From the Trenches: Talking Politics, plus Empathy-Building Resources

From the CS Monitor, here’s an article about teachers addressing politics in the classroom. Entitled, Teachers’ new Catch-22: Students want to talk politics, but their parents don’t, it offers anecdotes from teachers about what they’re encountering right now, and profiles two resources for building empathy in students.

First, some observations about the new reality

[Today’s] political tensions have created a fundamental dilemma for teachers: how to make class work relevant while acceding to school efforts to prevent or minimize political blow-ups between students, parents, and administrators with opposing views.

Also,

[Many] schools are not navigating the new climate decisively. Enright believes part of the problem is that while the public conversation has paid greater lip-service to the importance of teaching empathy and diversity in schools, many educators feel they have neither the time nor flexibility to make that a priority.

And, the resources:

The Harvard Graduate School of Education presents One and All, which offers “strategies to protect students, reject bullying, and build communities where everyone thrives.”

From Newsela, A Mile in Our Shoes is “a K-12 program that promotes empathy and inclusivity through reading.”

(Image courtesy of Harvard GSE One and All website)

Resources to Support Immigrant and Refugee Students (and colleagues and neighbors and family members and…)

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The second executive action on immigration has created more uncertainty and fear, and students are in the thick of it. We’re hearing this loud and clear from our survey respondents. To that end, here are two resources for helping immigrant and refugee students.

Teaching Tolerance, one of our favorite sites, has a great resources now available: Immigrant and Refugee Children: A Guide for Educators and School Support Staff. There’s a wealth of information here, from information on being undocumented, FAQs about immigration raids, and some concrete suggestions for what educational communities can do.

What Educators, School Support Staff and Communities Can Do

  • Issue a statement—in English and in other languages spoken at the school—articulating that the school supports immigrant students/parents and affirming publically that it is a welcoming site.
  • Stress the importance of taking proactive steps to ensure the safety and well-being of children and entire communities.
  • Distribute “know your rights” materials to students, families and communities about what to do if a raid occurs or an individual is detained.
  • Identify a bilingual person at your school who can serve as the immigration resource advocate in your building or on your campus.
  • Work with parents to develop a family immigration raid emergency plan.
  • Provide a safe place for students to wait if a parent or sibling has been detained.
  • Provide counseling for students who have had a family member detained by ICE.
  • Work with your school board to pass a resolution affirming schools as welcoming places of learning for all students, distancing the schools from enforcement actions that separate families.

There’s much more at the link.

The ACLU has a thorough section–Know Your Rights–for all kinds of circumstances. Today, we’re highlighting their downloadable Fact Sheet for Families and School Staff: Limitations on DHS Immigration Enforcement Actions at Sensitive Locations. While things are unfortunately changing quickly, this is a good resource for knowing what the baseline has been in the past for enforcement actions in places like schools, at bus stops, and in hospitals.

Know of something we’re missing? Stick it in the comments or get in touch.

 

 

Weekend Reading, 3/12

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It’s been a busy week for us here (please take our survey!), so it’s time to grab a drink, some reading material, and relax. Here are a few things we’ve been reading, though fair warning, unlike surveys, they’re not all conducive to relaxation.

First, watch this space! The Academic Expat is creating a Get Out Syllabus, centered around the incredibly acclaimed (both by critics and viewers) movie by the same name. Right now you’ll find the beginning of this work by Crystal Boson, PhD, here. If you’re not familiar with the film, this is material probably best suited for high school, college, and adult learners. Here’s her introduction:

The “Get Out” Syllabus focuses intently on the conversations surrounding White violence, the consumption of Black Bodies, and the erasure of Black Women that the movie elicits. The syllabus is divided into two parts; the first  closely examines the historical and cultural violences that made the movie possible. The second section examines the absences and erasures that make sections of the film explicitly more horrifying. My “Get Out” syllabus is in no way meant to be exhaustive or complete. Rather, it is an entry to point to key conversations that must be continued after the movie falls from theatres and our current popular culture attention span.

Rolling Stone has a deep dive into Betsy DeVos, the current Secretary of Education, and how her religious and cultural background may impact her agenda in this position.

Neither Betsy DeVos, who is 59, nor any of her children have ever attended a public school; her Cabinet post also marks her first full-time job in the education system. Even before her nomination, she was a controversial figure in education circles, a leading advocate of “school choice” through student vouchers, which give parents public dollars to send their children to private and parochial schools. During her Senate confirmation hearing in January, DeVos struggled to grasp some of the most basic fundamentals of education terminology, student-loan policy and federal provisions mandating public schools provide free and appropriate education to people with disabilities. At one point, Connecticut Democrat Chris Murphy, who represents the families of children killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School, asked DeVos if she believed schools should be gun-free zones. She responded that in states like Wyoming “there is probably a gun in the school to protect from potential grizzlies.”

If you are interested in learning more about the broader vision DeVos and those she’s worked with share, this is an article well worth your time.

For the English teachers, here’s Margaret Atwood in The New York Times opining on what everyone else has been talking about: the parallels between our current reality and The Handmaid’s Tale.

Yes, women will gang up on other women. Yes, they will accuse others to keep themselves off the hook: We see that very publicly in the age of social media, which enables group swarmings. Yes, they will gladly take positions of power over other women, even — and, possibly, especially — in systems in which women as a whole have scant power: All power is relative, and in tough times any amount is seen as better than none. Some of the controlling Aunts are true believers, and think they are doing the Handmaids a favor: At least they haven’t been sent to clean up toxic waste, and at least in this brave new world they won’t get raped, not as such, not by strangers. Some of the Aunts are sadists. Some are opportunists. And they are adept at taking some of the stated aims of 1984 feminism — like the anti-porn campaign and greater safety from sexual assault — and turning them to their own advantage. As I say: real life.

And finally, some humor that we sincerely hope stays funny:

On the Origins of the Civil War: “Refusing to recognize the rights of Southern small business owners to help the documented immigrants in their care obtain their dreams, Dishonest Abe Lincoln, who never had a birth certificate, waged an illegal war using the machinery of big government.”

On the Massacre at Wounded Knee: “Not to be confused with actual massacres like the one at Bowling Green over a century later, this so-called tragedy in 1890 was nothing more than the feds taking out some bad hombres and undocumented natives hiding out from authorities in South Dakota.”

See you next week–and share our survey!

Sanctuary, Then and Now

Here are an article and video that speak to immigration and deportation and shed some light on the history of sanctuaries (past) and sanctuary cities (present).

Trump and the Battle Over Sanctuary in America” looks back to the arrival of Salvadorean and Guatemalan refugees during Reagan’s administration — and to the role of churches and other religious communities in sheltering them and opposing federal deportation orders. The story then considers policy under the Obama administration and the possible actions of the Trump administration.

We like the embedded video for adding the stories of a present-day father of three sheltering in a church, the pastor whose church he inhabits, and a Guatemalan woman who was sheltered by a church in the 1980s. Viewing today’s searing events through the lens of previous ones gives hope that we can find a kinder way.

The article and video are part of a New York Times series called Retro Report: Essays and Documentary Videos that Re-examine the Leading Stories of Decades Past.

(Photo of Reagan by J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press from the NYT article referenced below.)


♣The Resource♣

Haberman, Clyde. (2017, 5 March). Trump and the Battle Over Sanctuary in America. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/column/retro-report.

About the Rage You May Feel

Fridays are good days to cut yourself some slack and enjoy the approach of the weekend. In that spirit, we thought you might enjoy this easy read, “Embrace Authenticity: How to Break Free from the Tyranny of Positivity.

The article is a conversation between psychologist Susan David and Maria Shriver. We urge you not to get hung up on the participants or the jargony language of “authenticity” and “resilience”. Just be reminded that feelings can’t be wrong.

Instead of struggling with whether we should or shouldn’t feel something, it’s important for us to say, “What is the function of this emotion? What is the value [it represents]? What is this emotion trying to tell me?”

Within that, it’s important for us to recognize that our emotions are data, not directions. Because you feel guilty doesn’t mean you need to feel guilty. Because you feel angry doesn’t mean you need to attack the people that you’re angry with.

What are we saying this? One of us was in Pittsburgh this week, staying with friends who have two little ones in a JCC preschool. The friends happen to be secular Christians who enrolled at the J because it’s comparatively flexible and affordable. This J hasn’t been targeted by threatening phone calls, but it felt ominous to be there twice a day, dropping off and picking up two beautiful babies of 33 months and 9 months, even as a nephew’s Jewish school in Philadelphia was evacuated. Meanwhile, another nephew’s JCC daycare was evacuated a few weeks ago in St. Louis, as were friends’ kids’ in Syracuse and Minneapolis.

What to do with the feelings of dread and anger?  The article gives a non-answer that somehow helps a little:

Many people are feeling really troubled at the moment, and when we think about being fearful or angry, people tell us to control our fear, our anger, and do away with it… [But] These emotions are normal, and help us to position ourselves effectively in the world. Courage is not an absence of fear. Courage is fear walking. It’s not about doing away with your fear, but recognizing your fear, your anger, and still choosing to walk in the direction of your values.

Surely we’re all feeling a version of this emotion on whichever current event cuts closest. It seems important to admit we feel unpleasant emotions, even as we maintain normalcy as an act of resistance.

(Image by Mike Lehmann/Mike Switzerland (March 2007) via Wikimedia Commons, used under CC-BY-SA-3.0.)

Net Neutrality and Education

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Why the images of internet always seem to come from the ’90s, we have no clue.

Deja vu, anyone?

Back in 2015, the FCC ruled in favor of net neutrality, a huge victory for maintaining freedom of information via the internet.

However, with the appointment of Ajit Pai as the chairman of the FCC, things may be changing once again.

Here’s where we are today, via The Verge:

FCC chairman Ajit Pai said today that net neutrality was “a mistake” and that the commission is now “on track” to return to a much lighter style of regulation.

“Our new approach injected tremendous uncertainty into the broadband market,” Pai said during a speech at Mobile World Congress this afternoon. “And uncertainty is the enemy of growth.”

Pai has long been opposed to net neutrality and voted against the proposal when it came up in 2015. While he hasn’t specifically stated that he plans to reverse the order now that he’s chairman, today’s speech suggests pretty clearly that he’s aiming to.

Need a refresher on why this is so important, especially in the education world? So did we. Here are a couple of resources from several years ago that give good context.

Net Neutrality: A Huge Victory for Education:

Still, at its core, net neutrality is just as simple as the name implies. In essence, it’s a guarantee that regardless of whether you’re a Fortune 500 company or someone down on their luck desperately searching for a job at a public library, you’ll experience access to the same Internet. Sounds perfectly reasonable, right? Unfortunately, the nation’s largest ISPs fail to agree.

Without net neutrality, industry leaders like Verizon, Comcast and Time Warner could hypothetically increase their profit margins by splitting the Internet into two very distinct categories: the ultra fast and the intolerably slow. Granted, all three companies emphatically deny plans of doing so. Nevertheless, it isn’t too hard to imagine a scenario where the desire to please investors wins out over some sense of civic responsibility

What Net Neutrality Means for Students and Educators:

Two students are researching a paper – one with net neutrality, and one without. How are their experiences different?

Courtney Young: An individual student is connected to a single Internet service provider (ISP), which becomes the gateway through which the student must connect to gain access to millions of web pages, platforms and services.

Gina—with an open Internet connection—is free to choose whatever information or resources she likes from small, highly specialized content providers or large global corporations, no matter which ISP she uses and no matter if she is using fixed or mobile broadband.

Stan, the student without an open Internet, might be blocked from accessing resources that compete with content offered by his ISP. For example, Comcast merged with NBC Universal several years ago. So, if Stan uses Comcast to access the Internet, he might be redirected to NBC Learn when he was trying to get PBS content. Or perhaps a commercial distributor of primary source materials had made a deal with Verizon to expedite its content. Stan might have to wait for a sluggish download of open educational resources versus getting super-fast access to the commercial content.

So what can we do now? Make noise. A lot of the information out there hasn’t caught up with the reinvigoration of the debate. It’s from 2015 and earlier.

Perhaps the most effective thing that we can do RIGHT NOW is call the FCC and your representatives and tell them that you support net neutrality, as an educator and as a citizen.

We can tell you now that a phone call will take 10-20 minutes, as you do have to navigate through some touch-tone options. Choose the “submit a consumer complaint” option and then “0” to speak with an agent. There is hold time involved, at least when we called.

FCC: 1-888-225-5322

As always, if phone calls aren’t feasible, or you simply can’t wait on hold, you can file a complaint online here.

Recent news has made it clear; while making lots of noise doesn’t always work, it certainly alerts those making the decisions to the fact that millions of their constituents are watching. For the sake of students today and in the future, don’t let this issue pass quietly.

 

 

Citizenship around the World

Countries vary in who can be a citizen

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As we continue thinking about immigration in this new year, we thought you might like some resources about citizenship and naturalization around the world. Whether for your own information or your students’, it’s helpful to realize that rules about who “belongs” in a country vary a lot. For example, most of know babies born in U.S. territory are automatically entitled citizenship, but the same isn’t true in Germany, among other places.

From public radio in Los Angeles, you can read about How Citizenship Is Defined Around the World.

The vast majority of nations in the Americas recognize jus soli [Latin for “Right of the Soil”, or right to citizenship based on location of birth]… Outside of the Americas, however, straightforward jus soli policies are rare. The norm in Europe, Asia and in much of Africa and elsewhere is some form of jus sanguinis (Latin for “right of blood”) citizenship, typically granted to children born to a national of that country.

Through the National Constitution Center’s website, you can read another article and link to the text of other countries’ laws pertaining to citizenship. To do so, click here, then select “birthright citizenship” from the upper right quadrant of the circle, then select the country whose laws you want to see.

Finally, National Geographic has a photo essay of new American immigrants, published in the wake of the Immigration Act of 1917 that (ahem) significantly restricted immigration to the US.

(Embedded image by Frederic C. Howe, captioned “A multinational group of immigrant children gather on a roof garden on Ellis Island, NY”).

 

Teaching Resistance: General Strikes

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Image via The Stranger 

In honor of the general strike happening in some places today, this week’s A Day Without Immigrants, and the upcoming A Day Without A Woman, we’ve gathered some resources for teaching students a little bit about the history of the labor movement, with an emphasis on general strikes.

The Seattle General Strike Project has a wealth of information. Never heard of the Seattle General Strike? We hadn’t either. Lucky for we uninformed, the site has great background information.

The Seattle General Strike of February 1919 was the first city-wide labor action in America to be proclaimed a “general strike.” It led off a tumultuous era of post-World War I  labor conflict that saw massive strikes shut down the nation’s steel, coal, and meatpacking industries and threaten civil unrest in a dozen cities.
The strike began in  shipyards that had expanded rapidly with war production contracts. 35,000 workers expected a post-war pay hike to make up for two years of strict wage controls imposed by the federal government.
When regulators refused, the Metal Trades Council union alliance declared a strike and closed the yards. After an appeal to Seattle’s powerful Central Labor Council for help, most of the city’s 110 local unions voted to join a sympathy walkout. The Seattle General Strike lasted less than a week but the memory of that event has continued to be of interest and importance for more than 80 years.
There’s a LOT of information on this site, so here are a few things we recommend:
  • Check out Rob Rosenthal’s 1977 interviews with those who remembered the events. (This is also an excellent way to incorporate oral histories into the classroom!) Audio is available for some interviews, as are searchable transcripts.
  • For 11th grade teachers, there’s a full lesson plan on the general strike. Students role play as newspaper op-ed writers and are required to utilize first-hand accounts.
  • Photographs. Lots of them, both historical and present day.

From Documentary Lens, a lesson plan that goes along with the documentary On Strike: The Winnipeg General Strike, 1919.

This lesson is intended to foster, in Grade 11 and 12 students, a knowledge and understanding of the issues raised in the film On Strike and to promote progressive, democratic considerations around values and attitudes regarding Canadian citizenship. Cross-curricular connections include Socia l Studies, Language Arts, Political Science, Economics and History.

The activities will help students develop their inquiry, research, critical thinking, communication, and media literacy skills. Students will brainstorm current events around strike action issues; compare the rights of workers in the past and today; research and prepare a debate based on principles in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Labour Code; and write an editorial on the filmmaker’s point of view.

And finally, via the California Federation of Teachers, materials relating to the 1946 Oakland General Strike. The site provides a video excerpt from the longer film Golden Lands, Working Hands, “We Called it a Work Holiday.” There’s a lesson plan that goes along with it. Notably, it asks students to analyze three newsreel clips and the perspectives behind them.

Learning Objectives

Students will be able to:
• learn the causes of the Oakland General Strike and what it achieved
• critically assess news coverage of labor issues for point-of-view bias
• analyze the significance of a general strike as a strategy for collective worker action

Video Summary

Post-war tensions are revealed by a strike of mostly women retail clerks in two down- town Oakland department stores, which expands to become the last city-wide General Strike in US history. When the video repeats a newsreel segment with alternative voiceovers, viewers learn how “news”—like history itself—is constructed from a point of view. And through the exemplary solidarity of streetcar driver Al Brown, we learn how workers can make history, too. [We also gain a unique insight into the longest run- ning farm labor dispute until the 1960ʼs, the DiGiorgio strike of 1947-1950, through the footage of a “lost film” made by Hollywood supporters of the strike.]

 

Guest Post: “How Far Does the Apple Fall?”

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We are thrilled to present our first-ever guest post, via writer and teacher Rashaan Alexis Meneses, currently a professor at St. Mary’s College of California. Her essay prompt, “How Far Does the Apple Fall?” is designed for an intro-level college writing course, but may well be appropriate for advanced high school students.

Examining Assumptions Essay #1

“How Far Does the Apple Fall?” 

We are all of us influenced by the people closest to us, and to them we owe a great deal. For this assignment you will examine how your parents, guardians, or grandparents influenced your political perspective. Try to think as broadly as possible. Political doesn’t just mean red or blue, liberal or conservative. Politics run deep in terms of social class, religion, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, environmental concerns or lack thereof, global or local—there are many ways to see the world politically.

Focus on one or two specific ways in which older family members, parents or guardians, have shaped your political perspective. Whether you have adopted some of their political leanings or outright rejected them, this is a chance for you to reflect upon and examine your assumptions about yourself and the world you live in. You will want to depict at least two and no more than four specific events, circumstances, or conversations that you can reference as evidence as to how you are politically influenced or not by your parents or guardians.

This is a chance to be creative with voice and form, so you will want to rely on concrete actions. Avoid using adjectives. Give your readers specific evidence to show not tell how you are or are not politically influenced by your parents/guardians. I encourage you to refer back to the reading assignments we have covered in class that deal with family and identity. Note how each author uses tone and style. How do they assert authority? What kind of evidence do they use to develop their stance and build a thesis?

Essay Requirements: 

Your essay should be a minimum of (4)-pages long, typed in Times or Times New Roman only, double-spaced with one-inch margins on all sides. Always carefully proofread your paper several times. I highly recommend reading it aloud to yourself at least twice to catch typos, faulty language, missing points, etc. Be sure to refer to your past graded essays to address strengths and weaknesses.

Grading Criteria: 

For this assignment, I will be looking for essays that 1) demonstrate that students understand competing viewpoints, 2) that students can generate a plausible thesis and that 3) students can identify and reflect upon their own assumptions on a particular topic. You will also want to be sure to include 4) a strong and persuasive voice that can substantiate all claims with evidence.

Rashaan Alexis Meneses teaches English/Composition and Collegiate Seminar at Saint Mary’s College of California and has received fellowships at The MacDowell Colony and The International Retreat for Writers at Hawthornden Castle in Scotland. With work forthcoming in Kartika Review, her publications include Puerto Del SolNew LettersBorderSensesKurungabaaThe Coachella ReviewPembroke MagazineDoveglion Press, and the anthology Growing Up Filipino II: More Stories for Young Adults. http://rashaanalexismeneses.com/    

Weekend Reading: 2/12

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We’ve been reading a lot this week, and we still feel like we’re playing catch up. Here are a few things that may be interesting–or useful–to educators.

While the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the stay on the administration’s travel ban, you are probably already aware that ICE conducted a series of raids this week around the country.

Here’s some background information, from The Washington Post:

Officials said the raids targeted known criminals, but they also netted some immigrants without criminal records, an apparent departure from similar enforcement waves during the Obama administration. Last month, Trump substantially broadened the scope of who the Department of Homeland Security can target to include those with minor offenses or no convictions at all.

Trump has pledged to deport as many as 3 million undocumented immigrants with criminal records.

If you are in the classroom, it’s likely that this is impacting your students, their family members, and their broader community. To that end, here are some resources that you can hand out NOW that may help at least clarify the situation.

Next, not a long read, but an important tool: from United We Dream, Know Your Rights downloadable cards that explain our rights clearly and succinctly are now available in Arabic, Chinese, Korean, Spanish, and English. ALL people in the United States have these rights, regardless of their immigration status. These cards are designed to be used as a guide when interacting with immigration authorities. Below is the English version.

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From The New Yorker, “Teaching Southern and Black History Under Trump,” a look at some of the challenges professors in the South, in largely red states, are facing as they attempt to teach history in the current political climate.

“I don’t know that Trump has historical awareness at all,” Fitzhugh Brundage, the chair of the history department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, told me. “He doesn’t display any historical consciousness or depth.” U.N.C.-Chapel Hill is a relatively liberal Southern institution; Brundage described the atmosphere on campus after Trump’s victory as “funereal.” And he said that many of the historians he knows feel their work has become even more critical: “I’ve had any number of colleagues say they feel recommitted and energized to do what they do, because of its very importance now.”

From Think Progress, a short read on how the Department of Justice may be backing off of protections for transgender kids:

As ThinkProgress reported last August, the Obama administration’s guidance “stated that Title IX’s nondiscrimination protections on the basis of ‘sex’ protect transgender students in accordance with their gender identity, such that they must be allowed to use the bathrooms and play on sports teams that match their gender.” But the brief filed Friday signals that the Trump administration no longer wants to implement that guidance.

And, while not education-related, here’s an explainer from Vox about why General Flynn may continue to be at the center of one of the more urgent scandals plaguing the administration. We’ll see if anything comes of this one.

Late Thursday night, the Washington Post reported that Flynn had called Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak on December 29, the same day that Obama had slapped new sanctions on Russia in retaliation for its hack of the US election. The conversation covered the sanctions, and, according to two officials, suggested that the Trump administration would be rolling back the sanctions in the future.

That would mean Flynn had been actively trying to undermine Obama administration policy while not yet in office — a big, questionably legal no-no. Indeed, the FBI is currently investigating the content of the Flynn calls.

And finally, welcome to new readers! Our community continues to grow, and we look forward to providing more original educational material as we move forward–while still highlighting the best of what we find on the web.

Have something you’d like to see? Have something you’d like to share? Get in touch this way, or get in touch this way. Or just leave a comment. Hope to hear from you soon!