Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Power of Song

I think I've written before about how much I love the singing times at my children's school. Shared music has the power to create connection and solidarity among the singers, to bring joy, to express injustice, and to get us all a little sillier and more creative.

There are several extraordinary musical happenings in Maine... The first is a production of Elijah by the Choral Arts Society on March 31st at Merrill Auditorium. Read more about the production here.

The second is the incredible opportunity to study music with a leader from Sweet Honey in the Rock.

Graduate Courses in Music
Teaching and Learning

The Power of Song
MUS 599

June 29 - July 3, 9:00 am - 4:00 pm

Instructor: Ysaye M. Barnwell
Location: Gorham

There is an awesome power in the human voice and when uncommon voices are blended for the common good, they become a 'vocal community' at its best. Masterfully led by Dr. Ysaye M. Barnwell, singers and non-singers alike will share the common experience of learning in the oral tradition and singing rhythms, chants, traditional songs from Africa and the Diaspora, and a variety of songs from African American culture including spirituals, ring shouts, hymns, gospels, and songs from the civil rights movement. The historical, social and political context will provided as an introduction to the songs. Through out this experience, the group will explore from an African American world view, the values imbedded in the music, the role of cultural and spiritual traditions and rituals, ways in which leadership emerges and can be shared by and among community members, the nature of cultural responses to and influences on political and social struggle, and finally the significance of a shared communal experience in ones' personal life. A willingness to sing is all that is required.
3 credits.

If all that passes you by, check out the Power of Song film about Pete Seeger's life, or Shut Up and Sing about the Dixie Chicks... both reveal the impact that music can have on the music-makers and the audience writ large.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Tell Scholastic - Take the Commercials Out of Books

This is a special request from the Campaign for a Commerical Free Childhood for teachers to talk back to scholastic...

Teachers Tell Scholastic to Shape Up!
"Our school is taking a stand against mass marketing to children. Scholastic is a Book Club and should not be an advertising base for products marketed to children. We see this as exploitation! Our teachers will not be used as salesmen."~ Jeanne Voltz-Loomis, Pre-K Teacher, Myrtle Beach, SC.

When nearly 5,000 CCFC members told Scholastic to "Put the book back in book club," a Scholastic executive told the New York Times, "We work with teachers to make sure that items are O.K. to put out in their classrooms." But teachers all over the country are telling a different story. More than 800 people have already signed CCFC's teacher petition to Scholastic and many have included personal, eloquent expressions of discomfort about promoting toys and plastic trinkets to their students. Some have stopped distributing the flyers altogether.

If you're a teacher and you have not yet signed the petition, please take a moment to do so by visiting If you're not a teacher, please share our petition with the teachers you know. And be sure to visit our Shape Up, Scholastic headquarters at for information and resources for countering Scholastic's in-school commercialism.

Resources for teaching about food

There are tons of great resources in this months YES magazine / web site on food and teaching about food.

I am drawn toward the idea of saying blessings over food, and practicing more gratitude for the food that we have. And I love that my kids are interested in gardening and growing food...

And Born to Read has a great collection of children's books featuring gardens, although reading them does feel a bit like a big tease right now...It is still hard to eat locally in Maine right now!

Thursday, March 19, 2009


The creator of New Moon Magazine has a newly designed website for parents of daughters... at first glance, it looks like a helpful feminist resource.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Conference on Teaching about Africa

The Maine Humanities Council is offering a professional development opportunity for teachers in April entitled Africa in Transition. We are going to be at Colby on April 9th and our lead scholar for the program is Jim Webb. Other presenting scholars include Catherine Besteman and Mamadou Samb. You can find the entire program and registration information at If you want to pass any of this info along, please do!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Forbes article on the kicked-out women of wall street

There is a devastating article in Forbes about discrimination against women in Investment Banking. Of course, it is happening everywhere, but given how much we need ethics and a feminist point of view in our economy, it seems like a double-whammy. I wish I knew how to start a women's investment firm, and bring all the talented and kicked-out women together to give Citibank et al. a run for their money!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Programs from Primary Source

Same dear friend recommends the programs and resources developed by Primary Source. Especially interesting to me is this summer conference -- what are our emerging 21st century skills, values and educational mandate?

Teaching for Global Understanding in the 21st Century

Online Orientation: 6 hours to be completed from June 19-28, 2009*
Institute Dates: July 27-31, 2009
Location: Boston College
Follow-Up Session: Saturday, October 17, 2009
PDPs/Credits: 67.5 PDPs; 3 graduate credits for the course
Fee: Partnership educators--no cost other than fee for 3 graduate credits;
Non-partnership educators--$600 plus fee for 3 graduate credits
Registration Information

Educators are increasingly aware that the challenges of our changing world will require students to think and learn in new ways. In addition to teaching core academic content, our schools need to cultivate key skills: global awareness, critical thinking, media literacy, collaboration, intercultural communication, technological ability, and civic engagement. This course will explore the importance of such skills and will build a case for re-envisioning how we prepare students for an interconnected world. Participants will examine the global economy, the environment, health, social justice, education, and the globalization of culture. Interested participants should be willing to take on a leadership role in their districts and to be advocates for global education across disciplines and grade levels.

Suitable especially for K-12 educators and curriculum leaders.

*In addition to an online orientation, this course will involve participants in a variety of new technologies in the field of global education. Advanced reading and one hour of online discussion is also required.

Teaching About Asia

A dear friend highly recommends this opportunity for Maine teachers interested in developing curricula on Asia.

NCTA in the Northeast > Maine

National Consortium for Teaching about Asia (NCTA) seminars offers K-12 educators the opportunity to explore East Asian history, geography, culture, literature, arts, and language with Maine’s top scholars of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean studies. The program provides K-12 teachers with content background and pedagogical techniques for integrating East Asia into their curriculums. Participating teachers receive substantial incentives including $500 in cash stipends, $200 in books, and $300 in mini-grants as well as qualifying for highly subsidized study tours to East Asia.

Location: Bowdoin College, Brunswick

Seminar Leader: Matt Gardner
Tel (207) 846 6072

Application available as pdf from the web page.
or contact seminar leader

For more info, visit:

World Affairs Council of Maine
Maine Humanities Council


* Fri, May 1
* Sat, May 2
* Sun, Jun 28 – Wed, Jul 1 in residence at Bowdoin College

Friday, March 13, 2009

Support ALL kids and mothers and families

Dear Friends,

I’m writing to share some exciting news and to ask a favor.

You may have heard that EqualityMaine and its coalition partners have launched a campaign to win marriage for same-sex couples in Maine in 2009. This campaign is a very exciting step forward for all of us, and one that touches me on both a personal and professional level.

The campaign will happen in two phases. The first will involve passing a marriage bill in the legislature, either in May or June. The second phase will involve defending the marriage bill at the polls as early as November. (The opposition has already announced it will collect signatures for a people’s veto if the bill passes.)

The good news is that we are making progress in the legislature, where we have an unprecedented 64 co-sponsors of our marriage bill! The first true test will be at the Judiciary Committee Hearing on Friday, April 24, where official testimony will be given for and against the bill. This is a critical day that will be watched closely by legislators and the media. It will be our first major opportunity to show that Mainers support fairness for all families – gay or straight. More details on the Public Hearing are to come, but please plan to take off work, bring your family, and join us in Augusta on Friday, April 24.

The bad news is that the opposition has begun to ramp up its own campaign. They are circulating a video and also sending mail to individual homes that says if the marriage bill passes parent’s rights will be threatened because children would be taught about gay marriage in schools. They also argue that same-sex couples already enjoy legal protections similar to marriage. These things are not only false, but they are being used as scare tactics to confuse and avoid the real issue. These same tactics have been used effectively in marriage campaigns in other states, but we can’t let them get away with this in Maine.

That’s why I need your help. I need your help to send a clear message that ALL families deserve the dignity, respect, and legal protections that come only from a legal marriage. When it comes to what’s important for children, the fact is that children of same-sex couples are disadvantaged when their parents do not receive all the legal protections of marriage.

As part of our campaign, we have launched a “Family Portrait Project” that captures both gay and straight families who believe all families deserve legal protections, regardless of sexual orientation. We are partnering with a wonderful Maine-based photographer, Jo Moser, who has agreed to volunteer her time to photograph families for this project.

Our goal is to capture at least 30 families from around the state before April 1. We hope to use these photographs as part of the Judiciary Committee Hearing later that month, and also use them on our website.

Would you consider being part of this important project? We need you and your family to join other Mainer families for fairness. We only have a couple of weeks to make it happen.

If you are interested, please contact photographer Jo Mosser at 207-329-4489 or by email (she’s waiting for responses). Jo is also cc’d on this email, so you can simply hit reply to this message. Once Jo hears from you, she will then set up a time to visit your home (or other location) as soon as possible.

Thank you so much for considering this.


P.S. Please forward this to anyone who you think would be interested in joining this special project. We only have a couple weeks. Thanks!

Betsy Smith
Executive Director
PO Box 1951
Portland, ME 04104
207-761-3752 fax
207-939-7769 cell

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Very Young Girls

My parents association hosted Real Life, Real Talk: Sex Eds for Parents last night. For me, there was such a deep connection between the ideas we exchanged about what we need to do and say for our own children to have the chance of safe, healthy, and fun sexual futures, and what we need to begin to think about doing for all children. In a way, that's the point of my whole blog.

TThree seperate events crossed my e-mail/happened this morning, but they are connected at the root.

First, apparently Mattel is sexing-up Dora, which is absolutely disgusting. Hardy Girls has started the petition to keep her strong, bold, adventuress and with a bit of a girls belly.

Then, I had the incredible pleasure of hosting Cathy Plourde in my activism class. She is an incredibly inspiring activist and playwrite and director and creator and teacher. Truly, she rocked. But the material she brings into the community is serious and hard. Eating disorders, gendered and sexual violence, homophobia and heterosexism. Again, these are all part of youth's lives and as adults we need to bear witness and be strong allies and agents of change. Her project is Add Verb Productions and the web site is full of great info.

Then, on a progressively harder-to-watch note, the Maine Women's Fund is sponsoring a viewing of A Very Young Girl, which chronicles the story of several girls who have been manipulated into a life of prostitution, as teens. Courtney has a review on Feministing, and there is more information on the web site.

I am possibly too tired and my head is too full of thoughts to write the cogent analysis of how these issues stack up on each other, and yet it seems so clear that they do and it effects us all in different ways.

Very Young Girls
March 26: Social Justice Film Series
SPACE Gallery - 538 Congress St, Portland
Doors Open at 7:00 and Film at 7:30 pm
Admission $7 / $5 for SPACE members
VERY YOUNG GIRLS + Q&A with Director David Schisgall
Tix/Info at
Film website:

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

I believe that control over my body is a fundamental human right. Control over reproduction matters to me in such intimate ways, but also in really basic political ways. And I want my daughters to come of age in a world that is less objectifying, more sex-positive and authentic, and allows the to control all aspects of their sexuality. Why does that feel like such a pipe dream?

There is a way to take concrete action today! Picketers have reemerged on the steps of Maine's Family Planning Association, trying to shame and intimidate women who enter the clinic, despite the wide variety of reasons women might seek health care from FPA. Family Planning has a great response - - they are asking pro-choice people to pledge anything from a quarter on up, for every picketer who shows up. (At last check, they have 58 pledges -- we should be able to bring this to at least an even 100!) Although it would be much better to lose the picketers and the money, at least this creates a bit of a quagmire for those who want to interfere with women's access to health care -- and raises much needed funds for an extremely valuable program.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

College Women's Political Leadership Training - In Maine and Free!

Maine NEW Leadership
—a six-day, non-partisan residential training program provided at no cost to undergraduate college women throughout the state of Maine. The program is available to women from a variety of backgrounds, ages, races, and majors from public and private, four- and two-year institutions throughout Maine.

And for those of us who are no longer college students, there is the amazing looking Eleanor Days.

Are there other leadership training opportunities that activists and activist parents might consider?

Monday, March 9, 2009

Reading and Sibling Rivalry

My youngest daughter has declared that she can read, and pity the person who challenges her. She brought The Yearling to a party. She positions herself on the couch in positions identical to her book-a-holic sister. And she has a giant tantrum every time said older sister provokes her with an actual word. I cajole Grace to let it go, but there are times when she's clearly provoked. And vice versa. I'm still at the bottom of the learning curve in terms of teaching useful peacemaking skills for small people.

The issue of Grace being marked the reader is straight out of Siblings Without Rivalry. I'm trying to be very careful to be inclusive and also talk about Kate as someone who loves books. Because she does, and she just happens to be 4.5 years younger and on a different learning trajectory. We are a family of readers and she wants to fit, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with imitation.

I'm also trying to figure out how to lay off trying to slyly teach her things, because maybe it is too much pressure. I believe that kids should learn through play at this age, but then I also can't help but bring on the phonics over alphabet soup. On the other hand, when she asserts herself in complete contradiction to my reality, I start to want her to actually know how to read. And I feel like some of her frustration and competitiveness will dissipate as she gets caught up, but then, she's only 4.5 and will always be 4.5 years younger than her only sibling, so that isn't really a good way out of this conflict.

I also try to figure out how to help my elder lay off. Grace is unbelievably lovely and kind in almost all situations, but the assertions of her younger sister drive her to distraction, and she can be pretty harsh in her corrections. My corrections of her corrections do not help.

I'd love picture book ideas for siblings thinking about birth order and their own sibling rivalry, books about compassion vs. being right (perhaps too heady for the picture book crowd?), and books about the frustration of learning to read. Any thoughts?

I did find a new blog that features 5 great books about a particular theme, for kids learning to read

Thursday, March 5, 2009


This podcast was just recommended to me - I've downloaded it but haven't listened to it, but decided to put it out here 'cause it would be great to get some comments about other resources for thinking about solitude and silence, and what people think about this message...

Podcast: KQED Forum
Episode: 1/30/09 "The End of Solitude"
Description: The advent of new technologies like text messaging and online
social networking makes it easier to connect with friends far and wide, but
at what cost? We talk with literary critic William Deresiewicz about the
repercussions of hyper-connectivity and a generation that, he argues, seems
unable to tolerate solitude and quiet reflection.

(I couldn't get it off of itunes store, but did download it from the KQED website which is linked above).

Invitation to conference for advocates on March 12 in Augusta

Every Child Matters

The Alliance for Children's Care, Education, and Supporting Services ACCESS

And Building Partnerships to Strengthen Maine Families

invite you to join us for a day of information, discussion and networking for child and family advocates, parents, providers and legislators.

Thursday, March 12th

Maine State Legislator's Breakfast - 7:30 - 8:30 am

Conference - 9:00 am - 3:30 pm

At the Holiday Inn, Augusta
How Congress Can Make a Difference in the Lives of Children: The Link Between Federal and State Programs to meet the Needs of Maine's Children and Families Congressional Roundtable on Children's Programs with representatives from the offices of Maine's Congressional Delegation "What is the Forecast for Maine's Children?"

Panel Discussion with:
Jim Clair, Goold Health Systems and Business Roundtable on Early Childhood Investment
Patti Woolley, DHHS Early Childhood Division

Barbara Van Burgel, DHHS Office of Integrated Access & Support
Representative Seth Berry, Maine House District 67

Elinor Goldberg, Maine Children's Alliance
And much more!!!

Seating is limited so please RSVP to
by Monday, March 9th.

This event is free and open to the public. Lunch will be

Take action on treatment of immigrant / perceived immigrant mothers

From MomsRising

In Maricopa County, Arizona, a mother with two small children in the car was pulled over for a minor traffic violation. Armed deputies in ski masks detained her for over an hour while her children watched in horror, not knowing what was happening to their mother or what would happen to them.

The whole event was caught on tape – and the video is truly heart wrenching. Even worse, the Sheriff in this small town has a long track record of racial profiling and civil rights violations in the name of immigration enforcement.

No matter where you stand on the immigration issue, mothers and children should never be treated this way.

Click here to watch the video on the website, then sign a petition asking the Department of Justice to investigate this Sheriff:

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


Lookybook : An extremely fun web site for tracking down great picture books.