Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Peace Cougars at Crockett HS


Tami, Hart and I appreciated our SOY visit today to Crockett HS, home of the Cougars! Our new t-shirt was geared to them, and we had a steady stream of students doing the t-shirt challenge.

 Since yesterday was Indigenous Peoples' Day, we asked students to write down something they found important in their cultural tradition. Hart said that one student, who was Cambodian, talked about setting out food for the spirits of ancestors. I had not heard of this tradition among Cambodians, but I read up on it later, and perhaps it is the Pchum Ben Festival, a 15-day period when families return to the places of their birth and offer prayers and food to the spirits of their ancestors. It's interesting that this is similar to Dia de los Muertos in Mexico and Texas.

The Penny Poll results showed 37% for Health Care, 22% for Education, 16% for NASA, 13% for the Environment, 9% for the Military and 3% for Humanitarian Aid.
Thanks, Cougars!



We are always impressed with the student art displayed on campus.  This piece we saw today seemed especially appropriate for the Indigenous Peoples theme.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

What else could the US do with the military's $700B?

I was happy to read the following opinion editorial published in the Austin American-Statesman this week.  The two authors state that they are Mennonites, a religious tradition that includes a strong witness for peace.  Their views on military spending are shared by many people in the US who may or may not have a particular religious faith.  In our "Penny Polls" in the high schools, students overwhelmingly vote for the majority of our national treasure to be spent on education, health care and environmental protection rather than on war and preparation for war.  We know that our Penny Polls are not scientific polls, but they do provide a look at what ordinary persons in the US, and young persons in particular, see as most important. 

Here's the op-ed that echoes what we hear from students during our school visits:

What else could the US do with the military's $700B?

by Michael Shirk and Miguel Ferguson  

 As practicing Mennonites, we believe that the resources we have been given and the goods that we produce should be used to foster peace and social justice. This view, far from putting us on the political margin, resonates with the unmistakable warning that was part of President Eisenhower’s farewell address in 1961.
He said: “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of undue influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex.” Unfortunately, for the last half century, Democrats and Republicans alike have insisted on funding the military and foreign wars of occupation with enormous expenditures of taxpayer money. This year, both the House and the Senate have passed versions of a $700 billion military budget. Adjusted for inflation, this is approximately twice the amount that we spent the year Eisenhower issued his warning.
The $700 billion budget that both houses of Congress seem intent on passing is $80 billion more than the previous year’s budget and $37 billion more than President Trump requested. It represents over $2,000 for every man, woman and child in the US., and is more than the combined spending of the 10 largest national military budgets.
Eisenhower, the only general to serve as president in this or the last century, believed that the comparatively modest military budget of his day was “a distorted use of the nation’s resources” that threatened the very structure of American life. We weaken — not strengthen — our nation, and further militarize the world economy by accepting such a swollen military budget.
We believe the huge sums spent on military expenditures here and abroad could be better spent on pressing domestic needs. The U.S. maintains almost 800 military bases in over 70 countries around the world, but our rates of child poverty are among the highest in the industrialized world. Our infrastructure recently received a grade of D+ from The American Society of Civil Engineers — and that was before the devastating floods and uncontrolled forest fires that we have recently experienced.
To provide some scale as to the sheer size of the increase that has been requested, last year’s Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders outlined a plan to provide free college tuition to every student attending a public university. The plan was lampooned as a socialist giveaway, but its price tag of $47 billion is just a little more than half of the increase that Congress has penned into next year’s military budget.
There are many other alternatives to our permanent war economy which would generate real wealth and security for all Americans. As Eisenhower foresaw, in lieu of bloated military expenditures, we could have health insurance, high-performing and properly funded schools, family-friendly policies, a world-class infrastructure that provides safe drinking water and efficient transportation, and energy independence through a commitment to research and development of renewable power sources.
We are not alone in our desire to see America reject the hoary ideology that peace and security can only come from catastrophically large military expenditures. Liberals should reject the out-of-control military spending because of the opportunity costs it represents in funding social welfare policies and programs that promote the common good. Conservatives should reject the outsized military budget because it supports the embodiment of federal power over states and individuals.
America and its elected leaders need to heed Eisenhower’s admonition and reject the disastrous values and costs of the military-industrial system. Our peace and democracy depend on it.
Shirk is an attorney and Ferguson is a small business owner.

Published on October 3, 2017 in the Austin American-Statesman

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Launching the new school year at Austin HS


We were glad to be back at Austin HS today for our first tabling of the new school year! We were busy from beginning to end at the table and really appreciated all the interest in the issues raised through the t-shirt challenge questions. Students were serious and thoughtful in their responses. 28 students participated in the t-shirt challenge for our new shirts of the year.



Penny Poll results showed 26% of the vote for Health Care funding, 24% for Education, 20% for the Environment, 11% for the Military, 10% for Humanitarian Aid and 9% for NASA. 


We had added Michael Franti and Jane Addams to the Peace Wheel. We chose Jane Addams, as SOY was given a generous grant this year by the Jane Addams Peace and Disarmament Fund, which helped us purchase the t-shirts and literature we use! A big thank-you, too, to Linda for her generous donation of a box of Addicted to War books and to my niece, Rachel for designing the awesome Peace Cougar shirt! Most students chose Racism as the Supervillain they will resist, and several chose Sexism, Homophobia, Poverty and Militarism. Their responses are included here in the photos. Thank you, Maroons. The World Needs You!







Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Michael Franti, Power to the Peaceful

We're adding a couple more names to our Peace Wheel of Fortune for this semester, including Michael Franti, who has been touring the country this summer with his band on a "Love Out Loud" tour.  He's got some great videos out there, too.  Here is one of his from last year, "Good to be Alive Today."

Friday, September 8, 2017

AISD district policy regarding military recruiters on campuses

With the start of the 2017/18 school year, the office of the Legal Counsel for AISD is sending out a reminder, as they have in previous years, about the AISD policy regarding military recruiters on campuses.  This is an important policy that is designed to protect student privacy.  Special note should be made of Point 8: recruiters are prohibited from asking students to fill out cards giving recruiters their contact information.   If students or staff witness violations of this policy, they should contact their principals.  If you see something, please say something.

Here is the policy, as stated in the Community Relations section, GKC Local:

The following guidelines shall apply to recruiters on District campuses:

1. All recruiters shall first report to the campus administrative office to obtain a visitor’s badge each time they visit school property.

2. The principal shall designate specific areas on each campus for recruiting purposes. Recruiting may not occur at school athletic events or other school-sponsored events, unless specifically authorized by the principal.

3. Recruiters shall not continue ongoing contact when a student makes it clear by speech or other conduct that contact with the recruiter is unwelcome. In no event may recruiters meet with a student under the age of 18 years off campus without written consent submitted to a campus administrator by the student’s parent or guardian.

4. Evidence of a parent’s or guardian’s intent to provide directory information upon request shall be respected. [See FL]

5. The Armed Serves Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test shall be administered according to the same terms and conditions as other aptitude tests administered within the District. District schools shall select “Option 8” on the ASVAB test prior to the administration of the ASVAB at the school to ensure consistency with the opt-out provisions for release of contact information to the military.

6. Recruiting of any kind shall not be permitted at a time, place, and manner that disrupts classroom instruction. Recruiting in a classroom or other designated space shall be acceptable if it is at the invitation of authorized school personnel and part of a school-approved program.

7. Schools shall allow information regarding recruiting, including recruiting by the military and those advocating alternatives to the military, to be made available to students in an equivalent manner and location.

8. Recruiters shall not solicit student contact information directly from a student or require such information as a condition to participate in an activity or to receive an award or gift.

If a visitor fails to comply with the general rules or guidelines set out in this policy, the principal or other campus administrator may deny the visitor access to the campus. If a military recruiter fails to comply with the guidelines set out in this policy, the principal or other campus administrator may contact the military recruiter's supervisor to report the failure to comply and request that such individual not return to the campus.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Dreamers welcome

We stand with Education Austin and United We Dream in opposition to the statements by US Attorney General, Jeff Sessions yesterday regarding DACA.  We support the right to education for all those living in the US, regardless of citizenship status.  This is a legal right.  And for those immigrants who have pursued college and are now working in their chosen profession, it makes no sense to threaten deportation.  In fact, threats of deportation for any immigrant make it harder on families and especially the young people within families who are being made to feel afraid of government policies targeting them.  Threatening young people is cruel.  We appreciate DREAMERS, DACAmented and undocumented students who are sharing their stories and standing together to say, "Here to Stay."
   

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Wisdom from a mentor, Ruby Sales

The episode of the radio program, "On Being" that aired today on Austin's KUT station was an interview with Ruby Sales, theologian and civil rights activist.  The episode is called "Where does it hurt?"  Highly recommended.  Check it out at this link.