Tag Archives: education

Shannen and Malala: girls on the front line in fight for equal education


shannen-speaks-nfbMalala Yousafzai Opens Birmingham Library

When you need inspiration and courage or reminding that age is nothing but a number, or if you  have been already been captivated by Malala, please take a look at the work of Shannen Koostachin, a Mushkegowuk Innanu from Attawapiskat, Ontario.

Listen to them tell you in their voices what they dream of (click Malala’s picture for a CBC Radio interview with her, watch the video of Shannen speaking at a news conference in Toronto, 2008 – she must be 13 or 14 in the video).

Learn more  about Shannen, who died tragically in 2010, and how others are carrying forward her struggle, at the website of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, here.   You might also consider documentarian Alanis Obamsawin’s recently released Hi-Ho Mistahey (2013), which follows Shannen’s Dream.  Click here for information about the film from the Toronto International Film Festival website.

For more about Malala, and to support her cause, see the Malala Foundation here.

Here is a piece about Shannen and her fight, made for an awards ceremony held after her death.

She wanted to become a lawyer.


proof! on video: for your (rainy) friday morning

I’ve been following the “It Gets Better” Project, like everyone else.  I’m not a big Dan Savage fan, but he definitely had this one big and great idea.  I have some questions about it, which people have answered eloquently in their video submissions (mainly along the “it doesn’t get better, but you get stronger” trajectory).  I’ve also wondered, since I’m obsessed with discrimination analogies, about putting this project in other contexts – all the ways that would be offensive and all the things you’d have to confront to try a similar project for e.g., kids with disabilities, or other minority kids.  Anyway, great project, I like it, and I’m really interested in this use of video documentary/personal testimony.

But, actually, I don’t usually watch videos online, even short clips.  Text! I’m all about text.  I almost never click on the videos, you just can’t “scan” through them, you have to actually watch.  I’d rather read.  So I don’t know why I clicked on this one, but it definitely got me.

It isn’t an it gets better project, it developed out of a tenth grade geometry class looking at the concept of “proof” before the It Get’s Better Project started.  The school is in Washington DC, and I think it looks like these kids know that people (including Dan Savage) tend to assume racial minorities don’t support gay rights.  Just go ahead, click on it. Let it play in the background while you sort your email, and think about tenth grade and how amazing teenagers are.

Here’s an explanation of how students Keonie Smith and Clara Lincoln came to make the video:

In April, Cook assigned her kids a final project: the personal proof. The rules were the same as the geometric variety, but the topic was different. This time, kids would find the logic in their most strongly held beliefs.

Any time you say an opinion, you should be able to back it up,” ….. But the project was about more than that. She also wanted her kids to see that math was about far more than a protractor. “Bringing their own lives and passions and beliefs into the classroom helps the students connect to math in a way that they may have never experienced.”

One student chose teen suicide as her topic. Another focused on unemployment. Keonie Smith and Clara Lincoln settled on gay marriage.

Smith and Lincoln laid out their arguments on a traditional geometric proof worksheet: homosexuality is natural; religion isn’t a valid source in the debate; same-sex couples can be just as effective as parents. Each point was backed up with research and sources.

“It helped me get clear in my mind justifications of why I believe in gay rights,” says Lincoln.  Click here for full article.

That was a good start. But her teacher wanted more.

Taking Action

Cook didn’t just want her students to see that the logical skills they were learning in her class applied to real world issues. She wanted them to see that sound logic can make a difference on those issues. So she tacked on a second part of the personal proof project: an action step.

The idea was to take the proofs beyond the classroom and see what kind of impact they could have around the school. Before going public, Cook brought in a series of experts to review the students’ arguments, including the director of communications for D.C. Public Libraries and Robert Falk, a lawyer from the Human Rights Campaign and Capital City board member.

“[Outside feedback] really helps to reinforce multiple drafts, and the process of creating a quality piece of work,” Cook says.

Armed with the strongest arguments they could make, the students set about bringing their message to the masses—or at least to the hallways.

Some made websites. One did an art installation; another created a petition against Arizona’s SB1070 and collected signatures in her neighborhood. Smith and Lincoln, with the help of Lincoln’s brother, spent a month putting together a six-minute YouTube video advocating for gay rights.