Saturday, February 25, 2017

Duncan Diltz

Arne Duncan Chicago's Savior to Stop Violence?
By Jim Vail

Arne Duncan helped increased city violence when he closed many schools.

Sports reporter Rick Telander has written a five-part series connecting the Orr High School basketball team and violence on the city's South Side.

While the first part left me a bit underwhelmed (I'm currently reading the next parts), I know Telander's work. He is a very capable Sun Times columnist who is very knowledgeable about sports.

His politics isn't half bad either. He was one of the few mainstream journalists who was against Chicago having the 2016 Olympics because it would have bankrupted the city.

That was at a time when the city's major dailies like the Chicago Tribune heavily backed the Olympics, only to write a recent editorial acknowledging it would have bankrupted the city.

So when I read in Telander's first part about violence and hoops a quote from Arne Duncan, the former Obama education secretary and chief of the Chicago Public Schools under Mayor Daley, I did a double take.

Arne Duncan is the expert on how to curb city violence?

I sent an email to Telander stating that Duncan actually contributed to the city's violence when he closed many Chicago Public Schools under his reign to privatize the schools.

Students and teachers complained that when he went on a rampage to close historical Black high schools like Austin and Calumet on the South Side, the violence in the receiving schools skyrocketed because gang boundaries were messed up.

Duncan is now working with the philanthropic Emerson Collective to build a small team in Chicago focused on creating job opportunities for 17 to 24-year-olds who are neither working nor in school.

This is what the Chicago Tribune wrote last fall:

"Former Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who has spoken with a number of jailed dealers, says $5 an hour is all that some make. 'Forty dollars for eight hours,' Duncan says. 'As a shooter, selling weed. One kid told me he started selling drugs at 8. He told me it was really hard, but he had no choice.'"

Can you get any more cynical? The guy who helped privatize the city's schools, thus increasing city violence among the youth, is now the spokesperson to fight for our youth.

Obviously somebody pitched this story to Telander, and included Arne Duncan. Hilarious.

And don't be fooled by Duncan. His oh shucks demeanor can barely hide a very cunning and ugly representative of the ruling class. His comment that Hurricane Katrina was a good thing (now New Orleans is filled with charter schools which he and Obama promoted endlessly with Race to the Top) proves what he thinks about violence.

And the paper promoting him - The Chicago Tribune - is equally repulsive when their editorialist states Chicago needs another Hurricane Katrina.

The cancer is from above driving our city violence. And the Sun-Times, Arne Duncans and wealthy businessmen need to be stopped, not promoted, when discussing ways to prevent it.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Sex Trafficking Play

Money Make’M Smile Shines Light on Human Trafficking in Chicago
By Jim Vail

Money Make’M Smile is a new play that is playing at the Greenhouse Theater this weekend that focuses on domestic sex trafficking in Chicago. 
There is available seating on February 15, 21, 25 and March 9th.  Greenhouse Theater address is 2257 N. Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL.  You must make reservations for schools and individuals. For individual tickets go to: Brown Paper Tickets

The is the journey of Butterfly Jackson and Robert Whitmore whose lives cross paths in the world of sex trafficking, and end tragically. The play was written and produced by Mary Bonnett, a retired teacher and playwright. Bonnett created Her Story Theater, whose mission is to shine bright lights in dark places on women and children in need of social justice and community support. A few facts on domestic trafficking: Chicago is the third largest hub. The average entry is 12 years old and the average life span is 7 years. It is modern day slavery. Chicago News spoke with the passionate educator and artist who has helped champion the issue of sex trafficking which she hopes will educate today’s youth about the perils of this exploitative and dangerous illegal industry.

Chicago News:           Can you tell us about your background?

Mary Bonnett:             I have BFAs in Theater Arts, English Literature and MA Creative Writing. Before working for CPS, I did professional theater. My last job before coming to Chicago was as a production stage manager for the National Theater of the Deaf in New York City. Once here, I was on the ground floor in developing the theater program for Franklin Fine Arts Center, a CPS school for the arts and integration. Our theater students went on to win local, state and national awards, were featured in films and television. One won an Emmy.  It was nationally recognized as a role model for the Kennedy Center. After retirement from CPS, I created Her Story Theater.

CN:   Tell us more about Her Story Theater.

MB:  All plays are based on interviews with Chicagoans. They are steeped in truth though fictionalized for the stage. We have three goals: 1. Raise awareness on a social issue. 2. Get people pro-active. 3. Financially support a partner. In 2011, the issue was homeless women. We partnered with Deborah’s Place. Myself and Helen Ramirez O’Dell interviewed over 30 homeless women.  Out of those interviews, the play Gloss Over evolved, a series of monologues representing homeless women on our Chicago streets – from domestic violence to alcohol/drugs, runaways, ex-cons, migrants with children and the mentally ill. From ticket sales, we raised $8,000 for Deborah’s Place. In 2012, Her Story Theater focused on domestic sex trafficking and have been working on it ever since.  We are on our 4th production which opens February 11, 2017.

CN:            What did you learn about domestic sex trafficking?

MB:            Sex trafficking is in every state in America. It plagues big cities to rural settings. Our target was Chicago, the third largest trafficking hub in the nation.  To prepare in writing the play, I interviewed Chicago FBI agents, health care workers, social workers, undercover detectives, vice squad, therapists, DCFS, numerous prostitutes, service organizations along with pimps, former trafficked victims and buyers.  Our first production was Shadow Town, a play told from the pimp’s point of view exploring the exploited lives of trafficked victims from four Chicagoland neighborhoods. The journey revealed the girls’ early childhoods, how they all intersected at the crossroads of a trafficker, their induction into ‘the life’ and its impact.  Shadow Town was recognized as one of the ‘Top Ten Best Shows of The Year’ by some Chicago critics. We partnered with Anne’s House and the Dreamcatcher Foundation, raising $10,000 for each charity plus the generous contributions from our audience members.

CN:            What did you learn about the traffickers?

MB:            To clarify, trafficking is where the victim is forced or coerced to work against their will. They have no rights and in essence are help captive, enslaved.  It is a form of modern day slavery.  In that sense, a pimp can be a trafficker, so the two names are often synonymous. Much has changed for the better since I started these interviews in 2012. At that time a pimp who was trafficking a girl was not recognized as such.  The laws were on the trafficker’s side.  $100 misdemeanor for pimping.  The felony charges and arrests were enforced on the victims who took the money.  However, the money ended up in the pimp’s hands.  In the dawn of 2017, much has changed.  It is illegal to traffick.  A 50-year sentence is not uncommon. One pimp received life, another 150 years for the cruelty inflicted upon his victims.  If you are under the age of 18 and someone is selling your body for profit, by law, you are automatically considered a sex-trafficked victim.  Trafficking is an extremely violent world where victims are severely abused both psychologically and physically. It is game of control all in an effort to make money off another human’s sufferings. Like any slave, rules are to be followed, when broken punishment follows.  Victims are profiled, systematically recruited, groomed, seasoned and turned out.  The average entry age is between 12-13 years old. The average life span once in ‘the life’ is 7 years.  Runaways are picked up within 48 hours by a trafficker. Money and identity are confiscated, the victim is at the mercy of their trafficker.  Victims are often branded or tattooed with a symbol or name of the trafficker, often accompanied by a phone number.  Within the last 6 years gangs have become involved with this crime.

CN:            How big is human trafficking here?

MB:            Human Trafficking is a $32 billion illegal business.  It is the third largest illegal business in the world.  It is very close to tying with weapons which is second. Sex trafficking is around $9 billion of that $32 billion. A majority of victims sent to sex trafficking are women and children. Individuals, organized crime and gangs are all involved with trafficking.  The internet and the cell phone have exploded the criminal business giving it access to anyone and everyone.  A person may be ordered and delivered in 30 minutes like a pizza. 70% of the recruitment of victims is done online.  Recruitment is also done in shopping malls, schools, group homes, playgrounds and youth activities.  Anywhere youth are and adults are not paying attention or in the know, traffickers are lurking. 

CN:            What can you tell us about the clients, the Johns who purchase prostitutes?

MB:  97% of the buyers are men. If these men stopped buying tomorrow, trafficking would end. It is an issue of supply and demand. The demand is obviously high.  I wrote The Johns, a play about a man who bought young girls and the impact on his family, community and children in response to this aspect of the issue. Interviews were conducted anonymously by phone.  I also interviewed over a hundred prostitutes either in a group or individually with questions focused on the impact of the buyer on the victim. The males interviewed ranged from criminals to trust fund babies, North Shore wealthy to rural poor. All had their reasons but one common theme among the buyers was their lack of responsibility in recognizing they were a major component of the problem, most saw it as the responsibility of the seller and/or victim.  There are current laws making these buyers accountable. However, they are often not enforced.  Once the public recognizes the purchasing of our youth for sexual purposes is inhumane then perhaps accountability will be pursued by law enforcement and this crime against humanity will be contained.  Currently, we have the largest number of people enslaved in the history of the world.   Of those enslaved, 84% are women and children sold for sex.  On any given day in Chicago,16,000 children are being sexually exploited.  These numbers should outrage our citizens and move them to action to get legislation signed, laws enforced and purchasers arrested.

CN:            Tell us about Money Make’M Smile.

MB:  Our third play, Money Make’M Smile, is written for 7th-12th graders, which is the target age group of the traffickers. It was written for prevention and awareness for educators and students.  It was originally presented last Spring, 2016 at Victory Gardens Theater. 1600 students attended our two-week pilot run.  This year Money Make’M Smile opens on February 14, 2017, Valentine’s Day, at the Greenhouse Theater for a four-week run until March 10, 2017.  10AM Matinees run Tuesday through Saturday.  We are partnering with the Chicago Teachers Union and have developed a teacher created curriculum along with study guide and Saturday workshops for educators.  There are 6 CTU professional credits added if all components are achieved. Go to for further information and forms. Or email for questions. It is free to Chicago Public School teachers and students, busing is free on a first-come first-served basis.  We currently have available seating on February 15, 21, 25 and March 9th.  Greenhouse Theater address is 2257 N. Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL.  You must make reservations for schools and individuals. For individual tickets go to: Brown Paper Tickets 

CN:            What do you have planned in the future?

MB:            Mongers is the fourth play I will have written for the Chicago Sex Trafficking Cycle. It will be performed next year and focus on the online community of men who rate, evaluate and trade numbers of purchased girls and women.  Their online fantasy versus their offline reality.  It will be the last play in the cycle.  We also have customized plays for judges, lawyers, law enforcement and the medical profession.  These plays are written for those on the frontline, like teachers, who can make a difference in saving the lives of countless young victims.  If anyone believes that an individual is being trafficked, held against their will and forced to sell themselves for labor or sex, please contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.  The call is anonymous.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Happy St. Valentine's Day!

By Stephen Wilson

MOSCOW -- "I think it is good thing to celebrate Saint Valentine's Day' as people can express their love for each other by giving presents, flowers and sending cards to each other. What is more, the shops look more beautiful when they are adorned with ribbons and balloons.
I don't see this celebration as bad in anyway', stated a young manager and teacher,the cheerful, lively and astute Olga Avgustan.
A beaming Russian school girl called Anna , 19, informed me : " Everyone in my class got a Valentine's Day card. The boys organised it in such away that every school girl received a card." Those were just a few of the positive comments I heard from young people. They would appear to vindicate the
research of past surveys of Russian attitudes to Saint Valentine's day , which indicate a rising trend amongst Russian youth who see nothing wrong, unpatriotic or immoral about this celebration. Past Surveys by Superjob research centre (2011-2012 ) found a rise from 37% to 39 % of Russians prepared celebrate this day. However, the survey found that almost half the population would not support it for all kinds of reasons , such as 'Our culture does not benefit from such foreign holidays' and some prefer to celebrate : ' The Day of Family , Love and Loyalty' or better known as 'The Day of Saint Fevronia , the Orthodox Patron of Marriage, on the 8th of June. Since this was only declared an official holiday in 2007 not many Russians are aware of it. However, some pragmatists do anything not to miss a
celebration: whether Soviet, Western or Orthodox !
Some Russians have informed me that they fear their own Russian customs and celebrations are beng undermined by the intrusive encroachment of western influence. A Russian informed me : " Many years ago very few Russians would go to restaurants or pubs to meet each on a social occasion. Instead, they would invite their friends home and have a special meal prepared. Now, it is the fashion to eat out".
In fact, during the 1990's , the people who visited restaurants were often viewed as 'criminals' or 'gangsters', and it was dangerous to visit such places. However, the expensive cost of food and drinks deterred most Russians from visiting those places.
A quick walk around the streets of Moscow and a brief glance at the newpapers indicates that Saint Valentine's day , as in the west, is largely a commercial project. Make love and a little money . For the first time in years, this author came across Saint Valentine's cards printed in Russian. I never had to embark on a long search. In my local bookshop, notices are hanging from the ceiling announcing how "Spring is the time of love '.
Of course, some die hard Orthodox believers oppose this celebration on the grounds it is 'a Catholic celebration' . However, if this is the really the case, how do they explain the fact that many of their own Orthodox believers are
celebrating it as well as non-Christians ? Saint Valentine's day has become so secularised in the west that it can be celebrated by just about any hopeless romantic. Are all those secular romantics secret Catholics ?
Is there anything really wrong with celebrating Saint Valentine's day ? I was informed at school, that on this day you were supposed to secretly send an unsigned letter declaring your love for someone . Part of the fun was that
nobody knew (and might never know ) who had sent the letter. In this sense, it was harmless .It was when people started to send letters as a joke or prank pretending to love someone, or making a parody of love ,as in Thomas Hardy's novel , 'Far from the Madding Crowd', that the popularity of this celebration plunged at the end of the 19th century and early 20th century.
It was only after the mass destruction of the First World war , that the celebrating resumed. So this celebration can be abused not only for commercial but cynical reasons. Some people actually don't think that people are capable of loving with real sincerity and intensity. Love seems a charade or an invented fairy tale. But if there is a lack of love in the world,
all the more reason to express, affirm and display it through wishes, flowers, presents and generous acts. We need not only Saint Peter and Fevronia but Valentine and all the other celebrations to encourage rather than dampen down the fire of love.
One of the saddest things about the education system, in Russia , and in Britain, is that very few teachers ever teach their children the art of loving. They don't even consider this a priority. The nature of love is not even clearly defined never mind taught. Instead , people misconstrue love as being like a natural thing which just happens or is simply an emotional
state. People spontaneously 'fall in love' or 'feel a strong desire', rather than grasp that love is an active thing where the lover has to work hard, long and attentively. The lover is always helping his friend in small things , every day and never takes her for granted. The German thinker, Fromm, at least attempted to define love in his book :' The Art of 
Loving'. He maintained that the lover had to respect, take an active interest, have knowledge and actively care about the person. The lover had to also allow the loved person a degree of inner freedom and space.There was no manipulation, mind games or 'You do this for me, if I do this for you'.
The poet Robert Burns put it well be declaring that ; 'love was a form of exalted friendship.'
Saint Valentine's day ought to be a day where people can at least freely debate and discuss how to more ardently love people . We have to acknowledge that romantic love is just a stepping stone to a deeper, more purified love. This love assumes many forms : the Platonic, a mother's love , a brotherhood or family relations. For instance, it is important to raise whether there actually exists a 'maternal instinct '!
Now if you read up on the legend of Saint Peter and Fevronia of Murom, you will find that most Russians were opposed to Prince Peter marrying Fevronia because she was a simple peasant. Prince Peter had to be deeply humbled into learning to genuinely love Fevronia. Despite the fact that both of them insisted on being buried in the same coffin , the locals opposed this , and even separated them into different burial plots. However, after death they refused to be separated. Every time the locals opened their tombs they found them them together again in the common tomb.
It is worth remembering that according to Orthodox belief, people don't love each other until 'death parts them ,' but even after death ! In this sense, love is intended to break all barriers. Now maybe we love each other incompletely, partially and imperfectly. But it is never too late for any of us to learn how to love. Saint Valentine's day is not a bad time
to start !


Sunday, February 5, 2017

Low Teacher Pay

By Stephen Wilson

Moscow -- Drastic cuts in teacher's pay in the Komsomolsko region at a school in Ivanovski appears to have shocked some of the complacent Ministers of the Russian Duma . The Russian teachers had sent a letter to the Speaker of the Russian Duma, Valentina Matviyko, claiming their salaries
had fallen from an average of 20,000 rubles a month, to 14,000 , and in one school , down to an abysmal 7000 rubles. ( approximately 115 dollars a day)
How can anyone survive on 115 dollars a day ? The staggering unreal revelation dumbfounds Russians, never mind many Americans !
The speaker expressed embarrassment when she heard that teachers were receiving such a pittance. She stated : " On paper, the May declaration (a government promise where the salaries of both teachers and doctors would be doubled from 2012) looks smooth, but when it comes to concrete schools,
the real situation is utterly disgusting . How can a teacher get by on 7000 rubles a month? Who can exist on that pay?"

At last, someone in the Russian Duma has woken up to the fact that current teacher's pay in the regions is, to put it mildly - shameful. That it has taken years for someone in the Russian parliament to openly acknowledge and admit this indicates how out of touch many Russian ministers are. One can be forgiven for thinking they live in another planet.
The Russian minister has promised to take action by having a talk with the Minister of Education and Science. The response of the Education minister was a promise to fire the headmaster of one school in Novokuznetski should it be confirmed that the pay was delayed for several months. The most possible explanation lies with growing indebtedness of teachers and schools who can't afford to pay utility bills, rampant corruption ,and a highly inept and unjust way of distributing salaries.
However, the attitude of the speaker at least represents progress in contrast to the insolent attitude of the current Prime minister, who suggests teachers become businessmen in their 'free time'. One of the reasons why the members
of the Duma display a contempt for teachers is because their main criterion of respect is how much money people make. They believe being a businessman should represent the highest aspiration of a person. It is beyond their imagination
to grasp that there exist people whose main goal in life is not to make as much money as possible , obtain possessions and power but, to say, create a work of art, or teach a person for free. They presume everyone must think in the exact way as themselves. Yet in Russia , I have met dentists who have
been treating patients for free, and masseurs who refuse to take money for giving massages. Now, at least there are some Russian ministers who are wakening up and acknowledging another world exists.


School Uniforms?

By Stephen Wilson

Moscow, Russia  -- A recent ban by a school in a Tatar village of Mordovia has provoked a heated discussion between the Minister of Education, Olga Vasilyeva, and the bellicosely ominous President of Chechnaya. The Mordavian
school , perhaps following the example of schools throughout France, decided to forbid the wearing of the Hijab in order to emphasize the secular nature of the Russian education system. The Minister of Education was perceived as lending moral support to the school's adopted dress code.
Vasilyeva claimed that : " We have a secular based education system . The Constitutional court made a decision that the Hijab , as an attribute of nationality, must have no place in our schools. Therefore I believe that this decision has already been made by a Constitutional court. " Vasilyeva further stated that : 
"A truly religious people do not emphasize their faith with paraphernalia. "
Unfortunately, the Minister's intervention was misjudged by much of the Russian media which claimed she , herself , had banned the hijab in schools. However, this a far cry from what actually happened. The Minister of Education lacks
the legal power to impose such widespread ban of the Hijab throughout Russia.
The choice of dress code in schools , draconian or otherwise, is largely left to the local authorities in Russian districts and school headmasters are allowed some discretion as to what dress code students must observe.
But her statement provoked the wrath of the Chechen President who thundered back that : " The Hijab is not an attribute of nationality, but an important part of the dress of Muslims ,who are obliged to wear it by the Almighty Allah and
Prophet. Vasilyeva correctly states that this is 'her personal opinion ', but this remains her opinion , as it is not accepted by the full force of the law. My three daughters go to school wearing the hijab and get excellent marks. Does Olga Vasilyeva suggest they take off those headscarves ? Those girls will never do this !
Do I have to remove them from school to look for another school which allows children to be Muslims ? " Kadyrov also argued that : " I think that the issue of whether to wear headscarves is a deliberate way to distract the attention of
society from the real problems in school : drug addiction, drunken behaviour, crime and the systematic sexual abuse of school children by teachers."
The last point refers to recent reports made by the media concerning the alleged sexual abuse of school students in not only the elite school 57 in Moscow but other schools such as 'the League school.'. In recent days there have been
a wave of revelations from former students of how they were abused many years ago by teachers. A taboo appears to have been breached after a tensely traumatic silence.
The response of Putin's press secretary was : " We would not want to take sides in this dispute". In other words , they don't see any point in pouring oil over burning water.
What is permissible to wear at school often arouses angry emotions. Few people take this in their stride. It can also provoke bitter memories of school. Many years ago, a young Journalist called Yelena told me : " During the Soviet period a
school teacher scolded me in class for not wearing my red pioneer scarf. I was sent home and told not to come school without it. It was a petty rule. I never got a red school diploma because of my rebellious behaviour".
Second City teacher spoke to some students and teachers on what they thought about imposing a dress code. We obtained different responses. Some believe that the wearing of a school uniform helped maintain discipline , dampened
inequality and discouraged snobbery amongst students. However, other students regarded it as an additional expense parents could ill-afford and a threat to the personal freedom of students. When it came directly to the issue of the hijab , one teacher informed me she supported the ban as : " This dress is worn by many Islamic terrorists . It helps to promote it."
A young student of law, who I'll call Mikhail, stated : " I don't agree with schools in Europe and Russia forbidding the Hijab as it violates the individual expression of identity of school students. What surprises me is how several years ago the Court of European Human rights defended the right of institutions to forbid the wearing of the Hijab. I would have expected a better response from them ".
In deed, in France , many Russians are horrified to learn that children in schools have often been forbidden not only to wear the hijab but crosses. It is interesting to note that when Orthodox Christians learn that a ban on religious expression
of any kind would also hit them, their attitude to Muslims wearing of the Hijab softens. The begin to empathize with indignant Muslims.
Many people would agree with the sentiments expressed by Olga Vasilyeva that a truly religious people doesn't need to emphasize their faith with too much paraphernalia. For instance, the idea that a person is more 'Orthodox' 
because he wears a kerchef , tall skirts and a cross overshadows the most important aspects of Christianity which are to love and aid others, and practice virtues while refraining from killing, stealing or bullying. The outer aspects of a religion can imperceptively cancel out the inner parts . A despiritualised formal religion based on appearance arises . So an Orthodox person believes he becomes closer to God because he grows a beard.
We can forget the essence of religion is to reunite humanity, with or without beards!

Saturday, February 4, 2017


CTU Protest Kind of Muddled
By Jim Vail

The Chicago Teachers Union appeared to kind of play catch up after the Chicago Public Schools announced two weeks ago that would furlough four days of professional development so that the teachers would not get to work or be paid.

This amounted to a 2% pay cut, to wipe out any raise in the recently agreed upon contract, and it violated the teachers contract which mandated a certain number of days of professional development.

The question was what is the union gonna do about this recent attack on the teachers which clearly appears to be revenge for not giving up the pension pickup which CPS must continue to pay.

Then it was announced that there would be a "grade-in" in which on the furloughed day of no work, the teachers would gather in front of the mayor's office and grade papers.

Surely, agit prop, theatrical protest to say this is what we are supposed to be doing. 

It wasn't an action I wanted to promote to my teachers at Hammond School. It sounded too silly.

And a high school delegate at the last HOD meeting this past Wednesday said the whole idea is that we are not working on this day, so the grade in is wrong.

CTU President Karen Lewis quickly agreed and changed the name of the motion to a protest, not a grade in.

The TV news still reported the Friday, Feb. 3rd protest as a "grade in" and the CTU made it a professonal development day by having speakers discuss immigration rights of students and student trauma.

A teacher even asked if they could get CPDUs, or credits that go toward renewing your teachers license every 4 or 5 years.

The protest had maybe 200 teachers in red show up with chants against the furloughs. I agreed with furlough the mayor, fire the mayor, etc. I noted ironically that the protests to make Chicago a sanctuary city to protect our immigrant students the mayor himself could have joined in chanting with us.

But the professional development part started, I left.

I'm not sure what the CTU's plan is with this latest troubling assault on our agreed-upon contract that bypassed a strike.

When the furlough days were announced, the CTU should have a plan in place to rigorously defend our contract and say no. Protest - file a grievance, etc. 

Why wait, and instead appear more interested in Trump protests - I agree they're important - but put our own union attacks on the back burner.

It also was confusing about another motion passed at the HOD to advocate turning in grades late, and slowing down paper work. It was confusing, and the union leaders said the individual schools should decide how to protest.

That's not real leadership. One school can get in a heat of trouble like Saucedo when they were one of only a few schools to protest the Parcc exam.

Either we are united and fight together strong, or we don't.