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by Ivan Greenberg
On September 12, 2012, a federal judge issued a permanent injunction against a counterterrorism provision of the National Defense Authorization Act (2012) that would have given the president the authority to indefinitely detain Americans suspected of support for terrorism. Federal district Judge Katherine B. Forrest ruled the "disappearance" of Americans for political reasons violates free speech rights under the First Amendment. Seven individuals, including Chris Hedges, Noam Chomsky, and Daniel Ellsberg, had sued the government claiming the language of the detention provision -- Section 1021 -- was overly broad and vague. It could be used to curtail their political activity.
The question of who is a terrorist and what is terrorist activity goes to the heart of this matter. After September 11, the USA Patriot Act (2001) and other security guidelines permitted the government to misapply the terrorist label to a broad range of legitimate dissent. In a recent example, newly declassified police and intelligence documents have begun to suggest the Occupy Wall Street movement was smeared as terrorist activity in order to legitimate security investigations.
What makes Section 1021 so troubling is that detention without charge could occur against people who “substantially supported” or “directly supported” terrorism. These terms are not defined. It could include financial contributions to controversial groups. Moreover, the support provision also applies to “associational forces” of terrorists, a term which is not defined. This could include attorney and media organizations critical of the government.
Internment plans for political dissidents are not entirely new. During the Cold War, the FBI secretly assembled a list or index of “subversives” to be detained indefinitely in the event of a national emergency. The list was established in 1939 under the Custodial Detention Program and continued under other names (Security Index, Administrative Index) until the late 1970s. During the 1980s, a plan known as Rex 84 also outlined detention policies for American radicals. At its height, the FBI put about 26,000 Americans on the list. Fortunately, these internment plans never were put into practice.
A major difference between those FBI efforts and the current plans is the public nature of the debate now taking place. In the past, the general public was unaware of the FBI's internment policy. But since Congress has taken the lead with legislative action, legal resistance now is possible.
After Judge Forrest's ruling, the Obama Justice Department sought an emergency appeal due to "irreparable harm to national security." The matter will be handled by an federal appeals court, with the prospect the U.S. Supreme Court eventually will rule on the domestic internment of American radicals.
Ivan Greenberg is a former adjunct instructor in the City University of New York college system and is currently an independent scholar. He is also the author of Surveillance in America Critical Analysis of the FBI, 1920 to the Present and The Dangers of Dissent The FBI and Civil Liberties since 1965.
By Ann Weber and Marvin Henry
If you haven’t already, you will want to read Esther Cepeda’s recent column entitled “Learning by Example: What an Idea.” Her message distributed through the Washington Post Writers Group is that future teachers need to observe great teachers teaching. She laments that there are not many master teachers from which to choose and cites the National Council on Teacher Quality as reporting that only one of every 25 faculty members is qualified and willing to mentor. This means a limited number of placements.
While we nod in agreement with Cepeda’s call for the observation of master teachers, we also feel reservation about her implication that observations of great teaching will produce great teachers. We can spend many Sunday afternoons observing the fine-tuned swings of professional golfers, culinary-wizardry of chefs, or renovations by skilled woodworkers, but we still slice off the tee, have better luck by ordering take-out, and have to pay professionals for most of the household repairs.
We can learn valuable information through observation but more is needed from the experts than simply viewing them at work. The same can be said for our future teachers. We believe that there is more to choosing quality placements for our pre-teachers than providing observations of master instructors. Exemplary instruction is valuable but when a placement is combined with a classroom teacher who also possesses effective supervisory skills then the pre-teacher’s chances of professional growth soar.
We have witnessed very effective classroom teachers who were poor cooperating teachers. Some did not have the analytical ability to dissect and explain the events of effective instructional success. Others did not have skills for sharing knowledge or providing quality feedback, much less possess time, patience, or nurturing qualities. In contrast, we have witnessed average and even mediocre classroom teachers who were effective as cooperating teachers. They provided a nurturing yet challenging environment and understood the developmental stages of a student teacher as they facilitated professional growth on a daily basis. Yes, it’s dynamite when both teaching skills and supervisory skills are exemplary in the cooperating teacher, but in the end, it is the supervisory element that is highly important to advancing the career-lasting development of our future teachers.
Those of you in education know that there is also a college supervisor that bridges the gap between college course work and the school experiences. However, budget constraints are now limiting their travel time for supervisory observations of the student teacher and guidance for the cooperating teacher. Additionally our society continues to loudly beg for effective classroom teachers. Indeed, cooperating teachers with supervisory training seems even more imperative to address these concerns.
Supervisory skills can be learned. Several college programs now offer on-campus professional development for their cooperating teachers, but there are far more cooperating teachers who still operate without supervisory training. The advent of the internet and subsequent courses developed for online study have further created manageable opportunities for the preparation of cooperating teachers.
We have been advocating for years that teachers need professional development if they are assuming the important role of a cooperating teacher. We are as perplexed about the lack of action in the supervisory qualification for our cooperating teachers as Cepeda is about finding placements with teachers who are great at teaching. If the school experience is the capstone of the undergraduate education program then surely the cooperating teacher, who is a part of the college program, should be fully prepared to supervise.
We are appreciative of the dialogue that Cepeda’s column is initiating and of you who are accepting her challenge of finding great teaching, yet we now nudge, beg, and implore you to expand your definition of quality experiences for our future teachers as ones that include exemplary instructional teachers with effective supervisory skills.
Ann Weber and Marvin Henry are co-authors of Supervising Student Teachers the Professional Way, 7 ed. (Roman & Littlefield, 2010) and Supervising Student Teachers the Professional Way: Instructor’s Guide (Roman & Littlefield, 2011).
By Topi Heikkerö
When I was in primary school, we discussed the four-stroke engine with my dad. He explained to me how intake, compression, power and exhaust strokes are made possible by the action of the cam and valves. This knowledge made me feel at home in the world: I understood what kind of principles enabled our holiday trips by car. The computer with which I work daily, however, doesn’t reveal itself to me in a similar manner. The device, operating system, programs and network connections are mostly mysteries to me. I have little experience from programming, only superficial knowledge concerning semiconductors and binary numbers. For the most part computer presents itself to me as a convenient, readily available interface—when it’s functioning well.
Due to living abroad our family has to fly over the Atlantic at least once a year. It’s baffling to think about all the technical arrangements that make an intercontinental flight possible. I don’t believe there is one single person who knew all the information that underlies an international flight.
With nature the situation is almost the opposite. For early humans many natural phenomena were mysteries. Thunder and lightning, human fertilization, fire and burning, the motions of the moon and planets, heaviness that takes things down, as well as blood circulation and respiration have challenged human understanding for millennia. Thunder might first have been the most terrifying and fascinating natural phenomenon, since many mythologies perceive it as the work of the highest god. Still in Aeschylus’s Oresteia Athena gets the Furies under control by threatening them with his father’s thunderbolts.
Step by step countless phenomena have been taken out of the unruly divine fate and brought within the realm of rational explanations. Hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, and droughts still terrify us, but mostly because of the human suffering and uncertainty that are involved—not because we wouldn’t understand natural laws related to them. After the last two disastrous tsunamis newspapers have immediately offered knowledgeable accounts of the physics involved.
In a sense, nature and human-made technology have changed places: wonders of nature have become prosaic, technology has become miraculous. For the most part we are happy users of the miracle but many of us also go to work inside the miracle: to take care of a part of an international flight or programming a new operating system.
This somewhat paradoxical situation makes one wonder how best to orient oneself in this human-made world. How to be an informed citizen in a society that relies on complex structures on all its levels? How to conceive a good life, or excellence, in this situation? Answering these questions seems to require understanding both the contemporary situation and thinking in ethics and politics. But to what extent are traditional moral philosophical stances applicable amongst intensive expert knowledge and life-enhancing devices? And what exactly are the criteria for good, right, and reasonable necessarily involved in these questions?
Topi Heikkerö is tutor at St. John's College, Santa Fe, New Mexico and author of the newly released title, Ethics in Technolgy: A Philosophical Study.
By Randall Amster, J.D., Ph.D.
Homelessness is a continuing concern in nearly every American city and in many locales around the world. The global financial crisis of recent years has further exacerbated the issue, driving significant numbers of working and housed people into the perpetual uncertainty of being homeless. Increasingly, entire families have been displaced, joining the ranks of the dispossessed on the streets, in parks, and in the margins of a society that previously kept them at least gainfully employed and reasonably situated.
This new wave of the displaced join the already-expanding ranks of people constrained to survive in the rough edges of modern life. As a society, we do not deal well with homelessness, more often than not seeking to sweep it under the rug or, even worse, turn it into a crime. Homeless people are often seen as mentally ill, substance-addled, or otherwise damaged in their behaviors. A generally prosperous society has little tolerance for those who appear to have “failed” in attaining the American Dream.
To a not-insignificant extent, the homeless serve as a nascent mirror and nagging reminder that the relative wealth and privilege many of us enjoy comes at the expense of others in our midst. When the poverty and despair are presented with a name and a face, suddenly the convenient distancing we prefer is collapsed, leaving us to consider the basic fairness of a system that has only served some of us well. In this sense, the homeless oftentimes represent that which we would rather not be reminded about.
Against this pervasive process of “othering” as a function of imposing cultural distance, social scientists have uncovered another set of processes that can serve to illustrate an alternative. Sometimes referred to as the “contact hypothesis,” the basic notion is that prejudice and similar antipathies can be eroded by increasing contact among conflictual groups. Essentially, the more we interact with others, the more likely we are to see them as similar to ourselves, thus reducing the impetus to disdain them.
This is not an exact science, and there is no guarantee that contact brings affinity in all cases. Still, there is an intuitive aspect to the theory that implicitly drives a good deal of scholarly investigation into marginalized groups and associated phenomena. With much of this work the intention is to be descriptive and/or analytical, presenting subcultures and social issues in a novel light -- and an often unspoken aim in many cases is to promote greater understanding and empathy in the process.
When it comes to studying homelessness, the stakes can be even higher, and the concomitant need for empathy even greater. Many of us are more vulnerable to becoming homeless than we might imagine, and even when we are not, there is the subconscious psychological pressure of benefiting from a system that allows widespread poverty and acute despair to exist unabated. Homelessness, because of its visible and visceral nature, tugs on both our hearts and our heads in a manner that is unsettling.
Yet in this tendency to disturb are also instructive lessons as well as potential pathways toward experiences of heightened compassion and much-needed social change. Putting homelessness “out of sight” cuts us off from these possibilities and denies us an opportunity to both assist others and help ourselves at the same time. By bringing these issues to light, an invitation is extended to increase our contact with those who trouble us, and in the process to discover more about our own capacity to care.
Randall Amster, J.D., Ph.D., is the co-editor of the new volume, Professional Lives, Personal Struggles: Ethics and Advocacy in Research on Homelessness.
By Eileen Johnson
Another mass shooting! And this time in a place where people were relaxing, with all their defenses down, anticipating a well-deserved evening of fun. How terrifying is that? Will anyone ever relax at the movies again? In the aftermath of this massacre, everyone is shocked, frightened, sad, and frustrated. People feel helpless and we are asking once more: “How did this happen?” and “What can we do to stop it from happening again?”
Already a lot of the talk has turned to gun control and increased security. Maybe we need to have metal detectors everywhere we go. Maybe we need to stop the proliferation of guns, especially assault rifles. Clearly this horrible disaster might not have been so bad if James Holmes had not used assault weapons. Far fewer people would have been killed, and maybe someone could have tackled him. Furthermore, if he hadn’t been able to get guns in the first place, then this might not have happened at all.
However much I agree with the need for gun control, the problem is not with guns. The problem is with the person who felt the urge to kill in such a sadistic way. If he didn’t have guns he would have used a bomb – he apparently knew how to do that. The fact is that happy, well-adjusted people do not feel this psychopathic urge. Happy, well-adjusted people can not bring themselves to kill others, and something has to be really really wrong in a person’s life to drive him to this horrible inhuman act.
So far we don’t know anything about James Holmes’ childhood other than comments about him keeping to himself. As time goes by we will most likely find that he had existing emotional and social problems. And that is why this whole situation is so terribly frustrating. Because there ARE things we can do to prevent tragedies such as these.
Here is what we can do: We can put money into early childhood intervention programs. We can provide free psychological support for families right after birth, as they do in other countries such as France. We can provide social workers and psychologists in schools all the way up to Junior High and High School, where early problems seem to become acted out. College can be an extremely stressful experience – a new environment where loneliness and pressure can be a deadly cocktail for vulnerable young adults. Colleges should have more proactive, even mandatory, programs to help students process these feelings. I have said many times that school is the ideal place for early diagnosis of social and emotional problems. And yet money is just not there for these kinds of programs. Money suddenly becomes available for metal detectors and prisons after acted out problems have affected the lives of others in a terrible and irreparable way. Why can’t that money be spent early on to prevent the problems from getting to this extreme?
There should be support systems in place for families, and there should be diagnostic systems in place to help catch the outsiders, the loners, the depressed and rejected, a safety net to draw them back from the brink of despair, anger, and destruction. Are we going to wake up now? Or wait for the next bloodbath?
Eileen Johnson is the director of an innovative preschool in downtown New York City, where she has developed an emotional education curriculum for young children. The school is a member of the Alliance for Psychoanalytic Schools, and is affiliated with the Pacella Parent Child Center of the NY Psychoanalytic Society, where Eileen is a consultant.
She is also the author of The Children's Bill of Emotional Rights, published by Jason Aronson, Inc.