New Clear Vision

constructive commentary for the chronically farsighted
Subscribe

Archive for the ‘Community’

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…)

More than a Trend

March 31, 2014 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Devon G. Pena, Ecology

Urban Agriculture in Mexico City: Healthy and Necessary

by Devon G. Peña

The Colhua Mexica (Aztec) twin island cities of Tenochtitlan and Tlatelolco were filled with urban farms, home kitchen gardens, fish-stocked ponds, and aviaries. Two large lakes south of the cities were filled with highly productive floating gardens known aschinampas. These ancient Mesoamerican city-states were basically food self-sufficient. The conquest destroyed most of these cultural ecological landscapes and built Mexico City with the rubble of demolished temples, schools, colleges, homes, and other buildings. Mexico City has never been able to reproduce this ideal condition of food self-sufficiency and instead basically sucks the energy out of the Mexican countryside and — ever since NAFTA — from fresh produce and processed food imported or manufactured with ingredients from the U.S. and other countries. (more…)

Tragic History

March 24, 2014 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Ecology, Walt Anderson

A Naturalist’s Reflections on the Yarnell Fire

by Walt Anderson

Nine months after the tragic Yarnell Hill Fire on June 30, 2013, the event continues to touch many of us with a rawness only slightly softened by time.  My memories remain vivid.  With thunderstorm activity developing in the Prescott area that afternoon, Cactus cross, a burn survivorI grabbed my camera and headed out to the Doce Fire area south of Granite Mountain.  Fierce little rain squalls gave me subjects to explore visually.  The powdered ash deposits post-fire are very vulnerable to erosion, a step in the ecologic process I wanted to capture.

Then as a squall shifted south, I could see in the distance a column of smoke that caused my hair to rise — it appeared to me that the small town of Yarnell was on fire.  Without hesitation, I leaped into the car and shot toward Skull Valley, having to slow down once in the midst of an intense downpour.  The closer I got to Peeple’s Valley, the more my concern intensified, and I made a decision that gave me a perfect vantage point on a ridge north of the fire.  If I had continued any farther down the highway, I would have been stopped by emergency vehicles and stuck in a line of other cars prohibited from moving farther. (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…)

Circulate and Grow

March 01, 2014 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Ecology, Economy, Pancho McFarland

From the War on Poverty to the Revolution in the Garden

by Pancho McFarland

I teach a “Class and Stratification” course for the Sociology Program at Chicago State University.  In the course we focus on inequality, the global capitalist economic system, critiques of it and examinations of alternative economic systems.  We examine the problems of inequality caused by the capitalist economy and then focus on our city, Chicago, as a means to understand our places in the economy as working class people of color.  To learn about ourselves in Chicago I use a text written by the Chicago Grassroots Curriculum Taskforce.  The book, Urban Renewal or Urban Removal? is volume one of a planned eight.  Authors of the text include activists, teachers, parents, long-time residents and professors.  It is a grassroots bunch of dedicated organic intellectuals.  (more…)

Community Support

January 31, 2014 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Economy, Family, Pat LaMarche

‘Housing First’ Doesn’t Work Alone

by Pat LaMarche

Homeless advocates from 36 states are gathering this week at the Beyond Housing Conference sponsored by the Institute for Children, Poverty and Homelessness (ICPH). Institute President and CEO, Ralph DaCosta Nunez, opened the conference by explaining the agency’s intent when they named the event. Nunez said, “There is a lot of misunderstanding about this issue,” that goes beyond homelessness.

Nunez should know. He served as Mayor Koch’s Deputy Director when New York City first started tackling the issue of homeless families. He explained that the city’s initial approach was a rush to find housing. Families burned out by their homes, or those who lost housing after paying a big medical bill were relatively easy to help. And the numbers were workable. Thirty years ago there were 800 families a year. Nunez said they worked with their re-housing model, but when that number jumped to 5000, they realized the problem wasn’t going to “go away.” It wasn’t even going to “level off.” Additionally, and because of a change in direction the federal government took in the 1980s, the situation of homelessness went from a problem to a catastrophe. Today, there are 12,155 homeless families in New York City. Nunez told the group, “Tonight, 55,000 men, women and children will sleep in shelters all across the city.” (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…)


Switch to our mobile site