Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Two Politically Correct Scams Supported by Corporate Owned Media that Threaten Democracy in America

Originally posted on Crazy Normal - the Classroom Exposé:

The actual U.S. place in the international ranking of all OECD countries from the International PISA test was 6th in reading and 13th in math—not 14th in reading and 25th in math as reported. The 2012, PISA tested about 85,000 students in 44 countries placing the U.S. in the top 13.6% for reading and 29% for math. Thirty-eight countries ranked lower in reading and 31 in math.

This post is about the two scams that have led to the era of corporate supported, public education reform in the United States. The first scam was a report called “A Nation at Risk” in 1983, during the Reagan era. Because of this report, teachers, teachers’ unions and the democratic public schools have been painted as failures, and the corporate owned media turned “A Nation at Risk” into front page news with endless, never-ending chatter that focuses on the so-called failing…

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She is Malala and I am Crying

For the last month I have been utterly engrossed in the audio book I Am Malala, the story of an incredibly brave Pakistani girl who stood up to the Taliban for the rights of all girls to have an education. She almost paid for it with her life when at 15 she was shot in the head on a school bus from close range, and even had to endure a smear campaign after she survived.

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On Friday, it was announced that Malala has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize together with the Indian child rights campaigner Kailash Satyarthi, who has worked endlessly to save children incarcerated in human trafficking and advocate for their rights. That a Pakistani and an Indian have received the award together is a powerful message. Announcing the prize in Oslo on Friday, the committee chairman, Thorbjorn Jagland, said it was important for “a Hindu and a Muslim, an Indian and a Pakistani, to join in a common struggle for education and against extremism”

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Perhaps the best quote I saw came from Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations Secretary General:

“With her courage and determination, Malala has shown what terrorists fear most: a girl with a book.”

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Here was my first introduction to Malala and why she inspires me each day to empower people to realize human rights and eradicate poverty in the developing world. There can be no doubt that the common key to all these problems is education and Malala shines as an example to us all.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gjGL6YY6oMs

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth, and three more novels in the epic fantasy Wycaan Master series. Shalev has also authored three social justice-themed novels including Unwanted Heroes and The Accidental Activist. He swears there is a connection. Learn more at: http://www.alonshalev.com.

 

 

Looking at 5 countries with some of the best public education systems in the world, and—SURPRISE, SURPRISE—they all have teachers’ unions

Originally posted on Crazy Normal - the Classroom Exposé:

This post will prove beyond a reasonable doubt—for open minds—that the teachers’ unions in the United States are not guilty of the alleged claims made by members of the manufactured, corporate-driven, fake-education, reform movement [MCDFERM].

There is an all-out war raging in the United States against public education, public school teachers and the teachers’ unions. This war started decades ago with the ultra-conservative Walton family supporting the school voucher movement, and the war escalated under neo-conservative President G. W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind [NCLB] mandating that 100 percent of children by age 17/18 must be college/career ready in 2014-15 [this school year].

Even though this goal has never been achieved throughout history in any country in the world including today, Congress approved NCLB—both Houses of Congress had a Republican majority, but 89-percent of the House and 91-percent of the Senate voted yes.

For instance, between 2005 and 2010, the…

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Global Human Rights

I have been somewhat quiet on Left Coast Voices of late. This is, in part, due to a change in employment. I am now the executive director of American Jewish World Service, San Francisco and the Western Region.  The AJWS works to realize human rights and eradicate poverty in the developing world. The best way to explain this transformational organization is to introduce you to Ruth Messinger, our president, as she addressed a group at Google last year.

If you are inspired about this work and would like to learn more, please consider joining Ruth and myself for a study tour to India in November, Details can be found here.

Travel to India

Happy to answer any questions and field any comments.

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth, and three more Wycaan Master books. Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including Unwanted Heroes and The Accidental Activist. He swears there is a connection. More at http://www.alonshalev.com.

 

 

 

 

 

What can the United States learn to improve public education and reduce poverty from two Fs

Left Coast Voices:

Important book from retired public school teacher and author, Lloyd Lofthouse – Crazy Normal.

Originally posted on Crazy Normal - the Classroom Exposé:

The two Fs I’m talking about are Finland and France.

In another forum, this comment was made about Finland’s public schools: “Comparisons with Finland are foolish – virtually no childhood poverty, income equality instead of inequality and few immigrants … and high suicide rates.”

Here’s my revised reply:

What you say about Finland is true, but the U.S. can still learn from Finland combined with what France is doing to deal with similar challenges that the United States faces. While Finland offers the best model for how to run public schools successfully, France offers methods to deal with a large immigrant population and poverty.

The French national institute of statistics INSEE estimates that foreign-born immigrants and the direct descendants of immigrants (born in France with at least one immigrant parent) represent 19 percent of the total population.

Compared to France’s immigrant population of 19 percent, less than 13 percent of…

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Open Letter to Hillel Students and Alumni

Dear Students & Alumni,

As you have probably heard by now, I have left my position as executive director of San Francisco Hillel. After nine amazing and challenging years, I am moving on to new challenges, heading the Western Region of the American Jewish World Service, an organization that, inspired by Jewish commitment to social justice, works to realize human rights and end poverty in the developing world.

I want to take the opportunity to share a few thoughts. For many of you, I was a familiar face at Hillel, working behind the scenes to raise the funds necessary to run the organization, and often dealing with managerial issues and politics, whether on campus or in the Bay Area Jewish community.

For some, I had the honor to lead you on birthright trips, alternative breaks, and to conferences such as AIPAC Regional and Policy Conference. These were the times when I had an opportunity to cultivate a deep relationship with many of you, one that stretched over several formative years for each of us.

I treasure the conversations we had as we grappled with our Jewish journeys, our relationship to Israel, and our shared desire to strive for a more just world for all. You helped me form and change my opinions, and create a personal values-based platform with which to lead my life. I thank you for this and hope that I was there to help you grow as well.

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For many we bantered about the Warriors .v. Lakers/Clippers, or my beloved Arsenal (English soccer team), and I hope I enriched your language levels with my British English.

For others, I was that crazy bloke who rapped his speech at the Final Shabbat dinner, the guy who joined conversations about politics, campus life, relationships, or whatever you wanted to share around the coffee machine. I truly treasured those moments and will hold them forever in my heart.

 

I wish you the best as you continue along your chosen life path. Last month I turned fifty, and want to share that we never stop exploring our values, beliefs and life dreams. I hope you grow, seeing Hillel as a positive and integral part of your life. I hope you will continue to explore your connection to Judaism and the Jewish people, to the State of Israel, and to strive to create a more just society in the US and the world.

If you are still a student, please continue to take advantage of the opportunities that Hillel provides, to help create a vibrant Jewish campus community, to stand up for Israel, and enjoy the alternative breaks, conferences, and birthright, with the wonderful staff that continue to work at Hillel.

If you are an alum/na, I hope you find your place in the Jewish community and continue to be an activist in whatever cause/s resonate with you. I hope you can take the values you honed at Hillel and integrate them into your own life. Please join and support the alumni network so that those who come after you will be able to enjoy the same benefits that you had. No one appreciates the value of a Hillel more than alumni. Become a mentor for a current student, help them to negotiate college life and prepare for graduation. Stay involved, even if it is only a $5 monthly gift, it is important.

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I want to thank the wonderful staff that made my time at Hillel so special. In particular, Rachel, Shushannah, Sima, Charlotte, Heather, and Yochai, all of whom helped make Hillel a family, not a place of work. Please welcome Ollie, my replacement (also a Brit, sorry!), and Omer, the amazing new Israel Fellow, and help them grasp the complexities and the vision we share for Jewish campus life.

Finally, thank you for being such an exciting part of my life. Please feel free to stay in touch via email (alshalev@yahoo.com) or look for me on Facebook and Twitter. I am sure our paths will cross again.

Good luck in all you pursue for a happy and meaningful life.

L’shalom (to peace),

Alon

Masada 2014

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth, and three more Wycaan Master books. Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including Unwanted Heroes. He swears there is a connection. More at http://www.alonshalev.com.

 

Sacrificial Flame Released!

Originally posted on ElvesWriter:

This weekend sees the release of Sacrificial Flame, the fourth Wycaan Master novel, available in paperback and Kindle. One would think that when your seventh book comes out, the thrill lessens. You never forget your first time, right (I know, but bear with me)! I wonder how Henry VIII felt at his sixth wedding?

Sacrificial Flame Cover Hi Res

I have written in the past about that special moment and it remains one of the most reblogged and retweeted elfwriter blog posts. But it was true when I wrote it and it is just as true now. The thrill of holding the book, and of seeing its’ gradual uploading onto Amazon, is simply palpable.

Sacrificial Flame is different from the novels of the first trilogy. It is darker, more complex, and I realize that I am aiming my novels at my own kids (my most important target audience) and they are growing up. We…

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Exclusive Interview With An Elven Protagonist

Originally posted on ElvesWriter:

The Odessiyan Times recently caught up with Seanchai, Wycaan Master, shortly after the battle of Cliftean Pass, and he graciously agreed to the following interview, to be published shortly before the release of Sacrificial Flame – Wycaan Master Book 4.

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Reporter: There are some who say that only a few short years ago, you were a lost child running from your village. Now you’ve brought down the army that tried to conscript you. Is that how it feels?

Seanchai: I was never a lost child, but a scared calhei who had fled his parent’s village in search of an uncle he had never met.

Reporter: When did you first understand that you might be special, more than just the average elf?

Seanchai: When strangers seemed to believe in me to the point that they were willing to sacrifice their lives for me.

Reporter: That must…

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Schneider: What Bill Gates Told the Washington Post About Common Core

Originally posted on Diane Ravitch's blog:

On June 7, Lyndsey Layton of the Washington Post wrote a blockbuster article about how Bill Gates pulled off the Common Core coup, which the headline calls “the swift Common Core revolution.” In a short period of time, less time than it takes a state to write standards in one subject, the U.S. suddenly had “national standards,” written and then adopted by 46 states and the District of Columbia. The secret, revealed in Layton’s article: Gates paid for everything, and the U.S. Department of Education used Race to the Top funding as an incentive for states to adopt CCSS. Layton credits Gates with spending some $200 million for the writing, implementation, and advocacy of CCSS, but others believe that Gates’ investment was $2.3 billion. Whether $200 million or $2.3 billion, Gates bought control of standards, curriculum, and assessment in the vast majority of American public schools. Almost every major national…

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Cesar Chavez — Great Story, Pretty Good Film

(Guest Post by John Byrne Barry, author of Bones in the Wash: Politics is Tough. Family is Tougher.)

The day before celebrating the holiday commemorating Cesar Chavez, my wife and I watched the recently released movie about his life. We were staying the weekend up in Guerneville, but the rain was relentless, so we drove to Santa Rosa to catch an afternoon showing. On the way, we passed rolling hills of vineyards, where another generation of farm workers toil for low wages and under wretched conditions. (Though we didn’t see any. It was Sunday and pouring.)

I enjoyed the film, but it could have been so much better. The acting was fine — Michael Pena plays Cesar Chavez, who was not a remarkable orator or a big, charismatic personality, in a resolute, understated way, and America Ferrara turns in a bravura performance as his wife Helen, who was more instrumental in the farm workers’ struggle than I realized.

My biggest problem was the film’s reliance on the “great man” theory of history, common to so many biopics. Yes, Cesar Chavez was extremely influential as a leader, but he didn’t do it himself. Many people whose names we don’t know played huge roles in that movement. Some, like Dolores Huerta and Fred Ross, Sr., had small roles. Huerta, played by the beautiful Rosario Dawson, is portrayed as little more than a secretary. Others, like UFW organizing director Marshall Ganz—now a Harvard professor, influential in the Obama campaign of 2008, among other things—were not even included.

John Malkovich is delicious as a vineyard owner who wants to crush the union. But he’s not the stereotypical villain, rubbing his hands together in glee. Because he’s also an immigrant, from Croatia, and he’s worked hard to get to where he is, he feels put upon by the boycott, which devastated his business.

Because I’ve worked as an organizer, I’ve heard one particular line attributed to Cesar Chavez hundreds of times. When asked his secret of organizing, he famously said, “First you talk to one person, then you talk to another, then you talk to another.” The film didn’t really show that. They showed him fasting, giving speeches, struggling with his teenage son Fernando. But they could have shown more of him persuading people one on one.

I would still heartily recommend the movie though. It’s an important story, and I learned a lot I didn’t know. (Plus, it motivated me to do some browsing on the web afterwards to fill in the gaps.)

The film did a good job of showing Chavez’ commitment to nonviolence, especially in the face of impatience from people within the movement, some of whom argued for fighting back, who said not doing so was cowardice. But Chavez, following in the militant nonviolent tradition of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., successfully held his ground. Following the example of Gandhi, he also fasted — for 25 days — to make the case for nonviolence. And it worked.

Central to the farm workers struggle was the the strategy of persuading consumers to boycott table grapes in order to support the farm workers’ strike, arguably the most successful consumer boycott in U.S. history. A big part of why I enjoyed the movie is that I was unwittingly part of that boycott. My parents didn’t buy grapes. For what seemed like my whole childhood. I’m not sure how they found out about the boycott, though my guess is their church.

They showed some of the farm workers fanning out to supermarkets with flyers and telling people about the boycott, but there wasn’t much in the way of context. This was the late 1960s, a time of great change, with the civil rights movement and the women’s movement blooming, and, of course, the U.S. labor movement was stronger than it is today.

One element of the boycott story that was new to me was the role of President Richard Nixon, who vowed to break it by buying up half the unsold grapes to feed to U.S. soldiers, and helping growers export the other half to Europe. In response, Chavez and other UFW leaders, some of whom had never traveled before, went to Europe to meet with labor leaders, church groups, and gained enough international solidarity that the grape export plan was never fully realized. Dock workers in England refused to unload the grapes, dumping them off the ship like the early Americans did with tea in Boston Harbor.

In that respect, the movie’s core message was on target. It wasn’t just one man who made the difference, but a worldwide movement.

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