Tamim al-Barghouti, the poet of the revolution

February 17, 2011

O Egypt, It’s Close

We’re close.
It’s going to be a good day.
Nothing remains of power but a few bats or sticks.
If you don’t believe then just come to the square and see.
A tyrant only exists in the imagination of his subjects.
Everyone who stays at home, after this will be a tyrant.

Every revolution is impossible before it happens; and then it was inevitable

February 16, 2011

The young of Egypt said Enough! We refuse the imposed limits of this nasty dictator, his vicious regime, and the cozy don’t ask-don’t-tell relationship with his US puppet-masters and sponsors!
And they rose up, and in short order redefined themselves and changed the world. Chasing the dictator was the most they could hope for on day one; soon the regime was the target;and then their imaginative horizons broadened further, and a different social order altogether came briefly into view. Yes, that is wondrous and dazzling. People reaching out and finding one another, opposing the limits and the obstacles set in their paths, and in that moment finding what freedom really means.
Will they win? The military is in charge, not good, the CIA in full eruption, US weaponry and billions of dollars pouring in, so they will not win now, and they will not win easily. But the idea of independence and of freedom spreads. And the participants themselves will never be the same. From the perspective of humanity and the human longing to be free, that is dazzling, encouraging, and awesome every time.
Every revolution is, of course, impossible–until it happens; at that point all agree that it was inevitable.

My Brother on Tahrir Square

February 12, 2011

by Rick Ayers

February 11, 2011

All changed, changed utterly:

A terrible beauty is born.

William Butler Yeats penned those lines after the Irish Easter uprising of 1916. And how haunting and true they remain. Watch the explosions of joy at Tahrir Square and across the Middle East. The people of Egypt have changed much more than the experts grasp in their cramped little calculations of power and containment can even imagine. They have shattered the myths of powerlessness, the notion that a regime built on repression and violence is impregnable. For a generation, in the Middle East and around the world, the smothering blanket of cynicism, hung over demonstrations, mobilizations, and activism.

But the people of Tunisia and Egypt have shattered that picture. They have reinvented once again, as every generation must, the innovative dance that is a mass movement. Gone forever – or at least for a long time – is the idea that the people cannot make history.

And the Egyptian people have changed so much more. For example:

* The Israeli authorities like to claim that they are the only democracy in the Middle East. Sadly, though, they seem to balk whenever democratic efforts are attempted. The Egyptians have shattered the myth that Arabs have no interest in, or understanding of democracy.

* Hillary Clinton, in a US effort to slow down the struggle, has recently discovered that Egypt has a constitution and decided it must be followed. This had not been a problem to the US for all these years that martial law was imposed. Giving the dictatorship $1.5 billion per year, mainly for military hardware, has been a burden on the people that they won’t soon forget.

* Other authoritarian regimes, from Saudi Arabia and Libya to China and Burma, must be wondering when and if the same fate awaits them. And people are stirring in all these places.

* Many of us recognize that the US empire, that costly and violent hegemony that each administration seeks to preserve, is slowly crumbling. The Egyptians remind us that this is not something to fear. It can also be something joyful, creative, and hopeful. Watching Tahrir Square, I’m sure many in the US begin to imagine how much more lovely it would be to live in a world with greater equity in the distribution of resources, with a real participatory democracy, and with the possibility of deep human solidarity.

Many dangers lie ahead. But the genie is out of the bottle and cannot be stuffed back in. It is indeed true: a terrible beauty is born.

Teaching the Taboo

February 5, 2011

A Book That Will Push Any Educator, February 5, 2011

By Tessa Strauss

This review is from: Teaching the Taboo: Courage and Imagination in the Classroom

I have to admit, I might be a little biased towards this book. Rick Ayers was my own high school teacher and I saw him create change in our large urban public school, along with inspiring students, teachers, and community members alike, and mentoring them through the process of creating change themselves. Rick’s personal standpoint on education and politics has always inspired and motivated me; in fact, it was in part because of his ability and persistence in pushing students to question the norm that motivated me to become a teacher too.

As a first year teacher in an urban public school, I am faced every day (every moment even) with ethical, political, social, and personal dilemmas that could paralyze me if I had nowhere else to turn. I know why so many teachers leave the education system after only a year or two in the classroom. This is hard work! There are pressures from every angle to be the best teacher, to have your students succeed academically, to pull students up from the bottom single-handedly, to do the impossible and be a superhero. Teachers play a lot of roles in their classrooms; I am prepared daily to be a friend, surrogate mother, listener, conflict manager, food giver, trash picker upper, Academic English speaker, expert speller, math skills driller, disciplinarian, copy machine repairer, nurse, punching bag, and story reader. This can get a little tiring and overwhelming to say the least. This is where books like “Teaching the Taboo” are critical to keeping teachers alive and inspired, pushing us to ask questions in our classrooms and to remember why we became teachers in the first place. We need to believe in our students.

In this age of reporting and ranking teachers according to students’ test scores, I know teachers are doing anything to raise these scores to keep their jobs stable. It’s a scary world out there for teachers these days, but it’s a really scary world for students! I am asked by my school district to teach in a drill & kill style, to give my 8-year old “urban at-risk youth” a standardized, scripted, teacher-centered education so that they can have the same skills as other youth coming from wealthier and more educated communities. But are they really receiving the same education? In just one example, my students are not supposed to use math manipulatives and therefore have a much less conceptual understanding of how math fits in with their daily lives, as opposed to the many other schools that have a hands-on policy for teaching math. As a first year teacher, I struggle with deciding which of these “requirements” are really required and which are suggested; I struggle with the decisions I have to make daily about which students this system is working for and who it is not working for and why, and how I can adapt it or completely throw the curricula out the window in place of something that may work better for my particular students. Of course I believe that all of my students need basic academic skills, and I will go to the end of the earth and back to teach them these skills. I also deeply believe that in order to have any chance of “succeeding” in our society today, my students need to be able to think for themselves, to problem-solve, to apply their math and language skills to their daily lived experience, and to think critically about the world they are in. Rick and Bill Ayers are pushing educators to think deeply about their practice and to question their assumptions about teaching. They ask us to loosen our hold on “control” and to give some of the power and decision-making abilities to our students. They ask us to be flexible, to re-imagine a world where our students (even the most “challenging”) are who education is really for.

My teacher education program stresses the ideas of “teacher as researcher” and the teacher as a political being and someone who is constantly evolving and reflecting about their own roles in the classroom and world. “Teaching the Taboo” is a great reminder to me of how I imagined myself as a classroom teacher; creating a culture of community, creativity, and imagination, where my students are learning and teaching.

Support the People of Egypt Now

February 4, 2011

The US government must break its ties to the dictatorship in Egypt. As courageous Egyptians are being bombarded with US tear gas and other Made-in-the-USA weapons, US officials hypocritically call for peace and a peaceful transition. Just this week they “discovered” Mubarak is a dictator, but the US gives $1.3 billion a year of our tax dollars to Hosni Mubarak. The US has give Egypt $68 billion since 1948, and since 1979, Egypt has been the second- biggest recipient of US aid after Israel.  This US aid to Egypt includes military weapons that have been used to suppress the people and silence any opposition, and during the last few days against peaceful protesters.

Join human rights groups around the world in calling upon the US government to stand on the right side of history and support the Egyptian people’s right to true democracy and freedom.

Tell President Obama to stop funding the Mubarak regime now, to call on Mubarak to resign, and to expressly say that our government stands with the Egyptian people.