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.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Speaking truth about racism

Photo from today's Rally Against White Supremacy at Austin's City Hall, photo by Jay Janner of the Austin American-Statesman

Austin held a large, nonviolent Rally Against White Supremacy today at our City Hall.  Powerful speakers held us to our task.  Economic Justice is still not achieved in our city, which has a history and also a present reality of racial segregation.  There is much to be done.  There is a strong commitment to equality, diversity, compassion and justice in our community, though, and many people are working in all levels toward these common goals.  We grieve our history of domestic terrorism that has included lynching, forced removal of people from their homes and neighborhoods, official segregation and systematic denials of access in housing, education, government and business.  Several of today's speakers led the crowd in repeating the names of past and present victims of these crimes.  Many of the names I admit I did not know.  Education is a lifelong process.


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

10 Ways to Fight Hate

The Southern Poverty Law Center, a longtime organization in Montgomery,  Alabama dedicated to exposing hate groups and countering them through education and legal action, has published a 10-point guide to action in the wake of the white supremacist riot in Charlottesville this weekend.

Point number 6 in this "Ten Ways to Fight Hate" guide is especially instructive right now.  It encourages people to not engage armed hate groups, and especially not to engage them with weapons.  Such hate groups have stated that they want physical fights.  Don't give them what they want.  Coming armed with chemical sprays or any kind of weapon to a rally heightens fear for everyone, even one's allies, and increases the risk that people will get hurt.  Resist the temptation to yell obscenities back at anyone.  Name-calling can tip someone who is already spoiling for a fight over the edge.  Peace-making is a discipline.  It shows personal strength and discipline when you maintain your own dignity by not repeating the ugly behavior of someone else.

Instead of yelling or fighting directly back at hate groups, the SPLC advises us to hold alternative events in separate locations that focus on upholding the civil rights, equality and dignity of all people, countering the messages of the hate groups.  Many such events were held around the country following the killing in Charlottesville, showing how much power there is in people coming together nonviolently to express their feelings and values.

Check out the complete 10-point guide at this link.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Peace Takes Courage

The current US president makes reckless threats of violence that would harm the entire world.  He says he is acting tough.  But, no, bullying behavior is not toughness.  It is tough to sit down and speak directly and respectfully with one's adversaries.  It is tough to admit and apologize for one's mistakes.  It is tough to listen to the pain of others. It is tough to delve into history and educate oneself as thoroughly as possible about the factors that have created different governments, borders, social systems.

Threatening violence to others is taking the cowardly route.  Building peace is what takes courage.  That's one of SOY's messages, and we are looking forward to the upcoming school year, when we meet many courageous students who are working hard in their classes while at the same time dealing with challenges in family life, national policies regarding immigration, worries about college affordability and the everyday tough work of becoming young adults.  We look forward to hearing what students are saying and observing the ways in which many teachers and staff continue to model conflict resolution and positive communication.  We believe in education, not militarization.

(graphic courtesy of Veterans for Peace, which is holding its annual national convention this weekend with this theme)

Friday, July 14, 2017

Veterans weigh in on defense spending

We agree with this statement that was posted today by Maggie Martin, co-director of Iraq Veterans Against the War :

As we've been trying to follow the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and all of it's many amendments I remember back to my time in the Army. It seemed like everyone (even lowly privates that have nothing to do with acquisitions) knew the unwritten rule that units needed to spend all the money they were budgeted so they would have a bigger budget the next year.
It also seemed like leadership evaluations and awards focused on managing large dollar sums of assets and equipment as an important part of performance. 
I asked our members if they experienced the same thing and overwhelmingly people had stories of wasting large sums of money on unneeded equipment in order to spend the full fiscal budget and ensure it will be risen and not cut the following year. 
Jacob Flom testified about this story he shared at our 2008 Winter Soldier Hearings, here's part of what he saw:
When I was just an E-3 I was given a card and told to spend $80,000 by the end of the day. Ordered copy machines, servers, and an obscene amount of top of the line surge protectors, probably other stuff. Must have been the last day of the fiscal year or quarter. This was when I was assigned to the IT section of our CE squadron in the air Force for about 8 or 12 months. I included this in my testimony at Winter Soldier, pretty sure they recorded the audio interview or something
We've heard lots of stories like this and it leads us to this conclusion: Defense Spending is Insatiable and Wasteful. We know that this is happening across the branches and up to the top and that isn't even getting into defense contractors, which are even more egregious in their misuse of taxpayer dollars and warrant their own discussion. It's clear to see we don't need to increase defense spending, we need to audit the pentagon, break the hold of the military industrial complex, and reclaim our resources.  Not only that, we also need toend the 1033 program to stop this excess equipment from being passed down to local police departments and even schools.
The Pentagon and defense corporations aren't going to stop being greedy on their own, especially when the corporate defense and military leaders have become so intertwined that there is clearly high levels of personal enrichment happening thanks to this cycle. That's why our Drop the MIC campaign is so important. Who better than veterans to challenge the lie that we need to spend more for security? That's simply not the truth and it's not going to fly anymore as services, social programs, and benefits are being cut and our infrustructure deteriorates. Help us raise awareness by using #DroptheMIC #ReclaimOurResources to call out the profiteers and build a movement to break the cycle.
We cannot accept that we don't have money for healthcare and education while we waste billions on so-called defense spending. We are safer when we have stronger healthier communities and when we pursue diplomatic and humanitarian solutions to the problem we face, or better yet, we stop wreaking havoc on the world with our military exploits. 

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Texas Conservation Corps gets the job done

This is good news published in the Austin American-Statesman about funding of the great local Americorps program, Texas Conservation Corps.  If you like working outdoors doing work like trail-building, disaster relief and environmental restoration, check this out.  Americorps provides a wage while you are working, health insurance, good experience for your resume AND an education award (money toward college or to repay student loans) when you complete your service.  Not only that, you are doing important work that helps our community and the natural world.  Some of Austin's hike and bike trails have been built by Americorps members with the Texas Conservation Corps.  Here is the Statesman story:

YouthWorks gets AmeriCorps funding
American YouthWorks has received $805,800 in AmeriCorps funding from the Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal agency for volunteering and service programs.
Building on the American YouthWorks’ Texas Conservation Corps program, the grant will fund 76 AmeriCorps volunteers who will tackle problems in Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Arkansas. Their activities will include disaster response, coastal restoration and public land maintenance needs.
The Corporation for National and Community Service also will provide up to $348,900 in education scholarships for those AmeriCorps members to help pay for college, vocational training or student loans.
The Austin-based American YouthWorks is recruiting for AmeriCorps members to begin service this fall. For more information: americanyouthworks.org.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Become an environmental scientist with Austin Youth River Watch

Last night, I went to a presentation about a proposed extension of the Shoal Creek Hike and Bike Trail sponsored by the Shoal Creek Conservancy.  I live near this creek and walk along the trail often as a form of exercise and as a way to learn more about the natural flora and fauna in my neighborhood.  Austin's river, the Colorado, and all our creeks that flow into it are our lifeblood.  Water is life!

At the presentation were a number of local groups that are working in one way or another to help protect Austin's natural resources.  Included was the group, Austin Youth River Watch!  I had first encountered this organization at the Earth Day festival at Huston-Tillotson U. this spring.

If you are interested in hands-on environmental science, check out this group!  This is an after-school and summer program (that also pays a stipend to students who participate) where students learn to test and analyze water quality in our local rivers and creeks.  Currently, there are about 120 students who are involved annually from 10 of our local high schools:  Akins, Austin, Crockett, Eastside Memorial, Lanier, LBJ/LASA, Manor, McCallum, Reagan and Travis.  This is a great way to learn by doing, perform a crucial service for Austin and earn some money at the same time.  Check out the Austin Youth River Watch at this site or call 512-708-9115.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Casa Verde Builders wants you!

One of the primary nonmilitary options we promote is Americorps.  In Austin, we have a number of Americorps programs that offer great job experience, team building, a living stipend, health coverage and child care over the course of the job and then an educational award upon completion of the commitment.  One of the longstanding Americorps opportunities in Austin has been the green building program, Casa Verde Builders.  If you have an interest in green building and learning hands-on construction skills, check this out.  They are accepting applications through the summer per this information:

Casa Verde Builders 
Casa Verde Builders(CVB), at American YouthWorks in Austin, TX, is a national leader in combining green building with affordable housing and the educational needs of Austin youth. Over the past 20 years AmeriCorps members & students from our Charter High School have worked together to build over 90 green-built homes for low-income, first time homebuyers. We have recently expanded the scope of our program to incorporate weatherization,home repair projects for low-income families, and building tiny homes for the chronically homeless with Mobile Loaves& Fishes. As part of CVB, corpsmembers will receive construction training in NCCER's (National Center for Construction Education and Research) core curriculum, OSHA 10, and CPR/First Aid. We are currently recruiting young people (18-26) from across the country and various walks of life to work together in a team-oriented service environment. Corpsmembers serve in a full-time capacity (M-F; 8:00-5:00). We have full-time(1700hrs) and half-time(900hrs) slots available. Members receive a living stipend, health benefits, career counseling and an educational award. Serving with American YouthWorks, AmeriCorps is both challenging and rewarding. It's a place to learn, grow, and have an experience you'll remember for the rest of your life. You even get time off for SXSW(sorry, wristbands not included). To learn more, visit http://www.americanyouthworks.org and https://www.facebook.com/americanyouthworks/ In-person or phone interview required. Drug test and criminal background check required.
Further help on this page can be found by clicking here.

Member Duties : Casa Verde Builders members will perform strenuous physical tasks outdoors in all types of weather. Members will be using hand & power tools:hammers, saws, drills, shovels & spray rigs, and may carry heavy material. They may be asked to climb ladders & scaffolding,work on roofs or in cramped spaces. Crew will receive green building & basic construction training, weatherization & leadership training. Crews will work on new construction, weatherization& home repair projects for low-income/elderly residents. Periodic overnight trips to service projects may require camping for up to a week at a time. Food & camping equipment provided Members will assist as crew leaders of our YouthBuild crews,helping to organize & lead projects. Members must be able to be role models & provide leadership for at-risk teens & young adults. No experience or skills required, just a positive attitude & a willingness to work hard. Training, tools, & safety gear provided.
Program Benefits : Stipend ,  Education award upon successful completion of service ,  Health Coverage ,  Childcare assistance if eligible . 
Terms :
Uniforms provided and required . 
Service Areas :
Children/Youth ,  Education ,  Neighborhood Revitalization ,  Housing . 
Skills :
Teaching/Tutoring ,  Team Work ,  Trade/Construction ,  Leadership ,  General Skills . 
Apply Now
Refine Search
Program Type:
AmeriCorps State / National

Casa Verde Builders

Program Start/End Date
06/12/2017  -   05/18/2018

Work ScheduleFull Time

Education level
High school diploma/GED

Age Requirement
Minimum:  18    Maximum:  28

Program LocationsTEXAS  


Accepting Applications
From  04/01/2017  To  09/30/2017 

ContactBritni Trustman
1901 E Ben White Blvd
Austin   TX   78741

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Undocumented students: keep college plans alive

The following commentary piece printed in today's issue of the Austin American-Statesman shares our views.  We meet many students in Austin's high schools who are affected adversely by immigration policies that threaten their families and their own future education.  It's important for undocumented students to know that, despite SB-4 legislation and the unwelcoming rhetoric of many Texas legislators, Texas law still allows undocumented high school students to apply for Texas Grant funding for college and in-state tuition when students meet these three qualifications:
1)  The student has lived in Texas for at least three years
2) The student is graduating or has graduated from a high school in Texas
3) The student signs an affidavit indicating intent to apply for permanent residency in the US
Thus, undocumented students who meet this criteria should fill out TAFSA forms for Texas financial aid for college, even though they are denied federal financial aid.  Also, a number of organizations and colleges offer scholarships that don't discriminate on the basis of citizenship status.
We believe that our communities are better when we make it easier rather than harder for all students to obtain a college education when that is their goal.

Here is the commentary piece by special contributor, Franklin Strong, in the May 30, 2017 issue of the Austin American-Statesman:

SB 4 hurts immigrants - and the rest of America
by Franklin Strong

A student I taught last year — I’ll call her Ana — comes by my classroom at the end of the day to ask if I’ll write a recommendation for her when she applies to colleges next fall. I tell her of course, and ask her if she’s excited to be a senior.
She says she is, but she’s nervous. “Why?” I ask. She talks about her ACT scores and college applications. She mentions that her Junior Seminar teacher is frustrated with her because, in making lists of colleges to apply to next year, she keeps refusing to include any out-of-state schools.
“Why?” I ask. “Why not keep a variety of options?”
“I’m undocumented,” she explains. “Well, I mean, I have DACA. I’m a DREAMer.”
I ask why that means she won’t apply to out-of-state schools. I know some schools won’t take undocumented immigrants, but many will. Why not focus on those?
“It’s just that I don’t want to fall in love with a school and then find out I can’t go there.”
She says she visited Colorado last summer with an extracurricular club and was enchanted by the state. She came home and told her mom she wanted to go to college there. Her mom was thrilled. So, this girl has been researching universities in the state and found one that appealed to her. But she won’t put it on her list.
Another student tells me about her aunt and uncle in Houston, who left for Mexico when it became clear Senate Bill 4 would pass, taking their son — this student’s cousin — with them. He was a senior, college-bound. Now, he doesn’t know when he’ll finish his education. This girl tells me her parents are considering doing the same thing with her. They’ve already pulled her brother out of his charter elementary school and put him into a neighborhood school.
“Why?” I ask.
“Less driving,” she says.
This girl loves acting; she is always writing about her auditions and rehearsals. Now, she says, she’s had to give it up, because her mom won’t drive her to auditions anymore.
Her family had two dogs, but they sent them to live with relatives in the country.
“They bark,” she says, “and we don’t want the cops to come because of the noise.”
The Houston Chronicle’s Lomi Kriel recently wrote about the lessons Texas can learn from how immigrants in Arizona have dealt with the immigration laws passed there in 2010. She describes one Phoenix couple that now hesitates before calling the police or before accessing public health care for their children, who are American citizens. After SB 1070 passed, Kriel writes, the couple chose to “make their lives smaller.”
This is exactly what I’ve seen with my students: a narrowing. A self-restriction. After the first travel ban and the February raids, Dana Snitzky wrote about the responsibility of bearing witness — of answering important questions like “Who has been detained?” and “Who has been denied entry?” and “Who has been deported?”
And she’s right: We need to hear about the five-year-old handcuffed at the airport. And about the father detained while taking his daughter to school. But we also need we need to record this narrowing, which is less likely to show up in statistics or in images on the news. We need to talk about the families who are too afraid of the police to keep their pets. The parents who drive to the store looking over their shoulders. The students limiting their college options.
If stripping people of their dignity, opportunities and joy is the method by which we achieve our goals, then we come up with monstrous ideas — like forcibly separating mothers and children, or holding undocumented immigrants in facilities with appalling conditions.
And we start by thinking that maybe it’s OK for people who aren’t supposed to be here to live lives that are dimmer and smaller. In doing so, we make our nation — and ourselves — smaller, too.

Strong recently completed a PhD in comparative literature and now teaches at KIPP Austin Collegiate High School.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

I'd rather buy food and a college education than war!

Tami, Hart and I had our final tabling visit of this school year yesterday at LBJ/LASA HS.  We appreciated the interest of all the Jaguars who stopped by the table to check out our materials and to take part in the t-shirt challenge.

Because yesterday was Tax Day, we asked students to fill in these fliers with what they'd rather buy than war.  Students wanted funds to go toward food and education above all.  Penny Poll results echoed what most students have voted throughout the year: more funding for education and less for the military.  Penny Poll totals:  30% for Education (actual federal budget: approx. 2.8% for Education), 20% for Health Care, 18% for the Environment (actual federal budget:  approx. 1.6% for environmental protection), 13% for Humanitarian Aid, 11% for the Military (actual federal budget, if you include costs related to past wars and measure only discretionary spending: approx. 48% -- almost HALF our federal budget used for war, war preparations and consequences of war), and 8% for NASA.  Once again, if students could decide where our tax money was spent, we would have a much healthier country.

Thanks to students for giving these issues thoughtful attention and expressing their views to us.  As one student said, "I think this is about Power to the People!"   Yes, it is!  

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Could we have a Day Without Violence?

Hart, Tami and I staffed a SOY table today at Travis HS and really enjoyed talking with the students who came by our table.  Because today, April 4, is commemorated in a number of places around the country, especially in schools, as A Day Without Violence, we asked students to contribute their thoughts about that on our poster.  It was interesting to see several students write that music was a way to de-escalate violence.  We agree -- it is one of our common human connections, a universal language.

Penny Poll results showed a full 52% of the budget priority for Education, followed by 18% for the Environment, 13% for Health Care, 10% for Humanitarian Aid, 4% for NASA and 3% for the Military.  This was the largest percentage vote for Education in our poll than at any other school where we have done the poll this year.
Thanks so much for your participation, Travis Rebels!

today's t-shirt challenge

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, and 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.