Analysis: Tracking the NEA’s and AFT’s $43 Million in Donations to PACs, Advocacy Organizations, Nonprofits — and the State Engagement Fund? (The 74)

The 74 Million is an independent news blog dedicated to the 74 million primary and secondary students in the United States.  A lot of their coverage tends to be skewed towards rhetoric around “school choice,” and so I’m a little bit skeptical.  But there also seems to be a strong racial justice core to their reporting.  The most interesting and useful coverage I’ve seen have been Union Reports like this one, which shed light on the connections between teachers unions (NEA, AFT) and shady groups like Democratic Super- PACs and the so-called “State Engagement Fund” described below.

I guess, what is so disappointing about characterizations of America’s largest Teachers Unions in purely vehicles for cashflow (not that this isn’t an accurate portrayal, because I think it is) but it ignores the humanity of the teachers these organizations purport to represent.  I don’t think the problem is with unions as such, but certainly the way the AFT and NEA seem to be operating at the highest levels is gross and tends to feed into the stories we have been told for generations about unions’ corruption, mob connections, racism, sexism and so on.  Do teachers need to remake their unions and union culture before they can remake their schools, communities and society?

Mike Antonucci’s Union Report appears most Wednesdays; see the full archive. The National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers are known as labor unions, advocates for teachers and public school employees, and political powerhouses. But they also are grantmaking institutions. During the 2018-19 school year, the two national teachers unions directly donated $43.1 million […]

Source: Analysis: Tracking the NEA’s and AFT’s $43 Million in Donations to PACs, Advocacy Organizations, Nonprofits — and the State Engagement Fund?

Paper Cranes to Fort Sill – In Solidarity with Detained Asylum Seekers

Dream Action Oklahoma (affiliated with United We Dream, the nation’s largest immigration youth-led network) is organizing a coalition of groups in Oklahoma for a large peaceful protest at Fort Sill on Saturday, July 20, 2019. This past March, Tsuru for Solidarity, a direct action, nonviolent project of allied organizations within the Japanese American community, gathered in Crystal City, Oklahoma in collaboration with pilgrims from allied national organizations and networks. Crystal City, a former WWII internment camp in Texas, housed over 2,000 persons of Japanese ancestry. The gathering was to protest conditions at the nearby South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas. 30,000 tsuru(origami cranes) were strung on the fences surrounding the detention center to demonstrate solidarity with those detained, including unaccompanied children separated from their families. Last month, the Dept. of Health and Human Services announced that up to 1,400 unaccompanied migrant children would be transferred from Texas to Fort Sill, Oklahoma—another former WWII internment camp that held 700 persons of Japanese ancestry, including 90 Buddhist priests. Tsuru for Solidarity has been invited to participate and a Buddhist memorial service will be part of the day’s events. Fort Sill, a military site, is a historic concentration camp that was used to imprison indigenous people forcibly removed from their lands. It is a place where native children were forcibly taken from their families and placed in re-education schools. It is a site where over 700 American men from the Japanese American community, including 90 Buddhist monks, were imprisoned during WWII.  Concentration camps are used to indefinitely detain minority groups in violation of human and civil rights and without due process. Fort Sill is being prepared to once again become a concentration camp. Concentration camps are now being used across the U.S. on a scale not seen since the WWII incarceration of Japanese Americans. It’s time for us to reclaim our moral center and our human commitment to one another. We are interconnected. What happens to one of us affects all of us. Speak out, show up, and get involved. Please join us in this movement.

Source: Paper Cranes to Fort Sill – In Solidarity with Detained Asylum Seekers

Tsuru For Solidarity June 2020 Direct Action in Washington DC

Tsuru for Solidarity is a non-violent, direct action project of Japanese American WWII camp survivors, descendants, and allies fighting to end detention sites and support front-line immigrant and refugee communities that are experiencing injustice and oppression.

Source: Tsuru For Solidarity June 2020 Announcement – Tsuru for Solidarity

Ursula K. Le Guin’s Revolutions

There was a fantastic review of Ursula K. Le Guin’s ouvre in the summer edition of Dissent by Sarah Jones.  This was by no means the first time the author’s name has come up for me.  She has been in the background of my political consciousness for some time, peeking out most recently with this piece and and the interview of Kim Stanley Robinson that was on the antifada earlier this year.

So, I was excited to dig into a copy of The Dispossessed, Le Guin’s 1974 SciFi classic last weekend after wrapping up the sometimes sentimental collection of short stories by Toshio Mori in Yokohama, California.  It is always reassuring to me to be reminded that brilliant artists such as Le Guin have always been wrestling with ideas like the abolition of state-violence, sexual liberation, and radical forms of education and government.  I expect to continue being inspired by what has started off as a genre-defying bit of genre-fiction.

Le Guin’s work is distinctive not only because it is imaginative, or because it is political, but because she thought so deeply about the work of building a future worth living.

Source: Ursula K. Le Guin’s Revolutions by Sarah Jones in Dissent (Summer 2019)

It’s Register to Vote Day in the U.S.A.

What better way to celebrate the ongoing criminal investigations of the Trump Administration (now with Congressional support!  wow!) than by registering to vote/ updating my address for voting by mail?

One of the most encouraging facts I’ve absorbed recently about the charred and broken American political system is that the number of actual voters is increasing.  Obviously voting alone is not going to get us out of the mess we’re in, but it helps.  And voting by mail increases the likelihood that your ballot will actually be counted properly, since paper ballots cannot be hacked or otherwise altered without leaving some concrete evidence behind.

So, in addition to supporting your local labor union, joining a wildcat strike, worker action, be sure to register to vote and vote.

https://www.usvotefoundation.org

Preserving a More Honest History from Teaching Tolerance.org

Here’s another great, practical piece from Teaching Tolerance, which I was just reminded is affiliated with the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The big thing that caught my attention and got me excited about this is the suggestion at the end that teachers should consider making their own classrooms historic sites:

Making Your Classroom the Historic Site

Funding, geography or lack of institutional support may prevent educators from taking students to an exemplary historic site—but you can still bring the best practices of historic sites into your classroom.

I think the author here was attempting to include teachers for whom field trips may not be an option, but actually, why shouldn’t ALL teachers make their classrooms historic sites?  It is an invitation to students to think critically about the institution they attend, the curriculum they study, the habits and routines they engage in.  This is actually a great way for teachers to think about their classrooms too– by deconstructing the phenomenon of the “field trip” altogether and engaging students historical minds daily in this fashion.

Source: Preserving a More Honest History

The High School Course Beijing Accuses of Radicalizing Hong Kong (NYTimes.com)

Pro-Beijing officials say a course that teaches critical thinking has created a generation of rebels. Students and teachers say it has made them more engaged with society.

Source: The High School Course Beijing Accuses of Radicalizing Hong Kong

I am just beginning to dive in to some of the details of this ongoing series of actions in Hong Kong.  But I am excited to have been able to use a bilingual interview with an activist (Agnes Chow Ting) spokesperson for the “Scholarism” group in Hong Kong for one of my English expression classes.  Scholarism eventually merged into the Demosisto group which is I believe at the center of the current actions.  It was a bit of a sensitive issue in class because there is one student who is Chinese in that class and I wasn’t sure how she would react.  Japanese media (and as a result, my students) tend to focus on the unrest as a means to criticize the Chinese government in a kind of superior jingoistic fashion.  And my Chinese student has often But I think I made it clear that the reason why I brought this text into the class was out of respect for the Chinese student activists and their connecting politics with their education in a meaningful and powerful way.

Exactly what is the connection between education and radical politics in this situation is still something I want to investigate.  Obviously the connection that this NYTimes headline suggests of a 1-to-1 process of “radicalization,” doesn’t ring true because it ignores the underlying contexts of that education as it takes place.  Anyway, more soon…

Exiting the Vampire Castle by Mark Fisher

We need to learn, or re-learn, how to build comradeship and solidarity instead of doing capital’s work for it by condemning and abusing each other. This doesn’t mean, of course, that we must always agree – on the contrary, we must create conditions where disagreement can take place without fear of exclusion and excommunication.

Source: Exiting the Vampire Castle

I kept hearing again and again about this 2013 essay on some of the socialist podcasts I subscribe to– The Majority Report family of podcasts, but also Chapo Trap House, and Best of the Left too.  The Antifada podcast has aparently created a vampire-centric spin-off inspired, in part, by this article as well.  I’m glad I finally got a chance to read it.  Though I am unfamiliar with the particular comedian and the imbroglio that was the impetus for the article, it certainly seems to ring true.  The final caution about how social media ought to be used for revolutionary aims is particularly clarifying.  And Mark Fisher’s call to resist the erasure of class in whatever form that erasure may take is essential.

10 TV Shows That Depicted Japanese American Incarceration, For Better or For Worse

Actress Arden Cho wails in horror at the numerous historical inaccuracies in an episode of Teen Wolf set in a fictitious Japanese American concentration camp (Densho Blog)

Densho Blog is so good– entertaining, woke, and rewarding with deep pop-culture dives like this one!  Wonder Woman, Magnum, P.I., Teen Wolf!

Source: 10 TV Shows That Depicted Japanese American Incarceration, For Better or For Worse