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.

by Angelina Conti, Peace Studies Teacher - September 2, 2010

Rebecca Garnault, a Spring 2010 alum and Woolman's first international student, was recently awarded the John Lennon Memorial Scholarship at the University of Liverpool. The scholarship is awarded based on academic merit an a "demonstrable interest in global, community or environmental issues." Becky's application focused on her work at Woolman, which included a documentary film on the experience of refugees in the United States, a sustainability project focused on water scarcity and rain water catchment, and a YAP project focused on conflict minerals in the Congo. 

One requirement of the scholarship is that Becky write a thank you letter to Ms. Yoko Ono - whom she plans to tell all about Woolman. 

Congratulations, Becky! 

by Emily Zionts, Global Issues Teacher - August 21, 2010

Today’s youth are coming to age in a world with violent conflicts of unmatched magnitude.  The scope of these crises range from the intra-personal reflected by the high rates of depression and anxiety to the macro levels of continued development of weapons of mass destruction, armed conflicts between states and ethnic groups, the spread of racism, gender inequality, community violence, the huge and widening gap between the rich and the poor throughout the globalized economy, massive violations of human rights and the degradation of the environment (Hague Appeal for Peace, 2005). No longer is anyone on the planet exempt from the consequences of these global problems. In an analysis of these calamities and the extent to which they permeate the daily lives of so many, it is not presumptuous to say that we are living in a culture of violence. 

While it could hardly be argued that education for peace is critical in these times, Peace Education has been minimized because of the public perception that it is a “soft” discipline. In T the United States, public education is widely thought to be an objective transference of knowledge that encourages successful citizenship. In my life experience, this purpose is often found to be synonymous with "adopting standards and assessments that prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace and to compete in the global economy"(Education, 2010). The perception of education for peace is that the curriculum that most American children are receiving is laden with the promotion of values such as competition, militarism, ethnocentrism, and unchecked capitalism. Proponents of Peace Education believe that “in order for democracy to work, individuals must feel a connection with each other that transcends the selfishness, competitiveness, and brutal self-interests of an ever expanding market economy” (Giroux, 2001, p. 62).

Although many disciplines are encompassed within the spectrum of Peace Education (i.e. Human Rights Education, Disarmament Education, or Education for Sustainable Development), practitioners are explicit with their agenda and social goals. In order to discuss a Peace Education intervention, the first step is to define these goals. The framework that is particularly relevant is the “Flower-petal” model (Figure 1) created by Toh and Cawagas (2002).

Topics within the Peace Education Flower Model include:

  1. Educating for Dismantling the Culture of War (also known as a Culture of Violence): The goals of this theme are to encourage a moral commitment to non-violence, to recognize the Culture of War around and within the individual, to acknowledge the roots of violence and visualize the potential for peace, take steps towards abolishing the arms trade and understand and practice the principles of Conflict Resolution.


  • Educating for Living With Justice and Compassion: The objectives of this subject include raisingawareness of the consequences of profit driven development. It also consists of a thorough examination of lifestyles and the way in which they connect to crises, such as poverty, urban slums, rich-poor inequalities, and hunger. Connections of lifestyle to racism, sexism, classism, and environmental degradation will be included as well.


  • Educating for Building Cultural Respect, Reconciliation and Solidarity:  Lessons for this aspect of Peace Education will not only emphasize “enjoying and celebrating diversity,” but move towards developing a deeper understanding and a strong sense of empathy and responsibility to advocate for those groups who are suffering injustices. An examination of past conflicts and reconciliation processes, both successful and failed is an important component of this topic.


  • Educating for Promoting Human Rights and Responsibilities:In order to teach about the responsibilities that we have as global citizens to protect the Human Rights of others, it is vital to raise awareness of those rights and how they are violated around the world. A critical goal for this theme is to explore the role of Human Rights education in peacebuilding.


  • Educating Living in Harmony with the Earth: A foundational principle of this petal is that humans are not separate from nature. This implies that our actions have reactions within the natural world and currently this has caused a state of environmental emergency.  Lessons for this petal will include exploring the limits to growth, as well as the visionary and practical actions of the sustainable development movement.


  • Educating for Cultivating Inner Peace: The goals of this unit include introducing students to tools that help them to manage their own emotions. These tools include but are not limited to:  how to react to feelings of anger and sadness, techniques for calming ourselves, non-violent communication, deep listening, and encouraging outlets for self-expression.

An educator who is informed by this structure will use the petals as themes in order to organize a curriculum. The shape of a flower is used to show the organic interconnectedness of the categories (with a useful metaphor of sharing “roots”) in a holistic vision.Whether in a formal (structured school setting), non-formal (an education program that has less structure such as camp), or informal educational context (all other modes of learning such as from the media or peers), the six principles of Peace Education will be used as the foundations for my methodology. Each principle encourages critical thinking for in-depth examinations of not only the problems facing the world today, but the roots of these conflicts. Equally important is the balance of discussing the crises with discussing and acting upon viable solutions. Without the emphasis on action, learners are left feeling depressed and disempowered. All of the sections share a goal of transforming learners into peace activists.

 The ultimate goal of Peace Education is to educate our citizens to embody the wisdom and capacities for supporting a Culture of Peace. The Campaign Statement of the Global Campaign for Peace Education state that:

 “A culture of peace will be achieved when citizens of the world understand global problems, have the skills to resolve conflict constructively; know and live by international standards of human rights, gender and racial equality; appreciate cultural diversity; and respect the integrity of the Earth. Such learning cannot be achieved without intentional, sustained and systematic education for peace.”

The Campaign Statement of the Global Campaign for Peace Education is available online at

A fundamental activity in the Peace Education curriculum is to dialogue about the various meanings and perceptions of ideas such as: peace, conflict, culture of peace or violence, and Peace Education itself. This very process will enhance the critical thinking of the students that is a skill that can be generalized to all learning.  The perception of “Peace” by one individual may not have the same meaning to another. The following discussion will be the definition of terms that will be utilized through this paper:

Peace” and what Johan Galtung, the grandfather of Peace Studies described as "positive peace "are interchangeable in this document.  Galtung (1964), who first explained these differences in the Journal of Peace Research in 1964, wrote that peace is not only an absence of violence ("negative peace"), but also a process where participants creatively work towards non-violence in terms of interactions with: oneself, others, communities, the government and the environment (Galtung, 1964). Violence is not to be confused with conflict in this context.  To work for peace, one attempts to avoid and even eliminate violence. Yet, it is understood that conflict is a very natural and necessary part of life. Conflict provides an opportunity to reflect upon one’s actions and assess situations for possible change. The violent reactions to conflict are contrary to PE which allows individuals and groups to change through education, mediation, negotiation, and living by example. 

Prolific author and founding Director of the Peace Education Center at Columbia University, Betty Reardon (2001), defined the Culture of Violence as:

“…the aggregation of world views, ways of thinking and problem-solving that lead to the continuous use of violence and armed force. It permeates social attitudes, individual and group behaviors, and human relations from the most intimate and fundamental to the most distant and institutional. In a culture of war and violence, human inequality is assumed to be natural and violence in the pursuit of social and political purposes is legitimized as necessary and inevitable” (p.196).

More and more, it is being recognized that if individuals and groups continue in this way of interacting with ourselves, each other, and the environment, it will be to the irreversible detriment of all species. All of these crises are inherently interwoven at the roots, as are the ways of working towards their solutions. The alternative vision to a Culture of Violence has been further defined by the United Nations

“The Culture of Peaceis a set of values, attitudes, modes of behavior and ways of life that reject violence and prevent conflicts by tackling their root causes to solve problems through dialogue and negotiation among individuals, groups and nations.

(UN Resolutions A/RES/52/13 : Culture of Peace and A/RES/53/243, Declaration and Program of Action on a Culture of Peace).

The actions that bring individuals and societies closer to the realization of a Culture of Peace include taking a critical look at the conditions under which violence thrives. This begins at a very personal, reflective level as individuals learn how to understand their emotions for more conscious decision-making (versus knee-jerk reactions). Intra-personal goals for creating a peaceful culture also include raising self esteem, learning how to express oneself, and gaining a sense of agency. The next stage extends to interactions within and between groups; including relationships with friends, families, neighbors, communities, states, and even fellow global citizens. On an interpersonal level this means communicating non-violently, participating in the decisions that have an effect on micro and macro scales and actively working for social justice. Promoting a Culture of Peace emphasizes empowering under-represented groups to allow for their voices to be heard. There is also an essential component of confronting those practices that are unsustainable for the environment and the non-human living beings. As the connections between attaining a culture of peace and halting the degradation of the environment become clearer, the examination of the choices that support our lifestyle and creatively implement alternatives will take place.

Transforming a culture of violence into a culture of peace entails working through the stages from intrapersonal awareness (micro) to global peace and justice (macro). Examining both conflicts and social movements from past, present, and future perspectives is equally important in order to understand that violence does not occur in a vacuum.  The following framework (Figure 2) was designed by Haavelsrud (1996) to illustrate the implications of contextual conditions in Peace Education. This framework is useful to empower learners to make connections between what they are learning and the world around them. Additionally, it allows them to see their place in the world and create future visions for the change that they want to create. Just as the UNESCO (United Nations Educational Scientific, and Cultural Organization) constitution states:  “Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed”(UNESCO, 1945). 


My masters in Peace Education classmates and I at The United Nations Mandated University for Peace!

by Maggie, Student-Spring 2010 - August 20, 2010

My collage is an illustration of the passive response to  the momentous and important global issues by victims of Spectatoritis. The eyes, shocked and paralyzed, represent the victim. The photos are a medley of the struggles, business decisions, victories and tragedies that one might watch from a distance and never take part in or take action on. The collage is bordered by a television frame, as if the collage were the frame, because television is where most of our nation's spectating happens.


by Emily Zionts, Global Issues Teacher - June 23, 2010

The Youth as Peacebuilders (YAP) Project is an assignment in the Global Issues class at Woolman. The assignment lasts through out the semester and starts with students choosing a world conflict that they feel passionately about changing. There are 2 major components to the project--the first is a 10-15 page paper where the youth research and analyze the conflict--paying very close attention to represent BOTH sides of the issue. They look at the contextual factors which have influenced the problem (gender, religion, economic, political, geographical), the structural causes, roots or institutions that encourage it and students also look into ally organizations which are working to help transform the conflict!

The second part of the YAP is where the teens choose an action which utilizes their best talents to make positive change for their issue! This is often begun at Woolman, but carried on after they return home.

Here are 2 wonderful examples of students that used their fabulous art skills to fundraise for issues they are passionate about:

Ben (Fall 09) wrote an amazing paper about the conflict in India between Monstanto and Indian Farmers. The paper was excellently researched and highlighted the unbalanced power dynamics between the two groups. His activism for the YAP was a most fashionalbe t-shirt (tagged) which he designed, printed, and sold for donations towards an institution which fights for policies which support farmers!

Katherine (Spring '10) became quite involved with indigenous peoples' rights for her YAP. Her completed paper was both informative and emotional in its description of a tribe in northern Columbia (the U'wa) and their non-violent battle against Occidental Petroleum Company. Katherine was inspired to use her keen drawing talents to create this charcoal portrait of an indigenous woman. She is currently selling raffle tickets for the drawing. The proceeds will go towards an organization fighting for indigenous rights (!

These are just a couple of the powerful and creative acts of peacebuilding that Woolmanites were involved with this year:

Katherine Stone

Katherine and her portrait of an indigenous woman!

Maria and Ben's Shirt

Here's Maria (in the center) sporting the latest in anti-oppression fashion :) This Sring semester student purchased one of Ben's shirts even though she had never met him. Sorry for the shirt getting cut off at the bottom, it says: No Farmers, No Food!

Ben in the Garden

Ben in the Woolman garden :)

by Woolman Semester Students, Spring 2010 - May 26, 2010

As the final written assignment in English: Peace Studies class students assembled their "Toolkit" from the semester: concepts, ideas, tactics, readings, people, music, and art, that help them to understand, engage and practice peace and nonviolence. Here are some of their responses.
-Angelina Conti, Peace Studies Teacher

Karina: ..when I go back home, I’m going to figure out how to help people who are not given the chance to thrive in life with the opportunities others have. I believe that if you are going to try to help people you should include everyone that is affected by the problem not just a certain few.

Katherine: Structural violence really showed me how everything seems to fall back to the same key word. Structural violence can be related to our service trips, Mexico trip, food intensive and everything else we have learned at Woolman. it shows how flawed our government and society really are.

Jordan: Guillermo Gomez-Pena’s “The New World Border” speaks about unity and how to combat inequality through art, music and youth activism. This gave me insight into how it might feel to be directly affected by inequality, and it inspires me to fight it. The eloquent and poetic nature of this piece reinforced my belief that one can be more powerful in writing by appealing to the artistic side of one’s brain.

Ruthie: The power of service – The Visalia service trip taught me so much about the power of service and the differences between service and activism. I define service as something that helps people survive within a problematic system. Activism is the work done to create structural change so the system is no longer problematic. Reflecting on this experience helped me see that while activism may be flashy, service brings people home.

Tsechu: I read and learned about Satyagraha, Gandhi’s activism and philosophy. Satyagraha is a non-violent movement which is dependent on the power of truth. Its goal is to convert not coerce your enemy though understanding and open dialogue. One of the main principles of Satyagraha is to make sure that no matter what harm your opponent has inflicted, you should not react with anger or violence; instead you should win them with compassion and empathy.

Rachel: Walter Wink’s article The Myth of the Domination System introduced me to the concept of redemptive violence – that polarities of good and evil exist and we can create peace through violence that we, the good, inflict on the evil. It was an idea I had never encountered before, but now see absolutely everywhere. It made me reassess the way I view mainstream pop culture and even history. I now cannot watch television or see a movie preview without thinking of the infamous myth which has plagued our society for so long. I look forward to educating others on the myth and deterring them from supporting forms of media which perpetuate violence in our society.

by Rachel Brazie, student - May 20, 2010

“Obligations have no meaning without conscience, and the problem we face is the extension of the social conscience from people to land.” This is what the great land ethicist Aldo Leopold says in A Sand County Almanac, that while we often recognize an obligation to the land, it is meaningless until we extend our consciences to apply to land. No statement could have applied more to me before I came to Woolman. I had a well developed social conscience, but only as it applied to people. I recognized that I had some obligation to the land, but I didn’t have a conscience reminding me that every decision I make, from the clothes I wear to the food I eat, was either fulfilling or neglecting that responsibility. I certainly considered myself an ethical person, yet I did not even contemplate the ecological ethics of my decisions. For someone who spent so much time focused on social justice and creating a better world, it seems shameful and almost comical that I was so ignorantly naïve about the environment. In short, four months ago, I most definitely did not have a land ethic.

Leopold points out that “Perhaps the most serious obstacle impeding the evolution of a land ethic is the fact that our educational and economic system is headed away from, rather than toward, an intense consciousness of land.” Sadly, Leopold’s predictions of 1949 were tragically accurate. In my school curriculum, issues such as the water crisis and our industrial food system were not taught in any science or humanities class; nor were empowering concepts such as land ethic or environmental stewardship. This way of thinking, which separates people from nature, creates a false dichotomy between the two in the minds of youth and young activists.

When I arrived at Woolman as an anthropocentrist, I was not looking forward to the environmental science class. In the past, I had had nothing but bad experiences with science classes and saw environmentalists as tree hugging hippies who were distracting the world from the pressing issues facing humanity today (hunger, war, genocide, etc.). My, how wrong I was. In the four short months since I arrived here, my world has been flipped around. Environmental science has become my favorite class and I have become a staunch advocate for the earth. I have cultivated a new respect for nature at large and have learned to love dirt. I have, in the words of Aldo Leopold, “enlarged the boundaries of [my] community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land.” I have embraced my role as a member of this diverse biotic community, not just as a spectator who is limited to saving it or destroying it, but rather as a member who’s capable of communing with it.

In my time at Woolman, I have learned that I know absolutely nothing about nature, yet it is now a part of my conscience. Leopold says that “the evolution of a land ethic is an intellectual as well as emotional process” and I think that I have now begun both processes. On an intellectual level, I now understand how my social justice crusades interrelate with the plight of the world’s waters and trees. I am starting to recognize and change my practices that have negative impacts. On an emotional level, I am learning to embrace dirt, commune with my watershed, and take pride in the land. I used to say that I would never live in a place that smelled of cow poop and am reported to have said in eighth grade (a time when I was desperate to fit in, please don’t judge me for this) that “nature is ok, but the mall is prettier.” Now I relish the smell of sweet manure and feel like I’m going to have a nervous break down when I enter any sort of large store because of all of the consumer decisions and thus responsibilities with which I’m bombarded. Clearly, I’ve changed at Woolman.

Leopold says that “It is inconceivable that an ethical relation to land can exist without love, respect, and admiration for land, and a high regard for its value.” At the Yuba, Woolman Campus, and all of the other places we’ve been this semester, I’ve found that love, respect, and admiration, and will not soon let it go.

by Sage, Mia, Hannah & Lily, Students - December 18, 2009

Perhaps to save the world
there’s more than one way to be
you can do it by riding a bike,
or planting a tree.
But here’s the truth we want you to see:
“green consumerism” is not the final key.
To turn the lock, to open the door
the key is not to buy much more
but to buy much less
and to be wise
about your actions,
and to analyze.
Change government policy,
it can be done.
We live in a democracy.
This should be fun.

by Ravahn Samati, Community Intern - November 21, 2009

Travel is a necessary part of the human experience. I am prejudiced. The travel I refer to is not to beachside resorts in developing countries or posh Manahan bungalows or travel agency week-longs to Europe. I am interested in the marrow of a country’s identity. I want to hear her stories. The people are the crux of my experience. In the stories of others you will find yourself. If you are in search as I am you will discover a larger humanity, able to identify injustices more readily, you will become more holistic and conscientious in your thinking. One’s gripes become petty. One’s privilege becomes obvious. One’s existence is humbled. It is necessary to re-remember over and over again these gifts of travel. Everything becomes contextualized. With varying degrees of travel experience and Spanish proficiency, the Woolman Semester set out to La Frontera: the borderlands of Mexico and the United States. Our journey was a 1000 mile round-trip caravan across borders both inward and outward. Meanwhile, Latin Americans were crossing similar distances in search of sustainable wages at free-trade zone warehouses or across the border to the United States in search of greater reward and risk. The borderlands is the journey of the migrant, the terrain, the two way current of culture and more recently the institution of immigration. The borderlands terrain revealed itself only after we exited Aqua Prieta in route to the wall to refill water tanks for passing migrants. Its monotony was formulaic in its beauty. Only the most well-adapted species of plants and animals were able to make homes in this arid climate. The terrain was inhospitable to the weary traveler. The black edifice loomed large in the distance. Zoe mentioned how the two sides were identical in their makeup and if not for the wall itself there would be no distinguishing the two countries. “There is nothing new about migration, its been happening for as long as humans have been alive,” said Marc, our host from the Immigrant Resource Center. The newly created edifice is only two years old at Aqua Prieta. It’s under construction in other places along the border and currently covers only a third of the border. One irony of the wall’s construction: instead of keeping people out of the United States, it prevents illegal immigrants from ever going home. Then we met the people. Most of us were able to bear witness at the Migrant Resource Center. The task was a simple one, ready food upon the arrival of migrants freshly deported from the United States. Unconcerned with where we were from, they accepted purposefully. One night we met with a band of 12 and another night a group of 10. They were hungry, thirsty, boots unlaced, most of them planned on returning to the desert to make the trek again soon. This was the cycle. Thanks to all the people we met, who shared there stories of reflective pasts or their visions for the future, welcomed us into their homes and fed us: Angel, Moonchies, Jordan, Marc, Miriam, Larry, Doug, Lalou, the intentional quaker community, Café Justos, C.R.E.T.E., Immigration Resource Center, Comminidad Centro, DougPrieta. The gifts of travel will continue to reveal themselves thanks to you.
by Malka Howley, Student - November 20, 2009
If we accept that the right to life is a basic human right, which we must if we believe in any other rights, then we must also accept that the right to clean, safe water is also a basic human right. We need water to drink and to grow food, among other things. Water is a fundamental human need, that is indisputable, and to deny someone clean, safe water is to deny them life. Yet that is happening all over the world. Pollution and man-made drought are affecting many people in all sorts of places, sometimes impacting huge industries or economies, but the people who are disproportionally affected are the poor. For the present, and the foreseeable future, the world’s richest people (which includes people that we in the United States would consider “middle class”) will always be able to buy clean water or food imported from far away, even if those things become much more expensive. And it is the people with money who can simply move away if there is a severe water crisis of some kind. But it is those who cannot afford to do those things who are the most affected by water crises. Fred Pearce’s When The Rivers Run Dry is full of examples of poor or disenfranchised people being hurt by different kinds of water crises, but here is one that seems to encapsulate several common issues. In Gujarat, India, and in many other parts of the developing world, farmers have to irrigate their crops with raw sewage. Like many places, water is scarce and in great demand. And while the irrigation canals are virtually always empty and the water table is dropping rapidly, the flow of effluent is never-ending. This is the case in many other places; Pearce reports that a tenth of the world’s irrigated crops are watered with sewage. But this doesn’t just mean human waste, which would be bad enough, but also toxic chemicals dumped by factories, which aren’t just poisonous to consume, but also kill the soil. Farmers are forced to water their crops with pathogenic, toxic waste because it’s the only water available. And the people in towns, similarly, have no choice but to buy those crops. Of course, there can be benefits to using sewage for irrigation, but only if it is an officially recognized and regulated practice, and measures are taken to make it safe. As it is, the practice is harmful and dangerous. The situation demonstrates how water crises (in this case, both drought and pollution, although globally there are other problems too), trap the world’s poorest people. Good water shouldn’t be something only some people can afford.
by Jennifer Thao, Student - November 17, 2009

During our week in Mexico we crossed the border every day.  Each time I made the trip I imagined how different it would be without my American passport, as an immigrant with no papers but a wish for a better life…
Each time I cross the Border I: See footprints left behind from my brothers and sisters….
Each time I cross the Border I: Feel the scorching heat of the sun on my face….
Each time I cross the Border I: Hear the heavy breathing of the other border crossers….
Each time I cross the Border I: Taste the dust from the desert land….
Each time I cross the Border I: Smell nothing but the sweat from my body….
Each time I cross the Border I: Am terrified that the coyotes will abandon me….
Each time I cross the Border I: Worry about my family waiting for me to return… Sometimes I don’t want to return but
Each time I cross the Border I: Tell myself that I need this and my family
needs this….
Each time I cross the Border:
A piece of me stays with the desert lands….

by Lily Elder, Student - November 15, 2009

Permaculture, social movements, and capitalism.  The main focuses of this last week’s classes are some of the most important and most interrelated yet.
Now that I know the theories of permaculture such as creating an edible ecosystem, it seems everything we do here has to do with it.  Every time I walk past the garden or eat an apple from the orchard, I think about how we could incorporate more of the permaculture theories we studied in class into how we produce food and our lifestyle here in general.
Though the ideas of permaculture sounded a bit abstract to me when I first heard about them in Environmental Science class, I now find that permaculture is beginning to come second nature.  This became very apparent when I was planning my sustainability project and my mind immediately jumped to how we could incorporate permaculture into it.  Others in my group seemed to be thinking the same way and permaculture is now a large part of our project.
Two big areas of class that have a lot to do with each other right now are our study of social movements in Peace Studies and pretty much everything we have learned in Global Issues.  It seems that all the issues we have learned about could have social movements attached to them, trying to make things better.  The issue of capitalism and corporations seems to me an especially likely candidate for this sort of thing.  Even though we aren’t learning specifically how to go about starting a social movement, or even organizing a demonstration or some such thing, learning about the theory behind social movements and studying past social movements has given me ideas as to how people (me included) could work towards change in the system.  I find myself thinking in either of my classes how I could participate in demonstrations or do some sort of action on an issue I learned about in Global Issues and how I could apply a tactic I learned about in Peace Studies to the issue.
I don’t think social movements have to be public media sensations.  To me, permaculture and backyard gardening are social movements, and some of the most important.  They are simply movements to bring us back to the land and, in some cases, to boycott the corrupt and environmentally destructive industrial food system.  When we were brainstorming ways of publicizing our projects in Global Issues class, I was thinking about those less radical tactics could be publicized and promote the “gardening and permaculture movement”.

by Ruby Brinkerhoff, Student - November 13, 2009

On our way to Mexico, I watched the desert land pass by.  The barren mountains, with scattered brush, baked in the sunlight.  All of a sudden, we came down into a sea of green, with flat horizons of fields and farms.  Mist sprayed forth with perfection, drenching the mass of crop land.  We had entered into a case of the California State Water Project.  It was amazing to see this growth and production in an area that is naturally so dry.  Even more incredible is the amount of people that have built a life around the idea that water can be controlled and used as one wishes through a system of dams, reservoirs, piping, aqueducts, pumps, and power plants.  This is a synthetic paradise, an artificial utopia, that people have come to rest their very survival on.  These water systems are all over the world, and it creates a false sense of security.  People believe they can just keep pumping away, and technology and bigger, better equipment and projects will come to the rescue.  I think it is a social injustice to create a security blanket out these water systems, when failure is a very possible reality.  People ignorant of this overbearing crisis, and who solely rely on the efficiency of the water systems, will hit rock bottom if the systems fail.
Beyond these small, water guzzling utopias, the world struggles with the effects of environmental degradation, famine, and war.  People live in the tightening grip of poverty, drinking poisoned water, and fighting with their neighbors over who gets to drill a new well.  Waters are depleted for the sake of foreign interest, and people are driven from the homes they have lived in and the lands they have cultivated for centuries.  As fields lose their productivity due to salt, and rivers become sickly trickles of blackened water, people can no longer eat or drink and slowly rot away.  Intrinsic value is lost as rivers are dammed and water is fouled.  The livelihood of all people is depressed when water becomes a waste basket for our carelessness and the squandering of our most precious resource.
All of these effects of the water crisis are social injustices.  One of the greatest social injustices of all is that the voices of the people, those bearing the brunt of the water crisis, are not being heard.  That unified cry for help is being drowned out by the gallons of gushing water, the floods of faulty dams, and the cracking of dry earth as rivers run dry.

by Jeremy Delaney-Peterson, Student - September 26, 2009

Some time ago, I became aware that every person that enters one’s life, if only for a moment, has something to offer.  Sometimes, it’s as simple as a smile or a laugh.  However, if you search for it, they often have something much deeper to give.  We, too, have something to offer everyone we encounter.  What each of us has to offer is different, and what another person has to learn from us often varies based upon their own needs and experiences.  For this reason, I’ve come to tolerate people who I may not always care for.  In fact, it seems that it is often those who are most different from us that have the wealth of insight which exists in our encounters with one another.  In sharing and embracing these, we have the ability to share this wealth.

Knowing this and actively attempting to give and gain from everyone we meet works for the benefit of all.  I believe that it has the power to better us as individuals as well as remind us of the intrinsic value of every person, regardless of their similarities or differences from ourselves.  We build upon this non-material wealth that lasts a lifetime and is vastly beneficial to the betterment of our own lives, at the cost of sharing something that we do not give up in doing so.

This idea came to me before I came here to Woolman, but it has since proved to be true on so many occasions.  In class discussions, every person that speaks participates in sharing their perspective and interpretation of an issue, providing a new perception to all of those who may think in a different way.  Outside of class, I find it much the same.  Just the other night I stopped on the way to my cabin to exchange a few words with Michael, a teaching intern at Woolman.  What started as a brief chat turned into a conversation that lasted two or more hours.  It is truly amazing to realize that people have as much going on in their own lives and minds as you do!  When this is realized, it seems so obvious that this wealth is out there, in the minds of all who surrounded us, and that we all have access to it if only we take the time to seek it — and what a powerful thing it is to simply take the time to share such things, to listen to people, and give what we have to offer.

by Angelina Conti, Teacher - September 4, 2009

I teach a class at the Woolman Semester called Humanities & Ethics. My joke has become that the title of the class is a little bit of a misnomer – it’s not about the traditional academic disciplines of humanities and ethics that you might encounter elsewhere in college. Rather, it’s an experiential (read: no homework) class about our own humanity and our own ethics. The goals of the class are processing, introspection, storytelling and story-listening, and discernment. It’s about exploring who we are, what we believe, what we are experiencing at Woolman, and how we are in relationship with the world and the people around us.

I’m planning to incorporate a query, in the Quaker tradition of queries, and a quote into each class, often as journaling prompts. Queries are searching questions used for individual or corporate introspection and discernment – sometimes meetings will use queries at the start of worship or in yearly meeting sessions, other times in the context of worship sharing. Quotes will be a way to introduce students to a wide range of voices – sometimes it will be poetry, sometimes prose. Rumi and Rilke are on deck for upcoming weeks.

I’d hoping to make a habit of posting queries and quotes here weekly. Feel free to answer them in the comments, or to suggest other resources.

So to begin:

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
- Howard Thurman (writer, educator, theologian, civil rights activist)

Query: What makes you come alive?