Tuesday, August 26, 2014

On peacemaking with Kenyan Police


Hal Pepinsky, pepinsky@indiana.edu,”peacemaking” at pepinsky.blogspot.com

August 26, 2014


     A Kenyan student has recently made contact with me, first asking for advice on a thesis, then asking about Ferguson, now getting personal.  Here (making allowances for his apparent cell phone transmission, is his suggestion and my reply.  I wish him well. First, his message, then my reply:


Hi Hal. Yesterevening at around 2030hrs, military time, I got into an
altercation with police officers on patrol who barricaded the road my
residence for reasons only knw to them. Funny enough,who seemed to  be
an officer of higher rank was there with them in his private car. They
were stopping anybody and ransacking them. So one of them slapped me
and said these words," Kijana acha kuleta ujinga ya wajaluo
hapa."(Meaning," Kid don't bring here the stupidity of the luo
people.") Hal, luo is a tribe in Kenya. (He is an  aquintance, so I
was suprised at his condact). I was on the receiving end, and even
lost my trench coat to him, claiming it is only worn by
'wakora'(devint).Fortunately, I recognized one with whom I had, not
long ago, shared some time with discusin students conduct and the
police, and called him by name. He called me  with my tribes name
'jaugenya' and intervened for me. I wz let go and my trench coat
returned. As I left, I had them say, "Bwana hapa kuna kazi." (Meaning,
 "Boys here there is "job")Even, after I left I  knew those coming
after me wld face it, especially that they won't have a tribesmate to
help.  Though the insidence is not entirely similar to the Fugerson
case...do you think a black would objectively evaluate the work of a
white police officer? Do you think a luo would objectively evaluate a
Kalenjin officer?My insidence was just a simple case of police
officers misbehaving......an issue that can be adequately handled by
professional Criminal Justice Administration and that kind of
misbehavior is rampant all over and speaks volumes about overall
weaknesses in Criminal Justice.For us Kenya, do you think the panacea
for this kind of rot can be sought in detribalisation of public


                John, I see this as a personal call for you to get peacemaking among the tribes in your neighborhood underway, in a conversation with the police, particularly those you know personally.  Who is an elder in your neighborhood?  Do you practice religion, could you go to your own local religious leader, and propose that s/he draw together other congregations, and women’s groups in particular, to initiate contact, perhaps with the officer who identified you to begin with, to get officers and the community regularly to know and talk with one another?  It’s a matter of organizing, the kind of work Barack Obama started with out of law school.  Step one is for elders to pull the community together across tribal lines, involving young people like you and your friends in the neighborhood.  Step two is to invite police into the community for community meetings.  Step three is to regularize the conversation.  You are peace.  Love and peace,  hal

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Common Core


Hal Pepinsky, pepinsky@indiana.edu, “peacemaking” at pepinsky.blogspot.com

August 25, 2014


                Forty-five states in the US have adopted one of two versions of testing for the Common Core of competence in English and math arts language and concepts.  Here in Ohio, repeal of the CC is pending in the House, but even when repealed, to obtain “race to the top” federal funds, they must substitute another standardized test of mastery of content.

                Today I ran a search for validation of test scores.  The closest I came to finding validation data was a state study using the Delphi method—consulting “experts” to see whether they ranked questions in order of complexity as testmakers had done, citing another expert theorist on hierarchy of cognitive complexity.  I presume the validation data the two private enterprises constructing the CC tests are proprietary.

                Apparently, the tests are scored by how well students conform to what adults presume children born knowing nothing have come to know the world in the same order and configuration the testmakers exalt in themselves.  It assumes adults already need to know what every child needs to know when s/he has finished a certain grade, beginning the third grade.  It assumes a lock-step order of learning.  Perhaps because I went to an ungraded high school, I never felt comfortable grading in 39 years of full-time teaching.  Increasingly, educators are recognizing that conceptual learning takes fastest when students are allowed to fail and create their own ways out.  I am supposing that what goes for my learning, including the three R’s, goes for all of us to some degree: Learning what I think I know of statistics and writing has been a unique journey of “aha” moments, from when I first learned to spell and count.  The order in which my abilities to read, write and count evolved, the ways in which I have developed an appreciation of the organic unity of the home in which I live, has recently added new dimensions to my understanding of geometry.  I see it too in my grandchildren, ages 6 and 4.

                Experts and paradigms of education come and go.  The world changes.  From birth, each of us learns on unique paths.  Species that accommodate environment change from generation to generation adapt more readily, survive longer, than species that all behave or “know” the same things about their environment.  By CC standards, diversity of learning sequences is error.

                The other fallacy of CC standards is that a nation of child learning grows the higher students rise relative to others.  By definition, standardization assumes that below a certain confidence level, there’s a statistically small chance that any child in that group scores above average, somewhere between just below average and lower down.  As policy, far enough below average for all test-takers to be “left behind,” and so to be held back a year as early as the third grade.  Grading by standard score may show that some schools and school systems score better over time, and as in the US economy, inequality of relative child, school, teacher success and failure provides the ammunition for privatized elimination of neighborhood schools and privatization of public education.  In Garrison Keillor’s terms, the promise that all our children can be above average is methodologically ludicrous, and distracts our children from learning change.  Love and peace, hal

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The History of Post-Vietnam Military Investment in Criminal Justice


Hal Pepinsky, pepinsky@indiana.edu, “peacemaking” at pepinsky.blogspot.com

August 17, 2014


When I started teaching criminal justice in 1970, the Law Enforcement of the Justice was selling military equipment like mad, and the National Institute of Justice was releasing research reports, as on the stopping power of handgun bullets, as the Vietnam war drew down. The Justice Department also funded "tactical squads," now known as SWAT teams. At the official end of the Cold War in 1989, "economic conversion" brought a whole array of military hardware, especially adapted to prison construction and security. I was once at the American Correctional Association meeting during the period. With Salvation Army chaplains scattered along and amidst the technical exhibit, the array from barbed wire to portable cells, to firepower including tasers. was awesome. And so, here we go again, startled by how much hardware the Defense Department is selling police.  Let's not fail to notice the longstanding synergy between the military- and prison-industrial complexes. love and peace, hal

Thursday, August 14, 2014

President Obama's Finest Hour


Hal Pepinsky, pepinsky@indiana.edu, “peacemaking” at pepinsky.blogspot.com

August 14, 2014


                I generally avoid ranking human actions, but in today’s address on breaking the siege of the Yazidis in Iraq, and reacting to the police shooting and its aftermath in Ferguson, Missouri, I feel President Obama has just had his finest public moment thus far in his Presidency.  In yesterday’s blog post, I projected that the president’s sending of military advisers to Iraq was a slippery slope to sending in the troops.  My prediction was wrong.  In announcing the breaking of the Yazidi siege, he kept the level of US military involvement essentially as it is.  And he probably saved thousands from genocide.  He minimized the force necessary to avoid a slaughter.  I have a renewed respect for his conduct of foreign policy.

                As to the lethal police shooting and its aftermath in Ferguson, for the first time I have seen in the field of law and justice, he showed his skill as a constitutional law professor, right down to first amendment rights of free assembly and free press, and his instructions to his attorney general to follow through on potential civil rights violations, ending with an assertion of the people’s right to protest peacefully.  What leadership.  Thank you, Mr. President.  Love and peace, hal

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Historians' Paradox


Hal Pepinsky, pepinsky@indiana.edu, “peacemaking” at pepinsky.blogspot.com

August 13, 2014


                When I joined the Forensic Studies, later Criminal Justice Department at Indiana University in 1976, my colleague Ellen Dwyer invited me to join a history-sociology informal seminar she was organizing with historian of crime Barbara Hanawalt.  Barb was a specialist on crime in Elizabethan England.  I was the only “sociologist” in the group.  Members of the seminar introduced me to the Social Science History Association meetings.  I think I owe Ellen and Barb more than anyone else for opening my passion for putting contemporary crime/criminality trends in historical perspective.

                Time and again when one historian presented findings from her or his research, other historians would find exceptions to any proposition the presenter stated about the significance of her or his findings, akin to the law school exercise, “I can distinguish your case.”  As you can imagine, I stood out as the most reckless generalizer in my presentations on trends in crime and criminality figures.  What more than one historian among us seemed to prize most was to find that a social phenomenon in a particular time and place was unique.  It was a stimulating Socratic exercise, but to me, it presents a paradox.

                If the historically most valued contribution about a phenomenon in a time and place is that it is something unique, then the truest, most beautiful history is one that never repeats itself.  What then of the saying that those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it?

                I’m an incorrigible pragmatist.  When I look at current trends in violence and peacemaking efforts, I look for past parallels.  As I write, President Obama has just ordered that not combat troops, but advisers, will be sent to northern Iraq.  And the CIA is reportedly doing its own thing.  I attended my first Vietnam teach-in at Michigan in 1964, where (paradoxically for me), defended the domino theory—that if we didn’t stop Communism in Vietnam, we would lose Southeast Asia.  We had just turned from having only military advisers in Vietnam, to sending in combat troops.  No proposition is certain, but President Obama certainly is sliding down a slippery slope.

                I can’t help adding one observation about history.  Any time anyone describes an event, it is already history.  We can’t avoid it.  Love and peace, hal