The Green New Deal and Our Schools

By the editors of Rethinking Schools

As Mark Hertsgaard and Kyle Pope wrote recently in The Nation, “There is a runaway train racing toward us, and its name is climate change. This is not alarmism: It is scientific fact.”

This is where the Green New Deal, introduced in February by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Edward Markey, begins: with the terrifying prospects of the runaway train of climate catastrophe. But the Green New Deal seeks to mobilize people not from fear, but from hope — hope for a radical transformation of society. It’s a manifesto that begins with the imperative of dramatically cutting greenhouse gases — global reductions of 40 to 60 percent in emissions from 2010 levels by 2040, reaching net-zero global emissions by 2050.

Why the Green New Deal? Ocasio-Cortez, supporters in the Sunrise Movement, and others, draw inspiration from the audacious initiatives of the Depression-era New Deal programs, as well as the massive World War II mobilization. Because anything less is inadequate to the urgency of the crisis, as laid out starkly in last October’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report. But the new New Deal explicitly rejects the racism of its antecedents, which, for example, excluded agricultural and domestic workers from Wagner Act union protections and baked in a future of racially segregated housing through Federal Housing Administration policies.

The Green New Deal imagines a vast social reconstruction that will meet 100 percent of U.S. demand for power through clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources; upgrade buildings in the United States to achieve greater energy efficiency, water efficiency, safety, affordability, comfort, and durability; support sustainable family farming and build a sustainable food system; create millions of good, high-wage jobs; provide “unprecedented levels of prosperity and economic security for all people of the United States”; and more.

The Green New Deal is not just about suppressing carbon emissions, it’s also about democratizing decision-making. It calls for the use of “democratic and participatory processes that are inclusive of and led by frontline and vulnerable communities and workers to plan, implement, and administer the Green New Deal mobilization at the local level.” It concludes by promising “high-quality health care,” “affordable, safe, and adequate housing,” “economic security,” “clean water, clean air, healthy and affordable food, and access to nature.”

It imagines a very different country from the one we now live in.

And schools? The Green New Deal includes only one line about “providing resources, training, and high-quality education,” and, in fact, never mentions the word schools. Nonetheless, the Green New Deal has profound implications for schools, and offers an extraordinary opportunity for social justice educators to draw on the utopian — in the best sense of the word — vision laid out in the congressional resolution.

*** Click here to purchase a copy of Bill Bigelow and Tim Swinehart’s groundbreaking book on teaching climate justice, A People’s Curriculum for the Earth ***

Let’s start in our classrooms. The revolutionary aspirations of the Green New Deal will only be brought to life by people who grasp the enormity of the crisis that humanity faces and the radical changes necessary to address it. This requires that we teach a climate justice curriculum that: 

• engages students in the science of climate change;
• probes the social and economic roots of climate change; 
• emphasizes the brutal inequality that results in those least responsible for the crisis being hit the hardest;
• alerts students to the breadth of global activism for climate justice;
• helps students see how climate justice is inextricably linked to addressing broader issues of racism, militarism, imperialism, and class exploitation;
• invites students to imagine a society based on principles of ecology and social equality; and
• encourages students to come to see themselves as activists for a green and just world.

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Hip-Hop Artist Macklemore Donates to Match School District Purchases of the Book Teaching For Black Lives

 

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Macklemore Donation Match

We’ve got some great news about Teaching for Black Lives! Hip-hop artist Macklemore is donating up to $10,000 to match dollar-for-dollar school district purchases of Teaching for Black Lives.

Ask your school district to apply for the match today!

About Teaching for Black Lives

Teaching for Black Lives is a collection of teaching activities, role-plays, essays, poems and art designed to help educators humanize Black people in curriculum. The book demonstrates how teachers can connect their curriculum to young people’s lives and explore how classrooms and schools can be set up either to reproduce racism or challenge it.

Macklemore said of Teaching for Black Lives “This book will help students learn about the struggles and contributions of Black people that are too often left out of the curriculum.”

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How to Apply for the Macklemore Matching Donation

Hip-hop artist Macklemore will match on a dollar-for-dollar basis money spent to purchase Teaching for Black Lives, up to $10,000.

School districts interested in applying to receive the Macklemore matching donation should complete the application form with the number of books that will be purchased for educators, a summary of the student population demographics served in your district, and a brief statement about what the matching donation would mean for educators and students in your schools.

The book price to districts after the matching donation is applied will only be $29.95 $12.50 per book. School districts will pay shipping costs.

Click here to apply to receive the Macklemore match! 

 

Black Lives Matter At School National Week of Action Feb. 4 – 8, 2019

We call on educators to make commitments to teach social justice, anti-racist curriculum and foster student conversations about the Black Lives Matter movement. We also call on educators to grow the Black Lives Matter movement in every school and union.

The National Black Lives Matter Week of Action is one month away. Rethinking Schools editors and staff endorse the week of action Feb. 4-8, 2019, and encourage all educators, students, parents, unions, and community organizations to sign on in support and participate.

Black Lives Matter At School is a national coalition of educators organizing for racial justice in education. Last year, during the 2018 week of action, thousands of educators in more than 20 cities participated to affirm the lives of Black students. Educators taught lessons about structural racism, Black history, and anti-racist movements during the week of action and beyond.

The Black Lives Matter At School demands are simple:

1) End “zero tolerance” discipline, and implement restorative justice
2) Hire more Black teachers
3) Mandate Black history and ethnic studies in K-12 curriculum
4) Fund counselors not cops in schools

Below is a compilation of resources for educators who are committed to making Black lives matter in school. This is NOT white-washed, scripted curriculum. These resources are for educators determined to make classrooms sites of resistance to racism and anti-Blackness.

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The Official Black Lives Matter At School Starter Kit & Lesson Plans

 

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Teaching For Black Lives
Take 25% off your copy with code: GOT4BL25

 

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Rethinking Schools Magazine

 

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Coming Soon: Rethinking Ethnic Studies
Preorder for 20% off your copy + a free sticker with code: RES18L

 

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Free Rethinking Schools Archive Resources & Lesson Plans

 

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Zinn Education Project Week of Action Resources

 

 

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Teaching for Change #BlackLivesMatter Collection

 

Correction: January 7, 2019 A previous version of this post referred to Jazmine Barnes, a 7-year-old girl killed last weekend in what was believed to be a racially motivated attack. On Sunday, police arrested two African American men in connection with her death. Previously, witnesses identified a white man in a red pick up truck as the shooter. We believe these new details warrant a correction and apologize if our earlier post left an incorrect impression.

As activist Shaun King told the New York Times, “We live in a time where somebody could do something like this based purely on hate or race. That it turned out to not be the case, I don’t think changes the devastating conclusion that people had thought something like that was possible.”

You can read more about updates to the case here. 

While the details of Jazmine’s death have changed, our commitment to Black students remains the same.

#StandWithOkinawa: We Need The World With Us

By Moé Yonamine

“Don’t cry here,” an 86-year-old Okinawan grandmother I had never met before told me.

She stood next to me and took my hand. I had been visiting my family in Okinawa with my four children early in August and had traveled to Henoko, in the northeastern region of our main island, to join the protest against the U.S. military’s relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station from Futenma, located in the center of an urban district, to Camp Schwab, in a more remote coastal region.

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My teenage daughter, Kaiya, and I had spent the day with a crowd of elders holding protest signs in front of the gates of Camp Schwab. Rows and rows of more than 400 trucks hauling large rocks passed by, ready to outline an ocean area for the new base, equivalent to the size of 383 football fields. Our beautiful, tropical ecosystem with all of its internationally proclaimed and protected biodiversity was to soon be crushed, destroying coral and marine life. This, despite the overwhelming opposition of Indigenous island people. I began to cry as I held up my protest sign.

“Grandma is going to cry when I get home tonight so I will be crying with you,” she said squeezing my hand. “Here, we fight together.” We watched as trucks flooded through the gate of the military base where Japanese police had pushed us away moments before. With tears in her eyes she said, “It wouldn’t be strange if we all jumped in front of every one of those trucks, because this is our ocean. This is our island.”

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Students “Warrior Up” for Climate Justice

[This is the third installment of our new environmental justice column — Earth, Justice, and Our Classrooms — and celebrates the annual two-day “Climate Justice Fair” at Madison High School in Portland. The column regularly appears in the magazine and you can subscribe at http://www.rethinkingschools.org/subscribe ]

By Bill Bigelow

We’re sitting in the cozy, inviting library of Portland, Oregon’s Madison High School. For her research and presentation on a “climate warrior,” Ana chose the late Stephen Schneider, a leading scientist on the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. I ask what impact it had on her to study Schneider. She simply says, “He makes me want to be a better person.”

In an audacious embrace of Portland schools’ 2016 climate justice resolution, teachers in Madison’s Citizen Chemistry for All course — a class enrolling more than 300 sophomores in the school — adopted an essential question for the past two years: “Why are human changes to Earth’s carbon cycles at the heart of climate destabilization?” In a paper on Madison’s approach to studying climate change, “Warrioring Up for Climate Justice,” chemistry teacher Treothe Bullock and Restorative Justice coordinator Nyanga Uuka explained that teachers “wanted to support students in building a bridge between the personal and the planetary.” Students would demonstrate their learning in an annual two-day “Climate Justice Fair,” and would represent “communities which are engaging as ‘climate warriors,’ providing critical analysis of their work and/or proposing additional needed activism.”

An honest, rigorous look at the science of climate change can be terrifying and disheartening. Falling into cynicism is a hazard one confronts simply by living in our society, with its inequality, violence, and lack of democracy. But add to that, knowledge of the inexorable rise of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere — and what this heat-trapping pollution means for the Earth — and despair feels like more than a threat, it feels like common sense. Knowing this, Madison chemistry teachers focus not purely on the science of climate destabilization, but also on individuals and organizations taking action to reverse it, inviting students to research “climate warriors,” those who have not given up, those who “know the truth,” and yet are not defeated by it.

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The Midterms, Trumpism, and the Increased Racialization of American Childhood

By Julio Angel Alicea

When Donald Trump was making waves for his bigoted statements about Mexicans, Muslims, and women during the Republican primaries, my high school students, most of them low-income students of color and many also of immigrant families, sought reassurance from me, as their history teacher, that he would not win the presidency. I naively granted them that assurance, thinking to myself “How could the country elect a candidate reminiscent of the segregationist George Wallace?”

After sleeping for what seemed like a few minutes after watching the results pour in, I woke up to an email from my principal. In it, she called for an emergency staff meeting before school to discuss how we would accommodate students’ (and staffs’) varied emotions, concerns, and needs. Not long after, the students whom I had assured came to me with questions of how, why, and what now. My eventual response was to share an affirming poem another teacher had written in the aftermath of the election, but provided only a temporary remedy.

Like others around the country, my school worked hard to affirm my students in the face of the emerging Trumpist wave. We even had an immigration attorney who met with some of our undocumented students who were the most afraid. But despite local efforts like these, Trumpism crept into the minds, hallways, and classrooms across America, resulting in (until now) immeasurable harm.

9781479803682_FullI am not speaking about Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’s desires to put more guns in schools or Attorney General Sessions’ support of anti-affirmative action causes. Rather, I am speaking about the president’s own pivotal role in reconstructing what sociologist Margaret Hagerman calls the “racial context of childhood” in the United States, in her book White Kids: Growing Up with Privilege in a Racially Divided America. This context, according to Hagerman, includes, “…certain aspects of a child’s local environment, especially one’s neighborhood but also one’s school, peers.”

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LeBron’s School Should Be Every School — Public, Fully Funded, and with Arms Around the Community

By Ari Bloomekatz

There are few public schools receiving as much attention these days as LeBron James’ I Promise School in Akron, Ohio — and it’s because it’s just that: a public school.

The school opened this summer to 240 3rd and 4th graders who were randomly selected out of a pool of those in the district significantly behind in reading. They will add a grade each academic year and plan to be a 1–8 school by 2022.

“I cannot say how impressed I am that the school @kingjames is opening today to serve low-performing students is a traditional public school. Instead of taking resources from the Akron Public Schools, he is adding to them. This is doing the work. Bravo,” tweeted investigative reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones.

Because it’s a public school, it also means teachers will be unionized. But one defining aspect is its commitment to wraparound support that the school’s principal notes includes a family resource center on school grounds.

“We’re not only into nurturing and loving our students, but we are wrapping around — our arms around the entire family,” Brandi Davis, the school’s principal, told NPR.

Celebrities and millionaires and billionaires and tech giants and titans of industry and sports stars have a long and sordid history of thinking they know what’s best when it comes to education — and trying to profit off it.

>>> This article is from the new fall issue of Rethinking Schools. While it looks great online, it’s best in print. Subscribe now at http://www.rethinkingschools.org/subscribe <<<

They either try to remake the wheel or overwhelmingly invest in private enterprises and charters that often end up draining already scarce resources from the same public school districts they claim to be helping.

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