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Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Web Series Actually Speaks the Truth About Mitt Romney

In Politics, Technology on October 16, 2012 at 7:07 pm

Good ‘ol Mitt Romney.

I have been amazed at the amount of lies this man has told. What is more amazing is that he gets away with it! I keep think, “uh, did I just hear that? Am I the only one who just heard him lie about his stance on abortion rights? Anyone?” Well, this morning I’m feeling better after watching the first webisode of a series called Actually…

When lies go unchecked, we all lose. Actually.org spreads the truth, because the truth matters—even in politics. Our team calls ’em like they see ’em, and we hope you’ll support the truth by sharing Actually.org videos before Election Day.

Actually… is a partnership between American Bridge and JCER. Schlep Labs is a project of JCER. Actually… was produced by Amy Rubin at Barnacle Studios.

The first episode features Rosie Perez who has a little something to say about his famous quip about how advantageous it would be if he were Latino. This is the first of a few. Expect to see more from Sarah Silverman, Jay Smooth and W. Kamau Bell in the near future.

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Letters from Tuscon, AZ – Part 1

In Education, Politics on February 2, 2012 at 9:05 am

For those who haven’t had enough of Arizona after the recent incident with President Obama and the Governor of our 16th most populated state, here is letter from Tuscon High School teacher, Curtis Acosta detailing the fallout of the Tuscon Unified School District’s declaration that their Ethnic Studies program is illegal.

Another dark day in Tucson education history for my students and myself. Despite claims by our Deputy Superintendent that MAS teachers willl be given time and the resources needed to completely rewrite our curriculum, the reality is totally different. Here is the link to the Deputy Superintendent’s interview.

http://ondemand.azpm.org/videoshorts/watch/2012/1/24/1830-mexican-american-studies-books-in-storage/

As the weeks move forward the district and site administrators are becoming far more dismissive to our plight and the antagonism is clearly taking root toward our questions and concerns for our students. We are a mere inconvience to the business of running the district. But what is curious is the question of who are they running the district for if it’s not our students? Take my experiences today for example.

I asked my local site administrator for a reasonable amount of time to prepare for the semester, including time to read novels that I may have not read in fifteen years, or in some cases, ever. It takes time to develop an authentic unit with a novel, and it takes time to read a novel. Not to mention, we are being asked to create a brand new syllabus or curriculum map to prove our compliance to the new policy and law. My request for the days I needed to accomplish these tasks were rebuffed immediately. I even suggested that I spread the days throughout the semester, or be granted comp time during the weekends, so it would be a less disruptive to my students. However, I was told from my site administrator that I would get only three days to familiarize myself with the textbooks and create my new units. I reiterated that this meant that I would not be able to teach any novels this semester to my juniors and seniors, and the administrator shrugged as if this was not his problem, and told me that the time given was adequate.

What this will mean is that my students will go from a college preparatory curriculum to one that is remedial at best. My desire was to work within this horrible climate and shameful situation in way that did not damage the students any further and was confident that I could create this. It is painfully obvious that the district does not care about the quality of education that our students receive regardless of their press releases and interviews. Can you imagine such attitudes and low expectations being shared with the AP teacher at our school, the students, or their parents? Can you imagine them being satisfied with internet lesson plans and textbooks instead of novels? Can you imagine the AP teacher being rebuffed after begging for a few more days to prepare a new curriculum for his students, after ten years of lesson plans, units, and curriculum were scrapped? At the grassroots level, we know better. We know that the elitist, dismissive attitudes of these administrators are nothing new, and that communities of color have had to endure such indignities for generations. There is a serious lack of honor and respect being displayed by these actions.

Things are becoming toxic with administrators in our district and the working environment is becoming increasingly hostile. I would not be surprised if one of my colleagues is dismissed within the next few weeks. Already there are district supervisors monitoring our classrooms for violations, including a 45 minute visit to one of my colleagues today. What is even more frustrating is how many of our questions have been ignored or dismissed that would help specify how we can protect ourselves from termination while we continue to help our students prepare for college. I know that this will only increase as the days unfold and the normalcy sets in that Mexican American Studies and heritage are banned. That is why it is so important to have the support of our friends throughout the nation. We are humbled and honored to have so many people care enough about our students and our plight. Thank you to all who have been working on the February 1st MAS solidarity action, No History is Illegal. Without all of these efforts and attention then we would soon be a memory. Thank you for keeping us alive in your minds, hearts, and actions.

In Lak Ech (Tu eres mi otro yo / you are my other me),

Curtis

Tuscon High School Ban’s Ethnic Studies Books

In Education, Politics on January 20, 2012 at 2:08 am

It has been awhile since I’ve written about the ongoing legal battle between the state of Arizona and the teachers of Tucson High School. Unfortunately, things are not well. Earlier this month I received an email from Curtis Acosta, one of the ethnic studies teachers whom I interviewed in 2010. Here’s what he had to say:

Last night the Tucson Unified School District Governing Board voted 4-1 to immediately eliminate the Mexican American Studies program. All other ethnic studies programs are unaffected and I will know more today how this will impact our students and content of our classes. Many rumors are swirling around that the composition of the classes may change which would drastically affect our students through mass schedule changes.

This optimism cannot be shared in regard to the content of our classes which we believe will be completely eliminated or altered beyond recognition. Assignment changes are expected for all of our colleagues, including the Director of Mexican American Studies Sean Arce.

And, it gets worse as news has come out that school officials confiscated books during the middle of class including Paulo Freire’s A Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Rodolfo Acuña’s Occupied America, and Elizabeth Martinez’s 500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures and Rethinking Schools’ Rethinking Columbus. As you can imagine students described their books being boxed up as “heartbreaking.”

I’ve written quite a bit about this but at this moment I’m at a loss of words. Pedagogy of the Oppressed is perhaps one of the most important books written in the last fifty years, and how can one decide not to rethink Christopher Columbus in this day and age? Is it not a forgone conclusion that the man didn’t discover a part of the world that was already inhabited by people; people who are still here?

Like the students of Tuscon High School I was fortunate enough to have a history teacher that taught me a side of history that was more personal and honest. It was this type of honesty that inspired me to study harder, and to have pride in myself and others. I can speak from personal experience, as a student and educator, that this type of education is important to us all.

The true history of this country (in all of its glory and messiness) is something to be far more proud of than the cookie cutter, surface level history that we are taught the day we enter public education. As we have been forced to say again and again over the last few years…shame on Arizona.

For more information on the debate I implore you to read Jeff Biggers’ Salon.com article, “Who’s Afraid of the Tempest?

“The only other time a book of mine was banned was in 1986, when the apartheid government in South Africa banned ‘Strangers in Their Own Country,’ a curriculum I’d written that included a speech by then-imprisoned Nelson Mandela,” said [Bill]Bigelow, who serves as curriculum editor of Rethinking Schools magazine, and co-directs the online Zinn Education Project ”We know what the South African regime was afraid of. What is the Tucson school district afraid of?”

Debbie Reese’s, “Teaching Critical Thinking in Arizona: NOT ALLOWED.”

I’m pretty sure that Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House of the Prairie is not on the list. Towards the end of that story, Pa learns that the federal government wants squatters (he doesn’t use that word) to get off of Indian land. They load the wagon and as they drive away, they look back and see that that “their little log house and the little stable sat lonely in the stillness.” Pa says that it is a great country, “but there will be wild Indians and wolves here for many a long day.” Books like Little House teach readers to resent a race or class of people, too, but I doubt it is being removed from classrooms in Tucson.

Biggers’ Huffington Post interview with Tucson teacher Curtis Acosta.

We have quantitative academic results and brilliant graduates who are outstanding young people dedicated to their community. That is why the lack of support from our own district has been so frustrating and tragic. We have worked tirelessly for the students and families in the district for decades and the same cannot be said by the politicians and officials that ended our program on January 10th.

And, if you want to hear the argument from the state, watch the debate between John Huppenthal, Arizona superintendent of public instruction and Richard Martinez, the attorney representing teachers and students in Tucson Unified School District’s Mexican American Studies program.

 

Robot HR 3035 is Coming to Attack Your Cell Phone

In Politics, Technology on December 2, 2011 at 11:02 pm


I have two phones, a cell phone service and I have a cell phone. Guess which phone rings the most? Yep, the land line despite the fact that I never use it and none of my friends have that number. I couldn’t even tell you what it is. So, why does that phone ring so much? I mean, who the HELL could be calling me numerous times per day? Robot callers. Those damn robots callers! And, if the Mobile Information Call Act of 2011 is passed by a Congress that loves corporate business, Robot HR 3035 will find you where ever you go.

Robot callers are basically phone calls from God-knows-which company to sell you something, or they could be from a bill collectors or something. We’ve all experienced them and we hate it. We hate it when someone, whether it’s a robot or a real person, calls a number that we did not knowingly give them and tries to sell us shit, bug us or otherwise wastes our precious time.

Apparently, the cleverly worded Bill finds a way to get around the laws that currently restricts them from calling your cell phone. Prepare to be horrified!

First, since an automatic dialing system is illegal the bill redefines what that is. Their argument? They don’t use automatic dialing systems anymore. Dialing is old technology (sneaky bastards). The new technology will allow them to ‘target’ specific callers. But, how in the name of star 69 can it be legal for them to target you, huh?

The second strategy from HR 3035 states that your phone number is your consent. Can you believe this load of crap? Consider how many times you sign up for something and you are required to give them a phone number. Well, if this bill passes it will be legal for them to call that number for any reason they want, for as frequent as they want and in any way they choose to (consider text messaging) because you gave up your phone number. As far as they’re concerned, if you didn’t want them to call you you wouldn’t have left you phone number.

And, the last most witty strategy that Robot Bill HR 3035 is using to strip you of your cell phone privacy is they promise not to call you to deliberately sell you anything. That’s good news, right? Wrong. What this means is the dogs we call bill collectors will have their leashes completely removed. As for everyone else they will most likely change the way they call you. For example, since your purchasing habits clearly show that you like shopping at the Gap they will call or text you from time to time to inform you that the latest V neck sweaters and matching art-less t shirts are available at your nearest store.

We love our smart phones. We love the many things we can do on them and more importantly, the way they are private extensions of our self. It hurts almost when we break a phone or someone steals it. The endless applications and customizable options of today’s smart phones attaches us to them unlike the old rotary phones or pagers even.

A cell phone is your club house. An Android phone is someone’s country club. An iPhone, your studio apartment. Today’s phones are your haven of privacy. But, prepare people, for the HR 3035 Robot callers are coming!

All kidding aside, if you’re just as pissed about this as me click here. It’s a petition. Easy and quick to fill out.

U.S. Congress Just Launched a “Video Game” Caucus

In Politics, video games on February 18, 2011 at 10:17 pm

There’s a new Caucus in town. Representatives from the video game industry and members of the United States congress have joined to create the Caucus for Competitiveness in Entertainment Technology (aka, the  E-Tech Caucus).

The caucus cited healthy average annual salaries, and booming revenues, as a reason for creating the caucus. Also (and this is where I get excited), there is an enormous demand for video games in the academic space.

Dr. Levine with the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop added that games can make learning more compelling, and help the U.S. be more competitive in the global landscape.

“The newly established Congressional Caucus has an essential role to play in shining a bright light on the games and learning sector,” he said. “It can help build public-private partnerships that encourage entrepreneurs to develop bold breakthrough designs and help modernize education for a digital age.”

Can’t wait to see how this one develops.

Today’s Bad News: They Mad in the UK

In Education, Politics on November 16, 2010 at 2:08 am

It’s amazing the kind of news we get and the kind of news we don’t. Apparently, there was a massive riot in the UK last week. What started off as a peaceful protest turned into, what they’re calling, the Millbank Tower Riots. Now, we hear about riots all the time but there is a reason why this particular riot stood out for me.

Besides being impressively written in an immersive and somber tone by Laurie Penny of New Statesman, the reason behind the riot echo much of what is going on in the U.S. 52,000 angry students and school children marched through London angry at the country’s treatment of their public education and other public services.

There are three things to note about this riot, the first of its kind in Britain for decades, that aren’t being covered by the press. The first is that not all of the young people who have come to London to protest are university students. Lots are school pupils, and many of the 15, 16 and 17 year olds present have been threatened with expulsion or withdrawal of their EMA benefits if they chose to protest today. They are here anyway, alongside teachers, young working people and unemployed graduates.

What unites them? A chant strikes up: “We’re young! We’re poor! We won’t pay any more!”

People are outraged over fee increases, cuts in social services and a government that protesters claim are more interested in helping to correct the failures of the rich than the hard work of the poor working class.

Sound familiar?

They spent their childhoods working hard and doing what they were told with the promise that one day, far in the future, if they wished very hard and followed their star, their dreams might come true. They spent their young lives being polite and articulate whilst the government lied and lied and lied to them again. They are not prepared to be polite and articulate any more. They just want to scream until something changes. Perhaps that’s what it takes to be heard.

“Look, we all saw what happened at the big anti-war protest back in 2003,” says Tom, a postgraduate student from London. “Bugger all, that’s what happened. Everyone turned up, listened to some speeches and then went home. It’s sad that it’s come to this, but…” he gestures behind him to the bonfires burning in front of the shattered windows of Tory HQ. “What else can we do?”

I talk about this often with friends. We discuss public education and social services and the move towards the privatization of such things. We talk, as I’m sure you have, of the current world economic crisis and the bankers and financial investors who received financial support despite their failings. Well, they’re rioting in London over it. I wonder how long until this happens in the U.S.

[Also, I stumbled onto a piece from the Telegraph Blogs written by a gentleman name Neil O’Brien. According to O’Brien, the tuition fee hikes were fair. You can read it here. What do you think?]

Two of the Most Important Lectures You’ll Hear This Year

In Education, Politics on October 29, 2010 at 1:08 am

The Renaissance Society of America recently posted a brilliant animated version of a lecture by world renowned Education expert Sir Ken Robinson. You’ve got to watch this. Not only is it terribly relevant its also one of the most creative lectures of complicated subjectivity I’ve ever seen [Click on the title up top to open up the image].

But, to be fair. I did read that Robinson is a heavy supporter of Academies which are the United Kingdoms version of American Charter Schools. The Charter school movement has been a controversial subject recently with the release of Guggenheim’s Waiting for Superman. Academies, like Charter schools are considered the answer to our public education woes which a lot of people disagree with. What people? Check out an earlier post for that. The gist is that 1) Charter schools (though not all) are undemocratic removing parent, student and community input. They are most often run by a private managerial board. 2) they allegedly represent rich people’s new hustle. They are essentially private institutions that receive public money (but, again, are not beholden to the public) and their product – kids – are ubiquitous. However, there is only one things standing in the way of the proliferation of Academies and Charter schools – Teacher Unions. So, how do you destroy Teacher Unions? You make their teachers look bad.

So, in the interest of balancing out Sir Ken Robinson’s awesome lecture here goes another animated version of a lecture by renowned academic David Harvey. I’ll allow you intelligent people to form your own opinion of the connections between education and capitalism. Needless to say, this is some really good stuff [Click on the title up top to open up the image].