Saturday, January 26, 2008

Math and Social Justice Teaching? AFSC's New Cost of War Project

The AFSC [American Friends Service Committee] has a great new teaching/community education resource - the Cost of War Project - check it out and also please sign the petition today to defund the war and refund human needs in Iraq and the U.S.

See also these great tips, resources and suggestions on how to teach math with a social justice approach from Milwaukee Math Teacher and Rethinking Schools leader Bob Peterson:

As a math teacher I try to integrate social issues into math on a daily basis. Unfortunately the Iraq War provides way too many opportunities. I just happened upon a new web site that might be very helpful for teachers and others concerned about the war.
I am sure many of you already know of the website:
They calculate the cost using the current Congressional expenditures. I have used this site a lot as part of math and social studies lessons in my fifth grade classroom. I've written some of them up for Rethinking Schools -- for example see "Bring the War Home to Our Classrooms".

But now there is a new site that I think is very helpful --actually it's a whole new campaign initiated by the American Friends Service Committee. Check it out at:
They calculate the cost based not only one what is being spent today,
but also future costs -- on debt, on taking care of wounded soldiers, etc.
So instead of $280 million dollars a day, they estimate $720 million a day and then they have a short video to got with it explaining what we could fund in one day's Iraq War expenditure. They have also launched a petition drive -- a form of protest that has been used by all social movements in our nation's history, and one that is very accessible to students of all ages.In terms of current events the use of the video is obvious. In terms of math instruction it could also be a powerful tool. Whether it's large numbers, place value, statistics, multidigit multplication and division, the short video could be a useful spark for some deeper mathematical thinking. It also points out to students the absolute necessity for people to be "mathematically literate" if we are going to change the direction of this country and put it on a more just footing.
As usual, I'd be interested in hearing from people who are infusing
social justice issues into their math instruction.
Bob Peterson
co-editor, Rethinking Mathematics: Teaching Social Justice by the Numbers

Thursday, January 17, 2008

It's Diversity St***d

for those who argue for homogenous classrooms, by ability or otherwise, see this NY Times article
about Scott Page:

His recently published book, “The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools and Societies” (Princeton University Press), uses mathematical modeling and case studies to show how variety in staffing produces organizational strength.

Monday, January 14, 2008

SFFS E-letter

Check out upcoming events for social justice activists at SFFS blog
let me know if you want to subscribe to SFFS E-letter.

Monday, January 07, 2008

public versus private spending

consider public education as part of public infrastructure as you read below.

From article in yesterday's NY Times

(interestingly, John Hopkins is doing the same in Baltimore, according to The Wire last night)

The shift from public money to private wealth in shaping the nation’s cities is evident in national data. Government outlays on physical infrastructure have declined to 2.7 percent of the gross domestic product, from 3.6 percent in the 1960s. Philanthropic giving, in contrast, has jumped to nearly 2.5 percent of G.D.P., from 1.5 percent in 1995 and 2 percent in the ’60s.

Most of this money goes into endowments and foundations, or comes in the form of individual gifts, and then is increased through leverage. Of the $3 billion that Yale has spent so far on its vast building program, for example, slightly less than two-thirds came from gifts and from the endowment, which now totals $22.5 billion. The rest was borrowed, Mr. Levin said.

Yale now spends more than $400 million annually on its renaissance, nearly six times its outlays for construction and renovation in the mid-1990s. New Haven, by contrast, budgeted $137 million in the current fiscal year for all its capital projects, including those subsidized by state and federal governments. That is less than twice the amount budgeted in the mid-’90s.

Government investment nationwide has lagged for several reasons, say business leaders, academics and public officials. Tax cuts have helped to hold down overall government spending. So has the view, widespread in recent decades, that public investment is often inept and wasteful. . .

Perhaps most important, big businesses no longer put as much clout and attention behind public infrastructure investments. In an earlier era, corporations, many with deep roots in local communities, lobbied government for the railroads, highways and many other facilities they needed to operate successfully. And they served as a crucial fountain of local tax revenue.

But companies are more mobile today. And many of the urban manufacturers most dependent on public infrastructure have moved or gone out of business. The Winchester Repeating Arms Company, once New Haven’s largest employer, is among the departed. Yale, which pays some taxes and escapes others that most corporations pay — particularly property taxes — is now the city’s biggest employer.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Obama Wins in Iowa

A great speech. Also see the post at

Duane Campbell