instead of appointed school boards, something the platform advocates, and wants groups to be able to point to the platform as a source of ideas and support.

 

It should give “community members, people directly impacted, folks working inside of schools, a set of policy suggestions they can think on and move forward,” Rivera said. Broadly, Stith hopes it will “prompt a dialogue among African Americans about the quality of education in this country. That dialogue is one that’s long overdue and a particularly important one at the moment.”

 

With the recent passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act, a new federal education law, activists see an opportunity to push for equity in schools. But Stith and others are also nervous the act, which returns some control of education policy to states, will exacerbate inequities in states where lawmakers do not see ending them as a priority.

 

Mobilizing community members can be difficult, particularly when it comes to communities whose educational needs and priorities have long been ignored. Parents may assume they will be ignored, or they may not have a vision of themselves as community activists or leaders because they have never seen anyone like them in that role. But Stith says the plan has been well-received and that it’s “starting to do some of what our intention was, which is to stir a conversation around black education in this country.”

 

“These are not the be all, end all,” Rivera added. “These are conversation starters, something for people who needed someplace to start.”

 

Half of Wisconsin’s Black Neighborhoods Are Jails

Filed under: BlackLivesMatter,Milwaukee Community Devastation — millerlf @ 8:05 am

17-year-old Lew Blank researched race and housing in his state and found some disturbing patterns.

AP/Gerald Herbert

17-year-old Lew Blank was fiddling around with the Weldon Cooper Center’s Racial Dot Map when he discovered something disturbing about Wisconsin, where he lives: More than half of the African-American neighborhoods in the state are actually jails. Not only that, but the rest of the black neighborhoods across the state are either apartment complexes, Section 8 housing, or homeless shelters—the lone exception being a working-middle class section of Milwaukee.

Sharing this info on the Young, Gifted, and Black Coalition’s blog, Blank explains that he used the Racial Dot Map to identify where predominantly black neighborhoods—defined as “a certain area where the majority of residents are African Americans”—are located throughout the state. There are 56 of them, 31 of which are either jails or prisons. There are 15 cities where the only black neighborhood is a jail. The city of Winnebago claims it has an African-American population of more than 19 percent, but most, if not all, of that black population is located among one of four correctional facilities there. It’s perhaps no wonder that Wisconsin perennially comes up as the worst place for African Americans to live in the country.

Below are a few maps from Blank’s Wisconsin collection—blue dots represent white residents, yellow dots are for Latinos, and green dots are for African Americans:

(Lew Blank)

In Madison, the circled “J” area is the location of the city’s largest jail. Every other area circled is Section 8 housing, save for two apartment complexes (“D” and “G”) and two homeless shelters (“I” and “K”). Read more from Blank about Madison’s racial disparities here.

(Lew Blank)

The large circled area of Milwaukee marked with an “A” is the lone black neighborhood in the state of Wisconsin that is not a prison or mostly low-income housing. That said, there are two areas within that large circle, and one area adjacent to it that are correctional facilities. Another predominantly black area way at the southern tip of the city (“E”) is also a jail.

(Lew Blank)

Three of the seven “black neighborhoods” in Racine are actually correctional facilities: The section circled by “B” contains two jails.

These disparities are not without consequence. Cities and legislative districts with mostly white populations are able to draw down extra federal resources based on their incarcerated minority populations through a sketchy practice called “prison gerrymandering.”

But Blank’s own conclusions about his map findings stand on their own:

Despite this terrible epidemic, it seems that whenever people try to speak out against it, they are met with backlash and apathy. Whenever people failed by a racially disparate economic system, a business-as-usual governmental system, and a rooted-in-slavery police system demand much-needed, life-or-death systemic changes by marching in the streets and chanting “Black Lives Matter,” they are somehow met with disdain for simply fighting for their freedom and their right to self-determination.

Perhaps instead of not listening to the experiences of Wisconsin’s and the nation’s Black [communities], we should lend our ears to their demands.

This kid is woke.

July 31, 2016

Stop Trump article by Jonathan Smucker

Filed under: Elections,Fascism — millerlf @ 10:32 pm

The following Smucker article is an insightful contribution to the discussions on fighting Trump and fascism. A the same time I feel the article needs to more intentionally identify racism and white supremacy, both historially and presently, as the foundation for fascism’s growth and the weakness of progressive populism. For example, the discussion of Roosevelt’s populism leaves out the fact that an alliance was made with Southern Democrats which kept the Democratic party in power for the span of Roosevelt’s nearly 16 year presidency which meant that the Jim Crow reign of terror continued in the South.

The article is also extremely vague about what happens after November 8. The return to levels of fragmentation and separation is a likely outcome. Following the recall of Walker, as part of a significant uprising in Wisconsin, the way forward has been without enough focus and alliance of forces.

Jonathan M fight Smucker 7/29/16

We want a political revolution. First we must defeat fascism.

If progressives fail to seize the populist moment, the authoritarian right will fill the void. The insurgent Bernie Sanders campaign was a big step forward in building the progressive populist political alignment we need. Now that Hillary Clinton is the Democratic Party nominee, we have to figure out how to keep building after the 2016 election cycle. But first we must mobilize to defeat hate, bigotry, and the growing threat of fascism.

Two populisms

We are living in very exciting times. And we are living in very dangerous times. This year I was thrilled by the candidacy of Bernie Sanders. It’s remarkable how close he came to winning the Democratic Party nomination, considering the resources and organization arrayed against his insurgent campaign. Like many others, I voted for Bernie in the primary and did what I could to work for his nomination. I wish he had won for so many reasons. Obviously there’s the fact that he is genuinely progressive and willing to fight against entrenched power, including his own party’s stale leadership. He signals a potential progressive direction for both the Democratic Party and the country. As important, I think Sanders was the stronger candidate in the general election — for reasons that most in the Democratic Party leadership completely fail to grasp. Why do I think Bernie would have been more viable? For the same reason that I thought Trump had the potential to win the Republican nomination since last summer: we are living in populisttimes.

Let me be more specific than the pundits who have been throwing around the word populism willy-nilly in recent months, as if it were not much more than a bad mood swing of the American electorate. To be living in populist times is to be living in an era when political authority is no longer seen as legitimate by most people; what’s often referred to as a crisis of legitimacy. During such a crisis, populist movements and leaders emerge, from both the right and the left, in order to forge a new popular alignment of social forces. Populists explain the causes of the crisis, they name ‘the establishment’ as the problem, and they articulate a new vision forward — an aspirational horizon — for ‘the people.’ Left-wing populism and right-wing populism thus share certain rhetorical features (i.e., ‘the people’ aligned against ‘the establishment’), but their contents and consequences could hardly be further apart. The retrograde ‘aspirational horizon’ of right-wing populism tends to be in the rearview mirror: a nostalgic longing for a simpler time that never actually existed. More importantly, despite its ostensible anti-elitism, right-wing populism always punches down, unifying ‘the people’ (some of them) by scapegoating a demonized other: blacks, Jews, homosexuals, immigrants, Mexicans, Muslims — take your pick — depending on the opportunities available to the particular demagogue in the given context.

“Despite displaying the trappings of anti-elitism, right-wing populism always punches down, unifying ‘the people’ by scapegoating a demonized other.”

The signs of the present crisis accumulated for a long time: The Iraq War, crumbling public infrastructure, Hurricane Katrina, growing inequality. But if any single event brought about a popular recognition of the crisis of legitimacy, it was the financial meltdown of 2008. Despite reestablishing some level of relative stability, this underlying crisis has stayed with us since then, even if often out of sight and out of the minds of the punditry and the political class. Their underestimation of the magnitude of the crisis is what has made them so useless in predicting the remarkable success of the insurgencies within both major parties in 2016.

In these two insurgencies we can see the ‘two sides’ of populism and the two very different possible paths. Thus, a crisis of legitimacy is exciting for progressives insofar as it places our potential path right in front of us. It presents our underdog movements with an incredible opportunity to narrate the crisis, to reframe the premises of American society, and to organize a new progressive populist alignment capable of challenging the entrenched power of elites: in short, a political revolution. But a crisis of legitimacy is extraordinarily dangerous for a left that is not ready to take advantage of it. History shows that when progressives fail to realign popular social forces in such populist moments, reactionary authoritarians can suddenly step in with remarkable speed and horrific consequences. That is what we are witnessing with the rise of Trump in the United States, and with the related rise of fascism (leaders, movements, and political parties) throughout much of Europe. The stakes of everything we do right now are extraordinarily high.

Neoliberals, progressives, and the Democratic Party

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July 30, 2016

Prevent a Trump Victory; Stand Up to Fascism

Filed under: Elections,Fascism — millerlf @ 8:16 am

by Larry Miller

I’ve heard and read an array of distressing statements from the left about the upcoming election.

“This election is nothing more than choosing between the lesser of two evils.”

“Fascism and neoliberalism are two sides of the same coin.”

“Social democracy is the left wing of Fascism.”

“Voting has no purpose.”

All these statements add up to not voting for Hillary Clinton. But such perspectives are ahistorical and do not address the needs of the people’s movements at this time.

The following is not a defense of Hillary Clinton and her  political positions, but instead is an argument for a strategic consideration to defend the American people against a growing fascist threat.

Donald Trump is calling for a police state in America. Trump’s call for “rounding up” 11 million immigrants, with the creation of a special police force, is a fascist act. His history of discrimination toward African-Americans combined with his vitriol toward Black Lives Matter and the Black community and his proclamation of being the “law and order” candidate make it clear that both Black and Brown communities would receive the brunt of his call for new forms of state terror.  In the not too distant past Black people in this country experienced a state of terror called Jim Crow. Under no circumstances should such terror be allowed to return.

The “We can’t vote for Hillary” arguments today do not reflect what we need to fight a growing and frightening ultra-nationalist and racist movement. A Trump victory would mean significant setbacks and unbearable obstacles for those fighting to improve the lives of working and poor folks.

I have an Iranian friend who is scared to death that Trump will win this election. She cannot return to Iran because she would be arrested by the fascist theocracy in power. She knows firsthand what it means to try and organize under a police state. She warns of the setbacks that would be faced by Black and Brown communities that already face incredible hardship.

A vote for Hillary does not equal a vote for neoliberalism. We don’t give up our own platform and demands by our vote. What we do is protect the democratic rights that we still have so we are more capable of organizing.

We need to be able to fight on more than one front. During World War II the Black community mobilized against Hitler fascism. At the same time they fought discrimination, Jim Crow laws, lynching, for voting rights, and against attacks on Black communities. African-American soldiers fought fascism in Europe, against white supremacy and segregation inside the military, and brought that battle back home after the war, leading to the great freedom struggles of the 1950s and 1960s.

Today the left should support blocking Trump from gaining the White House. This in no way calls for pulling back or watering down the demands of the important liberation movements being waged today. But it does say do the smart thing, find allies everywhere including within the Democratic Party, make use of contradictions within the ruling circles, and distinguish between enemies.

U.S. liberation movements are still weak and at early stages of development. We are without a unifying party that brings together the working class, liberation movements and communities of color. The Working Families Party and the Green Party are important to the struggle but they should not be confused with the type of political party that is needed to lead a political revolution in this country.

As Linda Burnham has pointed out in Notes on an Election, “The U.S. left is not strong enough – not nearly strong enough – to frame its own choices. Every choice that is framed for us by the center and the right will be agonizingly difficult. The key issue is whether the choices we make create the possibility to build our strength and move in the direction of a coherent strategy, or further weaken and marginalize our already fragmented and debilitated forces.”

In a recent interview on NPR, an immigrant Latino delegate to the Democratic convention, said, “Not voting against Trump is a privilege and luxury my people do not have.”

Bottom line: organize to vote for Hillary Clinton while organizing liberation and resistance movements.

The real need is to support and engage with communities that are resisting, organizing and seeking power — do door-knocking in poor and working-class communities; stand at a factory entrance during shift change; march with Black Lives Matter; march for immigration rights with groups like Voces de la Frontera; organize to elect progressive candidates locally; fight Islamophobia; organize for Palestinian rights; organize to oppose militarization and use of drones – all while calling on people to do everything in their power to stop Trump.

Those of us who are white need to find ways to talk to white co-workers, neighbors and others to expose why this billionaire who built his empire on union-busting, exploitation, discrimination and misogyny, is the last person to be the voice for working people.

Power to the People!

 

 

 

 

 

July 27, 2016

Understanding Trump: George Lakeoff

Filed under: Elections,Fascism — millerlf @ 7:01 am

Understanding Trump

07/22/2016 George Lakoff Author of Don’t Think of an Elephant! | UC Berkeley Professor of Linguistics | Founder of Reframe America

There is a lot being written and spoken about Trump by intelligent and articulate commentators whose insights I respect. But as a longtime researcher in cognitive science and linguistics, I bring a perspective from these sciences to an understanding of the Trump phenomenon. This perspective is hardly unknown. More that half a million people have read my books, and Google Scholar reports that scholars writing in scholarly journals have cited my works well over 100,000 times.

As a longtime researcher in cognitive science and linguistics, I bring a perspective from these sciences to an understanding of the Trump phenomenon.

Yet you will probably not read what I have to say in the New York Times, nor hear it from your favorite political commentators. You will also not hear it from Democratic candidates or party strategists. There are reasons, and we will discuss them later this piece. I am writing it because I think it is right and it is needed, even though it comes from the cognitive and brain sciences, not from the normal political sources. I think it is imperative to bring these considerations into public political discourse. But it cannot be done in a 650-word op-ed. My apologies. It is untweetable.

I will begin with an updated version of an earlier piece on who is supporting Trump and why — and why policy details are irrelevant to them. I then move to a section on how Trump uses your brain against you. I finish up discussing how Democratic campaigns could do better, and why they need to do better if we are to avert a Trump presidency.

Who Supports Trump and Why

Donald J. Trump has managed to become the Republican nominee for president, Why? How? There are various theories: People are angry and he speaks to their anger. People don’t think much of Congress and want a non-politician. Both may be true. But why? What are the details? And why Trump?

He seems to have come out of nowhere. His positions on issues don’t fit a common mold.

He has said nice things about LGBTQ folks, which is not standard Republican talk. Republicans hate eminent domain (the taking of private property by the government) and support corporate outsourcing for the sake of profit, but he has the opposite views on both. He is not religious and scorns religious practices, yet the Evangelicals (that is, the white Evangelicals) love him. He thinks health insurance and pharmaceutical companies, as well as military contractors, are making too much profit and wants to change that. He insults major voting groups, e.g., Latinos, when most Republicans are trying to court them. He wants to deport 11 million immigrants without papers and thinks he can. He wants to stop Muslims from entering the country. What is going on?

The answer requires a bit of background.

In the 1900s, as part of my research in the cognitive and brain sciences, I undertook to answer a question in my field: How do the various policy positions of conservatives and progressives hang together? Take conservatism: What does being against abortion have to do with being for owning guns? What does owning guns have to do with denying the reality of global warming? How does being anti-government fit with wanting a stronger military? How can you be pro-life and for the death penalty? Progressives have the opposite views. How do their views hang together?

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