Sunday, April 22, 2018

Shakespeare BIrthday

SHAKESPEARE STILL STRONG IN RUSSIA
RUSSIANS CELEBRATE THE POET'S BIRTH
By Stephen Wilson
William Shakespeare


MOSCOW -- "As to Shakespeare I could hardly sleep that night...... My first master
in philosophy , and that might seem quite strange to many people ,
was Shakespeare. From him I learnt this menacing and troubling
phrase ; 'The Time is out of joint '. What can one do when such a
thing happens , When the horrors of human existence unveil themselves
to men {to Shakespeare} who become - as time itself is - out of joint?"
stated the famous Russian Philosopher Leon Shestov,[1866-1938},
who was deeply mesmerized when he discovered Shakespeare.

Some Russians might even claim that it is no coincidence that
Shakespeare's birth , 23rd April , which is on Saint George's Day ,
is no accident. This is because Saint George is not only the patron
Saint of England but Moscow. And schools in Moscow continue to
perform his plays with beaming devotion . A 16 year old by the name
of Natasha, who attends a Classical Gymnasium which specializes
in Greek and Latin near Prospect Mir metro station, stated :" I think
Shakespeare is a great genius. I watched my school put on a
performance of Midnight Summer Dream and it was done in the
original. Everything was great. The acting ,decoration and stage
was fantastic. The pupils who performed were often ex-pupils who
were the schools best actors "; The performance had been organised
by the English teacher Marina Yevgenia at the end of the academic
year of 2017. The teacher gives up her Sundays to organize such
performances.

In the town of Voronezh, a conference on Shakespeare will take
place on May 26 to 27th.

The influence of Shakespeare on Russian history as well as culture
can assume unreal forms. It not only surfaces in the musical
symphonies of Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet , and Boris Pasternak's
poetry but in the name given to the unfortunate Tsar , Pavel the 1st
who was called : 'The Russian Hamlet'. The Tsar, who was the son
of Catherine the Great, felt embittered when he learnt that his mother
had plotted the murder of her husband Peter the 3rd. Pavel claimed that
the ghosts of Peter the 3rd had visited him and told him to avenge his
death. When in Venice , Pavel entered the theatre , an actor told them
to halt a performance of Hamlet as there" Would be two Hamlets in the
theatre : one on the stage and the other in the hall" . His counsellors
did not want to encourage his belief in emulating Hamlet in court.
What is it that inspires such interest in Shakespeare from the Russians?
Perhaps it is due to his timeless appeal as a brilliant storyteller . Daniel
Ogan, an American Indian storyteller told me that an effective storyteller
should narrate a story with such intensity that it burns your skin like a
red hot poker. His grandfather even burnt him with a red hot poker lest
he forget the lesson! 

Shakespeare certainly does this. Perhaps his poetry, deep philosophizing , and intense dramatization of questions many people prefer to avoid touches something deep in their souls. And the language is hauntingly beautiful. Others point to an implicit moral message which is subtle. Shestov described Shakespeare as being 'non-judgmental.
Unlike Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky he was never preachy. Yet some implicit
morals for children can be identified in his work 'The Tempest' where
Prospero , the disposed king , forgives those who have stolen his throne.

The group , 'Flying Bananas' entertains children in Moscow with their
performance of 'The Tempest'.They state : 'Our electronic music
interpretation of Shakespeare's tale of redemption and forgiveness will
fill your with feelings of rapture..as you enter the aquascape of the rich
stage world of art and illusion which Shakespeare invokes.'

Of course, many famous people have claimed Shakespeare never even
wrote his plays. Sigmund Freud and Mark Twain claimed he did not.
Charlie Chaplin declared that such a person from a humble background
could not have written in an aristocratic tone of voice. They also declare
that his lack of a university education disqualifies him from being the
author. This is nothing original about this. Shakespeare, in his time,
was snobbishly derided as an 'upstart crow' for lacking a university education.
This logic has to explain how Scotland's best poet, Robert Burns , wrote
brilliant poetry. He never entered university. A university education can
often be overestimated.

It seems that Shakespeare may well have benefited from a superb
classical education in his youth. Shakespeare 's education at a grammar
school involved learning not only how to speak English sweetly and
melodically but mastering the art of rhetoric. This art involved learning
to argue a question from different perspectives encouraging a fresh and
novel open-mindedness. The school offered students lessons in how
to 'to be taught to pronounce everything audibly, leisurely, distinctly and
naturally : sounding out especially the last syllable that each word may
be understood. ' Peter Ackroyd , a writer, wrote : 'It is a good training
for the theatre. It was also a curriculum that encouraged self-assertion.'
It is worth pointing out that Shakespeare lived in turbulent times where
a police state kept a baleful eye on him. This was a time where the
poor were driven off the land by enclosures, and the recurrent plague
devastated and decimated London. The theatre could be closed
down by a whim and rigid censorship. Alleged witches as well as
outspoken Catholics were tortured to death. An example of the
repression is that the great playwright Christopher Marlowe died
in highly suspicious circumstances and the author of 'The Spanish
Tragedy ', Thomas Kyd, was practically tortured to death. After those
two deaths , Shakespeare had no literary rivals! Shakespeare was
almost arrested for performing a subversive play on the eve of
a rebellion by the Earl of Essex Richard the second.

Perhaps the Russian Poet Boris Pasternak made some parallels
with the repression in Russia and felt an affinity with Shakespeare.
What is deeply moving about the characters of Shakespeare is that
they are wholly alive and endowed with an inexorable boundless
energy. They readily acknowledge life with a rare audacity. It is
suffice to quote a line from 'The Twelfth Night' when Orsino states
'If music be the food of love, play on, give me excess of it ..."

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Resolution Open Bargaining

Resolution to Bring Open Bargaining to CTU

(Note:  The following is a draft resolution delegates will present to the Chicago Teachers Union to demand more democratic oversight when bargaining for a new contract. The CTU currently has a "big bargaining team" hand selected to negotiate the teachers union contract.) 


Whereas, membership engagement during contract negotiations is key to winning a strong contract,

Whereas, reengaging CTU members in the bargaining process and giving members agency in negotiations is necessary to build the kind of powerful unity needed to win significant improvements to our teaching and learning conditions in the schools,

Whereas, CTU’s use of the Big Bargaining Team has been a successful first step to broaden membership engagement,

Whereas, the current wave of teachers strikes across the country primarily in red states, has seen new excitement around building teacher power through rank & file-driven resistance,

Whereas, the impending Janus Supreme Court decision means unions must ensure meaningful membership engagement in order to prevent serious membership attrition,

Whereas, Open Bargaining is a strategy used by some union locals to increase membership engagement in the bargaining process and overall union power. Locals conduct bargaining sessions in large, open, sometimes public venues where membership and community members are encouraged to attend and observe the bargaining. Locals also send out detailed weekly bulletins, weekly press releases, and updates via social media in order to ensure transparency. Locals create strong lines of communication for constant membership feedback and voice throughout the bargaining process,

Whereas, other AFT locals such as the Minneapolis Teachers Union have seen great success with the use of Open Bargaining strategies,

Whereas the Chicago Public Schools is a public entity which uses public tax dollars and should be open to public conversations on issues that affect the school system, including contracts.

Be It Therefore Resolved, that the Chicago Teachers Union will develop protocols to use Open Bargaining during our contract negotiations,

Be It Further Resolved, that CTU eBoard will conduct a “Listening Tour” leading up to the beginning of negotiations in order to hear directly from as many members as possible. CTU committees, eBoard, and Leadership will also conduct membership surveys on important contract issues prior to negotiations. A concise platform will be developed of top issues to negotiate around,

Resolved, that the CTU will demand that CPS hold all bargaining sessions in evenings or weekends in venues large enough for ample CTU membership to observe all proceedings. The venue should also be located in a central location that is easily accessible with free/inexpensive parking,

Resolved, that the CTU Bargaining Team shall invite CTU members and retirees, sister unions which operate in our schools, as well as community members to observe in bargaining sessions,

Resolved that the CTU Bargaining Team shall let membership know the specific topics of bargaining in advance and invite experts from membership on the given topic into bargaining sessions,

Resolved, the CTU Bargaining Team shall develop weekly all membership updates using email, newsletters, and/or social media, 

Resolved, the CTU Leadership and Bargaining Team shall develop quick polling strategies using technology and/or phone/text trees in order to get direct and immediate feedback from membership on specific topics,

Resolved, The CTU Leadership and Bargaining Team with the House of Delegates shall develop ways for continuous membership communication throughout the bargaining process. Use of current union structures, ie use of District Organizers, House of Delegates, email blasts, and other forms of communication will be intentionally utilized to create strong two-way communication avenues,

Resolved, the CTU will arrange for the most important bargaining sessions to be live broadcast via social media or other technologies in order to maximize membership participation,

Resolved, the CTU Bargaining Team shall inform CPS that there will be a 48-hour freeze on negotiations prior to the beginning of a work stoppage action in order to communicate with membership about current offers on the table and to prepare for the work stoppage.
 

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Protest Spec. Ed Cuts

CPS parents, teachers demand tough actions from state to protect students with disabilities from service denials, delays
Ask ISBE to appoint independent monitor to oversee CPS reforms and direct CPS to compensate students who were denied services


CHICAGO—CPS parents and teachers are taking their demands for tougher protections for students with disabilities to the state board of education Wednesday, where officials will be considering the results of a five-month probe of abuses in the district's special education program.

Parents and teachers will hold a press conference to outline their findings from the investigation and call on the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) to appoint an independent monitor to oversee the fixes of the CPS special ed department.

Groups also want ISBE to award $10 million in compensatory services for students who were wrongly denied special education programming over the last two years and to direct CPS to make its special ed procedure manual less cumbersome for teachers and more transparent to families.  

WHAT: Special Ed parents and teachers Call to Action at Illinois State Board of Ed

WHEN: Wednesday, April 18, 8:30 a.m.

WHERE:  State of Illinois Building, Thompson Center Lobby, 100 W.  Randolph

WHY:  ISBE is meeting Wednesday to consider the findings of an independent "inquiry team" that has been overseeing the state's probe into CPS special ed service cutbacks. Special ed parents, teachers and advocates will detail their findings before the meeting.

ISBE launched the probe in response to a request from a coalition of parent, teacher and special education advocate groups, who documented how CPS has been routinely denying special ed services to students in violation of federal law.  

Over the last five months, the advocates filed dozens of affidavits from parents and teachers who witnessed those cutbacks firsthand, questioned numerous CPS officials and combed through thousands of pages of CPS documents and data.

The results of the investigation paint a picture of a district bent on implementing policies and procedures designed to delay and deny student services in an effort to cut costs. Parents documented how their children were put in danger because of those polices. And teachers testified how a new "procedure manual," requirements for mountains of new data, and demands that a district representative approve all special ed services hampered their ability to provide services students need and are legally entitled to.  

During the course of the inquiry, CPS also announced that it was changing its special education budgeting process, moving from a controversial school-based budgeting process that allowed special education funds to be moved to other purposes, to one that clarifies that special education dollars are to be used for special education only. This is a partial victory for advocates, they say. Advocates have long-said the school-based decision process was causing harm to students with disabilities.

The inquiry and recommendations are the culmination of decades of frustration with the CPS special education system, brought to a head by two developments.

One was a series of investigative stories last year by Sarah Karp of WBEZ-FM, the public radio station in Chicago. The stories covered the development of a CPS special education manual, which appeared to be designed for the purpose of denying services and supports for students with disabilities in order to save money. The other development was the illegal denial of transportation services to CPS preschool students with disabilities, which angered families and advocates in the early intervention field.

“In 1975, it became the law of the land that every child with a disability had a real right to public education,” said Marca Bristo, President and CEO of Access Living, a Chicago-based disability rights organization. “Over the last few years, it’s become very obvious that CPS was on a path to deny that right through the use of a secret procedural manual developed by budget analysts with zero input from teachers and families. That was the final straw for advocates.”

During the ISBE inquiry hearings, families and educators testified to many cases of denial of services, in some cases resulting in physical harm to children with disabilities. One father of an elementary school aged daughter with severe disabilities testified that although his daughter’s education team agreed that she needed a dedicated aide, CPS delayed services by requiring data collection. The student was denied her IEP that required a dedicated aide because of CPS’s budgetary restraint on proper staffing and the student suffered injuries at school resulting in having to go to the emergency room. 

The ISBE inquiry is also of national interest because it is rare that a state board of education will exercise its power of inquiry.  ISBE’s findings and possible recommendations are of great interest to families, teachers and advocates nationwide.  

“As evidence in this investigation, dozens of parents submitted affidavits detailing egregious examples of how special education services for their children were systemically delayed and denied by CPS,” said Mary Fahey Hughes of Raise Your Hand, a parents coalition supporting public education. “The families of CPS students who have special education needs deserve justice and we expect ISBE to come up corrective action that remedy the gross abuses committed by CPS.”

The special education advocacy coalition includes: Access Living; the Shriver Center on Poverty Law; Chicago Principals and Administrators Association; the Chicago Teachers Union; Parents 4 Teachers; Ounce of Prevention Fund; Legal Council for Health Justice; Raise Your Hand for IL Public Education; LAF (Legal Assistance Foundation); Equip For Equality; Potter and Bolanos, LLC; Matt Cohen and Associates; 19th Ward Parents for Special Education, and Sharon Weitzman Soltman.

# # #
Contact:
Matt Cohen, Matt Cohen and Associates
Olga Pribyl at Equip for Equality
312-995-3849 or olga@equipforequality.org
Mary Fahey Hughes at Raise Your Hand
773-419-0240 or faheyhughes@gmail.com

Monday, April 16, 2018

Fire

ON GOING WAVE OF FIRE INSPECTIONS
By Stephen Wilson

 
" I recall that an acquaintance of mine had just
signed away a lucrative deal where he had
reached an agreement to sell property to a
French firm. He was very happy with the contract because his company would get a
million dollars from this sale. Then one day,
after working in the office all night he stubbed
out his cigarette in a bin . Then he went home.
Later , the whole office went up in flames and
was burnt to ashes. He had to phone up the
French company and inform the deal was off
because there was no longer an office to sell".
Mikhail, a former student of mine who works in
a public relations company told me of this story. We were discussing how a fire could be
sparked off by even the most marginal and
improbable possibilities. You can never be too
sure. This story sprung to mind while I noticed
an increase in notices around block of flats
warning tenants not to violate fire and safety
regulations by blocking emergency exits with
equipment or construction material. Over
the past three weeks, following a dreadful
fire disaster at Kemerovo on March 25, where
an estimated 64 people died , {41 children and
23 adults } , a wave of fire inspections have
been carried out. The move had been ordered
by the General Prosecutor's office. Oksana
Chebotareva ,while entering the doorway asked the caretaker on duty whether the
fire inspector had visited. Local tenants had
been warned not to obstruct or lock fire exits.
Sure enough , an inspection took place.
 
The tragedy at Kemerovo,where 64 victims died
when a mall caught fire shook the whole nation. Shortly after the disaster local people
gathered in the town square to demand answers to many questions such as : Why were many fire exits locked? , Why did it take
so long for the fire brigade to arrive ? Why
was the action of the emergency services so
inept and even casual? What are the real
number of victims ? The callous reaction of
local politicians only further angered local
people . When a man , who had lost his wife,
sister and three children complained to a
politician, he was told : "Stop making PR
out of your grief ! " An indication of an
almost unbridgeable gulf between local
people and politicians is the fact that locals
presume those in authority tell lies. They are
predictable liars. The answers which emerged
from some of those questions were hardly
reassuring . The truth is beyond consolation.
The fire emergency exits to the cinema where
the fire broke out were kept locked to prevent
children sneaking into the cinema without paying. So making money was put above
the health and safety of residents. A lot of
the fire equipment and alarms did not even
go off. In addition, a moratorium on fire
and safety inspections on small businesses
had been signed by President Putin in 2015
as a measure to cut red tape which was
strangling the growth of big business. It was
possibly implemented to contain the corruption
of fire inspectors who turn a blind eye to
malls violating fire and safety regulations.
While this can not be cited as a direct cause
of negligence it may well have been
misconstrued as giving a green light to
overlooking safety in favor of profits. What
is more crucial is not if or how many inspections are carried out but the quality
of such inspections. Are the inspectors
more interested in money or genuinely
concerned about the safety of people?
To most locals who gathered to protest
in Kemerovo it sounds like the former.
Corruption and unchecked commercial
construction companies who use cheap,
shoddy and inflammable material kills.
 
Malls are not the only potential death traps
here . Just casually walk around Moscow
and you will notice that many exits in the
building are locked or sealed . The windows
of homes are often covered by railings. They
keep thieves but potential fires in . For
some reason , people often imagine that
evil, instead of lurking from within , comes
from outside. So the best way to protect
yourself from evil is to turn your apartment
into a fortress. The only problem is that
you yourself might not be able to get out
during a fire. Most domestic violence comes
from within the home and not from maniacs
distantly out there. However, it is more
comforting and flattering to pin point evil
in a precise geographical location. During
the Middle-ages, hell could be found in a
conveniently colorful location on world maps.
 
Not all businesses are casual when it comes
to fire and safety regulations. Just drop into
some Oil companies in Moscow and you
find notices are everywhere informing sfaff
about what to do during a fire and how to
respond. At the offices of Mail Ru, which are
located in a bustling and noisy motorway near
central Moscow , at around 8 .30 a.m. the
security men are all lined up and given a daily
lesson about how to respond to an out break
of fire , a terrorist threat or medical problem.
The chief of security does not just offer a lecture but meticulously questions his men
as to whether they know how to react and
respond. Nothing is taken for granted. It is
a pity that this same procedure is not used
by staff at all offices and malls through Russia
and in deed, in Britain.
 

Friday, April 13, 2018

Anti-Teacher Counter Attack

Group Beloved by Betsy Devos and Koch Brothers Launches Counter-Attack Against Teacher Rebellion

Friday, April 13, 2018By Julia ConleyCommon Dreams | Report

Teachers continue their strike at the state capitol on April 9, 2018, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. (Photo: J Pat Carter / Getty Images)Teachers continue their strike at the state capitol on April 9, 2018, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. (Photo: J Pat Carter / Getty Images)
A right-wing coalition, which has received funding from both the Koch brothers and the billionaire Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, is launching an aggressive attack on the tens of thousands of teachers and education supporters who have been demanding increased school funding and teacher salaries in recent weeks.
As the Guardian reports, the State Policy Network (SPN) is distributing a guide to anti-labor activists across the nation, with the aim of helping them to discredit the protests that teachers have been organizing in Oklahoma, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Arizona.
Such demonstrations, SPN argues in the guide, "hurt kids and low-income families" because they keep students out of schools and can force parents to miss work.
Even the right-wing editorial board of The Washington Post recognizes that it is Republican governments slashing education funding -- not striking teachers -- that is harming to students in the long run.
"What the teachers are protesting also hurts children -- that is, a long-running and systemic disinvestment in public education," wrote the editorial board. "Responsibility therefore lies with the governors and legislatures in these red states who have allowed teacher salaries to get so low."
Notably, while arguing against the protests, SPN also admits that teachers are in fact underpaid, and cautions against portraying educators as ungrateful, as Oklahoma's Republican Governor Mary Fallin suggested last week when she compared the state's teachers -- who have gone a decade without a pay increase -- to "a teenage kid that wants a better car" after they rejected a $6,100 raise and a $50 million education funding package.
"A message that focuses on teacher hours or summer vacations will sound tone-deaf when there are dozens of videos and social media posts going viral from teachers about their second jobs, teachers having to rely on food pantries, classroom books that are falling apart, paper rationing, etc.," reads the memo.
"It's fascinating that even Koch-funded conservatives recognize that there's huge public support for public education and for treating teachers with respect," Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, told the Guardian.
Teachers have stressed that they are fighting for their students' right to a high quality education as well as higher pay for themselves. In Oklahoma, some school districts have moved to four-day weeks to cut costs, while many students have struggled to learn with outdated textbooks and school supply shortages.
The fight for teacher raises has also been waged with children as well as adults in mind. Low salaries have kept qualified Americans from entering the education profession, with teacher training programs reporting a 20 to 53 percent drop in enrollment in recent years. Many teachers have also been forced to leave states where pay is lowest -- leaving school districts to lower their hiring standards.
Countering SPN's vision of children suffering through their teachers' protests, many students have joined their teachers in fighting for increased funding across the education system.
"We're not just here for teacher pay raises," high school sophomore Cameron Olbert told a crowd at Oklahoma's State Capitol earlier this month. "We're here for support staff, for art and music programs that have been decimated over the past decade. We’re here for chairs that don't break when we sit in them. We're here for luxuries and opportunities that other states get to take for granted."
This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.


JULIA CONLEY

Julia Conley is a staff writer for Common Dreams.