Category Archives: Uncategorized

Project Censored: Banned Books Week


English-Only to the Core by Jeff Bale

Repost “Given this political context, whether the next generation of education standards sets bilingualism and biliteracy as explicit goals for all students is not a neutral question. And clearly, the Common Core has taken sides. By focusing on English-only, the standards function as the culmination of more than a decade of attacks on bilingual programs and emergent bilingual youth.”

Rethinking Schools

What is the Common Core doing to bilingual education?
We’re joining hands with The Progressive and In These Times to shine a light on that question. Jeff Bale’s “English-Only to the Core” will appear in the fall issue of Rethinking Schools, but we want you to have it now!

Please use hashtag #ComCoreEnglishOnly to help us amplify the discussion.

. . .

Among bilingual educators, there has been much debate about the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Some of the most respected scholars of bilingual education have endorsed the Common Core and are working hard to make it relevant for English learners. Others have been more suspicious. Not only do the standards focus on English-only, critics note, but they were bankrolled by the Gates Foundation, pushed on states in a way that amounts to bribery by the Obama administration, and promise to worsen the impact of high-stakes standardized testing.


View original post 3,863 more words

More on Critical Pedagogy, Critical Thinking, and the Other: “Critical pedagogy wants to know who’s indoctrinating whom”

Reposting from P. L. Thomas re critical pedagogy.
The thoughts that come to my mind are that it’s horrific to think CC$$ backers actually think they can throw out the term ‘critical thinking’, and that it’s swallowed by uncritical minds who likely fill in a rubric to show how each child ‘thinks critically’. There’s a fear of the unknown, and a fear that students may actually reach their full potential if assessment lines become fuzzy.

radical eyes for equity

Students at my university are required to attend Cultural Life Programs (CLPs) as part of their graduation requirements. Once several years ago, I was the featured speaker at a CLP on education reform, and during that talk I noted I was against accountability.

The Q and A prompted by the talk was vibrant, but after the talk, I was approached by a colleague who asked if I were being provocative—not serious, in other words—about being against accountability. I assured him I was in fact against accountability, which left him so frazzled the discussion ended there.

After posting a blog about critical pedagogy and the Other, I received similar and numerous comments about critical thinking—educators who likely believe that they and I are mostly in agreement on education but cannot fathom my rejecting how traditional schooling approaches so-called “critical thinking skills.”

As well, the Twitter conversation among Angela DyeSherri Spelic

View original post 1,019 more words

Writing, Unteachable or Mistaught?

The more I think about ‘grade level’ reading, and ‘template writing’, the more upset I get thinking about such utilitarian modes of literacy. I’m sick to the gunnels of thinking about the CC$$, and the high-stakes testing regime our children are force fed, but they play a major role in the narrowing of K-12 curriculum. The truth is though, that they are not the only reason literacy instruction is so restricted in many classrooms. As Paul L. Thomas mentions, it makes it easier for a teacher to grade a paper that follows a particular template, just as it’s easier for a computer to grade a paper based on strict criteria. The beauty of writing is that the process and product are (at least should be) unknown from the beginning. So much focus is placed on reading, at the expense of writing, and this is concerning. I love reading what children write in the early years and the process they go through to put their thoughts on paper. As with so many efforts, we learn to write by writing, and time must be dedicated to this in the classroom. In the early years there are so many wonderful picture books to share, and along with alphabetic language they show how pictures also tell a tale/recite poetry, and so on.
[I’m heading into redundant territory so I’ll leave this here for now.]

radical eyes for equity

Let’s not tell them what to write.
Lou LaBrant, The Psychological Basis for Creative Writing (1936)

Kurt Vonnegut was a genre-bending writer and a Freethinker, a lonely pond fed by the twin tributaries of atheism and agnosticism. So it is a many-layered and problematic claim by Vonnegut, also a writing teacher, that writing is “unteachable,” but “something God lets you do or declines to let you do.”

This nod to the authority of God, I think, is more than a typical Vonnegut joke (the agnostic/atheist writer citing God) as it speaks to a seemingly endless debate over the five-paragraph essay, which has resurfaced on the NCTE Connected Community.

To investigate the use of the five-paragraph template as well as prompted writing as dominant practices for teaching writing in formal schooling to all children, I want to begin by exploring my own recent experience co-writing a chapter with a colleague…

View original post 1,212 more words

Beware Grade-Level Reading and the Cult of Proficiency

Paul L. Thomas must have a direct line to my brain at times, because he taps in to many of the cogs going around in my head. Reblogging in part so I have easy access to this later.

radical eyes for equity

Few issues in education seem more important or more universally embraced (from so-called progressive educators to right-wing politicians such as Jeb Bush) than the need to have all children reading on grade level—specifically by that magical third grade:

Five years ago, communities across the country formed a network aimed at getting more of their students reading proficiently by the end of 3rd grade. States, cities, counties, nonprofit organizations, and foundations in 168 communities, spread across 41 states and the District of Columbia, are now a part of that initiative, theCampaign for Grade-Level Reading.

However, advocating that all students must read at grade level—often defined as reading proficiency—rarely acknowledges the foundational problems with those goals: identifying text by a formula claiming “grade level” and then identifying children as readers by association with those readability formulas.

This text, some claim, is a fifth-grade text, and thus children who can “read” that…

View original post 737 more words

They tried to bury us…

A lengthy post as it’s an essay I wrote for school, but I see it as a sharing of resources so I’ve posted it here.

Liz Murray

April 10th, 2015

“Quisieron enterrarnos, pero no sabían que éramos semilla.”

They wanted to bury us, but they didn’t know we were seeds. [1]

Repression of those who rail against hegemonic powers has been going on for centuries and likely millennia, yet there will always be resistance and revolution, and people who will stand up for themselves and countless others in the name of humanizing education and society. Decolonizing pedagogy, such as the Mexican American Studies program in Tucson, Arizona, threatens the status quo and so attempts are made to shut it down, despite its proven success rate[2]. But, to paraphrase Cesar Chavez: “Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed. You cannot un-educate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore.” Inroads made by MAS teachers will reach far into the future, despite the ban. The MAS program, along with many programs aligned with critical pedagogy, focuses on the high school years where the brute power of youth, and righteous indignation, can be harnessed with powerful results. There is less research done on the early years, in particular early childhood and early elementary classrooms. Hence there exists a need to broaden and develop research already being done in the early years around issues such as culturally responsive pedagogy, critical literacy and familial and community involvement. Culturally responsive pedagogy and critical literacy should go hand in hand. It is too easy in the early years to feign culturally responsive practice in the guise of a ‘food and festivals’ approach to multicultural education, an approach that does a disservice to all children and all school communities. The most effective tool for critically examining life through an early childhood lens is the children’s family and the community. Genuine and equitable partnerships between schools and families raise all voices. It is crucial this work begin in early childhood and early elementary grades in order to foster strong ties between home and school.

Over the past year Ethnic Studies has been approved as a graduation requirement in five Californian school districts[3] with the support of many grassroots groups, including Ethnic Studies Now! ( It is still to be seen what this will look like on the ground long-term but the potential for transformative education is here. Ethnic Studies programs “attempt to challenge the reproduction of essentialist categories of race, class, and gender. Ethnic Studies deconstructs structural forms of domination and subordination, going beyond simplistic additives of multicultural content to the curriculum” (Tintiangco-Cubales et al., 2015). Indeed, Ethnic Studies needs to go far beyond multicultural studies and examine systemic structures that restrict access to greater knowledge and that encourage a shallow approach to history and social studies, one that often relies on a (dead) white male canon. There are many factors a teacher alone can’t control but there are many they can. It is often not a question of what is being taught but how it is being taught. The cultural practices of the dominant group are taken as the norm if cultural differences aren’t addressed (Gutiérrez & Rogoff, 2003). Cadiero-Kaplan (2008) states that oftentimes teachers need help recognizing their unspoken ideological orientation. Teachers and students need to be given the opportunities and the language to critically analyze the sociopolitical agenda. Uncritically responding to top-down demands only reinforces governing bodies’ control over the lives of our students. Intentionality is key when working on a more sophisticated critical analysis and this is as true in the early years as in the years to come. Sensitivity is needed but young children respond forcefully to injustice, and while white middle class children tend to be protected from harmful experiences (societal factors such as poverty and systemic racism; as well as more overt forms of psychological and physical violence), children of color, and especially those from low-income families are usually not so lucky. They see parents working two to three jobs to make rent, they see the impact of the school to prison pipeline (or even the prison to prison pipeline when the schooling environment is set up so) and they see that the voices of people in their community are not taken as seriously as those with greater cultural capital.

For Ethnic Studies to truly be transformational we need to “hope audaciously” and trust in our students and trust in a process we may not have control over. Critical Race Theory offers concrete tools for framing pedagogies of race, such as counterstorytelling and testimonio (Tintiangco-Cubales et al., 2015). This centralizes the experiences and narratives of people of color, thus legitimizing them as evidence to challenge and reframe dominant narratives about race, culture, language and citizenship. Camangian (2013) reminds us that a humanizing pedagogy is culturally relevant and critical because it draws on students’ lived experiences and cultural ways of knowing in a process that is socially transformative. The examples of student work Camangian shares show the intellectual growth of his students when asked to interrogate critical literature. He mentions that reading Malcolm X critically helped one of his students see the implications White supremacist thought had on the historical amnesia and fractured identities of Black people in the United States[4]. Romero, Arce and Cammarota (2009) write that Critical Race Theory confirmed their belief that they were able to foster in their students the understanding that they, their parents and their community possess and construct a wealth of knowledge and are the fundamental facilitators of critical transformation.

In The Dreamkeepers (2009, 2nd ed.), Gloria Ladson-Billings shares the stories of eight elementary school teachers who exemplify culturally relevant pedagogy. Gloria Ladson-Billings uses the term ‘culturally relevant pedagogy’ to outline what successful teachers do when working with students who are often not seen in the curriculum of the school, and who are too easily tagged with a ‘deficit’ label. Ladson-Billings (1995) defines culturally relevant teaching as a pedagogy of opposition specifically committed to collective, not merely individual, empowerment. She states that successful teachers support academic achievement, cultural competence and socio-political consciousness. Building on the work of Ladson-Billings, Richard Milner (2010) states that teachers who practice culturally relevant pedagogy do so because it is consistent with what they believe and who they are. This echoes the findings of Bree Picower (2012) in which teacher activists stated that an intense drive to move toward a vision of a socially just world informed their life and their teaching practice. Socio-political consciousness is harnessed to impart skills that allow students to better understand and critique their social position and context. It is crucial that students see themselves in the curriculum and through instruction, and are able to understand the important ways in which their culture has contributed to various genres of curriculum content and to the fabric of U.S. society as a whole.

David Stovall (2013) states that education, as the process of making informed decisions to improve the human condition through critical analysis and action, is not confined to the walls of a school building. He affirms that inherent to this process is cultivating the community’s capacity to utilize their own skills and expertise to address issues and concerns that threaten their existence. In the early elementary and early childhood setting bringing in familial and community knowledge is key to supporting young learners and key to showing respect for all the child brings with them. A literacy initiative carried out by the CREATE program in Tucson, Arizona (Communities as Resources in Early Childhood Teacher Education-University of Arizona)[5] sees family backpacks sent home with students in K-2 classrooms. The backpacks are put together by faculty, along with teacher candidates, and they revolve around general themes such as grandparents, bedtime and names. Each backpack contains books in English and in Spanish, artifacts such as finger puppets, and a journal to write and/or draw whatever comes to mind. Families are free to use the backpacks however they like. There is no expectation they write and/or draw in the journal, but most of them do. The journals stay with the backpacks so other families can see what has been shared. The rationale behind using these in K-2 classrooms is that early childhood settings almost always highlight the family and much of the curriculum is drawn from lived experience. Once children enter elementary school, these family/community ties start to unravel as ‘accountability’ measures take hold, measures that disregard who the child is, asides from a test taker, and where they come from. The family backpacks do require financial investment as well as temporal investment on behalf of the teacher and the families, but it is clear they strengthen ties between classroom and home, and if we truly care about our students, this is something we absolutely need to encourage. Many initiatives presented at the 2014 “Day of Early Childhood” (NCTE conference in Washington DC) encourage school and home ties such as teacher candidates spending an amount of time in the community they are working in, out of school hours[6]. Teacher educators note that what at first seems intimidating to many teacher candidates ends up an overwhelmingly positive experience. The more we get to know the families of our students the more we see the complex communities they live in and the beauty of their lives.

In a recent Rethinking Schools article Grace Cornell Gonzalez (2014) addresses familial involvement in her SFUSD dual immersion kindergarten classroom. She states that if we want equitable schools we need to be as intentional about how we involve parents as we are about how we educate their children. During her first year at this school Cornell Gonzalez noticed that home school communication privileged the English speaking families, and those with access to electronic sources. She notes that this was most likely not done out of lack of caring, simply lack of understanding. The situation was remedied over the course of this first year and was well set in her second year. Cornell Gonzalez comments on the importance of effective home school communication in the early years in terms of parents being able to advocate for their children, children benefitting from seeing their parents involved in the school community, and behavior and motivation increasing as children see how their home and school are connected, among other positive gains. Another important point Cornell Gonzalez makes is that especially in elementary school, teachers train parents what to expect when it comes to how they should and should not be involved in their children’s school. Fuentes (2013) remarks that the mothers she was working with at Benton High became strong and powerful advocates transforming individual concerns into collective concerns and in the process were able to offer a counternarrative on what it means to be involved and caring parents. Benton High students were inspired by the activism of their parents and other community members and voiced a renewed interest in school and a sense of pride in their mothers’ visibility and power in the community. Picower (2012) shares a story where an eight year old child, daughter of a domestic worker, was so inspired by speakers at a rally for domestic workers rights that she got up to talk, with the support of her classroom teacher. Her teacher had already developed a community responsive curriculum addressing the rights of domestic workers and nannies, in his 3rd grade classroom. He was able to make a bridge between his activism outside of the classroom and was able to bring into the classroom curriculum that was responsive to the school community as a whole. Research has shown students’ skill levels naturally increase when they feel intellectually and socially connected to their education (Cammarota, 2007). It is essential that educators take a critical approach to education from the earliest years on. Neoliberal reforms try to stifle activism among teachers, and among students. Spurious attacks on the teaching profession make it all the more difficult for teachers to fully commit to activism inside and outside of the classroom. It takes more courage than it should and creativity is required to work around curriculum imposed from above. Cornell Gonzalez outlines how school and home connections were fostered in her classroom, with parents taking on different roles and taking on more and more responsibility for involvement in the classroom, such as organizing classroom helpers from both English and Spanish speaking backgrounds. Hopefully these parents will be able to continue to be actively involved in their child’s education (in whatever way they can), as they move on from the kindergarten classroom. It is essential counterrnarratives are told to challenge a deficit view of families of color in regards to their children’s education.

In his essay, Note to Educators: Hope Required When Growing Roses in Concrete, Jeffrey Duncan-Andrade (2009) positions critical hope as the enemy of hopelessness. Decolonizing pedagogy, culturally relevant practice and critical family and community involvement in schools push us towards critical hope. Duncan-Andrade’s work is generally focused on high school and giving students tools they can use to deal with the forces that affect their lives. He states that quality teaching is the most significant material resource teachers have to offer youth. In the early years we need to involve parents and give them, along with their children, resources to address oppression they face. Audacious hope demands we reconnect with the collective by struggling alongside one another. Audacious hope also calls for a radical transformation of urban spaces and radical healing through solidarity, in joy and in pain. Neoliberal efforts to push individual effort at the expense of collaboration and collective action have clear political ramifications. It is a lot harder to knock down a mass of pegs, than ones that are picked off. We must fight to retain our humanity and the humanity of those around us. In response to a call-out for #alllivesmatter, Alicia Garza writes:

BlackLivesMatter doesn’t mean your life isn’t important-it means that Black lives, which are seen as without value within White supremacy, are important to           your liberation. Given the disproportionate impact state violence has on Black           lives, we understand that when Black people in this country get free, the benefits             will be wide reaching and transformative for society as a whole.

It is up to us to water the seeds of the roses that are growing in concrete; and while it may take years, and even longer, for them to bloom, everything we do now impacts their growth, whether visible to the eye or not. “They tried to bury us, but they didn’t know we were seeds.”


Cadiero-Kaplan, K. (2008). Chapter Six “Critically Examining Beliefs, Orientations, Ideologies, and Practices Toward Literacy Instruction: A Process of Praxis.” In L. I. Bartolomé (Ed.), Ideologies in Education: Unmasking the Trap of Teacher Neutrality (Vol. v.319, p. 292). New York, NY: P. Lang.

Camangian, P. R. (2013). Teach Like Lives Depend on It: Agitate, Arouse, and Inspire. Urban Education.

Cammarota, J. (2007). A Social Justice Approach to Achievement: Guiding Latina/o Students Toward Educational Attainment With a Challenging, Socially Relevant Curriculum. Equity & Excellence in Education, 40(1), 87–96.

Cornell Gonzalez, G. (2014). Aren’t You on the Parent Listserv? Rethinking Schools, 29(1).

Duncan-Andrade, J. M. R. (2009). Note to Educators: Hope Required When Growing Roses in Concrete. Harvard Educational Review, 79(2).

Fuentes, E. (2013). Political Mothering: Latina and African American Mothers in the Struggle for Educational Justice: Political Mothering. Anthropology & Education Quarterly, 44(3), 304–319.

Gutiérrez, K. D., & Rogoff, B. (2003). Cultural Ways of Learning: Individual Traits or Repertoires of Practice. Educational Researcher, 32(5), 19–25.

Ladson-Billings, G. (1995). But That’s Just Good Teaching! The Case for Culturally Relevant Pedagogy. Theory into Practice, 34(3), 159–165.

Ladson-Billings, G. (2009). The dreamkeepers: successful teachers of African American children (2nd ed). San Francisco, Calif: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Milner, H. R. (2010). Culturally Relevant Pedagogy in a Diverse Urban Classroom. The Urban Review, 43(1), 66–89.

Picower, B. (2012). Teacher Activism: Enacting a Vision for Social Justice. Equity & Excellence in Education, 45(4), 561–574.

Romero, A., Arce, S., & Cammarota, J. (2009). A Barrio pedagogy: identity, intellectualism, activism, and academic achievement through the evolution of critically compassionate intellectualism. Race Ethnicity and Education, 12(2), 217–233.

Stovall, D. (2013). 14 souls, 19 days and 1600 dreams: engaging critical race praxis while living on the “edge” of race. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 34(4), 562–578.

Tintiangco-Cubales, A., Kohli, R., Sacramento, J., Henning, N., Agarwal-Rangnath, R., & Sleeter, C. (2015). Toward an Ethnic Studies Pedagogy: Implications for K-12 Schools from the Research. The Urban Review, 47(1), 104–125.

[1] As the now “deceased” Zapatista Subcomandante Marcos, now Subcomandante Galeano in honor of his deceased compañero, said. Retrieved from by Charlotte Sáenz


[3] El Rancho, LAUSD, SFUSD, Montebello and Woodward

[4] Imani wrote: To become stronger as a community, Blacks must be critical of the information that we are taught to internalize. By exterminating internal White supremacy, we are able to determine our self-identity and create a clear purpose for ourselves . . .



Appreciating the Unteachable: Creative Writing in Formal Schooling

“But let’s also acknowledge that having students write creatively (“that written composition for which the writer has determined his own subject, the form in which he presents it, and the length of the product”) must not be reserved for gifted students only, but something every student deserves to explore.
Redefining creative writing in school (rejecting template and prompted essays) and inviting all students to write creatively raise expectations while also insuring equity.”

radical eyes for equity

Benjamin Bloom’s eponymous taxonomy has been bastardized, oversimplified, and misunderstood for as long as it has been a staple of teaching.

My major professor for my doctoral work, Lorin Anderson, was a student of Benjamin Bloom, and Anderson has also spent a great deal of scholarship revising Bloom’s taxonomy as well as refuting the ways it is typically misused.

In the revised taxonomy, noting that seeing the taxonomy as linear and sequential is distorting, the earlier elements of “synthesis” and “evaluation” (often interpreted as evaluation being the highest) have been revised to “evaluating” and “creating,” again with the implication often being that “creating” is the highest.

I would argue that some elements of the taxonomy are more complicated but not necessarily qualitatively better, but it does seem credible to suggest that creating is an advanced act by anyone, especially a student, since it involves synthesis—the drawing together into…

View original post 792 more words

Power of Common Core to Reshape Vocabulary Instruction Reaches Back to 1944!

It’s time to put education back in the hands of ethical educators who actually care about all public school children and who see the potential in the sparkle of their eyes, and care too much to let that sparkle fade.

radical eyes for equity

According to Liana Heitin at Education Week [1]:

[S]ome reading experts, including those who helped write the Common Core State Standards [emphasis added], are saying what’s critical about vocabulary instruction is how the words are introduced—and that context is key.

“We’ve known for a long, long time from research that giving students a list of words and asking them to look them up in the dictionary and write a sentence is not an effective way to teach vocabulary,” said Nell K. Duke, a professor of literacy, language, and culture at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

A better approach, some say, is to have students focus on a topic—anything from the musculatory system to the Great Depression to Greek myths.

“It turns out that learning about the world is a great way to build your vocabulary and knowledge,” said David Liben, a senior content specialist for the literacy team…

View original post 1,026 more words

Ayotzinapa vive! La lucha sigue!

El pueblo unido, nunca sera vencido

The people united, will never be defeated 


La maestra luchando, también está enseñando

The teacher in the struggle, is still teaching

At the #blacklivesmatter teach-in at USF (2.24.15), Dr. Karina Hodoyán discussed the solidarity that has risen up between those affected by events in Ferguson and in Ayotzinapa. It appears that the killing of Michael Brown, and the killing of at least six student teachers from Ayotzinapa, and the subsequent disappearance of 43 student teachers, is the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. In both instances, the victims come from impoverished communities that have been ignored by their respective governments for far too long. Public outcry has ensured that the deaths and disappearance of these young people will not be buried on the last page of the paper. The twitter account Noticias Ayotzinapa has tweeted and retweeted over 307,000 tweets and the hash tag #yamecanse[1] continues to trend. As I write, family members are doing a caravan style tour of the United States, to speak to supporters[2]. Journalist Charlotte Saenz relays a comment made by the Mexican government that the families of los 43 make decisions as a collective. It is collective action that has led to resistance struggles throughout Mexico and Central America. Neoliberal policies have hit Mexican public education hard and it is only by coming together that change can be made, or at least held back for now. The courage shown by educators is phenomenal, especially when you consider how repressive government reaction has been. When the people in a rural community in the early 2000s protested issues such as the lack of water, lack of electricity and lack of educational resources, protesters were arrested and many of them jailed for a number of years. The army/government claimed they were fomenting unrest and were assembling a guerilla army. Among those arrested were many schoolteachers[3]. Caravans of educators within Mexico have taken people from the southern states to the capital on a number of occasions. Along with the commonly heard chant of el pueblo unido.. , another chant comes up stating that the teacher fighting/in the struggle is still teaching. Education is certainly not confined to the classroom and these educators show that they are willing to put themselves on the line for the sake of public education.

The Mexican Constitution of 1917 guarantees free and secular public education for all. It appears that no amendments have been directly made to Article 3, but articles that restricted private property laws and that dealt with land redistribution were amended in the 1990s. The adoption of NAFTA brought neoliberal education reforms to Mexico, without needing to resort to constitutional change. Standardized testing took on new forms and direct links between companies such as Coca Cola and public education became standard. Resources that the government should automatically have been paying for as part of its mandate came loaded with strings attached on behalf of corporate entities. The Market spoke and public education changed for the worst. At the end of the film Granito de Arena we hear from people in rural communities who refuse to take advertisers’ money and instead make do with meager supplies. It isn’t explicitly stated, but it can be assumed that in these communities critical pedagogy is the order of the day. It is stated that the children need to be educated in their mother tongue first and that their education needs to make sense to them, and reflect their daily life. Education is seen as a tool for liberation. Liberatory pedagogy does not make headline news and it would be worse for wear if it did take up mainstream airtime. It is not something to be monetized and there is a risk of teachers and students making themselves a target if they appear on camera. As educators and researchers, we can selectively work alongside communities to record what is happening and disseminate information, not that this isn’t already happening. Long before the Internet, rural communities were mobilizing to fight for their rights. It is potentially something we can take to other settings, for example Ethnic Studies campaigns here in the US, but we must be careful not to let it become a marketing tool. It is essential individual voices be heard, as part of the community. Neoliberal education reforms promote competition and individual rewards when what is needed for us to reach our potential is education that challenges us to work within society, together. There is no peace when competition takes over, and the people behind the free market system do not profit from pacifying forces. They are a formidable enemy however and creativity is needed to stem the tide. This creativity is shown in grassroots movements, and solidarity builds across borders much more easily now that social media is in play.

Ayotzinapa-Palestine-Ferguson: we are united in the struggle.

I first visited Mexico in January 1994. My original plan was to go to Oaxaca and then travel to Chiapas, but the EZLN (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional-Zapatista Army for National Liberation) uprising changed that. In Oaxaca I met a couple of Chicano journalists from Texas who were heading through to Chiapas to report on the uprising. I seem to remember that the EZLN had invited foreign press to be in San Cristóbal on the 1st of January, 1994, the day on which NAFTA came into effect. I’m having trouble sourcing this information but what is clear is that the EZLN harnessed the power of the Internet to broadcast their demands from day one. I didn’t travel to Chiapas in 1994 because I didn’t have a role to play there, and I didn’t want to get caught up between the Mexican army and the EZLN. As I was reading up on the current state of the Zapatistas in Chiapas, I came across a document from 1998 that was put out by the RAND Corporation entitled The Zapatista “Social Netwar” in Mexico[4]. The term ‘netwar’ was created by two of the RAND researchers who worked on this document. The Wikipedia page on ‘netwar’ has as subheadings: Terrorism; Zapatistas; Transnational Criminal Organizations. Framing the Zapatistas as akin to a terrorist organization is chilling, as they represent grassroots activism, albeit with the aid of social media. I was able to pull up another RAND report that goes into more detail about the threat posed by social movements as a form of ‘netwar’, but it was dated 1996, so it the term may no longer be in use. The EZLN may have the word ‘army’ in their title but they are not waging armed struggle against the Mexican government. They are standing up for the rights of indigenous communities and for people living under oppression everywhere. If there is ‘netwar’ can there be ‘netpeace’? I am reminded of ‘negative’ and ‘positive’ peace as outlined by Galtung. Indigenous communities in Mexico have been fighting colonization for around half a millennia. It is not a clear-cut war, not a civil war as such-at least at the moment, yet peace is the ultimate goal for those in the struggle. People’s basic needs are not being met, and this constitutes violence, especially in a country as wealthy as Mexico. Galtung defines violence in part as that which increases the distance between the potential and the actual, so deprivation of services comes under this moniker. Physical violence carried out by state and federal forces adds to this brutality. It is not easy to see a way out, but it’s unlikely that resistance will fade. Six months after the violence in Iguala the families of the disappeared teachers are not going away quietly and are not letting the government get off with flimsy excuses, with no basis in reality. International media attention likely keeps the Ayotzinapa families and supporters safe from gross state violence as the government wouldn’t be able to explain it away easily. Resistance away from the spotlight may be more dangerous and it is here we need to tread lightly. When individuals are being arrested and tortured for demanding basic rights, and where liberatory education is tied to supposed armed struggle in the eyes of the state, we need to stay vigilant. It is this education that supplies positive peace for the time is enters our hearts. Positive peace engenders dignity for all people willing to stand up for their rights, and the rights of others.

[1] “I am tired/I’ve had enough”, words spoken by Mexico’s Attorney General after an hour of taking questions about the disappearances of the Ayotzinapa 43.


[3] as per “Granito de Arena” film