by Emily Zionts, Global Issues teacher - March 13, 2011

The following article is from and touches upon a theme that has been woven throughout the semester in Global Issues this Spring.

Two weeks ago, we threw our regularly scheduled curriculum out the window and put our energies towards understanding and analyzing the remarkable protests spreading across the world from Tunisia to Wisconsin.

The students were divided into groups to research and present upon the events in a particular country. Then, we created posters which aimed to answer the 6 "w's": Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? Students wrote out this information on Dry Erase Paper and can now earn extra credit for updating the posters to display the most current situation in those countries!

The students are on their 6 week break right now, so I guess I will have to assign the following piece to YOU!

Emily (Global Issues Teacher)

Op-Ed Contributor Give Peaceful Resistance a Chance By ERICA CHENOWETH

(March 10, 2011) THE rebellion in Libya stands out among the recent unrest in the Middle East for its widespread violence: unlike the protesters in Tunisia or Egypt, those in Libya quickly gave up pursuing nonviolent change and became an armed rebellion.

And while the fighting in Libya is far from over, it’s not too early to ask a critical question: which is more effective as a force for change, violent or nonviolent resistance? Unfortunately for the Libyan rebels, research shows that nonviolent resistance is much more likely to produce results, while violent resistance runs a greater risk of backfiring.

Consider the Philippines. Although insurgencies attempted to overthrow Ferdinand Marcos during the 1970s and 1980s, they failed to attract broad support. When the regime did fall in 1986, it was at the hands of the People Power movement, a nonviolent pro-democracy campaign that boasted more than two million followers, including laborers, youth activists and Catholic clergy.

Indeed, a study I recently conducted with Maria J. Stephan, now a strategic planner at the State Department, compared the outcomes of hundreds of violent insurgencies with those of major nonviolent resistance campaigns from 1900 to 2006; we found that over 50 percent of the nonviolent movements succeeded, compared with about 25 percent of the violent insurgencies.

Why? For one thing, people don't have to give up their jobs, leave their families or agree to kill anyone to participate in a nonviolent campaign. That means such movements tend to draw a wider range of participants, which gives them more access to members of the regime, including security forces and economic elites, who often sympathize with or are even relatives of protesters.

What's more, oppressive regimes need the loyalty of their personnel to carry out their orders. Violent resistance tends to reinforce that loyalty, while civil resistance undermines it. When security forces refuse orders to, say, fire on peaceful protesters, regimes must accommodate the opposition or give up power; precisely what happened in Egypt.

This is why the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, took such great pains to use armed thugs to try to provoke the Egyptian demonstrators into using violence, after which he could have rallied the military behind him. But where Mr. Mubarak failed, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi succeeded: what began as peaceful movement became, after a few days of brutal crackdown by his corps of foreign militiamen, an armed but disorganized rebel fighting force. A widely supported popular revolution has been reduced to a smaller group of armed rebels attempting to overthrow a brutal dictator. These rebels are at a major disadvantage, and are unlikely to succeed without direct foreign intervention.

If the other uprisings across the Middle East remain nonviolent, however, we should be optimistic about the prospects for democracy there. That’s because, with a few exceptions; most notably Iran — nonviolent revolutions tend to lead to democracy.

Although the change is not immediate, our data show that from 1900 to 2006, 35 percent to 40 percent of authoritarian regimes that faced major nonviolent uprisings had become democracies five years after the campaign ended, even if the campaigns failed to cause immediate regime change. For the nonviolent campaigns that succeeded, the figure increases to well over 50 percent.

The good guys don't always win, but their chances increase greatly when they play their cards well. Nonviolent resistance is about finding and exploiting points of leverage in one’s own society. Every dictatorship has vulnerabilities, and every society can find them.

Erica Chenoweth, an assistant professor of government at Wesleyan University, is the co-author of the forthcoming; Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict.

by Afiya Cousins, student - March 10, 2011

To finish the Global Citizenship unit in Global Issues class, I (Emily, Global Issues teacher) assigned the class 2 articles regarding the issue of Modern Day Slavery. The first article was "Is There Slavery In Your Chocolate?" by John Robbins (read the article here: In this essay, Robbins specifically addressed the use of  "disposable' humans for chocolate and coffee farms. The second article was about the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo and how it is fueled by conflict minerals which are found in our Ipods. The homework over the weekend was to create an artistic response. Afiya wrote the following spoken word piece and shared it with us. There is a bit of strong language in this poem. I thought about changing the words or not posting this poem, but I believe that there is a time and place for strong language and in this case it paints a picture of a passionate young woman who is irate with a world that allows this to happen. I really hope not to offend.

We have been stuffing delicious history in our mouths

                   And plugging it, in our ears

And our finger stick shifting it like a video game, A, B, A, B

                    Getting bigger

                                                Like Mario eating that magical mushroom

                                     Letting it in….

               Because Addiction!

eating the sweat and blood of the African slaves.

                                    Every bite screaming who cares about your freedom!

     Because you’re addicted

Like the way poverty is addicted to the ghetto.

                        It’s delicious

mining for the need of our ears

                        Jamming to that new hustle

Workers getting paid nothing

            Wanting their lives to shuffle  

moving those hips too hard, hands shuffle shake to the next song

Fulfilling fantasies

and not giving a damn

           They choke on reality

as we munch on that milky calorie

busting out !!!

“what’s love got to do with it”

Tina Turner never knew

So why should we?

            Feeling high like a bird

They are underneath hell

BUT the grass is always greener on the other side

                 Like horses

They gallop to the other side

            Losing light

running in darkness

what happened? the people

            And we the Robots!

we eat and eat and eat until we s*** out their goals and ambitions

and we listen and listen until our ears, bleed out their blisters and death

got that new nano

Nano the definition of their paycheck

but we are Malcom-xing

because by any means necessary

            Bumping those head phones in our ears

Stuffing that delicious History in out mouths

every bites screaming who cares about your freedom

Ask somebody what’s necessary    


by Cindy Trueblood, Board Member - March 1, 2011

I want the wider Woolman community to know about a great opportunity for interested college graduates: the Intern Program at Friends Committee on National Legislation in Washington, D.C..  For 65 years FCNL has been a voice for Quaker values, by advocating for positive change at the National governmental level. I imagine that many Woolman alum and interns would feel a strong connection to the work of FCNL, which is guided by the following vision:


We seek a world free of war and the threat of war

We seek a society with equity and justice for all

We seek a community where every person's potential may be fulfilled

We seek an earth restored.


FCNL Internships: Applications Due March 11, 2011

FCNL is now accepting applications for FCNL’s intern class of 2011-2012. FCNL interns serve as program assistants to senior staff, working on newsletters and the website, mobilizing constituents, and researching and writing about such issues as the environment, peaceful prevention of deadly conflict, poverty eradication, Native American rights, foreign policy, or nuclear disarmament. Interns work as full-time members of FCNL's staff for 11 months, usually from early September through the end of July, and receive a subsistence salary and benefits.


This is a great opportunity to learn high-level skills in personally educating legislators and their aides about important issues. Right now is a critical time to be in Washington doing this work and being educated by experienced, successful FCNL staff.


Applications, including four letters of recommendation, are due at FCNL's office in DC by March 11, 2011. See the FCNL website for more details about the work of the FCNL and the internship opportunity for young adults.

Interested in applying for a paid internship at FCNL or know someone who might be? Find application information here.

by Emily Zionts, Global Issues teacher - February 24, 2011

Hi everyone! I just came across this interview with the makers of the next movie that I am going to show the students for our regular Documentary Friday Night. It hits upon so many of the major themes of Global Issues and features one of my very favorite author/activists: Vandana Shiva. Enjoy!


The following article was retrieved from:


"The number of Americans who say, 'Yes, I'm very happy with my life' peaks in 1956 and goes slowly but steadily downhill ever since."

That's environmentalist and author Bill McKibben, speaking in the new documentary The Economics of Happiness. While our Gross Domestic Product has increased quite a bit since the '50s, our happiness hasn't (though we have seen hefty increases in the size of our landfills, waistlines, and credit card debt). 

Our global economy is effective at many things—moving huge quantities of goods across great distances, for example, or turning mortgages into profits. What it's not so good at is determining whether these activities are worthwhile when it comes to improving the lives of the people who live and work within the economy (not to mention preserving the natural systems on which the whole shebang depends). In many cases, economic policies that increase trade or production actually decrease well-being for millions, even billions, of people.

That's the reality that's leading more people (and, increasingly, governments, from Bhutan and Bolivia to Britain and France) to ask a very simple question: What's the economy for, anyway? Do the rules and policies we create to govern the flow of money and goods exist to create ever more money and goods, or to improve our lives? And if we decide we'd like to prioritize the latter, how do we rewrite the rules to do that?

The Economics of Happiness tackles these questions on six continents, examining ways our economic decisions promote, and diminish, human happiness. I spoke with Helena Norberg-Hodge, the film's director and the founder of the International Society for Ecology and Culture, about what her research tells us about the relationship between economics and happiness.


Brooke Jarvis: When did you start thinking about the connection between economics and happiness?

Helena Norberg-Hodge: Thirty-five years ago, I had the great privilege of living and working in Ladakh, or Little Tibet. People there seemed happier than any people I had ever met. To me, this seemed to come from a self-esteem so high that it was almost as though the self wasn't an issue. Even among young people, there wasn't a need to show off, to act “cool.” I remember being impressed that a thirteen-year-old boy wouldn’t feel embarrassed to coo over a little baby or to hold hands with his grandmother.

But as Western-style development came to Ladakh, so did the message that the people there were primitive and backward. They were suddenly comparing themselves to romanticized, glamorized role models in the media—images of perfection and wealth that no one can compete with. You began to see young people using dangerous chemicals to lighten their skin. In Ladakh, there is now a suicide a month, mainly among young people. Not that long ago, suicide was basically unknown—there would have been one in a lifetime. That’s a really, really clear indicator that something is really wrong—and the dominant economic model is what had changed.

In countries around the world, in fact, there is an epidemic of depression and suicides and eating disorders. With this film, we’re trying to show that, when you look at the big picture, these social issues—as well as our environmental problems—are linked to an economic system that promotes endless consumerism. Fundamental to that system are trade policies that promote the expansion of giant multinational corporations.

Jarvis: What impact do economic policies designed to promote pure economic growth have on happiness?

In the local food economies growing around places like Seattle and San Francisco, farmers are making enough money, they're getting enough respect. Their work is small-scale, diversified, enjoyable—they’re not part of a machine or a monoculture.

Norberg-Hodge: Among other things, it’s important for us to understand that growth—what we currently measure and promote—is destroying rural livelihoods and rural communities. You can see the end result in industrialized countries, where only something like 2 percent of the population is left on the land. This has meant the death and destruction of hundreds of thousands, millions probably, of smaller towns and villages.

We need a balance between urban and rural—we need diversity, the ability for people to choose. It’s difficult now, thanks to what our economic policies promote, for small farmers to earn respect or a decent livelihood. Many migrate to cities because they have little choice, not because it’s a superior life. At the moment, the global economy is set on this track of mass urbanization. Something like 60 million people live in Beijing, if you count the satellite towns. It's an absolute disaster—socially as well as environmentally.

And all the time, more people are being pulled into big cities. People are made to feel that life as a farmer and life on the land is inferior, primitive, backward, anachronistic. The future is urban; their children must find a job in the city.

Looking at this trend from a global point of view, it’s clear we need to urgently do what we can to support rural livelihoods and the survival of healthy farming. Localization is the way to do that.

In some places, this movement is already starting to happen. There is a new young farmers’ movement that's very inspirational. In the local food economies growing around places like Seattle and San Francisco, farmers are making enough money, they're getting enough respect. Their work is small-scale, diversified, enjoyable—they’re not part of a machine or a monoculture.

There is a structural link between localized economies and diversification on the land. And this in turn means higher productivity—smaller farms with higher levels of biodiversity actually produce more food per acre of land. They also provide more jobs instead of relying on large machines and lots of fossil fuels.

Rural livelihoods can be enjoyable and highly respected. This fact—that there are two very different possible forms of food production—urgently needs to be communicated, especially in the less industrialized nations. 

Jarvis: Much of the conversation around economics and happiness, including around the various new initiatives to track happiness as an economic indicator, has focused on tracking material well-being—for example, the distribution of income, or access to health care. Your focus seems to be more on the impact of economics on things like self-worth and interpersonal connections.

That's why localization is the economics of happiness—because it's about restoring that human connection and care.

Norberg-Hodge: Right now happiness is very high on the agenda. I think it’s because the unhappiness is becoming so evident.

I've spoken with some journalists who ask, “Well, how do we know what happiness is? Who are you to say what it is that constitutes happiness?” It’s true that there are many definitions, but I’m most interested in the abundant research that says that people all around the world, more than anything, need to feel loved, appreciated, seen, and heard—especially as children growing up. They need to be nurtured in order to become nurturing, loving and happy people. That is what localization is all about. That's why localization is the economics of happiness—because it's about restoring that human connection and care. In addition to research, consider our spiritual traditions. Virtually all of them have a clear message that love is the path to peace and to happiness.

The “global to local” way of thinking about economics brings together the profoundly practical, in terms of our livelihoods and ecosystems, with our spiritual and psychological needs. All of these dimensions are pointing in the same direction, towards localizing as the economics of happiness.

Jarvis: What is your opinion of the recent interest in alternative economic indicators—governments that are using well-being rather than economic growth to gauge the success of their policies?

Norberg-Hodge: That’s an important trend. We need to recognize that the current indicators are absolutely crazy, that they’re contributing to this blind race in the wrong direction.

There’s plenty of evidence that we’re prioritizing pure economic growth at the expense of common sense. One of the scenes in the documentary shows how apples are flown from England to South Africa to be washed and waxed and put in plastic bags—and then flown back. In Mongolia I have been served water that had been bottled by Coca Cola in Hong Kong. In Nairobi, I found that butter from Holland cost half as much as Kenyan butter. In Devon, UK, New Zealand butter cost a third of the price of butter from the farm down the road. I started an informal study of butter prices as I traveled around the world, and found that literally everywhere I went, butter from many thousands of miles away cost less than butter from a few miles away.

Almost everywhere, too, I found a misconception that this was happening because producers on the other side of the world were more efficient. But when you see it from a global point of view, the picture looks very different. Since this is happening worldwide it’s not actually to do with efficiency; it’s to do with global monopolies and trade policy.

We need to think much more carefully about what an economy is for and how we can tell when it’s functioning well. New economic indicators are important, but they have to be part of a commitment to a broader shift in economic policy—a shift in what we regulate at the local as well as the international level, as well as in what we tax and what we subsidize.

Jarvis: What will that shift look like?

Norberg-Hodge: It can’t happen if we continue to maintain a scale of economic activity where neither the producer nor the consumer nor the CEO nor the investor can actually see what's going on—in other words, if we continue to operate in such a vast global arena, it's virtually impossible to see the consequences of our actions and impossible to measure them in any sort of meaningful way.

Localization also helps people reconnect to the natural world around them, something which fulfills a deep human need.

We need to be shortening distances and creating more accountable and visible arenas, basically decentralizing and localizing our economies. But because of deregulation of both trade and finance at the global level, businesses are being pressured to grow faster and faster, to become more global, to increase in scale at any cost. The idea is either you go big and global or you die. But for our real needs, relatively small businesses closer to home can actually provide for our needs more efficiently and sustainably.

Jarvis: And by “what we need,” of course, you’re referring to more than material needs.

Norberg-Hodge: Yes. Because people so need to be seen and heard, respected and cared for by one another, rebuilding community at the local level can dramatically restore human well-being. 

When people reach out to each other to start rebuilding the local economy—for example through the local food movement or local business alliances—we see a reduction in polarization, across political divides as well as across ethnic ones. At the same time, localization helps people reconnect to the natural world around them, something which fulfills another deep human need.

These are the things that really restore human happiness, and they come through localization.

Brooke Jarvis

Brooke Jarvis interviewed Helena Norberg-Hodge for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions. Brooke is YES! Magazine's web editor.

by Emily Zionts, Global Issues teacher - February 21, 2011

Yesterday we sent 1/2 of our kids off to Visalia to participate in building houses for and with low-income folks with an organization called "Self-Help Enterprise." This is their mission as taken from their webpage: "Self-Help Enterprises is an organization dedicated to self-help housing, sewer and water development, housing rehabilitation, multifamily housing and homebuyer programs in the San Joaquin Valley of California. The goal of Self-Help Enterprises is to help farm laborers and other low-income families to help themselves. Here, in the world’s most productive agricultural area, there is an astonishing quantity of inadequate, if not hazardous housing. The people who provide the source of labor for the agricultural fields can find little except substandard housing, and have incomes too low to qualify for standard new home loans. Most are working families who, despite their labors, have known only poverty. They have reared their children in places that are unsafe, unsanitary and a far cry from the American dream of homeownership. These are families and communities effectively hidden from mainstream America and untouched by its rising prosperity. Yet they are families with dreams and determination and the willingness to work hard. All they need is someone to bridge the gulf between dreams and reality."

This semester, I am staying behind but I wanted to share these photos which truly capture the joy that Woolman Semester students and staff bring to the work that we do on and off campus! Enjoy!

by Annelise Hildebrandt - February 15, 2011

Spectators lose passion and creative thought. They are instead convinced that society will quickly direct them on a path to success. Their definition of success is determined not by their own desires, but by the societies superficial needs. Individuals slowly become hypnotized into a soothing, yet incomplete daze. To be a spectator is to be a bystander. Bystanders allow injustice to take place, as frightening tales unfold. Spectators allow fear to paralyze them into submission. Spectators lose their hope. I refuse to be a spectator.

The world is full of frustrated individuals immobilized by cynical thought and self-doubt. Living in a world of injustice is at times overwhelming, as I have fumbled with hope on many occasions. Feelings of helplessness and chains of inaction suffocate potential peacemakers and activists. These chains have led me to at times float into the margins of a conversation, fearful of the power of honesty and vulnerability. Such restraints slowly turn passionate shouts into whispers, eventually becoming simply a faint echo. The consequence of spectatoritis is silence. Heartbreaking and dangerous, silence quickly becomes a habit. Silence oppresses the future.  I refuse to be silent.

A  truly revolutionary concept, optimism demands faith in the idea that change is possible, despite the abundance of chaos and calamity.  In order to cure this epidemic of inaction, we must hold hope in our hearts. Hope is fierce, unrelenting, and beautiful. However, to simply call oneself an optimist is not enough. Barbara Kingsolver once said that, “the very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is to live inside that hope.” I hope for equality, for kindness, for the end of silence.  My dance through life, inevitably full of conflict-creating and peace-making, will move in a rhythm of optimistic intention. I am not a spectator. I am ridiculously passionate, unrelentingly determined, and endearingly hopeful. 

by Angelina Conti, Peace Studies Teacher - February 14, 2011

The first writing assignment in Peace Studies is a 100-word essay in response to the prompt: “In our society, who has power? What kind of power is it? What to they do with it?” It’s due the second day of class, and is designed to get them thinking and to give me a taste of them as writers and thinkers.

Peace Studies is all about power. Throughout the semester, we discover and discuss different kinds of power - the power of domination and oppression (power over), the power of satyagraha*, social movements and nonviolent resistance (power with), and the power of our own stories, lives, identities and liberation (power-from-within).

But on the first day most of the students are still working with power as we commonly understand it and encounter it – the power of wealth, government, military, and media. More often than not, they describe that power as one based on control and concentrated in the hands of the very few:

“I believe that the governments, and people with weapons are the ones who have the power.”

“In our society, I believe the President, Congress, Senate, Supreme Court, along with many rich people have power.”

“I think in the global society, the media has a huge amount of power.”

“In our global society, those willing to ignore their morals and sacrifice their humanity have power.”

Their answers are consistently thoughtful, knowledgeable, and sophisticated – they show impressive understanding of interconnected and global systems, and say a lot in a mere 100 words.

And  much as I find these answers sobering – they are so familiar with domination and control, and rarely do they express their own power – I also get excited. It means that Peace Studies (and Woolman as a whole) is going to be a huge, useful adventure for them.

I feel so lucky that I get to come along on that adventure.

*A term developed by Mohandas Gandhi meaning “truth force” – an attempt to define nonviolence by something that it is, rather than what it is not. 

by Sol Weiner, Woolman Semester Alumni - January 20, 2011

Last night, Van Jones, environmental job advocate and civil rights activist, came to speak to Guilford about how his work which merges environmentalism and civil rights activism, and the work of others in the struggle for social justice, is attempting to actualize the dreams and life work of Dr. Martin Luther King. His work bringing green jobs to communities of color around the country is inspiring, and his explanations for his work were clear, concise, and powerful. Jones vehemently attacked the notion that environmentalism is something for wealthy white people who have nothing better to do. The environment’s woes affect those in poor communities and communities of color the most. However, Jones did not speak solely to the environmental movement; he emphasized the necessity of bringing all of our efforts for social justice together, whether they be working racial equality, LGBTQQIA rights, prison reform, or any other movement towards a just society. They all intersect and influence one another.

Jones asked an important question that set the mood for the night: how is it that some of us will fight to the death to give an aluminum can a second chance when we are willing to throw a person is prison forever, with no chance at redemption at all? Even twenty-four hours later, I haven’t stopped thinking about the implications of his asking this question. During his speech, I found that Jones’s experiences with witnessing issues of social injustice were a lot like mine, even though our life paths have been very different. For Jones, college was a wake up call; not his classes, necessarily, but what he witnessed first-hand while he was there; great disparities in treatment of whites and people of color in the United States in every corner of society, including environmental racism and unequal access to resources such as healthy food and clean water.

When I was a student at the Woolman Semester in 2008, I learned many things, but none stuck with me as much as those things which I myself witnessed first-hand. Jones lives in Oakland now, and a large part of his speech was focused on bringing healthy, local food to places like West Oakland, where there are dozens of liquor stores, but not a grocery store to be found. When I was a student, we visited the People’s Grocery, an urban garden started by Malaika Bishop. I could’ve read as many books as I wanted to, but talking to people who lived in the communities that were forced to deal with these issues had more gravity than anything I could’ve read in a book. Jones emphasized that empowering people to tackle big issues and setting examples for people to follow was more important than telling folks what to do. There are people working everywhere to empower those who have been disenfranchised, and their work is more powerful than a thousand people yelling at you, telling you how to make the world a better place. Jones challenged my ideas of activism, and how we relate to one another as human beings who have a lot of work to do. And not once did he tell me how to do anything. He just showed me.

by Annabelle Marcovici, Woolman Semester Student Fall 10 - January 15, 2011

At Woolman, I spent four months researching and writing a 19 page paper on the conflict between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam - aka the Tamil Tigers - and the Sri Lankan government. As part of the assignment, I am engaging in activism to improve the situation.

I am auctioning ten prints of my photographs and artwork to raise money for the Centre for Peacebuilding and Reconciliation in Sri Lanka, an organization that educates and trains nonviolent youth advocates. I aim to raise enough money to set up at least one young visionary community project. I am supporting this organization because I want disenfranchised minority groups to be aware of and to utilize nonviolent strategies to achieve their objectives instead of resorting to violence.

Supporting grassroots nonviolence efforts is the best way to foster peace in Sri Lanka because ethnic divisions between the government and the people were a result of local ethnic tension. Groups like the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam gained strength because Tamil youth saw no other viable alternatives to regain their cultural legitimacy. Empowering youth with nonviolent solutions takes power away from groups with violent means. My activism also supports the global peace movement by spreading nonviolent tactics to communities that need them most and creates future advocates for larger global structural change by inspiring youth to take global issues into their own hands.

Though the war may be over, peace for Sri Lanka is still far off. Security in Sri Lanka will come only when compassion for other cultures becomes the norm, which means the most effective efforts should begin at the grassroots. Dialogue between formerly opposed groups is one part of this solution, as is community-based education about nonviolent alternatives for youth especially.

Click here to visit the auction page. Please note that the image quality on Ebay is much lower than the actual image quality. To get a better idea of the true image, visit the link in each auction's description.

The auctions end January 24th. Please share this with anyone you think might be interested in helping out, and invite your friends to the Facebook event.

by Megan Bernstein, Woolman Semester Student Fall 2010 - December 15, 2010

As many of you know, The Woolman Semester went to Mexico to study border issues. Because it was a very intense experience, it has been difficult to write about the trip. I hope to give insight to what I learned, and maybe inspire some to study it for themselves and come up with their own opinions.

It was a full and stressful week, and it was hard for me to be there, for many reasons. The rampant poverty was a huge reason, but what really bothered me was the sensation that we were always being watched, by everyone. The huge Border Patrol camera towers are always present. If you walk along the border wall in town, you can see the Border Patrol on the U.S. side following you in trucks. If you walk along it in the desert, the trucks appear out of nowhere to ask what you are doing. Not only were the Border Patrol watching us, the people were. I am not used to being the minority. Everywhere we went people were staring. People even took pictures of us on their cell phones.

We visited many places and homes to try and hear all sides and biases. As a result, I am thoroughly confused. From visiting the homes of families who lived on a maquila salary to visiting the TAKATA maquila (where they make seatbelts); walking to the border wall through the desert and experiencing the Border Patrol driving up on the U.S. side to figure out who we were, to visiting the Border Patrol station in Douglas, Arizona; from participating in a vigil where the all dead migrants found in the county were honored, to visiting Just Coffee, a company that buys the coffee beans for fair prices which makes it possible for the people to stay in Mexico.

I think that our current immigration policy needs to change. At the moment, the policy is that we should make it as difficult as possible to cross the border, even if it means hundreds of people die. Instead we should address the fact that so many people are crossing the border for economic reasons. While in Mexico, it was rare to meet a family that did not have members that have crossed the border to support the family. No matter how many walls we build and trenches we dig, people who are desperate will still find their way over.

The U.S. government should redirect the funds they are using to make better technology so they can catch more people into investing in companies that support fair wages for farmers in Mexican states like Chiapas, which is where many migrants are coming from, like Just Coffee (seriously visit this site, the coffee is amazing). Programs like that will treat the cause of the problem, not just the symptoms.

by Dennis Johnson, student fall 10 - December 10, 2010

   Along our southern border, a metal wall stretches 800 miles separating the United States from Mexico. In an attempt to learn more about the current border policy, I have come to the town of Aqua Prieta with my school. Once past the check point, I feel a tangible change. While the people where no different from those we left behind in Douglas Arizona, the environment was. The further we drove from the border, the more the infrastructure deteriorated. Roads turned from asphalt to dirt. It amazed me how a line in the sand could transform a place.

     On our first day we were invited to dinner by a former migrant named Oscar. When we arrived that evening, we were greeted by a dark house. The structure was simple, dirt floor, cement walls, tin roof, yet it was undoubtedly a home. While the lights were out the house was not vacant; inside sat Oscar with his wife and son preparing a meal for us by candle light. Oscar was a wiry man with strong dark arms baked from the sun. A burley black mustache sat atop his upper lip, emphasizing his bright smile. The deep set wrinkles on his face framed his gleaming brown eyes. As we crowded around a sturdy folding table, Oscar began to tell us of his travels over the years. One thing he said stood out to me. “Getting past the border is easy because in the end it’s just a wall. The most difficult part is when you reach America: it is there you are forced to traverse the borders within people’s hearts.” Oscar’s words made me aware of  more than just the barrier that separates our two countries; it made me aware of the barriers within myself that separate me from other people.

      Since I was a kid, I believed history shaped me. The way African American history was taught to me told a story of an underdog's rise from oppression to equality. Although this conclusion was meant to keep me at ease it never did. I felt that the ending was premature because I didn’t have to look in a textbook to see suffering; I saw it etched in my cousins' faces: witnessed the changes within them every family reunion. Talking to my oldest cousin, I asked how he was doing. “Just getting through life”, is all he said. Those words stuck with me, he was getting through a life and trying to find another one. I wanted to divorce myself from that culture, from all the pain, from all the shame and to somehow make my family exempt from this story. This mindset consumed every part of me: from the way I talked to who I thought I should spent time with. This was the internalized border I built to keep out a life I didn’t want.

    Oscar's talk was significant because it showed me that I couldn’t run through my mental landscape anymore. Even if I did one day make it to that better life I sought it wouldn’t matter; I still wouldn’t be addressing the reason why people choose to run. That day I decided that I would spend my life breaking down the borders that people have within themselves and making it so no one else would ever have to run.

by Annabelle Marcovici, Woolman Semester Student Fall 10 - December 3, 2010

They are not illegal aliens. Call them migrants, undocumented immigrants, economic refugees, human beings, but don’t call them illegals or illegal aliens.
I recently had a conversation with a friend about my Woolman Semester trip to the Mexican border town Auga Prieta, where we learned about border issues firsthand. During the conversation, my friend referred to people I had come to think of as migrants as “illegals,” the same term the border patrol agent used when my semester group toured the border patrol headquarters in Douglas, Arizona. On both occasions, I flinched at the term. Neither the agent nor my friend intended offense, which in my eyes is worse than if they had. The fact that most people don’t consider the phrase “illegal aliens” offensive reflects pervasive hostility towards undocumented migrants that has seeped into our culture and has made us unaware of the implications of how we speak of them.
Let’s break the terms down. What does it mean for a person himself to be illegal? It means that he is not merely a criminal (someone who has committed an unlawful act), but that his very existence is undesirable, deviant, hateful. It equates the person with his actions and symbolically denies him basic human worth.
The word alien further dehumanizes our image of migrants. An alien is a non-human, potentially dangerous entity from a faraway land. We watch movies and TV shows about other creatures also called aliens that want to take over our planet and spread mayhem. Does that sound eerily like: “They’re trying to steal our jobs and cause violence in our streets” to anyone else?
Put the two terms together and you have a loathsome non-human that we can’t relate to. An artificial and somewhat arbitrary line drawn in the sand separates us from this unwanted other, and we support the line because it keeps “them” in their place, away from us. Is it any wonder that people want to make the fence higher and stronger, or that Mexicans are the subject of such bitter resentment? Of course the term “illegal alien” itself is not independently responsible for this form of otherization: it’s a symptom. Still, it is a symptom that compounds the problem because seeing a population as less than human affects our actions towards to that population.
Carmina, the wife of a so-called illegal alien, cooked our group a delicious dinner one of the nights of our trip and told us how she believes that people are people on both sides of the border, and that the most difficult walls to penetrate are those in our hearts. She, her husband Oscar, and their kids were all gracious and welcoming beyond what any of us expected. While we ate by candlelight (they had no electricity), Oscar talked about how he had saved thousands of dollars to apply for a visa and was rejected with no reason given. Even though Oscar works long hours in a maquila they cannot afford to re-apply but even if they could, they would likely get rejected just because they had been rejected the first time.
Oscar crossed into the US because he wanted to support his family and saw no other way. He’s not trying to steal anyone’s anything. He’s a human with kind eyes and good intentions. He is not a special case. He’s the rule, not the exception.
I wish everyone in the US could have eaten dinner with us at Oscar and Carmina’s that night. I wish everyone could have gone on the whole trip, for that matter, and walked with us through the desert to the border wall. I wish everyone could have stood with us along the crowded highway leading up to the Mexican border as we called out the names of hundreds of migrants who had died in their journey, some even younger than me.
If you do nothing else in your life about border issues, speak up when someone uses the term “illegals” or “illegal aliens” to refer to human beings.

by Marie Vastola, Student Fall 2010 - December 1, 2010

“Their deaths are systematic and they're the results of a policy. And it's not just a few. It's thousands." These are the words of John Carlos Frey, producer of The 800 Mile Wall, a documentary describing the human rights atrocities committed along the U.S. - Mexico border since the wall went up in the 1990s. Every year hundreds of people die while crossing into the U.S. From Mexico and Central America. The Clinton administration publicly stated that their immigration policy would funnel migrants into crossing through high risk areas, often leading to death. The administration hoped that death would deter others, but more and more people continue to cross and an increasing amount die doing so. In 2009, authorities discovered 252 bodies of migrants in Arizona alone. Combined with the number of migrants who died in Texas, New Mexico, and California, statistics show more than one person dies every day crossing the border. And those numbers only reflect the bodies discovered. Who knows how many more have lost their lives in our deserts? Furthermore, migrants do not only die in the deserts and mountains. The All American canal that runs part way along California's border has taken lives too. Yet the water company refuses to put in safety features such as ladders or buoys. They know people will die in the canal – the source of San Diego's drinking water – and immigration authorities know too, they accept the deaths as deterrent. They have no plans to construct a fence where the canal acts as a lethal border. The immigration policies of our country reflect those of a country that does not respect human rights.

Participating in the Woolman Semester's Mexico trip, I got to see first hand the affects that our country's immigration policy has on every aspect of life, especially in border towns. We spent four days in Agua Prieta, Mexico, which borders Douglas, Arizona. During our stay we put water out in the desert for migrants, walked to the border fence, toured a border patrol station, visited a migrant resource center, held a vigil for those who have lost their lives crossing into America, cooked meals on a factory worker's salary, visited a hospitality house, drug rehab center, maquila (a factory, maquilas often have sweatshop-like conditions), brick making factory, fair trade coffee roaster, and a community center. While some of these activities – like visiting the coffee roaster – may not seem related to immigration issues, they really are. Cafe Justo supplies consumers with coffee from small farms in the state of Chiapas, Mexico. After the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) came into affect, many farmers lost their jobs to due the low cost of imported corn. With the majority of Mexican immigrants to the U.S. coming from Chiapas, Cafe Justo creates jobs there, allowing people to remain in their hometowns. The jobs created by Cafe Justo have fair pay, good working conditions, and environmentally safe practices. And I promise you, this is the best coffee you will ever taste.

While in Mexico I became so much more aware of the issues facing today's migrants. Now, I want to help make you more aware of these issues. I urge you to take action and buy fair trade coffee, write an email to your representative, become involved in local politics on the topic, or donate whatever you can. If no one takes action, nothing will change. Our government will build more fences, more people will die while searching for a better life, small farmers will lose their jobs, and we will live our lives with the knowledge of these occurrences. America came into existence to give people the chance to live better, freer and more fair lives. So let us improve the lives of those less fortunate, our fellow human beings.


Marie Vastola


What you can do:

Write a letter to your representative:

Act locally:

Buy fair trade coffee:




800 Mile Wall. Dir. John Carlos Frey. Perf. Jack Lorenz. Gatekeeper Productions, 2010. DVD.

BorderExplorer. ""Funnel Effect" creates humanitarian emergency on US border ." Breaking News, Current Events, Latest News and World Events at N.p., 26 Feb. 2010. Web. 22 Nov. 2010. <>.

Robbins, Ted. "VPR News: Illegal Immigrant Deaths Set Record In Arizona." Vermont Public Radio: Home of VPR News and VPR Classical, and Vermont's NPR News Station. N.p., 6 Oct. 2010. Web. 22 Nov. 2010. <>.

by Emily Zionts, Global Issues Teacher - November 20, 2010

The flyer posted below was created by Willow Shaughnessey, Woolman Semester student from Fall 2009 as part of her Global Issues' Youth as Peacebuilder project. For the semester long assignment, Willow analayzed the conflict of Transgender Hate Crimes, hoping to come to an understand of the root causes of this worldwide problem. As her case study, she looked deeply into the murder of Lateisha Green, a woman who was killed in 2008.

Willow and I spent an afternoon in Nevada City and Grass Valley, asking stores if we could hang this beautiful piece that she made. The poster has one of my favorite quotes by Leslie Feinberg, statistics related to the issue, as well as a brief paragraph telling about a hate crime victim. Another really neat part of the posters were the tabs that you could tear off the bottom with links to Transgender awareness and support groups. I encourage you to explore the sites yourself!

by Dennis Johnson, student - November 18, 2010

   It is my first day back home, my first day back in civilization, yet something is wrong. I am back in the city, treading water in a sea of human apathy and disinterest. I enter a store and I am blinded by all of the advertisements I see. But now, I cannot turn my surroundings on mute. I am painfully aware of every intention behind these products that I consume and in turn consume me. This is what I wanted, right? To have such knowledge to better myself and free me from the prison of ignorance. However, I feel as if a cruel joke has been played on me. It's as  if I was Neo and someone had told me about the matrix but offered me no pills. 

In such an increasingly interconnected world, I have never felt more alone.

Thus, here is the problem that I was confronted with in the second that I reentered the “real world”.

What do I do with all of this encumbering knowledge once the Woolman Semester is over? 

I realized that what I felt while I was at school wasn't the real world, but a microcosm of what the world should be. I realized that almost every conversation I shared with someone only reinforced my fear that these corporations did not rise to power by some mistake, but by being that good at what they do. Feeling as if I had already been bested by an opponent so far out my league that it wasn't even conscious of my existence, I decided that taking a visit to my high school would be the best place to put the nail in my emotional coffin. Yet, what I saw there did the exact opposite. When I talked to my peers about what I had experienced, they did not sneer at me for disrupting the status quo, but applauded me for giving a name to something they had felt for so long. I found that my generation would no longer be content to stand still and do nothing afterall!

In the end I realized that life at Woolman isn't an example of what life should be but what life could be. A very real and possible reality for us all.

Keith Runyan (left), Dennis Johnson (right)

Photo taken by Annabelle Marcovici

by Grace Oedel, community intern - November 14, 2010

This is from a recent article published in the Central Coast Friends Newsletter!

Journal Entry
October 18, 2010: Following College Park Quarterly Meeting at Sierra Friends Center
Two hours in a Global Issues class of Woolman Semester:

Background: The teacher Emily Zionts “considers this Global Issues Class to be an
international social justice class that encourages students:
to see themselves as Global Citizens,
to recognize and be responsible for the way in which our lifestyles affect others, and
to commit to use our privileges and speak for those who are not heard.

After a hearty breakfast with students and staff, Laura, Ian, and Ella
entered the Meeting House of Sierra Friends Center to attend a class on Global
Issues. About fifteen students from various states and nations gathered around
a large circular table. The teacher, Emily Zionts, wrote material on the board as
BBC global newscasts were audible. Later, students developed a definition for
“globalization,” as Emily wrote their ideas on the board. Then each student
reported the title of an article (effects of globalization at the local level) they
intended to develop into a final report for end of the semester. Directives for
editing a draft report on these articles were stated, using internet resources.
Each student then presented a poster art image based on an article
showing the effects of globalization through various lenses. (I.e. the feminist
perspective, the indigenous perspective, globalization of culture or religion,
etc.) The goal was to portray the “viewpoint of the person” whose perspective
each student read about. Emily asked students in the audience to respond to
each work before the speaker-artist gave his or her interpretation of the image.
Each was asked to respond with words, “If I created that image it would mean
____ to me.” This phrasing opens up multiples interpretations. This is a subtle
way to non-violent communication. After several respondents, the artist
described how he or she sought to symbolically express a sense of truth in the

Emily has posted three of the student images for you to consider and
interpret. Our visit offered a glimpse into the loving care that students, staff
and teachers gather with each other in a Wooman Semester as they learn and
express the dilemmas of our world.

Marijke Wijnen created this oil painting depicting an indigenous woman and an American business man while she was at home over break. She then carried the painting, while still wet, on the plane back to Woolman!


Dennis Johnson's interpretation of a feminist perspective of globalization.

Megan Bernstein created this fabric art as an interpretation of the globalization of religion.

Editor Ella with Ian Adair, Laura Adair, Emily Zionts, and Anne Eggleton

by Emily Zionts, Global Issues Teacher - November 8, 2010

Hello all!

I just wanted to write a quick note to everyone to let you know that we made it to Mexico yesterday afternoon! The drive was long, but beautiful in scenery and good conversations. We had a wonderful morning with the Quaker community on the U.S. side of the border on Sunday. There was a very profound meeting for worship and a sweet potluck for us. Sunday night was really lovely, also. Dinner was hosted by a local family in a very humble abode. They fed us delicious food and shared their stories of their experiences living on the border. The students loved bonding with their small children and teenagers. Finally, we spent some time in the town plaza. The Woolman students had an absolute blast meeting some local kids their age. For more than an hour, they hung out with a few kids who were hilariously trying to teach Keith how to breakdance and then Keith was trying to teach them martial arts.

Today was also filled to the brim with new educational experiences and connections with local families. We even had a birthday party for one of the interns, complete with a pinata and limbo dancing! Tonight, I am exhausted, but ready for another full day tomorrow. The kids are already asleep and lights were just turned out moments ago. The students do not have internet access and so will only call or write when they return, but I just wanted to let everyone know that all is well.

In peace,


by Grace Oedel, community intern - October 28, 2010

Sometimes I read a poem that sums up an experience or belief infinitely more beautifully and clearly than I ever could. For this reason I am commencing a "pertinent poem" series; anytime you read something glorious or revelatory or even just hilarious, why not post it for others to enjoy? It would be wonderful if anyone else had a poem they would like to share!

The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

by Wendell Berry

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.

So, friends, every day do something
that won't compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.

Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion - put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn't go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

by Marijke Winjen, Student Fall 2010 - October 16, 2010

The following is an Opinion Editorial Piece written for Marijke's local paper as a Global Issues assignment:

Growing up in South Bend, Halloween was always one of my favorite times of the year. I loved dressing up and trick-or-treating, and of course I loved the candy! After trick-or-treating, I would lay all my bounty out on the floor, and admire the small piles of M&Ms, Reese's, Snickers and Nerds. This year, my excitement for Halloween is tinged with sadness. I love to see the smiles on all the kids' faces, but I can't help thinking of the children I am not seeing. I can't help thinking of the young slaves on the Ivory Coast, producing the cholocate which we all enjoy on Halloween.

Forty-three percent of the word's chocolate supply comes from the Ivory Coast. Some of this chocolate is produced by modern day slaves. According to the BBC, hundreds of thousands of children are stolen or sold into slavery and sent to the Ivory Coast to work on cocoa farms. These children often come from poverty stricken neighboring countries such as Mali, Burkina Faso, and Togo. Once the children arrive on the Ivory Coast, they are forced to work 80-100 hours a week, with no pay and barely any food. They are often severely beaten. Usually, they never see their families again. In 2002, a survey done by the Internaitonal Institute of Tropical Agriculture estimated that over 200,000 children were working in hazardous conditions on the Ivory Coast.

Documentary film director, Brian Woods said:

"It isn't the slavery we are all familiar with and most of us imagine was abolished decades ago. Back then, a slave owner could produce documents to prove ownership. Now, its a secretive trade which leaves behind little evidence. Modern slaves are cheap and disposable. They have three things in common with their ancestors: They aren't paid, they are kept working by violence or the threat of it, and they are not free to leave."

Many large candy corporations say they have no way of knowing whether their chocolate was produced with slave labor because chocolate produced with slaves on the Ivory Coast is mixed with paid labor before it reaches the U.S. Companies whose chocolate could be contaminated by slave labor (according to John Robbin's 2010 article "Is there Slavery in Your Chocolate?") include:

  • M&M Mars
  • Hershey Food Corp.
  • ADM Cocoa
  • Ben & Jerry's
  • Cadbury Ltd.
  • Chocolates by Bernard Callebaut
  • Fowler's Chocolate
  • Godiva
  • Guittard Chocolate Co.
  • Kraft
  • Nestle
  • See's Candies
  • The Chocolate Vault
  • Toblerone

Some of these companies have take steps to move away from chocolate that may have been produced with slave labor. Unfortunately, Hershey Food Corp., which dominates 42.5% of the U.S. chocolate market had lagged behind all of the other chocolate companies in making these steps (according to a 2010 report from Global Exchange). That means my favorites: Hershey Kisses, Reeses Peanut Butter Cups, and Hershey Bars are still tainted with child labor, trafficking, and forced labor.

The good news is that there are many alternatives! More and more chocolate companies are going the organic (none of the farms in Ivory Coast are OG) and fair trade route that are guaranteed to not be produced by slaves. These include chocolate from the following companies:

  • Cliff Bar
  • Cloud Nine
  • Dagoba Organic Chocolate
  • Denman Island Chocolate
  • Gardners Candies
  • Green and Blacks
  • Kailua Candy Company
  • Koppers Chocolate
  • L.A. Burdick Chocolates
  • Montezuma's Chocolates
  • Newman's Own Organics
  • Omanhene Cocoa Bean Co.
  • Rapunzel Pure Organics
  • The Endangered Species Chocolate Co.

Prior to the Civil War, many abolitionists in America boycotted all slave produced items under the Free Produce Movement. Let us follow in our ancestors footsteps and boycott all slave produced chocolate. Halloween is one of the best times of year for chocolate companies. Let's make our feelings known by not supporting them this Halloween!



by Annabelle Marcovici, Student Fall 2010 - October 14, 2010

A stroll through the typical American grocery store reveals much about what it means to live in this country. Aisles stocked with instant soup, meals that boast of preparation times quicker than an average commercial break, and pre-prepared salads all represent side effects of a culture that no longer believes it has time in a day for three square meals. We feel rushed – over-stimulated to the point of anxious frenzy – and thus, helplessly unable to respond to the daily blur of messages all demanding our attention. The result: widespread Spectatoritis, a paralyzing passivity disorder whose symptoms include the expectation of fulfillment from electronic screens, disengagement from community, and disinterest in issues and events that directly affect the sufferers.

Modern entertainment ranks high on the list of causes for this disease. Television series specifically offer the impression of connections with the main characters, whom struggle through trials and play out their own scripted interpersonal relationships, requesting only the audience’s attention in return. This form of connection (if it should even be considered such) requires none of the work that real relationships do, nor any of the risk. The bond people form with “their” shows bears as much resemblance to human relationships as a Hot Pocket does to food grown in one’s own garden, and offers equal sustenance. Television is a poor substitute for authentic interaction and can leave viewers with a sense of emptiness at having gotten to know a cast of characters un-invested in its audience. It neither knows nor cares who watches, so long as its spectators remain idle consumers.

News media, too, benefits from Spectatoritis. People have come to view content labeled “news” as objective truth without critically examining who produced it, for what purpose, and potential bias. It is easier to assume that a credentialed professional has thoroughly researched a given topic before presenting it to the general public, and that reporters have done their homework. We trust sound bites on the evening news, as doing so requires less of us than researching an event from multiple sources or searching for answers to difficult questions such as: “Why did the BBC focus on this story as opposed to another?” Companies that produce news have a profit motive and ultimately act in that interest above that of broadening public awareness. Blind trust in objectivity generates their revenue but like entertainment media, it leaves its audience with a shallow pseudo-connection to its world.

It is little wonder that a culture of people detached from each other and their environment does not foster genuine participation. Bumper sticker activism is a reaction to snippets, clips, and flashes of information about the issues that should incite riotous protest. Where are the incensed masses speaking out against corporatism, environmental degradation, or widespread rape in the Democratic Republic of Congo? They are on their couches listening to CNN tell them how sending a text message to a relief organization is good enough. They are zoning out to Jeopardy. They are on their computers transfixed by live footage of oil flowing into the ocean, miles away from their suburban homes.