Just News from Center X – November 3, 2023

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

Students Are Bringing Up the Israel-Hamas War in Class. Here’s How Teachers Are Responding

Lauraine Langreo, Education Week

A handful of Benjamin Franklin High School students gathered in Cait Rohn’s classroom on a Tuesday afternoon in New Orleans, ready to discuss the war between Israel and Hamas with their peers and some social studies teachers. The war had started just 10 days before. The school’s social studies department put together the after-school discussion after a parent asked an administrator what the school was doing to address the conflict. The teachers decided a small group setting would be best because “it would allow kids to be vulnerable and curious, and you could quickly get things back on track [if the conversation derailed],” said Rohn.

An Urgent Message to School Leaders: Your Arab and Muslim Students Need You

Amaarah DeCuir, Education Week

Islamophobic incidents across America have surged after Oct. 7, 2023. Arab and Muslim students are facing anti-Arab and anti-Muslim hate speech and bigotry in schools. Federal agencies have issued increased threat assessments warning Arab and Muslim communities of targeted attacks. It is also important to note that antisemitic incidents have also increased since the start of the war, and the same federal agencies are issuing warnings of increased threats to Jewish and Israeli American communities. Earlier this year, President Joe Biden’s administration established a national strategy countering the rise of antisemitism, which included guidance for schools. Just as schools must protect Jewish students from antisemitism, they must also protect Arab and Muslim students from anti-Muslim and anti-Arab hate speech and bigotry and defend their rights to self-expression.

Israel-Hamas war leads to increase of antisemitic threats on college campuses [Video]

Laura Barrón-López, Ali Schmitz, and Ian Couzens, PBS NewsHour


he mob surging through an airport in Russia this weekend searching for Jewish passengers on a flight from Israel is the latest example of rising antisemitism globally. And here in the U.S., fears are also rising among Jewish Americans, as reports of antisemitic incidents have increased since the start of the Israel-Hamas war. In response, the White House is unveiling new plans to combat antisemitic attacks at schools and college campuses. White House correspondent Laura Barron-Lopez joins us now for more.

Teaching Palestine: An interview with Palestinian educator Ziad Abbas

Jody Sokolower, Rethinking Schools

Many teachers are reluctant to teach about Palestine. We worry about negative reactions from administrators or parents. Few of us learned much about the Middle East in our own schooling, and it’s difficult to find good curriculum. But just as it’s important to teach the real history of Columbus, it’s important that students learn factual history and are able to think critically about Palestine and Israel. Otherwise, they are left with the stereotypes so widely disseminated in the mainstream media. The increasing volatility in the region only makes the issue more urgent. As program manager for cross-cultural programs at the Middle East Children’s Alliance (mecaforpeace.org) in Berkeley, California, Ziad Abbas works with teachers, teacher educators, and students. As a Palestinian refugee himself, born in a camp in the West Bank, he shares his family history, his knowledge of the region, and his commitment to critical thinking and social justice. He spoke recently with RS Managing Editor Jody Sokolower about his own background, the context for teaching about Palestine, and ways to approach the topic with students in the United States.

Language, Culture, and Power

How Word Choices in the Mainstream News Media Signal a Country’s Level of Peace

Columbia Climate School

By analyzing the frequency of certain words within mainstream news media from any country, a machine learning algorithm can produce a quantitative “peace index” that captures the level of peace within that country, according to a new study published this week in the open-access journal PLOS ONE. The language used in media both reflects a culture’s view of the world and influences how people within the culture think and act, the authors say. “Hate speech” can mobilize violence and destruction, but much less is known about how “peace speech” characterizes peaceful cultures and may help to generate or sustain peace, said study coauthor Peter Coleman, executive director of the Columbia Climate School’s Advanced Consortium on Cooperation, Conflict and Complexity.

Bipartisan bill would provide kids-only immigration courts for migrant children [Video]

Julia Ainsley, NBC News

A rare bipartisan bill on immigration aims to make the immigration court system friendlier and more navigable for unaccompanied migrant children. There are 62,000 pending cases in U.S. immigration courts involving children who crossed the border without a parent, and many now have to defend their right to stay in the U.S. without lawyers in courts meant for adults and in front of judges who may not understand their unique situation. Data from the Justice Department suggests nearly half defend themselves against deportation without any legal representation. Sometimes children too young to communicate verbally are left sitting in front of judges who are not trained in handling such sensitive cases.

Secrecy Shields Powerful Adults in Our Juvenile Justice Systems. Kids Showed Me What’s Really Happening.

Meribah Knight, ProPublica

It has been a little over three years since I began my reporting on juvenile justice in Tennessee. Until then, I hadn’t paid much attention to juvenile courts. For a reporter, they’re difficult to cover with any kind of intimacy. They are shrouded in secrecy in a way adult courts are not. The records are sealed. The proceedings are mostly private. And it’s for good reason: The dumb stuff you do as a kid shouldn’t follow you into adulthood. But this privacy has its downside, because it can shield the adults in charge from accountability. And as I soon found out, juvenile justice in the state does need someone — maybe a reporter — to pay attention.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

Lahaina schools are open again. Parents worry they’re ridden with toxic waste.

Ava Sasani, Vox

On October 15, a day before Lāhainā’s public schools were set to reopen, the families of West Maui — still reeling from the deadliest wildfire in US history — received a grim warning. Hawai‘i public health officials said the ash from the fire in Kula, a mountain town 25 miles east of Lāhainā, contained dangerously high levels of arsenic, 140 times greater than the federal safety limit. The fires burned through all kinds of infrastructure and household materials, which can leak harmful chemicals into the air and water, such as arsenic, lead, and asbestos from older buildings. The state health department said Lāhainā’s soil, still untested, is likely contaminated with the same toxins as those in Kula. The news was frightening — but unsurprising — for the people of Lāhainā, a historic oceanside town that was incinerated by deadly fires in August.

Sexual Education in Schools: The Harm of Exclusion

Grace Wilsey, Nursing Cleo

We teach our children about the birds and the bees, but for some, this talk is as foreign as the metaphor. Today, as a consequence of the growing awareness, knowledge, and acceptance of the nature of sexuality, recent polls in Gallup estimate that seven percent of the United States population identifies as LGBTQ+. This statistic suggests that in the average classroom, one to two children will identify as LGBTQ+ at some point in their lives, if they do not already. So why, in the same classrooms, is a sexual education curriculum taught that neglects these children as if they do not exist? It is imperative to include LGBTQ+ representation in the sexual education curriculum, in accordance with our ethical principles, to support the health and well-being of our communities.

What is a walking school bus? Hint: It has no tires but lots of feet and lots of soul

Vicky Hallett, NPR

When Aaron Friedland was entering a master’s program in economics at the University of British Columbia about a decade ago, he decided to research how the distance to school impacts attendance rates. So he spent two months living in a rural community in Uganda, regularly trekking with a group of kids who walked five miles each day round trip for their education. He still remembers that first morning, taking a boda boda motorcycle taxi at 6:30 a.m. past fields of maize to meet them at a fork in the iron-rich red road. “Jacob was the first to arrive. He was 12 and the pack leader,” Friedland says. Several other kids in backpacks appeared and they started their walk — with Friedland wearing sturdy boots and all the students in sandals made from recycled car tires.

Access, Assessment, Advancement

How a Small Town in a Red State Rallied Around Universal Preschool

Emily Tate Sullivan, EdSurge

After reading a book about the five senses to a semicircle of rapt 4-year-olds, Abi Hawker tells the children in her afternoon preschool class that she has a surprise for them. She drags a small popcorn maker onto the carpet and asks them to consider: Which of their senses might be activated when she pours the kernels into the machine? When the kernels heat up? When the popcorn begins to pop? Moments later, the children shriek with joy as the corn kernels burst.

‘They’re just not enough’: Students push to improve sexual assault prevention trainings for college men 

Nadra Nittle, The 19th

When Job Mayhue was a first-year student at the University of Michigan, both his girlfriend and best friend revealed within two weeks of each other that they had been sexually assaulted. “I obviously knew that rape and sexual violence was an issue but had not had such clear proximity to it,” he said. “It hurts you different when it’s somebody that you know and love. I just was thinking, ‘I don’t want this to ever happen to anybody else.’” Mayhue got involved with organizations that focus on sexual violence prevention, ultimately becoming a leader with It’s On Us, a national nonprofit program that works to support survivors and end college sexual assault. Having recently served as chair of It’s On Us’ male-identifying student athletes caucus, Mayhue — who graduated in the spring — found that men on college campuses simply are not adequately informed about sexual violence and consent.

Cal State faculty set to strike if demands not met

Mikhail Zinshteyn, CalMatters

The faculty union of California State University overwhelmingly approved a strike authorization, giving its leadership the green light to pull as many as 29,000 instructors from educating the more than 400,000 students in the nation’s largest public four-year university system. The California Faculty Association said Monday that 95% of its members who voted approved of the strike plans. The union refused to reveal how many of its members actually cast ballots. Core to the demands are that Cal State increase wages by 12% for all faculty to keep up with inflation, lift the minimum wages for the lowest-paid instructors, expand parental leave, provide lactation rooms for new parents and more.

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

At 15, he is defending his home – and struggling to stay in school

Bianca Vázquez Toness, AP News

This was the summer Deneffy Sánchez was supposed to learn algebra, biology and the other ninth grade classes he failed last year because he was too depressed and overwhelmed. But advancing to 10th grade had to take a back seat for now. He had more pressing concerns.

It was June. Deneffy, 15, lay in the twin bed he shares with his mother and little sister, while their new roommate — a stranger only weeks before — lamented having to live with his family.

“I would never have let them live here if I’d known how they behave,” Fabiola Del Castillo told a reporter in Spanish. Deneffy’s mother, Lilian López, stood next to her in the cramped room where they all ate and slept. “Saturday is the first. You need to leave by then,” Del Castillo said, turning to López. Saturday was only three days away. For Deneffy, that meant a ticking clock. He had to save his apartment.

An Unequal Air Pollution Burden at School [Maps]

NASA Earth Observatory

Satellite observations show that students of color in the U.S. attend public schools with higher concentrations of air pollution than their white peers.

Detroit student who fought for ‘right to literacy’ is still in the fight

Ethan Bakuli, Chalkbeat Detroit

For four years, Jamarria Hall rode the city bus 13 miles from his home on the west side of Detroit to Osborn High School on the east side, a nearly two-hour trip along Seven Mile Road. He spent the time looking out the window and meditating on the state of his hometown, as the bus passed block after block of dilapidated houses and shuttered buildings. Hall recalls the bus rides and his time at Osborn, one of the city’s lowest-performing schools, as “a waste of time.” Students were forced to learn in buildings in bad condition, with poorly qualified teachers and a shortage of textbooks.

Democracy and the Public Interest

Many States Are Limiting How Schools Can Teach About Race. Most Voters Disagree

Ileana Najarro, Education Week

A strong majority of voters want Black studies curriculum and the history of racism and slavery and its legacy taught in K-12 public schools, according to new polling data from the Black Education Research Center at Teachers College, Columbia University. Results from a nationally representative phone poll of 1,000 registered voters found that 85 percent of respondents agreed that public school students should learn about the history of racism and slavery in the United States and how it continues to affect us today.

The Latest Target for California Conservatives? Local School Boards

Jill Cowan, New York Times

Bill Essayli had no chance of getting one of his first bills through the California State Assembly.

Mr. Essayli, a freshman Republican lawmaker, wanted parents to be notified if their child asked to change gender identities at school. His bill drew attention, but died without a hearing in a State Legislature run by a Democratic supermajority. So, Mr. Essayli and his conservative allies tried a different venue: local school boards. In July, the board overseeing the Chino Valley Unified School District, which serves a diverse, middle-class area about 40 miles east of Los Angeles, adopted a version of Mr. Essayli’s proposal. At least six other districts around the state have followed suit.

Right-leaning groups opposed to diversity efforts find unlikely allies in Newton parents [Audio]

Meg Woolhouse and Phillip Martin, WGBH

Newton, Massachusetts, is not the kind of town where the messages of far-right parents’ rights groups would seem to find a home. In this liberal enclave, more than 80% of voters cast ballots for Joe Biden over Donald Trump for president in 2020. But even here, in one of the top school districts in the nation, divisive politics has crept into the realm of education. A small but vocal group of parents are spreading the idea that declines in standardized test scores in Newton are the result of diversity, equity and inclusion, or DEI, programming in the schools. And they are drawing from the rhetoric of national far-right groups that have sprung up in the past few years to push an “anti-woke” agenda that’s being highlighted in the Republican 2024 presidential campaigns now taking flight.

Other News of Note

How to Shut Down a Campus: The 1969 Student Strike at the City College of New York

Rithika Ramamurthy, Nonprofit Quarterly

Student activists today are still organizing for justice at their universities, from equitable pay for campus jobs to better housing conditions. Even before the Supreme Court’s June 2023 decision invalidating affirmative action in higher education, Black and Latinx students faced stark underrepresentation. At the same time, this era has also seen new forms of student activism (such as rising graduate student unionization). Looking at the history of the students at CUNY offers a valuable window into struggles today. The term “affirmative action” first appeared in a 1961 executive order signed by President John F. Kennedy, which actively prohibited discrimination in the hiring process. Two years later, Kennedy urged college presidents and trustee boards across the country to advance civil rights by extending equal educational opportunity to all.

John Potts and Radical Student Activism

Candace Cunningham, Black Perspectives

Black educator Dr. John Foster Potts may be a largely unknown figure today, but in Jim Crow-era South Carolina he stood out when he rose from the rank of elementary school teacher to college president between 1930 and 1954. Born in Hot Springs, Arkansas, and raised in Flat Rock, North Carolina, Potts developed a passion for Education at his alma mater, Flat Rock Elementary School where his teachers gave him “an interest in learning” that he “never forgot.”

In 1930 Potts graduated from Benedict College and became a teacher at an elementary school in Flat Rock. Within a decade, he became a Cornell University-educated history teacher who later served as a principal at two K-12 schools: Waverly Elementary School and Booker T. Washington High School.