Voter To-Do List: #1 Register to Vote (by October 16)

For some reason, this fall has taken the Newton-Calvert house by storm, and I have hardly had a chance to blog, attend community meetings, or read the stack of Summit books I ordered from the library.  I have been focused on keeping the kids fed and intellectually stimulated, enjoying the change in the season (lots of pinecone collecting), and teaching my various community-based learning courses.  My students in these courses have inspired me through their work at community partners across Portland and beyond to get back to blogging and working on a slightly bigger level to advocate for the social justice theme that is dear to my heart — education.  So, here we are.  We’re gearing up for the election, I’ve got some dynamic, wonderful guest bloggers lined up, and I have some upcoming posts up my sleeve with creative options for getting more educated before you vote. Continue reading

Easy Education Activism (Early October Edition): Delicious Pairings of Reading & Doing the Work

I’m currently obsessing over fall flavors and have been experimenting with some of these pairings: pumpkin pancakes and hot chocolate, roasted sweet potatoes and a pear cider, baked kale chips and ginger beer. While one of my fall impulses is … Continue reading

How Do State Budget Cuts Impact Community? Beyond School Funding…

In class for the last two weeks, my students and I have been discussing the Promise Neighborhoods Initiative and talking about ways that wraparound community support for kids and families (integrated systems of education, healthcare, parent education, job training, daycare, nutrition, etc.) really works to target the roots of the obstacles that communities in poverty and communities of color face in Portland.

These larger discussions about ways that communities can come together to support kids and families in effective ways really had me thinking about the community supports and organizations that I have come to rely on as a new parent.  Two of these organizations are the Multnomah County Library system and Portland Parks and Recreation.  Both of these organizations have faced cuts in recent years.

For Multnomah County voters, we have the chance to put in our vote to support libraries in the next few days as we fill out our mail-in ballots.  The library levy will help secure more stable funding for our amazing, rich library programming in years to come.  Each Thursday and/or Friday as I pack up the last week’s library books, put shoes onto my children’s feet, and pile everyone into the car, I think about how grateful I am to have access to free children’s programming that emphasizes the value of literacy and community.  Please make sure you vote to support our local library system, which provides a staggering amount of services to kids and families.

As for Parks and Recreation, I recently read an article about the 6% cuts that this program is facing due to bigger state budget
cuts in Oregon.  It’s truly not just schools that suffer from an unstable state budget that fluctuates wildly as incomes do the same.  It is the programming that serves to help kids before and after school and in the summers that suffers, too.  For the past few weeks, my husband and I have been taking our little ones to very affordable, wonderful programming at the Community Music Center.  The teacher (Teacher Connie) is excellent, and it gives our family a chance to enjoy a bit of structure and some music education at the same time.

My students have been volunteering at the University Park Community Center for the last few years and have learned so much from leading learning activities and helping to support summer programming.  The preschool at U. Park is one of the most affordable in the area, and the summer programming and Homework Club also provide very affordable, safe places for kids to play and grow.  With continued cuts to staff and programming, I worry for our communities, especially for kids and families who do not have a lot of extra resources for more expensive summer school programs or early childhood settings.

What can we do about the cuts?  We must continue to advocate for bigger tax reforms and greater stability to the state budget.  We must also speak out about the services that are important to us and to let overworked, stressed staff members know how valuable their community work is.

And as you vote in the next few days, keep kids and schools and community resources in mind.  City commission positions, the mayor position, and a representative seat are all up for the vote — and all of these individuals can have a significant impact on budget, the vision our city has on education and community, and policy that impacts kids and families.  Check out Stand’s interviews with the candidates before you vote!

Fitting Activism into Your Daily Life: The Valentine’s Day Challenge (READ & COMMENT!)

This Valentine’s Day Challenge was inspired by 4 things:

  1. A discussion I had with a student after class reigniting my belief in the power of the individual to make positive changes for kids and schools
  2. The start of the Oregonian‘s new “Civic Engagement Page.”
  3. The Children Defense Fund’s 7 Actions for 7 Days project
  4. The State of Oregon’s upcoming birthday (on Valentine’s Day)

As Valentine’s Day nears with its over-the-top visual appeals, I often hear people grumbling that love isn’t something to celebrate only once a year but instead every day.  I think it’s that way with being active in the community, too.  It is not the grand gesture that is most important but the way we integrate this work into our daily living.

In this spirit, I declare that the best Valentine is one that we can give to the community to show that we have love, respect, and hope for kids and schools.  For the next 2 weeks, I warmly invite you to READ, SHARE, and COMMENT HERE on your experiences.  

I know that we are all busy people who often feel like there’s no way to make a difference — I hear that a lot from my students and friends.  For the next 14 days, though, there’s no excuse.  You will be presented with 14 easy ways to become more educated, engaged, and/or active. So let’s get started and SHARE THE LOVE!

Your first challenge?  Share your sources for education information.  If you want to have stimulating conversations and debates about education (or even just want to complain about standardized testing or graduation rates), you will need to surround yourself with informed conversationalists.  Share any or all of these sources as a starting point for getting your friends on board:


This is a great first challenge because you are guaranteed success.  By emailing, tweeting, or sharing this site and others through Facebook, you are spreading the word and starting more conversations.

So, in an attempt to engage you in conversation here (yes, I’m the eternal optimist), I pose the following questions and invite you to respond:

  1. What other online sites should we all be reading when it comes to education?  Where do you get your information?
  2. Have you completed challenge #1?  Who did you share your education resources with?  Why?

The Daily Work of Living the Dream: How to Lift Our Voices & Make Them Louder

On Friday, I attended a local elementary school’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., assembly with my two small children, mother, and husband, who was playing trumpet for the event.  The song “How I Love to Sing Your Name” has been running through my head ever since as I sift through the complex range of thoughts and emotions I have as I think about this Monday’s holiday, the ways we talk about and celebrate those who have worked for social justice, and how to do the daily work of living the dream.

The first thing I did today was to download the “How I Love to Sing Your Name” song and put it on repeat.  Secondly, I pulled out one of the most beautiful books out there on MLK for young kids: Martin’s Big Words.  I read the book to my 2-year-old daughter, and she nodded seriously as I read each page.  And then she stood up on the wooden stepping stool we have in the kitchen and proceded to sing along: “Oh, Martin Luther King…”

But…as beautiful and important as these moments were, they are not the bulk of the work that needs to be done.

Just read the recent report titled 2011 Oregon Legislative Report Card on Racial Equity, and you’ll see that we still have far to go in terms of equity in our community. To get a summary of some of the missed opportunities for more equitable laws in Oregon to support communities of color, see the recent Oregonian article.  You can also read the comments from more vocal readers and get a glimpse into the tension that some feel surrounding the issue of equity.  I groaned to myself reading comments about how no group should expect “handouts” and how the system is actually equal for those who work hard enough.  This is a popular narrative…and it is a loud one these days.

Just look at the book published by the White House purporting to detail the actions of national heroes.  Browsing through the most recent edition of Rethinking Schools, there was a review of Barack Obama’s recent children’s book titled Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters.  While the book does bring in a diversity of national “heroes,” it minimizes their roles as social activists and instead highlights the easier ideas of love and harmony.  And while love and harmony are beautiful things, it is the often contentious actions that many of these people (Helen Keller, Sitting Bull, etc.) took and the struggle that produced social change.  This narrative, too, that we should talk about history in a much diluted manner and that the most famous social activists in our country’s history were merely encouraging hugging and holding hands as ways to change the systemic violence and racism against so many in our communities, is deeply problematic.

What am I trying to say here?  That we need to educate ourselves and our families/friends.  That we need to make our voices stronger and louder.  That we need to live the dream each day, rather than just today.

This leads me to commend the work of Kate McPherson and so many others at Roosevelt who have worked on the Freedom Riders project.  I’ve just started working with Kate as a partner in both of my Capstone courses and have been impressed with her level of commitment.  Please read the recent article on Roosevelt and their Freedom Riders project, which gives voices to people in our community who have worked and are working against injustice.  Here is the Freedom Rider’s website.  Get involved in some of the support organizations contributing to this work and to showcasing the voices of those working for social change by clicking here.

Living the dream each day is about being humble, being self-aware, being open, and being flexible.  It’s also about being bold and sometimes putting ourselves in situations where we don’t have the answers.  Just like we cannot possibly teach about cultural competency in a single 4-credit class or about our history’s rich culture in a single Black History month, we cannot contribute to positive changes in our community on one holiday.  We must live cultural competency, Black history, educational equity, and social justice every day in both small and big ways.

Easier said than done, of course.  But it can be done.  And it must be done.  Dr. King would probably have a lot to say about the fact that students in our city are educated in unequal settings and with unequal resources.  We should have a lot to say about this, too!   For an easy starting point, thinking about checking out Stand for Children, Chalkboard Project, and Hands on Portland.  And join in on the conversation.

What daily ways do you live the dream?  What are little and big actions people can take to get more involved?  I’d love to hear from you!  Let’s brainstorm ways to make our voices louder, to educate more people (ourselves included), and to make change happen.


How to Fit Education Activism into Your Daily Life

One of the things that I want to focus on in 2012 is small but significant ways to fit activism into my own life.  This thinking about my own activism has also inspired reflection on how to help others fit action into daily life as well.  Here are some steps for getting started:

  • Provide Feedback:  For example, read Oregon’s draft of the NCLB waiver application and provide feedback that will help in revisions before submission.
  • Volunteer as Part of a Large Group:  This year, nine Oregon universities are coming together to work on the MLK holiday at Roosevelt High School in a day of service.  You can register here.
  • Volunteer Individually:  Think about making volunteer work a weekly affair.  Check out Hands on Portland’s project calendar for ideas about how to get started.
  • Join an Organization: Look into Stand for Children or the Chalkboard Project’s Citizen Corps. Being part of an organization like these allows you to be active within an organized system of people that is already in place.
  • Keep Informed and Keep Talking:  I will be posting this week’s “Tiny Reading Collection” on Thursday.  Keep reading and talking with your friends and family members.  For those of you who have subscribed to this blog (and who may be concerned about getting emails with each enthusiastic post), do note that you can shift your subscription settings and receive just one summary email a week with blog postings from PDXEAN!

Is Stand for Children Fighting for Educational Equity?

If you’re an educator, education student, or are just interested in the education system, Rethinking Schools is a magazine you might want to subscribe to.  I just received my fall issue and stole a moment away from work and babies to read an article that caught my eye: “For or Against Children?: The Problematic History of Stand for Children.”  Continue reading