Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Seattle Black Lives Matter Movement a Fitting Introduction to the Journal of Educational Controversy’s Upcoming Issue.

The Journal of Educational Controversy’s upcoming issue: Black Lives Matter and the Education Industrial Complex aims to add more voices to the Black Lives Matter discussion and, as always, provide a forum for examining the dilemmas and controversies that arise in the education of citizens in a pluralistic, democratic society. 

Earlier this year, an unprecedented movement of Seattle educators, staff, students, and community members demonstrated the importance of this issue to all people who are directly or indirectly affected by how Black lives are valued at school.

On October 19, thousands of educators, students, staff, and family members in Washington’s Seattle Public School District organized to wear Black Lives Matter shirts, promote class discussions, and perform before-school rallies in an effort called “Black Lives Matter At School.”

The event arose as an expression of solidarity with John Muir Elementary School, which had previously canceled an event on “Black Men Uniting to Change the Narrative” after received threats against Black Lives Matter supporters.  

Although not officially sponsored by the Seattle School District, the event was endorsed by Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and the Seattle Educator’s Association and supported by the Seattle teacher’s union. The event was scheduled to coincide with Seattle’s preexisting “day of unity” which focuses on promoting equity in education.

According to participants, the movement aimed to draw attention to inequality in all areas of public education including historical representation, opportunity gaps, and unbalanced patterns of discipline and retention rates. The Seattle Public School District made a statement asking educators and community members to “engage and join the conversation in our united efforts to eliminate opportunity gaps.”

In an interview which first appeared on SocialistWorker.Org, event organizer and Garfield High School Teacher Jesse Hagopian talked about the importance of demonstrations like theirs to embolden the community. “School is supposed to be a place to talk about the things that matter most, and now [students] are being allowed to do that,” he said, “I think that a lot of what the teachers did in wearing that shirt was inspired by the actions of students who are protesting all around the city.” 

In October, the Seattle Public School community made the statement that Black Lives Matter at their schools. The Journal of Educational Controversy hopes to continue the conversation and invite more voices into the discussion with its upcoming issue: Black Lives Matter and the Education Industrial Complex as well as a panel discussion that will take place later this year. 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Interfaith Messages for 2017

Welcome back to our blog for the New Year.  We thought we would start 2017 once again with a message from the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding, an organization that we have featured on our blog on different occasions.  Check out their resources and programs for teachers and principals at
Below Tanenbaum shares the wisdom from across the world’s faiths and beliefs to guide and ground us throughout 2017. 

 African Indigenous Religions

It is not always physical bravery that counts. One must have the courage to face life as it is, to go through sorrows and always sacrifice oneself for the sake of others. African Traditional Religions Kipsigis Saying (Kenya)


Take pride not in love for yourselves but in love for your fellow-creatures. Glory not in love for your country, but in love for all mankind. Bahau’ullah, Tablets of Wisdom


Bodhisattvas (enlightened beings) of great strength delight in reconciliation of conflict. Holy Teaching of Vimalakirti 8


 All of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. 1 Peter 3:8


 All you have to do is take this very heart here and apply it to what is over there. Hence one who extends his bounty can bring peace to the Four Seas; one who does not cannot bring peace even to his own family. Confucianism: Mencius I.A.7


What sort of religion can it be without compassion? You need to show compassion to all living beings. Compassion is the root of all religious faiths. Basasvanna, Vachana 247


A man once asked the Prophet what was the best thing in Islam, and the latter replied, “It is to feed the hungry and to give the greeting of peace both to those one knows and to those one does not know.” Hadith of Bukhari


Have benevolence toward all living beings, joy at the sight of the virtuous, compassion and sympathy for the afflicted, and tolerance towards the indolent and ill-behaved. Tattvartha Sutra 7.11


The whole of the Torah is for the purpose of promoting peace. Talmud, Gittin 59b

 Native American

 Respect for all life is the foundation. The Great Law of Peace

 Secular Humanism

There lies before us, if we choose, continual progress in happiness, knowledge, and wisdom. Shall we, instead, choose death, because we cannot forget our quarrels? We appeal as human beings to human beings: Remember your humanity, and forget the rest. Bertrand Russell, Russell-Einstein Manifesto


To be helpful to others and in the world at large through deeds of service without thought of rewards, and to seek the advancement of the world as one whose life mediates the will of Kami. Jinja Shinto Principle


 Now is the gracious Lord’s ordinance promulgated, no one shall cause another pain or injury; all mankind shall live in peace together. Adi Granth, Sri Raga, M.5


 Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love. Lao Tzu

Monday, December 19, 2016

The Trump Effect: A Follow-up After Election Day

The Trump Effect: A Follow-up
After Election Day
                With the 2016 election behind us and inauguration day right around the corner, schools are seeing the Trump Effect continue to be a present issue in their schools, classrooms, and communities.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has performed another online survey following the results of the November 2016 election in an attempt to gauge the mood of educators and students in our country. More than 10,000 teachers, counselors, administrators and others who work in schools responded and, “The survey data indicate that the results of the election are having a profoundly negative impact on schools and students.”
Ninety percent of respondents reported that the election results negatively impacted school climate and they believe that the effects will be long lasting. Eighty percent of respondents described concerns and heightened anxiety for students and families. Teachers reported that the issues they were describing were new and growing, “I have seen open racism, spoken, for the first time in 23 years of teaching.” stated a middle school teacher in Michigan. Another middle school teacher in Wisconsin stated, “I have never directly encountered race-related harassment in our school until after the election this year.” Most of these educators are reporting tension and fear among their students. Nearly 1,000 teachers reported fearing deportation, and family separation “as a concern among students.” Targeting and harassment has increased. A middle school counselor in Florida reported troubling events, “In a 24-hour period, I completed two suicide assessments and two threat of violence assessments for middle school students. This was last week, one week after the election... students were threatening violence against African Americans. Students were suicidal and without hope. Fights, disrespect have increased as well.” A kindergartner in Tennessee asked her teacher, “Are they going to do anything to me? Am I safe?” Communities are experiencing divisions opened by the election.
                There were a small number of exceptions to the overwhelming responses of negative effects following the election. There was a very small minority of reports from teachers that there was little impact on their students or schools following the election. Students at a high school in Alabama stated that “regardless of who won, we are still in this country together and we will make the most of it. They really did not see that whoever won would make a difference in their lives.” A high school teacher in Idaho reported, “They reacted, but they moved on faster than the adults are.” Other schools that were able to report little impact in their communities reported that they had worked hard to establish “inclusive welcoming communities”. One California high school teacher reported that, “The students were devastated by the election results, as were most of our faculty and staff members. However, the darkness of the election brought us all closer together and in a positive and proactive way!”
The study detailed in this report was not scientific. Over 10,000 people responded to this survey and submitted over 25,000 comments. All participants of this study chose to participate. The results show a disturbing nationwide problem highlighted in the report as the following:
• Nine out of 10 educators who responded have seen a negative impact on students’ mood and behavior following the election; most of them worry about the continuing impact for the remainder of the school year.
• Eight in 10 report heightened anxiety on the part of marginalized students, including immigrants, Muslims, African Americans and LGBT students.
• Four in 10 have heard derogatory language directed at students of color, Muslims, immigrants and people based on gender or sexual orientation.
• Half said that students were targeting each other based on which candidate they’d supported.
• Although two-thirds report that administrators have been “responsive,” four out of 10 don’t think their schools have action plans to respond to incidents of hate and bias.
• Over 2,500 educators described specific incidents of bigotry and harassment that can be directly traced to election rhetoric. These incidents include graffiti (including swastikas), assaults on students and teachers, property damage, fights and threats of violence.
• Because of the heightened emotion, half are hesitant to discuss the election in class. Some principals have told teachers to refrain from discussing or addressing the election in any way.
Much like their pre-election survey participants responded to open ended questions where they could provide free responses and were asked if they agreed or disagreed with a number of statements. The list of questions can be found in the report at:

Want to read the entire report, visit:

Friday, December 9, 2016

The “Gaslighting” of America and the Banning of Books in Schools

We are passing on information about an article from today’s Washington Post that may be of interest to our readers.
The article discusses the usual concerns raised about book censorship in schools, but of particular interest, is a quote from a teacher defending the teaching of Huckleberry Finn despite concerns over its use of racial slurs.  In “The Top 10 Books Most Challenged in Schools and Libraries,” the teacher provides an additional defense for teaching the novel in this new “Age of Trump.”
  The Top 10 Books Most Challenged in Schools and Libraries

Quote from English teacher Peter Greene’s blog, Curmudgucation, that appeared in the article:
But in 2016, as we enter the Age of Trump, there’s another reason we have to keep teaching these works. Call it the gaslighting defense.
Because among the many things that Trump has elevated further into the mainstream, we have the 6-year-old’s defense. “I never did that!” We are now taking denial to new heights with a president-elect who is willing to declare that he never said that which we have him on tape saying. 
Among the many things I’m braced for is the gaslighting of America, the attempt to talk our way out of past offenses with a determined, “I don’t know what you’re so upset about. That never happened.”
…And so to all the other defenses of classic literature, let’s make sure we’ve included the idea of gaslight protection, the necessity of reminding ourselves that, yes, this stuff did happen, and yes, it was bad, really bad, and, no, people aren’t just making it up for political leverage. The best antidote to gaslighting is reality, even if that reality is ugly and hurtful. It’s our job as educators to make sure that we aren’t just dropping the ugly reality on our students like a pile of railroad ties; we’re supposed to be right there to supply context and support and reassurance that, yes, this was just as wrong as you think it is even as we revisit our past through the eyes of authors who also knew that this treatment was wrong.
Yes, Huck Finn is a problematic text for many reasons. But it’s also the first real attempt to create a truly American novel, and consequently its problems are a reflection of America’s problems, from the ugly racism of slavery to the subtler racism of folks who believed they were anti-racism. But for me, that’s why in this day and age teaching it is more important than ever — to say, “Yes, this happened, and this is how we were, and don’t let anyone tell you different.
We are thinking about publishing an issue of the Journal of Educational Controversy on the theme: “Educating Citizens in the Age of Trump.”   If you have any ideas on the sub-topics for such an issue, pass them on to us.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Michael Berenbaum Speaks of Education and Compassion for Ray Wolpow Institute Inauguration

Holocaust Studies scholar Michael Berenbaum came to Western October 19th to deliver the inaugural lecture for the Ray Wolpow Institute for the Study ofthe Holocaust, Genocide, and Crimes Against Humanity. With retired Western Professor Ray Wolpow and Holocaust survivor Noémi Ban in attendance, Berenbaum outlined the history of the Holocaust and looked to the future and the importance of the studies that will take place at the new institute.

Barenbaum began the evening on a light note by lauding Western and Ray Wolpow for the values embodied by the creation of the institute and a commitment to “honor excellence in education.” Berenbaum continued by saying, “The fact that this university focuses on holocaust education says in part that it’s trying to make its students better students, its teachers better teachers, and the world in which they inhabit a better place.” He then explained that his talk would focus on three main points: Holocaust history, its implications, and education.   

According to Berenbaum the history of the Holocaust can be broken down into six key terms: “definition, expropriation, concentration, mobile kill units, death camps, and deportation.” He spoke poignantly on the consolidation of power in Germany and how these six devastating points were able to arise out of a prospering country through political maneuvering and eventually “reduc[ing] the human being to raw material.” He expressed concern for the possibility of those circumstances recurring without education to create conscientious citizens.

In his extensive work with scholars and survivors of genocide, Berenbaum explained there is a constant theme. He said, “The survivors had a question. . . how do I get on with life? How do I rebuild?”

It was clear that Berenbaum sees awareness and education as the keys to moving on. He calls the Holocaust the “paradigmatic genocide.” When he gives lectures at West Point on how to recognize and behave when confronted by genocide he says, “The first lesson is to look at the Holocaust because it was done by an army under orders.” Berenbaum teaches people about these similarities and signs in the hope that future injustices can be prevented.

He talked further about the importance of education and awareness for everyone saying, “[the Holocaust] is an event that must be confronted.” He also cited repeated injustices occurring throughout the world including the crises in Rwanda, Syria, Sudan, Darfur, and Aleppo, and police brutality everywhere, and he encouraged students to become aware and fight against injustice. “Now,” he said, “we understand that not to be involved is also to be involved.” 

The distinguished speaker also spoke about compassion and empathy. He spoke of some of the words he likes to live by, saying, “In a world of ugliness create beauty. In a world of difference create empathy.”

In response to the popular question “what would you like most of all?” Berenbaum replies, “I would like to be irrelevant.” The acclaimed scholar and documentarian says that he would like to live in a world that is so educated and compassionate that his expertise would become unnecessary. He said, “the reason teachers teach Holocaust education is because most teachers really want to be good teachers and they find it works and this material speaks to the lives, the fears, the hopes, the desperations, and the aspirations of students…So I think Holocaust education is essential.”

It only makes sense then, that he expressed such excitement for the opening of the Ray Wolpow Institute and its commitment to Holocaust and genocide education. According to Berenbaum, “there is no greater tool of teachers of this generation to discuss some of the issues of racism and prejudice, discrimination and persecution, and all of the other elements involved than this tool called Holocaust education.”

According to a Western Today article, “The institute will provide Western students with global education rooted in the liberal arts that investigates the Holocaust, genocide and crimes against humanity from various perspectives and academic disciplines. The institute also will address the state’s recommendation to teach the Holocaust in public schools, by giving future teachers in training at Western this much-needed background. And new courses will be created at Western as part of an anticipated academic minor in Holocaust and Genocide Studies.”

Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Trump Effect: a Southern Poverty Law Center report.

One issue surrounding the 2016 presidential election has been the effect a candidate’s platform and behavior can have in areas outside of politics. More than ever before, classrooms across the country are seeing the campaign come home as increased bullying, confusion, and fear permeate education. The effect is noticeable. During the second debate the first question asked of the candidates was whether they felt they were “modeling appropriate and positive behavior for today’s youth?” [1] In the same debate, Secretary Clinton mentioned a phenomenon sweeping our nation’s schools, “You know, children listen to what is being said,” she said. “And there’s a lot of fear — in fact, teachers and parents are calling it The Trump Effect.”

The recent report The Trump Effect: The impact of the presidential campaign on our nation’s schools published by the Southern Poverty Law Center discusses the impact of the presidential campaign on our nation’s schools. It documents the “Trump Effect” in schools as heightened fear and anxiety in students accompanied by harassment and bullying. Teachers report being hesitant of bringing up the election to students who are afraid of the changes they see looming after the elections are finalized. According to one of the interviewed teachers from a Virginia school “My second-graders are scared. They’re scared of being sent back to their home countries. They’re scared of losing their education.” Also, teachers notice that their students adopt the hate speech and bullying tactics they see on television. “Teachers report that students have been ‘emboldened’ to use slurs, engage in name-calling and make inflammatory statements toward each other. When confronted, students point to the candidates and claim they are ‘just saying what everyone is thinking.’” It is clear that teachers face a difficult decision. If teachers discuss the election they face the obstacle of students who are terrified of this discussion, or passionate to the point of derailing a whole class at the mention of the election.

Long before the second debate many could feel the effects of this presidential election in the classroom. According to the report, “In response to the statement ‘I am hesitant to teach about the 2016 presidential election,’ 43 percent of K-12 educators answered ‘yes.’” In anecdotal responses to similar questions one teacher reports “I try to not bring it up since it is so stressful for my students.” Teachers affected by the Trump Effect feel the need to teach traditional civics lessons but are hesitant to use the current election because of the fear experienced by their students and because many believe the candidates themselves fail to embody the civic values they hope to teach.

As The Trump Effect states, “Preparing students for citizenship continues to be one of the three broad goals that all sides have agreed must be the purpose of schools: college, career and citizenship.”[2] As such, many teachers have traditionally assigned viewing the debates to teach their students about government and civic duty. However, the article raises questions of how to teach an ideal of citizenship when those who should embody that ideal fall short of the mark. It concludes with one teacher expressing concerns for the future of politics saying of their students “I hope they don’t walk away thinking this is what politics is all about.”

The study detailed in this report was not scientific. Researchers surveyed approximately 2,000 k-12 teachers and received 5,000 comments in response to the questions posed.[3]  All participants of this study chose to participate. The results show a disturbing nationwide problem highlighted in the report as the following:
• More than two-thirds of the teachers reported that
students—mainly immigrants, children of immigrants
and Muslims—have expressed concerns or
fears about what might happen to them or their families
after the election.
• More than half have seen an increase in uncivil political
• More than one-third have observed an increase in
anti-Muslim or anti-immigrant sentiment.
• More than 40 percent are hesitant to teach about
the election.[4]

Participants responded to open ended questions where they could provide free responses and were asked if they agreed or disagreed with a number of statements. The list of questions can be found in the report at:

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Holocaust Scholar Michael Berenbaum to Speak at Western Washington University

Press Release

Acclaimed Holocaust Studies scholar and Academy Award-winning film producer Michael Berenbaum will visit Western Washington University and deliver the inaugural lecture for the Ray Wolpow Institute for the Study of the Holocaust, Genocide, and Crimes Against Humanity at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct.19, in Arntzen Hall 100 on Western’s campus.

The presentation is free and open to the public; free public event parking will be available in Lot 12A – formerly the “gravel lot,” but now paved - on South Campus.

Berenbaum is a writer, lecturer, and teacher consulting in the conceptual development of museums and the development of historical films. Currently, he is director of the “Sigi Ziering Institute: Exploring the Ethical and Religious Implications of the Holocaust” at the American Jewish University in Los Angeles, where he holds a professorship in Jewish Studies.

Berenbaum is the author of more than 20 books, scores of scholarly articles, and hundreds of journalistic pieces and has been in leadership positions at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. and the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation at the University of Southern California. In film, his work as co-producer of “One Survivor Remembers: The Gerda Weissman Klein Story” was recognized with an Academy Award, an Emmy Award and the Cable Ace Award. Berenbaum was the historical consultant on The Shoah Foundation’s documentary “The Last Days” that won an Academy Award for the best feature-length documentary of 1998.

His lecture will focus on the importance of international Holocaust education, exploring why and how it is relevant in our contemporary world. 

This event is made possible with the generous support from the Friends of the Ray Wolpow Institute Fund, the Kohlmeier Mikulencak Fund for Holocaust & Genocide Studies, the President’s Office, the Equal Opportunity Office, the Graduate School, the College of Business and Economics, the College of Fine and Performing Arts, the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, the College of Science and Technology, the Western Libraries, the Institute for Global Engagement, the Karen W. Morse Institute for Leadership, the departments of English, History, and Modern & Classical Languages, and Sociology, as well as the AATG Center of Excellence German program.

For more information, contact Sandra Alfers, director, Western Washington University’s Ray Wolpow Institute for the Study of the Holocaust, Genocide, and Crimes Against Humanity, at (360) 650-7427, or