Sunday, November 25, 2007

Conversation Recap for November 25, 2007

Josephine was ill and absent today.

3 new people came today as well as 1 guest.

As Josephine had been on the schedule to speak, we took suggestions for topics of discussion:

• School Yard to Prison Yard
• Tukwila Teachers (Counter-Recruitment)
• Divisiveness through Labels
• School Board Study Session Ideas
• Non-WASL Essentials
• Police Civil Rights Violations, Including Shootings
• Graffiti-“Tagging” as Felony

Tom read an article called School Yard to Prison Yard by Marian Wright Edelman reprinted in Seattle Medium (find it also here).

Also brought up was Jesse Jackson’s show on which the topic Feinstein’s plan that could put children as young as 13 in prison for life if gang affiliated, etc.

Institutional racism is the problem. It hurts not only people of color but white children also since this is their education as well. And the people perpetuating it don’t even know, sometimes, that they are perpetuating it.

One member reported overhearing this while in a bathroom stall, “Over at Wainwright, we had a social experiment, a mini society of sorts, 1st grade on. Gov’t, entertainment, police. Those kids on the hill were underhanded, devious etc. then there was a police brutality complaint because some black and white kids were fighting in the bathroom.”

If there’s a pipeline running from schools to jails, how do we turn off the pipeline valve?

One member talked about the Black Education Roundtable (for some history on this group, see here) as well as the School Board mtgs. She believes the answer is more public involvement. A testament is how the School Board has at least been making a shift in how they include public opinion. She brought up Black Legislative Day. We can’t beg and plead—we have to agitate.

Another member talked about framing the talk not in terms of inside/outside, but in terms of how the system works—interest groups get their issues on the table using a focused strategy and aiming at the pressure points and getting their needs met.

We need agitators as well as allies. Change will happen if you organize for it. School reform hasn’t happened even though efforts have been made for decades because we work inside the system, essentially “moving the deck chairs of the sinking ship.”

One member noted that there are a lot of teachers in our group. What can we do? He gave the example of Che Guevara-before you can be a revolutionary Dr. you need a revolution. It relates to our discussion of schools because, while we can do a lot of these reform efforts but until parents have jobs, we’re just putting band-aids on the system.

Another member talked about Cesar Chavez and how much was done by people who had no money. Also, Mothers Against Police Harassment in Seattle.

Systemic change is needed

Clover Park Schools has a psych profile and if you don’t pass, you don’t even get an interview. Some feel that they may have been aced out through answer to the question about developing a personal relationship with students and their families.

A new member said that we need to create effective dialogue. Share what’s in our hearts and minds. In doing that we find those who share our ideals and dispel the fear that we are alone.

One member talked about the problem of staying in the box of a value system that says get a good job so you can make money so you can buy a big house so you can go to Best Buy and get a big screen tv set.

Another talked about encouraging parents to help children and also getting tutors and assistants in the schools to help the parents help the children.

We need to know what our mission is with respect to this “spiritual fight.” Do our homework and teach the children to think for self.

One member, African American, who works at Clover Park High School with the Hero Program (see here) was in the office and was questioned about being a student and then when found out he was staff, questioned him about whether he had been through a background check, requiring him to fill out a form on the spot.

Another member talked about the racial disparities evident in the ways in which school children who don’t “fit” are treated with the question “why is it that white children have ADHD and Black children are disruptive and badly behaved?”

One member talked about how revolution does not occur just because things are in a bad way. People can live under the thumb for years and until hope is infused, nothing will happen. This connects with the comment earlier about effective dialogue—because “talk is action”-- by talking with each other we are infusing hope into the desperate situation.
(you had to be there)-- How do we affect legislation? An example of something that needs to be tackled is the cutting of Headstart Funds. The question was put whether Tom H. would be willing to educate us about affecting the legislative system.

Another member brought up the Backbone Campaign (see here) example. Maybe the Public Education Oversight Committee could make a report card on the Tacoma School system.

One member (from another country) brought up that she couldn’t believe some of the things she was hearing that are allowed in the US school system. In her country, the military and the church are not allowed into the schools. Another thing that caught her attention was that in California where soldiers go into schools and you see little kids with military uniforms and guns. It’s a way to create a consciousness within children to be ready to go to war. What’s most surprising is that it seems to happen most in schools that are very poor. So why aren’t there programs to stop this kind of discrimination of militarization of poor schools? She also has heard that there is a program in some Texas school(s) that allows students to bring their guns to school.

A member talked about agreeing with the language of hope and dialogue as well as the problematic use of inside/outside language. Also asking questions that cause people to think of an alternative way of living. “We” have little problem talking in terms of dropouts and students finding their own back door, but when our district referred to as a drop out factory (which shifts the burden) “we” want to expend all this energy on getting rid of the label rather than getting rid of the problem.

Another member brought up that individual decisions are circumscribed by the system not set up for everyone to succeed.

One member brought up the list of talking points from students in Tukwila who walked out of school in protest of the Iraq war. Some teachers are in danger of being fired. Ethelda Burke is the new superintendent of Tukwila schools. He thinks it would be good if folks in this group could use their influence to help de-escalate the situation because there is going to be a push-back.

Another said that while it’s a good and necessary conversation, it needs to be more intentional and lengthy than we have time for today, but what he said was that it’s tricky for administrators when folks come at an issue from strong positionality

Another member made the point again that we need to transmit information and values to our youth. He paraphrased an author in saying that a person’s mental health is predicated on that individual’s cultural self-love.


Sat. Dec. 1 is the Salon fundraiser fro the MLK event-flyers were passed out
Town Hall Meeting with Adam Smith at UWT Carwein Auditorium Sat. Dec. 1 10-11:30am

The Harvard Group has made a commitment to be a catalyst for change in Tacoma Schools. The mtg. schedule===

Tacoma Schools Central Admn. Bldg. on S. 8th and “I St. 8th Fl. Conf. room
Fri. Nov. 30 3-5pm
Thurs. Dec. 6 4-6pm
Fri. Dec. 14 3-5pm

Interim Superintendent Art Jarvis
Asst. Sup. Michael Power
Asst. Flip Herndon
Prin. Dan Dizon McIlveigh
Prin. Graig Eisnagle Mt. Tacoma
Prin. Pat Irwin Lincoln
School Improvement Director, Karen Clark
Facilitator Kelly Hofstra
Dorothy Anderson
Tom Hilyard

Dec. 1st for about a month Tacoma Art Museum will begin featuring AIDS quilts from NW

Conversation Recap for November 18, 2007

We had a Thanksgiving Potluck at the home of one of our group and talked about the history of Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving traditions/memories and what we are thankful for.