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Archive for the ‘Robert C. Koehler’

Will We Ever Learn?

April 07, 2014 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Politics, Robert C. Koehler

High-Stakes Testing Undermines the Essence of Teaching

by Robert C. Koehler

A mind is a terrible thing to test, especially a child’s mind — if, in so doing, you reduce it to a number and proceed to worship that number, ignoring the extraordinary complexity and near-infinite potential of what you have just tested.

“In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty.” What if?

What if the American education bureaucracy understood these words of Ralph Waldo Emerson and honored the latent genius of every student? What if it funded teachers and schools with as much enthusiasm as it did corporate vendors? What if, in some official way, we loved kids and their potential more than the job slots we envisioned for them and judged them only in relationship to their realization of that potential? What if standardized testing, especially the obsessive, punitive form that has evolved in this country, went the way of the dunce cap and the stool in the corner? (more…)

Voices of Pain and Peace

March 12, 2014 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Culture, Politics, Robert C. Koehler

Film Festival Highlights Anguish … and Hope

by Robert C. Koehler

No matter how bad it gets, we can look inside ourselves and find hope, possibility … the future. And when we find that, we know what it means to build peace.

“It’s like I’m in a never-ending battle with my brain,” Kayla said. “They called me Crazy Kayla. I have anger problems. Someone messes with me, I lose it. I was molested, raped, physically and mentally abused. I was in 127 different homes. I have a 3-month-old baby…”

Peace isn’t the avoidance of difficult topics but their thorough, unstinting examination, not with cynicism and despair but with the certainty that salvation is mixed into the pain. All we have to do is find it.

This is precisely what a good documentary film does for us, and there are so many of them out there these days. Thirty-one such films were showcased at Chicago’s sixth annual Peace on Earth Film Festival, an event I’ve been associated with since its beginning. The four-day festival, which was held March 6-9 (free of charge, as always) at the Chicago Cultural Center, takes on a mélange of provocative subjects: Fukushima, agribusiness, gun violence, forgiveness in the wake of violence, hospice care for prisoners, childhood mental illness, and much more. (more…)

Walk Softly

February 22, 2014 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Ecology, Economy, Robert C. Koehler

Toward a Profound Reverence for Planetary Balance…

by Robert C. Koehler

“When you go to dig your fields, or make a pot from clay, you are disturbing the balance of things. When you walk, you are moving the air, breathing it in and out. Therefore you must make payments.”

Oh, unraveling planet, exploited, polluted, overrun with berserk human technology. How does one face it with anything other than rage and despair, which quickly harden into cynicism? And cynicism is just another word for helplessness.

So I listen to the Arhuaco people of northern Colombia, quoted above at the Survival International website, and imagine — or try to imagine — a reverence for planetary balance so profound I am aware that when I walk I disturb it, so I must walk with gratitude and a sense of indebtedness. Walk softly, walk softly . . .

Instead, I live in this world: (more…)

A People Rise

January 23, 2014 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Family, Robert C. Koehler

Beyond Our Broken Dreams

by Robert C. Koehler

Every night gunshots lullaby me to sleep
In ruins of abandoned buildings
the broken glass is
where we bottle up all our broken dreams….

Hold the dream with me, as it breaks loose from Jameale Pickett’s poem. Something beyond the insane dance of crime and punishment is happening, at least this year, this moment, in Chicago’s high schools. Young people are getting a chance to excel and become themselves, as more and more schools find and embrace common sense, also known as restorative justice.

The funding is fragile, precarious, but some schools in struggling communities are figuring out how to break the school-to-prison pipeline, even though the system as a whole remains wrapped up in suspensions, expulsions, zero tolerance and racism.

“The Obama administration on Wednesday urged school officials to abandon unnecessarily harsh suspension and expulsion practices that appear to target black students,” the Chicago Sun-Times reported recently. (more…)

Trivializing Peace

November 28, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Politics, Robert C. Koehler

We Lose Every War We Fight…

by Robert C. Koehler

What goes around comes around . . . and around, and around.

Last month, the day after I left Santa Rosa, Calif., a 13-year-old boy carrying a toy replica of an AK-47 was shot and killed on the outskirts of that town by a Sonoma County deputy sheriff with a reputation for being trigger-happy. The officer had ordered the boy to drop the “gun,” then in a matter of two or three seconds opened fire, giving him no chance to comply.

This is not an isolated incident, which is why it’s yet one more tragedy I can’t get out of my mind — one more logical consequence of the simplistic militarism and mission creep that’s eating us alive. This is gun culture running unchecked from boyhood to manhood, permeating national policy both geopolitically and domestically. This is the trivialization of peace. It results in the ongoing murder of the innocent, both at home and abroad, at the hands of government as well as criminals and terrorists. (more…)

Reclaiming ‘Chiraq’

November 14, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Politics, Robert C. Koehler

Repairing Justice and Rebuilding Community

by Robert C. Koehler

I felt the music and the fire as the civil rights movement rose from its slumber.

“Repair . . . justice!” went the call and response last week, in the basement of an old Chicago church at the corner of Ashland and Washington. “Restore . . . life! Rebuild . . . community!”

There was Gospel music and hand-clapping, passion and politics. The Reclaim Campaign launched and the Rev. Alvin Love said, “This is just the beginning. It’s going to take all of us. We’re going to leave this place mobilized, energized and activated. The work begins NOW.”

Reclaim “Chiraq.” The kids are dying. That’s what they call Chicago: “Chiraq.” The situation has to change; the community has to rebuild.

(more…)

One of Us

November 08, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Politics, Robert C. Koehler

Corralling the Loners and Stemming the Violence

by Robert C. Koehler

Another crazed, furious loner shocks the world. This time I’m a little too close to the edge of the chaos.

I gape at the TV in disbelief: I’m supposed to fly out of Los Angeles Airport — Terminal 3, no less — that afternoon, but all I see is footage of scrambling police and snarled traffic. If I’d booked an earlier flight, I could have been sitting there when the 23-year-old gunman shot the TSA agent at the foot of the escalator, then wandered through the gate area with his rifle and his grievances.

There are worse things in life than having to reschedule a flight. I postponed my return to Chicago for two days. Now that I’m back, I’m still thinking about last week’s killer-rampage spectacle, which culminated in the wounding and arrest of the suspect, Paul Ciancia. Afterward came the media’s smattering of sound-bite psychology. (more…)


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