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Archive for the ‘Education’ Category



Talking to Josh Fox and a Review of How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change

Jun28

by: Heidi Hutner on June 28th, 2016 | 2 Comments »

Editor’s Note: This piece was originally posted on Heidi Hutner’s Blog, and is reprinted here with permission of the author.

“Can a person stop a wave? Could you stand on the shore and stop a wave from crashing? What are the things that climate change can’t destroy? What are those parts of us that are so deep that no storm can take them away?”

- Josh Fox

How to Let Go of the World opens with Josh Fox dancing to the Beatles — joyously celebrating the banning of hydraulic fracturing in New York State. Fox and thousands of fellow “frackativists” had just successfully pushed through the ban on ‘fracking’ in New York (2014).

Fox’s first environmental film, Gasland (2010), brought national attention to the negative environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing.

So, Fox had good reason to celebrate the New York State ‘fracking’ ban, and yet…

Fox soon recognized that while the banning of ‘fracking’ in New York State was a big win, there was and is much more to be concerned about in the environmental battle.

Namely: global Climate Change.

How to Let Go of the World next takes the viewer on Fox’s journey of environmental despair (a condition I deeply identify with and talk about in my TEDX talk “ECO-GRIEF”).

Fox returns to his family home in the woods that inspired the making of Gasland, only to discover that a favorite childhood tree is infested with parasitic insects (induced by Climate Change). The infested tree is a living symbol of the changed world we now inhabit–a world gravely altered by the ravages of fossil fuel extraction.

Fox is thrown into a state of hopelessness.

Yet Fox determines to, “find the people who’d found this place, this place of despair, and gotten back up.”

The film then takes the viewer all over the globe. We follow Fox as he seeks to understand how others cope with environmental grief.

We observe the negative environmental, health and social impacts of Hurricane Sandy in New York, sea-level rise in the Marshall Islands, deforestation and oil spills in the Amazon, and the wanton burning of fossil fuels in smog-laden China, among others.

Along the way, Fox has heart-to-heart conversations with prominent Climate Change authors Bill Mckibben, Elizabeth Kolbert, and climate scientist, Michael E. Mann. He also speaks with the activist and “civil disobedient” Tim DeChristopher, who went to jail for 21 months for protesting a Bureau of Land Management lease auction to the fossil fuel industry in Utah.

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Monotheism as a Moral Issue, Part Four: Borrowing Reason from Hellenism

May2

by: George P. Fletcher on May 2nd, 2016 | 3 Comments »

Genesis 1:26.

AND GOD SAID, LET US MAKE ADAM IN OUR IMAGE, AFTER OUR LIKENESS.

Part IV: Borrowing Reason from Hellenism.

There is a romantic story implicit in the way the words s’vara and its related grammatical forms came to be adopted in modern Hebrew.  The tale highlights another ray of influence of God’s Image in contemporary thought.  It is well known that ‘reason’ is a Hellenistic idea – generally absent from Hebrew thought.  This was evident in the drafting of the first criminal code ordinance in Israel/Palestine under the British mandate.  The drafts took a code developed by the nineteenth century scholar Fitzjames Stephen for all the British colonies. When it was translated into Hebrew, the drafters had particular difficulty the word omnipresent in English legal discourse – reasonableness.

The drafter opted for a different idiom in very context.  One of my favorites was: mitkabel al ha-daat – “It presents itself to the mind.”  When I presented a paper at the Hebrew University in the early 1970′s, I focused on this problem of translation.  I was aware that it was difficult to translate Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason into Hebrew, largely because of the same divide between Hellenism and Hebraism.  The translators choose the word tvunah which was apparently too sophisticated for use in drafting statutes.

After I presented the paper, my old friend and colleague Shalev Ginossar took me aside and told me of a meeting in the ministry of justice in which they discussed the problem of translation.  They decided at that time to take a word from the Talmud s’vara and introduce it into modern Hebrew.  The word does not exactly mean ‘reason’ but it is as close as you can get.  This is the word that subsequent drafters invoked to capture the English conception of reasonableness.

There was an implication for my own future work.  Fifteen years later, in cooperation between Columbia and the Hartman

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Authoritarian Politics in the Age of Manufactured Illiteracy

Apr18

by: Henry A. Giroux on April 18th, 2016 | 2 Comments »

The dark times that haunt the current age are epitomized in the monsters that have come to rule the United States and who now dominate the major political parties and other commanding political and economic institutions. Their nightmarish reign of misery, violence, and disposability is also evident in their dominance of a formative culture and its attendant cultural apparatuses that produce a vast machinery of manufactured consent. This is a social formation that extends from the mainstream broadcast media and Internet to a print culture, all of which embrace the spectacle of violence, legitimate opinions over facts, and revel in a celebrity and consumer culture of ignorance and theatrics. Under the reign of this normalized ideological architecture of alleged commonsense, literacy is now regarded with disdain, words are reduced to data, and science is confused with pseudo-science.

Thinking is now regarded as an act of stupidity, and ignorance a virtue. All traces of critical thought appear only at the margins of the culture as ignorance becomes the primary organizing principle of American society. For instance, two thirds of the American public believe that creationism should be taught in schools and most of the Republican Party in Congress do not believe that climate change is caused by human activity, making the U.S. the laughing stock of the world.  Politicians endlessly lie knowing that the public is addicted to extreme violence and shocks, which allow them to drown in overstimulation and live in an ever-accelerating overflow of information and images. News has become entertainment and echoes reality rather than interrogating it. Unsurprisingly, education in the larger culture has become a disimagination machine, a tool for legitimating ignorance, and it is central to the formation of an authoritarian politics that has gutted any vestige of democracy from the ideology, policies, and institutions that now control American society.

I am not talking simply about the kind of anti-intellectualism that theorists such a Richard Hofstadter, Ed Herman and Noam Chomsky, and more recently Susan Jacoby have documented, however insightful their analyses might be.  I am pointing to a more lethal form of illiteracy that is often ignored.  Illiteracy is now a scourge and a political tool designed primarily to make war on language, meaning, thinking, and the capacity for critical thought. Chris Hedges is right in stating that “the emptiness of language is a gift to demagogues and the corporations that saturate the landscape with manipulated images and the idiom of mass culture.”[1] Words such as love, trust, freedom, responsibility, and choice have been deformed by a market logic that narrows their meaning to either a relationship to a commodity or a reductive notion of self-interest. We don’t love each other, we love our new car. Freedom now means removing one’s self from any sense of social responsibility so one can retreat into privatized orbits of self-indulgence. And so it goes.  The new form of illiteracy does not simply constitute an absence of learning, ideas, or knowledge. Nor can it be solely attributed to what has been called the “smartphone society.”[2] On the contrary, it is a willful practice and goal used to actively depoliticize people and make them complicit with the forces that impose misery and suffering upon their lives.

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Freedom University: Students & Allies Fight for Access & Education in Georgia’s Public Colleges

Apr12

by: Sagiv Galai on April 12th, 2016 | Comments Off

“Undocumented—Unafraid! Undocumented—Unafraid!”

After a 14-hour classroom sit-in, Freedom University students and allies refuse to leave Georgia State University during the #Greensboro Now action. Eight students were arrested on charges of criminal trespassing. February 2, 2016. Photo: Laura Emiko Soltis.

Such is the slogan that has been galvanized by this nation’s immigrant youth movement. It has been heard in the hallways of Congress, it has been invoked in Miami, throughout California, and for years it has been chanted in the streets of Atlanta.

In order to fight what activists refer to as The Ban: a policy of modern segregation that prohibits access for undocumented students in public universities, undocumented students have been oscillating between the streets and the classrooms, issuing their demands in both forums. The Ban, encapsulated in policies 4.1.6 and 4.3.4 enacted by the Georgia Board of Regents in 2011, stipulates that individuals who are not “lawfully present” in Georgia cannot qualify for in-state tuition in Georgia’s university system, nor can they qualify for admittance in Georgia’s top-five public universities.

The discriminatory impact of the Board’s policies also entailed an unintended consequence. Almost immediately after it was instituted, a hub of resistance and education emerged—Freedom University Georgia.

In this underground and un-accredited institution, the premise of education is its direct relationship to the students’ political environment. Beyond workshops in essay composition, tutoring, photography, graphic design, a critical history of the United States (as inspired by the late-Professor Zinn), or their A Cappella ensemble, the students of Freedom U. focus on crafting resistance strategies to The Ban and on expanding their network of artists, lawyers, veterans of the Civil Rights Movement, former and current politicians, professors, student-allies, and local activists.

During the last five years, as the student activists disseminated their message throughout their community and the nation, a coalition of Freedom U. chapters has emerged in different colleges around Georgia, California and the North East. The network depends on connections that are made between institutions and students, as the Atlanta immigrant youth movement’s focus is access to education and the abolition of admissions policies that discriminate based on the applicant’s immigration status.

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Anti-Zionism and Anti-Semitism

Apr11

by: on April 11th, 2016 | 10 Comments »

If you grew up in the inner city in the 1970s and 1980s and were a hippie, black or latino–never mind a hippie who spent most of his time with blacks and latinos–chances are you had occasion to call a police officer a “pig.” Real pigs are actually kind of nice, as Charlotte’s Web, the movieBabeand the fact that people keep them as pets attests.

But at least in places like Paterson, NJ, Harlem or the Lower East Side, cops seemed to behave with regularity the way people generally imagine pigs to be: dirty–as in corrupt, gluttonous–as in often overweight and also corrupt, sniffing into people’s business, and often running amok in the communities they were supposed to “protect and serve.”

Sadly, the rise of Black Lives Matter and the ongoing police brutality and corruption it’s brought to light reminds us that things haven’t changed too much. Is calling a cop a pig today a sign of bigotry or prejudice? Or can the insult, however crude, reflect a reality that needs to be highlighted?

I raise these questions because at its last meeting the Regents of the University of California approved a new Principles of Intolerance which, despite the ongoing epidemic of sexual assaults on UC campuses, decreasing of our pensions, weakening of health care benefits, lowering of educational quality and rise in tuition, focuses on the alleged plight of one of the least vulnerable groups at UC by most measures (including UC’s own “Campus Climate” report) – Jewish students.

As word leaked of the language being considered for the final version of the Principles, which would have explicitly equated anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism an international uproar ensued that condemned the equation as historically ill-informed and empirically wrong much if not most of the time (to cite the most obvious problem, Jews themselves have been and continue to be anti-Zionist).

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The UC Regents and Anti-Semitism: A Q&A with Judith Butler

Apr4

by: Ben Rowen on April 4th, 2016 | 4 Comments »

There has been a lot of discussion, and furor, about a recent statement approved by the University of California Board of Regents.

The original statement of “principles against intolerance” contained language both condemning anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism in the UC system.

“Anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism and other forms of discrimination have no place at the University of California,” the proposed statement read.

The language asserting anti-Zionism as an instance of intolerance and discrimination became the center of debate about free speech and the suppression of political viewpoints. Jewish Voice for Peace, California Scholars for Academic Freedom, and activist Judith Butler, among many others, all voiced opposition to the clause.

The UC Board of Regents eventually approved a revised draft of the statement. The language about anti-Zionism was changed to: “Anti-Semitism, anti-Semitic forms of anti-Zionism and other forms of discrimination have no place at the University of California.”

Tikkun reached out to Butler to discuss the revised statement, free speech, and anti-Semitism on UC campuses. Below is our Q & A.

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After the Delegation

Mar31

by: Talia Bornstein on March 31st, 2016 | 1 Comment »

Al-Quds University (Source: Keleti, Transferred from he.wikipedia)

The first time I went to Israel, I was two. Since then I have returned for various different reasons. But it wasn’t until my gap year that I realized that Israel, a place I had the privilege of traveling to over six times, was at the center of a conflict I knew almost nothing about. On my gap year I took classes on the conflict, traveled to the West Bank, visited Israeli settlements, and learned about the complexities within Israeli society regarding ethnicity and religion. I returned from my year in Israel with the intention and determination to advocate for a two state solution, voice the reality of Palestinians’ lack of human rights, and fight for Israel’s tarnishing image.

But once I settled back into my apartment in New York, I realized that the in-depth global experience I had in Israel was not quite as well-rounded as I thought it was. I left Israel without ever having had an intentional conversation with a Palestinian. How was it possible that I lived in West Jerusalem for a year yet never even stepped foot in Palestinian East Jerusalem?

I was eager to begin my freshman year at Brandeis, where the conversation on Israel and Palestine dominates campus politics. But once I got here, I was disappointed to learn that I would not have the opportunity to engage with Palestinians’ narratives as I would have had several years earlier, before the suspension of Brandeis’ partnership with Palestinian Al-Quds University. Without this partnership, Palestinian narratives are scarcely represented at Brandeis.

In 2013, President Lawrence suspended Brandeis’ ties with Al-Quds in response to an Islamic-Jihad affiliated political rally held on the Al-Quds campus by a small group of students. Despite the Al-Quds administration’s condemnation of the protest, Brandeis suspended its ties indefinitely. Though Brandeis’ administration is unwilling to restore contact with Al-Quds, students from each school have maintained this valuable relationship for two and half years. The Brandeis-Al-Quds Student Dialogue Initiative (B-AQU SDI) is comprised of students from each university, working to take steps toward renewing our universities’ relations. 

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Provide Students with Mental Illness the Medical Care They Paid For

Feb16

by: Jeremy Sher on February 16th, 2016 | Comments Off

MIT's Stata Center (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

I sat down to breakfast with my cereal, orange juice, and bottle of pills. Around me were several undergraduates at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), who lived with me at the cooperative house where I served as Resident Advisor from 2012 to 2014. When the conversation turned to my pills, I explained, as naturally as could be, that I was taking lithium carbonate to treat my mental-health diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder, Type II.

As the students’ eyes widened, perhaps wondering about the fitness of their new RA for the job, I explained that mood disorders based in brain chemistry are extremely common, that treatment is easy, that I’ve never felt better since beginning treatment. With a confidence rooted in life experience, I said to the students that I am a high-functioning person who gets a lot done, who accomplished a lot as a student at MIT years ago, and who has continued that pattern through a leadership career in political technology and now into studying for the rabbinate. I am managing a mental health condition. Thus, in a scene often repeated during my tenure, I encouraged the students to seek mental health screening if they should ever find themselves experiencing intense mood swings, periods of lethargy, or other potential warning signs from my life and from commonly available literature. I assured them that for those of us who experience these very common disorders, life gets a lot better with treatment.

Unfortunately, MIT has a lot of work to do ensuring a nondiscriminatory environment free of stigma and threat for students suffering from mental illness. During my two years as Resident Advisor, by far the most common question I received about mental health care was: “How can I seek mental health treatment without MIT finding out about it?” Each of the dozens, probably hundreds of times this conversation took place over my 26 months on the job, it was my understanding that there is a widespread, deep fear among MIT undergraduate students that if they seek mental health care, their statements might be used against them to stigmatize them, to disadvantage them, and/or to remove them from school against their will.

Never mind, for the moment, whether these fears are well founded or not. I don’t intend to be the party accusing MIT of doing anything in particular involving any specific case, for two reasons. First, I am as intimidated as the students of a self-defending bureaucracy – although I did send this article to high-level staff before publishing it, and I have e-mail records of their positive, if noncommittal, response. Second, this problem is hardly unique to MIT, and the purpose of this article is to bring the issue of student mental health into open discussion, not to make specific allegations of discrimination, medical malpractice, or other misconduct.

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The Yale Controversy

Jan28

by: Ron Hirschbein on January 28th, 2016 | 3 Comments »

Yale

Yale University (Source: Wikipedia)

Yale’s Halloween controversy raises chronic issues that won’t go away. Prior to the holiday, the University’s Intercultural Affairs Committee sent students a memo: To quote directly:

While students . . . definitely have a right to express themselves, we would hope that people would actively avoid those circumstances that threaten our sense of community or disrespects, alienates or ridicules segments of our population based on race, nationality, religious belief or gender expression.

The memo claims that some Yalies previously made “culturally unaware or insensitive” choices, choices that had a deleterious impact on various marginalized groups. Intended or not, such actions “sent a far greater message than any apology could after the fact.” (No evidence is cited nor are claims made regarding the seriousness and extent of the alleged impact.)

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Bringing Kids Back To The Commons

Jan27

by: Laura Grace Weldon on January 27th, 2016 | Comments Off

Image by mollicles420.deviantart.com

Surely my baby was as good as a dog.

I’d read that nursing home residents benefited enormously from contact with therapy dogs. During and after dog visits these elders were more alert and in better moods. So I figured, why not bring my baby to a nursing home?

I contacted a nursing home around the corner. The administrator was enthusiastic. Then I talked friends into forming a nursing home-based playgroup for our infants and toddlers. They were somewhat wary, but agreed to give it a try. Finally I got a local store to donate a carpet remnant for our little ones to crawl and play on. Between visits, the nursing home could roll it up for storage. We were ready.

We met regularly at that nursing home for several years. Our babies grew into toddlers, the elders became our friends. Residents’ families and staff members often told us that our visits stimulated memories, generated activity, even inspired people who were mostly mute to say a few words. We were awed. Something as simple as our presence, sitting on the carpet playing with our children, made a difference to people whose once full lives were now constricted. We benefited too. We learned the value of advice given by people older than our grandparents. And we noticed how completely our toddlers accepted the physical and mental differences around them with natural grace. (Here’s how to set up your own playgroup in a nursing home.)

I’m still not sure why the very old and young are kept apart from life on the commons. Vital and engaged communities are made up of all ages. And children have fewer opportunities to take an active part than almost any adult. This shortchanges everyone.

Throughout history, the young of our species have learned by getting involved. Children long to take on real responsibilities and make useful contributions. This is how they advance in skill and maturity. That is, unless we restrict them to child-centered activities.

Young people are also drawn to seek mentors. They want to see how all sorts of people handle crises, start new enterprises, settle disputes, and stay in love. But today’s young people are largely kept from meaningful engagement with the wider community. They’re segregated by age not only in day care and school but also in most spheres of recreation, religion, and enrichment. When we keep kids from purposeful and interesting involvement with people of all ages they are pushed to find satisfaction in other (often less beneficial) ways. Meanwhile, our communities are deprived of their youthful energy and innovative outlook.

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