Honoring Paulo Friere

I’ve been working here in Massachusetts to build the Poor People Campaign’s Popular Political Education Committee.  In doing so I have been looking back at my favorite  Paulo Friere quotes: Here are my top five, at least for this purpose.

  1. “education is freedom.”  2) “The teacher is of course an artist, but being an artist does not mean that he or she can make the profile, can shape the students. What the educator does in teaching is to make it possible for the students to become themselves.”    3) “The radical, committed to human liberation, does not become the prisoner of a ‘circle of certainty’ within which reality is also imprisoned. On the contrary, the more radical the person is, the more fully he or she enters into reality so that, knowing it better, he or she can better transform it. This individual is not afraid to confront, to listen, to see the world unveiled. This person is not afraid to meet the people or to enter into dialogue with them. This person does not consider himself or herself the proprietor of history or of all people, or the liberator of the oppressed; but he or she does commit himself or herself, within history, to fight at their side.” 4)“Reading is not walking on the words; it’s grasping the soul of them.” and 5)“No pedagogy which is truly liberating can remain distant from the oppressed by treating them as unfortunates and by presenting for their emulation models from among the oppressors. The oppressed must be their own example in the struggle for their redemption”Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed


New resources for resistance

I submitted this to the Boston Globe:  Who Knows If it will be printed?

Globe coverage of Donald Trump’s first days in office has been strong. The reportage and editorial commentary were pointed, especially in regard to his most immediately endangered targets — refugees, immigrants, all Muslims, and the Affordable Care Act.Keep it up.

BUT, at the same time, please focus also on the people who will continue to be victims of his policies and politics. African Americans, Latinos and poor people will remain every day losers in his “great again” America. Your white readers especially must reminded of this, not just offered new daily victims to protect and defend.

Trump himself often says, “you know what I mean.” So we do. As do Globe writers and readers. Do not pick only the day’s most vulnerable to write about. Pay attention to all in harm’s way. Otherwise, this man and his handlers will slip more meanness through the cracks of any walls he proposes to build.       Ann Withorn, Professor of Social Policy emeritus

ALSO Check out the new additions to the Resources Pages of my website…More to come, but these seems especially useful today

An Exchange re Basic Income, January 2017

I would appreciate comments.

Last week I received the following message sent from my Minneapolis BI comrade Liane Gale

F.Y.I. ….important piece by Scott Santens. A Basic Income 101 he was asked to write for the World Economic Forum.

Her Comment “I don’t think anybody of the Basic Income movement should be giving that much details on Basic Income”:

First Sentence: Consider for a moment that from this day forward, on the first day of every month, around $1,000 is deposited into your bank account – because you are a citizen. This income is independent of every other source of income and guarantees you a monthly starting salary above the poverty line for the rest of your life.

…Meanwhile, just a few examples of existing revenue that could and arguably should be fully consolidated into UBI would likely be food and nutrition assistance ($108 billion), wage subsidies ($72 billion), child tax credits ($56 billion), temporary assistance for needy families ($17 billion), and the home mortgage interest deduction (which mostly benefits the wealthy anyway, at a cost of at least $70 billion per year).”

After reading Santens’ whole article,”Why We Should All Have a Basic Income” that Liane attached (linked here) .  I also cc’d many in the BI community, I wrote Santens (on the day after marching the wonderful Boston Womens March:)

You my be joining the wrong team this time, man. 

Moral  (and political) arguments for Basic Income cannot start by claiming to end the measly protections offered by our already abusive social state.  

Sure, any viable, universal BI would mean shifts in state spending allocations, along with countless other changes in public programs.  (I would argue, for example, that BI would allow major reductions in our massive expenditures for prisons and other poverty-driven criminal injustice costs). 

But, for sure, our arguments MUST be made based on the positive values and potential benefits of BI, not because it will reduce or end existing social welfare costs. 

 You know this, Scott. So don’t play to the libertarian crowd. It hurts us in the same way that that pressures to support Nixon’s proposal for an deeply inadequate guaranteed income divided and confused Democrats, and the Civil Rights Movement, 50+ years ago. 

Our positive arguments and social values stand for themselves. If we act this way then internal debates are honest differences about implementation strategies. And external strggle with political adversaries can be based on open, unfettered disagreements about meaningful social and economic priorities. 

It’s not about finding winnable marketing slogans. 

Please, Mark. Don’t use the bully Pulpit of the WEF this way. As Rev Barber says so powerfully these days “It’s not about Left vs. Right anymore, but about right vs wrong” 

Poverty and radical economic inequality are wrong, simply wrong. And they must be opposed as such. BI is part of that opposition. 

He replied right away:

Did you really just include me in a mass email in disapproval of my article for the World Economic Forum?

 We absolutely need to replace some of our existing means-tested safety net. Targeting is a flawed idea. Aside from social stigma and administrative waste, it introduces type II errors that end up excluding the very people who need it most. You know this.

 TANF is a prime example of a program that should be 100% replaced. No one in their right mind who knows any of its details should defend continued TANF existence alongside UBI.

 I am very careful about communicating what should IMO be replaced. At no point do I suggest we should replace health care with UBI. I never do that. Universal health care is a vital but separate issue than cash grants, IMO.

 I also am careful to suggest treating important programs like Social Security and Disability like top-ups where no one on these programs is ever in any way worse off and are in fact all better off, and yet money can still be saved in these areas because existing recipients effectively are already receiving basic income, but with conditions applied.

 For example, if 33% of Social Security funds were considered part of the funding for UBI, someone earning $1500/mo right now could receive $1000 in UBI and $1000 in Soc Sec, leaving that person $500 better off per month. That to me makes good sense. Or we could just let those on Soc Sec choose between it or UBI. Either way the price tag of UBI goes down, which is extremely important for political viability.

 Finally, many programs will disappear naturally as a result of UBI without doing a thing to actively get rid of them.

 Consider for example a $1 billion program that only helps those with annual incomes lower than $5,000. Now provide a $12,000 UBI. No one is earning below $5,000 anymore. That $1 billion is no longer spent, but the UBI is, and so the UBI can be seen as being $1 billion cheaper than we think it is, by having replaced a $1 billion program that technically still exists despite not providing anyone with anything anymore.

 I firmly believe UBI is far too important to be dragged down by partisan politics and tribal us versus them thinking. I will continue fighting for UBI as being neither left nor right, and in so doing, speaking to all audiences in a way those audiences can best understand and support.

 I also believe when the time comes to draft actual legislation that those with varying visions of UBI can and must at some point sit down at the same table and together negotiate a grand compromise where everyone gets something they want but not everything they want. Some details should be considered non-negotiable like for example unconditionality, whereas some should absolutely be considered negotiable, like for example the amount itself. But no one should go into a negotiation wanting everything or nothing, because that’s a great way to get nothing.

 I’m doing everything I can for this cause. I think UBI is the single most important change we can make to human civilization. If you don’t like the way I’m doing it, and think of me as somehow “conspiring with the enemy” by writing an article about basic income for the WEF and in so doing reaching millions of new people all over the world with the idea for the first time, including those with the deep pockets and influence to really do something about it, then I’m sorry we’re not quite on the same page here, strategically speaking.

 And please, in the future, send me emails in private, instead of intervention style.

Then I replied

I was also planning to post this, along with your article, on my website, Scott. 

Sending it to you first,  with cc’s to movement comrades, was meant exactly as a way to communicate directly to you–within our community–regarding my response to your particular way of promoting UBI. I hope it will push you to try harder to be a part of that community, not to speak FOR it…

which seems to be effect, if not the goal, of your success as spokesman for BI. 

If you wrote more often with others it would help. Or, at least, it would help if you spent more time recognizing the range of perspectives within BI in whatever you write

Thankfully, we don’t have a party, nor a party line, Scott.  But that is, exactly, a reason for all of us to be careful when presenting our own ideas before broader forums of what BI is, or could be, as if they were more representative of the movement, than we can possibly know. 

I guess I was just trying to say, remember that you are still just one among many. 

In struggle

PS I acknowledge that this week has made me especially frustrated by men who claim to speak for me. Yesterday, was a great outpouring of such frustrations. 

You, of course, are not Trump, but you sometimes do seem to assume similar powers to speak for others who, if you were listening, didn’t ask you to speak for them. (I hope you marched beside women in a pink pussy hat yesterday).

Also, if you did know anything about me, my life and my writing, you would not presume to mansplain to me about how bad TANF is. Of course, I know this AND I know too that welfare rights are human rights that have been too long denied by lots of people, including men of the Left. 

PS2 I guess what I was trying to say was what Karl, more diplomatically, just responded to you:  that we need to hear and distribute many of the wonderfully rich points of view within our movement. He has a long record of respect for this. You can try harder.  Exactly because you write and speak so strongly, you have an obligation to the rest of us to do so.

Postscript: The following response came from Karl WIderquist, (a long-time Basic Income leader whom I respect immensely) and was sent to Scott

Probably not everybody on the list Ann created wanted to be cced into what could become a growing thread.

I think we need diverse voices arguing for BIG in different forms and different ways. A movement’s effort to achieve intellectual purity often also achieves a lot of infighting ad political irrelevance

Messages were overlapping, but somehow Karl then wrote me privately after reading my comments to Scott

I think you misconstrued my email. It was meant to be a criticism of you rather than him. You emailed him apparently trying to shame him in front of more than 20 other people. So, you invited him to defend himself to that same group. You told him not to criticize the welfare system. So, you invited him to explain why he attacks the existing system.

I think you’re wrong in your perception that Scott attempts to speak for you or anyone else. He holds no official position. He’s never claimed to speak for anyone but himself. He just had the time and to learn now to publish, and he was able to take the time to publish a lot. He started on blogs that will publish anyone, and got himself to the point where mainstream media pays attention. But still he just speak for himself. So, when I said a movement’s effort to achieve intellectual purity often also achieves a lot of infighting ad political irrelevance, I meant your effort to make Scott fall into a party like is an effort to achieve intellectual purity.

Instead of trying to convert him to full agreement, you could accept that although he’ll never agree with everything, he’s already an ally who agrees with most of what you believe, and he’s going to say what he believes. I hope you’ll write what you believe and be the voice for what he leaves out.

Also, you might not be aware, but your email might come off as mean, bullying, or condescending. I don’t think you want to come off that way.

But of course, I accept that you’re going to do what you think is best.

I replied

I hear you, Karl. 

But it is Scott who consistently acts as if he speaks for BI. AND he acts like he thinks it is fine for him to do so. 

Who is he to say what programs will be cut, and for what benefit? 

 If he choses to write for a forum like this he should not act like he is speaking for anyone but himself. Did you really read what he wrote?  

 If I were to give his piece to the welfare rights folks I work with, they would be even more skeptical of BI than they already are. Whenever we talk about Basic Income all worry that well off white men will once again decide what is “Basic”for them.  There is real distrust based on real history, even when folks are attracted to the idea.   Scott doesn’t get this.

Saturday millions of women around the world said “no mas” to arrogant men.  For good reason.  Enough. 

I do think we have to stop having private sidebar discussions. We shouldn’t avoid calling people out before the community if they chose to write a public statement. Scott is very able to defend himself, as am I, as are you.   His taking offense about my sharing my comments was a bit much.  

I think the movement will only grow if we have open debates with each other. 

I respect Scott’s commitment to BI and his clear writing, but he presumes too much, and takes up way too much space.  

Those days are over. 

You never act like this, Karl.  You give lots of people credit. Your writing and your speaking and your BI work is inclusive and invites questioning, even as you exhort folks to action. 

You don’t need to defend Scott. He wouldn’t defend you. 

Take care


I’m cc’ing this only to Liane.  But I know many BI women who feel the same–and several men too.

My last word to Karl;

And I DO hear you about my tone. I’m sorry. 

It is just so hard to have to keep swallowing my frustration with men like Scott.   

But I will try harder.







Another thing I miss about my office is the chance to be helpful to students, and other people who just stopped by to “talk something out” for a bit. Usually it was individual/organizational problems and strategies — how to understand and manage that difficult boss or coworker, how to think out intra- and inter-organizational dynamics and dilemmas. Sometimes it was whether to seek a new job, or which grad school to pursue, or how to get something organized.
I didn’t give advice as much as I listened to what people wanted to do, feared doing, or just needed to talk through with an empathetic, somewhat experienced person. Sometimes I suggested someone else to talk with, or named a possible resource that wasn’t obvious. I loved this role because it made me feel useful and allowed me to deepen connections with people beyond academic or political purposes.
Now I am trying to  continue to keep my virtual office door open. So please, if we have connected this way in the past, feel free to contact me via the radicalreentry@gmail.com address and/or my Facebook “messenger” account. I now check them  daily. Maybe we can just email each other, or arrange to talk on the phone, or even in person at my house or at some not too distant quiet cafe or park. If this works out, my plan is eventually to set up some kind of a virtual sign-up sheet, where I will be accessible at set times.
I’m sending this notice out to people I used to work with in such a way — former students, and colleagues, friends and neighbors mainly. But I’m sending it alongs to new connections, especially new FaceBook and Linked In friends. Usually, as before, I will just view it as part of my work, but now in my new “office.” But if anybody wants me to come talk with others, or visit their workplace/organization, I may be up for it. Let me know.

it might have to be more formal, like some kind of “consultant” role. And, it there were enough of this kind of request, I might need to charge some money, to cover the extra time and/or travel. But that would be negotiable.
Mainly I just want to be available and useful to folks. Please follow up if it makes sense, or with suggestions for how to make this work.


It’s not just Boston (Vote ‘no’ on Question 2 – The Boston Globe)

The article below was written by Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and was printed in the Boston Globe as an argument for VOTE NO on Expanding the number of Charter Schools in MA —         Chttps://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2016/10/18/vote-question/G9mDK1u7xe8TG4PNlN1QbK/story.html

“By Martin J. Walsh OCTOBER 18, 2016
AS A FOUNDING board member of the Neighborhood House Charter School in Dorchester, I’m a longtime supporter of Boston’s charter schools. Last year, as mayor, I proposed state legislation to raise the cap on charter school growth while also giving charter schools access to state building funds for the first time.

It may surprise some, then, that I am voting “no” on ballot Question 2 — and urging everyone in the Commonwealth to do the same.

My reasons are clear. Question 2 does not just raise the cap. Over time, it would radically destabilize school governance in Massachusetts — not in any planned way, but by super-sizing an already broken funding system to a scale that would have a disastrous impact on students, their schools, and the cities and towns that fund them.

This impact would hit Boston especially hard. Twenty-five percent of statewide charter school seats, and 36 percent of the seats added since 2011, are in Boston. Each year, the city sends charter schools a large and growing portion of its state education aid to fund them. This funding system is unsustainable at current levels and would be catastrophic at the scale proposed by the ballot question.
For one thing, state reimbursements to cover the district’s transitional costs have been underfunded by $48 million over the last three fiscal years, a shortfall projected to grow into the hundreds of millions if the ballot question passes.

On charter schools, a new partisan divide
With just weeks to go before voters consider a plan to expand charter schools in the state, Democrats have swung against the question in large numbers.

In addition, our charter school assessment is based on a raw per-student average that does not adequately account for differing student needs and the costs of meeting them. This system punishes Boston Public Schools for its commitments to inclusive classrooms and sheltered English immersion, as well as everything from vocational education to social and emotional learning.

If those factors don’t tilt the playing field enough, there’s a kicker. Because our charter school assessment is based largely on the district’s spending, the more high-needs students are concentrated in district schools — and the more we have to compensate for withheld reimbursements — the higher our charter payments grow. Currently, our charter school assessment is 5 percent of the city’s entire budget. Under the ballot proposal, it would grow to almost 20 percent in just over a decade. It’s a looming death spiral for our district budget, aimed squarely at the most vulnerable children in our city. It’s not just unsustainable, it’s unconscionable.

I have heard it argued that this kind of financial pressure is needed to force Boston and other districts into making long-overdue reforms. In fact, Superintendent Tommy Chang has advanced an ambitious and thoughtful change agenda. We are completing a long-term financial plan to focus our spending more effectively, efficiently, and equitably on classrooms. We are using an equity-and-data lens to make decisions about our facilities footprint and grade configurations. We are reducing transportation costs. We have increased school autonomy and modernized hiring practices, and petitioned the state for even more flexibility in these areas. Instead of accelerating reforms, the ballot proposal would undermine our planning and replace steady progress with increasingly bitter budget, facilities, and labor disputes.

My final reason for opposing Question 2 is as someone who values and cares about our charter schools. Massachusetts is rightly proud of how our charters have transcended the unremarkable performance and shocking scandals that have beset charters in many other states. That success is built on 20 years of sound growth. I know from experience how much planning it takes to launch and grow a strong charter school. Since the first schools opened, in 1995, the Commonwealth has added an average of 1,762 charter students each year. The ballot question could more than quadruple that rate, with increases concentrated in Boston and other urban districts. This reckless growth would change our charter culture and greatly increase the likelihood of school failures that hurt kids and discredit the reform movement.

The fact is, Boston has the best charter schools and the best district schools of any major city in the nation — both with long waiting lists and fiercely proud school communities. The way to continue our progress and bring it to all students is not through wholesale upheaval that pits school against school and family against family. It is through a sustainable funding system and greater collaboration.

This ballot question is not a referendum on charter schools. It is a deeply misguided proposal that is fundamentally hostile to the progress of school improvement, the financial health of municipalities, and the principle of local control. I urge everyone to join me on Nov. 8 in voting “no” on Question 2. Then we can get to work — together — to improve all our schools.

My response is:

……This is how the “elite leadership classes” classes do it today. Remember R.D. Laing? It’s a classic “knot”.

They back down by switching positions in the face of defeat — and then they claim victory. They almost deny they were ever on the other side. In fact, they seem to say that actually, there never was another side because the side they are on at the moment is always the right side. Until it isn’t…Mayor Walsh was for the Olympics, then he wasn’t. Because he never really was. He was always just for Boston.
He is for charters, but now he’s against Question 2 because it will really hurt charters, even if it claims to be pro-charter???? What’s the sense here?

I had not worried about the Mayor as a neoliberal before, he didn’t seem that astute. But he obviously has some as his advisors, at least. And the problem is, we DO need to stop this ballot question… as with the Olympics, and Trump.
But talk about reclaiming the narrative with a fast switcheroo.

This helps clarify my unease about the latest simplistic electoral shift. We can now all be against Trump (not Republicans, just Trump) because he is a misogynist.
He is. That’s true. But what about his Islamophobia? Or his white supremacy? His xenophobia? His radical capitalism? His patriotism? And “Making America Great again” is the biggest lie we are not calling him out about.
I hope he will lose.
But I fear he will lose and the only thing that will be discredited is himself, and his male crudeness. Not his real message, not his cohort of Republican obstructionist enablers.
And Hillary will triumph as the “good girl” victim….Who has stood her ground as a woman, but not as any kind of Progressive.

Oh dear

Radical ReEntry Enters the Blogosphere

Dear readers, I urge you to explore some of the material published on my website before you jump into this blog, Doing so should give you a sense of who I am and where I’m coming from. I hope the stuff I have presented as “data” from my life as an educator, speaker, writer and activist engages you. Get to know me and my ideas a little first, then you can introduce yourself and we can talk. I look forward to it…..

What’s Going On?

I’ve long feared the American Rightwing, being acutely aware of how real, scary and cruel it can be.  It represents an unbroken stream of thought, speech and action extending from the “Slave Power” of John C Calhoun, through the violent illogic of post-Reconstruction “Redeemers,”  and into the political powerhouse of Dixiecrats transformed into Conservatives/Republicans who embody a tradition of home-grown fascism.  No joke.

Now a large subset of the polity, the Right has morphed into a cross-class, white people’s movement that undermines any original Constitutional promise to “promote the general welfare.”

It has pushed back even 1950’s-style commitments to public investment in infrastructure, schools, higher education, etc, etc. Eliciting memories of the same decade’s Red Scare, today’s Right demands exclusion: by walling off the border, denying opportunities, incarcerating more people of color, and punishing more immigrants, women, LGBTQ people who are just trying to live full lives. It is scary.

Continue reading Radical ReEntry Enters the Blogosphere