Saturday, December 16, 2006

Bible Bath

A clean critique.

Miss Amy performs in the bathtub, with wine, grapes, and a David and Goliath coloring book.

Miss Amy's Bible Bath lives

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Chicago Schools—Military In; San Francisco Schools—Military Out

On Nov. 6, 2006, Arne Duncan announced his support for 19 new schools for Chicago’s students. Twelve of the 19 will be charter schools; another three will be “contract” schools. In other words, 15 of the 19 schools will operate outside the Chicago Teachers Union and outside the community guidance of Local School Councils.

One of the planned schools is the Marine Military Academy, scheduled to open in 2007, at 145 S. Campbell. The press release announcing Duncan’s plans describes the school as “the first public Marine Junior Reserved Officer Training Corps (JROTC) high school in the nation.” In contrast, on Nov. 14, San Francisco’s Board of Education voted to eliminate JROTC programs from its schools, through a two-year phase-out. Board member Dan Kelly, who voted to remove JROTC, described it as, "basically a branding program, or a recruiting program for the military.”

The military’s discrimination against LGBT people was also a factor in the decision to ditch the program. In an opinion piece in the Chronicle, board members Kelly and Mark Sanchez explain, “The U.S. military's ‘don't ask, don't tell’ policy toward gays and lesbians prevents JROTC from employing openly gay instructors and bars openly gay students from the preferential enlistment opportunities that are among JROTC's touted benefits.”

Supporters have claimed that JROTC is popular is San Francisco. Kelly and Sanchez point out that popularity shouldn’t be the only or even primary factor in deciding what programs schools offer—the bigger pictures—equity, fairness, justice—also have to be considered. Popular doesn’t equal appropriate, they say.

The claim of popularity may be more hyperbole than truth—San Francisco students formed an independent movement to oust JROTC from their high schools this year, and gathered more than 800 signatures on a petition supporting their position.

What do JROTC programs offer students? Spiffy uniforms, structure, a group, and the promise of help getting through college (if you aren’t queer). San Francisco plans to develop and pilot new programs next year, to address what the city’s families and students will miss when JROTC is gone.

I encourage the city to consider these ideas for its schools:

--Have students design their own uniforms, after exploring the forms and functions of uniforms from the past and present (this idea from fabulous SAIC art educator Maya Escobar; look at uniforms by artist Andrea Zittel and the exhibit RN by Mark Dion and J. Morgan Puett).

--Develop some “secret” clubs that are, conversely, open to all. These should have handshakes, special names (the blue-birds? the spiders?), marching bands and songs, drill teams with pink batons (this idea from every gay pride parade I’ve attended), and weekly meetings with games and snacks.

--Stock every school with art supplies, from kilns and clay and easels and paint, to design software and computers, and keep all the art rooms open and staffed until 9:00 PM.

--Offer scholarships to all students who want post-secondary education.

That would probably end any remaining JROTC-lust in our schools.

Now the question is—can Chicagoans follow the lead of San Franciscans and excise the military from our public schools? Our students need a chance to develop their creativity and critical thinking, not their obedience. And they need to know they can go on to college.

The Chicagoland Coalition Opposing Militarization of Youth has formed a working group to begin exploring the possibilities for opposing the planned Marine Academy. If you are interested in helping with this, contact Neal at

Friday, November 03, 2006

Public Military Schools or Jazz in Every Auditorium

Last year this letter objecting to the imposition of a naval academy on a public high school, signed by more than 50 area faculty of education, was sent to Arne Duncan (CEO of CPS), Daley (Mayor of Chicago), and the Chicago Board of Education. No answer to date.

Chicago already has the most militarized public school system in the nation, perhaps the world--10,000 students from middle school through high school participate in some form of military-focused education. And the city is planning more links between the military and the Chicago Public Schools. Daley and Duncan use "choice" as a mantra when talking about military schools, but what meaning does choice have in a school system built around "good" selective admission schools that accept only the smallest % of applicants and military schools that market themselves, and are marketed by CPS, as options for those rejected by their first choice schools.

As to the "military schools provide discipline" pitch--so would true engagement in the visual arts, literature, music and the sciences. And the kind of discipline developed through the humanities, arts and sciences is a different kind than the military develops or wants. Writers and other artists grow toward self-discipline and self-motivation; they learn to be inspired by their own curiosities, intuition, and observations. Ditto scientists. In contrast, what the military aims to foster is obedience.

When Daley offers military schools and uniforms, let's ask for arts academies and sewing machines (the students can design and sew their own uniforms!). The best schools in the world are Finnish, according to The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and Finnish elementary school students learn to sew and knit in their art classes.

When Duncan says our children need the routine and order of JROTC drills, let's ask for trumpets, drums, flutes, clarinets, and pianos, and a jazz band for every school. School band practice is at least as disciplinary as military marching, and less damaging world-wide.

February 4, 2005

Dear Arne Duncan, Mayor Daley, and Members of the Chicago Board of Education:

On December 15th 2004 Chicago’s Board of Education voted to approve the establishment of a “Naval Academy” in Senn High School located in Chicago’s Edgewater community. One of Chicago’s most diverse schools, Senn is home to 1,700 students from more than 65 countries. Good things have been happening at this neighborhood institution—Senn has a successful International Baccalaureate Diploma Program, was recently awarded a five-year $1.2 million grant from the Lloyd A. Fry Foundation to provide development and support services to freshmen and sophomores, and was selected as one of only 16 National Service-Learning Leader Schools.

Despite these and other successes, against the wishes of many Senn teachers, students, and parents, and without a process for community consultation, you decided to install a Naval Academy at Senn High School in fall 2005.

There are many reasons to oppose this decision. The lack of neighborhood involvement is one: It is simply wrong to remake this school without considering community voices and vision. The apparent hypocrisy of city leaders is another: How can the city endorse the military for Chicago Public School students when the Chicago City Council has declared the city a Nuclear Weapon Free Zone and voted to reject the invasion of Iraq and the U.S. Patriot Act? And, as educators, we oppose the proposed Naval Academy, because it and other military academies offer:

--Bad education
The evidence is overwhelming that urban military-themed schools fail to provide a high quality education that prepares youth to graduate high school and enter college. Instead of receiving a well-rounded education, students study subjects like “Military Science” and “Army Customs and Courtesies.” With that kind of preparation, is it a surprise that at Chicago’s Carver Military Academy, similar in structure to the proposed Naval Academy, only 54% of students graduate high school, and only 34% of graduating seniors enter college?

--Racial targeting
The pattern is clear: The Chicago Board of Education targets low-income, primarily African American, communities for military-themed high schools. Schools for the elite, such as Northside College Prep, are not forced to house military programs. Instead, these schools and their upper-income white communities are offered gifted, magnet, and college prep schools and programs. Imposing a Naval Academy at Senn will reinforce this negative and unfortunately familiar message: poor youth of color merit substandard education.

--Sanctioned discrimination
“Don’t ask, don’t tell” is not acceptable for Chicago’s gay, lesbian. bisexual and transgendered youth. Although the Chicago Board of Education, City of Chicago, Cook County, and the State of Illinois all prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, the United States Military condones discrimination against sexual minorities. Military schools are partnerships between the United States Armed Services and Chicago Public Schools; like San Francisco and Portland, Oregon, Chicago should refuse to allow the military to recruit in its public schools, and refuse to do business with organizations that discriminate against its citizens.

Chicago must provide high quality education equally to all its youth and communities. The racially targeted establishment of military-themed schools is wrong in every case. But in a time of seemingly boundless budgets for endless war it is especially fraught to tell poor kids, “The best education we can offer you is one linked to combat.” This is not a “choice,” as Arne Duncan has referred to the proposed Naval Academy, it is a tragedy.

As faculty in colleges and programs of education across Chicago, we know this city can do better. And it must.


1. Ken Addison, Northeastern Illinois University; 2. William Ayers, University of Illinois at Chicago; 3. Megan Bangs, Northwestern University; 4. Paula Baron, Northeastern Illinois University; 5. Amy Blumenthal, Oakton Community College; 6. Bonnie Chauncey, Northeastern Illinois University; 7. Pauline Clardy, National-Louis University; 8. Nell Cobb, DePaul University; 9. Jennifer Cohen, DePaul University; 10. Chuck Cole, University of Illinois at Chicago; 11. Dionne Danns, University of Illinois at Chicago; 12. Steve Dundis, Northeastern Illinois University; 13. Sarah Efron, National-Louis University; 14. Michael Fagen, Northeastern Illinois University; 15. Susan Gabel, National-Louis University; 16. Joby Gardner, DePaul University; 17. Artin Göncü, University of Illinois at Chicagol 18. Eric (Rico) Gutstein, University of Illinois at Chicago; 19. Lisa Hochtritt, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago; 20. Stacey Horn, University of Illinois at Chicago; 21. Ed Hunt, Northeastern Illinois University; 22. Sue Jungck, National-Louis University; 23. Sy Karlin, National-Louis University; 24. Jeffrey Kuzmic, DePaul University; 25. Eva Lam, Northwestern University; 26. Pauline Lipman, DePaul University; 27. Norma Lopez-Reyna, University of Illinois at Chicago; 28. Sharon McNeely, Northeastern Illinois University; 29. Erica Meiners, Northeastern Illinois University; 30. Gregory Michie, National-Louis University; 31. Karen Monkman, DePaul University; 32. Christopher Murray, DePaul University; 33. April Nauman, Northeastern Illinois University; 34. Irma Olmedo, University of Illinois at Chicago; 35. Roger Passman, Northeastern Illinois University; 36. Patricia Pelletier, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago; 37. Jan Perney, National-Louis University; 38. John Ploof, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago; 39. Todd Price, National-Louis University; 40. Therese Quinn, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago; 41. Patrick Roberts, National-Louis University; 42. tammy ko robinson, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago; 43. Kenneth Saltman, DePaul University; 44. Bill Schubert, University of Illinois at Chicago; 45. Brian Schultz, National-Louis University; 46. Katherine Schuster, Oakton Community College; 47. Katy Smith, Northeastern Illinois University; 48. Terry Stirling, Northeastern Illinois University; 49. David Stovall, University of Illinois at Chicago; 50. Joaquim Villegas, Northeastern Illinois University; 51. Pat Walsh, Northeastern Illinois University; 52. Steve Wolk, Northeastern Illinois University; 53. Christopher Worthman, DePaul University

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Accredit Love Not Condemnation

My colleague, Erica Meiners, and I attended the Illinois Association for Colleges for Teacher Education on Friday the 13th of October. The conference was held at Wheaton College (apropos the date?), and its conveners opened the event with a prayer (it was a public event, so why the coercive calls to Jesus?--a moment of silence would have been more respectful of the diverse attendees' views). We hoped that many of the folks attending would accept a hot pink button (fist in apple--power to the teachers!), and that even more would sign the Accredit Love Not Condemnation Pledge (we are asking that only teacher education programs that promote love and respect for lesbian and gay students, families, and community members, be accredited; see previous post for more about the pledge and to read about teacher education programs that endorse condemnation, rather than love). The buttons were more popular than the pledge, though. We collected three of these (thanks, friends). The best part of the conference--meeting our fellow queer educators (yes, Wheaton--there were many of us "condemned" ones on your campus that day). Worst? That's a toss-up--maybe that so many people wouldn't make eye contact with me (making it so damn hard to cruise...oh!...that's what they were afraid of!); maybe that there's a building named after Billy ("this [Jewish] stranglehold has got to be broken") Graham; maybe that we saw a car in the parking lot with "disabled person" plates and a bumper sticker proclaiming "No Civil Rights Without Citizenship"; maybe that a sister passed her signed pledge to Erica in the women's bathroom (but again, thank you); maybe that Sharon Robinson, the President (and CEO--odd?) of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, and a featured speaker, wouldn't say that sexual orientation should be an aspect of diversity that is addressed in all teacher education programs. With love, of course, not condemnation! Well, we plan to attend the spring meeting of the group in greater numbers and with more and better props (but please...not at Wheaton). Care to join us?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Alchemy of Wheaton College

It turns freshmen into bigots.

A person who regards his own faith and views in matters of religion as unquestionably right, and any belief or opinion opposed to or differing from them as unreasonable or wicked. Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary.

A few young people might enter college with their “faith and views” fully formed, but it’s probably safe to say most do not—they come to school with some history and plenty of room to learn. College is for that.

Higher education invites us to stretch, to experience new things and to look at familiar things in new ways. We get a chance to expand and grow.

But Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois, is different. It, like a number of other private religious colleges, requires students to demonstrate, even before they enter the school, that they are bigots. Wheaton does this by requiring applicants to sign a “Community Covenant” in agreement with a statement that condemns “homosexual behavior.” They may be trying to sidestep the implication that they are condemning any actual people (love the sinner, hate the sin!), but that’s crap—we are our sexualities, just as we are our genders and our ethnicities. We are more than those, of course; we can never be reduced to just those qualities, but we are also fully ALL those qualities.

Download an application to read the condemning statement yourself at:

It’s a shame that any college demands professions of bigotry from young people. A “dirty shame,” John Waters might say. It’s awful that a college requires students to prove their prejudice as a prerequisite to admission. Alchemists aimed to produce gold from base metal. Higher education should, too. But Wheaton engages in reverse alchemy—it produces condemnation, not kindness.

Most citizens could just ignore this situation, if Wheaton weren’t also in the business of producing teachers for our public schools. That’s right, the teachers Wheaton graduates—who have sworn that they condemn lesbian, gay, and bisexual children and families—can teach in public schools. Wheaton’s teacher education programs are accredited—legitimated—by the Illinois State Board of Education, which says teachers should be able to “help all students learn.” But how can teachers educate those they condemn?

If you read my last post you know that the population of gay students is large—as one example, in 2003, 6.3 % of high school students attending Chicago Public Schools identified their sexual orientation as gay, lesbian, or bisexual. Schools are uncomfortable, even dangerous, for these students—64.3% of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students in 2005 reported feeling unsafe in their school because of their sexual orientation. And many teachers are part of the problem—40.5% of LGBT students in 2005 reported that teachers never intervened when hearing homophobic remarks. Schools are hard on LGBT young people. Colleges like Wheaton make the situation worse.

Wheaton is responsible for the suffering of LGBT youth in schools, and so is the Illinois State Board of Education, which accredits the College’s teacher education programs and certifies Wheaton’s teacher candidates, indicating that they are fit to teach in public schools. But they are not. Teachers who condemn their own students, or their students’ families, on the basis of sexual identity do not belong in public education.

The Illinois State Board of Education should stop accrediting the teacher education programs of colleges that require students to be bigots, and should stop certifying teachers who have agreed to condemn people they will inevitably teach. This isn’t a small problem; in Illinois alone there are several such schools. Greenville College is another example. Download its application and read the “Lifestyle Statement” which condemns homosexuals and dancing at:

It’s a grim “lifestyle” outlined here, steeped in fear and privation. Yet, Greenville is accredited and its teachers are certified by the State. But these teachers are not fit for public schools. Wheaton and Greenville’s graduates can teach in private schools—they don’t need certification for that. Our public schools deserve teachers who pledge and demonstrate love and respect for all youth.

To that end, I’m offering every teacher educator and teacher candidate at Wheaton and Greenville (and any similar colleges, including Olivet Nazarene and Judson—you know who you are) a chance, here and now, to retract your vows of condemnation and offer a positive pledge of respect and responsibility, thereby “fitting” yourself for public school teaching. In fact, I invite everyone to take this pledge:

Teachers need to be well prepared to teach all students. Teacher education programs should support candidates by preparing them with the information and experiences they will need to teach and work with LGBT youth and family members. All teachers are responsible for gaining the education they need to teach and advocate for the well-being of LGBT students. All teachers should respect LGBT students, LGBT family members, and the identities and histories of LGBT people in classrooms and elsewhere. I pledge to do so myself. This retracts any earlier statements to the contrary. Sincerely,_____________

Email the signed retraction to the Chair of your Department or Program (at Wheaton, it’s Andrew Brulle at; at Greenville it’s Edwin Blue at and cc: it to me at

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Missing Schools: Riis, 2006

This near west-side Chicago school--Jacob A. Riis Elementary, named after the photojournalist of tenements--was recently shut down.

Discussion about this and other school closings wasn't encouraged by Chicago Public School officials, but citizens speak, anyway.

Riis was a casualty of the city's "Renaissance 2010" plan to close 100 public community schools (CT union) and open 100 performance (CT union), charter (non-CT union), and contract schools (non-CT union). While remaking neighborhoods (Ren 2010 boosts real estate profits--it's a gentrification project), the city is also re-making the labor of education; the good middle-class teaching job, once something to hold onto, is morphing into a temp-job model. Today teachers hop from school to school; charters have high turnover rates and often burnt-out staffs (without a union, the work-day is as long as the principal--or CEO--says it is). It's a sad condition for what was once a strong union town, where workers fought and died to gain the eight hour day.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Social Justice is Always In

Why is a teacher education accrediting organization trying to push it out?

In June 2006 the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) backed away from “social justice.” The organization sets the standards for teacher education programs nationwide. Social justice had been included as an example in the Program Standards glossary definition of “Disposition” (as in, what kind of dispositions should a teacher have?). But this must have ruffled some feathers—Arthur Wise, NCATE President, wrote in his obfuscating “Statement from NCATE on Professional Dispositions,” posted June 16 on the NCATE website ( “Critics incorrectly alleged that NCATE has a ‘social justice’ requirement. It does not.”

But it should. All teachers, indeed all citizens, should be disposed towards justice.

The rest of Wise’s statement blah blahs around the heart of the issue—NCATE has revised its definition of “Dispositions” (now called “Professional Dispositions”) and removed the offending phrase. Social justice—fairness, equity, access—is out. You won’t hear this directly from Wise, though; you can only find it out by burrowing into the website until you locate a link to download the proposed revisions, where you read the new, presumably less threatening definition, which doesn’t offer any specifics at all. What kind of teachers do we need today? This “leadership” organization doesn’t offer any ideas.

Something else is missing from the main text of the newly revised Professional Standards—any mention of sexual orientation. As with social justice, “sexual orientation” had been, and still will be present in the Glossary, this time as part of the definition of “Diversity.” But the proposed revisions now direct readers to look at the rubrics for each standard to see which types of diversity to consider when planning or assessing teacher education programs. Turn to Standard Four: Diversity, and there are listed many important groups to which students and families are linked, including: English language learners, gender, ethnic and racial, students with exceptionalities, and more. Absent? Sexual orientation. Also absent, as it always has been from any part of NCATE’s Standards is gender identity.

On September 29, 2006 a letter signed by 193 individuals working in the field of teacher education was sent to NCATE. It called on the organization to establish social justice, sexual orientation, and gender identity within the main text of Standard Four: Diversity. If you agree, send a note saying so to

The letter, as sent to NCATE, is pasted below (minus the 16 pages of signatures). To sign on, send me your name, title, and affiliation at

September 29, 2006

Dear Arthur Wise, National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE):

We call for the language “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to be included in the main text of Standard Four: Diversity in the Professional Standards for the Accreditation of Schools, Colleges, and Departments of Education, 2006. As NCATE already acknowledges, teachers must be prepared for diversity in education, in their students, in their students’ parents and families, among their teaching colleagues, as well as in class materials and discussions. Sexual orientation is a key part of diversity, as understood by our institutions and communities and as represented in the NCATE definition of diversity . But the absence of sexual orientation and gender identity in the body of the standards, where other aspects of diversity are listed, sends the message that the needs and identities of LGBT students, families, and teachers are not important.

The following statistics indicate that addressing sexual orientation (a person’s emotional, romantic, and sexual attraction) and gender identity (a person’s sense of being male or female, feminine or masculine) in our schools is urgent :

The population of lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth is large.
In a 2003 survey conducted by the Chicago Public Schools and the Center for Disease Control (the Youth Risk Behavior Survey) 6.3 % of high school students attending Chicago Public Schools identified their sexual orientation as gay, lesbian, or bisexual.

Schools are unsafe for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth.
According to the 2005 School Climate Report conducted by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN):
--75.4% of LGBT students reported hearing remarks such as "faggot" or "dyke" frequently or often.
--89.2% reported hearing the expressions, “that’s so gay” or “you’re so gay” often or frequently at school, and 67.1% reported that hearing “gay” or “queer” used in a derogatory manner caused them to feel bothered or distressed.
--64.3% reported feeling unsafe in their school because of their sexual orientation.
--45.5% reported being verbally harassed and 26.1% had experienced physical harassment in school because of their gender expression.
--40.5% reported that teachers never intervened when hearing homophobic remarks.
--18.6% reported hearing homophobic remarks from faculty or school staff frequently or often.

Negative school climates affect LGBT youths’ well-being and academic success.
According to the 2001 Massachusetts Youth Risk Behavior Survey, LGBT students are more likely than the general student population to:
--attempt suicide (32.7% vs. 8.7%),
--skip school because they feel unsafe (17.7% vs. 7.8%).

Teachers are ill-equipped to confront issues that contribute to anti-LGBT hostility.
--81.7% of LGBT students reported that they had never learned about LGBT people, history, or events in any of their school classes (2005, School Climate Report, GLSEN).
--In a study of pre-service teachers, 57% indicated that they needed more training or education to work effectively with LGBT youth and 65% reported that they needed more specific education to address homosexuality in their teaching (Koch, 2000).
--In a study of high school health teachers, two-thirds indicated that they had inadequate education about LGBT issues (Telljohann, Price, Poureslami, Easton, 1995).

Hostile schools and poorly informed, prejudiced educators clearly harm LGBT youth, but all students are hurt by homophobia and heterosexism in schools, including those with LGBT family members and those identified by others as acting outside traditional gender norms. Teachers must be able to create learning environments in which all children can be successful. All teachers must learn to:

--Create safe learning spaces
--Address anti-LGBT bullying and harassment in the classroom and school
--Communicate with all parents, including LGBT parents
--Teach students to respect the rights of others and coexist in a diverse world

Sexual orientation has never been part of the main text of NCATE’s Professional Standards, but its inclusion in the glossary has encouraged educators to use NCATE’s definition of diversity when planning how best to create and assess educational programs for teacher candidates. The proposed revisions direct readers to look at each standard for the elements of “diversity” to consider when creating and assessing teacher education programs. But sexual orientation is not included in any of the rubrics for any of the standards. This decreases the possibility that teacher education programs will include sexual orientation. Gender identity is similarly absent. Sexual orientation and gender identity should be stated explicitly in the main text of the Standard Four: Diversity, along with other categories like race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. Absence sends a message of non-importance.

Social justice, when used as a guiding principle, encourages recognition and inclusion; it seeks the presence of all community members. NCATE discredited its commitment to “help all students learn,” when it removed social justice from the glossary of the Professional Standards. The elimination of social justice makes it even easier to marginalize sexual orientation and gender identity. And the elimination of the words “social justice”prompts the question: Who will be excluded next?

Luckily, examples of organizations that have taken ethical positions abound. Ontario’s teacher accrediting organization vows that its members will “model respect for…social justice.” The accrediting bodies of other professions, including the National Association of Social Workers, the American Psychological Association, and the American Bar Association, have explicit commitments to social justice and queer rights in their accrediting requirements. NCATE should, also.

Educators of conscience call on NCATE to establish and prioritize sexual orientation, gender identity and social justice within our Standards.


The Undersigned