Archive | May, 2014

Don’t deport our students; classrooms should be sanctuaries

29 May

A few years ago, one of my students told me something that made me furious at the U.S. government: she said she was afraid to come to school because she thought ICE might show up in the classroom to deport her.  We strategized together about what to do if this happens.

I was left outraged that we even had to have this conversation. The classroom should be a sanctuary where all students can learn, without having to worry about being kidnapped by the state and removed from their families and communities.

This was just as heartbreaking as when another student asked me if you need to purchase a password in order to become an American citizen, as if the United States is a VIP club that is simply too expensive for people from his community.

These kinds of situations are becoming increasingly common; students will come in to class depressed, worried their parents or siblings are about to be deported.  Many are from working class immigrant communities that are slated to be left out by all of the comprehensive immigration reform proposals tossed back and forth in Congress.  They are the ones the Democratic Party is willing to jettison and the Republicans are ready to demonize as the “bad immigrants”, not the good Dreamers.  Many of them have gotten entangled in the criminal justice system because of racial profiling or because they had to hustle to get by since they can’t access legal jobs.  They can’t afford college because of rising tuition.  They are marked as gang members simply because of the neighborhoods they live in.  When congresspeople talks about increasing security, they mean kicking out people like them.

But where are they supposed to go?  Many Mexican youth can’t find jobs in either the US or Mexico, and are facing violence in both places.  They are a generation that is getting squeezed out of both countries, and have nowhere to go unless they fight back.  They are the North American cohort of millennial youth, children of the economic crisis who are facing a precarious future.  This generation is rising up all over the world, from the Arab Spring to the migrant worker strikes and riots in China’s Pearl River Delta.

Many of the mainstream immigrant rights groups don’t want to take up their cases because it is seen as too difficult to convince the government that they “deserve” to stay.  But when I talk with them, I don’t see threats to national security, I see intelligent, caring, creative young people who are active in their communities and are trying to build lives here.

As a teacher, I feel blessed to be connected with undocumented activists who are developing innovative organizing strategies for stopping deportations.  The National Immigrant Youth Alliance is at the forefront of an emerging movement of undocumented folks who have been reuniting families torn apart by deportation, particularly through the recent Bring Them Home actions. 

If I weren’t connected with these folks I’d be depressed and helpless when my students share these stories.  But now I can suggest some ways they can build solidarity to stop deportations, and I know there are skilled activists who can support them in this, people who come from similar backgrounds and have faced their fears together.

For this reason, I strongly encourage readers to support NIYA’s current efforts to free four young people from immigration detention.  One of these youth was deported right from his high school classroom, and has been imprisoned in detention for 71 days after trying to cross back into the U.S.

As a history teacher, I often facilitate conversations among students about past social movements such as the civil rights movement and Chicano/Chicana labor struggles.  Students will debate whether or not things have gotten better since then.  I think that 40 years from now we will remember stories of students being deported from our classrooms and will see ICE’s practices as barbaric, analogous to the oppression communities of color faced before the 1960s.  But that will only happen if we all take action to prevent the state’s ability to kidnap, deport, and imprison youth today.


Zine version of Reading For Revolution

18 May

Black Orchid Collective

Reading for Revolution is a three-part series of short articles that I wrote on collective learning and the struggle for a new society. 

The first article, “ Steal the the Ability to Read this Book ,” makes a case for seizing the reading skills that slave-masters and capitalist bosses have systematically denied oppressed communities. 

The second article, “ Clowns to the left of me, Leninists to the right, here I am – Chillin and reading with you… ,” argues for developing a learning praxis (reflective practice) that can break from the alienated and oppressive dynamics of capitalist classrooms.

The third article, “ DIY Study Strategies,”  is more practical, offering suggestions for how to start your own revolutionary study group.  I argue that  how  we read to make a revolution is different from how we are taught to read in school. I attempt to outline some of the more revolutionary…

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Billions of Dreams, Not Billionaires’ Dreams

10 May

Billions of dreams, not billionaires’ dreams
Billions of plans, not billionaires’ plans
Billions of thoughts, not billionaires’ thoughts
Billions of gifts, not billionaires’ gifts



On Saturday, May 10, folks organized a “Gates Foundation Truth Squad” outside the Gates Foundation Visitor Center to engage with young people attending their “Teen Action Fair”.  We engaged with a large number of attendees to support their volunteerism while asking their own questions about the role of wealth and power in Philanthropy.


Here is the content of a flyer that folks were handing out:



Fun Facts

  •   Much of the Gates Foundation funds are in Berkshire Hathaway stock, which owns Burlington Northern Sante Fe (BNSF) and Canadian Railway (CN).  BNSF and CN are now profiting from explosive tar sands oil trains.  This expanded rail capacity will bring tar sands oil to Asian markets, even without Keystone XL.
  •    Gates Foundation has significant investments in the GEO Group, which operates the immigrant detention facility in Tacoma.
  •    Gates Foundation invests in G4S, a private security firm that operates detention camps in Palestine and has been accused of human rights abuses.
  •    The United Nations recently reported that small-scale, organic farming is the best way to eradicate hunger, yet the Gates Foundation continues to support GMOs and agro-business giants like Monsanto and Cargill.
  •    They preach nutrition, but invest billions in McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Burger King, etc.
  •    They preach support for the working poor, but invest billions in Walmart
  •    They preach about fighting climate change, but invest billions in fossil fuels like Exxon Mobile, Arch Coal, Peabody Coal, etc.
  •    Gates’ Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) project failed miserably at validating their preconceived belief that teacher effectiveness can be scientifically measured.    (This study won the National Education Policy Center’s 2013 Bunkum Awards, recognizing lowlights in educational research).
  •    Gates has been a key driver of standardized testing, which is being rejected by parents and teachers nationwide.  These standardized tests were originally created by the Eugenics movement in attempt to prove the ‘genetic superiority’ of whites and to apply assembly line models to classroom.
  •    Gates admitted their Small Schools Initiative produced “disappointing” results AFTER districts spent millions redesigning buildings based on Gates direction (eg, Cleveland HS).
  •    Gates brags about the quality of his own relevant and relationship-based education at Lakeside, yet pushes Common Core and treats schools as education factories to produce more workers.
  •    The Gates Foundation post-secondary program was severely criticized by the Chronicle of Higher Education for being “designed for maximum measurability, delivered increasingly through technology, and…narrowly focused on equipping students for short-term employability.”



Fair Questions

  •   Why do they claim to fight climate change, yet profit from fossil fuels?
  •    Why do they profit from immigrant detention?
  •    Why do they profit from private prisons?
  •    Why do they profit from shipping tar sands oil to Asian markets via the rail lines it owns (via Berkshire Hathaway stock)?
  •    Why do they profit from Palestinian detention facilities?
  •    Why do they support GMOs when there is no long term data on possible negative health effects?
  •    Why do they support industrial agriculture when the UN claims it is less effective than small-scale, organic farms?
  •    Why do they push charter schools, when the results are often mediocre at best and fraudulent at worst?
  •    Why do they drive using test scores to determine teacher salaries?  (even MSFT recently dropped the link between $ and employee ratings)
  •    Why do they want to replace college with online ‘worker training’?
  •    Why do they believe that the most important dimension of a human being is their contribution to the economy?  (See the vision statement for their post-secondary education program)
  •    What is the proper role of wealth and power in Philanthropy?  Does the Gates Foundation have too much influence, and does this distort research?
  • Is the Gates Foundation only treating the SYMPTOMS of our inequitable system, but ignoring the fundamental CAUSE?   Does the Gates Foundation benefit from and perpetuate injustices in the system

For more info, please check out this post from last month.



Zapatista teacher dead, 15 seriously wounded in deadly Chiapas ambush

9 May


Jose Luis Solís López, a teacher in the Zapatista’s “Little School” (La Escuelita) was murdered, and at least 15 Zapatistas seriously injured, in an ambush by members of an anti-Zapatista organization known as CIOAC-H on Friday, May 2, 2014.  The same attackers damaged or destroyed both the autonomous Mayan school and the local health clinic at the Zapatista caracol of La Realidad.

Read more, and find out what you can do here.

Bringing the Trainwreck to Bill Gates’ Doorstep

1 May

As we have written about previously, we have a legitimate fear that the public policy ‘experiments’ of the Gates Foundation are leading to a trainwreck of epic proportions.

In this post from last month, we provided an overview and links to further reading about many of the flawed policies of the Gates Foundation — from their investments in explosive tar sands oil trains, private juvenile prisons, and immigrant detention facilities, to their promotion of extreme techo-capitalist education policies.

Over the next several weeks, there are a couple of chances to again bring this fight to the front lawn of the Gates Foundation in Seattle.

On Saturday, May 10th at 10 am, the Gates Foundation is sponsoring a “Teen Action Fair” at their visitor center @ 440 5th Ave N. (You can check out their Facebook event here).

Outside the event, we will join with others to autonomously engage with and support young people attending in asking their own critical questions about the role of wealth and power in our society.  We hope to provide additional educational information to contextualize the narrow view that will be offered inside by the Gates Foundation staff.  Details are still, TBD, but we hope to offer teach-ins, dialogue, and fun engagement.

Additionally, on Thursday, June 26th at 5 pm, the Washington “Badass Teachers Association” is hosting a Rally to Save Education. This group is protesting Gates’ role in the privatization of education. The event will start at Westlake and end at the Gates Foundation. (You can check out their Facebook event here)

We plan to support the permitted teacher event 5-7pm, and autonomous solidarity actions from allied groups are encouraged.

Here is a flyer that is being used to publicize these events.

Please stay tuned here for more details and drop a note to if you would like to be more involved.