Seven Ways that Teachers Can Respond to the Evil of Charlottesville — Starting Now

An educator confronts the failures of an education system that breeds white supremacy, and offers concrete tips for teachers who seek to challenge it.

By Xian Franzinger Barrett
This article first appeared on AlterNet 

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White supremacy did not appear as a surprise guest to this weekend’s events. It is a plague that permeates every aspect of our shared society. At the same time as it threatens to strip people of color — especially Black — of their lives and freedom, it corrodes the logic, reason and future of our society as a whole. White supremacy is also a deeply embedded feature of our education system even as it runs counter to the values we claim to hold in pursuit of education.

In response to this weekend’s deadly white supremacist rallies and violence in Charlottesville, there was a shared outrage among educators on social media. I saw a range of reactions. There were a lot of folks — especially white — saying: “How could this happen in America?” And there were a lot of folks — especially folks of color — saying: “We’ve been telling you that this is happening in America.” What many of us shared was a conviction that the events in Charlottesville couldn’t go unchallenged.

In considering effective responses while looking at the sea of hateful white faces in the media of the event, I wondered: “Who grew this hate? Who planted it? Who nurtured it? Who protected it from exposure to education and love?” With an eye to education, I asked:  “What schools failed to educate these white supremacists? Who were their teachers? Who taught this hate?”

As teachers, our job is not solely to pour mathematics, science, language arts or any other content knowledge into the heads of our students. It is our duty to our profession, to our society and to the students to lovingly teach them to learn and grow beautifully as complete humans. The fact that the violent white supremacists in Charlottesville moved through dozens of classrooms that taught English, Social Studies, Math, Science and other subjects while nurturing or enhancing their white supremacist ideals is an indictment of our daily practice. It says that their institutions may have effectively served math facts or essay writing, but it was with a side of white supremacy.

This may seem too harsh on my colleagues at predominantly white schools. Let me be clear: first, this is not about blame. I write out of deep urgency that we address the cultural and systemic failures in our school system that are promoting white supremacy. I ask you to consider how it is that we’ve grown accustomed to narratives regarding the failings of segregated schools that serve students of color, but not the schools that educated those who defend and promote that segregation.

So what do we do?
As we walk into our classrooms in the coming weeks, here are a number of concrete actions every educator can take to address the evil that was on display in Charlottesville. Some of these suggestions deal with Charlottesville specifically, but most will help educators address the longer term systemic challenges in our classrooms that foster white supremacy and other oppression.   Continue reading

Apply Now! Rethinking Schools is Hiring a Marketing and Communications Coordinator!

Apply now to be the next Marketing and Communications Coordinator at Rethinking Schools!

Position Details
Marketing and Communications Coordinator needed for full-time work in Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood. This position is responsible for Rethinking Schools’ (RS) public relations and for developing and implementing marketing plans to promote the sales and growth of Rethinking Schools magazine, RS books and the RS website.

Description

Responsibilities include coordinating design and production of promotional materials, social media campaigns, advertising, sales at conferences, subscription renewal services, and promotional campaigns for new books. The Marketing and Communications Coordinator reports directly to the Business Manager and works collaboratively with the Office Manager, design/layout consultant, and Rethinking Schools magazine and book editors.

Marketing

  • Develop and implement print and digital marketing, including the acquisition of mailing lists, working with editors on content, and analyzing click and success rates of emails, Facebook posts, website visits, etc.
  • Develop annual marketing plan and timeline for Rethinking Schools, RS books, and RS website.
  • Design, oversee and evaluate subscription renewal program.
  • Develop and implement specific marketing plans for each new book including social media campaigns, promotional flyers and mailings, contacting publications for reviews, author interviews, and book signing events.
  • Working with the Office Manager and editors, plan and support RS presence at conferences, including staffing booths. Oversee design and production of advertising, promotional materials, and publications catalog

Public Relations 

  • Field press and other inquiries (e.g., speaker and media requests) and forward requests to appropriate Rethinking Schools person.
  • Coordinate writing and distribution of press releases/e-announcements for magazine, books and other RS activities.

Social Media and Website 

  • Coordinate maintenance of Rethinking Schools Facebook page, Twitter account, Pinterest page, blog, and other social media channels.
  • Create email calendar and coordinate the writing, testing, and sending of emails.
  •  Help update website as needed for new issue and books, corrections and changes.
  • Work on development and promotion of site licenses and student access

 Advertising 

  • Find new advertisers and sustain current advertisers to place ads in each issue of Rethinking Schools.
  • Send out contracts to advertisers, maintain contracts on file, and have AIDC bill for ads. Collect paid ad copy by ad deadline. Have paid ads proofed. Update ads and ad spread sheet for art director as needed.
  • Books Work with consultant to reprint current RS books with revised ad pages. Work with Business Manager on distribution of e-books. Develop RS ads and subscription cards for all new RS books. Coordinate with production editors and designers.
Qualifications

As a prerequisite, the successful candidate must believe in the core values of Rethinking Schools, and be driven by its mission. You should have/ be:

  • Bachelor’s degree required, preferably in marketing or communications
  • At least 3 years of marketing and communications experience with a proven track record of successfully managing multiple priorities and job responsibilities.
  •  Pertinent experience in a publishing or progressive nonprofit setting preferred but not required.
  • Internally motivated, self-starter; a program leader who can positively and productively impact both strategic and tactical initiatives
  • Skilled at data management and communications software. Superior communications and writing and editing skills
  • Thorough attention to detail, resourcefulness and a talent for problem-solving, tenacity and determination in challenging situations, a high sense of urgency, and an ability to carry out a plan
Compensation & Benefits

Rethinking Schools is an equal opportunity employer. Women, People of Color, and LGBT folks are encouraged to apply.

Salary will be commensurate with skills and experience.

Rethinking Schools offers competitive benefits: Employer paid health, dental vision as well as life, long term and short term disability insurance. Simplified Employee Pension plan.  Four weeks vacation, 12 sick days, personal and holiday leave.

Apply here: http://www.bigshoesmidwest.com/job/marketing-and-communications-coordinator/rethinking-schools-ltd/15258

What Does It Mean When Your Teacher Changes Your Name?

“Ayyy, I already told you, your name is too long! We don’t go by two names here and we don’t go by two last names. Pick a name. Maria or Edith. And as far as last names, you are Espinosa. We don’t use your mother’s last name. So what’s it going to be?”

When we put out the call for articles for Rethinking Bilingual Education, we received several personal stories from teachers who themselves felt the effects of linguistic discrimination when they were students. Edith Treviño was one of those teachers and wrote a short narrative for the book that underscores a complex reality for many children in our schools.

Treviño wrote about how, when she was in 5th grade, her teacher told her that her name wasn’t “American” enough, insisted she could only go by one last name, and forced her to choose — in front of her classmates — whether she wanted to be called Maria or Edith.

The message was clear. Her identity, her Mexican heritage, her mother’s last name: None of these were welcome in a classroom in the United States.

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As teachers, it benefits us all to think about whether we treat our students’ names with respect and dignity, particularly the names of our immigrant students and students of color.

Do we ask how to pronounce an unfamiliar name, or do we Anglicize it? Do we insist on giving students nicknames that sound “American,” like Maria Edith’s teacher did when she called her “Edie”? Or do we defer to families and seek to learn about their naming practices?

As Treviño explains, these decisions can permanently shape how a child sees themselves and what they call themselves, long after they leave our classrooms.

— Grace Cornell Gonzales, Editor, Rethinking Schools

***

The Death of My Mexican Name
By Edith Treviño

My name was Maria Edith Espinosa Yepez. A beautiful name. Maria Edith is two names in one, and that is how I would write my name on all of my school papers as a young immigrant student in the United States. I would curve my M, and my Y took a very fancy shape as my handwriting improved throughout the years. I was always proud of the last name Yepez because no one had ever heard of it.

One day, my 5th-grade teacher Mrs. Sauceda called me over to her desk. As I approached, her voice turned preachy: “Ayyy, I already told you, your name is too long! We don’t go by two names here and we don’t go by two last names. Pick a name. Maria or Edith. And as far as last names, you are Espinosa. We don’t use your mother’s last name. So what’s it going to be?”

I was a shy student and extremely embarrassed that my teacher was confronting me about this issue again. Mrs. Sauceda always spoke in a hurried pace. I felt rushed to reply. All of my classmates were looking at me. I hated that moment and wished the tierra would swallow me whole. Looking at the floor, I finally whispered, “Edith.”

“OK, then in the United States, you are Edith Espinosa. Learn it. And no more Yepez!” Mrs. Sauceda concluded.

When my teacher changed my name, my life was altered in one instant. I remember walking back to my desk feeling ashamed of my beautiful name. There I was with my Mexican braids, my history being buried in the ground. My name was all I had left of my sense of home, mi identidad perdida.

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After that I never wrote Maria or Yepez again in any school setting. In fact, that same day, my teacher nicknamed me “Edie.” To make me feel better, I assume, she took a multicolored map pencil and wrote the name “Edie” on a piece of college-ruled paper and gave it to me. The name had different colors like a rainbow. There was my new identity, written on college-ruled paper, the Mexican girl now “Americanized.”

But I sure did not feel Americanized. After that day, I was ashamed of my real name in the United States. Yet when I crossed over to Mexico, I was Maria Edith again, and I felt like I was home.

Even today, I don’t like to be called Edith. And I don’t like to be called Maria. I want my complete name back. I want to be Maria Edith again, no matter where I am.

Edith Treviño is a former bilingual teacher and now works as a digital learning specialist for Los Fresnos Consolidated Independent School District in South Texas.

The cover art for Rethinking Bilingual Education is by Ricardo Levins Morales and the Viva La Mujer piece was done by Melanie Cervantes.

This article appears in Rethinking Bilingual Education, a new book from Rethinking Schools. Use the code RBEPS17B for 25% off!

You can purchase the book here: https://www.rethinkingschools.org/books/title/rethinking-bilingual-education

To join the conversation around language, linguistic discrimination, and bilingual education, follow Rethinking Bilingual Education on Facebook.

Fighting for Okinawa — My Home, Not a Military Base

By Moé Yonamine

My family moved to the United States from Okinawa when I was 7. But Okinawa is still home — and I’m hurt and angered at how the United States and Japan continue to treat Okinawa as little more than a colonial outpost. As a teacher, I’m even more dismayed at how the conventional school curriculum keeps young people in this country ignorant about the abuse, but also about the resistance, in my home islands.

“They are burying our beautiful ocean,” read the recent message from my mother in Okinawa, as though she was grieving the loss of a loved one. After decades of protest by Okinawan people to completely get rid of all U.S. military bases that occupy a fifth of the Ryukyu Island chain, the United States and Japan signed a treaty to evacuate one of the most contested bases located in the center of the main island, Futenma Marine Corps (MCAS) base. In exchange for the removal, both governments announced that they would construct a floating military base off the northeast coast of Henoko. Okinawans expressed vehement opposition, with a majority voting in a referendum for the complete removal of all bases. Still the construction continued and the people persisted in protest — marching for miles down main streets, creating human chains for peace, linking arms around military bases, elders repeatedly lying down in front of bulldozers. Governor Takeshi Onaga demanded the Japanese government terminate the heliport construction and city mayors prevented access of U.S. military construction vehicles through their districts — later overturned by federal court order last December sought by the Japanese federal government.

Protest at Camp Schwab against US Military Base in Okinawa

People of Okinawa being removed by the police as they were protesting against the planned expansion of a U.S. military base at Camp Schwab, Nago, Okinawa, Japan.

Today, the concrete seawalls are finished, and soon, rocks will be crushed and sand will pile high, burying the tropical, clear waters. The Japanese government and U.S. military continue to pursue the construction of the runway, despite community complaints of environmental damage and pollution, endangerment to sea life, harm to the fishing and tourism industry, as well as the ongoing threat to cultural survival and island sovereignty. On July 6th the Ryukyu Shimpo announced that the Japanese government would not return the land occupied by MCAS Futenma to the Okinawan people. The U.S. and Japan added a condition to the promise for Futenma’s removal: The Naha International Airport must be made available for the U.S. military any time they declare an emergency. When Governor Onaga rejected this demand, the U.S. military withdrew its promise to remove Futenma. Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada stated, “If the requisite conditions for the return of Futenma are not met, it will not be returned.” In a surge of anger, pain and frustration, word spread quickly in Okinawa across social media.

Devastated at the sacrifice of my home, I turned to the news here in the United States, and there was not one story about Okinawa on any major network. Frustrated, I recalled my conversation with an elderly grandmother I met at a peace rally in my neighborhood when I went home last summer. When I told her I was a teacher in the United States, she told me that the best thing we as teachers can do is to teach kids about what’s happening in Okinawa and how we want a world without war. She said, “They need to know our story so they can stand up with us.”

But when I turn to a typical U.S. textbook, I see how students are ill-equipped to understand what’s happening in Okinawa. For example, in Holt McDougal’s widely used The Americans, there are a mere three paragraphs about Okinawa under the section, “The Atomic Bomb Ends the War.”

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Okinawan coastline. Image: Tomaž Vajngerl/Creative Commons.

Discussion of Okinawa begins and ends with a skewed description of the Battle of Okinawa during WWII: “In April 1945, U.S. Marines invaded Okinawa,” it begins. “By the time the fighting ended on June 21, 1945, more than 7,600 Americans had died. But the Japanese paid an even greater price — 110,000 lives — in defending Okinawa.” Okinawans are completely invisible in this account of the war, the bloodiest battle in the history of the Pacific, where our islands were used as a battleground between the United States and Japan. The highest cost was in Okinawan lives, where more than a third of the population was killed within three months — almost 150,000 — and more than 92 percent were left homeless. The majority of today’s families — including mine — have experienced grief and loss of loved ones. Continue reading

The Climate Crisis Is Real and Young People Deserve to Know

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Dear supporter of climate justice,

Like many of those in our global community, I was disgusted and outraged after listening to Donald Trump’s speech at the White House announcing the United States is pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord. What struck me was that Trump did not utter one word about the climate crisis that triggered the global commitment – however inadequate – to limit greenhouse gases. Nothing about the rising sea levels, the threat to global water supplies, the extinction of species, the loss of homes and livelihoods for millions of people, and countless other disasters on the horizon.

APCE_coverTrump represents the short-term interests of the fossil fuel industry. It was this same greed-soaked thinking that prompted the fossil fuel industry this spring to send climate denial textbooks to every science teacher in the country — courtesy of The Heartland Institute.

With your help, Rethinking Schools is defending the right of teachers to teach the truth about the enormity of the climate crisis. We are sending free copies of our book A People’s Curriculum for the Earth: Teaching Climate Change and the Environmental Crisis to teachers in six states. These states — Texas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Florida, Indiana, and Idaho — are the most vulnerable to fossil fuel-inspired legislation that seeks to deny the reality of the climate crisis. 

Will you help us get this important resource — A People’s Curriculum for the Earth in the hands of as many teachers as possible?

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Your donation is a vote against Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Accord and a tangible action to battle the Koch-funded Heartland Institute’s attack on climate justice.

Please donate now so that we can get a copy of A People’s Curriculum for the Earth in the hands of as many teachers as possible.

In solidarity,
Bob Peterson
Board President, Rethinking Schools

Rethinking Schools vs. Heartland Institute

Dear Rethinking Schools friends,

Did you see that the Koch brothers-supported Heartland Institute is sending a climate denial textbook to every science teacher in the country? As the Moms Clean Air Force writes, “Every science teacher across America will receive a ‘free’ copy of a book of climate lies.”

The climate crisis is threatening life on Earth, and the fossil fuel industry is so drunk with greed that they continue to poison the curriculum around climate change.

Teachers desperately need resources to teach the truth about climate change and to counter the Heartland Institute’s materials that are flooding into schools.

Donate now so that we can send a copy of A People’s Curriculum for the Earth to every teacher who requests one in the states most threatened by lies spread by the fossil fuel industry.

As Naomi Klein, author of This Changes Everything, says, “A People’s Curriculum for the Earth is an educator’s toolkit for our times.” Help us send it where it’s needed most.

~Bob Peterson, Rethinking Schools Board President

Climate Deniers Flooding Schools with Alternative Facts — Educators Are Fighting Back

By Bob Peterson

While hundreds of thousands of concerned global citizens march for science and climate justice, a massive corporate-financed disinformation campaign on climate change is flooding our nation’s schools.

The right-wing Heartland Institute, which is financed by the Koch brothers and other billionaires, is sending out 200,000 glossy books, Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming and an accompanying DVD to the country’s science teachers.

TIFFANY CRAWFORD, VANCOUVER SUN

The purpose of their book is to sow confusion and doubt, not unlike previous campaigns the Heartland Institute has conducted, such as the one in the 1990s, financed by the tobacco company Philip Morris, to raise doubts about the dangers of second-hand smoke.

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Heartland Institute has for years, “received funding from fossil fuel interests such as ExxonMobil and the coal magnate Koch brothers.” Heartland even sponsored a billboard campaign in 2012 casting climate change activists as “murderers, tyrants, and madmen.”

This campaign has come under recent criticism by Curt Stager in a New York Times op-ed, but his exposé touches only the tip of a massive iceberg. School textbooks rarely do the issue justice, teachers are not well versed on the subject, and conservative politicians in many states frown on even discussing the issue. Moreover, the oil and coal industry continue to pour money into various pseudo-educational materials to obfuscate the truth.

Victories can be won against such corporate-financed curricular materials. Educator Bill Bigelow recounts how in 2012 a coalition of education and environmental groups, spearheaded by Rethinking Schools and the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, exposed the cozy relationship between the coal industry and Scholastic, the world’s largest publisher of materials for children. After publication of an exposé of Scholastic’s propagandistic “The United States of Energy” in Rethinking Schools magazine, a campaign to pressure Scholastic to break its ties with the coal industry led to a New York Times editorial, “Scholastic’s Big Coal Mistake,” and then quickly to Scholastic pulling the curriculum off its website and promising not to shill for the coal industry any longer.

Last year the inadequacy of school textbooks on climate change led students, teachers, and climate activists to convince the Portland, Oregon, school board to adopt a climate justice resolution and to “abandon the use of any adopted text material that is found to express doubt about the severity of the climate crisis or its root in human activities.”

Despite attacks by the Heartland Institute and other climate deniers, the Portland schools are moving forward engaging parents, community members, students and parents to create a climate justice curriculum for kindergarten through 12th grade.

People interested in learning how to organize similar resolutions in their school district can visit the Rethinking Schools site and download a free Climate Justice Kit.

People can also make sure their school library and child’s teacher has a copy A People’s Curriculum for the Earth, edited by Bill Bigelow and Tim Swinehart. The 410-page book contains resources, lessons, and engaging role-plays. Naomi Klein called it “an educators toolkit of our times.”

It is a good antidote to the poisons that are being spread by the Heartland Institute and other climate deniers.

As we march and organize for climate justice, the schools are an important battle ground. Our children and grandchildren should have the right to learn the science behind climate change, the stories of those most affected, the impact on all living fauna and flora and what they might do to work for climate justice.


Originally published at bob-peterson.blogspot.com on April 29, 2017.