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School District Curriculum Website Still Offline in Censorship Dispute with Teachers

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Oakland teachers are still waiting to see if the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) will re-establish a curriculum website that provided federally funded history curriculum units that encouraged students to study and evaluate social justice issues.The website was shut down after Fox News published an article that contained complaints from the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police on one lesson plan.

 

The website, called “Urban Dreams,” consists of 27 curriculum units developed by educators. “Academic and professional freedom is essential to the teaching profession. When these criteria are met, even controversial issues may be an appropriate part of the instructional program,” said National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen Garcia in a letter to OUSD Supt. Antwan Wilson.

 

The site was shut down by OUSD in April, without public notice, immediately after the Fox News story was published alleging that one unit by Urban Dreams teacher Craig Gordon compared Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to Mumia Abu-Jamal, a widely known journalist now serving life in prison for the killing of a Philadelphia police officer in 1981.

Gordon’s unit introduced high school juniors to Dr. King’s views that are more unknown to the public highlighting his opposition to the War in Vietnam and his advocacy of racial solidarity and how his ideas are censored or ignored by mass media. Using what they learned in the unit, one lesson asks students to look at the media censorship and distortion that have impacted the case of Abu-Jamal.

 

As a whole, the lessons in the Urban Dreams curriculum seek to engage students’ critical thinking skills and challenge them to look at historical issues through different lenses. From the point of view of the school district, the Fox News coverage brought attention to staffs’ lack of knowledge about the curriculum website, which meant that the site had to be taken down and evaluated. But according to some community members, the district gave in to Fox and the Fraternal of Police when it shut down the site.

 

In a previous Post article published in July, OUSD Communications Director Troy Flint said staff was reviewing the curriculum to ensure it complied with district standards before making a decision on whether or not to repost the Urban Dreams site. He said the decision on the website would be made soon after the beginning of the school year.

Now, Flint says the plan is to have a decision by December. According to Gordon, a credible source confirmed that OUSD staff has already deemed the curriculum to meet district standards. He also heard of a commitment to repost a revamped site by December or January.

 

“I think there’s at best evasiveness; they’re not being honest, not being straightforward. It seems to me they’re still giving themselves excuses to allow the police to dictate what’s acceptable in Oakland and for our students,” says Gordon.

Flint says, “There’s a lot of information to review…to see how it fits into the overall structural program” of the school district. The district is also looking at how “to provide professional development to make sure teachers are teaching material appropriately” when dealing with controversial topics.

“That takes time,” Flint says.

 

In addition to the position taken by the national teachers’ union president, the California Teachers Association (CTA) has called for the reposting of the Urban Dreams site in support of academic freedom.

 

“As educators, we strongly support curriculum that encourages students to think critically about history and society, and challenges them to examine all perspectives of issues…we again urge OUSD to restore the Urban Dreams curriculum and website,” said CTA President Dean Vogel in a Sept. 24 letter addressed to OUSD Supt. Wilson.

Although Gordon has tried to communicate with the district through the review process, he has received no response. He says he is looking for some direct communication from the district going forward.

 

“I see no reason for delaying to repost the site. The fact that they’re equivocating on their commitment is disturbing,” he said.

Barbara Lee

Congresswoman Barbara Lee Celebrates Birthday at Mills College

Lee’s celebration took place at Mills College Student Union, where, in part, Lee’s political career began.

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Maurice Arnold with Rep. Barbara Lee at a birthday party on the Mills College campus.

On July 24, Congresswoman Barbara Lee returned to her alma mater, Mills College, for a dual engagement.  As the guest of honor, she conducted a local meet-and-greet among special guests, friends and supporters and she also belatedly celebrated her belated, which was on July 6.

Mills College Lokey School of Business and Public Policy hosted the event for Lee.  The   special guests included Oakland’s Councilmember Treva Reid, District 7; BART Boardmember, Lateefah Simon, District 7, Candidate Mia Bonta, AD-18, Post Newspaper Group Publisher Paul Cobb and many more.

Lee’s celebration took place at Mills College Student Union, where, in part, Lee’s political career began.  Her political future was decisively shaped when she took a government course that required her to participate in a presidential campaign. “I invited Shirley Chisholm, the first African American woman elected to Congress, to speak at Mills, and learned that she was running for president,” Lee recalls. “I helped organize her Northern California campaign, and I registered to vote for the first time . . . and the rest is history.”

Whether standing alone as the sole congressional vote against a blank check for endless war, authoring legislation on ending the global HIV/AIDS pandemic, or representing the U.S. House of Representatives in the United Nations General Assembly, Lee carries her Mills education with her. “Mills instilled me with the confidence I needed to achieve my goals,” she says.

Accordingly, we say happy belated birthday and much success to Team Barbara.

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Community

Congratulations to Michelle Mack

Nominated for Teacher of the Year

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Photo courtesy Michelle Mack

Congratulations to Michelle Mack, currently a pre-K lead teacher in Atlanta, Ga., who was nominated for Teacher of the Year. A 2008 graduate of St. Elizabeth’s High School who earned a degree in child psychology from San Francisco State University in 2012, Mack received her master’s from Clark University in 2015.

Mack was recognized by the Easter Seals of North Georgia (ESNG) for “serving five consistent years teaching children and helping families with the same company” and awarded the ESNG-Guice Center Award for Individual Excellence.

 

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Activism

Young Adults Speak Out at Climate Adaptation Seminar

The Alliance of Regional Collaboratives for Climate Adaptation (ARCCA), is conducting a series of seminars entitled “Building an Inclusive and Equitable Adaptation Movement.”  Their recent seminar, held on July 20, focused on the youth and how they could be more recognized and  represented in the climate adaptation space.

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From top left: Tianna Shaw-Wakeman, Skyler Kriese, Moiz Mir, Catherine Foster (Photo by Godfrey Lee)

The Alliance of Regional Collaboratives for Climate Adaptation (ARCCA), is conducting a series of seminars entitled “Building an Inclusive and Equitable Adaptation Movement.”  Their recent seminar, held on July 20, focused on the youth and how they could be more recognized and  represented in the climate adaptation space.
ARCCA is a coalition of the Local Government Commission and represents leading collaborative networks from across California that strive to build regional resilience to climate impacts.  ARCCA members work to enhance public health, protect natural systems, build economies, and create resilient, livable communities throughout California. 

ARCCA members effectively bolster their individual and collective efforts by sharing best practices and resources, identifying strategies to overcome key barriers and challenges, and conducting joint campaigns and projects.

ARCCA believes that the youth have been under-represented in the climate initiative. “It has become more apparent over the years that the youth, with their activism and experience, can have a pivotal role to play in our adaption to climate change. It is the goal of ARRCA, in their work in climate change, to expand the youth’s participation in their projects and actively include them in our leadership phases and decision-making processes,” said Catherine Foster, the moderator of the seminar, and ARCCA’s Climate & Energy Project manager, LGC.

Three college graduates who were involved in the environmental movement on their campuses spoke during the seminar.

Tianna Shaw-Wakeman holds a Bachelor’s degree in psychology and a Master’s degree in Social Entrepreneurship from the University of Southern California, and graduated as the first Black Valedictorian for the Class of 2021. She served and led many of the prominent campus environmental activism groups. “We all work with people who are different places, so recognize the gaps in your knowledge, and also what the other person does and does not know,” Wakeman said.

Skyler Kriese graduated from Santa Clara University in 2020 with a B.S. in Environmental Studies. She is a 2020-2021 CivicSpark AmeriCorps Fellow supporting Butte County Department of Development Services on three grant-funded, long-range planning projects. Following her service year, she will continue her studies at the University of Michigan, pursuing an M.S. in Environmental Justice and Environmental Policy and Planning.

Kriese says that local governments need to identify environment justice communities and address environmental justice in their general plans. This is important so that processes and policies can begin to work and ultimately create healthier communities. 

Moiz Mir was the president of the Environmental Student Organization at California State University Sacramento from 2017–2019. As an intern at the Sacramento Mayor’s Office, he organized youth summits to include students’ voices in the Mayors’ Commission on Climate Change and served on the commission’s Community Health, Resiliency and Equity Technical Advisory Committees. 

Mir advocates building toward inclusivity, to reach out to a more diverse people in the work toward climate adaptation. 

For more information on ARCCA and their upcoming seminars, go to https://arccacalifornia.org/embedding-equity-in-adaptation/ 

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