Four SF Poet Laureates to Benefit Haiti, Doctors Without Borders

Michael Warr sends this note.    “At least four SF Poet Laureates and two California Poet Laureates on the bill.  Plus Ismael Reed! A big deal by far in the world of literature. I once read with Allen Ginsberg and Amiri Baraka (along with Luis Rodriguez and Patricia Smith) on the same stage and this is something like that.”

[What a line up! If we were ANYWHERE NEAR San Francisco, we would be there!]

The Fresno Undercurrent

The Fresno Undercurrent’s February 2010 issue, the central valley history issue, includes some extraordinary writing and photographs of California’s central valley, the San Joaquin.  Some of the photographs and writing come straight from the source: George Ballis, long time chronicler of the farm workers movement in the valley.  Here is the site to this publication:

Howard, According to Staughton: Lynd remembers his colleague Howard Zinn

[This appeared on the George Mason University History News Network: “From George Mason University’s
History News Network Because the Past is the Present, and the Future Too” (]

Staughton Lynd is an historian and activist. He currently lives in Youngstown, Ohio. This is an edited version of a letter sent to his friends and colleagues.He has dedicated his life to activism and social change as a historian, lawyer, labor activist and Quaker pacifist. He has been called a saint of the modern American Left. You can read an interview of Staughton Lynd in 2006 by Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman by clicking this link:Democracy Now

Next Christmastime, it will be exactly fifty years since as a graduate student at Columbia University I attended the Columbia “smoker” at the American Historical Association meetings in New York, looking for work.  At about midnight there came toward me across the floor Bill Leuchtenberg, in whose classes both Howard and I had studied, and together with him a tall, skinny man with dark hair, already walking awkwardly because of a back injury sustained (as I understand it) at a Manhattan warehouse where he worked while a graduate student.  Howard hired me to join the faculty of Spelman College, a college for African American women in Atlanta.

Howard Zinn, photo (c) Robin Holland

That summer in 1961, before moving to Atlanta, myself, Howard, and his two children Myla and Jeff climbed Mt. Chocorua in New Hampshire.  As he narrates in his autobiography, up and down the mountain Howard and I discussed every imaginable political topic either of us could think of and found nothing about which we disagreed (Howard tells this story in a chapter concluding that class origin does not determine everything).  As he also describes in the memoir, when, two years later, he was unceremoniously fired just after students had dispersed for the summer and so could not readily protest, I emerged from a hospital room where my son lay after a nearly life-ending fall from a window and did what I could to organize the expression of indignation about the way Howard had been discharged.  Not only was Howard a tenured professor and a department head, he had organized an innovative new program of Asian Studies for the entire Atlanta University complex.

All of that said, I should like to make the following points:

I disagree with the statement that Howard Zinn was “after all, a political scientist.”  He was an historian who, after discharge by Spelman in June 1963, could find a job only in a political science department.

As I have written in Radical History Review, the most remarkable thing about Howard as an academician was that he was always concerned to speak, not to other academicians, but to the general public.  Soon after arriving in Atlanta, I asked him what papers he was preparing for which academic gatherings.  This was what I supposed historians did.  Howard looked at me as if I were speaking a foreign language.  He was one of two adult advisers to the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and was preoccupied with the question of how may racism be overcome.

My second enormous debt to Howard has to do with oral history.

As a teacher, I was using B.A. Botkin’s edition of WPA slave narratives and an autobiographical record by W.E.B. DuBois.  The Zinns lived in the same building on the Spelman campus as did the Lynds.  One day, I walked unannounced into the Zinn apartment and found Howard tape recording the words of two SNCC organizers who had just been released from jail in Albany, Georgia.  As I have also written in RHR, it was as if a light went on inside my head.  It suddenly occurred to me that I, too, could do oral history.

For those who have accompanied me thus far I now wish to make clear that from a very early time, Howard and I had differences about history.  Like other participants, I was caught up in the lived experience of Mississippi Freedom Summer, during which I was Freedom School coordinator.  Three years later, just before leaving New Haven for Chicago, I was walking across the New Haven Green and saw Dave Dennis, principal CORE representative in the 1964 summer project.  I invited him to breakfast the next morning.  He told Alice and myself that SNCC staff had initially opposed inviting hundreds of white

Howard Zinn

volunteers (myself included) to Mississippi.  As Wesley Hogan has written, a mystique hangs over those doings that makes it difficult to ask questions.  But she has also shared extracts from the SNCC archives which show that a majority of SNCC staff not only initially opposed the invitation to volunteers, but also, on the very eve of the summer project, wondered why Mississippi African Americans would wish to be seated at a convention of the national Democratic Party.  I never could draw Howard into consideration of such issues.

I believe that not only was Howard a complex human being, but also that particular books that he wrote and particular efforts in which he engaged, such as “The People Speak” on the History Channel, have both pluses and minuses.  I doubt that any of Howard Zinn’s critics wish that he had expressed a more “nuanced” view of the encounter between Columbus and the Arawak Indians, the opening scene of his People’s History and far and away my favorite part of that book (I can remember, when I was a Harvard undergraduate, Samuel Eliot Morison lecturing on Columbus in his yachting whites). But in my own graduate work I came to feel that historians practicing “history from below” and “history from the bottom up,” of whom I was one, had a tendency to romanticize the poor and oppressed persons whom they studied and, especially, to believe that such folks were motivated by ideology to a greater degree than was in fact the case.

The Hudson Valley farm tenants whom I studied supported or opposed the American Revolution based on the politics of their landlords, believing that if the side to which their landlord belonged was defeated, they might come to own their farms.  Tenants in southern Dutchess County demanded the confiscation of the estates of their Loyalist landlords whereas tenants fifty miles away, whose landlord was an ardent supporter of independence, staged an armed revolt in support of the King.  Similarly, city artisans, who as Sons of Liberty were the cutting edge of the struggle for independence, not only voted for the supposedly counter-revolutionary new Constitution in 1787-1788 but staged elaborate parades in its support.  Why?  In each case, artisans sought whatever would keep the import of British manufactured goods from destroying their livelihoods.

My residence of more than a quarter century in a declining steel city, Youngstown, Ohio, has reinforced this view of things.  No apology is needed that farm tenants should wish to own the farms on which they toiled, that artisans (like Mexican farmers today) should wish to prevent imports from abroad from destroying their means of making a living, or that a steel worker should turn toward whomever seemed to hold out some hope of reopening the mill.  The point is that in none of these instances were ordinary folks motivated by ideas.  They were trying to survive economically.

I don’t wish to butcher a complicated topic with another set of over-simplifications. I simply observe that Howard was never very much interested in these matters.  I wrote to Howard on the eve of Freedom Summer, after an intense SNCC meeting (see Carol Polsgrove’s book, Divided Minds, for extracts from the letter) saying that it seemed to me SNCC needed an economic program comparable to “40 acres and a mule” for what people might be able to do once they had achieved the vote.  Howard was preoccupied with the need for federal marshals to be sent South to protect civil rights volunteers.  I was uneasy about ever-increasing dependence on the national government.  A few days later Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner were murdered.  But I believe that lack of agreement about a long-range economic program was a major reason that, after the summer of 1964, SNCC floundered.

It would be wrong to suggest that Howard clung stubbornly to an unchanging worldview.  This may have been by and large true of him (as it has been generally true of myself) since the mid-Sixties.  But he changed dramatically as a young man in his attitude toward war.  Howard grew up in the era of the anti-fascist Popular Front and volunteered for service as a bombardier in the Army Air Force.  Two things described in his autobiography caused him to change his mind.  First, there was another young man who, during the long hours of “hurry up and wait” before bombing runs, discussed politics with Howard.  The young man believed that the war was a contest of rival imperialisms.  If that is so, Howard finally asked him, why are you here?  To talk with people like you, the young man answered.  A few weeks later he was killed.  Second, shortly before the end of the war, Howard took part in obliterating a French village in which German troops, waiting to surrender, had taken refuge.  Accordingly, Howard, while never a pacifist, became convinced that no conceivable modern war could be worth the collateral deaths and other mayhem it would inevitably cause.

This Documentary Premiered on the History Channel in Dec. 2009 what do I think?  My favorite memory of Howard has to do with the end of the first version of his play “Emma.”  A group of aging anarchists are gathered at the Lower East Side cafeteria where they have always hung out.  They are stirring the embers and planning to leaflet the next morning about something or other.  Suddenly, Alexander Berkman walks in.  He has just been released from many years of imprisonment for his abortive attempt to murder Henry Clay Frick during the 1892 Homestead strike.  His friends break off their discussion.  Berkman says, What were you talking about when I came in?  They respond, Oh, it doesn’t matter:  this is our time to celebrate your release.  No, I want to know, Berkman persists.  The friends explain their leafleting project.  Berkman says, And do you have someone for every location?  To tell you the truth, they answer, we still need someone for Broome Street.  Berkman says, I’ll take Broome Street — and the curtain falls.

If the concern of Howard’s critics is to insist on his many-sidedness and complexity, that should be our approach to any historical personage or phenomenon.  But let us not caricature him.  It may be maddening to David Horowitz and Ron Radosh that the People’s History has sold something like two million copies.  But shouldn’t the historian’s question be to try to understand why the book has captured the conscience of a generation?  I have arranged for it to be sent to certain Ohio prisoners my wife and I know well.  One of them is a leader of the Aryan Brotherhood.  He wrote back, anxious to reassure me that the book was making the rounds of the cell block, “to blacks as well as whites.”

Go well, brother Howie.  Like the heroes of Stephen Spender’s poem, “I Think Continually Of Those Who Were Truly Great,” you “left the vivid air signed with your honor.”

The Howard Zinn documentary “The People Speak” premiered on Sunday, December 13, 2009, on the History Channel. For more information on this excellent video, please visit:

The Howard Zinn website has an extensive list of articles and tributes on the death of the noted historian.

Howard Zinn: His Most Appropriate Epitaph — by Eric Foner

[This was posted on the website of the George Mason University History News Network]

Eric Foner: Zinn’s Critical History

Source: The Nation (2-4-10)

[Eric Foner, a member of The Nation’s editorial board, is DeWitt Clinton Professor of History at Columbia University and editor of Our Lincoln, a collection of essays recently published by W. W. Norton and author of Forever Free: The Story of Emancipation and Reconstruction.]

Friedrich Nietzsche once identified three approaches to the writing of history: the monumental, the antiquarian and the critical, the last being history “that judges and condemns.” Howard Zinn, who died on January 27 at 87, wrote the third kind. Unlike many historians, he was not afraid to speak out about the difference between right and wrong….

I have long been struck by how many excellent students of history first had their passion for the past sparked by reading Howard Zinn. Sometimes, to be sure, his account tended toward the Manichaean, an oversimplified narrative of the battle between the forces of light and darkness. But A People’s History taught an inspiring and salutary lesson–that despite all too frequent repression, if America has a history to celebrate it lies in the social movements that have made this a better country. As for past heroes, Zinn insisted, one should look not to presidents or captains of industry but to radicals such as Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony and Eugene V. Debs….

A few years ago, I lectured at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota (the hometown of the late, lamented Senator Paul Wellstone). Zinn had been there a few days before, and across the top of the student newspaper was emblazoned the headline Zinn Attacks State. I sent Howard a copy. We laughingly agreed that he could not have a more appropriate epitaph.

Witness to a Revolution: Charlie Hardy speaking February 18, 2010

Witness to a Revolution

Hear Charlie Hardy speak on Venezuela’s Democratic Revolution

Hardy has resided in Venezuela for most of the past 24 years.  As a Catholic missionary priest, he lived eight years in a pressed-cardboard and tin shack in a barrio that lacked water and sewer systems on the periphery of Caracas.  He has visited almost all of the Latin American countries and has written and spoken about Latin America for over forty years.  He is author of Cowboy in Caracas, A North American’s Memoir of Venezuela’s Democratic Revolution, (Curbstone Press, 2007) and maintains a website,

Thursday, February 18th

7:00 pm to 8:30

Access Living

Second Floor Conference Room

115 W. Chicago Ave.

Blood Done Sign My Name– from the New York Times

[An excellent book by Tim Tyson, now issued as film which sounds very promising — Lew Rosenbaum]

North Carolina as It Was, Split and Seething


A scene from “Blood Done Sign My Name,” which opens on Friday and features Nate Parker, center.

By GODFREY CHESHIRE, Published: February 12, 2010 in the New York Times

WHETHER or not North Carolinians are more inclined than other Americans to follow Thomas Wolfe’s injunction to “look homeward,” some past the age of 50 have personal reasons to cast a retrospective glance on the state of their youth. It was a time when a century of Jim Crow laws and segregation were being challenged by the advocates of civil rights in a struggle that was often more bitter and bloody than popular history likes to admit.


Jeb Stuart, the director of “Blood Done Sign My Name.”

For Robert K. Steel, the re-evaluation of his placid recollections of the white-picket-fence world of Durham, N.C., accelerated in the summer of 2005 when he read Timothy B. Tyson’s “Blood Done Sign My Name.” That acclaimed book recounts how, in 1970, the author’s hometown, Oxford, N.C., erupted in racial turmoil after an all-white jury acquitted a white store owner and one of his sons of the murder of a young black man.

A former vice chairman of Goldman Sachs, Mr. Steel found Dr. Tyson’s work “fascinating and compelling,” he said in an interview in his office in Greenwich, Conn. Though he’d never had an itch for movie producing, he was so struck by the book’s cinematic potential that he urged it on a Greenwich acquaintance and fellow North Carolina native, Jeb Stuart, who has screenwriting credits on Hollywood action hits including “Die Hard” and “The Fugitive.” The result of their collaboration reaches theaters across the Southeast and in other major markets on Friday.

Mr. Stuart also found personal as well as cinematic reasons to connect with the material. Dr. Tyson, who was 11 in 1970, chronicles the struggles that his father, Vernon, a Methodist minister, faced in advocating civil rights progress to a conservative parish. (Vernon Tyson was effectively driven out of Oxford by the end of 1970.) Mr. Stuart’s father was a Presbyterian minister who faced similar trials in Gastonia, N.C.

When Mr. Steel and Mr. Stuart met with Dr. Tyson to discuss turning “Blood Done Sign My Name” into a movie, with Mr. Stuart as writer and director, the author was initially leery of turning over his work to a Hollywood filmmaker bearing the name of a Confederate general. (Mr. Stuart was nicknamed for, but not descended from, the rebel cavalry officer J. E. B. Stuart.) But the men soon discovered they agreed on what the movie should avoid.

“One of the goals was not to make ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ ” Mr. Stuart said in an interview at Mr. Steel’s Greenwich office. “What always happens in the way Hollywood tells these stories is that the white guy saves the day. I did not want to fall into that trap. The Tysons got run out of town. Tim’s dad is one of my heroes in this movie, but he’s not Gregory Peck. He’s not going to make it all right for everybody.”

Besides being a fan of “The Fugitive” Dr. Tyson was happy to learn that he and Mr. Stuart both loathe movies like “Mississippi Burning” and “Ghosts of Mississippi,” in which conflicts between good and bad white people overshadow the actions of blacks. Interviewed by phone from his current home in Durham, where he teaches African-American studies at Duke University, Dr. Tyson said that Hollywood’s distortions have helped reinforce the gauzy mythology of the struggles of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and others.

“We have this sugarcoated confection of the civil rights movement in popular memory,” he said. “It’s interracial, it’s nonviolent, and it’s successful. Nobody ever opposed it. In this rendition the civil rights movement is largely a call to America’s conscience that America pretty much answered.” The reality, he said, was more complex.

“The sit-ins swept out of North Carolina and across the South in the spring of 1960, and there were practically no grown-ups in the United States who thought right away that it was a good idea, but the young people just did it anyway. Most Americans thought it was bad and crazy. In 1961 the Freedom Riders rolled through the region, criticized sharply by the Kennedy administration as well as the Southern politicians, denounced in emphatic terms by The New York Times, and three-quarters of Americans disapproved.”

Many minds changed in the next few years, he noted, but even by 1970 much had not changed. In Oxford the movie theaters were still segregated. Downtown businesses sold to African-Americans but would hire them only as janitors. Public pools and recreation areas had been closed to keep them out. Thus, in May of that year, when a young black Vietnam veteran named Henry Marrow was beaten and killed on an Oxford street by three white men, an incident watched by several witnesses, the town was ready for an explosion. As the movie shows, the trial of two of the men was of intense concern to 22-year-old Ben Chavis (played by Nate Parker), a black Oxford native who had recently returned to teach high school after having become a civil rights organizer while in college in Charlotte, N.C.

“The verdict came back on a Sunday morning,” recalled Dr. Chavis, now 62, in an interview at the Manhattan offices of Hip Hop Summit, an organization he heads with the record mogul Russell Simmons. Hearing that the white men had been exonerated, “people were angry, so, so angry,” he said. “Probably the hardest speech of my life was back at the First Baptist Church. I just asked the question: Why? Not why do the whites do what they do, but why do we do what we do? Why do we accept it?”

The days of passive acceptance, it turned out, were over. In the wake of the acquittals, crimes aimed at white businesses included the firebombing of several tobacco warehouses, attacks that suggested the skills of Mr. Marrow’s fellow Vietnam veterans.

Dr. Chavis said, however, that he believes the actions that brought change were the legal ones. He led a protest march from Oxford to the state capital, which helped lay the groundwork for a boycott of white businesses that lasted 18 months and finally forced full integration on Oxford.

Dr. Chavis echoed remarks by Dr. Tyson in saying that he believes the struggles depicted in both the book and the movie are not particular to North Carolina or the region.

Malcolm X once said that the South is anything south of the Canadian border. On certain issues the whole country is the South.”

Peoples Tribune now on line

Welcome to the People’s Tribune On-line Edition, February, 2010

The People’s Tribune is devoted to the proposition that an economic system that can’t or won’t feed, clothe and house its people ought to be and will be changed. To that end, this paper is a tribune of the people. It is the voice of millions struggling for survival. It strives to educate politically those millions on the basis of their own experience. It is a tribune to bring them together, to create a vision of a better world, and a strategy to achieve it. Below is a listing of the February 2010  articles. To view the PDF of the print edition,CLICK HERE <>


People’s Tribune: “Millions eke out an existence, while profits for America’s 360 billionaires and their corporations soar. Such cataclysmic events set the stage for political polarization – the separation in thinking of the people from their rulers and the opportunity for a class-conscious movement for power over the corporations. . . ” <>READ


People’s Tribune:  “Two recent headlines in the corporate press tell the story. In Business Week, the article was headlined “The Disposable Worker.” And in USA Today: “Jobless Citizens Seeking Day Labor – More Look for Work Alongside Migrants.” Taken together, they reveal the situation facing more and more workers: Nobody’s job is safe and no job is permanent . . . ” <>READ


Andy Willis:  “As we enter the second decade of the 21st century, the blockbuster movie AVATAR is a pointed arrow aimed at the heart of exploitation. Is there an important message in this visually incredible movie? Absolutely.    .  . .  “<; READ


Dee Allen:

“When land is left vacant,
Pitch up a tent on poles.
Drive ropes and stakes into the ground to secure it,
. . . ” <>READ


John Moran: Scoundrels have patriotism, lies and an army of straight men to sell their world view. The program “Card Game” is an enlightening example of stating the obvious. In my view, this is a desperate attempt to quiet the righteous rage the American people have been expressing over the bailout . . . <>READ


Marian Kramer: The protests are continuing in Detroit over the 27,000 or so utility cut offs  . . ”  <>READ


Cathleen Williams and Sandy Perry: “On January 20, thousands of protesters gathered in San Francisco from all across the West Coast .   .  . ” <>READ


Sarah Menefee:

shoulder to shoulder
face by beautiful face
marching thru the rain

oh my people
oh my sisters and brothers
come from everywhere
and from every struggle
each with a singular heart
to add to the work of justice
. . . ” <>READ


Cathleen Williams:

Our people are writing this poem
an unusual people
in their borrowed clothes
in their paper clothes and cardboard slippers
together leaning forward and going on.
. . ” <>READ


Joseph Peery: “After a holiday moratorium, Cook County Sheriffs Officers resumed evictions in the Chicago area.  One of their targets was Cabrini Green, where as many as 14 families may have been evicted.  The following is an excerpt from an interview with Willie Fleming, a long time resident of Cabrini Green and an organizer for the Chicago Anti- Eviction Campaign .  .  . ” <; READ


Eric Sheptock : “In Washington, D.C., homeless advocates align their activities with the annual budgetary cycle. During the February-May budget hearings, advocates for the poor and homeless do their best to have sufficient tax revenue allocated for the populations they serve . . . <>READ


Gloria Slaughter:  “On Monday, January 11, 2010, school employees, parents, students and community members stood together outside the DeKalb County Board of Education building to protest the $15,000 raise that the DeKalb County School Superintendent received on January 4th. The School Board voted 8 – 1 to approve the increase in salary. The Superintendent receives a $2,500 a month expense account   . . . ” <>READ


Dr. Isaac Wolfe:”The debate about mammograms has been presented as a discussion on how to save lives by optimizing the identification of what is the best way to save lives.  However, while the early detection of breast cancer certainly saves lives, the best way to treat cancer is to prevent it.  This was ignored during the recent debate . . . ” <>READ


Todd Alan Price: “Over the last several months, a soap opera has played out in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Taking place in the Milwaukee Public School District, the storyline, includes dismantling the elected school district, appointing an unelected advisory board, and cutting costs (following the orders of an outside private firm, the notorious McKinsey Report on Education). Mayoral Takeover, as it is called, would save the city some revenue, the business community would prosper. . . ” <>READ


Steve Miller:  “Last fall, the Regents increased fees for California’s nine public universities by 32%. Fees were increased by about the same amount for all the states, 3.5 million students attending public higher education. But the Regents had already spent the UC increases before they voted. How could this be? The increases had been “securitized,”   . . . ” <>READ


Steve Miller:  “Many of the people reporting on the radio from Haiti talk about how hard the post-earthquake situation is on the poor. For the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, this is the vast majority of the people. There is water, the reports go, but it is only for sale on the streets as bottled water. The public delivery of water, already quite decimated by years of government cutbacks, is non-existent – unless you can pay. Food is available, too, but only at a price . . . ” <>READ


Sarah Menefee:

oh Haiti! you are the battered face
of what we do and what we are

poorest of poor:  poor made poorer
crushed and abandoned with
the vultures of exploitation
wheeling around your broken bones
dipping their beaks in your blood
sending in their soldiers and guns
to keep you again
from what you need:
a scrap of food a rag to lie on
when all the blankets are laid across
broken bodies


Jack Hirschman:

the world
to the horror
with what
you are—Love

the eyelid of a dead
child of nine
feels your




Lenette Evans: “On December 11, almost 2 months ago, my step-son Bill H. Gardner IV, was in a tragic accident with his friends. They were traveling on Red Arrow Highway near Sawyer, Michigan. . .” <>READ



Dorothy Pinkney: “Whirlpool, a racist global bloodsucker, continues to disrupt the community by building the golf course, on 530 acres of prime land, centered around luxury housing. This is a Billion dollar project designed to drive all Black Benton Harbor residents from the city. . . ” <>READ


People’s Tribune: “The race question in America has always been used to divide and control the working class as a whole.In the past, America’s poor could not unite in a struggle against the corporations, despite a common poverty. To maintain the divisions among the workers, the powers that be gave petty social privileges to the white poor over the Black poor, making unity impossible. People could not unite when they were unequally oppressed and exploited. . . “<>READ




This is the newspaper that everyone is talking about… it consistently brought the Pinkney case forward. If you are about truth and justice, then this is the paper you need to read. The People’s Tribune is the voice of the people. It is a beacon of light, pointing the way forward. Its pages are open to the fighters for a just America. Send a $20 donation for a one year subscription via paypal at or to People’s Tribune, PO Box 3524, Chicago, IL 60654-3524

For more information, contact the People’s Tribune, 800-691-6888, email <> or visit the web at <>

UCLA Study Shows Charter Schools Promote Segregation — Howard Blume in the L.A. Times

[The Los Angeles Unified School District bears some resemblance to Chicago’s public schools.  Hundreds of thousands of students crowded into segregated schools, a district where less than 10% of all students are white.  Charter schools, which have become the rallying cry for both the Bush and Obama administrations — Obama’s touted “Race to the Top” features replacement of public schools by charters — actually increase the segregation, according to the UCLA study reported below by Howard Blume in the Los Angeles Times.  Falling into lock step behind the federal dollar incentives offered by race to the top, school superintendants like Cortines, below, call for more charters:

. . .school quality has to trump hard-to-achieve integration, said L.A. schools Supt. Ramon C. Cortines.

“If charter schools are doing the job for the student, and it is a better job” than the traditional school, Cortines said, “I’m not as concerned about the racial isolation.”

The problem is that there are no reliable data that show charters actually perform better in teaching our children.  There is no evidence to show that students in charters test better than other comparable students.  Why would we want to trust our children’s education to the corporations whose primary motive is to profit from our loss?  The immediate demands of the parents in Chicago for world class public schools in every neighborhood is something beyond the capability of our corporate centered economy, and calls into question the right of the Commercial Club of Chicago to dictate educational policy.

Meanwhile, in Boston the 14 charter schools are launching a recruitment drive to attract students who are learning English as a second language.  They are responding to demands that they serve the neighborhood population wherever they are, and to the allegation that where they have demonstrated increased performance it was because they have culled from their rolls potential problem learners, such as the ones who are learning English.

— Lew Rosenbaum]

Charter schools’ growth promoting segregation, studies say

A UCLA study is one of two finding that the increasingly popular campuses skew toward racially separate student bodies. Charter advocates criticize the reports.

By Howard BlumeFebruary 4, 2010 | 4:47 p.m.

The growth of charter schools has promoted segregation both in California and nationwide, increasing the odds that black, Latino and white students will attend class with fewer children who look different from themselves, according to two new studies.

Charter school advocates contend that the researchers’ presumptions about racial separation are out of date. They said parents — including low-income minority parents — are turning to charters for a quality education that traditional schools have not provided.

Charters are independently managed public schools that are exempt from some rules that govern traditional schools. About 2.5% of the nation’s students attend charters — a threefold increase over seven years. The Los Angeles Unified School District has more charters — enrolling about 9% of district students — than any school system in the country.

The trend toward segregation was especially notable for African American students. Nationally, 70% of black charter students attend schools where at least 90% of students are minorities. That’s double the figure for traditional public schools. The typical black charter-school student attends a campus where nearly three in four students also are black, researchers with the Civil Rights Project at UCLA said Thursday.

The other researchers also focused on economic segregation, looking at private companies that manage schools, in most cases charters. The enrollments at most of these campuses exacerbated income extremes, they concluded. Charters tended to serve higher-income students or lower-income students. Charters also were likely to serve fewer disabled students and fewer English learners. This report, soon to be officially released, was developed by education policy centers at the University of Colorado at Boulder and Arizona State University.

Both research teams, using somewhat different methods and data, questioned the direction of the Obama administration, which has pushed states to authorize more charter schools as a condition for receiving funding through “Race to the Top” grants. That position has proved to be powerful leverage as states struggle with decreased funding.

“We don’t want the Race to the Top to become a race to the past,” said Gary Orfield, co-director of the Civil Rights Project, alluding to the era of enforced segregation.

Orfield’s UCLA team previously documented how court decisions since 1991 had gradually eroded the halting progress in integration. Segregation remains a marker for inequality, just as it was in the 1950s, he said.

But nuances underlie the data. Locally based ICEF Public Schools grew out of an after-school and summer program in a predominantly black neighborhood. Its early families included many middle-class blacks, many of whom sent their children to parochial or other private schools. ICEF brought them into or back to public education.

Word of mouth spread, and the organization continued to serve virtually all-black enrollments — even as Latino families increased in the neighborhood and as ICEF expanded beyond predominantly black enclaves.

Parent Kawana Midgette, a human resources specialist, considers the black enrollment a bonus at View Park Preparatory Accelerated Charter Middle School; it helps instill strong engagement with black culture and history, she said. But her daughter is at ICEF for the academic rigor: College is mandatory for the eighth-grader, Midgette said.

ICEF’s ongoing evolution now includes two schools with Latino majorities, said founder and Chief Executive Mike Piscal. “We became a brand among African Americans as the place to go, but we want to be open to all Angelenos.”

Integrating with white students, he added, is not an option in the areas he serves.

L.A. Unified also includes charters with high white enrollments; about half were traditional schools that already had high white enrollments when they became charters.

Some charter organizations serve largely low-income Latino enrollments — in neighborhoods where nearly all students match that description. Such charter organizations as the Alliance for College-Ready Public Schools have, in effect, tried to make segregation irrelevant by offering a college-prep curriculum in small classes within small schools.

The school district itself has left behind integration as a primary goal. Its school construction program, for example, is aimed at returning students to their neighborhood schools rather than their being bused elsewhere. But segregation is exacerbated in the process.

Given a school district that is 9% white, segregated by income and race, and predominantly poor, school quality has to trump hard-to-achieve integration, said L.A. schools Supt. Ramon C. Cortines.

“If charter schools are doing the job for the student, and it is a better job” than the traditional school, Cortines said, “I’m not as concerned about the racial isolation.”

Orfield’s team isn’t ready to surrender on integration. He proposes expanding magnet schools, which are special programs designed to attract diverse enrollments and thus promote desegregation. Alternatively, he said, charters should be required — and helped — to promote diversity.

Copyright © 2010, The Los Angeles Times

Deborah Meier on How to Evaluate Education

[This is a conversation between Deborah Meier and Diane Ravitch that proceeds from a recent speech by AFT’s Randi Weingarten.  In that speech, Weingarten expressed support for something like incentive pay for teachers, evaluation of teachers based on the performance of students, and a willingness to work with the formula “Race To The Top.”  In my view, the crux of Meier’s reply to Ravitch comes when she says that  because the number of graduates increases, the number of good jobs does not magically increase. She points out that the assumed answer to the question  “what education is for” — rather, what schooling is for — is to get a good job.  The educational system is the factory system to produce workers.  So, she says cogently, the question that is not being asked seriously is “what do we want from schools—other than ‘higher test scores’?” On the other hand, I think she misses the point in her comment about who is capable of judging what we want from schools and education. She says, “Apparently neither principals nor teachers are trusted with the capacity to do so. For good reasons.”  Instead she proposes some form of peer and external reviews.  Well, teachers and principals are not trusted because the goals of education are far from educational; and external and peer reviews in the current system merely mean performance based on testing at best, subjective, destructive of teachers unions and privatization with loss of local oversight of schools at worst. In other words, there is no good reason to expect that given the current circumstances — the drive toward dismantling public education, destruction of teacher organizations, and growth of the education-testing industry  — there is no good reason to expect that external reviews will be anything but punitive and destructive.  Nothing short of a review of what kind of education we need and building on those foundations will allow the kind of “collegial relationships” necessary among those entrusted with guiding the learning of our children. It should be obvious — but it is nearly always left out — that the key stakeholder in the learning process is the student.  == Lew Rosenbaum]

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What Kind of Achievement Should Count Most?

Deborah Meier

By Deborah Meier on January 21, 2010 8:33 AM on the Bridging Differences blog: .(Deborah Meier and Diane Ravitch have found themselves at odds on policy over the years, but they share a passion for improving schools. Bridging Differences will offer their insights on what matters most in education.)

Dear Diane,

Deciding how to measure achievement depends on first defining it. The equating of “performance” and “achievement” with whatever the ELA and math tests tell us puts us in rather an awkward position—and I include in that my colleagues and friends in the AFT and NEA. Randi Weingarten’s remarks got badly reported by the press, but the actual speech makes it easier to do so than was necessary. Nowhere does it clearly state that the AFT does not accept test scores as evidence of good teaching—thus the misleading headlines.

But your argument, Diane, makes a similar mistake, almost like you are calling for more testing. The arguments against value-added testing for NYC, or New York state or any other such tests are sound—as you note earlier. They cannot now serve that purpose.

Diane Ravitch

It’s time we figured out whose judgment on such matters we might trust. Apparently neither principals nor teachers are trusted with the capacity to do so. For good reasons. Most schools—as Harvard’s Richard Elmore noted in his essay published in 2002 by the Albert Shanker Institute—are not organized in a way that enables the adults to build a collective consensus on standards or pedagogies, nor in ways that encourage each other to review each other’s work. Nor do we value the quality of evaluation enough to engage in periodic and serious external reviews. Nothing less than that, he argues, will begin to do the job.

So we’ve replaced human beings with scores on tests never designed for the multiple, and often contradictory, purposes they are now serving.

But the crux of the issue is defining achievement. What kind of achievement should count most in the institutions that democracy builds to ensure its future well-being?

Claiming that higher test scores and more diplomas will lead to prosperity is a sleight of hand for which well-educated reporters should not fall. The assumption that if twice as many people get a B.A. an M.A. or a Ph.D., twice as many higher-paying jobs will appear is a colossal fraud. But even more shameful is the assumption that knowing “right answers” on a standardized test is a way to judge even future employees, much less future citizens.

The youngsters who live in communities in which the adults they know who are employed is precipitously declining. Kids know this. The fact that decent-paying jobs for high school graduates, graduates of two- or four-year colleges, and even M.A.’s are fast disappearing, and prisons are housing more and more of our young people can’t be a secret to most adolescents. No, Virginia, jobs do not magically appear because B.A.’s do.

The AFT & co. need to lead a campaign of education, along with others, that credibly confronts the myths and lies that abound. The new media hasn’t the investigative staff, nor the audience to fulfill this task.

But, even the best reporting can’t do a lot if we avoid the real question: what do we want from schools—other than “higher test scores”? If that’s all we want, we’ll get it, and we will continue having a test prep system. The rich as well as the poor will pay a price for such a shabby goal—and guess who will continue to be better at it? (Meanwhile, more colleges have made the SAT voluntary since FairTest began to push that idea, but more high schools are prepping teenagers for SATs at a younger and younger age!)

Let’s place the definition of being well-educated—”higher test scores”—against a few other old and new alternatives. Then we can begin to ponder how we could reasonably make any judgments about which purposes we want to design schools—and assessment—around. We might even agree to disagree.

A reader of these columns, Ogden Hamilton, wrote me, in response to a quote from Alice in Wonderland in last week’s blog, with the following:

“I’ve heard the folk wisdom put that if you don’t care where you’re going, you cannot get lost. It’s always used like the ancient Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times.” Seems to me that in education, not knowing where we are going may keep us from admitting that we’re lost, but it cannot ameliorate the terrible consequences of not knowing where we are going and acting as if we do. Our situation just screams for pluralism now, not national standards.”

He sums up where I stand these days so well that I’ll end here.


I’d like to pass a second Meier’s Law, and a third. (The first: Those who require students to take a standardized test must be required to take it, too, and make their scores public.)

Law Two: Before anyone writes a new law or creates a new commission, we all agree to read at least some of what’s already been written. Even if we don’t agree on “standards,” maybe we can agree on a lean list of our favorites. Then after we’ve read them, let the conversation begin.

Law Three: Meanwhile, whenever we see the word “achievement,” replace it with “test scores”—unless other evidence is cited.


Chris Drew and the Free Speech Art Movement

[At the bottom of this note, sent to us by Chris Drew, are a collection of resources related to free speech art. Free Speech Art Movement can be found on Chris Drew’s  blog. — Lew Rosenbaum]

The Art Patch Project has masonite panels to paint for mounting art patches on for traveling exhibits of our patch art.

We need help on Wednesdays and Sundays to prepare exhibits of the art-patches we are printing. The Art Patch Project has over 70 designs and it continues to grow.

Volunteer print times every Wednesday in February, 1-7pm. Call 773-678-7545 to RSVP

Check out this link, the Columbia Chronicle keeps our cause in the News.

Check out the Streetwise magazine this week. We are very likely to have an article on the peddlers license in that magazine, as well. We hope to have our current press release translated into Spanish soon. Our goal is to send our press release out to international news outlets. Let the world judge Chicago.

Meanwhile at home we are using the humble art-patch to create the word of mouth discussion of the issues of selling art in public and my felony case to question the eavesdropping law – a second significant First Amendment issue. Art is powerful. Your voices are powerful. We need help printing patches and distributing the art-patches for free on Friday, February 26th in the Loop. We ran out of art on the last Art Patch Project action. Please help print art to prime-the-pump of the citywide First Amendment discussion.


*Uptown Multi-Cultural Art Center Website

CBS Channel 2 News (Chicago) covers the felony eavesdropping charge against C Drew

Art Patch Project 1/29/10 YouTube video by Nancy Bechtol

Nancy Bechtol enters 5 minute video documentary on Chicago’s violation of artists’ rights and C Drew’s protests.

Patrick Smith of the Columbia Chronicle keeps our cause in the news.

Columbia Chronicle: Arrested artist said he is fighting for everyone’s First Amendment rights
by Patrick Smith

Curtis Black of the Community Media Workshop writes to Journalists of our cause

Patrick Boylan of the Center Square Ledger, the online news source for the Ravenswood neighborhood, demonstrates that blog writers have more guts/freedom when covering my story than the old media writers are allowed to have.

Cell Phone Audio Recording cases and police in Boston

*Michael Stephen reports on C Drew on 1/6/10 at

*The Urban Coaster – Rogers Park Community Newspaper – prints my response to 1st class felony charge.

*In These Times: Free Speech, for Art’s Sake

*Nancy Bechtol video: C Drew Answers Eavesdropping Charges

*Chicago’s Thick Blue Wall – Radley Balko writes for on C Drew’s arrest

*SunTimes: Felony Charges Charges filed against Artist Activist,peddler-taping-cops-arrest-120309.article
Comments published below – e-mail comments to (for coming exhibit)

*Video by Nancy Bechtol showing the arrest of C Drew on 12/2/09. You judge if a felony was committed.

*Nancy Bechtol video from Friday November 13th when I challenged
the City and received a ticket to Federal Court

*Video: C Drew on Chicago cable TV explaining artists’ speech rights with a screen printing demo

* Streetwise article – October 28, 2009

Click to access 091028-4-Streetwise.pdf

Streetwise Article Goes International
The article appearing in Streetwise October 28th was reprinted on a website with an international audience that serves street newspapers from around the world – the Street News Service. Streetwise Article Goes International

*The San Francisco Examiner wrote about Chris and the FreeSAM

*Deanna Isaacs * View the article (link below)

*Good site for artists’ rights overview *

Which leads you to New York’s precedent setting case – Artists win.
*East Coast Case:* BERY v. CITY OF NEW YORK, 97 F.3d 689 (2nd Cir. 1996)

*West Coast Case:* Perry v. Los Angles Police Dept,, 121 F3d 1368 (9th Cir 1997) Artist wins.

*Nevada Case:* Steven White v. City of Sparks (Nevada) Artist wins.
In /White v. City of Sparks/, painter Steven White challenged the
constitutionality of a city ordinance that required him to obtain a permit
before selling his paintings in public parks.

Click to access white-v-city-of-sparks-opinion.pdf

*Florida law suit won by artist* – Celli v. City of St. Augustine, Florida – decided 2000.

Click to access celli-v-city-of-st-augustine-opinion.pdf

Since this time artists in St. Augustine have continued to fight for their rights against stiff government opposition from big-money interests.

*Weinberg v. City of Chicago* (when all the National Sports Leagues joined with the City to appeal and lost when the Supreme Court refused to hear their appeal.) Weinberg – the Chicago author – won.

*Berger v. City of Seattle* A federal judge in Seattle ruled in 2005 in favor of a balloon-artist that the Seattle regulations violated the First Amendment, considering that Seattle Center’s outdoor space is a public park. A 12-member panel of the appeals court agreed 8-3.

Click to access 0535752pv3.pdf

* Santa Monica, California modifies its street performer ordinances to allow the activity to take place on public sidewalks without a permit.

* ACLU sues the City of Fort Lauderdale for a street artist. (more to come)

*NY Artist and Organizer* – Robert Lederman, president of A.R.T.I.S.T.,
or Artists’ Response to Illegal State Tactics – This Yahoo Groups page links to ten years of messages about all the New York City actions and court cases over the years.

* NYC Street Artist Freedom Videos
Check out these videos about how NYC artists won our rights in NYC see:

* “Free Speech in an Open Society” by Rodney A. Smolla is a great primer toward understanding First Amendment case law. Google it for a great read on the topic.

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