Imani walked down the hall with a paper cup in her hands.
She stopped and held up the cup to me. Inside of its paper walls were soil, water, and seeds — all those humble and elemental things that build a third-grader's scientific knowledge.
Imani was growing cabbage.
She was my student last year. She loved science and writing. I remember the look of wonder in her eyes when we studied weather. We learned about tornadoes. In my classroom, I had two 2-liter bottles connected by a tornado tube, a plastic piece that allows you to make a tornado by swirling the water around and around in one of the bottles. Imani held the bottles in her hands and marveled as her water formed into a giant, powerful funnel cloud.
"Wow," she whispered.
I love the sound of learning.
In Roald Dahl's classic children's book James and the Giant Peach, 7-year-old orphan James Henry Trotter escapes his two rotten, abusive aunts by crawling into a giant peach. The peach rolls, floats, and flies him to a new life of wonder and love.
I'm reading this book aloud for the first time, and my listeners are spellbound by the story, especially the part where the very small old man opens the bag filled with magical crocodile tongues that will help a barren, broken peach tree grow fruit as big as a house.
"There's more power and magic in those things in there than in all the rest of the world put together," says the man.
“What do you want to be when you grow-up?” is the pressure filled question that people begin asking as soon as they feel young people are old enough to answer.
From there it only gets worse. It’s a question I hated answering. Adults and media filled my mind with careers that would make me financially secure and, in their minds, happy. So these careers filled my answers: doctor, lawyer, and pharmacist. I would be something important, and life after college would be financially easy.
I babysat often through high school and remember a mom asking the dreaded questio
This year, as we start Sunday School and churches come back from summer schedule, I want to introduce you to one of my favorite singer/songwriters, Bryan Moyer Suderman. It’s rare that you find music that appeals to all ages with a strong social justice focus, healthy theology, inclusive language, environmental concern, and really good musicianship.
As Brian McLaren and Dave Csinos wrote in the intro to Bryan’s new CD:
Bryan takes up the challenge of uniting the old and the young, the tall and the small, with songs of faith that echo the depth, beauty, struggle, complexity, and unconventionality of walking in the way of Jesus.
Bryan is a minstrel, a prophet, a visionary, and a follower of Jesus who invites listeners of all ages to join him in “infiltrating the world with the love of God.” His music is captivating, his lyrics are theologically-rich and thought-provoking, and his voice invites us all to live God’s kingdom wherever we are.
Editor's Note: Over the next two weeks, Sojourners is celebrating our teachers, parents, and mentors as children across the country head back to school. We'll offer a series of reflections on different aspects of education in our country.
My elementary school is a Title I school. About 97 percent of our students qualify for free and reduced lunch and Medicaid. Research shows us that many children raised in poverty struggle to learn to read.
Common sense tells us that children who don't learn to read can't read to learn. They often reach a frustration level with school by the time they're in the third grade. According to the U.S. Department of Education, 70 percent of low-income fourth-grade students can't read at a basic level. I often wonder, "What can I do in my day-to-day work as a teacher to help?"
Every morning at 7:15, the doors of our school open wide to a line of bus riders ready to come inside. "Hello, Jaheem. Hi, Kiara. Hey, Imani. Hope you're having a good day, Omar," I call out as the students walk past me to the cafeteria for breakfast. I stand at the doors for a moment and watch the big, yellow buses puff their diesel exhaust and chug their way to the garage until it's time for their afternoon run.
Is there a more universal symbol for public schools than a big, yellow school bus?
For The Huffington Post, Robert Gallucci writes:
Around the world, 35 million girls who should be in primary or secondary school are not; half of them are in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the World Bank. For those of us committed to addressing global poverty, improving education for girls may be the closest thing to a silver bullet.
Read the full piece here
Last Friday, on his weekly show Real Time with Bill Maher, the not-so friendly atheist, Mr. Maher took issue with the Santorum families decision to homeschool their children. Here’s what he said:
"But I bring up the old tale of the poisoned apple — no, not "Snow White," that's a fairy tale — because the Adam and Eve story is taken literally by half the country and it's no coincidence that the type of tree which god forbade Adam and Eve eating from was the Tree of Knowledge. Rick Santorum homeschools his children because he does not want them eating that f--king apple. He wants them locked up in the Christian madrassa that is the family living room not out in public where they could be infected by the virus of reason. If you're a kid and the only adults you've ever met are mom and dad, and then they're also the smartest adults you've met, why not keep it that way? Why mess up paradise with a lot knowledge? After all, a mind is a terrible thing to open."
Santorum took exception to these comments. For good reason.
My parents made the decision to homeschool three out of four of their children at some point during our K-12 years. They invested both time and resources because they believed it was the best thing they could do for our development and education at that time.
Earlier this week, I wrote about how nostalgia expressed in contemporary politics points to the privilege of those longing for the “good old days.” In doing so, I stumbled onto a theme I’ve decided to explore throughout the week. Namely, I’m interested in how it is that inspired vision – unconstrained by “what ifs” or fear of change – might break down barriers to opportunity and help overcome systemic privilege that holds some people back from realizing the same potential as others who are more fortunate.
I wrote an article a little while back about the lingering effects of colonial power on institutional education, and how it continues to limit access for those without certain privilege to connect with it. Well, it turns out there are some folks already trying to do something about this, and it’s pretty exciting.
Sebastian Thrun, a professor at Stanford in computer science, worked recently with Google to create a revolutionary self-driving car. As if this wasn’t enough, Thrun went on to develop an idea that would at once shift the educational landscape across the planet.
From President Obama's 2012 State of the Union Address:
The defining issue of our time is how to keep that promise alive. No challenge is more urgent. No debate is more important. We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well while a growing number of Americans barely get by, or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, and everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules. (Applause.) What’s at stake aren’t Democratic values or Republican values, but American values. And we have to reclaim them.
Let’s remember how we got here. Long before the recession, jobs and manufacturing began leaving our shores. Technology made businesses more efficient, but also made some jobs obsolete. Folks at the top saw their incomes rise like never before, but most hardworking Americans struggled with costs that were growing, paychecks that weren’t, and personal debt that kept piling up.
Read the full text of the SOTU Address inside the blog...
Obama To Take On Economic Anxiety In Election-Year State Of The Union, Amid GOP Attacks; Black, Latino Students Perform At Levels Of 30 Years Ago; Obama Offends The Catholic Left; Evangelicals And Romney: Should Theology Matter?; What’s Up With The Arab League?; "Self Deportation": It's A Real Thing, And It Isn't Pretty; Who Are Boko Haram and Why Are They Terrorizing Nigerian Christians?; 2011 Annual Letter From Bill Gates; Florida GOP Debate: Immigration Proposals Anger Protesters; An Occupy Prayer Breakfast: There Is Enough For Everyone!; Violence Spikes In Key Afghan Regions.
In the nearly 20 years I have been a working journalist, occasionally I have been tempted to intervene in the stories I have been assigned to cover. Most of the time, I have not, and that was probably the right choice. But once upon a time, about four years ago, I crossed the line. In a big way. I intervened because the life of another person was at stake and I knew that my calling was to be human, to react, to help, to do whatever I could to save a life. It's the best decision I've ever made. Hands down.
As I read a remarkable story in the Toronto Star newspaper, I wondered if the paper's veteran foreign correspondent, Paul Watson, now feels the same way.
Earlier this month, Watson, who is Canada's only Pulitzer Prize-winner, arrived in Toronto from Kandahar, Afghanistan with a very special package: a 17-year-old Afghan girl forced to flee her homeland, in the reporter's care, to escape certain death at the hands of Taliban assassins.
Last Thursday, Jan. 12, I was arrested in the Bronx for civil disobedience along with 43 others. It was a group that consisted mainly of clergy and church laity, a grassroots evangelical effort led by Bronx Councilmen Fernando Cabrera. Our protest was aimed at the city’s decision to prevent 160 churches from renting worship space in public schools beginning, Feb. 12.
I would like to clarify the nature of my involvement. I remain a proponent of healthy boundaries between church and state. The church I presently lead does not meet in a public school, and we’re not faced with an impending threat of relocation. My inspiration to protest began when I discovered how the city’s decision would affect churches in the Bronx — the poorest urban county in the country.
If New York City remains a trendsetter, a decision like this could lead to numerous copycat decisions in poorer districts all over the country.
With the opening of the G20 Summit in Cannes, France today, an idea that's been around for awhile is in the news again and gaining more attention as a result of the #OWS movement: The so-called "Robin Hood tax," a minimal tax on all financial transactions with the resulting revenue dedicated to anti-poverty programs....Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, in his response to the occupation of St. Paul's Cathedral in London, endorsed the Vatican proposals. Williams observed that "people are frustrated beyond measure at what they see as the disastrous effects of global capitalism," and urged a full debate on "a Financial Transaction Tax
Nearly 50 million Americans are currently living below the poverty line (that is $22,000 for a household of four) and half of them are working full time jobs.
In our current economic system, the "happiness" of the super-elite is secured while the lives, liberty, and access to basic needs of the rest suffer. This isn't the American Dream and it isn't God's dream either.
Between 1964 and 1973, under both Democratic and Republican administrations, the U.S. poverty rate fell by nearly half (43 percent) as a strong economy and effective public policy initiatives expanded the middle class.
Similarly, between 1993 and 2000, shared economic growth combined with policy interventions such as an enhanced earned income tax credit and minimum wage increase worked together to cut child poverty from 23 percent to 16 percent.
We can't do this alone.
In our own time the "jobs" rhetoric from both the right and the left ignores the power grabs and power differentials that led to the hemorrhaging of American jobs in the first place. The simple truth is that multinational corporations could make more money for their shareholders by outsourcing jobs to third-world countries so that is what they did.
This was not a moral dilemma for CEOs; it was a "sound business decision." And the gospel according to free-market capitalism (the USA's true religion) preaches that what is good for American business is good for America.
The puzzle here is not that readers of the Bible would tilt toward the political left. That, for me, as well as for thousands of other American evangelicals, is self-evident. Jesus, after all, summoned his followers to be peacemakers, to turn the other cheek, to welcome the stranger and to care for “the least of these.” He also expressed concern for the tiniest sparrow, a sentiment that should find some resonance in our environmental policies.
No, the real conundrum lies in the subtitle the editors of Christianity Today assigned to Franzen’s article, which was titled, “A Left-Leaning Text.” Adjacent to a picture of a Bible tilted about 45 degrees to the left, the editors added the subtitle: “Survey Surprise: Frequent Bible reading can turn you liberal (in some ways).”
The fact that anyone should register surprise that the Bible points toward the left should be the biggest surprise of all.