Category Archives: Schools

Militarizing academia, a list and an omission

We begin with the latest edition of Days of Revolt, the new weekly broadcast series from Chris Hedges produced by The Real News Network for  Telesur English:

Days of Revolt – Militarizing Education

Program notes:

In this episode of Days of Revolt, host Chris Hedges discusses the militarization of higher education institutions with journalist Alexa O’Brien. They uncover the trail of money and influence from the national security state to college programs. Hedges and O’Brien identify the ways in which this apparatus has long-been in effect, and what it could mean for the future.

While we generally agree with her critique of the military’s increasing grasp on the military, we find one peculiar omission from the list of the 100 most militarized universities she published in VICE News.

Not on the list is the University of California, now headed by former Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano.

Lest we forget, it was UC Berkeley’s own Robert Oppenheimer who headed the immense World War II scientific research program responsible for developing the atomic bomb. Berkeley is still involved in running Lawrence-Livermore National Laboratory, where new nuclear weapons are developed, and appoints three members to the board of Los Alamos National Laboratory, birthplace of the atomic bomb. And it was UC Berkeley’s John Yoo who provided the guiding legal advice justifying torture in the wake of 9/11.

The University of California also provided nearly half of the scientists of the Jason group, the secret, self-selected cabal of academics who provide research and advice to the Pentagon.

Among the Jasons’ “gifts” to humankind are the border patrolling drone and border-installed remote sensing devices, developed for the Vietnam War under the rubric of the Air-Supported Anti-Infiltration Barrier [PDF].

A 2007 College Quarterly review of Ann Finkbeiner’s 2006 book The Jasons: The Secret History of Science’s Postwar Elite, noted:

She was able to contact a number of Jasons and succeeded in interviewing thirty-six (published estimates of the total roster range from forty to about one hundred). Some refused to be interviewed. Some agreed only on condition of anonymity. Her book reveals that the $850 a day now paid to Jasons, while worthwhile, seems to be among the least of the motives for joining. More important is the sense of self-importance to be had from playing the part of a confident Washington insider. More likely still are altruistic, if naïve, beliefs that the Jasons make positive contributions to society by, if nothing else, exposing strategic errors or technological flaws in government plans and, of course, also solving real scientific problems in the bargain. They certainly have the skills to do so. Nobel laureates and giants of the intellectual community including Dyson, Hans Bethe, Steven Weinberg and the legendary Murray Gell-Mann have been Jasons. Too often, however, Finkbeiner concludes that their bargain is ultimately Faustian.

Jason has applied its collective braininess to such projects as the “electronic infiltration barrier” that did not, as it happens, protect South Vietnam from North Vietnam’s flow of troops (they tunnelled underground). Jason also worked out puzzles in adaptive optics, allowing telescopes to correct for atmospheric interference – information kept under wraps for a decade until the military found a use for it in Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative (“Star Wars”). Today, they may be providing advice on the occupation of Iraq; but, we won’t get the details on that soon, if ever.

The Jasons have also served as a model for other nations, as noted in a 10 November 2009 report in Nature, the world’s leading scientific journal:

The British government has recruited a group of academics to tackle tricky scientific problems related to defence, Nature has learned.

The programme is similar to a group known as the JASONs, which the US government has consulted on technical issues since the 1960s. “You hear a lot about the JASONs and how much credibility they have in the United States,” says Mark Welland, the UK Ministry of Defence’s chief scientific adviser. Britain needs a similarly “fast-moving, free-floating entity”, he says.

Scientific advice is frequently sought in Britain, but on security-related issues the advice usually comes from inside the government. Scientists at government labs such as the Atomic Weapons Establishment in Aldermaston are consulted on sensitive topics, in part because academic researchers lack the necessary security clearances.

Though the Pentagon created the group in 1958, it was only in 1971 that their existence became known to the public, thanks to the leak of the Pentagon Papers.

While the group’s membership remains a secret, some names surfaced in 1972, thanks to the release of the in-depth report on the group, authored by UC Berkeley Professor Charlie Schwartz and colleagues.

According to one published estimate, fully half of the Jasons have come from the University of California, primarily Berkeley.

The Federation of American Scientists maintains a database of declassified Jason reports.

So any way you look at it, the University of California belongs on any list of the nation’s most militarized universities.

Native Americans, genocide, and U.S. culture

The latest edition of Empire Files, Abby Martin’s new series for Telesur English, looks at the ongoing clash between Native American culture and the shifting patterns of intolerance and sometimes acceptance in mainstream culture.

Two national holidays epitomize the conflict. First, on 12 October comes Columbus Day, a celebration of colonialism carrying the implicit assumption that the Americas lacked any significant culture before the arrival of European imperialists.

The second holiday, is, of course, Thanksgiving, a symbolic recreation of a feast made possible for starving British colonialists by the intercession of Native Americans who had helped the hapless Puritans adapt to the land.

The troubled legacy continues to flare in the painful exploitation of Native American history by sports teams and the military, and in the ongoing contestation of Native American rights to control their own land and lives.

This episode features an extended conversation with historian and activist Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Professor Emerita of Ethnic Studies at California State University and an internationally scholar.

From Telesur English:

The Empire Files: Native American Genocide with Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

Program notes:

Each November, Americans celebrate a mythical version of U.S. history. Thanksgiving Day’s portrayal of the experience of Native Americans under the boot of settler-colonialism is one of the Empire’s most cherished falsehoods.

To hear about the true story of native peoples’ plight – from genocide to reeducation – Abby Martin interviews Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, renowned indigenous scholar and activist, about her most recent book “An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States.”

Ayotzinapa students get another beatdown

On 26 September 2014, 43 male students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College of Ayotzinapa in Tixtla, Guerrero, Mexico, went missing after police and possibly soldiers opened fire after the students commandeered buses in nearby Iguala — an event which we covered in some depth.

The state teachers colleges produce poorly paid instructors for rural communities, instructors drawn from the regional poor, and at Ayotzinapa they live in cold, concrete-floored unfurnished rooms.

So if students want to go to events in nearby communities, they sometimes commandeered local buses, something that had gone without violent suppression until that night, which had the misfortune to coincide with a with an event of major importance to the mayor’s spouse.

Just what happened to the students remains a mystery, though one bone fragment has been identified as belonging to one of the 43.

Less than 14 months later, students again commandeered buses, along with a gas truck to keep them fueled. And police violence followed.

From the Los Angeles Times:

More than a dozen students were hospitalized in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero after they were detained and beaten by scores of state and federal police officers, according to human rights activists.

About 150 students from a rural teachers college were traveling in eight buses on the highway from the state capital of Chilpancingo toward the small rural town of Ayotzinapa just after 4 p.m. Wednesday when state police pickups began pursuing them, according to the Guerrero-based human rights group Tlachinollan and witnesses.

Cellphone video provided by one of the students purports to show a police pickup driving up to the back of one of the buses and breaking in the windows.

The students attend the Ayotzinapa teachers school; 43 of their were detained and subsequently disappeared in the nearby city of Iguala in September 2014. The students Wednesday were on their way back from raising money for their campaign on behalf of the missing, Tlachinollan said.

Here’s that video, via Anon Hispano, along with a Google translation of the Spanish text:

Federal police began assaulting students #Ayotzinapa 11/11/2015

Program notes:

Treacherous attack took place in the shed nearby Tixtla, Guerrero, by federal and state police to students of the Normal Rural ‘Isidro Burgos’ Ayotzinapa, under the pretext of the abduction of a pipe of Pemex, with a balance at least 20 injured and 10 arrested.

More context from Fox News Latino:

Wednesday’s confrontation outside the municipality of Tixtla occurred when the officers intercepted a tanker truck carrying 30,000 liters of gasoline that the students had commandeered in the state capital of Chilpancingo and were taking to Tixtla, where the Ayotzinapa Rural Normal School is located.

The students, who were traveling in around 10 buses, tried to recover the tanker, leading to a clash in which the state police used batons and tear gas and the trainee teachers responded by hurling rocks and other objects at the officers.

An Ayotzinapa spokesperson told EFE that many of the students took refuge in nearby hills and that one of the 15 detainees was Ernesto Guerrero, a survivor of the deadly Sept. 26, 2014, events in the city of Iguala, Guerrero.

Al Jazeera’s AJ+ has more video from the scene:

Ayotzinapa Students Attacked By Mexican Police On Video

Program notes:

“The truth is these m*****f****** were chasing us, but this is how they chase criminals, isn’t it?” At least 8 Ayotzinapa students were hospitalized after they said they were attacked by Mexican police.

More in a video report from Telesur English:

Mexico: Police Attack on Ayotzinapa Students Repudiated

Program notes:

In the southwestern Mexican state of Guerrero, public opinion and social organizations are deeply concerned and angered over Wednesday’s police attack on Ayotzinapa students. The brutal attack, video of which was filmed by the students, left 8 students seriously injured and hospitalized. Critics say the attack is part of a strategy by the state government, now in the hands of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, to discredit the students and criminalize their protests. Clayton Conn reports from Mexico City.

And a Telesur English website update has the latest on the conditions of the injured students:

In Mexico, eight students from the now-infamous teacher training school in Ayotzinapa from which 43 students were disappeared in 2014 remain hospitalized after they suffered police brutality Wednesday: four are in critical condition.

According to the students’ lawyer, Vidulfo Rosales, two people have fractured bones in their the arms, and another in the face. Juan Castro Rodriguez was left in the most serious condition, with a “grade one” head injury.

Rosales, a human rights attorney, demanded that the students be moved from the Raymundo Abarca Alarcon hospital to private facilities, paid for by the Guerrero state government, as he said a bed shortage meant the students were kept standing while waiting for medical attention and did not receive adequate care.

Along with the 20 injured students, 13 students were detained and 20 injured during the attacks by Guerrero state police Wednesday night.

And elsewhere in Mexico. . .

From Telesur English:

Hundreds of Afro-Mexicans in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero lived moments of terror when a group of men armed with AK-47s and AR-15s stormed their local celebrations and opened fire, killing at least 12 people, including two children and a women, according to local reports on Tuesday.

The attack was carried out Sunday night in the small, mostly Afro-descent community of Cuajinicuilapa, near the border with neighboring state of Oaxaca, the town mayor Constantino Garcia said.

Police officials also found shells that they say were fired by .38 caliber and 9 mm semi-automatic handguns.

Authorities have yet to reveal the possible motives of the attack, because as it stands now and based on the weapons used, federal security forces, including military, could be responsible, as well as organized crime.

Students protesters march across the country

The Million Student March erupted Thursday across the country, even here in Berkeley [which was never the Berzerkeley so beloved of Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, and their ilk.

We have two video reports. both with a Berkeley twist.

From up, via The Real News Network, an interview with a Berkeley student instrumental in the protests:

#MillionStudentMarch: Thousands Walkout Across The Country

From the transcript:

JAISAL NOOR, TRNN: The Million Student March. Thousands walked out of classes at over 100 campuses across the country on Thursday. Among their demands included addressing racial injustice, free tuition at college campuses and universities, cancellation of the country’s $1.2 trillion student debt, and a $15 wage for all university workers.

LAUREN BUTLER: Wall Street has infiltrated our education system. Education has been commodified, you know, and put on Wall Street to be gambled with.

NOOR: Tying racial justice and economic injustice is UC Berkeley student Lauren Butler. She helped organize the walkout on her campus.

BUTLER: People are disadvantaged in education because of their race. And the same system that oppresses us all as students, the same corporate system that benefits off of the creation of debt, you know, essentially the creation of poverty, right, these are the same people that like to exploit people of color, black people especially.

NOOR: Butler also cites the activism at the University of Missouri earlier this week that led to the toppling of two key university officials demonstrates the potential of students to achieve their demands when they are organized.

BUTLER: We’re really seeing a shift in the power dynamics, right. So what Missouri really taught us is that we have to speak their language to get a reaction out of them, right, and we did that. And the reactions of the students, you know, the reactions of the individual students, these disgusting hate crimes and acts of terror against the black students, it really is just reflective of this larger white supremacist power structure.

And from RT’s Ruptly TV, here’s some raw footage of the demonstrations here in Berkeley Thursday:

USA: Million Student March shuts down UC Berkley campus

Program notes:

Hundreds of students marched through the University of California’s Berkeley campus to demand free education, Thursday. The students who were joined by campaign group ‘Nurses for Bernie Sanders.’ Organisers are demanding tuition-free colleges, a cancellation of all student debt as well as a minimum $15 (€13.9) an hour wage for campus workers. The rally was one of many held on campuses across America under the name ‘Million Student March.’

California’s public schools, triply segregated

And those hit hardest by the problems are the state’s growing population of Latino youth.

We begin with a video report from RT America:

CA schools highly segregated against Latino students – report

Program notes:

A report from UCLA found that Latinos are more segregated in California schools today than in the 1970s. RT’s Simone Del Rosario takes a look at the report and speaks with one of its authors, Professor Gary Orfield, about the findings and how this happened.

Contrary to the RT interviewer’s statement, the report was released last year by UCLA’s Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles on the 60th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court Brown vs. Board of Education decision mandating public desegregation.

Here are the highlights:

  • California has had an extremely dramatic increase in the segregation of Latinos, who on average attended schools that were 54 percent white in 1970, but now attend schools that are 84 percent nonwhite.
  • In 1993, black and Latino students were in schools with 52% and 58% poor children, respectively, and no racial/ethnic group attended schools of overwhelming poverty, on average; by 2012, blacks, on average, attended a school that was two-thirds poor children and Latinos a school more than 70% poor.
  • Black and Latino students attend schools that on average have more than two-thirds poor students, while whites and Asians typically attend schools with a majority of middle-class students.
  • The typical black student in California today attends a school with more than 2.5 times as many Latinos as blacks, thus making them a minority within a school dominated by another disadvantaged group.
  • Latino and African-African-American students are isolated in schools with lower graduation rates, less availability of college preparatory courses, the overuse of suspensions and the number of experienced teachers.  By contrast, almost half of Asian American students and about 40% of white students attend schools that rank in the top 20% of Academic Performance Index test scores.
  • The most segregated of the state’s twenty largest school districts are Los Angeles Unified, Santa Ana Unified, San Bernardino Unified and Fontana Unified (near San Bernardino). School districts that are among the most integrated and diverse are in the Sacramento area and Clovis, in the Fresno area.
  • The authors point to these less segregated school districts in California, and stress their value to policymakers seeking models for other communities.  The report details a half-century of desegregation research showing the major costs of segregation and the variety of benefits of schools that are attended by all races.

The full report is here [PDF].

And to conclude, one graphic from the report that highlights the dramatic changes in the public school student population in the Golden State:

BLOG CA schools

Headline of the day: New tech, new anxieties

From Sky News, a story calculated to raise parental ire:

Sexting Ring Uncovered At Colorado High School

Students shared nude pictures using a hidden, password-protected application disguised as a calculator on their mobile phones.

Student authored Berkeley High racist hack

That was the noxious imagery discovered on the web page of the school’s library, a discovery that lead to a walkout and march by 1,500 students.

From the Oakland Tribune:

Berkeley police Officer Byron White said the department was pleased to identify the student so quickly. “I think it’s terrific to be able to find out, and rare to solve something like this on the same day,” White said.

He said that the case is being reviewed and will most likely be turned over “to juvenile probation for review of charges. It’s a juvenile suspect.”

More from an email sent to students by Berkeley High School Principal Sam Pasarow:

After an extensive investigation conducted by site administrators and technology staff, and with additional resources from the school district and Berkeley Police Department, we were able to identify the student responsible for writing the hateful threats on a library computer.

While we acknowledge that there is a desire for additional details, we are bound by student privacy rights that we must respect. Therefore, all I can share is that we are considering all available  consequences for the individual in response to the widespread hurt that these actions caused.

We will continue to make student safety our number-one priority. In addition to students’ physical safety, we will work to ensure our school culture is positive and inclusive as well as socially/emotionally safe. We realize that unless kids feel safe on many levels (physical, social, emotional, cognitive), the likelihood that they will achieve their intellectual and creative potential is compromised.

Teachers and students, in conjunction with administration, will determine what our next steps are related to healing the harm that has occurred in our community.

This has been a very difficult day-and-a-half at BHS, particularly for African American students, and I want to close by saying I am deeply proud of and moved by our students’ advocacy and commitment to social justice. My sense is that today’s demonstrations brought our school community closer together and I will work with our students and staff to make sure today’s positive momentum moves forward.

In Solidarity,

Sam Pasarow

We conclude with some raw footage of the protest march from Bo Kovitz and Matt Campbell of the Daily Californian: