by: Colin Hannaford on January 7th, 2015 | Comments Off
Towards the end of the summer I was invited to Trinity College in Cambridge for one of its regular gatherings. Naturally I wanted to go.
The problem, of course, was Amadeus.
In 1805, when Lord Byron was told to leave his dog at home, he brought a pet bear instead, taking it for a stroll around the grounds every day on a leash.
Amadeus is no longer the puppy I could carry around in an army medic’s pouch. He is now six feet long from his nose to the tip of his magnificent tail and he weighs over a hundred pounds. I considered, briefly, declaring him to be a bear.
He is, unmistakeably, a dog.
But there was an alternative. Some of my old maths pupils may remember me sitting entirely unperturbed through the ear-splitting clangour of a fire alarm, and demanding, as the entire class began abruptly to decamp: “Just where the Devil do you think YOU ARE ALL GOING!” And being told, in a delighted chorus: “SIR, THE SCHOOL’S ON FIRE!”
I explained to Trinity’s accommodation office that Amadeus is my Hearing Dog. I might be burnt to a crisp unless he slept in my room overnight to warn me of a possible fire. This would reflect badly on the College.
by: Henry Rosen on December 12th, 2014 | 18 Comments »
Vassar College professor Hua Hsu wrote in the New Yorker recently that “There should be nothing controversial about everyday kindness; civility as a kind of individual moral compass should remain a virtue. But civility as a type of discourse – as a high road that nobody ever actually walks – is the opposite. It is bullshit.”
Open dialogue, very much like civility, exists as both a venerable ideal and a carrot-on-a-stick style tool of discipline. When it comes to critiquing Israel, particularly from a non-Zionist or anti-Zionist approach, open dialogue becomes a mechanism that avoids the acknowledgement of underlying power imbalances and the foundational inequality of our respective ideologies.
The idea of “open dialogue” sets up a framework that requires balancing ideologies of Zionism with anti-Zionism. However, anti-Zionist and Zionist ideologies are not on an even playing field. To be clear, anti-Zionism carries with it no semblance of the same amount of institutional power as Zionism. Particularly as articulated by Palestinians, whose voices ought to be considered with primacy, anti-Zionism has historically been (and remains) the target of political repression and disenfranchisement. Trying to gain a balanced view from both an anti-Zionist and a Zionist perspective would imply those two ways of seeing the world having the same kind of organizational backing; this is simply not the case.
Moreover, conversations between anti-Zionists and Zionists, even liberal Zionists, never play out on equal ground. The fact that Hillel International, the largest Jewish student organization in the world, states it “will not partner with, house, or host organizations, groups, or speakers” that have explicitly non-Zionist politics provides one very important instance in which an institution represses challenges to Zionism. Unsurprisingly, Hillel invokes Hsu’s concept of civility in prohibiting those that “foster an atmosphere of incivility” in campus Hillels. With such exclusive rules in place, an anti-Zionist student pursuing an open dialogue is only ever entering a Hillel house on the prescriptive terms of the institutional power. How open is that dialogue, then? Not at all. As soon as any one part of a conversation refuses to acknowledge the power differentials that exist between itself and the other parts, open dialogue becomes chimerical.
by: Isaac Luria on November 4th, 2014 | 2 Comments »
Exodus 33: 13-14
13 [Moses said], “If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.”
14 G-d replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
Credit: Creative Commons/ Guido van Nispen
On a late Spring afternoon two years ago, I vividly remember watching my colleague Macky Alston hold a room of multifaith movement for justice activists spellbound when he recounted his remarkable religious journey. Macky had grown up religious, realized he was gay, and then worked his way back to Christianity.
While I listened, I felt myself grow jealous, wishing I had a compelling story like Macky’s. Then, I felt empty. I may have joined Macky at Auburn Seminary a year earlier, but I still didn’t have a great understanding of why I had taken this new job in progressive religion.
I knew the answer wasn’t simple. My journey was different, my story hidden from view.
by: Michael N. Nagler on October 23rd, 2014 | 1 Comment »
Family members demand justice in Iguala, Guerrero. Credit: Creative Commons/The Yucatan Times
I’ve just come from a three-hour conversation with Pietro Ameglio Patella, prominent Mexican professor and nonviolent activist, and an old friend. He was in the country with his friend Carlos Moreno who has been searching for his son for three years without any cooperation from the official parties – indeed not only that, it has made him a target of death threats himself.
The situation in México is, without exaggeration, catastrophic. Anyone can be taken off at any time, and both drug lords and the government operate with complete impunity. Gangs come and measure your house or your business and charge you for “protection” by the yard, and recently a radio journalist was killed right in the middle of a broadcast by someone who entered the studio, fired four shots point blank and calmly walked out. As Patella told me, “our wives are in a constant panic; we don’t know from which direction the bullets could come.” No government agency offers help to the anguished parents seeking information about their lost children or other loved ones, not to mention doing anything to control the violence, because indeed they are part of it. Patella and Moreno reject the definition of “failed state” for Mexico today. Rather, they told me, it’s a criminal state.
On Saturday night, I looked out upon a standing-room-only audience, people fidgeting and giddy, barely able to conceal the significance of what was about to occur. I was onstage at Harvard University electric and buzzing, flanked by three distinguished professors – Judith Butler, Steven Cohen and Shaul Magid – the four of us representing various streams of Zionist, post-Zionist, and anti-Zionist thought.
At first, I was awed by the company I had been asked to join, thinking, What on earth am I doing here? That thought was quickly replaced by another as the room erupted with boisterous cheers when a student organizer stepped to the microphone; this is a historic moment, a thought I Tweeted when the feeling came over me, and five days removed I still deeply believe.
So what occurred that was so historic? On Saturday night, a grassroots-led and student-driven movement called Open Hillel launched a three-day conference, determined to create what Jewish institutions have largely refused to permit: dynamic spaces where both Zionists and anti-Zionists can come together and discuss Israel as equals, and with equally valuable perspectives as respected members of the American Jewish community.
by: Warren Blumenfeld on October 15th, 2014 | Comments Off
Thousands crowded Central Park in New York City for the Global Citizens Festival on September 27. Credit: Creative Commons/ Anthony Quintano
Over 60,000 people in New York’s Central Park and millions more around our planet were treated to the eclectic sounds of world-class performers at the third Global Citizens Festival on Saturday, September 27. Performers included Jay Z, Beyoncé, Carrie Underwood, The Roots, Tiesto, No Doubt, Sting, and Alicia Keys.
The organization Global Citizen, whose goal is to eliminate extreme poverty worldwide by 2030, sponsored the event to shed light on poverty, which continues to affect an estimated 1.2 billion people, and to empower individuals and the world community to take concrete actions to end this scourge. Specifically, Global Citizen urges people to contact world leaders to focus on issues of providing vaccines, education, and sanitation to all the world’s citizens.
Internationally, more people have mobile phones than have clean potable water and sanitation facilities. An estimated 3.4 million people die each year of diseases caused by lack of access to clean water and adequate sanitation infrastructures. This shortage kills people around the world every four hours. This lack of clean water and vaccinations significantly lowers a person’s chances for quality education, keeping them in extreme poverty. The vicious cycle continues.
by: Warren Blumenfeld on October 2nd, 2014 | Comments Off
Multicultural education is a philosophical concept built on the ideals of freedom, justice, equality, equity, and human dignity…. 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
Credit: Creative Commons/Wikipedia
October is LGBT History Month. It originated when, in 1994, Rodney Wilson, a high school teacher in Missouri, had the idea that a month was needed dedicated to commemorate and teach this history since it has been perennially excluded in the schools. He worked with other teachers and community leaders, and they chose October since public schools are in session, and National Coming Out Day already fell on October 11.
I see this only as a beginning since lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer, (LGBTIQ) history is all our history and, therefore, needs to be taught and studied all year every year. Why do I feel this way?
by: Murali Balaji on September 25th, 2014 | 2 Comments »
Credit: The Bi-College News (http://www.biconews.com).
Last week’s Confederate flag incident at Bryn Mawr College, one of the nation’s top small liberal arts institutions, raised important questions about how colleges with progressive reputations are combating anti-Black racism. But the incident also highlighted the continuing struggle to develop and sustain interfaith efforts—particularly involving Dharmic traditions—to combat prejudice.
Given my own ties to the South Asian community, I’m personally most connected to the effort to persuade South Asian Americans—the majority of whom identify as Hindu—to become more active in combating racism. For college students of South Asian descent, the reluctance to join in anti-racism efforts can be from a combination of factors, including general apathy, a lack of recognition of the social histories of race and exclusion, or simply an unwillingness to speak out in fear of violating campus norms.
One Hindu American student, Shreekari Tadepalli, a freshman, said she was disappointed by the lack of strong response from the campus’ South Asian community to the flag’s exhibition. Many of Bryn Mawr’s South Asian American students are immigrants from countries like India and Pakistan, but even among those born and raised in America, the flag’s symbolism doesn’t hit home the way it should, Tadepalli said.
copyright 2013 Eiren Caffall
There is a theory out there in nature education circles that preparing children for climate change means steering clear of scaring them until they are old enough to handle it. David Sobel, author of Children’s Special Places, is often credited with the mantra, “no disasters before fourth grade,” and he writes eloquently about the notion that you must first ask children to love nature before you ask them to save it.
There are lots of people who champion this view. Recently, Grist published a profile of Liam Hennegan, a professor of environmental science at DePaul University, who has strong opinions about what books should be on a children’s environmental curriculum. He lists classics like The Hobbit, Where the Wild Things Are, and Bridge to Terabithia, not one of them mentioning a word about rising carbon emissions. Instead, the books are gorgeous works that you and I might remember from our own childhoods, full of the pleasures of being in nature, the desire to know and change a special place, and to build story, history, and relationship with it.
I was obsessed with Bridge to Terabithia as a kid. And, I was lucky enough to have access to a stream in my back yard, one that was like the stream in the book. I had hours of time to explore it, with no adults supervising my play. This stream was in the back field that ran behind our house in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. We lived over a gas station during the gas crisis of the 1970′s. My mother was in training for her eventual career in hydrogeology, meaning that I grew up hearing about the oil crisis, waste water runoff, leach fields, and superfund clean-up sites.
I had access to plenty of information about disasters before fourth grade.
The University of Illinois administration is imploding under the weight of a swiftly growing academic boycott and a rash of no-confidence votes by numerous university departments. All of this has come in response to the firing of Professor Steven Salaita by Chancellor Phyllis Wise in August for his social-media critiques of Israel. The story of that firing is a sordid and rapidly deteriorating one on the verge of concluding. It has also become the story of how university administrations across America, unsettled by the Salaita case, are responding with calls for ‘civility,’ a preemptive strike threatening the principle of academic freedom.
To explain, it’s first necessary to briefly tell Salaita’s story as it currently stands, which indeed is a strange one. A former English professor at Virginia Tech, Salaita was hired away by Wise to a tenured professorship at Illinois, where he was to teach Native American Studies beginning this fall. However, Salaita was suddenly fired before he even stepped into a classroom just before the academic year began because of his severe critiques of Israel on Twitter.
For nearly three weeks, as outrage grew and academic boycotts by professors around the country spread, Wise and the administration remained silent. Then, finally, Wise released a statement explaining the Salaita firing in which she wrote:
“I firmly believe that a tenured faculty position at the University of Illinois is a tremendous honor and a unique privilege. Tenure also brings with it a heavy responsibility to continue the traditions of scholarship and civility upon which our university is built.”