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The Case for Community Schools— or “Network Schools” that Provide On-Site Social Services

July 31, 2021 Leave a comment

Jeremy Mohler, a writer for In the Public Interest, wrote a compelling article that outlines the case for community schools, especially in light of the Trumpist GOP’s pushback against its latest bogeyman: Critical Race Theory.  Mohler rightly contends that the REAL grassroots movement in public education has more to do with linking the community together than ripping it apart, which appears to be the endgame for the GOP. 

In his final paragraph Mohler suggests that nothing less than the continuation of democracy is at stake in the battle over public education… and the best way forward for public schools is to embrace the expanded responsibilities that are implicit in operating community schools. 

Information Capture and Control by Corporations Threatens Science… and Education

July 31, 2021 Leave a comment

A Common Dreams article describing the agreement between Shell Oil and the London Science Museum illustrates how corporate control of information is now influencing the dissemination of scientific information. Shell Oil, one of the carbon spewing corporations whose scientists knew that their products were contributing to global warming, underwrote an exhibit on climate change at the London Science Museum with the proviso that the museum not level any criticism to them for their role in polluting the plant:  Here’s an overview of what transpired:

According to the Channel 4 News, which first reported on the document, the agreement requires the museum to not “make any statement or issue any publicity or otherwise be involved in any conduct or matter that may reasonably be foreseen as discrediting or damaging the goodwill or reputation of the sponsor.”

What’s more, Science Museum director Ian Blatchford, in emails, called on Shell to “champion” the exhibition to the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI)—a fossil fuel industry body—to elicit additional funding, Channel 4 reported.

Research and campaign group Culture Unstained obtained through Freedom of Information requests documents related to the sponsorship agreement. In an analysis, the group said the gag clause was “hugely problematic.”

“It essentially creates a ‘chilling effect,’ where museum staff must refrain from speaking openly about the reality of Shell’s activities because it could be seen as damaging the company’s goodwill or reputation. This is a particular problem due to the contested nature of Shell’s business operations and the fact it is sponsoring an exhibition about climate change solutions,” the group wrote.

While the US is wringing its hands over a mythical infusion of Critical Race Theory in social studies texts a science museum in England was providing a way for a polluter to write the narrative on climate science. I daresay that the same legislatures who want to sanitize the history of our country by limiting the exposure of its students to the real story of race will soon be passing legislation to prevent science teachers from telling the REAL story about climate change. As we have learned relatively recently, the oil industry, like the tobacco industry before it, KNEW that their products had a devastating impact on the earth but presented a narrative in their corporate advertising and corporate sponsorships that was contrary to that reality. When billionaires and corporations control the narrative, citizens and consumers suffer. Getting private money out of politics AND the operation of museums will go a long way to getting truth into the marketplace.

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Lest We Forget: Populist Conservative Conspiracists Have a History of Pushing Back Against Communitarian Organizations Like (Ahem) the Girl Scouts!

July 30, 2021 Leave a comment

JSTOR writer Ashawta Jackson offered a timely reminder that the anti-intellectualism of populist conservative conspiracists have a long history of pushing back against organizations that espouse communitarian values like the Girl Scouts of America. Really! 

Despite their image as a wholesome organization, over the years the Girl Scouts of the USA have seen more than their share of controversy. In the twenty-first century, critics have accused the group of being too liberal, based on its support of sex education, the optional mention of “God” in its Girl Scout Promise, and its acceptance of trans girls as troop members.

But as much as these seem like modern objections, the organization has always had its share of detractors, scholar Susan H. Swetnam points out. In the 1950s, the Girl Scouts were the target of conservative organizations that saw the group as deeply un-American. “Cold War paranoia might have destroyed the movement,” Swetnam writes.

I need to be reminded from time to time that know-nothing anti-Communists were as big a threat to democracy as the current Trump wing of the the GOP is today. Joseph McCarthy, a GOP Senator, capitalized on anti-communist sentiment to fabricate charges against individuals and organizations who failed to pass HIS muster as being sufficiently partiotic… and at one point the Girl Scouts were in the cross hairs of his acolytes. And like the “patriotism” of today, McCarthy’s followers saw any form of racial harmony as a threat to the nation:

In 1953, the California right-wing group America Plus railed against the Scouts’ celebration of International Thinking Day, “a long-time celebration of Scouting around the world,” Swetnam notes, instead of George Washington’s birthday. A 1954 article by Robert LeFevre, a right-wing radio host and writer, called “Even the Girl Scouts,” denounced the group’s association with the League of Women Voters, which he considered leftist; its support of public housing; and its racial integration. The article, Swetnam writes, “went the 1950s version of viral, re-printed and adapted in newspapers from coast to coast.”

I trust that the irony of the combination of opposition to “International Thinking Day” and the League of Women Voters is not lost on readers… and appreciate that Ms. Jackson did not place the juxtaposition in bold print. 

But here is what I find chilling: the Girl Scouts literally rewrote their handbook AND rewrote history in response to this outrageous allegation:

In response, Girl Scout leadership issued public statements and reached out to some famous friends, notably Eleanor Roosevelt, to champion its message. The organization also changed some of its policies in response to the criticism, including edits to its official handbook and the renaming of some badges. Patriotism, although in the guide all along, was placed front and center, with “Star Spangled Banner” verses “inserted prominently on previously blank front pages of the book.” Finally, mentions of any communist state, no matter how minor, were removed, including a sentence that credited China with bringing tea to the world (China was replaced with India in editing).

Here’s hoping the efforts to inject honesty into US History succeed today… and students know that China is the source of tea and maybe NOT the source of Covid. 

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