Sunday, December 29, 2013

#145 December 29, 2013- Respect

Respect for Others. . .
We are nearing the end of the "Holiday Season", the months of November and December that are bracketed by Thanksgiving and the start of the New Year.  This is a time of traditions and family, a time when we are reminded of the things that we value most in life.  We gather with family and friends and we celebrate in a wide variety of ways.  Yet, this is also a time of stark contrasts between the shared values of culture, religion and family, and the commercialism and intolerance of our society.

These contrasts are magnified by the current conflicts that we are facing in America.  These aren't new conflicts, but they have been intensified by the recent political, social and economic upheavals.  Inserted into this period of joyful celebration has been an undercurrent of divisiveness and dislike.  It is striking to see the difference between the message of the holidays, and the reality that we observe. 

America is, and always has been, a nation of significant diversity,  This has been a source of strength as well as a source of conflict from the very founding of our nation.  The result of our ongoing effort to incorporate different ideas into our national identity is a system that is supposed to respect and protect a wide variety of beliefs and cultures.  While citizens of the United States identify themselves primarily as either Christian (77% in 2012) or Unaffiliated (15% in 2012), our laws and policies reflect this attempt to honor the original thinking about religion set forth in our Constitution.  The First Amendment states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ...." and Article VI specifies that "no religions test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."

As we have grown and developed as a nation we have seen many different efforts made to protect the rights of those who practice different religions, are of different races, who have different abilities, and who live different lifestyles than those who make up the majority of our population.  We also make the effort to recognize that there is significant diversity of thinking and living within the Christian majority as well.  Without these efforts to respect and protect the diversity of our nation it is unlikely that we would ever have achieved the status that we have in the world.  In fact, it is not unreasonable to think that the United States would never have become a nation had not our founders compromised and built these protections in to our original efforts to unify 13 colonies with very different cultural identities.

Legal protections are one thing, but as we know, it is difficult to mandate tolerance and to legislate acceptance.  As a nation we have always seen a disconnect between our national rhetoric and the reality of our society.  From the very beginning of a nation where "All men are created equal" we saw some men count as 2/3 of a citizen (not to mention the literal meaning of the word men).  In a nation where no religion is officially established, it has been difficult to find a way to respect the wide variety of religious practices that our people observe.  We have struggled to find ways to respect the "minority" while honoring the "majority".  Our history is filled with struggle and conflict as we have grappled with these challenges. 

These challenges of trying to find some common ground are the reason that we have a government and that we attempt, as much as possible, to separate our religious views from our political processes.  There is no way to ever eliminate the impact of our moral, ethical and religious opinions from these processes, and to think we can is to ignore the reality of our human efforts to make sense of the world around us.  What we can do is try to make sure that we have systems in place that allow for debate and discussion in order to achieve the best result for the most people that we possibly can. 

Unfortunately, debate on these moral issues can only lead to compromise and resolution if there is some degree of tolerance and respect for the opinions of others in place.  This is very difficult for some to accept, they truly believe that they know what is right, just and true.  It is because of this that two topics that are taboo in polite conversation are politics and religion.  Yet, if we are to maintain our unity as a nation we need to have these conversations.  We need to continue the ongoing effort to find compromise and to recognize that there is significant diversity of opinion in our nation around many important issues. 

This is why we have the rules that we have.  It isn't to punish any specific viewpoint, despite the hysteria that is generated by extremists on all sides who claim that our nation is headed towards moral or ethical disaster.  No culture, nation or society can survive extremism and still maintain diversity of thought.    In her biography on Voltaire, Hall wrote the phrase: "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it," and this thinking is the cornerstone of what has made America a successful nation.  The current efforts on the part of the extreme Conservatives threatens to undermine the very foundation of the nation that they claim to love so much.  

For me, this thinking goes beyond a philosophical discussion and gets to the heart of my own moral, ethical and religious beliefs.  If we truly are to live in a nation that we can identify as morally sound, we can't practice intolerance and hatred for those who think or act differently than we do.  To do so is not only foolish from a practical sense, but it also violates what I believe to be the foundation of the religious and ethical beliefs that have guided our nation. 

Those who claim that America is a Christian nation need to carefully consider what that means, and what the Bible tells us about how we should live our lives.  To state that we should "love thy neighbour as thyself," does more than simply imply tolerance.  It means that we should be committed to working towards respecting all people and working to build a society that honors and includes everyone.      

In the end this isn't about who wins the big political or economic battles between Conservatives and Progressives, or Democrats and Republicans.  It is about what kind of nation we, as a people, choose to live in.  The current climate of fear and anger, where individuals and groups are looking for conflict isn't one that promotes equity and justice.  We devote too much time and energy to the wrong conflicts and fail to address the issues that are of utmost importance to our society and the people who live in it.     

Respect for Public Education. . .
Respect isn't just about tolerating others' viewpoints, it is about providing the resources and support to make sure that we create a society that promotes the "general welfare" and recognizes the equality of all under the law.  If we don't put an emphasis on providing equal opportunity and protection for all citizens, then our expressed ideals are simply rhetoric and empty promises.

Education has long been touted as one of our greatest potential resources to accomplish these goals.  The American system of public education can provide the opportunities for all citizens to get the necessary training and education to increase their potential for success.  Our public schools are legally required to provide access to these opportunities for all students, and are mandated to support the diverse needs of every child. 

However, education is more than just an economic resource.  Our schools can also provide outlets for creativity, support for emotional needs and many other things that go beyond the basics or core instruction.  In our public schools students can learn history, experience the arts and meet a variety of people from many different cultures, backgrounds and experiences. 

Unfortunately, the current dialog around our public schools is all about the money and demonstrates a lack of respect for those who work and learn in our schools.  We know that the new year will bring renewed assaults on our public schools.   

These attacks continue despite the lack of evidence that the proposed "reforms" actually do anything to increase student achievement. 

Educating students is challenging work, and educators deserve respect. 

The battles around public education share the same roots, and the same solutions that those in the economic, moral and political spheres have.  We, as a society, need to identify what is important to us, and then devote our full attention and resources to resolving the challenges.  We can't allow a small minority of influential people to dictate the discussion and direction that our efforts take.   

Respect for Labor. . .
America is a land of contradictions.  So far we've explored the discrepancies between our expressed moral beliefs and our frequently amoral actions, and the expressed importance of education and the educational profiteering that drives many of the current educational "reforms".  These inconsistencies share common roots of fear and greed.  We express beliefs in one thing, but find ourselves acting in opposite ways out of a need to protect our own self-interests.  Fear and greed are powerful tools that can be used to manipulate and confuse people to support things that they otherwise wouldn't.

This is true in many aspects of our society and the effects have been magnified by the current political conflicts.  We see opinions and ideals being manipulated in order to advance specific agendas, not to help people.  The efforts to control the dialog about labor is yet another example of this. 

Employment is an important part of our identities as members of society.  We place a tremendous amount of importance on what people do for a living.  Different professions and occupations are given differing degrees of respect, and there is significant competition to be employed in one of the high status occupations.  Lost in this competition is the reality that all labor should be respected.  Every job is a piece of our economy and a part of the system that makes our nation work.  Yet, we consistently degrade some jobs and subsequently dismiss the efforts of those who fill them.  This allows for labor to be divided and weakens the power of the worker in America.

The wealthiest citizens have long recognized this and use the divisions between workers to advance their pro management, anti-labor agendas.  One of the most visible battlefronts in this conflict is the effort to destroy the power of organized labor in the United States. 

If labor unions are eliminated then individual workers will have little power in their workplaces.  The result will be a more precipitous decline in the wages and benefits that employees earn, especially in the least respected fields of work.  We can't allow for labor to be divided, and subsequently conquered.  We can show our support by shopping in worker friendly stores, buying goods made by fairly treated employees and reminding ourselves and our fellow citizens that all labor is valuable.  

Sunday, December 22, 2013

#144 December 22, 2013- Fixing Education and More

Why Fix Education?. . .
When we discuss finding ways to "fix" education our conversations seem to veer in different directions depending on a variety of beliefs and ideals about the true purpose of education in our society.  Is that purpose to prepare students for future employment and to shape them into model citizens, or is the purpose to provide knowledge and skills that will improve an individual's quality of life in ways that may or may not have an economic benefit?   

In the end, the "fixes" or "reforms" that we support depend on what we see as the answer to the question about the purpose of education.  For those who see education purely as an investment for economic gain the ways to improve our public education system are clear.  Education serves a purpose only in its ability to provide some sort of return on our outlay of resources.  For ‘reformers’ education is a business, and the students are a strange combination of consumers and products at the same time.    

When we treat students as commodities and education as a result that can be easily quantified we end up with a system that truly fails most students.  We spend out time trying to identify the best programs to implement and the best tests to measure our progress and we sacrifice students learning and creativity.  We also restrict the ability of professional educators to meet individual student needs.  Essentially, we are spending significant time, money and effort debating about the wrong issues in education.  This is time, money and effort that severely tax the limited resources of our public educators.  By promoting the "reforms" that center on testing and privatization of our schools we put professional educators on the defensive.  We shift the focus of debate away from students and learning and towards identifying the best test and the best packaged curriculum to sell our schools. 

This debate is summed up in the comments of two participants in this debate over school reforms happening in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
 Santa Fe School Board Member Steven Carrillo states that current reforms benefit, "No one except the companies that sell everything to public education.  It does not benefit kids, principals, parents, teachers, supers, districts. No one."
New Mexico Public Education Department Spokesman Larry Behrens responded in a statement:  "We believe student success, and not adults clinging to a failed system, should be the measure for which we hold ourselves accountable. When we talk about joy, we talk about students who are successful in the classroom ready for the next step in life because they have great teachers who are recognized for their hard work. It’s unfortunate some disagree."

In my opinion what is unfortunate is that we are failing to realize that all of the testing, and all of the supposed "reforms" that have been imposed on our public schools are driven by an agenda that has so little to do with education.  This isn't to say that changes in our public school system aren't necessary, or that everyone proposing changes is a pawn of for-profit education companies.  However, we can't ignore the reality that so many of the "fixes" that are being suggested for our public schools benefit specific companies and foundations, while at the same time either directly, or indirectly harm students, families and educators.   

Opposition to many of the supposed "reforms" isn't a symptom of "adults clinging to a failed system" as much as it is an example of people fighting to defend something that they believe strongly in.  Public education in America has a long and sometimes unpleasant history, yet in the end it still provides a service with vast potential for making our society stronger and improving opportunities for all citizens.  Things that testing and privatization have failed, and lack the potential, to deliver.

"Fixing" public education according to many of these "reformers" relies on attracting the best talent into the profession.  I don't think there is any way to disagree with the idea that our schools will be more successful if we have highly competent and well trained educators in our schools.  Yet, there is a clear misunderstanding on the part of many as to just how this should happen.  Once again, the business model is touted as the way to achieve this goal.  This thinking centers on ideas like merit pay, and eliminating collective bargaining.  However, business model ignores a number of important realities about public education (lack of money, no reliable way to identify success, etc.) that render it useless as a way to attract and retain professional talent.       

By trying to treat professional educators like professionals in other industries we eliminate many of the features that promote success in our field.  For example, the best talent in many professions is much more mobile than educators traditionally have been.  We already lose about 50% of new teachers within the first few years of employment and need to work to retain those who "survive".  When we look at schools, an experienced, highly stable staff promotes sound practices and helps build vital connections with the community.

Professional educators operate in a profession that is very different from many other fields.  Our "product" isn't one that can or should be marketed in the same way as other professions.  In fact, we really aren't "selling" anything; instead we are in an "industry" where the rules of economics don't apply.  Our most challenging students, the ones that need the most time and resources, are the ones that we should dedicate our most intense efforts to.  In business, these students would be discarded as being unsound investments, and they are excluded from many private schools.  Public schools don't have, nor should they, the option to simply decide not to deal with the challenges that these students bring with them to school.

"Reformers" seem to fail to recognize the needs that public educators have and the support that we need to continue our work.  Here in Wisconsin public educators had a system that provided them with some recourse, relief and protections through our unions and collective bargaining.  These protections were stripped away for most educators by Act 10, a great example of looking at the world through distorted financial lenses.  In fact, the supposed financial "savings" of Act 10 are directly countered by the loss of "Just Cause" and other protections that allow educators to be strong advocates for their students.

If we look at this list of "Rules" for educators, think about how many of these are put in jeopardy by the directions our current "reforms" are leading us towards.           
Rule 1: Rules are made to be broken.
Rule 2: All for one, and one for all.
Rule 3: Bring your passions into the classroom.
Rule 4: Never teach to the test.
Rule 5: Keep it real.
Rule 6: There is no such thing as an un-teachable child.
Rule 7: Necessity is the mother of all invention.
Rule 8: Produce good people, not just good students.
Rule 9: The future is now.
Rule 10: Be the person you want your students to become.
Rule 11: You can't do it alone.
Rule 12: Be a student of your students.

Education does play a role in an individual's and a society's economic success and we certainly need to be aware of the economics involved.  Yet, economics shouldn't be the sole, or even the primary, motivator in making decision making around education.  When we put dollars ahead of anything else we lose many of the benefits that education can provide us as human beings.  True educational opportunities provide hope; they inspire us to become something more than we were before.  In the end, how we choose to educate our students says a lot about who we are as a society.  That is why we need to "fix" education. 
The Good, The Bad and
The Ugly. . .

The Good. . .   It seems so logical that a positive, collaborative relationship between labor and management should produce better results for all parties involved, yet there is a continual effort made to drive a wedge between the different groups.  It also is logical that, because no human relationship can be successful when one group monopolizes all power, labor needs a voice in the workplace.  Organizing is what gives individual workers power in their efforts to be heard on many important issues, finally, some good news on the labor front.  

We’ve heard all of the stories of disaster and suffering, but there are many who are benefitting from the changes in health care.  It is important to remember that those who are trumpeting the failures of the ACA are often those who simply oppose anything that this administration does without even considering the merits of any specific policy or act. 

Democracy isn't a spectator sport.

The Bad. . . It seems that virtually every large international event brings out the unpleasant realities that labor works in.  However, the attention that is focused on events like the World Cup also gives workers an opportunity to make their concerns heard on a world stage.  

There is an ongoing effort being made to deceive the public into believing that radical Conservatives are acting in the best interest of the people.  These headlines tell a different story.  Political leaders and organizations that are supposedly pro-democracy, pro-American and fiscally responsible seem to be anything but those things.    

Headlines can say virtually anything.  This one from a conservative source makes it seem that Act 10 freed thousands of workers from their union "bondage".  It ignores the fact that the overwhelming majority of voters in most of the elections voted for unions.  The rules and procedures established by Act 10 simply stacked the deck to make the results appear different.  Remember, the threshold for recertifying a union isn't a simple majority of voters; it's a majority of eligible voters.  How did any of our elected leaders, Walker included, fare against that standard?  

Talking about race, poverty and our shortcomings as a society are always difficult and unpleasant.  However, it is only through having these discussions in very open, honest and forthright ways that we can ever hope to really address the challenges that we face.  Right now too many of us choose to ignore the reality that we still have a long way to go in our efforts to achieve a society where we truly judge people, "Not . . . by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character," and where equal opportunity is more than just rhetoric.  It starts with communication and education and then transforms into reality.  Then we can move into the "Good" category. 


The Ugly. . . Everything in "The Bad" category could easily be in "The Ugly" section, however, a significant amount of our current difficulties could be addressed more effectively if we can limit the influence of big money in politics.  Here's another example of how our politicians can be purchased by those who can afford the cost.    

Buy Local. . .
We are nearing the end of the holiday shopping season, but there's still time to shop at labor friendly, locally owned establishments.  

Sunday, December 15, 2013

#143 December 15, 2013 Reality Check

Impending Doom, A Manufactured Reality. . .
We live in a time when everything seems to be a crisis and a matter of utmost importance.  The nature of our modern media coverage creates this atmosphere as different sources compete for consumer attention, advertisers and profits.  This climate extends from the media throughout our daily lives, but especially into the world of politics. 

The continual sense of crisis has turned politics into a battleground with clear divisions between viewpoints that often seem to be insurmountable barriers.  We become entrenched in our viewpoints and respond, not in thoughtful and reasoned ways, but in a knee-jerk reactionary mode of thinking.  Whatever the issue, it is inevitable that there will be an outpouring of opinions from all sides, and the most extreme will get the most attention. 

We seem to have lost sight of what politics and government should be about.  We've turned the process of governing our society into a strange combination of reality TV, sports and war.  Along the way the emphasis has become, not to serve the citizens represented by the government, but to win a contest that few understand and even fewer benefit from.  In fact, it seems like there is a real movement in politics to not only fail to serve, but to actually do harm to those who are not big money donors or who are not well represented by powerful lobbyists.     

In this climate of continual crisis, it is often difficult to get a real sense of what is truly important.  We've heard "Wolf" cried so many times that we become numb to the constant clamor that tells us the end of our democracy, the end of the American way of life, and many other "ends" are at our doorsteps.  Living in this highly emotionally charged atmosphere puts a constant strain on each individual's ability to process information and make decisions.  We know that pressure, stress and a sense of crisis changes the way that we look at the world, and influences many aspects of our lives. 

The evidence of the toll that this takes on all of us is clearly visible in the current political, social and economic conditions here in Wisconsin and across the nation.  An important question to consider is, who profits from the ongoing conflicts and sense of crisis? 

Remember that the reason people form into groups is to meet our basic needs in a world that can be very dangerous when we face it alone.  Human history has been a constant struggle to develop societies that address our needs as individuals while also allowing for us to work as cohesively as possible with others.  Our biggest advantage in the natural world is our ability to think, communicate and work together to overcome our challenges.  In order to reap the benefits of these skills we surrender some of our independence to the groups that we join.  However, there must always be some benefit for us to continue as a member, or else there must be some force that makes us continue our association with any larger group of people.

Most of us don't even consider this as we move through our daily lives.  We've gone past the point where we see being a citizen as a choice.  Instead, we accept that things are the way they are without considering that there could be other ways of organizing our communities or interacting with other groups.  We tend not to question things too much, and instead rely on others to make the decisions that shape the realities that we live in. 

To some extent this isn't a terrible thing.  After all, if everyone constantly questioned everything and tried to follow their own rules and norms, chaos would ensue.  Our nation has developed an elaborate set of rules that govern our interactions in all areas, and we have surrendered a significant amount of authority to those who we choose to represent us through political elections, financial decisions, and many other ways.  We trust that these individuals and processes will work fairly, and that they will produce satisfactory outcomes for most of us, and in many ways they do work for the most part.  Life in America is significantly better than in much of the rest of the world in terms of stability, safety and material goods.

Yet, at the same time this tendency to follow the guidance of those in positions of authority can be a negative trait as well.  We may need to follow rules, procedures and laws in order to enjoy the benefits of our society, but we should always be thoughtful about who we follow, what we follow, and why we follow.  There will always be positives about any society, but there will also be challenges that need to be addressed.  Blindly following any doctrine, leader or ideological philosophy opens the doorway to exploitation and manipulation that undermines the social contract that we all have entered in to. 

We stand at a crossroads in American history.  It is a crossroads that we have been at before, and that we will ultimately face many times in our future.  Each time the battles are slightly different.  This is true because the issues change, the individuals change and our society is never exactly the same as it was.  Yet, the conflict over who makes the social, political and economic decisions in our nation is a common theme.  Whether it is the struggle for equity that different groups have fought over the years, the struggle for economic justice, or any other issue, the core battle continues to revolve around where the center of power lies. 

Modern American society presents an interesting environment for this ongoing conflict.  We have a population that has access to information at a level never before seen in human history.  We have access to educational opportunities and historical knowledge which allows us to put our current struggles in perspective.  Our ability to communicate with others around our nation and our world is unprecedented. 

Yet, even with all of this potential, many of us are unaware of the depth of the struggles until someone points them out to us.  We find ourselves manipulated by those who would seek to maintain their control of power and wealth in our society.  We fail to exercise our rights and utilize the wealth of information available to us.  We see our world controlled in ways that we may feel are unfair or illogical, yet too often "sweat the small stuff" or allow our focus to be directed in ways that don't promote our own interests. 

Once again questions are raised, who profits from the different crises that are the focus of so much discussion in our society?  Are we focusing on the issues that really matter?  Are we following leaders who share our goals?  How can we best work to resolve the ongoing conflicts that exist in our society? 

One problem is that many of us tend to ignore political and economic issues until they directly impact our lives.  By the time we realize what is happening, it may be too late to halt the processes.  The election of Scott Walker and the passage of Act 10 provide us with an example of this.  A significant portion of the electorate didn't vote in 2010, and as a result took to the streets in 2011.  Had those voters turned out in 2010 we may have seen a totally different situation in Wisconsin. 

Of course it would help if politicians were honest about their plans and objectives when on the campaign trail, and after they are elected.  Because so many citizens don't keep up on issues they are vulnerable to leaders and messages that are extremely biased and misleading.  As a society we tend to put a lot of faith in our elected leaders even though we claim to mistrust government.  It is interesting that many who question the ability of our government to provide basic services and protections turn to leaders like Walker for the very things that they claim government can't provide.   

This crusade against unions, especially those representing public educators, is another example of the inconsistencies and questionable motives that drive the agenda.  We are told that unions are bad, that they are anti-American, and that the workforce is better off without them, yet without some representation workers are left vulnerable to all sorts of abuses.  This reality is borne out historically, and we are moving in the direction of repeating our past mistakes.   These mistakes are being made in all industries and in both public and private sector employment.    

In doing so we ignore the vast potential that a workforce united with management has.

The economic philosophies and policies that Conservatives offer are also geared towards benefitting a minority of the population.  At the same time they are preaching austerity and shrinking government, our Republican leaders are borrowing funds at a rapid pace and using the money to cover their flawed policies.   

Democrats refuse to take the GOP on and articulate a different way of doing business in Wisconsin and across America.  Instead, they use similar language and try to play the game by the Conservative's rules.  

Do we face a crisis here in Wisconsin?  The answer is yes, but it isn't the crisis that so many of our elected leaders and their mouthpieces would have us believe.  If we continue to believe the anti-labor, austerity rhetoric we will end up facing a truly substantial crisis that will impact all of us in significant ways.

Until we see leaders rise to the challenge and provide alternative ways to look at the challenges we face we will see the same solutions applied, and the same cycles repeat.  Instead of hiding behind the easy to defend rhetoric of low taxes, individualism and empty promises of freedom (while binding us to lives of debt and wage slavery), we need leaders who will lay out the facts and guide us in new directions.   It is up to the citizens to make sure that we get a government that truly represents the interests of the people.  The only way these leaders emerge is if the people reject the messages that we are currently being fed and support a different vision for our society.   

Assessment, Fueling a
Crisis in Public Education. . .
Our public schools are certainly not immune to the efforts to mislead the public and control the dialog around efforts to educate our youth.  The "reforms" that are being offered follow the same thinking as the mistaken philosophies in our political and economic spheres.  We are constantly being told that our public schools are "failing" and that we face a crisis of epidemic proportions unless drastic measures are taken. 

The catalyst for the crisis is assessment data.  Our public school students are tested, retested, evaluated and assessed endlessly.  Whether it is standardized tests mandated from the federal or state level, district mandated assessments, or the evaluations conducted by individual educators, our students are undergoing constant scrutiny regarding their progress in a wide range of areas. 

No educator will argue that assessing students isn't an important part of the educational process, we all rely on assessments to help guide our instruction and to understand the needs of our students.  Yet, the use of data in our schools has become an epidemic that threatens to drown out creativity and even threatens necessary instruction for students.  It is often our most at-risk students who are assessed the most, thereby missing valuable instructional time that they need to catch up with their grade-level peers.  Educators find themselves forced to conform to a specific way of teaching, or to specific topics, in order to insure that their students meet expectations on standardized assessments. 

Yet, we know that many of our assessments aren't producing valid and/or meaningful results.  We administer some assessments simply because it is a requirement of our job, not because it is good for our students.  Educators, family members and students question the assessments, but often meet resistance from those outside the classroom.  We then see the results of these tests used against us, and any complaints from educators is seen as "sour grapes" or a defense of our inability to educate students effectively.
The same questions that we can ask in the political and economic realms also apply in public education.  When we inquire about who benefits from the rash of assessments infecting our schools the answer seems obvious. 

"Last month, global consulting business McKinsey & Co. published a report concluding that the market for data in education from both public and private sources represented a new business venture worth between $900 billion and $1.2 trillion in annual economic value worldwide, about a third of it in the United States."

Educators have the same responsibilities that voters have when it comes to countering the flawed messaging of the "reformers".  We need to make sure that we consider the source of any information presented to us, question policies and programs appropriately and be strong advocates for our students.  There are many companies who are making huge profits by infiltrating our schools and providing "services" to schools, all so that they can reap the financial benefits. 

Human Friendly Shopping. . .
Many people I know have commented on how difficult it is to spend money in ways that don't leave them feeling guilty about giving their financial support to companies that either exploit workers, harm the environment, support ideologies that are in opposition to their beliefs, or any combination of these.  While that is very true, it is also important to remember that every penny spent at a more "friendly" establishment helps.  Keep trying to find places that sell products and promote Progressive ideas.     

7 simple tips for guilt-free holiday shopping:

Find more great made in Wisconsin products at