Metta’s Opinion

Occupy Radio: Constructive Program

Yesterday, Michael Nagler and Stephanie Van Hook joined Rivera Sun and David Geitgey Sierralupe on Occupy Radio for an exciting conversation about building alternatives and healthy communities.

What if we recreate society from the bottom up, from within the culture we know? How can we loosen our dependencies on corporate structures and strive for self-sufficiency within our communities?

It can be done. And peacefully so, for the benefit of all. Listen to the inspiring, practical discussion at Occupy Radio.

Occupy Radio_Meade quote

The Man From the North: Story 15

The Man From the North is a fictional writer in Rivera Sun’s novel, The Dandelion Insurrection. The novel takes place in the near future, in “a time that looms around the corner of today,” when a rising police state controlled by the corporate-political elite have plunged the nation into the grip of a hidden dictatorship. In spite of severe surveillance and repression, the Man From the North’s banned articles circulate through the American populace, reporting on resistance and fomenting nonviolent revolution.

The story below is one of several written by the Man From the North. The article series is not included in the novel and was originally published on Dandelion Salad. We will feature a Man From the North story on a weekly basis through June 3, 2015. You can read the entire series at Dandelion Salad. The Dandelion Insurrection and a companion study guide can be purchased on Rivera’s website.


The Sabotage of Division

Enough! Enough of this senseless criticizing of one another. A Dandelion Insurrectionist who is imprisoned and beaten by the police is no more revolutionary than the mother who gets up in the morning and feeds her child. We all have tasks that are imperatives of our times and we must do them with humility. Those of us trying to make change through civil resistance are no nobler than the plumber trying to clear the shit out of the pipes.

So, enough of this criticizing one another about who is or is not a revolutionary, a radical, a cop-out, or who isn’t sacrificing enough to the cause, or who is playing it safe, or who lacks courage, or who is too middle of the road, or too extreme, or too cautious, or too colonized, or too oppressed, or who isn’t enough like you to be worthy of your respect.

We will criticize ourselves to death.

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Restorative Practices in Schools: Misconceptions Addressed

Metta Center note: Restorative Solutions is holding a training on restorative practices in schools in mid-June. The training will be held over 3–5 days in Arizona. Applications due by June 8. Learn more and apply.


As I wrote previously, Restorative practices (RPS) are increasingly employed in schools to address discipline in ways that keep students engaged with their learning.

To keep students engaged, RPS develop person power to bring about democracy and social justice in schools. They shift disciplinary foci (see table below). By doing so, they represent a fundamental change towards discipline that may engender discomfort and resistance among educators asked to embrace RPS. Among many concerns raised during consultation with educators, two seem to re-emerge.  (more…)

The Man From the North: Story 14

The Man From the North is a fictional writer in Rivera Sun’s novel, The Dandelion Insurrection. The novel takes place in the near future, in “a time that looms around the corner of today,” when a rising police state controlled by the corporate-political elite have plunged the nation into the grip of a hidden dictatorship. In spite of severe surveillance and repression, the Man From the North’s banned articles circulate through the American populace, reporting on resistance and fomenting nonviolent revolution.

The story below is one of several written by the Man From the North. The article series is not included in the novel and was originally published on Dandelion Salad. We will feature a Man From the North story on a weekly basis through June 3, 2015. You can read the entire series at Dandelion Salad. The Dandelion Insurrection and a companion study guide can be purchased on Rivera’s website.


Police State Blues

Another citizen was shot dead by the cops.

He reached inside his coat. The officer pulled the trigger. But it was his ID – not a gun – that the man’s fingers sought.

The Chief of Police says it was unfortunate, but it happens. His officers are trained to look for dangers, to stop threats in their tracks, and what if the man had been a terrorist headed toward a school?

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Q&A With Joseph Gardella

Joseph GardellaJoseph H. Gardella is a student, researcher and teacher at the Community Research and Action PhD program at Vanderbilt University. He is also a member of our Strategic Advisory Council (SAC), which he joined last spring.

As a member of our SAC, Joseph frequently offers insights and blog posts. We’re most grateful for his initiative—he regularly reaches out to us and asks, “How can I help—what can I do next?” He often serves as an ambassador by directing people to our resources, and he continually advocates for community-level nonviolence.

Photo: Courtesy of Joseph Gardella


When/How did you first hear about Metta Center?

I first heard about the Metta Center from Kit Miller at the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence in Rochester, NY, while an undergraduate student at the University of Rochester. I didn’t know how to merge my political and social interests with my psychological-oriented background to work for change. Kit Miller directed me to the Metta Mentors program as a space where I might explore and find some answers. I had a transformational experience with the Metta Center. I learned that communities that champion love and nonviolence are possible.

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Peace Education Inspiration: Colman McCarthy

In this week’s Education Corner, I’d like to share with you this interview with Colman McCarthy on C-SPAN2’s After Words program, which has given me great inspiration in my own teaching this month. As we approach the summer months, it’s a perfect time for us educators to reflect on our own teaching practice, and this interview provides much food for thought!

Colman McCarthy photo

McCarthy is interviewed by Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the activist group CODEPINK, and it’s delightful to watch the candid and warm conversation between these two lifelong peace activists and friends. The interview highlights McCarthy’s latest book, Teaching Peace: Students Exchange Letters with Their Teacher. (more…)

A Poem, Eviscerated

As I write this, several of my students are completing the AP Literature and Language Exam. Recently I assisted one of my students with answering questions over a poem from a released practice test.

Now, I am a teacher who loves poetry. One of my favorite explanations of the power of poetry is from a poem by William Carlos Williams: “It is difficult / to get the news from poems / yet men die miserably every day / for lack / of what is found there.” So you can imagine my disappointment and rage when I discovered the way the College Board had stripped, simplified, and sterilized one of my favorite poems: “Facing It” by Yusef Komunyakaa.

Please, take the time to read the poem and get a sense for the intensity of Komunyakaa’s words. The poem is a collection of images, emotions, and remembrances from his visit to the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial, and in the poem the Wall takes on a life of its own, becoming a portal into the past or into the future or even into another world. The poem is intense, ambiguous, and visceral. If ystationeryou engage your imagination and stand at the wall with him—beside him—inside him, this poem will haunt you like a hungry ghost.

Contrast the power of the poem, then, with the sterilized questions the AP designed over its contents. In order to write multiple choice questions that no one can dispute, the College Board writes their questions so there is only one possible correct answer. That means, in a poem so open to new paths and possibilities, their answer becomes the one true correct interpretation of the poem. The most egregious of these questions concerns what the author is conveying in the last lines of the poem. There are so many possibilities within those three lines! Whose hair is she brushing? Is this the son of a veteran? What does he remember his father? Whose name is she trying to erase? Is it possible she can erase names in the reflected Wall? What happens when you erase a name from the Wall? None of these possibilities matter to the College Board. For them, there is only one explanation of those lines which is completely true: The author is conveying “an uncertainty about the meaning of a gesture.” And so they eviscerate the poem to its barest, basest truth, and the message, the meaning, and the emotion are lost in a safe, scripted multiple choice answer.

Indeed, in our current educational model, the constant high stakes testing over poems and stories makes literature disposable: you read it, answer questions about it, and forget about it. Done, you never have to worry about it again. And why would you want to, if the only reason you read it was to answer questions about it for some test? But poetry is more brilliant, confounding, and magical than the questions and answers on a test. To “get the news from poems” you have to have to live them. Let them linger in your mind, color your experience and your thinking, and echo through the halls of your memory until everything in that little puzzle of language clicks into place and you see it for what it truly is. “Facing it” has haunted me since I first read it in college, and every time it comes back to visit me again it jabs at me in a new way, and takes me on a new path of understanding. But this poem—and so many others—have become just another task to be completed on a test, graded, converted into a number score, and then discarded. It’s time to let poetry do its wonderful work on us again. We need to look through the four walls of our multiple choice tests and see poetry as a source for the endless possibilities that are found there.

The Man From the North: Story 13

The Man From the North is a fictional writer in Rivera Sun’s novel, The Dandelion Insurrection. The novel takes place in the near future, in “a time that looms around the corner of today,” when a rising police state controlled by the corporate-political elite have plunged the nation into the grip of a hidden dictatorship. In spite of severe surveillance and repression, the Man From the North’s banned articles circulate through the American populace, reporting on resistance and fomenting nonviolent revolution.

The story below is one of several written by the Man From the North. The article series is not included in the novel and was originally published on Dandelion Salad. We will feature a Man From the North story on a weekly basis through June 3, 2015. You can read the entire series at Dandelion Salad. The Dandelion Insurrection and a companion study guide can be purchased on Rivera’s website.


Dandelions in Disguise

Something is happening in the halls of power. Paperwork is not being completed by the deadline. Forms are not being filed correctly. Permit applications are vanishing.  It could be incompetence or . . .

. . . it could be the Dandelion Insurrection.

I suspect that a subtle resistance is being waged under the cover of ordinary incompetence. There are a thousand ways for civil servants and corporate employees to defy the corporate-political machine. Crucial meetings can be left off the schedule. The CEO’s airline tickets can be misplaced. The environmental review for pipelines can be bogged down for months. A single accountant alone could rewrite the course of human history by crunching the oil well numbers unflatteringly.

Many of us Dandelion Insurrectionists have been so long shunted from positions of power, marginalized, and ignored that we have forgotten how dependent the most powerful are on every single person who works for them. But, it seems that those inside the citadels of wealth and power remember . . . and they are starting to rebel.

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