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Magazine

Sojourners Magazine: September-October 2012

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HOW TO MAKE schools work for all children is a hot topic these days—and a vital one for people of faith called to love our neighbors. While the vast majority of private schools are faith-affiliated, nearly  90 percent of U.S. children attend public schools. Their quality is key to the common good. In this month’s issue, experts offer their views on how to fix a situation where, as Expectations Project founder Nicole Baker Fulgham writes, “50 percent of [U.S.] kids growing up in poverty drop out of high school.” Fulgham focuses on learning from the most successful schools and teachers, while encouraging schools, teachers, and parents to work together.

Meanwhile Jan Resseger, of the Justice and Witness Ministries of the United Church of Christ, warns against a “lifeboat” mentality that rewards a few schools, without investing in all to enable the basics—reasonable class size, pre-kindergarten classes, teacher mentoring. Education reform, she notes, can’t work if class analysis is ignored: “Wealthy places put vast amounts of money in schools and poorer places can’t, and our states aren’t equalizing it.” Faith for Change founder Romal Tune offers some practical examples of how faith-based groups can offer material support to their community’s schools, as well as advocacy for them.

This fall marks not only the start of the school year, but also the 50th anniversary of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, the classic book that launched the modern environmental movement and led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency. Today, as humanity’s actions pose the massive global threat of climate change, it’s more important than ever to learn and teach about environmental truths.

One key climate-related vocabulary term comes in this month’s Commentary section: Evangelical environmental scientist Cal DeWitt points out that it’s far more accurate to call oil, gas, and coal “fossil carbons,” rather than “fossil fuels.” This recognizes their millennia-long role in creation’s system of sequestering carbon—a system that is reversed whenever we set part of it on fire inside our cars and power plants. In this case of learn or burn, the planet is at stake.

Cover Story

An advocate for public education argues that trying to make schools "race to the top" while ignoring the role of poverty and school inequality can't bring the systematic change children need.

Feature

How the out-of-control emphasis on high-stakes testing jeopardizes school reform.
Revelations abound when refugees study the Bible's last book.
Four traits of successful public school reform.
Faith for Change seeks to support public education—without crossing the church-state divide.
The Street Psalms community pursues theology from below—and that changes everything about how "missionary" work is done.
Paul Wellstone showed us that politics "by the people, for the people" is actually possible.

Commentary

Just because you can set something on fire doesn't mean you should.
Faith groups celebrate the Supreme Court's health-care decision—and then get back to work.
A California measure would fight crime—and deficits—by repealing capital punishment.

Columns

Please Vatican, censor me. I deserve it.
"We've been caught up in conflict and violence for so long." —Congolese pastor
Women still are forced to operate as second-class citizens in the church.
No, that isn’t a typo. Sojourners stood side by side with Focus on the Family to draw attention to the plight of millions who have been caught up in a broken system.
Sometimes I fly through my schedule so fast that I zoom past the craft.

Culture Watch

Kentucky theater company founder Cathy Rawlings lifts up black culture.
Stanford anthropologist T.M. Luhrmann discusses the social science behind the evangelical relationship with God.
The wonderful thing about Pixar’s Brave is how it negates the historic disempowerment of female fairy tale protagonists.
Ashamed No More: A Pastor's Journey Through Sex Addiction. IVP Books
Solidarity may be all but dead in our politics, but it still lives around the edges of our culture.
My Neighbor’s Faith: Stories of Interreligious Encounter, Growth, and Transformation —  Half the Sky — Between God & Green: How Evangelicals Are Cultivating a Middle Ground on Climate Change — America and Its Guns: A Theological Exposé

Departments

Reflections on the Common Lectionary, Cycle B
Regarding Jim Rice’s column “Fairness for Whom?” (June 2012): One of Martin Luther King Jr.’s prophecies fits the effects of today’s right-wing political agenda with uncanny accuracy: “A nation that continues year afte
Reflections on the Common Lectionary, Cycle B
I really appreciated your article about Ada María Isasi-Díaz, “The Mother of Mujerista Theology” (by Rose Marie Berger, July 2012).
About love she was all wrong, / the old capitalist, patron saint / of the self-made rich. How well / she misunderstood the paradox deep / as mothers’ grief:
Westboro Baptist Church’s absurd notions of humanity are readily evident, in both word and picture, in Joanie Eppinga’s interview of researcher Rebecca Barrett-Fox (“The Face of Hate,” June 2012).

Web Extra

Jonathan Kozol, author of Fire in the Ashes, talks about the gripping stories of poor children, the problems of “obsessive testing,” and how to build a school system worthy of a real democracy. An interview by Elaina Ramsey.
How not to set fire to everything under the sun.
Take a test to measure your “intelligence.”