Inventing Illegality

protest1

Image Credit: May Day March

A new week, a new round of policies that endanger more than than they assist.

Through the debates that will rightly follow Trump’s latest round of immigration directives, notice who chooses to employ the term illegal vs. undocumented. And if that distinction doesn’t yet set your ears aflame, here’s one of the many reasons it should.

Earlier this fall, Emmy Award-winning journalist Maria Hinojosa explained that you can identify an individual as having broken a law, but “what you cannot do is to label the person illegal.” Hinojosa continued,

“The reason why I say this, is not because I learned it from some radical Latino or Latina studies professor when I was a college student. I learned it from Elie Wiesel, who survived the Holocaust, who said, ‘You know what? The first thing they did was that they declared the Jews to be an illegal people.’ And that’s what we’re talking about at this point.” Continue reading

Word of the Year 2016: ‘Post-Truth’

 

Fittingly, and somewhat depressingly, Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year for 2016 is ‘post-truth.’

In a year of politics demonstrating that feelings count as facts, the Oxford Dictionary defined ‘post-truth’ as “denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”

In the wake of Brexit, as well as the the recent U.S. presidential election, according to the Casper Grathwohl of Oxford Dictionaries:

“It’s not surprising that our choice reflects a year dominated by highly-charged political and social discourse… Fuelled by the rise of social media as a news source and a growing distrust of facts offered up by the establishment, post-truth as a concept has been finding its linguistic footing for some time.”

Some argue the fault lies in the way we curate our own ‘bubbles’ of news and social media. But I’d add that the foothold gained by ‘post-truth’ is directly linked to the way we have come to teach ‘reading’ in today’s schools. A particular consequence of standardized testing is a renewed emphasis on close reading—which prioritizes evaluating a text based on its own internal logic rather than reading critically in terms of context, authorship, and counter narratives. Want to fight post-truth? Educate. Refuse to accept or promote single story narratives that say there is only one lens through which to understand the world, events, or groups of people. Read. Really Read. Continue reading

The But/And Politics of “Moving Forward”

ew2

Image credit: Ben Wikler

I deeply admire you, Senator Elizabeth Warren, which is why I was looking to you for answers last week.

“Donald Trump ran a campaign that started with racial attacks and then rode the escalator down. Millions of Americans – African-Americans, Latinos, Muslims, LGBT Americans, women – have every right to be deeply worried. But there are many millions of people who did not vote for Donald Trump because of the bigotry and hate that fueled his campaign rallies…. They voted for him out of frustration and anger—and also out of hope that he would bring change to an economy and a government that doesn’t work for them.”

What you said is true. We know all Trump supporters aren’t necessarily hateful. We also know that many other voters are rightfully afraid. However, it was your use of one word that makes this such a disappointment.

You said “but.”

Yes, Senator Warren, millions of Americans—particularly minoritized populations—do have every right to be deeply worried.

Full stop.

It’s just that you didn’t stop there. You didn’t legitimize that truth by letting it stand.

You said “but.”

The word “but” is used to pivot a sentence away from one idea and onto another. The word functions to contradict, qualify, or lessen the clause that precedes it. 

So your sentence took the focus off of the fear, worry, and physical danger that faces so many right now, and put it elsewhere.

That focus, Senator Warren, needed to stay right where it was.

Now is not the time for the word “but.” It’s time to realize we can hold two ideas in our head at the same time.

It’s a time for the word AND. Continue reading

When Public Money Goes Private: Charter Schools, Privatization, & Pipelines

safe

Image Credit: Rob Pongsajapan

In a few weeks, Massachusetts will vote on lifting the cap on its number of charter schools. Naturally, this has led to a feud rivaling Shakespeare’s Montagues and Capulets—minus the star crossed lovers who will admit to liking someone from the other side.

Wherever you live, you’ve likely come across charter school debates. You’ve probably even heard phrases like corporate interests, privatization, and for-profit schools thrown around. And if you’re anything like me, you’ve scratched your head as to what these phrases actually mean.

Recently, a friend of mine asked, Does anyone actually understand the model behind the “for profit” charter schools? Aren’t publicly funded schools non-profit by nature? How are charter schools creating a revenue stream?

My questions exactly….

Charter schools don’t charge tuition, so it’s easy to think they wouldn’t create any “profit” system anyone would be interested in.

But that’s where we’d be wrong.

When Public Money Goes Private

Before anyone gets excited, I’m not going to talk about whether individual charter schools are good/bad/amazing/evil/etc. For that argument, please see every other article about charter schools ever. Here, I hope to explore the relationship of charter schools to profit, land, and privatization.  Continue reading

‘Refugee’ Revisited: Rio 2016

rio

Image Credit: Kirilos via Flickr

The Olympics aspire to inspire. This year, nothing has captured that spirit more than the standing ovation received by the first Refugee Olympic team at the opening ceremonies in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

One team member in particular, 18-year-old swimmer Yusra Mardini, captured the world’s attention through her story of having pushed a sinking dinghy to shore, saving 20 lives as she and her family fled Syria.

Through all the (indisputably worthy) praise for Mardini and the rest of the team, less energy has been invested in exploring the conditions that engineered such a team into existence.

International policies are accountable for forcing these athletes, and countless others, into refugee status. These policies were enacted by many of the same countries whose athletes paraded alongside the refugee team. The same culpability resides with transnational bodies such as the International Olympic Committee: How do we, for example, reconcile the paradox of welcoming a refugee team during an event responsible for displacing 77,000 more?

A partial answer comes in recognizing that “refugee” is not a nationality, a flag by which to march under, but a status we as a global community have forced upon these individuals. Continue reading

Analyzing the Inexplicable

 

Cullen

A Columbine reference eerily appears in today’s class reading.

We’re discussing how to teach analytical writing—going beyond recounting, adding original, evidence-based conclusions that inform, uncover, and expand our own thinking, and hopefully public discourse.

The book’s author, Kelly Gallagher, uses Dave Cullen’s 2009 account of the Columbine massacre as an exemplar for his students, illustrating how the author “moved past simply telling what happened by delving into why the tragedy unfolded the way it did.”

He goes on to note how the shock-jock reporting and lack of rigorous analysis that followed the shooting has led to years of misconceptions about the tragedy, its perpetrators, and its causes.

The next few days will do the same. Teachers, writers—this is why we exist. How could any of us teach about anything else today?

Please see the following resources on addressing the Orlando tragedy at your school.

– A National Tragedy: Helping Children Cope

– How to Discuss National Tragedies with Kids

– Addressing the Orlando Shooting at Your School

Screen Shot 2016-06-13 at 12.58.20 PM

Political Correctness and the “War on Free Speech”

silence.jpg

Image Credit: Rebecca Barray, via Flickr

Political Diatribe. Trigger warnings. Microaggressions. Victimhood culture.

Being politically correct, or “PC,” has been all over the media this year. Some say this is the mark of a more conscientious and inclusive society, while others say we’ve gotten “too sensitive.” According to one recent presidential candidate, political correctness is literally “killing people.”

But what does being PC even mean? Merriam-Webster will tell you it’s about avoiding language “perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against,” which all sounds well and good. So why the dramatic outcry over a basic politeness virtue we teach kindergarteners every day?

The backlash usually arises when someone is called out for not being PC. In general, no one likes to have their language corrected. If someone points out a mistake in grammar or pronunciation (cue Chris discovering there’s no “x” in espresso), we’re briefly embarrassed, but we move past it. But if someone gets called out for being “un-PC,” prepare for words to fly.

So what is it that makes this correction strike so much deeper? Clearly, it’s something that goes beyond the words or “corrections” themselves to tap into dynamics of language and power. Continue reading