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.
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?"
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.
is important to understand our current economic situation to understand the conflict in Congressand our economic future.
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.
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
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.
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
Policy wonks and the Bee Editorial
Boardurge 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.
In November in Boston, thousands of teachers will gather for the annual National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) conference. Two non-teachers will be there, too: Charles and David Koch, the notorious right-wing billionaires.
Well, the Kochs won’t be there in person, but they will be represented by a Koch-funded and controlled organization: the Arlington, Virginia-based Bill of Rights Institute. For years, the Bill of Rights Institute has shown up at NCSS conferences to offer curriculum workshops, distribute teaching materials, and collect the names of interested educators. What the Bill of Rights Institute representatives fail to mention when they speak with teachers is that they have been the conduit for millions of dollars from Charles and David Koch, as the brothers seek to influence the country’s social studies curriculum. (When I attended a Bill of Rights Institute workshop at an NCSS conference, I asked the presenter who funds their organization. “Donations,” she replied.)
With assets of more than $80 billion, the Koch brothers, who control Koch Industries, are together richer than Bill Gates. As a recent Rolling Stone exposé (“Inside the Koch Brothers’ Toxic Empire”) by investigative reporter Tim Dickinson details, the Kochs made that money largely by polluting the Earth and heating up the climate, with massive oil and gas holdings. And through their network of far right foundations and front groups, they lobby for policies and fund politicians in line with their free market, fossil fuel interests.