Short Stuff 25.4

Peterson Elected Head of Milwaukee Teachers’ Union

Photo: Barbara Miner
Bob Peterson with students
at the protests this winter
at the Capitol in Madison, Wis.

Bob Peterson, a founding editor and board president of Rethinking Schools, was recently elected president of the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association, capping a campaign waged in the midst of occupations, sick-outs, legislative recall campaigns, and constant mobilizations in the city and across the state. “I want to help organize our members and the broader community to get Wisconsin back on track in supporting public education and other essential social services for children,” he says.

Building on decades of education activism in Milwaukee and nationally, Peterson intends to address the relentless attacks on teachers that have dominated the discussion about public education in recent years: “Our children are our future, and teaching is a noble profession. Yet teachers have been mercilessly scapegoated. I want to make sure that teaching is once again viewed as a worthwhile career.”

Geronimo Is a Hero, Not an Enemy

Soon after the news broke about the U.S. assassination of Osama bin Laden, Native Americans throughout the country began to voice their outrage that the code name for bin Laden was “Geronimo.”

Photo: U.S. Library of Congress
Geronimo 1910

“As a Native man,” wrote Choctaw activist and writer Ben Carnes, “I was genuinely stunned to learn the United States had selected the name of a hero who fought to defend his people and way of life.”

Geronimo, a Chiricahua Apache leader, is revered by Native Americans for his leadership in struggles to defend indigenous lands. As Suzan Shown Harjo, president of the Morning Star Institute, explained in a U.S. Senate hearing on racist stereotypes: “For all that he went through and his people went through, having every Native action criminalized, to now be called an enemy—Geronimo, Enemy Killed in Action—that’s the stunning thing. . . . When we are slurred in public in this way, we all take offense.”

The military’s appropriation of indigenous names is nothing new, according American activist and writer Winona LaDuke: “You’ve got Black Hawk helicopters, Apache Longbow helicopters. You’ve got Tomahawk missiles. The term used when you leave a military base in a foreign country is to go ‘off the reservation into Indian country.’ So what is the messaging that is passed on?” (Includes reporting from, May 9, 2011, and

Arizona Students Defend Raza Studies

Arizona’s ban on ethnic studies, HB 2281, has pitted students, teachers, and families against the Tucson school board in an increasingly rancorous fight. On April 26, just minutes before the school board meeting was scheduled to begin, current and former Tucson high school students from UNIDOS chained themselves to the board members’ seats to protest a resolution terminating the district’s successful Mexican American studies program. The students and hundreds of supporters in the audience chanted “Our education is under attack, what do we do? Fight back!”

HB 2281, scheduled to take effect last January and specifically aimed at the Tucson ethnic studies program, is being challenged in court. Tucson school officials initially opposed the ban. In fact, several months ago, Superintendent John Pedicone declared the law unconstitutional and said, “If you look at the data, it is hard to argue with the success this program has with a historically underserved population.” But the district declined to join the lawsuit, refused to talk with students and faculty about the issue, and is now set to turn the classes, which currently can be used to help fulfill the social studies requirement for graduation, into electives. Because of the difficulty many Latina/o students have in fulfilling all their graduation requirements, this will effectively kill the program.

When supporters arrived at the next school board meeting, they were met by dozens of police, many in riot gear, and hovering police helicopters. As we go to press, the school board has postponed a vote on the resolution pending a public hearing. (Includes reporting from, May 4, 2001, and Hard Knocks Radio, KPFA. See the sit-in on youtube: