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Common Cause

January 29, 2015 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Politics, Robert C. Koehler

Healing the Criminal Justice System

by Robert C. Koehler

“It’d be really hard to have a higher recidivism rate than we have in Cook County.” Maybe this is the place to start a brief meditation on changing the world, or at least Chicago . . . known to some of its residents as “Chiraq.”

commoncauseThe speaker is Elena Quintana, executive director of the Adler Institute on Public Safety and Social Justice, which, in partnership with Roosevelt University’s Mansfield Institute for Social Justice and Transformation, recently completed a study on Cook County’s dysfunctional juvenile justice system.

What we’re doing isn’t working, justice-wise, order-wise, sanity-wise. The state of Illinois is bankrupt and yet its jails are full to bursting, at a cost, per occupant, equal to or greater than the cost of luxury suites at its ritziest hotels. And 90 percent of the teenagers who enter the system come back within three years of their release. This is no surprise: The system is a spiral of entrapment, especially for young men of color. (more…)

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…)

Herculean Efforts

November 26, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Family, Pat LaMarche

Honoring Commitments to the Homeless, and Ourselves

by Pat LaMarche

I’m not homeless, but every now and then I take to the streets in some far-flung part of the United States and live in a fashion similar to the one lived by many people experiencing homelessness.

Like many folks without a home, sometimes I travel alone, but I’m often with others.  Two weeks ago I shoved off on my latest trip with my dear friend, Diane Nilan.   Nilan’s an advocate for homeless kids and the executive director of Hear Us, a charity she started 9 years ago hoping to shed light on our nation’s greatest shame.

I love Diane Nilan.  She’s selfless and that’s an amazing thing to watch.  She’s held body and soul together — living on the road in an RV all these years — for the same reasons the flight attendant tells you to put the oxygen mask over your own face before you attempt to help somebody else. (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…)

No Home Anywhere

July 05, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Family, Guest Author

Muslim Women Search for Justice, Opportunity

by Rebecca Martin

While some say that American Muslim women are empowered because they are American, on the other side of the globe in Saudi islamic woman 350 Muslim Women: No Home AnywhereArabia, their sisters struggle with an issue that’s at the heart of their community: living with the rights already given to women in the Koran and by the teachings of Mohammed.

That’s why women here felt Islamic justice was finally coming home, when on April 13, Arwa Al-Hejaili became the first woman lawyer granted a license to train for court appearances. Would the guardianship rule — the unwritten law that requires Saudi women to seek permission from husbands, fathers, or brothers to travel, open a bank account, and apply for jobs — go next? (more…)

Sins of Omission

June 11, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, David Swanson, Politics

Three Things Young People Should Know to Save the World

by David Swanson

Of course, old people should know these things too, and some small percentage does know them, but energy seems better invested in trying to teach them to young people who have less to unlearn in the process…

1. Obedience is extremely dangerous. 

This seems like it must be either wrong or misleadingly incomplete.  And that would be true if we were talking about children.  If a two-year-old is about to run in front of a car, please do yell “stop!” and hope for as much obedience as possible. But I’m talking to young people, not children.

When you grow up, your obedience should always be conditional.  If a master chef appears to be instructing you to prepare a revoltingly bad dinner but wants you to obey his or her instructions on faith, you might very well choose to do so, considering the risk to be tolerable.  If, however, the chef tells you to chop off your little finger, and you do it, that will be a sure sign that you’ve got an obedience problem. (more…)