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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

Faith for Change seeks to support public education—without crossing the church-state divide.
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.
Four traits of successful public school reform

Feature

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.
How the out-of-control emphasis on high-stakes testing jeopardizes school reform
Revelations abound when refugees study the Bible's last book

Commentary

A California measure would fight crime—and deficits—by repealing capital punishment.
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.

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.
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

Four September-October 2012 culture recommendations
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.

Departments

Letter to the Editors
Reflections on the Common Lectionary, Cycle B
Letter to the Editors
Letter to the Editors
Reflections on the Common Lectionary, Cycle B

Web Extra

How not to set fire to everything under the sun
Take a test to measure your “intelligence.”
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.