Tag Archives: education

On Choosing Goodness

by Heather Charles, B.A. ’10 + M.A. ’12

I have two siblings serving in our nation’s armed forces. In my case, they both happen to be in the army. They are two radically different people with different personal motivations for why they joined, but ultimately what it came down to was that as working class white kids growing up in a community with an unemployment rate that hovers around 40-50% percent, it was the best option for them to support themselves and their current and future families. My family, like the families of many American families who have been working class for many generations has had a disproportionate number of people who served in the military. No one in my family is particularly keen on our actions abroad, including my late-Great Grandfather who lied about his age and became a Para-trooper in the Pacific Theater during World War Two, because it was best way to ensure that he got to eat. My family lineage on my maternal side is a long line of white folks who were the exception in that like many black share-croppers during the Dust Bowl, they were left out of FDR’s reforms. I have great-great aunts who were sterilized during the Eugenics movement. Continue reading

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Classes Related to Peace and Justice at Stanford, Spring Quarter 2013

by Cole Manley, ’15

peace studiesIn 1985, a Peace Studies Task Force comprised of faculty and students compiled a list of over 100 courses at Stanford that related to peace. Such is the nature of the field of peace studies that there can be tens of courses related to peace and justice even without a peace studies minor or major. While there are hundreds of peace studies, peace and conflict studies, and peace and justice minors and majors across the United States and around the world, there has never been a peace studies program at Stanford. At UC Berkeley, Brandeis University, American University, the University of Notre Dame, and many other notable schools, peace and justice are studied in a structured, meaningful way, with dedicated faculty, administrators, and graduates. Yet even though the Task Force’s efforts at expanding peace curricula at Stanford did not result in a minor or major, there remain many courses which relate to peace and justice issues.

In 2012, I conducted a preliminary study similar to that of the Task Force. Continue reading

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A Breakup Letter to Stanford University

by Alok Vaid-Menon, ’13

you are eighteen — give or take a few
shots of espresso and one night stands —
and you are sandwiched in the backseat
of the car with the six suitcases you somehow convinced your mother
to let you pack for college — let’s call it,
being upfront to your roommate that you are
coming with baggage

and you never were one for cliches, but you felt
part of something bigger than yourself,
your parents — called it “becoming an adult”
but you called it staying out past your bedtime dancing
called it holding his hand on the street,
called it safe, and sometimes even

Continue reading

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$250 and Some Change: Why Terminating Your Housing Contract May Be The Only Way to Preserve the Stanford Experience

by Luke Wigren, ’11


“It is by realizing that their condition of life is not what it ought to be, that vast improvements may be accomplished.”
-Leland Stanford, Congressional Record, May 23rd, 1890

Looking back on my time at Stanford, I find myself questioning — most of all — my own foolishness. There were the numerous all-nighters I pulled in the Toyon Eating Clubs (R.I.P.), and the long afternoons I passed doing nothing but writing lyrics on the walls of XOX’s Chapter Room (R.I.P.). Also, there was the entire quarter I devoted myself to studying famed Stanford dropout John Steinbeck in a class entitled “Holistic Biology” (R.I.P.). The class culminated in a four week research voyage, a pilgrimage of sorts, to Baja California and in true Steinbeck-ian form, it fulfilled nearly zero requirements towards my major or towards graduation.

If someone asked me to tell them what made my time at Stanford unique or enriching, these are the moments to which I would inevitably return. Continue reading

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On Responsible Activism

by Heather Charles, B.A. ’10 + M.A. ’12

I am going to do what I always do in these conversations and state my credentials from the get-go. I am going to do this because I am white. And because I am white, and grew up extremely poor in an urban area where I attended some of the worst urban schools in the state of California in a community that is one of the most ethnically diverse in the nation and am living with a Mexican American man I grew up with who told his dad that he had no interest in learning Spanish because “he didn’t want to be one of those Mexican kids who can’t read English” and who is half white but knows he gets stopped by cops all the time because he is Mexican, I am intensely aware of how this whole speech and my mere presence in the activist community comes off, and came off while I while an undergrad, to the very communities that I work with. So demographically, when you ask me to be extra specific, I identify as working class, first. That’s the closest I can get to being honest. I do this because, when I entered Stanford I spoke a non-standard version of American English, and maintained the kind of wit that can only be learned on the playground and lot of people thought I was being a crazy asshole.  And I also do this, because I have the white privilege of not having to identify as my racial background. And because as a straight white woman I don’t have to identify as my sexual orientation either. But the fact of the matter is that the reality of my childhood more closely resembles that of poor folks who grow up in urban areas than it does the white peers I most closely resemble physically. On paper, people often assume I am black. This is because they are racist.

I am also an activist in urban education. Continue reading

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10 Signs That Classism Exists

by Danny McKay, ’14

In CSRE 26SI, a student-led course about allyship, students were asked to come up with 10 pieces of evidence to prove that certain prejudices exist. Here are Danny’s 10 signs that classism exists:

1. I recently heard someone I know call someone else a “pleb.”

2. Andrew Mitchell, former Chief of the UK Conservative Party, resigned after calling a policeman a pleb.

3. The average income of the richest 10% of the world’s population is about 9 times that of the poorest 10%.

4. The cost of the Invasion/Occupation of Iraq (i.e., money, lives) falls on the poor, while the rich (i.e., CEOs, politicians) benefit.

5. During Hurricane Katrina, the rich were evacuated, while the poor stayed and suffered. Continue reading

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Teaching Students to Give Back

by Sarah Moore, ’15 + Josee Smith, ’15


There are many student groups on campus devoted to improving the academic lives of elementary school students in subjects like reading, math, and computer proficiency, for example.

While we understand that this academic support is beneficial and important for the child, we also believe that it is important to promote the values of giving back to one’s community.

We are interested in expanding the outlook of local children’s lives to include more than just their friends and families, but also the other people in their communities, such as senior citizens, un-housed individuals, and the underprivileged.

With this goal in mind, we would like to start a student group to lead a local after-school program dedicated to teaching elementary school kids about the importance of becoming an involved member of their community, through various activities such as community service, lessons on character enrichment, the promotion of helpful attitudes, etc. Continue reading

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Metal Detectors or Medical Doctors: The Privilege of Education Itself

by Alex Kindel, ’14

When we discuss privilege, a few general types seem to come up more often than others. We frequently acknowledge our white, male, straight privileges, and depending on the space, perhaps cisgender, class, physical ability. I’d like to propose a category of privilege that isn’t as frequently discussed at Stanford: educational background.

For example, did you know what “units” were when you arrived at Stanford? Were you able to receive AP exam credit? Are you used to using textbooks as a tool for learning? Do you speak a language other than the language(s) you speak at home? Did you have high school teachers who were experts in their fields? Do you play an instrument? Was it considered “normal” or “expected” for you to apply to highly selective universities? Do you feel free to pursue opportunities abroad? Do you have generally positive memories of your high school experience? This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I believe examples are the best way to get started on thinking about the way our educational backgrounds influence our identities as Stanford students and the opportunities we feel able to take advantage of. Continue reading

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Stanford, Class of ’11 graduate arrested in the name of public education

by Luke Wigren, ’11

At 6:10pm on Monday, March 5th, I sat in a hallway of the California State Capitol risking arrest and contemplating the importance of education, civil rights, and my own immediate personal freedom. The Capitol had just officially closed for the day and, for a few brief minutes between chants of “education should be free” and nonviolent resistance training, a weighted hush hung over the chessboard-checkered floor.

All around me, whispering, were 100 students from over a dozen state schools, community colleges, and several high schools. A few legal observers, as well as a handful of teachers and one mother also risking arrest, stood guard along the wall. What we were doing – trespassing on state property – we all knew to be illegal.

I asked a Berkeley student next to me if she was going to stay once the police issued a dispersal order. She wasn’t sure yet. She didn’t want her mom to find out, and then added nervously that this would be her first arrest. I said it would be mine, too. We held a brief smile despite the pressing circumstances.

After a daylong people’s assembly inside the Capitol, discussing what to do about the distressing and increasingly unaffordable state of California public higher education, we were all exhausted. Continue reading

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