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Archive for the ‘Education’ Category



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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Normalizing The Extraordinary in Medellín, Part One

Dec22

by: on December 22nd, 2015 | 1 Comment »

I arrived in Medellín, Colombia a few days after a man who claimed to be acting with divine guidance killed three and wounded nine at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs.The very next morning I learned that 14 people had been killed and 22 seriously injured at an attack on a holiday party at the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health.

A day or so later, “The Daily Show” ran a montage of clips of President Obama responding to a series of mass shootings. Watching that, you start to ponder the normalization of terror.

Many people in the U.S. like to think of Americans as civilized. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard someone righteously condemn the barbarism of another society without noticing the scale of our own. So I can’t imagine a better place than Medellín – whose name evokes in the minds of my fellow citizens images of the narco-terrorism that allowed drug lord Pablo Escobar to hold sway over the city until he was killed in 1993 – to explore the question of how to transform a society in the grip of fear and violence into a functioning civil society.

Are you surprised that the answer is art and culture?For decades, I’ve been asking people to envision the commitment to communal creativity fully expressed in public programs, to dream into a future shaped by their largest vision.

Are you surprised when I tell you that in Medellín, I saw this future and felt as if I had walked into a dream, the extraordinary made real? I promise you I am not romanticizing: Medellín is a city of 2.5 million with a significant share of poverty, gangs, and crime. For some of the poorest, Escobar was seen as a Robin Hood and “civil society” doesn’t exactly ring a bell. The challenges of class, race, and gender privilege persist. I am not claiming to have discovered heaven on earth, but something almost as extraordinary for an observer coming from the U.S. circa 2015: a public sector that has embodied and supported the public interest in culture with tremendous forethought, intentionality, and caring; and results to match that intention.

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Education for a Sustainable Planet

Dec9

by: Jonathan Granoff on December 9th, 2015 | Comments Off

World leaders gathered in the United Nations General Assembly on September 24, 2015 and on September 25th they met in a special summit to adopt the post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda. On September 24th, in recognition that quality education is necessary to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals, there was a First Ladies High Level Forum on Education at the UN for the spouses of the world leaders. The Forum, organized by U.S. Federation for Middle East Peace, was chaired by its President Salwa Kader and broughtforward leaders in both education and gender equality to discuss endowing youth of the world with the resource and opportunities needed to accelerate achievement of Millennium Development Goals and development of the post-2015 agenda of the United Nations. Presenters included H.E. Mrs. Ban Soon-taek, wife of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, First Lady of Haiti Mrs. Sophia Martelly, and H.E. Dr. Joyce Banda, former President of Malawi.
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This address by Tikkun Editor Jonathan Granoff can be viewed at 1:21-1:34 at the web cast of the entire event by clicking here.

We are the first generation of human beings challenged by the choice of being the last. We are passing this weight to the next generation. Our educational foundations did not prepare us to properly reign in the capacities for destruction or creativity and benefit gifted us by science and technology. In addition to enormous wealth and abundance, not justly distributed, but in existence, we have set our own destruction in motion.

We have created weapons, nuclear weapons, which provide less security the more they are perfected – a malevolent enormous paradox – and systematized an economic order which rests on perpetual growth without regard to the limits of the natural world – a strange denial of the sacred bounty and blessings of nature.

Science and technology in the service of fear and the pursuit of security has placed over all of our heads 16,000 swords of Damocles. In the service of the market and unlimited appetites – properly called greed – we are melting the polar ice caps, cutting forests faster than they can be replenished, and destroying species at 100 to 1,000 times the normal evolutionary base rate. In other words, the horse is out of the barn and galloping without sufficient constraint. Law and morality are the reins we have neglected, and education is the key to their proper use.

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Ten Things I Learned from Hugo Chávez

Sep2

by: on September 2nd, 2015 | 12 Comments »

I like to gather signs of hope that things really can change for the better in a major way. With that in mind, I keep the website venezuelanalysis.com as my browser’s home page. Ten years ago I would have said, “No way!” if anyone had told me I would have great enthusiasm for a country where these elements combine forces: government, military, religion, and the oil industry. But there I was, initially inspired by the documentary The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, participating in political delegations to Venezuela as often as my budget would allow.

On the afternoon of March 5, 2013, I had to catch my breath when I saw the venezuelanalysis.com headline, “President Hugo Chávez has Died.” Because the typical characterization of Hugo Chávez by media and government in the United States has been so different from what I observed, I have been moved to share what I learned.

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Whatever Happened to Student Power?

Jul30

by: Raanan Geberer on July 30th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

Picture of a high school classroom.

Credit: CreativeCommons / Schplook.

What will the high school of the future be like? Different. It will surely be freer; students will be more independent. High school students of today haven’t reached any peak of possible maturity. The students of tomorrow will be more mature than we are. Just as administrations have already become more liberal about dress codes, so tomorrow they will become more liberal about studies. And `formal education’ will become less formal.

These words from the anthology “Our Time Is Now,” circa 1970, edited by John Birmingham, call attention to a part of history that is all but forgotten: the student power movement in American high schools in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The stereotype is that all the action as far as demonstrations were concerned took place in the universities, and that if it did spread to high schools, those younger students were copying their elders. Another stereotype is that students were mainly protesting the “big” issues, like civil rights and the war in Vietnam.

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The Emerging Truth about Junipero Serra and the California Missions

Jul10

by: Rev. Dr. Matthew Fox on July 10th, 2015 | 4 Comments »

A Cross of Thorns: The Enslavement of California's Indians by the Spanish Missions written by Elias Castillo.A Review of A Cross of Thorns: The Enslavement of California’s Indians by the Spanish Missions by Elias Castillo

Craven Street Books, 2015

Reading this book set my third chakra racing while my sense of moral outrage boiled over. Yet it is presented in subdued and sober terms, with fact after fact and story after story, building a sure case against the canonizing of Franciscan Friar Junipero Serra. The author, Elias Castillo, a three-time Pulitzer Prize nominee, tells the truth of the fabled and now postcard-like missions of California, a truth that has often been hidden away in libraries containing correspondence and comments from the days of the mission founding while a myth of benign relationships with the native peoples has been promulgated instead.

In this book Father Junipero Serra, called by some the “Father of California,” is exposed in damning detail as the father of a system, the mission system, that systematically destroyed the culture of the indigenous peoples of California, who had lived at peace with the earth and more or less at peace with themselves over millennia until the Spanish arrived. With Castillo’s new research in hand, it makes all the more scandalous the current effort, supported by two Opus Dei archbishops and the Knights of Columbus, to canonize this sadistic person who is a poster boy for colonization and racism. Why, why, why is Pope Francis going ahead with this canonization? Who profits from it?

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A Krisis With a Creative Solution

Jul4

by: Nicholas Grant Boeving on July 4th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

A Darwin fish with feet that says "evolve" in the middle.

Credit: CreativeCommons / LaJJoyce.

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent…It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”

This is by far my favorite thing that Darwin never said. But whether he wrote these words or not doesn’t matter; we shouldn’t be so insecure in our need for the intellectual imprimatur of a doyenne like Darwin to see that this textual mutation of his theory is spot on. Adaptability is everything.

Surprisingly, not everybody agrees with this. Some seem hardwired at the genetic level to resist all types of change, which is why we have a vocal minority of scientists who still side with Lysenko on the issue of global warming. Even in the midst of this still-denied “Fifth Extinction”, a change has come upon on us that not even those who still think the letters E-P-A are renegade Sesame Street sponsors can deny: technology.

Why crisis? Because the word means more than you think it does. For the ancient Greeks, the krisis was “the turning point in a disease,” which they derived from a deeper root word meaning “choice” or “judgment.” In other words, crises are opportunities. It just takes a vision to see them as such.

But as history has born grim testimony to, a vision can go either way. The same processes which ended in Nagasaki and Lebensborn produced the polio vaccine and space travel. Albert Einstein recognized that any science without religion was “lame” and as usual (except for the whole spooky-action-at-a-distance-thing) Einstein was right.

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Before the Dawn

Jul2

by: Kathy Kelly on July 2nd, 2015 | 4 Comments »

Prisoners waiting to be executed. June 30, 2015

Each year, throughout the Muslim world, believers participate in the month-long Ramadan fast. Here in Kabul, where I’m a guest of the Afghan Peace Volunteers, our household awakens at 2:15 a.m.to prepare a simple meal before the fast begins at about 3:00 a.m. I like the easy companionship we feel, seated on the floor, sharing our food. Friday, the day off, is household clean-up day, and it seemed a bit odd, to be sweeping and washing floors in the pre-dawn hours, but we tended to various tasks and then caught a nap before heading over to meet the early bird students at the Street Kids School, a project my hosts are running for child laborers who otherwise couldn’t go to school.

I didn’t nap – I was fitful and couldn’t, my mind filled with images from a memoir, Guantanamo Diary, which I’ve been reading since arriving here. Mohamedou Ould Slahi’s story of being imprisoned in Guantanamo since 2002 rightly disturbs me. In all his years of captivity, he has never been charged with a crime. He has suffered grotesque torture, humiliation and mistreatment, and yet his memoir includes many humane, tender accounts, including remembrances of past Ramadan fasts spent with his family.

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