Friday, January 27, 2012

Cuba: A Model For What to Do When the World's Oil Flow Becomes Drops

One thing we know: "The Oil Binge Party Is Over." The supply of oil will not be able to meet the global demands of the 21st Century. How are humans going to handle this crisis? How do humans take this crisis and make it an opportunity to improve societies by sharing the tremendous wealth that capitalism's use of oil helped to produced? What alternative energy sources are there? And how do we bring them into our lives?

These and many many other questions were raised during Cuba's "Special Period" where oil was extremely scarce in an oil dependent society. The Cuban people and their government found creative ways to survive... and thrive during this "Special Period." We can say that Cuba has survived the imperial blockade onslaught and their oil scarcity crisis.... Thru the 1990s and 2000s, Cuba had reversed an economic and social crisis, transforming its society into one that is now heading more in the direction -not without serious problems- of growth and development.

This documentary shows how Cuba's socialist/people-centered approach to the crisis of oil scarcity was able to help prevent famine and environmental degradation that actually improved the health of Cuba's citizen.

The will of the people in relationship to the state's cooperating infrastructure was/is essential in overcoming this oil scarcity crisis.

In the US, we may have the former. But US capitalism is the key enemy to resolving the coming repercussions of the oil scarcity crises.

Revolution is the Order of the Day!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Tuscon Students Walkout In Protest of Ethnic Studies Ban! 

Students Step Up Tucson Walkouts
Protest School District Folly and Mexican American Studies Banishment

note: For those who did not sign the National Black Education Agenda's petition in support of repealing this racist ruling, please go to:

As the nation watches the Tucson Unified School District’s spiral into disarray, hundreds of students walked out of their Tucson schools Monday in a coordinated protest against the banishment of the district’s acclaimed Mexican American Studies program.

(Photo: D.A. Morales)

Pouring into the downtown Tucson area from Pueblo, Cholla and Tucson high schools, among other institutions, the students brought their march to the offices of floundering Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) administrators. In recent days, administrators and board members have issued a series of conflicting and inaccurate statements and carried out the extreme actions of confiscating books in front of children. Last week, a recently hired assistant superintendent from Texas made a troubing call for the deeply rooted Tucson students–many of whom trace their ancestors to the town founders– to “go to Mexico” to study their history.

In a district with over 60 percent of the students coming from Mexican American backgrounds, the TUSD board “dismantled its Mexican-American studies program, packed away its offending books, shuttled its students into other classes,” according to an editorial in the New York Times on Sunday, because “it was blackmailed into doing so.”

The New York Times referred to the extremist measures of Arizona state superintendent of public instruction John Huppenthal on January 10th, who threatened to withhold millions of dollars if TUSD didn’t terminate the nationally acclaimed program immediately.

As her Tucson school district prepares to celebrate the 140th anniversary of its founding by Mexican American immigrant Estevan Ochoa, Cholla High School student Ahtziri Iñiguez noted that she was following the march in the footsteps of her brother, a graduate of the Mexican American Studies Program.

“I think it’s very unfair that people here don’t let us learn about our own culture,” she said. “My brother took (Mexican American Studies) classes his junior year and he would go home and discuss with my Mom and interested me in education, so I knew I wanted to take these classes.”

Less than two months away from the anniversary celebration of Arizona native and United Farm Worker leader Cesar Chavez, Iñiguez added: “We did this walk out to prove if you want something you should fight for what you believe in, because if you don’t do anything, nothing will change.”

Known as the “Sheriff Arpaio of Ethnic Studies,” Arizona education chief John Huppenthal defended his campaign slogan to “stop la raza” in an extraordinary Democracy Now debate on TV last week. The Tea Party activist Huppenthal has referred to Mexican American students as “Hitler Jugend,” and raised concerns across the nation about possible criminal behavior last summer when he openly misrepresented the results of an independent audit that praised the Mexican American Studies program and found it in compliance with Arizona’s bizarre Ethnic Studies law.

State Rep. Sally Gonzales introduced a bill to repeal the Ethnic Studies crackdown last week. A similar bill to repeal Arizona’s notorious SB 1070 immigration law was also being introduced.

Instead of surrendering to Huppenthal’s crackdown, many community leaders in Tucson called on the Tucson Unified School District board to join a federal court suit against the state and summon the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice to follow up their investigation of Arpaio and investigate Huppenthal for racial profiling, hate crimes, fraud and even extortion.

Last month, when the DOJ charged Arpaio with “chronic culture of disregard for basic legal and constitutional obligations” and a “widespread pattern or practice of…activities that discriminate against Latinos,” Tucson supporters of Ethnic Studies wonder if similar charges could be made for Attorney General Tom Horne and Superintendent Huppenthal, who have invoked violent imagery and pathologically singled out only Tucson’s Mexican American Studies program.

note: For those who did not sign the National Black Education Agenda's petition in support of repealing this racist ruling, please go to:

The dismantling of Mexican-American studies in Tucson schools
By Stephanie Siek, CNN

(CNN) – Nearly two weeks since Tucson, Arizona's, Mexican-American studies classes were suspended, some books have been removed from classes, teachers are uncertain about what curriculum to use and some students said they'd like to give district and state school administrators some homework: Listen to the students affected by the decision.

"I just want to talk to them," said Nicolas Dominguez, a senior at Tucson Magnet High School, where administrators removed several seminal Mexican-American studies texts last week. "I want to talk to them about all of this, and I want to get to know them, because you have to get to know people before you can change them. I think it's essential to become friends with the state superintendent and work together."

The Governing Board of the Tucson Unified School District voted January 10 to suspended its Mexican-American studies program after an administrative law judge ruled it violated a new state law and the state said the local district was going to lose $15 million in annual aid. In a district where 60% of the 53,000 students are Latino, some said they felt like Chicano or Mexican-American perspectives on history have become unacceptable.

This week, seven textbooks associated with the Mexican-American studies program were removed from classrooms, provoking claims of censorship. District leaders said they aren't banning the books, but have removed them from classrooms while their content is evaluated.

The district's Governing Board President, Mark Stegeman, said that copies of some of the books were still available in school libraries. But a search of the Tucson district's school library online catalog, only a handful of copies of each book were available in any of the 11 high school libraries searchable online.

"I feel really disheartened," said Maria Therese Mejia, a senior at Tucson Magnet High School. "Those are our history, you know? It's ridiculous for them to be taking away our education. They're taking (the books) to storage where no one can use them."

Opponents of the book removals say district leaders cut off access to books that give an account of American history from the perspective of Latinos and indigenous people who lived in the Southwest long before Arizona was a state. The books were removed from classrooms on Friday, in at least one instance during class as students looked on.

The Tucson Unified School District issued a statement late Tuesday calling reports of book banning "completely false and misleading."

Contrary to earlier reports which indicated that dozens of books listed as class materials had been taken away, the statement said only seven titles were affected:

"Critical Race Theory," by Richard Delgado
"500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures," edited by Elizabeth Martinez
"Message to AZTLAN," by Rodolfo Corky Gonzales
"Chicano! The History of the Mexican Civil Rights Movement," by Arturo Rosales
"OccupiedAmerica: A History of Chicanos," by Rodolfo Acuna
"Pedagogy of the Oppressed," by Paulo Freire
"Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years," edited by Bill Bigelow and Bob Peterson

"Each book has been boxed and stored as part of the process of suspending the classes," the statement read. "The books listed above were cited in the ruling that found the classes out of compliance with state law."

Arizona State Superintendent John Huppenthal ordered on January 6 that about 10% of the district's state funding, about $15 million over the course of a year, be withheld, retroactive to August 15, 2011, if it did not dismantle its Mexican-American studies courses.

That order followed a December administrative law ruling that the program was teaching "in a biased, political and emotionally charged manner," and upheld a state finding that it violated a 2010 law that bans ethnic studies classes which "promote the overthrow of the U.S. government, promote resentment toward a race or class of people, are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group or advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals." In Tucson, only Mexican-American studies classes were affected.

An education company's independent audit of Tucson's Mexican-American studies program done concluded in May that none of the courses were in violation of that law, that they benefited students and contributed to a climate of acceptance in the schools. The audit suggested a review of two books for curriculum and age-appropriateness: "Message to AZTLAN," a book of speeches and other writings by Chicano civil rights activist Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzales, and "500 Years or Chicano History in Pictures."

"I think in most cases these books never went through a proper review process in the beginning, and they are now being removed, not in a specific review process but in that the state has decided these courses not be taught," Stegeman said.

Stegeman said it's possible some books could be reapproved for the classroom after a review. He said the review might take place before the summer break.

But in the meantime, the district's decisions suspended classes called Latino literature, American history/Mexican-American perspectives, Chicano art and an American government/social justice education project course. With the curriculum dismissed and books removed, teachers say they haven't received clear guidance on how to proceed with teaching their classes for the rest of the school year. They've been told that the district will issue a new curriculum that includes "a balanced presentation of diverse viewpoints on controversial issues," but it hasn't come yet. Teachers said their old curriculum already complied with those standards.

Curtis Acosta, a Tucson High teacher who has been with the district for 17 years, half of them as a teacher of Latino and Chicano literature, said he's frustrated to be without a plan to move forward.

"Now we're told we can talk about race, but it has to be through a multicultural perspective. And if you looked at our (old) curriculum, it was from a multicultural perspective," said Acosta, who said he used the writing of Sherman Alexie, Martin Luther King Jr., William Shakespeare, Ronald Takaki and Jonathan Kozol in his classes.

"I'm not confident one bit to move forward with any writer that has that social justice streak in them," Acosta said. "I have already built something that's multicultural, centered around empowerment of youth and liberates them to make decisions critically and find their own academic integrity."

Students said they're learning a hard but practical lesson about politics.

"For me, what I've learned through all this is that students and youth have a lot of voices that we don't get to express," Mejia said. "We're the ones who will be changed by this situation. We will be the ones who speak out and do marches, and we will be the ones making the future. And no matter what, we have the power to stand up for what we believe."

Students have already staged several marches and a class walkout since the state law was passed in 2010, and another walkout is planned for January 24; students said they will attend a teach-in about Chicano history by University of Arizona professors.

A group of students and teachers, including Dominguez and Acosta, have filed a suit in federal district court to overturn the state law barring ethnic studies.

Outside organizations might get involved, too.

Barbara Jones, director of the American Library Association's Office of Intellectual Freedom, said the removal of the books was a big topic of discussion at the association's 2012 midwinter meeting, which began last Thursday in Dallas. Groups including REFORMA, the Latino librarians' group, the American Indian Librarians' Association and the Intellectual Freedom Committee planned to respond and a coalition of civil liberties groups were researching possible legal action and expecting to release a statement this week, Jones said.

Regardless of the words the district used, Jones said, it's actions restricted access to books, which leads to censorship.

"We're gathering facts. Right now it looks like it's just the curriculum that's affected and not school libraries," Jones said. "But we know from experience this will eventually affect books in the library."

Jones said there have been similar moves in Texas and other states to censor materials reflecting ethnic points of view. Such actions rob students of opportunities to form their own opinions, Jones said.

"If (school officials are) listening to their communities, they should understand that to take ethnic diversity out of curriculum in the 21st century is damaging and hateful," Jones said. "It stifles the conversations we desperately need to have in this country about inclusion, about preparing all people in this country to go in the workforce, to go to college, to be successful in life. And to ban discussion about these types of issues is very damaging to our country and our democracy."