James Thindwa

June 29, 2018


Loud and Clear!

June 26, 2018


June 23, 2018
For folks supporting Palestinian rights in the U.S., @Pal_Legal is a vital tool of resistance. Please [join me in contributing]/[contribute] to their work so that our resistance can be even stronger!
Donate today to Palestine Legal to ensure that the movement for Palestinian rights can continue to grow? Every amount will be doubled if you give before June 30!
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My dinner with John Merrow…

June 22, 2018
This is John’s note, and you can try to guess which “guest” is me!
“If YOU had the power to make ONE major change in American public education immediately, what would you choose to do?”
I posed the question to my dinner companions, three authors and one editor. But before I tell you how they answered the question, please take a minute to decide what you would do. (and I urge you to post your answer below.)
OK, time’s up.
Let me set the scene: five adults, three white men and two African-American women, all of us left-leaning. Four writers and one editor. Late in the evening, after good food and several bottles of wine, I posed the question.
The man I would describe as the group’s traditional liberal was the first to respond: ‘I would double our spending on education.” Pressed to explain, he pointed out that most states had either cut spending or had failed to bring it back to pre-‘Great Recession’ levels, which has led to huge class sizes and cuts in programs that used to be considered essential, such as art and music, as well as the elimination of field trips and other opportunities.
One of the women ran with that idea, saying that she would increase spending selectively to achieve equity. “Not equal spending,” she said, “but equitable spending, so that we spend what’s necessary for each child to have a fair chance at succeeding.” (The public–and some reporters–often equate the two terms, equity and equality, but they mean very different things. An equitable system levels the playing field, which by definition will require spending more on some children.
Here’s a quick explanation from the Education Trust: “Yes, making sure all students have equal access to resources is an important goal. All students should have the resources necessary for a high-quality education. But the truth remains that some students need more to get there.Here’s where equity comes in. The students who are furthest behind — most often low-income students and students of color — require more of those resources to catch up…”
With that explanation is this helpful graphic: three boys of differing heights are trying to peer over a fence that’s too tall for any of them to see over. Treat them equally, and all get the same size box to stand on, even though that doesn’t guarantee that all three can see over the fence. An equitable solution gives each kid whatever size box is necessary to allow him to see over the fence. With equity, all kids are standing on different size boxes but have the same view.
The other woman in the group then spoke up. “High quality free universal pre-school for all three- and four-year-olds. That’s what I would do if I had the power to make one change,” she said. “Early education sets the stage,” she added, “but not lots of instruction, because that would kill it.”
The writer I would describe as the most radical in the group then chimed in. “More money is a great idea, and so are equity and universal pre-school,” he said, “But I would want to do something that would make society commit to quality education.” He paused. “If I had the power, I would require every state to pledge to support the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, because it states that education is a fundamental human right. That would move the needle.”
Later that evening I looked up the 1948 document, which has been translated into more than 500 languages. Sure enough, Article 26 states:
(1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
At that point everyone turned to me, and, even though I am much more comfortable asking questions than answering them, I plunged ahead. “I would eliminate standardized testing.”
Everyone seemed shocked. Including me. Never before had I expressed that thought. To the contrary, like most critics of testing, I have always argued for ‘multiple measures’ that included–but minimized the importance of–standardized, machine-scored ‘bubble’ tests.
“Get rid of them completely,” one asked? “Yes,” I said, “because about 75% of what they do is destructive: dumbing down the curriculum, making school a pressure-cooker, equating a person’s worth with his or her scores, falsely evaluating teacher quality based on a single number, and so on.”
I continued. “Maybe about 25% of what they do is worth-while, but, if we got rid of them completely, we would be forced to develop alternative ways of assessing learning, and we could come up with approaches that weren’t inherently destructive.”
Some of you reading this are thinking that I am throwing the baby out with the bath water, as the cliché goes. I disagree. I am throwing out the dirty bath water and the bar of soap, and we can always buy some more soap to clean the baby with. I am actually saving the baby!!
For the rest of the evening we went back and forth. Yes, it was an exercise in fantasy, because none of our five proposals has a chance of being adopted tomorrow.
But at least two of these bold ideas–more money and ending standardized testing–are actually alive and well. Because of the ‘wildfire’ teacher walkouts in at least five states, public spending at the state level is increasing in Arizona, West Virginia, Colorado, and elsewhere. And the push to limit standardized testing continues, as the continuing success of the Opt-Out movement testifies. Ironically, as I was writing this, Diane Ravitch’s wonderful blog came across my screen. In today’s edition she posts a powerful column by Chris Churchill of the Albany Times Union, in which he argues for eliminating standardized testing. Here’s part of what he has to say:
As far as I can tell, the only beneficiaries are the big bureaucracies that want more control over classrooms and the big corporations that provide the tests.
The tests certainly haven’t benefited our kids, who, in many districts, are getting shorter recesses so teachers can spend more time in service to the looming tests. Or who, as many parents can attest, view testing days with anxiety and dread.
If the tests were just tests, they might be relatively harmless. But they epitomize something bigger: The madness that applies a production mentality to education. Everything can be neatly quantified, yes siree, not to mention automated, regulated and homogenized!
But children aren’t widgets and schools aren’t factories. You can’t measure the success of a classroom with data points. Standardized testing tells us nothing important about how children experience school.
You may read the rest of his piece here.
So, what is your dream? If you were granted the power, what big change would you make?
John Merrow
former Education Correspondent,
PBS NewsHour, and founding President,
Learning Matters, Inc.

Loud and Clear

June 21, 2018

WAKE UP! Now is not the time to yawn!

June 19, 2018

The opposite of moral is not immoral, but indifferent. To open your eyes, to pay attention, to be astonished and then to act is to affirm your own humanity. To look away at a time like this—to willfully blind yourself to what is happening right in front of your eyes— is to scar yourself as well as the larger human family. How will you prove in years to come that you were alive at this critical moment? Wake up! Now is not the time to yawn.

Come and Meet Medea Benjamin

June 19, 2018


From a dear old friend of Bob Tomashevsky’s, Marjorie Hornik…

June 18, 2018
A message for my FaceBook friends, all 11 of you:
As I learn of the thousands of families being torn apart at our borders – babies, toddlers and young children being ripped from the arms (and the breasts) of their parents, sent thousands of miles away or put in wire cages and warehouses – my rage and nausea are growing. As a mother, I find the horror of it beyond my capacity to express in words. As a psychotherapist, I would like to try to find words to speak about it and share with you.
I have read the accurate, powerful yet measured words of some of my professional community as they speak out against these atrocities. They speak of the lifelong psychological harm suffered by children who undergo forced separation. What do they mean by this? One way to understand it is to understand the human attachment system – the capacity that our nervous systems have, from the moment of birth, to keep us connected and cared for by our parents. It is a SURVIVAL system – without it, we would not survive, as individuals or as a species. Humans are wired to respond powerfully to attachment signals – think of how a parent responds to an infant’s cry, or a baby’s smile. As babies, we depend on our parent for protection, to mediate and explain contact with the world and with other people. We come to know ourselves, our feelings and emotions, most powerfully by how we see and feel them reflected back to us from the adults that know us and love us. Again, this is a SURVIVAL need.
Every day in my office, I work with courageous clients who are trying to live better lives – to feel better, to connect more deeply and reliably with the important people in their lives, to love and care for their children in ways that they themselves were not loved and cared for. So many of them are working to heal the traumas of their early lives – separation, loss or abandonment by a parent, abuse, all sorts of traumas. Often in our work, we find ourselves in the realm of multi-generational trauma: clients learn how their own parents’ (and grandparents’) traumatic experiences still echo in their lives: think, Holocaust, combat in wars, pervasive racism, the dislocation of immigration.
Do you see where I’m going with this? Picture a young child, having made the harrowing trip with his or her parent, finally arriving at the US border, only to be torn physically from their parent (or to have the parent unexpectedly disappear, when the parent is led off for a “photograph” or the child is taken “for a bath”). This child is experiencing a fear of ANNIHILATION. Nothing less. And who is there to comfort this child? A stranger, who may not even speak her language, who doesn’t know anything of the child’s history. A trauma of this magnitude, even if righted in a matter of days or weeks, may affect that child for his or her entire life, and beyond that, reverberate into the next – and next and next – generations.
As a country, we’ve done this before – think slavery, think Indian Schools. That it is going on, in my name, paid for by my tax dollars, is beyond intolerable. I’m writing this as a first response – I don’t have any idea where this will lead. I have never posted a personal message to FaceBook before. I know I’m preaching to the choir here. Maybe I will share it also with my larger professional community. If you think it offers any new perspective that you would like to share, please feel free to do so. And of course, let us continue to protest and advocate in any way we can, so this atrocity does not continue in our names.


June 17, 2018
By William Blum – Published February 2013

Instances of the United States overthrowing, or attempting to overthrow, a foreign government since the Second World War. (* indicates successful ouster of a government)
Original Post 

  • China 1949 to early 1960s
  • Albania 1949-53
  • East Germany 1950s
  • Iran 1953 *
  • Guatemala 1954 *
  • Costa Rica mid-1950s
  • Syria 1956-7
  • Egypt 1957
  • Indonesia 1957-8
  • British Guiana 1953-64 *
  • Iraq 1963 *
  • North Vietnam 1945-73
  • Cambodia 1955-70 *
  • Laos 1958 *, 1959 *, 1960 *
  • Ecuador 1960-63 *
  • Congo 1960 *
  • France 1965
  • Brazil 1962-64 *
  • Dominican Republic 1963 *
  • Cuba 1959 to present
  • Bolivia 1964 *
  • Indonesia 1965 *
  • Ghana 1966 *
  • Chile 1964-73 *
  • Greece 1967 *
  • Costa Rica 1970-71
  • Bolivia 1971 *
  • Australia 1973-75 *
  • Angola 1975, 1980s
  • Zaire 1975
  • Portugal 1974-76 *
  • Jamaica 1976-80 *
  • Seychelles 1979-81
  • Chad 1981-82 *
  • Grenada 1983 *
  • South Yemen 1982-84
  • Suriname 1982-84
  • Fiji 1987 *
  • Libya 1980s
  • Nicaragua 1981-90 *
  • Panama 1989 *
  • Bulgaria 1990 *
  • Albania 1991 *
  • Iraq 1991
  • Afghanistan 1980s *
  • Somalia 1993
  • Yugoslavia 1999-2000 *
  • Ecuador 2000 *
  • Afghanistan 2001 *
  • Venezuela 2002 *
  • Iraq 2003 *
  • Haiti 2004 *
  • Somalia 2007 to present
  • Honduras 2009
  • Libya 2011 *
  • Syria 2012
  • Ukraine 2014 *
  • Syria

Annual TRILLION dollar war budget…(not billion)

June 15, 2018