Tuesday, November 29, 2016

War hurts the environment

A few times over the past couple of years during our school visits, we've asked students to write down some of the environmental costs of war. Each time, I have noticed how students focus on ways that war hurts people and community structure. While the question has been aimed at what war does to the natural world, students have naturally included we humans as inseparable from our surroundings. Here are their responses from today's SOY visit to Crockett HS:

Question: What are some ways that war hurts the environment? Your thoughts:

Destruction of natural biomass
In Vietnam, napalm burned the canopies of the trees. The gunpowder from bullets is polluting our air
Destroys homes, peace and humanity
Tears families apart
It destroys the environment, our rights and endangers mankind as a whole
It causes mental fears
Breaks relations between nations/countries
Increases harmful material production
Creates conflict within society
Ruins marriages and families
People are dying and it's hurting the community

Friday, November 18, 2016

Schools must continue to be "no places for hate"

In our school visits over the course of almost 20 years, we have been encouraged by all the ways that teachers, school administrators and students in AISD have worked to stop bullying, uphold the values of respectful communication and celebrate diversity in our public schools.  Seeing these efforts undermined by the extremely disrespectful discourse of the Trump campaign has been shocking.  Our group doesn't endorse particular candidates for public office, but we surely speak out on behalf of the core values of public education:  encouragement of critical thinking, respectful dialogue, inclusiveness of all ethnic groups, religious persuasions and sexual orientation, the promise of education for every child regardless of citizenship status and a bedrock belief in nonviolence toward each other.
As this article describes, the president-elect's behavior has been the opposite of a role model for our kids.     

Published on

As Schools See Hate-Fueled Attacks Rise, Millions Demand Trump Speak Out

'The presidency is about many things,' groups declare in letter to president-elect. 'Chiefly, it is about setting an example through your leadership.'
President-elect Donald Trump "must repent, take responsibility, and challenge those who have been emboldened by his words, and he must also change the direction of his policies that undermine the cause of justice and civil rights," said Rev. William Barber. (Photo: Karla Ann Cote/flickr/cc)President-elect Donald Trump "must repent, take responsibility, and challenge those who have been emboldened by his words, and he must also change the direction of his policies that undermine the cause of justice and civil rights," said Rev. William Barber. (Photo: Karla Ann Cote/flickr/cc)
Facing increased reports of hate-fueled harassment, vandalism, property destruction, and assault in the wake of Donald Trump's election last week, more than 100 faith, labor, and civil rights groups on Friday sent a letter to the president-elect, urging him to "loudly, forcefully, unequivocally, and consistently" denounce such acts.
The organizations, which represent more than 10 million people across the United States, call particular attention to the number of incidents taking place at schools and college campuses—like in Michigan, where middle school students chanted "build the wall" at classmates, or in Pennsylvania, where parents received a letter about swastika graffiti in student bathrooms.
"There's no denying it—the election has had a profound and lasting impact on our nation's schoolchildren for the worse," said Maureen Costello, director of the Teaching Tolerance program at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which coordinated the letter along with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).
"Many of these acts have been carried out in your name," reads the letter (pdf), signed by groups including the Human Rights Campaign, Badass Teachers Association, Muslim Community Network, and National Organization for Women. "Though you may not condone this behavior, your silence gives tacit permission to those who perform these acts."
And while Trump "spoke against bullying, intimidation, and hate crimes" during his "60 Minutes" interview on Sunday, his appointment of alt-right "hero" Stephen Bannon to chief strategist "sends the exact opposite message," the letter charges.
"The presidency is about many things," it concludes. "Chiefly, it is about setting an example through your leadership. You have said that you will be the president for all Americans, Mr. Trump. We ask that you keep your promise by loudly, forcefully, unequivocally, and consistently denouncing these acts and the ideology that drives them. We ask you to use your position, your considerable platform, and even your tweets to send a clear message that hate has no place in our public discourse, in our public policy, or in our society."
Added Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, architect of the Moral Monday movement and another signatory to the letter: "Mr. Trump's campaign has been one of unbounded vulgarityagainst people of color, immigrants, women, and people of different faiths. He must repent, take responsibility, and challenge those who have been emboldened by his words, and he must also change the direction of his policies that undermine the cause of justice and civil rights. Anything less than this will continue the deep distrust and apprehension we have regarding his presidency."
AFT president Randi Weingarten said her union plans to set up a support and resource hotline for people to report incidents and be directed to experts for guidance and counseling. She also said educators and others can find lessons and other materials on topics including bullying and grief, as well as the election and its meaning, for free on the AFT's Share My Lesson website.
And as Rethinking Schools noted in a recent newsletter, "racist and xenophobic celebrations were not the only response to Trump's election."
"In San Francisco, more than a thousand students walked out of class to join protest marches," Rethinking Schools editors and staff wrote. "As one student said, 'We're trying to inform people about white supremacy, racism, homophobia, everything.' And in the New York City high school where Rethinking Schools editor Adam Sanchez teaches, the art club hosted a 'No Allegiance to White Supremacy' t-shirt-making gathering, while the Feminism and Black Lives Matter clubs held a joint emergency meeting to discuss the election."
"These responses are also harbingers," the newsletter declared, "anticipating our schools and classrooms as sites of resistance to everything that Trump stands for."

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

SOY visit with Akins Eagles

 Tami, Hart, Susana and I had one of the best visits ever to Akins HS on Tuesday, October 25! Students were very interested in doing the t-shirt challenge and 54 students completed it over the two lunch periods. Penny Poll results showed 34% of the vote for Education, 26% for Health Care, 14% for the Environment, 14% for the Military and 12% for Humanitarian Aid. The reflection poster asked, “October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. When you get angry with someone, what is one way to handle your anger without hurting someone?” I think students get that some of the ways we can address conflict in our homes have parallels with how conflict can be handled on an international level. Here are their responses:

Talk it out!
Walk away
Distract yourself by doing something
Walk away and breathe and then come back and talk it out
Try to come to an agreement to not fight
Talk to them and apologize, then hug it out
I step away
Walk away and give time to cool down
Talk it over
Listen to some calming music
Distract myself with something else
Don’t let the negative people get to you. Focus on yourself.
Share ideas nicely
Just hold it in
Walk away with my life and ignore the negativity
Talk it out b/c fighting isn’t going to get you anywhere
Go to my room and calm down
Sit down and talk it out
Talk to someone you trust
Talk to them or talk to someone about the problem!
Eat food
Don’t kill people!
Talk to someone or the main source of your anger
Tell the person why you are mad, don’t hold it in
Cry to myself
Play a game of basketball
Talk about the problem
For civil equality
I think a way to handle anger is to talk it out to calm down
Solve our problems
Always use your words, never physical actions!
Go work out!
Sleep it out
Communication and patience
Talk it out or go on a walk
I try to talk it out w/them b/c I hate arguing
Hater gonna hate
Walk away, be the bigger person
Square breathing
Talk it out! It’s important to communicate
t-shirt challenge questions for the day


Hart, Iraq Veteran Against the War

One of our posters

We added Muhammad Ali to the Peace Wheel

student responses during first lunch

student responses during second lunch

We were encouraged seeing this poster in a hallway

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Monarchs and other heroes at Lanier HS

Hart, Tami and I had a great visit yesterday at Lanier HS during their lunch hour.  We were getting set up in the hallway outside the cafeteria and along came some students carrying a banner they had made about the monarch butterfly.  Monarchs are a special interest of mine, so I was thrilled to learn that Lanier's Environment Club is creating a Monarch garden and is raising awareness about the monarch's migration and importance to the ecosystem.  Excellent!

the student-made monarch hero photo booth, nicely done!

We had our usual t-shirt challenge, and the reflection poster asked, "Yesterday was Indigenous Peoples Day.  What is one of the things about your ancestors or heritage that you value most?"  Here are some of the student responses:

That we came from natives
My Mexico family
Our connection to nature
I value the rights
I value that I am different from others
I value the food
I value our culture, food and way of life
They are united
Love yourself
We all have love for whatever we do
The best boxer in the world
Black Lives Matter
Our cultures
I admire the fact I was located in East Africa
I value music the most
I value our traditions

We also, as at McCallum, asked students to write about a way that they are kind to the earth.  And, as at McCallum, most responses had to do with picking up trash or recycling.

The Penny Poll results showed a very high interest in education, with almost half the pennies put into that category.  Results were:  49% for Education, 17% for the Environment, 16% for Health Care, 13% for the Military and 5% for Humanitarian Aid.

A few more photos from the visit.  Thanks for your participation, Vikings!
Tami with the Peace Wheel of Fortune

Hart at the chin-up bar

glad to see this was happening at Lanier

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Beginning the school year with a visit to McCallum HS

We had our first school visit of the new semester at McCallum HS today, and we had a great one!  Hart was doing a presentation at Crockett HS today, so it was just two of us staffing the McCallum table.  We shortened the t-shirt challenge a bit for that reason.  We had steady interest and students had good ideas to contribute.  We appreciated their responses on the reflection posters.  We debuted another t-shirt design, and it was the most popular today!  Thanks to all Knights for welcoming us to the round table!

Here is what students wrote on the reflection poster that asked "October 2 (Gandhi's Birthday) was the International Day of Nonviolence.  What are some nonviolent strategies you can use when there is conflict?"

Use your words
Be peaceful and calm
Peaceful protest
Write a speech and protest
Come together with people going through the same things
Take a deep breath
Be respectful and mindful of yourself and others
Listen to both sides of the story and be respectful
Words can protect more than violence
Talk it out, come to an agreement
Just talk about, clarify your POV, try to find common grounds
Treat the other party with respect and patience
Have both leaders speak to each other and find a reason
Art pieces
Count to 10 and breathe
Talk about how it made you feel
Talk to local congress members
Start petitions

And students are doing a lot to be kind to the earth -- especially along the lines of recycling and gardening.


Friday, September 30, 2016

Violent Abuse by Marines and the culture of secrecy that has allowed it to continue

This important story is on the front page of today's New York Times:

PUTNAM COUNTY, Fla. — In Marine Corps boot camp, Thomas Weaver learned to endure punches, kicks and choking by drill instructors in the Third Recruit Training Battalion at Parris Island, S.C. When one instructor repeatedly bashed his head against a doorway, he kept quiet and acted as if it were no big deal. But what he eventually could not take was the lying that covered up the abuse.

read the rest of the story here:

Ex-Marine describes violent hazing and the lies that covered it up
by Dave Philipps
New York Times

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Manufacturing jobs on the rise

Two articles in today's Austin American-Statesman point to an uptick in manufacturing jobs in Texas and in other areas around the US as well.  One article, "Aging workforce puts strain on skilled labor," notes that some manufacturing plants are running short of younger skilled workers.  To help train an incoming workforce for a jet engine plant in New Hampshire, for example, "community colleges in New Hampshire and Vermont have also bolstered classes to train students to become computer numerical control machinists -- those who run equipment that creates machine parts  -- or learn skills like tubing that is critical to building engines."

The other article, "Toyota, GM growth turns Texas into an auto state" focuses on the increase in auto manufacturing in places like San Antonio and Plano.  Because so many trucks are sold in Texas, it makes sense to make them here, and according to the article, "Toyota's San Antonio plant has added a third shift of workers and is on track to produce 250,000 trucks this year."

Austin Community College offers many kinds of technical training programs, including training for other high-demand jobs like utility line work, solar panel installation, welding and electronics engineering.  If you like hands-on work in manufacturing or construction, there are many opportunities for you.