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This honest, heartbreaking, and at times funny memoir is the story of a boy who is attracted to other boys and his coming of age in the tumultuous 60s. It follows David as he rejects a church that condemns him, resists a country’s readiness to send him into a war he opposes, and stands up to a tyrannical father who controls him with a hard fist and an iron will. It is a tender yet courageous tale, one that in the end brings David to a hard-won acceptance of his sexuality, and an unexpected peace with his dying father.

Tightfisted Heart is also a prequel to I Don’t Wish Nobody to Have a Life Like Mine: Tales of Kids in Adult Lockup which chronicled David’s ten years teaching incarcerated teenagers.  His new memoir explores the underpinnings of his lifelong dedication to helping at-risk youth. It offers insights into how the harsh circumstances of his own upbringing and his experiences as a marginalized gay kid shaped his commitment to social justice, in particular, to teaching “throw-away” young people in various “special needs” settings—in rehab, a psychiatric hospital, a community alternative high school as well as an adult prison.

Tightfisted Heart is available at Amazon and Levellers Press

 

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An in-depth look at how unions can help teachers and parents support public education and save their schools from “corporate think”

gadflyonthewallblog

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In the fight for public education, the forces of standardization and privatization are running scared.

They’ve faced more pushback in the last few years – especially in the last few months – than in a decade.

The Opt Out movement increases exponentially every year. Teach for America is having trouble getting recruits. Pearson’s stock is plummeting. The NAACP and Black Lives Matter have both come out strongly against increasing charter schools.

So what’s a corporate education reformer to do?

Answer: Change the narrative.

They can’t control the facts, so instead they try to control the story being told about the facts.

It’s a classic propaganda technique. As Malcolm X put it:

“If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.”

Their story goes like this – yes, there is a battle…

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gadflyonthewallblog

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The United States is no stranger to stupidity and ignorance.

A significant portion of the population doesn’t know basic science facts like that the Earth revolves around the sun.

We only learn history and geography by going to war or drone striking countries usually  filled with brown people.

And when it comes to basic math and English, just read the poorly spelled placards at our political conventions calling for more trickle down economics.

Heck! We’re the country that elected C-student George W. Bush President!

Twice!

And lest you think that was a fluke, Donald Trump, a xenophobic reality TV star with zero political experience, is the presumptive Republican candidate for the same office RIGHT NOW!

Yet whenever so-called intelligent people bring up these and countless other examples of American idiocy, they invariably simplify the blame.

We’re a country of more than 320 million people made up of various…

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An excellent visual analysis of what is wrong with our juvenile justice system and how to make it right from Youth Transition Funders Group.

 

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If you follow closely what is happening when it comes to America’s incarceration of kids in prisons as I do, you realize that, despite some high profile cases in which reforms have been set in motion—at  New York City’s Rikers Island, for example—the news is not very good.

Certainly progress has been made in individual cases. Those youth advocates who  have worked tirelessly  to bring changes about should be honored and thanked—as  well as the many thousands of young people who have suffered and died as a result of our cruel prison system; those lives and deaths have been a call for justice and reform to many of us. But there is still much to do across this country when it comes to children in prison.

Fusion, an online progressive news journal, recently had an article, “16 Images that Demonstrate America’s Addiction to Jailing Children” that proves the point that progress is slow to almost nonexistent in reforming our  juvenile justice system. The article’s powerful images and stark statistics make it clear why we have a lot of work to do in saving our children from a system that seems more interested in punishment than in rehabilitation. These numbers and pictures present a reality that is hard to turn our back on.

Capt. Shawn Welch sprays OC spray into the face of Paul Schlosser who is bound in a restraint chair after the inmate, who has an infectious disease, spit at an officer.  June 10, 2012.

This disturbing photo is from an excellent article on Solitary Watch about the inhumane and brutal treatment of mentally ill people in US prisons. In my ten years teaching minors locked up in a New York adult county prison, I witnessed inmates who were  clearly disturbed and dealing with mental health issues being pepper sprayed and tased by emergency response teams (ERTs) dressed in intimidating riot gear as a way to “calm them down.”

Our prisons are overcrowded with mentally ill people who get little to no treatment, handled by people not trained in these issues, all because Americans refuse to confront the needs of the poor and disenfranchised and to provide the funds necessary for proper community mental health services. Instead we, through our lawmakers, spend billions of dollars on war in its many forms.

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This powerful quote from Dr. King contradicts the current rhetoric about “thugs” and “thieves.”

I think America must see that riots do not develop out of thin air. Certain conditions continue to exist in our society which must be condemned as vigorously as we condemn riots. But in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice, equality, and humanity. And so in a real sense our nation’s summers of riots are caused by our nation’s winters of delay. And as long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these recurrences of violence and riots over and over again. Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention.”