Archives for category: Hope

Audrey Watters summarizes the present crisis that grips the nation.

Uncontainable. Inconsolable. Over the past few months, we have all experienced the grotesque failures of the state, and we’ve all lost something to the pandemic — directly or indirectly from the disease. But racism and white supremacy are the scourge that have destroyed so much more, for so much longer. “America Is Giving Up on the Pandemic,” Alexis Madrigal and Robinson Meyer argue. But I don’t think that Americans are giving up on justice. We can’t. People will clench their fists and fight on.

“Black lives matter,” brands have all suddenly proclaimed. But we should know better than to take them seriously, particularly the technology companies who build tools and services that put Black lives at risk. It’s “Black Power-washing,” Chris Gilliard writes, “wherein companies issue essentially meaningless statements about their commitment to Black folks but do little to change their policies, hiring practices, or ultimately their business models, no matter how harmful to Black people these may be.” These companies speak, to borrow from the situationist Raoul Vaneigem, with corpses in their mouths. (And yes, that includes many ed-tech CEOs. Just because I’m silent on Twitter right now as I mourn my son, don’t think I don’t see you showing your whole ass with your “all lives matter” “let’s hear both sides” bullshit.)

Robert Kuttner is editor of The American Prospect. He writes a blog called Kuttner on Tap.

If You Can Stand It, a Little More Optimism.

Now we find out what America is made of. And what we see, a week after George Floyd’s police lynching, is this:

Protests are continuing and they are increasingly peaceful, except for police violence. Protest leaders are working with local governments to contain both police rampages on the one hand and provocations and opportunistic looting on the other.

More than at any time since the civil rights era of the 1960s, white America has some compassion for pent-up black frustrations. A majority of Americans approve of the demonstrations and reject police violence. And 55 percent of white Americans tell pollsters that black anger is fully justified.

Meanwhile, Trump keeps revealing what he is made of, and his own support keeps dropping. And Joe Biden has found his inner Bobby Kennedy and made his best speech ever. I don’t care who wrote it; Biden gave it.

The focus of the election, increasingly, will be Trump’s callous and opportunistic use of a crisis that required healing. He is setting himself up for a landslide repudiation, well beyond the Republican margin of theft.

Also encouraging is the united response of governors and mayors. Trump may have the power on paper to call in the Army and the National Guard. But that is no match for the combined power of an aroused citizenry and resistant local officials. His troops can’t occupy the whole country by force.

We will see more mass demonstrations. They will be peaceful except for the efforts of rogue cops and Trump’s storm troopers to inject violence. And by fall, the consequence will be a mass revulsion against Trump.

As Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, one of America’s finest, wrote in concluding an eloquent New York Times op-ed piece:

“Let us vote against state-sanctioned violence, vitriolic discourse and the violation of human rights. In memory of George Floyd and all the other innocent black lives that have been taken in the recent and distant past, let us commit to registering black people, especially black men, to vote.”

America is stronger, better, wiser than Trump. And America will survive Trump. Then the real work can begin.

The following assemblage of citations from Dr. King’s life was prepared by the Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute at Stanford University.


Nonviolence

As a theologian, Martin Luther King reflected often on his understanding of nonviolence. He described his own “pilgrimage to nonviolence” in his first book, Stride Toward Freedom, and in subsequent books and articles. “True pacifism,” or “nonviolent resistance,” King wrote, is “a courageous confrontation of evil by the power of love” (King, Stride, 80). Both “morally and practically” committed to nonviolence, King believed that “the Christian doctrine of love operating through the Gandhian method of nonviolence was one of the most potent weapons available to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom” (King, Stride, 79; Papers 5:422).

King was first introduced to the concept of nonviolence when he read Henry David Thoreau’s Essay on Civil Disobedience as a freshman at Morehouse College. Having grown up in Atlanta and witnessed segregation and racism every day, King was “fascinated by the idea of refusing to cooperate with an evil system” (King, Stride, 73).

In 1950, as a student at Crozer Theological Seminary, King heard a talk by Dr. Mordecai Johnson, president of Howard University. Dr. Johnson, who had recently traveled to India, spoke about the life and teachings of Mohandas K. Gandhi. Gandhi, King later wrote, was the first person to transform Christian love into a powerful force for social change. Gandhi’s stress on love and nonviolence gave King “the method for social reform that I had been seeking” (King, Stride, 79).

While intellectually committed to nonviolence, King did not experience the power of nonviolent direct action first-hand until the start of the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955. During the boycott, King personally enacted Gandhian principles. With guidance from black pacifist Bayard Rustin and Glenn Smiley of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, King eventually decided not to use armed bodyguards despite threats on his life, and reacted to violent experiences, such as the bombing of his home, with compassion. Through the practical experience of leading nonviolent protest, King came to understand how nonviolence could become a way of life, applicable to all situations. King called the principle of nonviolent resistance the “guiding light of our movement. Christ furnished the spirit and motivation while Gandhi furnished the method” (Papers 5:423).

King’s notion of nonviolence had six key principles. First, one can resist evil without resorting to violence. Second, nonviolence seeks to win the “friendship and understanding” of the opponent, not to humiliate him (King, Stride, 84). Third, evil itself, not the people committing evil acts, should be opposed. Fourth, those committed to nonviolence must be willing to suffer without retaliation as suffering itself can be redemptive. Fifth, nonviolent resistance avoids “external physical violence” and “internal violence of spirit” as well: “The nonviolent resister not only refuses to shoot his opponent but he also refuses to hate him” (King, Stride, 85). The resister should be motivated by love in the sense of the Greek word agape, which means “understanding,” or “redeeming good will for all men” (King, Stride, 86). The sixth principle is that the nonviolent resister must have a “deep faith in the future,” stemming from the conviction that “The universe is on the side of justice” (King, Stride, 88).

During the years after the bus boycott, King grew increasingly committed to nonviolence. An India trip in 1959 helped him connect more intimately with Gandhi’s legacy. King began to advocate nonviolence not just in a national sphere, but internationally as well: “the potential destructiveness of modern weapons” convinced King that “the choice today is no longer between violence and nonviolence. It is either nonviolence or nonexistence” (Papers 5:424).

After Black Power advocates such as Stokely Carmichael began to reject nonviolence, King lamented that some African Americans had lost hope, and reaffirmed his own commitment to nonviolence: “Occasionally in life one develops a conviction so precious and meaningful that he will stand on it till the end. This is what I have found in nonviolence” (King, Where, 63–64). He wrote in his 1967 book, Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?: “We maintained the hope while transforming the hate of traditional revolutions into positive nonviolent power. As long as the hope was fulfilled there was little questioning of nonviolence. But when the hopes were blasted, when people came to see that in spite of progress their conditions were still insufferable … despair began to set in” (King, Where, 45). Arguing that violent revolution was impractical in the context of a multiracial society, he concluded: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. The beauty of nonviolence is that in its own way and in its own time it seeks to break the chain reaction of evil” (King, Where, 62–63).

Footnotes

King, “Pilgrimage to Nonviolence,” 13 April 1960, in Papers 5:419–425.

King, Stride Toward Freedom, 1958.

King, Where Do We Go from Here, 1967.

This entry is part of the following collection

Martin Luther King, Jr. – Political and Social Views
Martin Luther King, Jr. – Travels
Montgomery Bus Boycott

Nonviolence

Related Events

King begins freshman year at Morehouse
King hears Mordecai Johnson preach on Gandhi
Montgomery bus boycott begins
Bayard Rustin visits Montgomery
King discusses nonviolence with Bayard Rustin
Glenn Smiley interviews King in Montgomery
“Stride Toward Freedom” officially released; King signs copies at Harlem’s Empire Baptist Bookstore
The Kings and Lawrence Dunbar Reddick depart for India and Middle East
King’s “Pilgrimage to Nonviolence” published in Christian Century

Enjoy this beautiful rendition of “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel, performed by 300 people from 15 countries.

Here are the liner notes:

In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, 300 people from 15 different countries came together to participate in a virtual rendition of the beautiful song “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, Carousel. Please share this video to help spread a little hope during this time!

“I left New York City on March 14, anticipating a short absence. The Brooklyn College Choir had been preparing for performances with the New York Philharmonic, and then that was gone. Arriving home in Iowa, I found comfort in playing the beautiful song from the musical Carousel, ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone.’ I embarked on collaborating online like so many others are doing. What started to fill the void of music collaboration has evolved to new meaning for me with the lengthened quarantine. Hopefully, the words, ‘you’ll never walk alone,’ along with the visual of 300 people joining together offers the audience some comfort and peace during this time. Stay safe and healthy my friends!”

– Harrison Sheckler
Brooklyn College M.M. ’21 Piano Performance

Audio Mixing and Mastering:
Josh Meyer and Grant Bayer of Zated Records in Cincinnati, Ohio

Video Editing: Harrison Sheckler

Instagram: @harrisonsheckler
Twitter: @HarrisonSheckl1
Facebook: @hsheckpiano

Broadway is dark.

But the music lives on.

This is the great song,“You Will Be Found,” from Dear Evan Hansen.

It’s sung by a huge virtual choir of young people.

Enjoy!

Michael Hynes is the superintendent of schools in the Port Washington school district on Long Island in New York. He is one of the most creative, innovative, and unconventional thinkers in education today. His new book was just published, offering advice to school leaders and, frankly, to everyone, about what is most important in life.

Mike Hynes is my candidate for the next State Commissioner of Education in New York. He has fresh ideas, deep experience, and values the well-being of children more than test scores.

In this brief essay, he outlines what schools should do after the pandemic.

He writes:

Now is the time for our school leaders to generate a new compelling philosophy of education and an innovative architecture for a just and humane school system. We must refocus our energy on a foundation built on a sense of purpose, forging relationships and maximizing the potential and talents of all children. Let’s take advantage of the possibility that our nation’s attention can shift 180 degrees, from obsessing over test scores and accountability to an entirely different paradigm of physical, mental, and emotional well-being for students and staff.

It is our collective responsibility to foster engaging and meaningful environments when educating our children in the new era of a post pandemic education. As the great philosopher John Dewey stated over one hundred years ago, “If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.” The first sentence in the 2018 World Bank Group’s Flagship Report- Learning: To Realize Education’s Promise states, “Schooling is not the same as learning.” I couldn’t agree more. The report continues to speak about that as a society, we must learn to realize education’s promise.

Now is this the time to revolutionize this antiquated system built on old structures and ideologies. I recommend we change the purpose of schooling to the following core values:

· Emphasize well-being. Make child and teacher well-being a top priority in all schools, as engines of learning and system efficiency.

· Upgrade testing and other assessments. Stop the standardized testing of children in grades 3-8, and “opt-up” to higher-quality assessments by classroom teachers. Eliminate the ranking and sorting of children based on standardized testing. Train students in self-assessment, and require only one comprehensive testing period to graduate from high school.

· Invest resources fairly. Fund schools equitably on the basis of need. Provide small class sizes.

· Boost learning through physical activity. Give children multiple outdoor free-play recess breaks throughout the school day to boost their well-being and performance. We observed schools in Finland that give children four 15-minute free-play breaks a day.

· Change the focus. Create an emotional atmosphere and physical environment of warmth, comfort and safety so that children are happy and eager to come to school. Teach not just basic skills, but also arts, crafts, music, civics, ethics, home economics and life skills.

· Make homework efficient. Reduce the homework load in elementary and middle schools to no more than 30 minutes per night, and make it responsibility-based rather than stress-based.

· Trust educators and children. Give them professional respect, creative freedom and autonomy, including the ability to experiment, take manageable risks and fail in the pursuit of success.

· Improve, expand and destigmatize vocational and technical education. Encourage more students to attend schools in which they can acquire valuable career/trade skills.

In short, if we learn anything at all from this pandemic, we should clearly recognize that we need our teachers more than ever before. It’s imperative that schools focus on a balanced approach to education, one that embraces physical, emotional, cognitive and social growth. We have an enormous amount of work to do, but our children deserve nothing less.

If you agree, please send his essay to every school board member you know and to anyone else who is interested in finding a new way to educate our children, one that develops their well-being and joy in learning, instead of subjecting them to an endless and useless series of standardized tests.

The young people of Florida offer hope.

Watch this!

‪Les Misérables Flash Mob – Orlando Shakespeare Theater https://youtu.be/Cn8PiqIXEjQ via @YouTube‬

Arthur Camins warns us against the prophets of doom and gloom, the pundits who say that we can’t hope for anything better, who try to persuade us not to fight for a better future.

He begins:

Beware the apostles of dystopia. They come to destroy your hope.  There are two sects. One preaches survival-of-the-fittest disdain for any social responsibility.  The other preaches defeatism and accommodation in the face of wealth and power. They are all hope, destroyers.

The necessity of hope struck me hard on Saturday, January 25. In the morning, I read two provocative op-eds in the NY Times.

Trump-disdaining conservative columnist, Bret Stevens, cautions, “Anyone but Trump? Not So Fast. Let’s not exchange one reckless president for another.” Essentially he argues that Trump, while personally reprehensible, hasn’t changed life for most Americans.  He goes on to plant fear of radical progressives: Too much hope for a more equitable future is dangerously destabilizing.

Historian David Motadel warns us about, “The Myth of Middle-Class Liberalism. The bourgeois are supposed to ensure open, democratic societies. In fact, they rarely have.” Historically, he argues, “the middle classes have frequently sided with illiberal forms of government when they feared for their privileges and social stability.”

In the evening, my wife and I watched the movie Just Mercy.  It dramatizes the relentless efforts of Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, to exonerate death row victims of racial injustice and fear.  Freed from jail after many years wrongful imprisonment, Walter McMillan tells Stevenson, “We’ve all been through a lot, Bryan, all of us. I know that some have been through more than others. But if we don’t expect more from each other, hope better for one another, and recover from the hurt we experience, we are surely doomed.”

Between now and the 2020 presidential primary and general election, apologists for and defenders of our inequitable, livable climate-destroying status quo will try to scare hope out of middle-class voters into selecting anyone but the dangerous progressives in the race, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Every fear-based, divisive scare tactic will be employed.  In fact, they are our best hope. Some will allude to, but not explicitly advocate, exclusionary authoritarianism as the only viable path for America.  Others will plead with voters to take the safe “moderate” path.

Progressives need to heed Motadel’s and McMillan’s warning.  Anyone who gets the dire threat of Trumpism needs to heed the warning.  Anyone with a mind to sit out the election or vote for third party candidate needs to heed the warning.  Things always can and often do get worse long before they get better. When it does, innocent people suffer and die. However, the solution is not to bend to the illusion of a safe moderate. It is to vote for hope.

Mercedes Schneider is a high school teacher in Louisiana. She has been blogging since 2013 about the state and federal government’s determined efforts to force bad ideas on teachers like her. Too often, she writes, she has had to share bad news. But when she read SLAYING GOLIATH, she understood that she was part of a national movement to resist bad policies.

She writes:

It has been an uphill battle, and I know that my words, though informative, are also often overwhelming and disheartening for those who care about the community school and who seek an encouraging word.

I have had fellow supporters of American public education tell me they appreciate my work but wish I had some good news to share.

Well, then. Today is that day.

Education historian, Diane Ravitch, has published a book, Slaying Goliath: The Passionate Resistance to Privatization and the Fight to Save America’s Public Schools.

It is a book about parents, teachers, students, administrators, and other public school advocates across the nation whose grass roots efforts to engage in the fight save America’s schools have created a movement, a book that allows public school advocates the opportunity to step back and see a more complete picture of their combined efforts across cities, states, situations, and years.

It is a book about us.

As I turned the pages and read of so many advocates contributing individual moments of advocacy– writing, speaking, organizing, protesting, striking, lobbying, voting, running for office– I felt wonderfully encouraged to realize on a deeper level that I am not one of few but one of many contributing to a remarkable, undeniable, and powerful effort to combat an ed-reform effort chiefly fueled by a handful of billionaires.

 

Today is “pub day,” as they say in the trade.

I started writing SLAYING GOLIATH in February 2018 as I watched and read news reports about the teachers’ strike in West Virginia.

I watched in awe as every school in the state was closed by every superintendent so that teachers were technically not breaking the law that prevents them from striking.

I watched in amazement as teachers and support staff assembled in the state capitol, decked in red T-shirts, carrying homemade signs, and declaring their allegiance to #55Strong, a reference to the 55 school districts in the state.

I saw them stand together proudly and defiantly, insisting on fair wages and decent working conditions.

I realized as #Red4Ed spread from state to state that something fundamental had changed in the national narrative about education.

The media were no longer talking about “bad teachers” and “failing schools,” but were actually listening to the voices of those who worked in the schools.

In January 2019, I marched in the rain with teachers of the UTLA in Los Angeles.

And I saw the national narrative change.

I read stories about how poorly teachers were paid instead of blaming them for low test scores.

Suddenly the press woke up to the massive neglect and underinvestment in education that was creating a teacher shortage.

Demoralization was replaced by jubilation as teachers realized that they were not merely passive bystanders but could take charge of their destiny.

Many teachers ran for office. Some won and joined their state legislature.

I began to see the world in a different light.

I looked at the latest NAEP scores and read the lamentations about flat scores for a decade (that was before the release of the 2019 scores, which confirmed that the needle had not moved on test scores despite billions spent on testing).

So many changes were happening, and suddenly I realized that the so-called reformers were on the defensive. They knew that none of their promises had come through. They were on a power trip with no expectation anymore of “closing the achievement gap” (which is a built-in feature of standardized tests, which are normed on a bell curve that never closes). No more expectation that charter schools were miraculous. I began checking and realized that the number of new charter schools was almost equaled by the number of charter schools that were closing.

Something new and different was in the air: Hope!

Arne Duncan wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post saying that “some people claim that reform is failing, don’t believe them.” Then I knew it was all over.

I knew that the “reform” project was nothing more than a Disruption movement. It had succeeded at nothing.

Yet it was the Status Quo.

And this behemoth had the nerve to claim it was opposed to the “status quo.”

The behemoth–Goliath– controls all the levers of power. It controls federal policy, it is steered by billionaires, it has the allegiance of hedge fund managers, Wall Street, Silicon Valley, and a long list of foundations. One of my sons, a writer, read an early version of the manuscript, and he said there were too many names in the chapter about the Disruption Movement. I explained the importance and necessity of naming names. Every one of them was documented.

Arrayed against this daunting assemblage of the rich and powerful were parents, educators, students, people who wanted to protect what belongs to the public and keep it out of the hands of corporations and entrepreneurs.

I decided to tell the story of the Resistance and to zoom in on some of the heroes. There was Jitu Brown in Chicago, who led a hunger strike of a dozen people on lawn chairs and forced Rahm Emanuel to capitulate. There were Leonie Haimson Rachael Stickland, who organized other parents and defeated Bill Gates and his $100 million project called inBloom, which was all set to gather personally identifiable student data and store it in a cloud managed by Amazon. There were the valiant and creative members of the Providence Student Union, who employed political theater to stop the state from using a standardized test as a graduation requirement. There was Jesse Hagopian and the brave teachers at Garfield High School in Seattle, who refused to administer a useless test, risking their jobs. There were the parents, students, and activists in Douglass County, Colorado, who fought year after year until they ousted a far-right board that wanted to be first in the nation to offer vouchers for religious schools. There are individuals, like Ed Johnson in Atlanta, who keeps telling the school board how to approach reform as a system rather than as an opportunity to punish people. There were many more, and many that I did not have space to include.

Goliath is not dead yet. But he is propped up solely by the power of money. Goliath has no ideas, no strategies, no plans that have not already been tried and failed.

I loved writing the book. I wrote it to give hope and encouragement to all the Davids still fighting to preserve and improve public schools and the teaching profession.

Goliath will always have more money. But take heart: Goliath may be standing but he will not be there forever. Every act of resistance adds up. Goliath stumbled. He will fall.

Even billionaires and oligarch tire of pouring millions and millions into failure after failure after failure.

Please give a copy of SLAYING GOLIATH to school board members and legislators. Give a copy to your local editorial writer.

On my book tour, I will be in Charleston, West Virginia, on February 22 to celebrate the second anniversary of the historic West Virginia teachers’ strike.

And I will personally thank them for changing the national narrative!