Table of Contents

    Cover Theme: LEARNING MATH, LEARNING JUSTICE
  • Free Editorial

    Just Math

    By the editors of Rethinking Schools
  • Free Whose Community Is This?

    Mathematics of neighborhood displacement

    By Eric (Rico) Gutstein

    Students use advanced math to study gentrification, displacement, and foreclosure in their neighborhood.

  • Transparency of Water

    A workshop on math, water, and justice

    By Selene Gonzalez-Carillo, Martha Merson

    Community educators bring math into an intergenerational exploration of the environmental, political, and economic issues surrounding bottled versus tap water.

  • Free Beyond Marbles

    Percent change and social justice

    By Flannery Denny

    Middle school students analyze a classroom full of social justice issues, armed with their understanding of percent change.

  • Other Features
  • Free Responding to Tragedy

    2nd graders reach out to the Sikh community

    By Dale Weiss

    When a racist attack kills members of a local Sikh temple, a 2nd-grade teacher involves her students in a journey of connection and solidarity.

  • An Unfortunate Misunderstanding

    Saga of a promising new charter

    By Grace Gonzales

    Helping create an independent charter school seems like a dream job. But teachers, parents, and children soon confront all-too-familiar charter school woes.

  • Creative Conflict

    Collaborative playwriting

    By Kathleen Melville

    A high school drama teacher searches for ways to encourage students to write about their lives without replicating stereotypes.

  • “Hey, Mom, I Forgive You”

    Teaching the forgiveness poem

    By Linda Christensen

    An English teacher builds community as her students write a poem about forgiving or not forgiving. She starts with her own story.

  • A Pure Medley

    Poetry By Adeline Nieto
  • Free Paradise Lost

    Introducing students to climate change through story

    By Brady Bennon

    The film Paradise Lost - about the rising ocean that threatens Kiribati - proves an evocative introduction to a unit on climate change.

  • Departments Free
    Action Education
  • Seattle Test Boycott: Our Destination Is Not on the MAP

    By Jesse Hagopian
  • Good Stuff
  • Encounters

    By Herb Kohl
  • Resources
  • Our picks for books, videos, websites, and other social justice education resources.

Encounters

Encounters

Hello Goodbye Hello:
A Circle of 101 Remarkable Meetings

By Craig Brown
Simon & Schuster, 2012

A Bintel Brief:
Sixty Years of Letters from the Lower East Side to the Jewish Daily Forward

By Isaac Metzker
Schocken Books, 1971

Hello Goodbye Hello is, according to the book jacket, “a circle of 101 remarkable meetings,” and indeed it is. Each of the meetings portrayed in the book is between two interesting people, most of whom you would not connect with each other. It is not fiction. No meeting is more than three pages long and the writing is simple and elegant, but the content is complex and sometime troubling—these encounters are best used in the context of high school. Some are loving, others violent, but each one is a beautifully rendered and provoking conversation. As a reader, I felt I was having a peek into the authentic lives of strangers.

Here is a short sampler of the encounters in the book with the delightful titles provided by author Craig Brown:

“Salvador Dalí sketches Sigmund Freud”
“Charlie Chaplin plays straight man to Groucho Marx”
“Groucho Marx wants to be taken seriously by TS Eliot”
“Martha Graham silences Madonna”

One of my favorite selections is Helen Keller's encounter with Martha Graham. In the course of the conversation Helen Keller asks Martha Graham, “Martha, what is jumping? I don't understand.” They are at a rehearsal, and Helen Keller can only feel the sound of dancing in the studio.

Graham draws upon the skills of her student Merce Cunningham. She asks him to stand at the barre in her studio and puts Helen Keller's hands on his waist. Then Cunningham jumps as Keller's hands rise and fall with his body. He performs small leaps with her holding on and “she is experiencing dance.” “How like thought,” Keller says. “How like the mind it is!”

That is wonderful teaching, without needing a word or a lesson plan—just sensitivity, intuition, and intelligence. We can always use more of that in our work with children.

Recently, Dear Abby died at the age of 92. She was born Pauline Esther Friedman. She and her identical twin, Esther Pauline Friedman, were born in Sioux City, Iowa, to Russian Jewish immigrant parents in 1918. They became pioneers in writing popular advice columns as Abigail Van Buren and Ann Landers. They were both masters at pithy, unsentimental advice. They offered direct, no-nonsense responses to sensitive questions—often with a dose of humor and a pinch of cynicism. It is what I call the Yiddish in them.

I've seen media claims that they created this genre, but the first advice column I have found was A Bintel Brief, an advice column in the Jewish Daily Forward, a Yiddish-language newspaper published in the United States beginning in 1906, during the great East European Jewish migration. Yiddish was the language of Russian Jews. A Bintel Brief had the same form as the Dear Abby and Ann Landers columns, and much the same tone to the answers. The issues were focused on advice to immigrants coming to a new world, but I find they still resonate.

A letter from 1906 begins: “Honorable Editor, I have a grievous wound in my heart and maybe through the Bintel Brief will find relief. . . .”

Other letters (both from 1914) start: “I am old woman of 70, write you with my heart's blood, because I am distressed” and “I am a girl, 22 years of age, but I've already undergone a great deal in my life.”

These are just teasers. If you would like to read the answers, have a historical adventure, and learn good folk psychology, I urge you to get copy of the collection A Bintel Brief