Saturday, December 20, 2014

Democracy, Schools, and Teachers' Unions

Leo Casey 
Over the course of the last 12 weeks, I have been thinking about our conversations here on democracy, schools, and teachers' unions. We write under the banner of "bridging differences," and notwithstanding our broad agreement on most important questions we have discussed, there are "differences" that could be teased out of the dialogue.
At the outset, I must confess that I am deeply suspicious of efforts to identify "differences" with those who share most of our view of the world. The impulse to draw "lines of demarcation" around ourselves takes an almost pathological form among many on the American left, a "narcissism of small differences" in which the main political fire is invariably aimed at those who are politically nearest. It creates a political culture where vanguard politics fades into Puritanism: The moral purity of the self-anointed elect is preserved, but at the price of complete political marginality and irrelevance. I have no taste for such political fare.
But let us see if we can arrive at a more productive discussion of our political differences. You ask "Do teachers' unions truly practice democracy?" I could point to the literature on union democracy and to the organizational features that it identifies as crucial for union democracy, and demonstrate how teachers' unions not only possess those features, but possess them in greater measure than other unions.[1]
But there is a more fundamental disagreement at work here: I think your query is the wrong question. When I think about such matters, I ask myself different questions. "At a time that teachers' unions face existential threats, how do we defend the democratic voice that they provide teachers?" "How can we strengthen the voice that unions provide teachers, making teachers' unions more democratic?"

Friday, December 19, 2014

Immigrant Children in Our Schools

Arriving After Trauma
A majority, 58 percent, of the children arriving here have left war-like conditions that could qualify them for international protection as refugees, according to a recent report by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, commonly known as UNHCR. The international agency recommends a thorough screening of each arriving minor to determine if he or she qualifies for that protection. Buffeted by shouting matches in Washington, D.C. and several state capitals, that process is underway.
In the meantime, schools across the country are enrolling large numbers of newly arrived Central American students and trying to figure out the best way to serve them.
Many new arrivals have had little formal schooling. A majority stopped attending school after sixth grade, according to UNHCR. In addition to learning English and the subject matter of their various classes, they also must learn to raise their hands to answer questions, change classes when a bell rings and never wander the halls without a bathroom pass. And there are still those normal teenage concerns: remembering one’s locker combination and flirting, now in a new language.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

This is a bad deal for you and I !

by Duane Campbell

The omnibus budget deal being debated in Congress passed on Sat. evening  includes a continuation of the budget cuts known as the sequester. 
And Senator Elizabeth Warren has revealed the Wall Street subversion in this bill and is making a brave stand against the deal.
http://sacramentopa.blogspot.com/2014/12/sen-warren-calls-on-house-to-strike.html

It is important to understand our current economic situation to understand the  conflict in Congress  and our economic future.
First, know that Wall Street has recovered, but main street has not.
Middle-class wages are stagnant. Unemployment is stalled at record levels. College education is leading to debt servitude and job insecurity. Millions of unemployed Americans have essentially been abandoned by their government.  Poverty is soaring.
 Bankers break the law with impunity, are bailed out, and go on breaking the law, richer than they were before. Only a handful of people have gone to jail, none of the really big operators. Now, more than 6 years after the crisis began,  no senior officials of the corporations that looted our economy have been held accountable.  

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

LA Unified, San Francisco Unified to Require Ethnic Studies

L.A. Unified to require ethnic studies for high school graduation

LAUSD Ethnic Studies
Students at LAUSD high schools such as Thomas Jefferson High School will be required for the first time to take ethnic studies classes to graduate. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
In an attempt to build cultural understanding, LAUSD will require ethnic studies for high school graduates
Students in the Los Angeles Unified School District will be required for the first time to take ethnic studies classes as part of an effort to encourage stronger cultural understanding.
The idea, brought forward by Board of Education members Bennett Kayser, George McKenna and Steve Zimmer, is aimed at narrowing the academic gap between minority students and their white and Asian peers by pushing students to achieve through the exploration of different perspectives in literature, history and social justice. More than 90 languages are spoken in the district.
Related story: El Rancho schools don't wait on state, adopt ethnic-studies curriculum
Related story: El Rancho schools don't wait on state, adopt ethnic-studies curriculum
Stephen Ceasar
The school system allowed ethnic studies classes in the 1990s, but let the schools decide whether to offer them. Few provided the courses. This time, they will be a graduation requirement at all high schools.
Jose Lara, a leading advocate of the move and a social studies teacher at Santee Education Complex, said students develop a better sense of self-worth when they learn about themselves and their history.
He said teachers will have the freedom to craft curriculum to suit the needs and interests of their students. "In East L.A., it might be Chicano history. In Koreatown, it might be Asian American courses," he said.

Ethnic Studies to be required in San Francisco Unified

antiracismdsa: Ethnic Studies to be required in San Francisco: Ethnic Studies Victory! San Francisco Unified, 3rd District in CA Making it a Graduation Requirement T he San Francisco Unified School ...

Sunday, December 07, 2014

The great uninformed- When policy wonks and editorial boards listen mostly to themselves


Headlines and articles in recent press reports raise an alarm about low voter turnout while ignoring some of the most obvious causes.
On Sunday, the Sacramento Bee editorial noted low voter turn out and insisted  on a need for change.  But, these establishment sources seek minor technical changes restricted by their own narrow views of the problem  rather than looking at more  substantive issues.

Young people, particularly students of color, have low levels of attachment to California and U.S.  civil society  messages to vote  in significant part because the government institution they encounter the most- the schools- ignore the students own history, cultures and experiences. Children and young adults need to see themselves in the curriculum. 

Policy wonks and the Bee Editorial Board   urge changing registration and voting systems because  I guess in their segregated white world, students of color are not seen, they are not important. This is, I grant, a little better than the civics curriculum promoted by the Koch brothers in the post below. 

When the 51 % of the California students who are Latino , and the 9 % who are Asian do not see themselves as part of  official history,  for many their sense of self is marginalized.   Marginalization negatively impacts their connections with school their success at school and the likelihood that they will vote as adults.   Marginalization  contributes to an up to  50% drop out rate for Latinos and some Asian students. 
 
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