Vital Signs: Seattle’s Standardized Testing Revolt; Palestinian Settlement Evicted
The Standardized Revolt: This week, teachers at two Seattle schools are refusing to administer mandated standardized district tests, arguing that such tests waste school resources and have little value in measuring students’ academic performance. The first such school-wide effort in a decade in America, the boycotts add to a growing movement of educators, parents and students against the use of standardized testing as a primary criterion for evaluation.
A Settlement for a Settlement: Over 200 Palestinian protesters briefly established a tent village, named Bab al-Shams ("Gate of the Sun" in Arabic), in the West Bank last week in what is being hailed as an inspired act of creative nonviolence. Spearheaded by the Palestinian-led Popular Struggle Coordination Committee, the encampment became the first new Palestinian village erected in the West Bank since 1967. But on Monday, two days after its establishment, the camp was raided and dismantled by the Israeli Defense Forces. The construction of Bab al-Shams follows Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's announcement of Israel's intention to build about 4,000 settlement housing units in the controversial E1 area, which would bisect the West Bank and compromise the territorial integrity of a future Palestinian state.
Squatters Strike Back: On January 12, a reported 10,000 protesters marched in Athens in the latest protest against the December eviction of the city’s Villa Amalias squat house, which has served for two decades as a crucial focal point for the anarchist and anti-authoritarian countercultural movement in Greece. Protesters also called for the release of 92 activists who were arrested after briefly re-occupying the space on January 9. The battle over the Villa Amalias squat, located in a mixed Greek and immigrant neighborhood, reflects larger tensions, in a society crippled by austerity, between leftists and right-wing elements such as the nativist Golden Dawn Party, who many argue are unabashedly allied with Greek police forces. Solidarity demonstrations also took place in Thessaloniki, Chania, Mitilini, Patra, Heracleon and other cities.
Zombies Protest School Closings: On January 15, dozens of youth from the Philadelphia Student Union, adorned in elaborate zombie costumes, danced to Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ outside the Philadelphia School District’s Headquarters to protest a plan to close 37 schools across the city in June. Though officials estimate that the closings will save the district $28 million and will allow the city to funnel more resources into existing schools, one student protester insisted that “our hopes would be dead” if the schools are closed. The Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools is calling for increases in state aid to save the schools.