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Archive for the ‘Education’ Category



Utah Scoutmaster Attempts to Form Gay Pride Boy Scout Troop

Apr29

by: David Mason on April 29th, 2014 | Comments Off

Credit: Creative Commons

A gay pride Boy Scout troop. That’s thinking. Take a troop of Boy Scouts – a symbol of recalcitrant tradition struggling in the new century to find a future – and attach it to an institution committed already to an unrealized future. Better still, find a place for the scheme where tradition is so entrenched, so fiercely intractable, that the only reality it knows is itself. It’s an idea of such audacious, convincing vision, it couldn’t fail, of course, to fail, but to light up our hypocrisy in its fall.

Peter Brownstein fell into this fool’s errand. With zero experience with scouting, he agreed a couple years ago to be the scoutmaster for the troop his son had joined, which was sponsored by the United Jewish Federation of Utah.

A gay pride center is confrontational enough. A pride center scout troop in a conservative fortress like Utah is rather like a McDonald’s opening in Pyongyang (or, perhaps, Twitter in Cuba). But where it would be hard to make the argument that North Korea – as needy as it is – needs the deep-fried icon of western capitalism, Utah does need radical diversity. In Utah, as this native Utahn sees it, difference is sinister – suppressed as much as is possible in a putatively free society, as is evident in the disturbing fact that a measly four percent of scouting groups in the greater Salt Lake City area are not run as extensions of the LDS church.

Not one to accept responsibility casually, Brownstein committed himself to scouting, and found the executives of the Great Salt Lake Council – the biggest and most powerful Boy Scouts of America council in the known universe, incidentally – looking for ways in late 2012 to expand and diversify their membership.

Well, that’s easy, Brownstein thought. Just remove the barriers to entry that scouting policy has put up.

This is where things get weird. When Brownstein voiced his opposition to the Boy Scouts of America’s organizational exclusion of, for instance, gay scouts, he met with the expected resistance on the part of the Mormon Boy Scouts of America leaders, but also found himself struggling with the United Jewish Federation of Utah. Citing an “excellent” relationship with the LDS Church – at which he was “not willing to point fingers” – the Federation’s executive director insisted that Brownstein sign a statement divorcing his advocacy of non-traditional Boy Scouts of America membership from the Federation.

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The Crisis in Israel’s Holocaust Education

Apr23

by: Ayana Nir on April 23rd, 2014 | 12 Comments »

Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky, Chief Rabbi Meir Lau, and Israeli government ministers participate in March of the Living. Credit: Creative Commons/JAFI Israel

On the eve of Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) Israel’s streets experience a virtual shutdown. Restaurants, bars, and cafes lock their doors and the streets grow eerily quiet as inhabitants venture home to pay their respects; Israeli TV and radio channels limit their programming to Holocaust documentaries and related talk shows, while viewers, in turn, flip to international networks for comedic escape from the steady stream of grisly footage and repetitive slogans their TVs emit annually; schools hold large ceremonies to further instill in students the collective memory of a now distant trauma they have never really known, and at 10AM on the 27th of Nisan the country is frozen still for two minutes while a siren disrupts the monotony of everyday life and commuters stop in their tracks to hang their heads in a gesture of silent collective sorrow.

The memorialization of the Holocaust has been the topic of debate since Israel’s founding, and changing trends in its representation shape its significance within the context of national identity and politics. It is easy to overlook the political power presented in the production of educational texts, but the influence of educational curricula is indisputable in shaping public perspective for political gain.

That is why Israeli Minister of Education Shai Piron’s plan to introduce Holocaust education to Israeli public schools starting as early as the first grade has been so controversial. Alongside the concern voiced by many parents about traumatizing young children with gruesome details of systematic ethnic cleansing, many begin to question how the continued rehashing of communal wounds shape the development of national identity and what political interests the perpetuation of historical trauma might serve.

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The Challenges of Seder Night

Apr13

by: Rabbi Howard Cooper on April 13th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Credit: Creative Commons

As we sit down to our Seders – with family, with friends, or in community – we in the so-called ‘First World’, in 2014, intuit that as Jews we are living, historically speaking, lives of immense privilege. While we speak of oppression in Egypt and celebrate the journey our people made from slavery to freedom, we acknowledge the freedoms we now enjoy, unprecedented in Jewish history: freedom to assemble as we want, free to celebrate without persecution, free to speak our minds without fear of a knock on the door, free to express our Jewish selves in whatever style we may choose. The NSA may be monitoring every move we make – but would we want to alive in any other era of our millennia-old history?

Yet the challenge of Seder night is not just to remember the past, not just to recall the extraordinary longevity of our story with its roots in servitude and its mythos of the Jews as a people liberated into a different kind of servitude – servitude to a vision of how things could be, how freedoms of many kinds could be the inheritance of all peoples;  as UK Rabbi John Rayner z”l expressed it: ‘freedom from oppression, freedom from want, freedom from hunger, freedom from hatred, freedom from fear; freedom to think, freedom to speak, freedom to learn, freedom to love, freedom to hope, freedom to rejoice – soon, in our days’. The Seder night is, of course, all of that. But it is more than that.

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An Invite to Join NSP’s Book Group: Doing Justice in an Unjust World

Mar12

by: Amy Broyles on March 12th, 2014 | Comments Off

You are invited to join a brand new NSP Book group. We’ll be reading the same book and then communicating through email with each other about our reactions. At some point we might want to make it live on a conference call or on a Skype or G chat. And we are starting with a fabulous book,Resisting Structural Evil: Love as Ecological and Economic Vocationby Cynthia Moe Lobeda (a professor at Seattle University ). What is so powerful about this book is that it is grounded in spiritual and religious principles yet is an amazingly powerful critique of capitalism. Let me explain.

The everyday workings of global capitalism are endangering the survival of the planet and perpetrating structural economic violence on many people in the developing world.

How can flawed people like ourselves who are hopelessly entangled in practices and institutions that perpetuate injustice and violence against the earth (and ultimately our own children and grandchildren) possibly live an ethically responsible, justice-promoting life?

(excerpted from Thad Williamson’s review of Cynthia Moe Lobeda’s book–read the review to get a taste of what the book is about and why it’s worth reading:
http://www.tikkun.org/nextgen/doing-justice-in-an-unjust-world)

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Teaching English, Physics and Love

Mar1

by: on March 1st, 2014 | Comments Off

Here are two beautiful, moving and challenging movies about teachers who understand that kids can’t learn in school if everything’s going wrong at home and in the neighborhood. The first is about Jeff Duncan-Andrade’s work in Oakland, CA. All the videos on his site are worth checking out, but here’s one to get you intrigued:

This second one, Wright’s Law, seems very different, as it starts with some fun pyrotechnics, but its theme turns out to be the same: engage with the students’ own lives, and they will engage with what you are trying to teach. Its tagline is “A Physics teacher so extraordinary he can explain combustion and love.” The last part profiles Wright’s relationship with his very disabled son, and is a beautiful example of love in action.

And finally, don’t miss Yes! magazine’s current education issue, but especially Fania Davis’s profile of Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth, which combines the kinds of insights that teachers like Duncan-Andrade and Wright practice with a complete remake of schools’ approaches to discipline, suspensions, so we break the school-to-prison pipeline.

These approaches in schools are the things that give me more hope than anything for our collective future.

 

Leaving Auschwitz

Feb20

by: Jerome Richard on February 20th, 2014 | 7 Comments »

A statue of Dimitar Peshev, who saved 50,000 Bulgarian Jews from deportation during WWII. Credit: Creative Commons

On November 14, 2013, a street in Washington D.C. was renamed Dimitar Peshev Plaza in honor of a man credited with saving the lives of 50,000 Bulgarian Jews from deportation during World War II. Peshev had been recognized as “Righteous Among the Nations” by Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Memorial so the honor appeared to be, if anything, overdue.

Bulgaria has long been lauded for saving its Jewish population, but the U.S. Holocaust Museum used the Peshev memorial proposal to point out that while no Bulgarian Jews were deported, over 11,000 Jews from Macedonia and part of Greece, then occupied by Bulgaria, were sent to the camps.

Radu Ioanid, a director of the U.S. Holocaust Museum, said “The callous and devious attempts to distort the history of Bulgarian Jewry is insulting to the victims of the Holocaust and is damaging to the image of Bulgaria…”

It was like interrupting a memorial service to announce that while the deceased was a splendid fellow his brother was once arrested for manslaughter.

Bulgaria’s ambassador to the United States, Elena Poptodorova, was insulted by what she called the museum’s “very rude” response.

There are thirty-six Holocaust museums in the United States, including the major one in Washington D.C. There are five in New York State, four just in Los Angeles. There are Holocaust museums in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and Terre Haute, Indiana. Many more in other countries. Isn’t that excessive, even to commemorate such a monstrous crime as the Holocaust?

Of course, a full and accurate account is essential for an understanding of history, but there seems to be something else going on here. The proposal, after all, was to honor one individual. Why use that to tarnish the whole country’s reputation? It smacks of what someone said when asked if another Holocaust museum was needed. “Yes,” he replied. “We should rub their noses in it.” By they he meant the whole non-Jewish world.

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The Transformative Activist Training

Dec17

by: Rabbi Michael Lerner and Cat Zavis on December 17th, 2013 | Comments Off

Become a Transformative Activist!

A transformation of consciousness throughout our society is the absolute prerequisite for making social, economic, and political transformation.

Whether you are a student, raising children, working full-time (and then some), unemployed, retired, or house-bound, YOU can become an activist for social healing and transformation. If you are already engaged in social activism, we will help you become more effective in your efforts.

We invite you to come to our training, Jan. 17-20 (Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend), in Berkeley, California.

Though we are offering this training for a super-low cost for a 3.5 day event, nevertheless if it costs more than you can afford, DO NOT LET THAT BE A FACTOR. We understand that you may have costs to get to Berkeley, Ca. and to find a place to stay, so we are fine with reducing the fee to whatever you can afford (including ZERO)–all you have to do is say so by sending an email to RabbiLerner.Tikkun@gmail.com and telling him what you can afford! But check to see the cost first by going to the registration page.

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A Teacher’s Rant: Why Flipping Classrooms is ‘Flipping Ridiculous’

Oct21

by: Matt Amaral on October 21st, 2013 | Comments Off

(Cross-posted from New America Media)

(Credit: Creative Commons)

[Note: A "flipped" classroom is a form of learning in which students learn new content online by watching video lectures at home, and what used to be homework is now done in class instead of lecturing. This is also known as a backwards classroom and reverse teaching.]

I took my 9th grade English class to the Tech Lab this week to type up Autobiographical Narratives. In today’s world of computers and smartphones, one would think this activity would be, for my students, like coming home. This is the generation of information and technology. Here in the Bay Area, these students should be the next coders for Google and Facebook. In fact, one would think that by now, I should hardly have to help them, as they probably know more about computers than a man in his thirties.

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United States to Germany: Why My Family Moved

Oct17

by: Donna Swarthout on October 17th, 2013 | 5 Comments »

(Credit: Creative Commons)

Lately it’s become a little easier to answer questions about why my family decided to move from the United States to Germany. While Obama battles the Tea Party and struggles to keep the government functioning, Angela Merkel enjoys soaring popularity after Germany’s recent national elections. The mood in Berlin feels calm and optimistic while the rhetoric of brinksmanship continues in Washington.

I like the blend of capitalism and democracy found in Germany and other parts of Europe, not to mention the cafes and bakeries and amazing public transit systems.

Two years ago the members of my family became German citizens under a law that allows families who were persecuted by the Nazis to have their citizenship restored. Hundreds of German Jews from the diaspora apply to the German government each year to regain their citizenship. Once they become citizens, they can live in Germany without having to give up their original citizenship. As my husband and I thought about our future, we asked ourselves which country offers better prospects for a good standard of living now and in the future.

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Thou Shalt Not Employ a Transgender Professor? It’s Not a Verse in the Bible

Sep27

by: on September 27th, 2013 | 6 Comments »

I don’t know H. Adam Ackley, the professor of theology at Christian Azusa Pacific University who was recently fired after coming out as transgender after teaching there for fifteen years, but having gone through my own difficult coming-out experience at Yeshiva University, I can imagine some of what Professor Ackley is going through.

ackley

Dr. H. Adam Ackley tells his students for the first time of his transgender identity. He had just written his name on the board. Credit: RNS/Annie Z. Yu.

Unlike Yeshiva University, Azusa doesn’t grant tenure. If I hadn’t received tenure before coming out, I am sure that like Professor Ackley, I would have been terminated, and for similar reasons. Some may think that religious universities are driven in this regard by fear of God, but there is no verse in the Bible in which God says, “Thou shalt not employ a transgender professor.” No, religious universities, like secular organizations that fire transgender employees, are acting out of fear of human beings: fear that students won’t register for classes with a transgender professor; fear of parents, who might send their children and tuition elsewhere; and fear, above all, of alienating alumni and other donors whose contributions keep the lights on and the doors open.

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