Wednesday, November 30, 2016

No more blockades

Havana yesterday
A step backwards...Shame on POTUS for not sending an official delegation to Fidel's funeral. Even though he has taken important steps forward in normalizing relations between our two countries, and ending the failed blockade, this snub will be taken as another insult to the Cuban people and the people of Latin America and the Caribbean for whom Fidel is a symbol of independence and anti-colonialism.

It shows that Obama is still too worried about what the Trumpy Republicans think about him to do the right thing. It's that fear, which helped paralyze his administration up until this, his last year in office, that will forever remain as part of his legacy.

It will now be left to the Republicans to move past Trump's alt-right rhetoric and finish the job of normalization (and take credit for it). If they fail and cave into Trump's campaign promises to roll back Cuba policy to the Cold War era, this country -- and not Cuba -- will be the losers. Chinese and European competitors will more than fill the void.

Remember, it was IL Republican Gov. George Ryan who lead our state's delegation to Cuba in 1999. The trip made the Republican Ryan the first sitting U.S. governor to travel to Cuba since the revolution 40 years earlier.

Ryan initially described the five-day trip as a way to foster a trade relationship someday between Cuba and Illinois, but the Bush regime frowned on that. It later was billed as a “humanitarian mission” to help Cubans and Illinoisans build bridges with one another. This was no "concession to communism" as the untra-right claimed. The delegation of about 50 included lawmakers, educators and officials from Peoria-based Caterpillar Inc., Decatur-based Archer Daniels Midland and other businesses.

Ryan's trip cleared the way for my own officially sanctioned trip months later, accompanied by 30 American educators. We brought with us a trunk load of school supplies, visited schools and met with teachers and ed policy leaders across the island. We discovered that despite the U.S. embargo that meant children often coming without notebooks, pencils or erasers, Cuban schools had produced the highest literacy rate in the Caribbean. Having free, universal health care and college tuition helped.

I'm hoping the events of the past week will lead to many more such educator and people-to-people exchanges. The people of both countries have nothing to gain from Trump's anti-Cuba bluster.

Another blockade. No, this time not in Cuba... N.D. Gov. Dalrymple, taking a page from the Cuban blockade, attempted to block food and supplies from entering the Oceti Sakowin camp yesterday. His strategy, to starve or freeze the 6,000 water protectors into submission. Under national and international pressure, he was forced to pull back the physical blockade but is now threatening fines for those carrying badly-needed supplies to the camp.

If anyone is planning on driving up to Standing Rock from the Chicago area, I have two cartons of thermal blankets that need to be delivered. Please contact me before you go.

A SmallTalk Salute goes out to the 2,000 veterans on their way to Standing Rock to serve as human shields for the water protectors. NYT reports:
The veterans’ plan coincides with an announcement on Tuesday by law enforcement officials that they may begin imposing fines to block supplies from entering the main protest camp after a mandatory evacuation order from the governor. Officials had warned earlier of a physical blockade, but the governor’s office later backed away from that, Reuters said. 

Monday, November 28, 2016

Why did Antwan Wilson leave Oakland for D.C.?

Oakland former Supt. Antwan Wilson seems nonplussed by parent/community protest. 
A friend in D.C. asked me why I thought Oakland Supt. Antwan Wilson would leave his $400K/year job to take the job in his town. Here's what I told him:
I'll tell you why he's leaving. Oakland (like the A's) is the farm team to the major leagues. They sent us Tony Smith to IL to do Gov. Rauner's bidding. DC is a plum job for pay and visibility (Wilson did ok in Oakland, pulling down a tidy $400K/yr. Look for him to make about the same in D.C.). Heartbeat away from the DOE and Ed Sec job (if Dems make a comeback). Oakland’s schools have been led by 8 people in the past 16 years — some named by the school board and others appointed amid state takeover. It's the Broad Academy MO. Make a quick hit, chop heads, and get out before the shit hits the fan. Collect golden parachutes along the way. D.C. will be Wilson's third. 
Good luck.

If you want to understand how this game of musical chairs is played, consider this. Wilson is being hired because of his alleged "success in raising achievement [test] scores" in Oakland. But remember, Wilson only lasted two years and left in mid-year. So they must be crediting him with raising scores on tests that were given before he got there.

Here's the real deal on Wilson according to Post News:
Wilson’s tenure in Oakland has been marked by conflict with parents, community groups and students over school privatization, the superintendent’s support for the expansion of charter schools and his close alliance with pro charter school organizations.
They left out Wilson's attempt to dismantle special education, which caused the loudest parent protests. Look for him to do the same in D.C.

WEEKEND QUOTABLES ... No chances for Trump

DFER Pres. Shavar Jeffries
“DFER congratulates Betsy DeVos on her appointment as Secretary of Education, and we applaud Mrs. DeVos’s commitment to growing the number of high-quality public charter schools. -- Press Release
Lee Saunders, chairman of the A.F.L.-C.I.O.’s political committee
"We underestimated the amount of anger and frustration among working people and especially white workers, both male and female, about their economic status." -- New York Times
Donald Trump
 “In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” -- Washington Post
Frayda Levin, chair of Americans for Prosperity
“In creating the Koch network, I don’t think that we ever envisioned that we would be supplying staffers to this semi-free market, semi-populist president." -- Politico
Stephen Bannon's former co-writer, Julia Jones
 Ms. Jones, the film colleague, said that in their years working together, Mr. Bannon occasionally talked about the genetic superiority of some people and once mused about the desirability of limiting the vote to property owners.
“I said, ‘That would exclude a lot of African-Americans,’” Ms. Jones recalled. “He said, ‘Maybe that’s not such a bad thing.’" -- New York Times
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf
“I like to compare this to conscientious objector status.We are not going to use our resources to enforce what we believe are unjust immigration laws.” -- New York Times

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Civil Rights group critical of recount efforts in WI and NC


National Civil Rights Organization Notes that Recount Efforts Do Not Address Impact of Voter Suppression on 2016 Election Cycle
In response to recounts underway in Wisconsin and North Carolina, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law President and Executive Director Kristen Clarke issued the following statement:
“Current recount efforts do not address the discriminatory impact of voter suppression laws during the 2016 election cycle.  Wisconsin and North Carolina are states that were part of a coordinated campaign to make voting more difficult, particularly for African American and other minority voters. Wisconsin’s restrictive photo id law and North Carolina’s sweeping voter suppression law were among the most discriminatory efforts instituted prior to the November 2016 election.  The laws in both states were the subject of protracted litigation because of their impact on African American and other minority voters. It is no surprise that these states are places where some now feel a grave injustice has occurred. Yet, none of the recount efforts underway focus on the impact of voter suppression efforts or attempt to account for those who were blocked or deterred from voting as a result of voter suppression laws in those states.
Throughout this election cycle, we received complaints from voters in Wisconsin about the state’s strict photo ID requirement which a federal court found would impair the rights of 300,000 registered voters.  It is no surprise that Milwaukee County, Wisconsin shows that 51,554 fewer voters were able to participate in 2016, compared to 2012. In North Carolina, a 4th Circuit found that the state’s voter suppression law was discriminatory in purpose and effect. Yet, after the ruling on the state’s law, party official Dallas Woodhouse issued a directive encouraging local election officials to undermine the 4th Circuit’s ruling by using their discretion to cut early voting locations and hours down to a bare minimum. Officials across North Carolina heeded the call, resulting in long lines in many counties during the early voting period.
The recount efforts underway do not address pervasive discrimination that threatens American democracy.  The way to strengthen public confidence in our elections and to promote transparency is to lift barriers that lock out eligible Americans from the process.  This requires litigation and advocacy efforts that will uproot ongoing voting discrimination and voter suppression in our country. Among the most pressing needs is work to eliminate strict voter ID requirements, felon disenfranchisement laws that harken back to the Jim Crow era, and intimidation and harassment at the polls. This is also a time to closely analyze the Electoral College, an institution with roots that lie in debates surrounding slavery in our county.The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law remains committed to leading this important work to strengthen our democracy.”

 About the Lawyers’ Committee
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. Formed over 50 years ago, we continue our quest of “Moving America Toward Justice.” The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice under law, particularly in the areas of fair housing and community development; employment; voting; education; and criminal justice.  For more information about the Lawyers’ Committee, visit

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving a good day to resist Trumpism

Standing Rock
On this Thanksgiving Day, I'm thankful to be standing among so many good people willing to resist the wave of Trumpism sweeping over the land. First and foremost, the Standing Rock water protectors who are baring the brunt of it with power and dignity. We have to continue to stand with them, especially through this difficult winter.

I'm anxious to see what happens when they are joined by hundreds of veterans on Dec. 4th. Wish I could be there for that.

Pres. Obama still has the power to stop DAPL in the last weeks of his term. I hope he finds the courage. But not holding my breath.

I'm still surprised at how many liberal Clinton supporters still believe that Trump is "moderating" and are willing to "give him a chance". I don't know what else he has to do to them to show he's a for-real neo-fascist.

Trump lunches with NYTers. 
Case in point... NYT execs and staff held a lunch meeting with Trump in an attempt to find "common ground". The Times has been a favorite target of Trump, a 1st-Amendment denier.

Thomas ("Earth is flat") Friedman left the meeting somewhat assured that Trump was "rethinking" his extreme positions. Ie. on torture, not prosecuting Hillary Clinton,  and on environmental issues.

Not having any of it was NYT columnist Charles Blow who didn't attend the meeting but was overwhelmed by the "slime factor" as he read the transcript.

Writes Blow:
I will say proudly and happily that I was not present at this meeting. The very idea of sitting across the table from a demagogue who preyed on racial, ethnic and religious hostilities and treating him with decorum and social grace fills me with disgust, to the point of overflowing. Let me tell you here where I stand on your “I hope we can all get along” plea: Never.

DRESSED TO OPPRESS... Michelle Rhee and husband, Kevin Johnson leave Trump's golf club after being turned down for the Sec. of Ed job in favor of Betsy DeVos. Rhee assured Trump she's still on board with his program. 
On the eve of Trump's appointment of anti-"government school" extremist Betsy DeVos to the post of Ed Secretary, N.Y. charter bigwig Eva Moskowitz was still assuring us that, “There are many positive signs that President Trump will be different from candidate Trump.” Of course a positive sign to Moskowitz is Trump assuring her in a private meeting, that millions of dollars will continue to flow away from public schools and into the pockets of private charter operators like her.

And then, there are those corp-style school reformers like Peter Cunningham, who look at Trump purely from charter school perspective and wonder aloud, "is he really for "choice" or not? If he shows that he is -- and he will -- they will likely get on board the Trump train, even though he didn't hire their choice, Michelle Rhee as Ed Sec, and even while thousands of students (including their own charter school students) are being rounded up and deported.

I've also noted some cracks in their wall. First with a critical, but nebulous statement from the corporate-reform group Teach For America, following the DeVos appointment. Then from DFER Pres. Shavar Jefferies, calling on his people not to work for Trump.

But I wonder what TFAers and Jefferies will say and do when Trump and DeVos are pushing the very same legislation on charters and vouchers that they have supported all along. Tough choices ahead for them of they want to keep their base.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

N.Y. Dems try and regroup behind Cuomo after the Clinton debacle

Gov. Cuomo

Fallout from the Clinton debacle.

N.Y. Gov. Cuomo, is not wasting any time. He's positioning himself for 2020 and trying to prevent a takeover of the party by progressives.

Daily News' Kenneth Lovett reports:
Gov. Cuomo this past week met separately with a group of powerful union leaders and a group of donors to talk about how to move forward in the Donald Trump era...
...Among those in attendance were SEIU Local 1199 President George Gresham, Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York head Gary LaBarbera, state AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento, Hotel and Motel Trades Council President Peter Ward, Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union President Stuart Appelbaum, and Transit Workers Union head John Samuelsen...
...Also present were city teachers union president Michael Mulgrew and his predecessor, Randi Weingarten, who now leads the American Federation of Teachers. Both were warring with Cuomo just two years ago...
...And he told the group he discussed with California Gov. Jerry Brown that if the two states and their federal delegations banded together “they can really make a huge difference from the coasts.”
Strategic plan include keeping control of the party apparatus, stopping Trump on Supreme Court appointments and taking power back the Congress in the midterms. Cuomo will also have to decide if he'll run for gov again in 2018.

Look for similar moves here towards a new "united front" here in Chicago, to take down Gov. Rauner.

One question is, can this bloc unite with Schumer/Sanders/Warren/Ellison/deBlasio to keep the party together? It's doubtful. Without their progressive base, Dems are headed for more defeats. Look for sharp inner-party struggle in the next few weeks, months, years.

Who can lead? Buckle up.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Corporate ed reformers throw in with Trump

Ivanka Trump visits Eva Moskowitz' Success Academy Charter School. 
It looks like they've dropped their phony rhetoric about charter schools being "the civil rights issue of our time." Following the Democrat's devastating loss to Trump, one by one, the corporate reformers and champions of privately-run charters are jumping the Dems' ship and throwing in behind the racist, anti-immigrant Trump education movement.

For some, the move is nothing new. Former D.C. chancellor, Arne Duncan fave, and Waiting for Superman star Michelle Rhee for example, turned to selling her talents to the far right as soon as voters ran her and Mayor Fenty out of town. She went to work advising FL Gov. Rick Scott on school privatization and union-busting matters.

Now that she's stepped down from leadership of her anti-union ed group, Students First,  she's considering leaving her new position with a national fertilizer company if Trump offers her the job as his secretary of education. Her problem is that she's a proponent of Common Core. Trump isn't. But either of them can easily accommodate the other's position since Rhee sees Common Core's value mainly in its testing provisions, enabling teachers to be evaluated, hired and fired on the basis of student test scores. There should be a basis for unity with Trump there somewhere.

And her scandal-ridden past, including her connection with D.C. test-cheating scandal shouldn't bother the Trump transition team too much considering the rest of his recent scandalized appointees and advisers. Not to mention, Trump's own $25M pay-off to make the Trump Univ. suit go away.

But Trump also has to placate his base. Upon hearing about his possible choice of Rhee, the right-wing group, Parents Against the Common Core, wrote Trump and open letter calling on him to cut federal funding of public schools, dismantle the D.O.E. and appoint someone like former Bush aide Williamson Evers to the top post.

BTW, Trump also met with Rhee's husband KJ, the disgraced mayor of Sacramento. They have some legal problems in common. Something about teenage girls. But let's not even go there right now. I just ate.

Then there's New York's own charter-hustler supreme, Eva Moskowitz who is now pulling down nearly a half-million a year for managing the city's Success Academy Charters. EM met with Trump last week, but reportedly turned down the Ed Sec job. Some NY friends told me she couldn't afford the pay cut. The Secretary of Education's salary is a measly $186,600. Others say, she has her eyes on the NY mayor's office. But she left the meeting on good terms, promising Trump that she would get behind his school reform plan.

So far, Arne Duncan has carefully avoided any mention of Trump. His successor, John King has  mainly followed suit, advising the nation's teachers simply to keep their heads down and "focused on the students." Duncan's former assistant Peter Cunningham, who now runs Eli Broad's Education Post blog, says he "skeptical" about Trump, but seems to be keeping his option open.

Can Joel Klein be far behind?


Brandon Victor Dixon (Aaron Burr)
“We, sir, we are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights, sir." --  Hamilton cast to Mike Pence
Alt-Right leader, Richard B. Spencer
“I do think we have a psychic connection, or you can say a deeper connection, with Donald Trump in a way that we simply do not have with most Republicans.” -- New York Times
Ta-Nehisi Coates on Trump election
"This is who we are. If you understand the history of this country, this is nothing new so we should not be shocked. If we look at 250 years of slavery, you look at Frederick Douglas during reconstruction seeing it overturned, you look at Ida B Wells going south to document lynching, and all the violence we always suffer. Then you would know it is the same country and we just need go get up in the morning and get ready to fight.” -- At NCTE
John McCain (Store this one away for future reference)
 “I don’t give a damn what the president of the United States wants to do or anybody else wants to do. We will not waterboard. We will not do it...What does it say about America if we’re going to inflict torture on people?”  -- Halifax international security forum
New Dem Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Sanders
“I’m not going to point fingers looking back. I think that is divisive. But Bernie makes a lot of sense in a lot of ways.” -- Huffington Post
 Dr. Martin Luther King on resistance (1963)
We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. --  Letter from Birmingham City Jail

Thursday, November 17, 2016


O’Hare Airport Workers, Joined by SEIU Local 1, Chairs of Latino and Progressive Caucuses, along with Community Allies, Announce Potential Strike in Coming Days

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, November 17, 2016
CONTACT: Izabela Miltko- Ivkovich 708 -655-9681
Nick Desideri 6 30-779-5510

O’Hare Airport Workers, Joined by SEIU Local 1, Chairs of Latino and Progressive Caucuses, along with Community Allies, Announce Potential Strike in Coming Days
Possible strike of hundreds could occur any time in the coming days, disrupt airport operations during busy holiday season

CHICAGO — Today, O’Hare baggage handlers, cabin cleaners, janitors and wheelchair attendants, joined by Chair of the Progressive Reform Caucus Alderman Scott Waguespack (32), Chair of the Latino Caucus George Cardenas (12), SEIU Local 1, and community allies gathered to announce the results of the long-awaited holiday strike vote.  Hundreds of O’Hare workers have voted to hold an unfair labor practice strike in the coming days. O’Hare workers have been building their case for $15 and union rights at the world’s fourth-busiest airport, but their employers have responded by retaliating against them. Now, O’Hare workers are ready to take matters into their own hands. A possible unfair labor practice strike has the potential to disrupt what will be a record-breaking holiday travel season.

“I work full time, but I don’t make enough to get by and raise my two daughters,” said Scrub, Inc. Cabin Cleaner Kisha Rivera. “We are sick of talking, we are sick of being retaliated against, and we are ready to take action.”

“For a year now, O'Hare Airport workers have been standing up and telling their stories, fighting for a living wage, better benefits, and higher standards at the airport,” said SEIU Local 1 President Tom Balanoff. “Now, they’re ready to do whatever it takes to stand up for themselves against the retaliation they’ve faced.”

 O’Hare airport workers were also joined by Alderman Ameya Pawar (47), Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35), Alderman Anthony Napolitano (41), and Alderman Rick Muñoz (22).  Chicago aldermen share airport workers’ concerns that inadequate safety and health standards, along with low wages, high turnover, and insufficient training at our airports put workers in danger and hurt passengers by impacting safety and quality of service.  This vote will send a clear message to their employers, Prospect Airport Services, AirServ and Scrub, Inc. as well as the City of Chicago that O’Hare workers will continue to stand-up against retaliation.

Despite helping to generate $8 billion in profits for the airline industry, most O’Hare Airport workers are forced to survive on minimum wage or less.  Thursday’s vote comes on the heels of allegations concerning massive wage theft at O’Hare and serious Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) violations that put workers and passengers at risk. O’Hare workers are ready to turn words into action.


Around the country, airport workers are coming together in Airport Workers United, a movement of workers and their allies, raising their voices to make our airports safe and secure for passengers, employees and our communities. Contracted airport workers from major airports serve 393 million passengers yearly. By sticking together and speaking out for change these workers have won wage increases in Los Angeles, New York City, Newark, Minneapolis, Boston, Philadelphia, and Fort Lauderdale. Today, more than 70,000 airport workers nationwide have either received wages increases or other improvements, including health care, paid sick leave and worker retention policies.

Izabela Miltko-Ivkovich
Communications Director
SEIU Local 1
312.233.8772 (o.)
708.655.9681 (c.)

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Did Arne Duncan's attack on suburban parents help Trump win the election?

Arne Duncan at Boston DFER meeting supporting unfettered charter expansion. MA voters disagreed and defeated Question#2 and Trump in the process. 
It was back in 2013 parent protests against Common Core testing were bubbling up around the country and the opt-out movement was moving ahead full-steam.

Instead of uniting with or at least trying to understand parent/teacher discontent with testing madness, former Ed. Sec. Arne Duncan, representing Pres. Obama, lashed out at what he called, "White suburban moms’ upset that Common Core shows their kids aren’t ‘brilliant’".

At anther appearance at the National Press Club in Washington, Duncan claimed that opposition to the Common Core testing had been fueled by “political silliness.” He told a convention of newspaper editors that his critics were misinformed at best and laboring under paranoid delusions at worst.

Aside from being a terribly misleading statement -- tens of thousands of urban parents, black, white and Latino joined the opt-out movement -- it was an insulting sting, not only for parents, but their children, that left a permanent mark. 

As a parent and grandparent of public school students, in a city like Chicago, where Duncan once ruled the education roost, I can tell you that calling parents "paranoid" and "delusional" is probably not the best way to win an election for your party. 

Did Duncan's disdain for white suburban parents have an impact last week's election results and the Democrat's failure to pull votes from suburban districts that went for Obama in '08 and 2012? Especially in the swing states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania. 

It's hard to document that right now. 

But we do know... Duncan, who in the past has been on the stump for Democrat corporate-reform Democrats, was kept well-hidden during the Clinton campaign. Not only were the words, "Race To The Top" never once mentioned by Hillary and the Dems, issues confronting public education, which are of prime importance to parents, were consciously left out of the policy debates with the Republicans.

We also know that the Democratic Party's education platform, adopted by the delegates at the convention, was in many ways, a repudiation of Duncan's "reform" agenda. But those platform points never made their way into any of Hillary's campaign speeches.

Last point on this... In Massachusetts, where education issues were made a centerpiece of the campaign and where leading Democrats like Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh opposed Duncan-supported unfettered charter expansion, the Democrats defeated the charter expansion bill and Trump, handily. 

Monday, November 14, 2016

WEEKEND QUOTABLES -- Election post mortem

Leonard Cohen (1934-2016)
Ring the bells that still can ring / Forget your perfect offering / There is a crack, a crack in everything / That's how the light gets in -- Anthem
Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla)
“I’ve been on the phone with giddy Republicans for about 48 hours now. Everybody assumed we’d come back and be the firewall [against a President Hillary Clinton], and now we see the opportunity to be the point of the spear.” -- Washington Post
Bernie Sanders
In the coming days, I will also provide a series of reforms to reinvigorate the Democratic Party. I believe strongly that the party must break loose from its corporate establishment ties and, once again, become a grass-roots party of working people, the elderly and the poor. We must open the doors of the party to welcome in the idealism and energy of young people and all Americans who are fighting for economic, social, racial and environmental justice. -- New York Times Magazine
Author Teju Cole 
Evil settles into everyday life when people are unable or unwilling to recognize it. -- A time for refusal
Rahm Emanuel
 "I want to assure all of our families that Chicago is and will remain a Sanctuary City. Chicago has been a city of immigrants since it was founded. We have always welcomed people of all faiths and backgrounds, and while the administration will change, our values and our commitment to inclusion will not." -- DNAinfo
Filmmaker Michael Moore
“They all have to go. And they have to make room for the progressive Democrats who are going to come in here, are going to be needed to fight the things that Trump is going to do to the people of this country and the world.” -- CNN
Words of the prophets...

Friday, November 11, 2016

Jeff's first day back at school after the election debacle

My friend Jeff Spitz teaches documentary story, research, production, outreach and social activism at Columbia College in Chicago. Here he describes his first day back at school after the election.

So my students picked me up as I knew they would.

The energy level was low and everyone was down at first as we met for the Chicago course.

I have an unusual group with only two white female students -- both of whom are super liberal, friendly and adventurous.  The other students are an African-American woman from the South Side, an African-American guy from Oak Park, a Mexican American guy from Park Ridge, an Iranian guy from Orange County, CA and a Muslim woman, also from SoCal. These are some of the best kids I have ever had as a group. They really have bonded.

You should have heard the comments from the south-side woman. She was so painfully upset that a rapist woman-hater and racist got elected president. She was truly in shock and scared that so many white people living in this country could want such a person in the White House. She started it off by saying she loves everyone in the class and sees us all as family. But she was angry at all the people on social media who made jokes about voting for Trump just to get a reaction. She didn’t like that and now she is furious at all those people.

When Sam from Park Ridge spoke he surprised us all by saying that even though he grew up and went to high school in the burbs, his parents were immigrants. He wore a shirt today with bold letters on the front saying "Fuck Trump.”  The statement was on his chest above an American flag. He’s a former high school football player.

Then Sean from Orange County who is dark and funny and super insightful said he grew up getting shit from white kids because of his skin color.  He said he remembers feeling like he wished he was never born because of that treatment.  He feels that this election has given every racist white license to treat him that same way now and to feel good about it.  He can’t believe he has to face more of the same crap now as a college student.  He said it started for him after 911.

He is a big dude and his comments put me in tears.

The Muslim student talked about her little sisters who are growing up with her mom in Rome and how her mom had called her and cried over the phone. "They are so sad for their daughter in America", she said. She grew up in SoCal with her father who also called from San Clemente to share his feelings with his daughter.  She said he was shocked and very worried for his daughter in Chicago.

My Chinese exchange student was also shocked that Trump could even be considered a candidate for president of the US. She said Chinese friends on WeChat were filling her screen with comments about his lack of qualifications.  And questions about how Americans could allow such a person to run for such a high office.

A female student explained that she grew up in an all-white community northwest of Chicago and that she appreciates how her parents raised her to accept everyone. Being white and did not make her racist. Now she worries that she will be tainted as a racist because she is white and that she can’t really say anything because she will be considered "privileged." She worries that she will be lumped with the white racists who are now emboldened to say horrible things and act like it’s cool because their racist candidate is the winner.

So this is what Trump winning is all about for my students today.  A racist, hateful and ignorant America. It is messing up a lot of young people’s minds. The kids know that Hillary won the popular vote. It doesn’t matter one bit.  They are frightened for their siblings, for their parents and most of all for their own futures.

We have to reassure our students that winning is something else entirely. We have to re-frame what has happened and give all the people who've been marginalized a voice moving forward.

We have to take the best of what Obama represented when he was a candidate and wrap ourselves in that while fighting everything that Trump tries to do in our name. Finally, we have to teach resistance to racism, sexism and all the other divisive “isms" that this fascist used to "win"this election.

Now for my second class of the day….

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Teach the children well...

Students protest in Austin.
Election Day headline at Huffington: "What do we tell the children?'
Ali Michael, Ph.D. answers:
Tell them bigotry is not a democratic value, and that it will not be tolerated at your school.
 Say that silence is dangerous, and teach them how to speak up when something is wrong.
 Finally, remind them ― to ease their minds ― that not everyone who voted for Donald Trump did so because they believe the bigoted things that he has said this year. Many of them voted for him because they feel frustrated with the economy, they feel socially left behind, and they are exercising the one power they have. We need to challenge Trump and his supporters to differentiate between their fears and the bigotry catalyzed by those fears.
NY Daily news reports: "Educators across the country faced classrooms full of students on Wednesday morning who feared for the future."

They're referring, of course, to the nation's millions of students (and teachers) of color, disabled, l LGBT and especially the children of immigrants now recoiling in fear from the racist, misogynist, and xenophobic threats of the newly-elected Trump regime.
“My mom said we might have to leave and go back to Ecuador,” a P.S. 110Q second-grader told his teacher.
 A Long Island art teacher told The News that her high schoolers began discussing Trump’s victory “the second they came in the door.
Educators had to become comforters. Safiyya Kathimi, who teaches in a Southern state, said she reassured her middle schoolers that she was there for them, even if it seemed like their new President might not be.
“I want you to know that if you’re feeling scared or worried, I am here for you if want to talk, or just need to be heard,” she told them, adding, “I had to hug quite a few.”
There were some glimpses of light and hope in an otherwise dark election day. While handing Trump and the Republicans a defeat, MA voters overwhelmingly voted NO on Question 2, which would have eliminated the cap on the state's privately-run charter schools.

Right-wing think-tankers at the Fordham Institute, who were wringing their hands over their party's nomination of Donald Trump, appear to have reconciled with the neo-fascist, racist regime now unconstrained by Democratic congressional opposition.

Institute Pres. Michael Petrilli writes: "The emergence of a 'unified' government means a possible end to gridlock and futility.

Of the white majority who bought into Trump's demagogic celebrity "take back our country" appeal, Petrilli continues with the big lie:
Their neighbors are dying young, with broken lives and broken spirits. And yet, until Trump, almost nobody in or near power was speaking about their concerns, their hopes and dreams, the contributions they still have to make to our great country.
Petrilli goes on to praise Trump for picking up "some education advisors we think well of."

I assume he's referring to anti-"government schools" creationist, Ben Carson. or like-minded conservatives at AEI. I'm sure Petrilli is hoping the Trumpies and Breitbardists will find a spot for him somewhere in their new Mis-education Dept. as G. W. Bush did.

This from my niece Jessica who teaches newly-arrived immigrant high schoolers in NYC:
Things that are giving me life right now: private messages from friends and family near and far, teachers at my school watching Democracy Now together at lunch, students telling me, "Don't be sad Miss, it will be okay" when I am the one who should be consoling them, an email chain on the MORE chapter leader listserv of lessons, responses and report backs from schools across the city, hearing that at some schools students walked out of classes, my own angry and optimistic children and their friends, and that people were out in the streets today.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016


Shortly after Donald Trump delivered his victory speech, about 2,000 people rallied against the election at UCLA. (Los Angeles Times)
Trump and the Republicans were able to tap into a wave of deep-seeded white anger and frustration the likes of which I haven't seen since the violent reaction to the black freedom movement in the south, 50 years ago. Only this time, it was expressed through the ballot box. Will the reaction stay constrained? Or are we in for another wave of violent, racist, anti-immigrant attacks that Trump is more than capable of unleashing?

Van Jones made an emotional and powerful statement on CNN last night, wondering what he should tell his children about the election of a neo-fascist to the highest political office in the land.
“This was a white-lash,” he said. “This was a white-lash against a changing country. It was a white-lash against a black president in part, and that’s the part where the pain comes.”
 If you don't know Van, in 1996, he founded the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. He was appointed Obama's Special Advisor for Green Jobs in '08, but soon came under attack from the far right (Mike Pence) was deemed "too radical" and thrown under the bus by the Dems.

As someone who grew up in a left-wing household during the McCarthy period, survived the repression and political assassinations of the '60s, and endured the Nixon, Reagan, and Bush years, Trumpism is no stranger to me. The tears, the eerie quiet, and then anger that befell Clinton's "victory party" in N.Y. around midnight, are things I have experienced too many times.

Trump's election victory was a devastating blow, not only to the Clinton dynasty, but for all of us who value democracy and social-justice. Now comes a brief, hopefully thoughtful and introspective period in which to gather ourselves and prepare for the reactionary winter that's about to be unleashed.

It's too soon to begin assessing blame for the loss or settling accounts. That time will come and we all have our lists.  But first, we need to let the dust settle and see what we're really up against here. There's also a lot we can learn about organizing election campaigns in the modern era -- besides not nominating the most hated, untrustworthy (even by her own supporters) candidate in party history.

We can also anticipate lots of spontaneous anti-Trump protests breaking out, starting today.

Agenda Topics from now until January...Who will be part of Trump's new ruling coalition and how will it rule? What are the inevitable divisions within it? What's left of the Democratic Party and progressive forces and how badly are they in disarray? How swiftly will Trump move on his campaign promises to round-up millions of immigrants in deportation centers? What will happen when he tries to smash the Affordable Care Act, pulling health care from some 20 million citizens? What about the Supreme Court and the future of same-sex marriage and Rowe v. Wade? And what will happen to public space (including what's left of public education) and public decision making?

And then, most importantly how do we resist?

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

'Millennial' voters not just white

Livestream Chance The Rapper’s #ParadeToThePolls Concert
"Show the younger generation what standing up looks like," Chance the Rapper at yesterday's free concert.
Please, no more hand-wringing about under-voting, so-called "millennials". I say, so-called, because I don't really think there's one such thing as millennials. Of course I know there are young people who came of age by the year 2000. The problem is, the way the term is used in media and even by academics, it's come to mean young white people/voters/consumers. Don't believe me? Close your eyes and imagine a millennial. Who do you see?

The corporate world is smart enough to see black millennials as a vast potential profit center and for their role as "culture creators". But as you can imagine, they fail to mention the stark racial disparities in the population of incarcerated youth. Among the estimated 717,800 men ages 18 to 29 who were incarcerated at midyear 2010, 37% (290,100) were black and 23% (180,400) were Hispanic.

Here's a survey done by Harvard University’s Institute of Politics which made me cringe:
Asked about the nation's future, 51 percent of those ages 18 to 29 said they feel "fearful," while just 20 percent picked "hopeful." In responding to the question, which hadn't been asked in previous polls, every demographic group felt more fearful than hopeful, the institute said, with white women exhibiting the most anxiety, at 60 percent fearful. 
I can't help but wonder which millennials are even accessible to Harvard researchers? How about Spanish-speaking immigrant youth or young African-American men in what's left of urban public housing? Or in prison.

While there is some cultural overlap, black, Latino, urban poor men, women don't occupy the same space as middle-class or wealthy white youth when it comes to education, consumption, or voting. Averaging them all together is misleading.

For example, millennial 3rd-party voting has been limited almost exclusively to white people. While Clinton holds a 36-point advantage over Trump in most polls, there's no sense even asking black or Latino youth if they voted for Trump.

In 2012, 18-29 years-old accounted for 19% of the electorate nationally. This year, it's likely to be around the same with youth voting for Clinton by an estimated 28% over Trump. But when you look more closely at the numbers you find that black youth out-voted white youth  in '08 and by about 8% again in 2012. Will that happen again this year? It depends on what's happening and what has happened already on the ground.

Yesterday in Chicago, for example, where early voting numbers (more than 350,000) have smashed records set in 2008, hometown favorite Chance the Rapper hosted and headlined a free concert at Petrillo Music Shell in Grant Park called "Parade to the Polls." Concertgoers, led by organizers from Black Youth 100 Project, Chicago Votes and other groups, then marched with CTR to the nearest available early voting location, Cook County's early voting supercenter at 15 West Washington Street, where the line to get in the door spanned nearly two full city blocks.

Much better than hand-wringing.

Monday, November 7, 2016


Trump pushes pogrom against Somali migrants in MN
“Some of them [are] joining Isis and spreading their extremist views all over our country and all over the world...Everybody’s reading about the disaster taking place in Minnesota. You don’t even have the right to talk about it.” -- Guardian
Freelance writer, Evelyn Nieves
Hillary Clinton’s Silence on Standing Rock Is a Moral Mistake—and a Political One -- The Nation
Mike Dukakis on MA charter cap vote
“It’s all part of a kind of movement to break up, to privatize, to essentially, I think, badly harm what is a very important relationship between people and their schools. I just do not understand the theory behind creating a whole new set of schools which are unconnected, in most cases, to their communities.” -- Boston Globe
Dennis Banks
AIM leader, Dennis Banks
Each day we walk to the site carrying our prayer ties to place them on the land near the digging and bulldozing sites. It is there that we meet the many police, sheriffs and their deputies, and the dogs that are trained to attack us. It is there we meet the young men in uniform, military forces of the same government that massacred our people at Sand Creek in 1864 and Wounded Knee in 1890, that also sent our sons and daughters to carry the same flag we fly today alongside our tribal nation flags, in World War I, World War II, and the wars in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan. -- San Francisco Chronicle 
Sen. Al Franken on Trump ad
 “I’m Jewish, so maybe I’m sensitive to it. But it clearly had an Elders of Zion feel to it, the international banking crisis conspiracy.” -- Guardian

Friday, November 4, 2016

Why is the IEA backing Radogno?

Radogno carrying water for Gov. Rauner.
Hey teachers in the IEA. Wanna know how your dues are being used. Check out your union's endorsements and see if you're OK with them.

Here's one, Christine Radogno (R-41). She's the top Republican in the Senate and chief water carrier for Gov. Rauner. And, as Trump would say, believe me, she's no friend of teachers or teachers unions.

Back in January, when Rauner was pushing for a state takeover of Chicago schools as a way of busting the CTU and gaining control of the district's $5B budget, Radogno stood right by his side. She even co-authored the Senate takeover bill

Rauner is still holding the state education budget hostage, with Radogno's full support. 

When the state's charter school lobbyists rallied their troops in Springfield back in April, there was Radagno leading the cheers for "choice" in the form of vouchers and privately-run charters. On the other hand, she wants to stop "throwing money at" public education.

She's attacked every real legislative move to increase the minimum wage, claiming it won't help "job creators."

She led the fight against gun control and for concealed-carry laws in the state.  

So why is the IEA endorsing and throwing money at her? Maybe it's time for the state's teachers to ask. 

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Baseball and schooling still both a players' game

Cubs Jason Heyward went 0-5 but may have been the MVP
The amazing Cubs could never have won 103 regular season games or even gotten to the playoffs and World Series without a manager like Joe Maddon, who encouraged his players to do what they do best. He kept his young team loose and confident all year. His starting pitchers knew when they were scheduled to pitch and what was expected of them and his closer, the great Alroldis Chapman, brought over from the Yankees, was mentally ready to come in to demolish three opposing hitters with his 100+mph fastball, in the 9th inning of any close game.

Then, for some some reason, which shall remain a mystery, all that changed during the last three games of the Series. Suddenly, under pressure of his team being down 3-1, Maddon morphed into an uber-manager, over-thinking and taking the game away from his players. It was as if he panicked and lost confidence in the very players who helped get the team to where it was.

I won't rehash all the details here. But I watched Chapman leave the dugout in tears last night after giving up a game-tying home run when his overworked arm just couldn't deliver any more. I heard ace starter Jon Lester say, no mas to any more relief pitching after he was misused and wild-pitched home 2 Cleveland runs in the 5th.

Maddon's pitching changes and over-managing over the last three games were both puzzling and disheartening, even to his own players. I'm not saying anything here that every sports writer, TV commentator and fan hasn't said a hundred times over the past three days. Of course this all makes for great between-pitch chatter and after all, isn't that what's wonderful about the pace and cerebral quality of a baseball game.

Then, after the In***ns tied the game in the 8th and had all the momentum working for them, a miracle happened. The Cleveland sky opened up and the rains came down so hard that the game was stopped while the ground crew rolled out the tarp and TV viewers (including lots of teachers who had to wake up early and teach this morning) all groaned.

Thankfully, the rain delay only lasted 17 minutes. But it was enough time for the Cubs players, led by right-fielder Jason Heyward, to hold a "players only" meeting without Maddon and his coaches. With little time for complaining or criticizing, the players picked each other up and pulled the team together. They realized that the game was on their shoulders now, regardless of what their managers/coaches/execs did or didn't do.

This from USA Today:
There were no coaches, no front-office types. Just the players, all 25 of them crammed into a tiny room with bright, white walls, low ceilings and row upon row of gleaming weights... With his teammates surrounding him, Heyward began to speak. He’s a quiet man, Heyward, preferring to let the other veterans be the vocal leaders in the clubhouse. So when he does speak, his words have a gravity that commands full attention.
Looking around the room, Heyward said that every single one of them had played a part in bringing the Cubs to this point. Whether it was soon-to-be NL MVP Kris Bryant, rookie Albert Almora or veteran backup catcher Miguel Montero, Heyward reminded them, the Cubs had gotten this far as a team.
They had everything they needed to win, Heyward said, so long as they believed in each other and played for one another.
“He spoke up and said this is about your teammates,” David Ross said. “He just said, `We’re the best team in baseball for a reason. Continue to play our game, support one another. These are your brothers here, fight for your brothers, lift them up, continue to stay positive. We’ve been doing this all year so continue to be us.’
The rest, as they say -- well, you know the rest -- with the Cubs winning the game with 9th-inning heroics. The team's first World Series victory in 108 years. There's nothing like a victory to paper over the mistakes of management. Unlike players' errors, they're never recorded in the box score. Heyward, who went hitless last night, could have well been the team's MVP.

Lessons for educators...Good schools are about teaching and learning. Principals, department heads, corporate boards (for charter schools) may have their roles to play but it's teachers and students that are the heart and soul of any school.

And unlike professional sports, education when done right, isn't about winners and losers based on somebody else's metrics. No race to the top.

Baseball and schooling are still both the players' game.