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Archive for the ‘Education’ Category



Silence = Violence = Death: A Call for LGBT Curricular Infusion

Jul20

by: Warren Blumenfeld on July 20th, 2014 | No Comments »

Credit: Creative Commons

Multicultural education is a philosophical concept built on the ideals of freedom, justice, equality, equity, and human dignity as acknowledged in various documents, such as the U.S. Declaration of Independence, constitutions of South Africa and the United States, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations. It affirms our need to prepare students for their responsibilities in an interdependent world. It recognizes the role schools can play in developing the attitudes and values necessary for a democratic society. It values cultural differences and affirms the pluralism that students, their communities, and teachers reflect.It challenges all forms of discrimination in schools and society through the promotion of democratic principles of social justice….

National Association for Multicultural Education, emphasis added

A few years ago, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Alliance at a private Boston-area university asked me to give a presentation on LGBT history at one of its weekly meetings. During my introductory remarks, in passing, I used the term “Stonewall,” when a young man raised his hand and asked me, “What is a ‘Stonewall?’”

I explained that the Stonewall Inn is a small bar located on Christopher Street in Greenwich Village in New York City where, in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, during a routine police raid, patrons fought back. This event, I continued, is generally credited with igniting the modern movement for LGBT liberation and equality.

The young man thanked me and stated that he is a first-year college student, and although he is gay, he had never heard about Stonewall or anything else associated with LGBT history while in high school. As he said this, I thought to myself that though we have made progress over the years, conditions remain very difficult for LGBT and questioning youth today, because school is still not a very “queer” place to be.

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On Safety and Umbrage

Jul7

by: on July 7th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Credit: Creative Commons

Have you been reading lately about “trigger warnings? “These are alerts to those who find themselves in a college classroom or other public setting, warning them that some of the material they are about to experience may upset them. The idea is that those who have had traumatic episodes – assault, for instance – might experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder if they see or read depictions of powerfully similar and evocative experiences. A piece in the New York Times back in May mentioned The Great Gatsby, Huckleberry Finn, and Greek mythology as possible “trauma triggers” identified by on-campus advocates of “trigger warnings.” The article has by now acquired nearly 1400 comments, and the conversation still seems to be picking up steam.

When I first read about this, I was reminded of my induction into gender politics many years ago. I fell in love with someone who lived in a collective household, so I moved to Portland to live with him. I had been an activist for years, but mostly in other realms – pro-peace, anti-draft, civil rights – where feminism had made incursions but was still insurgent. I’d read some of its primary texts and participated in discussions with other women, influencing my own life, to be sure. But still, nervous at my initial vetting by some of the women of the commune, I made a major faux pas: the word “chick” was still in current use in my corners of San Francisco, but in the commune, when I referred to “this chick,” it dropped like a bomb.

It only took one bomb for me to get the point. Like many children of immigrants, I’m good at picking up and internalizing the customs of the country. So I quickly learned some of them – how to talk and how to dress, things like that. But I balked at others. In a discussion of pre-teenagers, the thought-leader of the household corrected me: I should refer to “junior high school women,” not girls. (I never heard anyone say, “It’s a woman!” upon learning of a baby’s birth, but that doesn’t mean it never happened.)

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How to Create the Ideal Government and Society

Jun30

by: Roger Copple on June 30th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Credit: Creative Commons

This article is not specifically about the exploited working class, the disappearing middle class, or the still-controlling ruling class. Instead, it is about describing how local, state, and the national governments can be improved, preferably under a new national constitution. It is not just about government; it expresses my worldview on several topics.

Some hardcore pragmatists and realists think it is foolish to contemplate ideas that may take 100 years to implement. But to idealists–visualizing the actual goal or dream is what energizes us. In the first half of this long article (I apologize), I identify some of the major political and religious groups in the United States; and then, in the second half, I propose a fair system that levels the political playing field among these diverse groups.

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Go Come Back: Culture Is A Bridge and a Fortress

Jun20

by: on June 20th, 2014 | 2 Comments »

Did you ever have something that generated feelings of pride and shame simultaneously, depending on your viewpoint?Something you wanted to share but also wanted to hold close? Something good you didn’t trust to others? I remember a friend who grew up in a northern California Pomo family telling me that her grandmother instructed her never to teach basketry to non-Indians, because they would not use the knowledge for good. Whether you agree or not, you know what she was talking about, right?

Credit: Creative Commons

I grew up in a household where the adults used Yiddish as a secret code.We kids learned a few words that were part of everyday home talk, but without being told, we knew never to use them in school. In fact, at a certain point, I told my grandmother not to make me any more chopped liver sandwiches, because my lunch-mates teased me so unmercifully about them. But I always regretted not knowing the language. Later in life, I even took Yiddish classes. But by then I didn’t really have anyone to talk to, and I never became fluent. My husband grew up in Hawaii speaking Pidgin at home and among friends, and Standard English in school. When we visited there recently, he began teaching me a bit of the language. It delights him to hear me trying out my new knowledge, however badly I stumble. But both of us understand that even when my facility improves, there are reasons to keep it private. It will be our secret code.

Broke da mout: incredibly delicious. Dat saimin so good it broke da mout.

Though linguists don’t generally characterize them the same way, it seems clear to me that Yiddish and Pidgin (of which there are many varieties, for example, Nigerian and Filipino as well as Hawaiian) are what are called “Creole” languages, hybrids of other languages that enabled people to communicate across cultural barriers. In Hawaii, plantation workers from China, Japan, the Philippines, Portugal, Korea, and indigenous Hawaiians needed to understand each other, first in the performance of their work, and then in transacting commerce and community. In the Hawaiian language, Pidgin is called “ʻolelo paʻi ʻai,” “pounding-taro language.” In Europe and North America, the Yiddishes spoken by Ashkenazi Jews are hybrids of Near Eastern and European languages written in Hebrew characters: traces of German, Dutch, even French and Italian remain.


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President Obama’s Strategic Goal: Amazing Peace

May29

by: on May 29th, 2014 | 7 Comments »

On the morning of May 28, 2014, I woke, meditated, decided to postpone yoga, and started to gather myself to listen to President Obama’s remarks to the graduating class at West Point. Political commentators kept saying that this would be a speech that would define an Obama doctrine of foreign policy. Why people do not know what the Obama doctrine is, mystifies me. He articulated it in his Nobel lecture in 2009. Still, I waited to see how he would answer his critics who complain that there is no overall structure to his foreign policy.

Maya Angelou. Credit: Creative Commons.

Then there was an interruption in the morning. Maya Angelou was dead. Angelou a poet, national treasure, wise-woman, mentor to all humanity, a force of nature had made her transition and joined the ancestors. After 86 remarkable years, she had left this earth and gone to her well-earned rest. Her words have been with me all of my adult life. They have been with my children their entire lives. Her words nourished my soul and gave me strength to carry on when times were hard. I was familiar with her voice and with her words. Her well-known words:

I’m a woman
Phenomenally,
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I was familiar with her words that remind me when I am at the bottom of my physical, mental, soul exhaustion, that after I rest, I have to get back to work:

Bringing the gifts that my ancestor’s gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave,
I rise
I rise
I rise.

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Skin in The Game

May28

by: on May 28th, 2014 | 9 Comments »

I am slow to anger, but it really pisses me off when people prescribe for others some purportedly virtuous (or at least dutiful) behavior they’d never embrace in their own lives.In the financial sector, they call it “skin in the game.” Have you risked some of your own money on the advice you are doling out to others? If not, you have no skin in the game. This sound principle applies to many types of activity: the healthcare or housing programs that politicians approve for low-income families would not be substandard if their own ethics obliged them to accept the same provision for their own families. They would have skin in the game.

The current case in point:when Miya Tokumitsu published “In The Name of Love” in Jacobin early this year, she set off an avalanche of links, reprints, and citations. I was busy, so I ignored all the messages telling me to read and respond. But now, on vacation with time to think, someone sent me Gordon Marino’s exegesis of the same idea, “A Life Beyond ‘Do What You Love,’” recently published in The New York Times. My internal barometer hit the roof.

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Getting Serious About the Weather

May20

by: Jonathan Zimmerman on May 20th, 2014 | 2 Comments »

News Anchor (in a hopeful voice): So will you bring us some sunshine tomorrow?

Weathercaster (grinning): Well, I can’t promise anything. But I’m working on it.

Welcome to a standard news program in the United States, where weathercasters serve as our goofy national soothsayers. They’re screwballs, alright, donning ridiculous hats and delivering wacky one-liners. But they’re also trusted oracles, who employ the latest scientific wizardry to divine the mysteries of the skies.

So why won’t they discuss the science of climate change, too?

According to the American Metereological Society, we have “unequivocal evidence” that “human activities” – especially the burning of fossil fuels – have changed the earth’s climate since the 1950s. But you rarely hear a weathercaster acknowledge it on the air.

Now the White House is trying to change that. Last week, President Obama invited eight weathercasters to discuss a new national report on climate change. Citing floods and wildfires, Obama stressed that climate change is “a problem that is affecting Americans right now.” And he called on weathercasters to emphasize the same.

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Jews in America: Our Conflicted Heritage

May12

by: on May 12th, 2014 | 2 Comments »

Two young girls wearing banners that read "Abolish child slavery" in English and Yiddish. Credit: Creative Commons

On the one hand, Jews are deeply grateful that America provided us with a safe haven when so many other Christianity-dominated cultures had represented us as demon Christ-killers and created the preconditions for the rise of both secular and religious anti-Semitism. American Jews rejoiced in the promise of freedom and equality before the law, and played a major role in organizing, shaping, and leading social movements that could extend that promise to all of America’s citizens. The role of the United States in defeating Nazism at the expense of so many American lives remains an enduring source of pride even for the grandchildren and great grandchildren of those who fought in World War II, and an enduring source of appreciation for this amazing country. And the generosity of the American people toward Jews has made it possible for us to thrive and feel the kind of safety we haven’t felt for two thousand years of exile and diaspora.

On the other hand, Jewish well-being in America came not because this society didn’t seek scapegoats, but rather because it already had a scapegoat long before most Jews arrived on these shores – African Americans, Native Americans, and other targets (most recently, feminists, homosexuals, and “illegal” immigrants). While other immigrant groups from Europe found their safety in part by identifying with the dominant culture and becoming “white” (a social construct for all light-skinned people who bought into the existing systems of privilege and power), a significant section of the Jewish people in the past 150 years of presence in the United States chose instead to identify with the oppressed – most significantly with African Americans, but also with the poor (of which we were a significant part in the years 1880-1940), the oppressed, the homeless, and the hungry.

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Divest from Fossil Fuels

May9

by: Bill McKibben on May 9th, 2014 | Comments Off

Through the years we’ve published many articles in Tikkun from Bill McKibben, perhaps the most respected activist-environmentalist. McKibben founded 350.org to highlight the dangers we face now that we are far past the largest amount of carbon that can be sustained by the planet (350 ppm).The abbreviation”ppm” stands for “parts per million,” which is simply a way of measuring the ratio of carbon dioxide molecules to all other molecules in the atmosphere. Many scientists, climate experts, and progressive national governments agree with Dr. Hansen that 350 ppm is the highest “safe” level of carbon dioxide. We join McKibben in recognizing the current environmental crisis as an emergency.

Scroll down to read McKibben’s suggestion of one action that Tikkun readers, NSP members, and our allies can take in the face of this emergency: a massive demonstration challenging global warming.

Below McKibben’s note, I have also included my own response to his suggestions, along with an explanation of the NSP’s longer-term strategy on climate change. Please share this whole exchange on your website, on your Facebook page, and through other social media, and send it to everyone you know!

- Rabbi Michael Lerner


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Time for a National Diaper Policy

May8

by: on May 8th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Credit: Creative Commons

MSN has posted an article from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch about poor families struggling to provide diapers for their babies. It’s a heartbreaking article packed with crucial information, and ultimately one that begs an overarching question: Do we need a national clean diaper policy?

‪As mentioned in the article, there are about 100 operational, locally-based “diaper banks” around the nation. Yet the need for clean diapers is far greater than the currently available supply and distribution systems, causing some parents to look to local food banks for assistance. This section from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch article sums up the problem:

 Although formula purchases can be federally subsidized, diapers are not covered by food stamps through the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, known as WIC.

As a result, some food pantries are inundated with requests for disposable diapers. But the pantries don’t get steady donations of them and don’t always have them on the shelves. When they do, they fly out of the door, said Marcia Mermelstein, coordinator of the Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry in St. Louis.

“We’re giving people four to six diapers when in reality when most people buy a box of diapers, they’re getting 24 or 48. It’s like giving one tiny bar of soap a month. It’s not enough, it’s a token gesture,” Mermelstein said.

Families will take what they can get, she said.

“They’re taking diapers that are clearly too small and taping them together and using whatever they can.”

Although charitable agencies see the diaper need, they can’t make collecting and distributing diapers their first priority because it takes away energy and donations from their main services.

“Yes, we need diapers,” Mermelstein said. “But in the great scheme of things, we are a food pantry and the highest priority is to give food for survival.”


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