Tuesday, March 21, 2017

SOY table at Eastside Memorial and the International School

Tami, Hart and I were glad to be tabling at Eastside Memorial today during their lunch hour.  For the reflection question, we asked again, "Of the supervillains: racism, sexism, poverty, militarism and ecocide, which will you resist?  How?"  All responses today addressed racism.

Because Eastside contains the International School, we were pleased to meet several students who have lived in other parts of the world:  Sudan, Afghanistan, Congo, Palestine, Egypt.  Some of these students spoke Arabic as their first language, and we met a number of Spanish-speaking students also.  Our language today was limited to English, but we really appreciated students doing their best to understand our materials and to respond to the questions.  Students helped each other.

For the Penny Poll, we added NASA as a separate category, breaking it out of the Military category, even though we realize that in the actual federal budget, some NASA funding, perhaps as much as 50%, comes from military-related appropriations.  Our Penny Poll results today showed the highest priority for Health Care at 35% of the budget, followed by Education at 21%, NASA at 19%, the Environment at 13%, Military at 7% and Humanitarian Aid at 5%.

Most of the students I spoke with today said they plan to attend college and continue their studies in the sciences.

Following are some of the responses to the reflection question:

Friday, January 27, 2017

Talking careers and fairness at the Reagan HS career fair

Yesterday, Hart, Regina, Tami and I had a full and inspiring day tabling at the annual Reagan HS career fair.  Representatives from a number of colleges, businesses and community organizations were set up in the gym.  We were there to provide a different view of military life and militarism than the military recruiters who also were present.  Reagan HS has a JROTC program, and JROTC students were dressed in uniform.  A number of them came by our table to participate in the t-shirt challenge and talk with us about their plans for the future.  Hart and Regina as military veterans spoke with students from their own experience.  Regina had brought two jacket art pieces from her Fatigues Clothesline Project to display at our table.  The jackets were covered in statements by veterans who have experienced Military Sexual Trauma (MST), one of the serious issues we raise in our materials.

About 75 students completed the t-shirt challenge over the course of the career fair, and it was good to talk with students about their hopes and plans.  Two students told us about having participated in the historic Women's March on Austin last Saturday (Regina and her daughter and I had also participated), as did a Reagan teacher who stopped by the table, and they all spoke about how empowering and encouraging the huge march and rally were, and we agreed!  We in SOY are very much opposed to the Trump agenda that is already increasing anxiety among families in our community.  Life is challenging enough for our young adults who are working hard and hoping to further their education.  Adding more worry and hardship by threatening to separate families, cut financial aid for college and create more division between people is cruel and damaging to our social fabric.
The Penny Poll results showed the Health Care category as the biggest priority with 28% of the penny vote, closely followed by Education with 27%, then 22% for the Environment, 13% for Humanitarian Aid and 10% for the Military.  As always, if our high school students could decide on our national priorities, we would have a much healthier, better educated society and a more protected planet.
There were 75 written responses to our reflection question, and the majority of students cited racism as the primary supervillain that requires resistance.    Following is a sampling of their responses that are indicative of what was written over all.  Thank you to all Reagan Raiders for engaging with the questions we raised in the t-shirt challenge and for expressing your thoughts on these crucial issues.

A sampling of the student responses to the question:

"Of the Supervillains: Racism, Sexism, Poverty, Militarism and Ecocide, which will you resist?  How?"

Racism – I will resist racism because I am an immigrant that has also been discriminated against and now more than ever I will stand up to racism because “our president” thinks it’s okay to discriminate against people, and as a “citizen” if this country, I WILL NOT let racism happen in my community or around me.
I will resist all the above issues, including Trump’s immigration policy, racism and discrimination.  I will do this by marching, calling my representatives, speaking out on daily discrimination and write and document.

Racism because I believe that we’re all the same regardless so we need to stand up to that!

Sexism because there are still a lot of things that society says women can’t do.

As a rising female, I’m against gender norms.  I don’t believe a woman should only be in the house and only the men should work.  How about we flip the table and let them do this.  Women should be treated equally.  Women overcome so much and I’ll try my best to end it.  I want to make a better world where your gender doesn’t affect anything.

Racism affects me because I am judged because I wasn’t born here, and I want to change this because it’s not about race, it’s about culture, and I am proud to be Mexican.

Poverty, I would try to eliminate all currency in the world.

Of these supervillains, I will resist all.  Just resisting one will make no change.  We have to resist all and come together.

In my opinion, racism would be what I would resist because racism is an every day thing.  And no one is different, everyone is equal to one another and you being a different race does not make you any different from them.

Racism – I would speak publicly about it.

Racism, because no matter your race, you’re still a human being.

I believe that I can resist all of them with understanding and treat everyone with respect because we are all human.

Racism, because it’s all over and people should work on getting along with each other.  What I would do to address it is help people if I see racism around.

I plan to resist ALL, but I will resist racism because people may be prejudiced against me, but it’s all about love at the end of the day.

I would protest against sexism.  I would gather up friends who feel the same and we would protest together.

Racism – because it’s been a constant problem in my people’s history.

Mine is racism – one of the reasons it bothers me is because my family is Mexican and I don’t like it when they get treated bad or called names.  A way that I would change this is by doing my best and show that they are wrong about us.

Racism -- more activity involved with diversity culture.  Sexism -- nothing I can do to change people’s beliefs, just hoping people will open more to the transgender community.

I would make everyone see all the ways we can treat everyone with the same respect and how if all the world united and treated everyone with the same respect, the city would be much better and accomplish more goals in the world.

Ecocide—We need to take care of our environment b/c we live in it.  Racism – We need to respect everyone the way they are.

Racism – because I will let people know how I feel and I will let them know my rights.

I think racism is still a big problem around the world.  Like now w/ Donald Trump as our president, it’s going to be a bigger problem.  How can I stand for this?  I would always be equal to anyone I meet.

Racism – and I’ll try to teach people about history and why what’s happening is happening.  I won’t let history repeat itself.

Sexism – by proving I can be independent and successful before marriage and never relying on a husband.  I will also fight racism by proving immigrants can have a bright future.

Sexism and Racism – We should not be divided in any way such as the color of one’s skin: the only time colors should be separated is on laundry day.  We need to unite.


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Doing Lunch with the Bowie Bulldogs

Hart, Regina, Tami and I had a great visit today at Bowie HS, which is one of the two largest high schools in AISD by population.  It is also one of the 4 of our high schools to have a JROTC program.  Several of the students who came to the table were in the program and were open to talking with us about their plans and to take some literature which offers advice for those who may be planning to enlist in the military after high school.  Also, Hart and Regina, as veterans (Army and Marines, respectively) were able to impart some of their own experience.  Regina is a survivor of military sexual trauma (MST) and had one of her "Fatigues Clothesline Project" shirts on hand, a military jacket upon which had been written messages by other survivors of MST.
interesting juxtaposition of a student poster that was up next to the Fatigues Clothesline piece that we placed behind our table.

We tabled during the two lunch periods, and about 20 students per period completed the t-shirt challenge, which included voting in the Penny Poll (results: 25% of the budget priority for Education, 25% for Health Care, 21% for the Military, 15% for the Environment, 14% for Humanitarian Aid) and writing down their thoughts about our Super-villain question.  We really appreciated their sincere and thoughtful responses and their participation.

A few observations:
Quite a few students didn't know where North Dakota is.  We were happy to discover that the current issue of the Bowie HS student newspaper, "The Lone Star Dispatch" had a student editorial about the Dakota Access Pipeline protests, the events that occasioned our geography question of the day.  When we showed students the paper, none that we spoke with had seen the editorial!  We hope more will read their school newspaper!

The question we ask as the alternative at the chin-up bar, both photos from the Standing Rock protests

Also, several students asked us what "resist" meant in terms of resisting the super-villains.  And several asked us what "militarism" meant.  None addressed it in their written responses.  We pointed to the photo above as one example -- the use of more military equipment among police forces in the US.

Many thanks to all students who engaged with our materials and the t-shirt challenge and were open to expressing their opinions.  We appreciate students discussing these issues and sharing in this critical thinking process with us.

Here are the student responses to the question: "Of the Super-villains: Sexism, Racism, Poverty, Militarism and Homophobia, which will you resist?  How?"

Sexism because it annoys me and is really rude.  If people just let girls be girls life would be better.
I would fight against sexism because I want to promote equality.
Racism, because it’s the most heard about and used against people.
Resist poverty, by making good logical decisions.
I will resist sexism.  Many people expect women to just live by mens expectations and just do what they’re told.  So I can work hard to do more and achieve more than the minimum of what people expect.
Racism, by treating people equally.
Racism.  I will resist by not discriminating people of other different colors.
I will try and resist all of them because I want to be a nice person to the society.
I will resist racism by making friends with everyone and not being selective.
I will resist homophobia because my dad and brother are gay.  I will resist it by petitioning the government for homophobia to be classified as a hate crime.
Sexism.  Show women and men the treatment (respect) as they earn it.
Racism.  We need to stand together as one unit; not divided…we need to move forward.
Racism: I would help protest and I would never speak bad about another race.
Poverty by getting more jobs.
Poverty – I believe everyone deserves a chance.  I would do my best to donate to the poor who weren’t so fortunate.
Homophobia, because I believe everyone deserves love.  I enjoy participating in pride parades and protests.
Poverty.  I grew up poor, and I know how hard that can be.
I will resist sexism.  People of different areas think different things, maybe due to where they were born, but everyone should be equal.
Sexism, by joining the feminist march this weekend.
I would resist racism in a way of seeing everyone in the same way.
Poverty, because poverty is wide spread everywhere.
All of them except militarism.  I would not be mean to another gender just because they are different.
Racism.  Because it is a very big issue.
Sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, racism.  We must treat all races, sexes, sexual orientations and immigrants equally – w/respect.
Sexism and racism and homophobia.  I will resist these by first of all not personally engaging in them.  I also see this every day so I will continue to stop and stand up for what I believe.
Racism: by including everyone w/ everything I do and making sure I don’t make assumptions about race.
Sexism, racism, militarism, homophobia.  Sexism – treating boys and girls and all genders/sexes the same.  Racism – not allowing others to say bad stereotyping.  Homophobia – spread awareness (do that for all).
I would resist poverty by giving to the poor when they’re in desperate times.
One of the student responses.  Indeed, there will be a Women's Rights march in Austin this coming Saturday, January 21 which is predicted to draw thousands of participants!  We expect many high school students will be there!  People are peaceably assembling at noon at the Capitol.


Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Wheelchair Man, a new kind of superhero

I heard this amazing piece today on Public Radio International/The World, about Mo Sayed, a teen from Afghanistan who is inventing a new kind of superhero.  Check this out:

So he set out to make Wheelchair Man, an Afghan-American superhero who, upon making eye contact, shows a would-be criminal the consequences of his actions before he commits them. That’s his power. Throw in a wheelchair that can travel at warp speed with amphibious capabilities, and you’ve got yourself a pretty badass comic book hero. But what makes Wheelchair Man truly unique is that he’s based on a true story — Sayed’s story."

Read or listen to the whole story here

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