Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The New York Times’ Summer Reading Challenge

Have you heard about The New York Times’ Summer Reading Challenge?

This is an attempt by the Times to promote reading of their own paper and also to encourage reading of more non-fiction and current events of the students’ choice and more discussion of the content.  This year, the Times will repeatedly ask students to post their thoughts (400 words or less) in response to the question “What interested you most in the Times this week?” They can comment upon an article, photo, podcast, graphic, etc. and the page for this week is here.
The Times cites rationale for this project in an earlier posting:  In “The Crush of Summer Homework,” last August by Professor of Education Elizabeth Birr Moje.

Linda Straube
Librarian, New Trier High School

Monday, May 24, 2010

IGSS Challenge: Civil Rights Data Collection

Something really got me fired up today! I decided we should pose this question to IGSS students since they are writing about the efficacy of change agents in U.S. history and today.

Here's the story--Our Asst. Supt. for Student Services Mr. Tim Hayes sent the following letter home to parents:

Dear Parents,
By now you have been contacted by your son’s or daughter’s adviser regarding New Trier High School’s participation in the Civil Rights Data Collection.  New Trier has been selected for participation in this data collection by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.  The data collection is conducted every other year, and participation for those schools selected is mandatory.   More information on the data collection can be found at http://ocrdata.ed.gov/.

We are reaching out to you because our records show that your son or daughter is listed in the “multiracial” category in his or her demographic information.  However, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights does not recognize “multiracial” as a category for this mandatory data collection, nor does it allow a person to choose more than one category.
If you have not already responded to your son’s or daughter’s adviser, please reply to this email, and let me know what category you would like the school to use for your child.  You may only select one category.  [emphasis is mine] They are:
·         White
·         Black
·         American Indian/Alaska Native
·         Asian/Pacific Islander
·         Hispanic
We recognize that this is a sensitive topic for students and families.  For that reason, I am contacting you directly to make sure that you are aware of the request.  Please know that the data submitted for this purpose does not identify individual students.   Your selection of a race will be used solely for New Trier’s submission to the Department of Education and will not affect your student’s record at our school, which continues to recognize the multiracial category.  In addition, you will have the opportunity to review all of the school demographic data for your son or daughter later this summer and make any necessary corrections.
If your child has been incorrectly listed in the multicultural category, please let me know how they should be listed, and we will correct our records.
Thank you for your consideration of this request.  Please let me know if you have any questions.

Timothy Hayes
Assistant Superintendent for Student Services
New Trier High School

Why are educators constantly asked to do stupid things by governmental agencies?  Why do schools comply? [to get funding!]  What if schools were to write-in the racial information provided by the parents?  Would anyone even notice?   What could Civil Disobedience to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights request for information look like? Obviously our Supt. takes his job seriously and wants to comply with federal regulations.  What can we do as teachers and as a student body to change this? 

Why do federal regulations include naming/labeling children of multiracial origin?  Should we all roll over and take this?  What if you or your son or daughter were biracial?  Do you want the federal government making you choose a category? To the exclusion of another? Does this actually violate Title VI in some way?  Does the race labeling itself constitute a type of discrimination?  

The intent of Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act was to declare that discrimination on the grounds of race, color, or national origin shall not occur in connection with programs and activities receiving Federal financial assistance and authorizes and directs the appropriate Federal departments and agencies to take action to carry out this policy.

Why does the U.S. Census take into account a larger variety of categories and also allow a write-in category?  Shouldn't the U.S. Department of Education take this into consideration?  Why are they allowed to bully parents into making a statement about the race of their child?

According to the Public Law 94-171 Redistricting Data File, Race is defined for the 2000 U.S. Census as:

"The concept of race as used by the Census Bureau reflects self-identification by people according to the race or races with which they most closely identify. These categories are sociopolitical constructs and should not be interpreted as being scientific or anthropological in nature. Furthermore, the race categories include both racial and national-origin groups."

Now, take a look at the  Census 2010 form with their categories for "race". Note that they are very careful to specify that "Hispanic origins are not races". Note also that respondents may provide write-in entries such as multiracial, mixed, interracial. Also, take a look at the most recent (2006) New Trier High School data collection report.  How does this type of report promote educational excellence (which is the purported mission of the Office of Education)?  I would guess that these demographics are used to track educational attainment of students.  At the end of the day, aren't these statistics just more government misinformation/lies?
Environmental activist and fisherman Kevin Costner has been working on oil/water separation technology since the Exxon Valdez catastrophe. Costner’s brother, Dan, is a scientist who worked on the project: Ocean Therapy Solutions.

Disturbed by the effects of the Valdez spill in Alaska, Mr. Costner bought the nascent technology from the government in 1995 and put $24 million of his own money into developing it for the private sector.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Gulf Oil Spill: Live video stream

Watch live streaming video from wkrg_oil_spill at livestream.com

I also added a "ticker tape" view of tweets coming in live for the Gulf oil spill.

Dalai Lama Uses Twitter to Circumvent Chinese Government

The Dalai Lama held his first Internet chat with Chinese web users Friday, in a wide-ranging dialogue touching on politics and his eventual successor.

This short piece from the Mashable blog by Jennifer Van Grove describes how exiled Tibetan spiritual leader Dalia Lama held a one-hour question-and-answer session via Twitter to respond to questions submitted by Chinese web users.

Although Twitter is blocked in China, Chinese users were able to access the chat, as Twitter allows third-party applications and servers to freely use its data both inside and outside China. This has made Twitter largely available in China despite the vast web of government Internet censorship.

This certainly relates to our recent discussion of whether Internet technologies are facilitating activism around the area of human rights. Although they are blocked, social media sites in China appear to be what Radio Free Europe was for Eastern bloc Communism in the 20th Century.  Information is power in the 21st Century.
Social Media is emerging as a real-time investigation and response tool not only for journalists but also for government agencies.  Read about how the U.S. Engages the World with Social Media.
The State Department has been engaging in the dialogue around the world via social media in their mission to turn conflict into conversation.

Let's hope the current Obama administration makes better use of social media to make more transparent the recent oil spill disaster and cleanup efforts. On Twitter, a simple search for "oil spill" leads instantly to: View the NOAA Gulf of Mexico oil spill trajectory forecasts for Saturday through Monday .Satellite imagery gives transparent feedback to the public. While the public is still feeling pretty powerless regarding the Gulf crisis, eventually citizens will be able to put all the pieces together and hold corporate and government entities accountable.  The "drill baby drill" folks are holding their tongues for now.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

What is Ignite Chicago? Coming June 9, 2010

An evening of 5 minute talks on a variety of topics presented by a variety of speakers looking to ignite and inspire.

Ignite Chicago is a high-energy evening of five minute presentations by people who have an idea - and the guts to get onstage and share it with fellow creative folks. Each presentation is composed of 20 slides that automatically advance every 15 seconds. Presentations can range from how to build a resume to a history of the Samurai sword to a manifesto on boxes.

Apply to Speak: deadline for applications is 5 pm. May 26, 2010.
OR register to attend here

Google Wave is Now Opened to Everyone

Have you tried Google Wave? If not, Google just opened it to everyone.

Learn how to use Google Wave by watching some videos.

What do you think? How could/should we use this? Could it replace Google Docs for student collaboration? It seems like a wonderful tool for planning large group events, excursions.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Library purchases with IGSS curriculum in mind

Winnetka Library summer purchases to support the IGSS curriculum

DVD purchases:
"End of Poverty (2010) A timely documentary by award-winning filmmaker, Philippe Diaz, revealing that poverty is not an accident. It began with military conquest, slavery and colonization that resulted in the seizure of land and other natural resources as well as in forced labor. Today, global poverty has reached new levels because of unfair debt, trade and tax policies -- in other words, wealthy countries exploiting the weaknesses of poor, developing countries The End of Poverty? asks why today 20% of the planet s population uses 80% of its resources and consumes 30% more than the planet can regenerate?"  

Justice: What is The Right Thing to Do-(2009)- "More than 15,000 students have taken JUSTICE, making it one of the most popular classes in Harvard University s history. Professor Michael Sandel s course aims to help viewers become more critically minded thinkers about the moral decisions we all face in our every day lives. Sandel presents students with ethical dilemmas on modern day issues -- such as affirmative action and same-sex marriage -- then conducts lively, engaging, and remarkably intimate debates that challenge students moral reasoning".


The Global Justice Reader - edited by Thom Brooks,
Essays on social justice; globalization; human rights."

>Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do? --Michael J. Sandel 
Examines the meaning of justice in a variety of situations and asks the reader to morally and politically reflect on each topic.

Stuffed and Starved : The Hidden Battle for the World Food System -  Rajeev Charles Patel. "An investigation of the global food network, exploring the reasons why obesity and world hunger are both at historical highs, looking at how individual tastes and preferences are manipulated, and discussing the links between the food system and farming communities, corporations, governments, consumers, activists, and movements."

The Bottom Billion : Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can be Done About It - Paul Collier. "Explores why traditional methods of alleviating poverty are failing in the world's fifty poorest countries, and explains what the industrialized West can do to help these countries improve living standards and their economies."

Creating a World Without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism - Muhammad Yunus. "Nobel Peace Prize-winner Muhammad Yunus argues that the problems of hunger, poverty, and inequality can be solved by harnessing the power of the free market and explains how countries can work together to solve the world's greatest problems."

The Life you Can Save:  Acting Now to End World Poverty. --Peter Singer
"Discusses world poverty in the twenty-first century, and describes the ethical reasons to support a seven- point plan to improve the lives of impoverish peoples, which includes determining how must to spend, how to spend it, raising political awareness within local communities, and contacting representatives."

The Ethics of What we Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter --Peter Singer and Jim Mason"Singer and Mason make a case for how people's everyday food choices affect others' lives. They describe in vivid detail how applying industrial processing principles to animal husbandry has led to cheap foods whose cost savings occur at the expense of animals raised for profit and for product."

World Poverty and Human Rights --Thomas Pogge
"One third of all human deaths are from poverty-related causes: 18 million annually, including over 10 million children under five. Just 1 percent of the national incomes of the high-income countries would suffice to end severe poverty worldwide. Yet, these countries, unwilling to bear an opportunity cost of this magnitude, continue to impose a grievously unjust global institutional order that foreseeably and avoidably perpetuates the catastrophe. Most citizens of affluent countries believe that we are doing nothing wrong.Thomas Pogge seeks to explain how this belief is sustained."

Why Global Poverty? Companion Guide to the Film "The End of Poverty?" - Clifford W. Cobb
"Global poverty did not just happen: it is the result of the geo-politics of injustice stretching back centuries and continuing to our day. This book presents notes on the production of the film "The End of Poverty?", a complete transcript of the film, and over seventy full interviews - including Joseph Stiglitz, Amartya Sen, John Perkins, Chalmers Johnson, Susan George, and Eric Toussaint - to give an in-depth account of the methods of global economic domination and ways to remedy worldwide injustice."

Freedom from Poverty As a Human Right:  Who Owes What to the Very Poor? - Thomas Pogge
"Thomas Pogge and his colleagues at the UNESCO project on severe global poverty have provided a very readable, insightful, well-reasoned, timely, and exceedingly important collection of essays on the human right to be free from poverty... As a whole, the chapters challenge the reader's consumptive way of living - and in particular his or her relationship with local, national and international institutions, as well as his or her understanding of the complexities of rights and obligations, justice and humanitarianism."

Politics as Usual:  What Lies Behind the Pro-Poor Rhetoric - Thomas Pogge (May, 2010)
"Poverty and oppression persist on a massive scale; political and economic inequalities are rising dramatically both intra-nationally and globally. The affluent states and the international organizations they control knowingly contribute greatly to these evils - selfishly promoting rules and policies harmful to the poor while hypocritically pretending to set and promote ambitious development goals. Pogge's case studies include the $1/day poverty measurement exercise, the cosmetic statistics behind the first Millennium Development Goal, the War on Terror, and the proposed relaxation of the constraints on humanitarian intervention."

Human Development Report 2009: Overcoming Barriers:  Human Mobility and Development [UNDP] "
Migration, both behind and beyond borders, has become an increasingly prominent issue in domestic and international debates. [This report explores] how the movement of people can expand human capabilities and entitlements, and how to address the underlying inequalities and distortions which limit the potential gains."

Justice at Guantanamo: One Woman's Odyssey and Her Crusade for Human Rights -- Kristine A. Huskey
"A tell-all journey of how one woman landed the toughest legal career on the planet--defending suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay--by using personal strength, courage, and never letting anyone tell her no."--From publisher description.

A Map of Hope: Women's Writing on Human Rights: An International Literary Anthology --
Seventy-seven poems, essays, memoirs, and histories from women writers around the world in which they explore issues of human rights.

The Penguin Atlas of Women in the World (4th edition) -- Joni Seager (2008)
"[In this] updated fourth edition of her groundbreaking atlas, Joni Seager provides comprehensive and accessible analysis of up-to-the-minute global data on the key issues facing women today: equality, motherhood, feminism, the culture of beauty, women at work, women in the global economy, changing households, domestic violence, lesbian rights, women in government, and more." 

[descriptions from Amazon.com and/or Follett's Titlewave]

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Discussion: Endgame: Volume I: The Problem of Civilization

In Volume I: The Problem of Civilization, Jensen lays out a series of provocative premises, including “Civilization is not and can never be sustainable”. Jensen vividly imagines an end to technologized, industrialized civilization and a return to agragrian communal life. Using his premises as guidelines for exploring real-world problems, Jensen guides us toward concrete solutions by focusing on our most primal human desire: to live on a healthy earth.
Is civilization redeemable?
Why are his premises offensive to Americans? 
  • Redemption: an American idea
  • American Dream
Assignment:  Henry David Thoreau "Civil Disobedience"; Ghandi readings

New Trier Organic Garden