Unions are on the front lines of advocating human rights. That puts them in natural collaboration with non-governmental organizations doing the same. Amnesty International is one such NGO that has strong ties to global trade unions.

Today I speak with Shane Enright(@ShaneEnrightTU), a Workers’ rights campaigner and global trade union adviser at Amnesty International. He recounts various campaigns organized by Amnesty that have tried to pressure governments to release some teachers held in prison. He also talks about climate change and the September 20th general strike.

Citation: Enright, Shane, interview with Will Brehm, FreshEd, 169, podcast audio, August 26, 2019. https://www.freshedpodcast.com/shaneenright/

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Teachers are striking across America. From Arizona to Oklahoma to West Virginia, teachers are not simply demanding higher pay. They are also demanding better learning conditions for students and better working conditions for all state employees. And they are succeeding.

Many of these industrial workplace actions are taking place in states that have passed right-to-work laws, meaning workers cannot be compelled to join a union or pay union dues as a condition of employment. The strikes are also happening in the states that Trump won in 2016. So what does this mean for public education generally and the 2020 US presidential election?

My guest today is Eric Blanc, the author of the new book Red State Revolt: The Teachers’ Strike Wave and Working-Class Politics (Verso 2019). Eric is a journalist and a former high school teacher and has followed the on-the-ground developments of the Los Angeles, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona, Denver, and Oakland public education strikes.

Citation: Blanc, Eric, interview with Will Brehm, FreshEd, 161, podcast audio, July 1, 2019. https://www.freshedpodcast.com/blanc/

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Today we talk about the history and recent rise of Islamophobia worldwide. My guest is Mariam Durrani, an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Hamilton College.

Finding, and measuring Islamophobia hate speech on social media. John Gomez/Shutterstock

In our conversation, we discussed both the state policy infrastructure enabling Islamophobia while also the everyday discourses and actions that normalize the Othering of a particular group. Dr. Durrani also discusses her own life story of growing up in a military family and witnessing the rise of Islamophobia in the aftermath of  September 11th.

Mariam Durrani recently published the book chapter “Communicating and Contesting Islamophobia.”

Citation: Durrani, Mariam, interview with Will Brehm, FreshEd, 152, podcast audio, April 29, 2019. https://www.freshedpodcast.com/mariamdurrani/

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Today we look at the power of Participatory Action Research in public science. My guest is Michelle Fine. In the 1990s, she worked on a study called Changing Minds, which looked at the impact of college in a maximum-security prison. The research team comprised of women in and outside of prison.

For Michelle, participatory action research plays an important role in the struggle for social justice. It not only can change legislation, impact critical social theory, and mobilize popular opinion for educational justice; but seemingly small issues can also have deep and lasting implications.

Michelle Fine is a Distinguished Professor at the Graduate Center at the City University of New York where she is a founding member of the Public Science Project.

Citation: Fine, Michelle, interview with Will Brehm, FreshEd, 137, podcast audio, November 26, 2018. https://www.freshedpodcast.com/michellefine/

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Today we look at the lessons that can be learned from radical histories. My guests are Aziz Choudry and Salim Vally. They’ve edited a new volume entitled: Reflections on Knowledge, Learning and Social Movements: History’s Schools (Routledge, 2018).

They see history as an organizing tool and discuss the ways in which social movements have learned from the past.

Aziz Choudry is Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair in Social Movement Learning and Knowledge Production in the Department of Integrated Studies in Education at McGill University and a Visiting Professor at the Centre for Education Rights and Transformation, University of Johannesburg. Salim Vally is the Director of the Centre for Education Rights and Transformation, an Associate Professor at the Faculty of Education, University of Johannesburg, and a Visiting Professor at the Nelson Mandela University. They are both active in various social movements and solidarity organizations around the world.

 

Tunisia is known for sparking what many in the West call the Arab Spring, the revolutionary protests that swept across North Africa and the Middle East starting in 2010.

My guest today is Tavis Jules. Together with Teresa Barton, he co-authored a new book entitled

Educational Transitions in post-revolutionary spaces: Islam, security, and social movements in Tunisia. He argues that the Tunisian revolution had everything to do with education.

In our conversation, we discuss the history leading up to the 2010 protests that would peacefully toppled the president as well as the fallout 7 years later.

Tavis Jules is an Associate Professor of Cultural and Educational Policy Studies at Loyola University Chicago.

Citation: Jules, Tavis, interview with Will Brehm, FreshEd, 111, podcast audio, April 9, 2018. https://www.freshedpodcast.com/tavisdjules/

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Today, we explore the university strikes in the United Kingdom. My guests are Ioannis Costas Batlle and Aurelien Mondon, lecturers at the University of Bath and participants in the Bath Teach Outs.

Based on their experiences in the current labor movement sweeping the UK, they find an alternative to the neoliberal university.

Their new co-written blog post entitled “University Strikes: Reclaiming a space for emancipatory education” was published by Discover Society.

Learn more about the strikes here: https://www.facebook.com/StrikeOnTeachOut/

When I was in school, I did anything – and everything! – to get out of a test. Seriously. Ask my parents, who I drove nuts. I often refused to go to school on test days or simply pretended I was sick to get out of class just as the exam was being handed out. Tests made me nervous and I hated the idea that one number could forever define my intelligence.

(Christie M Farriella/New York Daily News)

Today, more and more students are refusing to take standardized tests across the USA. Unlike my own mini-protest, however, students who refuse to take tests are part of the Opt-Out movement.

This movement is found in many states in America and units people from across the political divide.

With me to talk about this growing movement is Oren-Pizmony-Levy, an Assistant Professor of International and Comparative Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. He has been researching the opt-out movement, situating it within the global context. What motivates people to join the movement? What results have been produced?

 

In my conversation with Oren today, we discuss his and Nancy Green Saraisky’s report entitled “who opts-out and why?”

Further Readings: 

Who Opts Out and Why? Results from a national survey on opting out of standardized tests
https://academiccommons.columbia.edu/catalog/ac:201689

How Americans View the Opt Out Movement
https://academiccommons.columbia.edu/catalog/ac:xd2547d7zx

A group of Yale graduate students are protesting their labor conditions as teachers. They are demanding the administration recognize them as a union and negotiate their contract as full employees of the university. After all, graduate students teach many undergraduate classes.

But the administration is stalling, waiting for Donald Trump to appoint an anti-union National Labor Relations Board that, they hope, will throw out the union’s right to exist.

My guest today is Jennifer Klein, a professor of history at Yale University who has followed the unionization efforts closely. She’s written a recent New York Times op-ed detailing the events at Yale.

The fight over graduate student’s right to unionize at Yale is a microcosm of the reliance on precarious work across the American higher education system.

You can find the solidarity statement in support of the graduate students here.

On May 22, Local 33, the union representing the Yale graduate students, protested during the Yale commencement.