What is hate speech?

What is hate speech? TikTok defines it as "a statement that attacks or incites violence against an individual or group of individuals on the basis of protected attributes." Other social media platforms say much the same. I think of hate speech as statements that are directed at people who our society tries to push to…

A real chance to address the climate crisis

This fall, for the first time in a decade, our government has a real chance to take action and address the climate crisis. But our chance is a narrow one. To understand the nature of this moment, it could be helpful to trace how we have learned about this crisis over the past 30 years…

The real learning loss

This essay was also published in the Oak Park newspaper Wednesday Journal.  Every year, parents, educators, and community members worry about “summer learning loss”. During the pandemic, these worries have taken on new dimensions: what can we do about all the knowledge and skills that students have supposedly lost over the past year and a…

What to a white man is Juneteenth?

Carl Schwarz woke up on June 19, 1865 facing another day of hard work on his farm. He had recently established himself in the town of Lebanon, Wisconsin and lived there with his wife Martha and six children, ranging in age from 1 to 11 years old. He owned 40 acres of arable land and…

Collective liberation

My 5th-grade teacher had given us a writing assignment, and apparently she didn’t like what she saw. She believed that we would learn the most from this assignment if she gave us a practical example, so she photocopied my classmate’s work, passed it out to all of us, and asked us to correct the numerous…

Unmaking this world

This piece was also published in the Oak Park newspaper Wednesday Journal.  This world will be unmade. Will it be by the creep of increasing vapors altering the chemistry of our atmosphere and oceans? By the waters and winds of a weather cataclysm? By the scorching inferno of an unstoppable fire? By the armed conflict…

In a pandemic, don’t fail our students

This piece was also published in a slightly different form in the Oak Park newspaper Wednesday Journal.  None of us need reminding that we have been experiencing -- and are still experiencing -- the worst pandemic in over 100 years. We are dealing with circumstances in our work, school, and personal lives that we never…

On the occasion of my 75th birthday

6 May 2051 Dear _______, It is hard to believe how quickly the years have passed. I am 75 years old, and I hope I have a few years left: your grandfather and great-grandfather both made it past ninety. But I have to admit to myself that I am moving into the final act of…

The work of antiracism is the work of relationship.

Recently, news outlets have been covering two letters decrying antiracism work at two elite, private schools in New York City. In the first letter, Andrew Gutman, a white businessman, describes pulling his daughter out of Brearley School, citing the school’s “obsession with race”, and sending his letter to hundreds of families whose children are enrolled…