Palestinian Propaganda Is Infiltrating US Public Schools

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE ALGEMEINER NEWS ORG.)

 

AUGUST 7, 2017 10:24 AM

Palestinian Propaganda Is Infiltrating US Public Schools

avatarby Miriam F. Elman

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Photo: Screenshot.

Six years ago, a teenager in Newton, Massachusetts — Shiri Pagliuso — asked her father if it was true that Israel tortures and murders women activists in the Palestinian resistance movement.

Then a high school freshman, Shiri had learned the information from her textbook — the Arab World Studies Notebook, a 540-page volume so riddled with unabashed bias that it had garnered a scathing 30-page report from the American Jewish Committee (AJC).

Back in 2011, Shiri’s father — Tony Pagliuso — wasn’t yet aware of the AJC’s report. But he knew outright propaganda when he saw it.

He contacted his daughter’s teacher, the head of the high school’s history department, the principal, and eventually the superintendents — who all defended the Arab World Studies Notebook as essential for sharpening critical thinking skills. They also praised the book for providing a “balanced perspective” and an “Arab point of view.”

AUGUST 14, 2017 2:04 PM
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Pagliuso realized that he was being stonewalled, which got him thinking: If he looked at Shiri’s other course materials, what other dreadful stuff would he find?

Determined to expose the extent of the problem, a bitter multi-year battle ensued that pitted Pagliuso — who was soon joined by a group of other parents and Newton residents — against a shockingly hostile school district.

Together, the parents and residents fought to get school officials to acknowledge their legitimate concerns, provide access to all the curriculum materials as required by law, and to pull the Arab World Studies Notebook and other academically unsuitable materials.

Now, in a new study by CAMERA (the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America), researcher Steven Stotsky carefully traces how these partisan materials — many with scant scholarly value — seeped into a nationally prominent public school system.

The 108 page monograph, Indoctrinating Our Youth: How a U.S. Public School Curriculum Skews the Arab-Israeli Conflict and Islam, is the most comprehensive analysis to date of the Newton curriculum controversy.

Piecing together local media coverage, transcripts of school committee meetings and multiple interviews, Stotsky recounts the key events, including the run-around that Pagliuso and the ad-hoc group of concerned parents and residents got from school administrators.

Several chapters are also devoted to a thorough analysis of World History course materials, which the school district was ultimately forced to disclose in 2014 via a court order.

As Stotsky describes, the curriculum included materials rife with erroneous information, such as a radically doctored translation of the Hamas charter, and a handout identifying Tel Aviv as the capital of Israel — and Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine.

Photocopies of PLO-produced propaganda maps downloaded from the Internet — and used by the school district — provided falsehoods about Israel’s “theft” of “Palestinian land.” Other textbook chapters and outdated Internet timelines omitted key historical and contextual information, like Israel’s many far-reaching offers of peace, and the hate-filled rhetoric and incitement that saturates Palestinian discourse.

And a lot of the materials glossed over controversial topics.

Stotsky’s report demonstrates how the religious components of the Israeli-Arab conflict were concealed from students, including the fact that for many Arabs, the conflict is a holy war — with Jews seen as infidel interlopers on sacred Islamic lands.

Course materials about Islamic history also downplayed negative societal practices. Woefully simplistic expositions and misleadingly rosy texts portrayed Muslim conquerors as tolerant toward their subjects, and presented embellished descriptions of the status of women in many Muslim-majority societies. The inferior status and often precarious situation of non-Muslims under Islamic rule wasn’t presented at all.

Stotsky relates how one textbook (Early Islam) even preposterously asserted that Muslim rulers were “especially liberal with the Jews and Christians” — as if they had equal rights and opportunities, and were free from discrimination.

In short, Indoctrinating Our Youth is a deep-dive into what went so very wrong in Newton, and Stotsky is right to come down hard on headstrong school administrators and an uncooperative elected school body.

These individuals created a bewildering degree of obstruction that exacerbated the controversy and made a timely removal of the problematic materials difficult. There’s some indication that local Jewish organizations –including the JCRC and, at least initially, the local chapter of the Anti-Defamation League — were also less than helpful to the parents than they might otherwise have been.

Still, the teachers shouldn’t be let off the hook.

After all, they chose the curricula materials in the first place, and were inexcusably dismissive of the parents. (In an interview, Pagliuso admits that had Shiri’s 9th grade history teacher been more responsive to his concerns about the Arab World Studies Notebook passage, he probably wouldn’t have pursued the curriculum issue any further).

School officials repeatedly intoned that “we trust our teachers.” Yet they were unable to properly evaluate the noticeable biases contained in the course materials, especially those downloaded from sketchy, non-authoritative Internet sources and provided to them free of charge by virulently anti-Israel, BDS-affiliated faculty members at Harvard University’s Middle East Outreach Center.

This brings me to the CAMERA monograph’s most sobering insight about how anti-Israel and pro-Islamist propaganda is working its way out of higher education, and into US public schools.

The process often starts with federally-funded university centers for Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, many of which have also been generously supported for years by multi-million dollar gifts from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Arab states, and are top-heavy with faculty at the forefront of the anti-Israel movement, and who favor anti-Western perspectives.

In Newton, as Stotsky documents, Harvard’s center had an outsized influence on high school educators. But these gown-to-town collaborations are well-established in other places, and in some cases, they’re likely having a similar disastrous impact on the public school curriculum.

How many people are aware that pushing vehemently anti-Israel and pro-Islamist materials into K-12 educational programming is now the BDS movement’s new frontier? It’s hard to say, but most Jewish American organizations have yet to take up the issue as a matter of major concern.

Indoctrinating Our Youth is a warning that this problem can no longer be ignored. What happened in Newton was especially appalling, but it’s really just another instance of a trend that’s already well underway in public schools, where students are increasingly “learning” from textbooks and supplemental readings that are horribly slanted against Israel, and in some instances, even by classroom lectures and lesson plans that traffic in blatant antisemitic tropes.

For years high schoolers in Newton, Massachusetts, were taught a tale of Jewish-inflicted misery. But then they got lucky. A discerning classmate flagged a troubling reading assignment, and her stalwart dad was willing to raise hell. Will the rest of America’s school kids be as fortunate?

Note: an earlier, separate version of this article was featured in Legal Insurrection on July 23, 2017. To access it, click here.

Miriam F. Elman is an Associate Professor of Political Science and the Robert D. McClure Professor of Teaching Excellence at the Maxwell School of Citizenship & Public Affairs, Syracuse University. Follow her on Twitter @MiriamElman.  

IDF Soldiers Work Within Program That Helps Autistic Children

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Soldiers, parents of autistic children, high school students and random volunteers joined forces in Tel Aviv to make life easier for people with autism and their caregivers.

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Some 85 people took part in a 24-hour hackathon last month organized by OFEK, the computing unit of the IAF. Held jointly with ALUT, the Israel Society for Autistic Children, people worked in groups to put innovation in the service of disability by creating an app or computer program for the benefit of the children.

“Until recently, the only treatment available for autistic children and adults in Israel was admission into psychiatric hospital,” said Arkady Gurevich, chairman of OFEK Alumni Association. “Even the necessary equipment or tools required to diagnose a patient as autistic are minimal or of poor quality due to costly-budget issues.”

The project also helped OFEK soldiers meet the three goals they abide by: “networking, working better together and contributing to society,” said Gurevich, who was in charge of ensuring the smooth running of the collaboration. “This is important for our soldiers as it allows us to put our knowledge into practice, all while continuing to learn at the same time, creating a lasting legacy of productive work.”

Gurevich explained that the hackathon’s 24-hour time frame “provides an indication of how quickly we can respond to a need through technology.”

Participating groups prepare for the start of the hackathon. (Dror Sitahkol)

Participating groups prepare for the start of the hackathon. (Dror Sitahkol)

Prior to the hackathon, ALUT organized several meetings in which therapists, specialists and psychologists educated the soldiers and volunteers about autism and the challenges of both the children and their parents. They introduced some 100 different challenges in total, out of which ALUT chose 13.

OFEK then divided all the participants into 13 different groups with each group tackling one task.

The challenges

The blank facial expression is a typical issue for autistic people who do not know how to show facial expressions when they are happy, mad or sad. The condition makes communication between autistic individuals and their caregivers extremely difficult as the facial expressions are impossible to read.

Participants try out some technology developed at the hackathon. (Dror Sitahkol)

Participants try out some technology developed at the hackathon. (Dror Sitahkol)

One group tackled this challenge by creating an app that aims to teach the autistic person how to express their feelings.

The app that was developed displays the an image of a smiling face and asks the person to imitate it. Then the app does the same for other feelings. The app monitors the expressions of the users to give them feedback if they are doing it correctly or not.

Navigation is another issue that burdens both people with autism and their caregivers. It is common for autistic persons going out in a group to want to wander off on their own. The navigation tools and apps currently available are complex to use due to an overload of information, and maps that are complicated to read.

One group aimed at simplifying the current tools by creating a GPS built-in wearable device for the autistic person. The device would then be linked to an app so that if one leaves the group’s perimeters, the instructor would get an immediate update on where the person is.

Another group tackled the inability of autistic individuals to maintain eye-contact. Autistic people have difficulty looking at one specific thing at the time. Quantifying the lack of eye contact would help doctors measure the severity of the autism, so the soldiers came up with a way to help doctors measure eye contact in an objective way — they created a camera-like device to monitor the patients’ eye contact.

This project with ALUT “is the first of many to come, as OFEK intends on using its soldiers’ powerful skills and knowledge to help one non-profit organization a year,” Gurevich said. “While the project took place in the form of a competition, the real prize was to bring attention to the autistic community of Israel and eventually develop what could be life changing technology for many.”

Hong Kong residents march to defend freedom as China’s president draws a ‘red line’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

Hong Kong residents march to defend freedom as China’s president draws a ‘red line’

 July 1 at 7:48 AM
 Tens of thousands of Hong Kong residents marched through the streets in defense of their cherished freedoms Saturday, in the face of what many see as a growing threat from mainland China, exactly two decades after the handover from British rule.Earlier in the day, China’s president, Xi Jinping, marked the 20th anniversary of the handover with his sternest warning yet to the territory’s people: You can have autonomy, but don’t do anything that challenges the authority of the central government or undermines national sovereignty.

Under the terms of the 1997 handover, China promised to grant Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy for at least 50 years, but Xi said it was important to have a “correct understanding” of the relationship between one country and two systems.

“One country is like the roots of a tree,” he told Hong Kong’s elite after swearing in a new chief executive to govern the territory, Carrie Lam. “For a tree to grow and flourish, its roots must run deep and strong. The concept of one country, two systems was advanced first and foremost to realize and uphold national sovereignty.”

Many people in Hong Kong accused China of violating the territory’s autonomy in 2015 by seizing five publishers who were putting out gossipy books about the Chinese leadership and allegedly distributing them on the mainland.

Some are also angry that Beijing intervened to disqualify newly elected pro-independence lawmakers who failed to correctly administer the oath of office last year. Many people are worried about a steady erosion of press freedom, and that in a range of areas China is increasingly determined to call the shots.

But Xi made it clear that challenges to Beijing’s authority would not be allowed.

“Any attempt to endanger China’s sovereignty and security, challenge the power of the central government and the authority of the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, or use Hong Kong for infiltration or sabotage activities against the mainland, is an act that crosses the red line and is absolutely impermissible,” he said.

But that message didn’t appear to go down well on the streets of Hong Kong. Organizers said more than 60,000 people joined Saturday’s annual march, which they said was meant to deliver a message to the Chinese president.

“He’s threatening Hong Kong’s people, saying he has the power to make us do what he wants,” said Anson Woo, a 19-year-old student. “But I still have hope. Seeing all the people around me today, the people of Hong Kong are still fighting for what we value.”

A poll by the Chinese University of Hong Kong showed people here attach even greater importance to judicial independence and freedom of the press than to economic development. Any notion that Hong Kong as a city is only about making money is clearly not accurate.

“We have to take the chance to express our views while we still can,” said Chan Sui Yan, a 15-year-old schoolgirl. “They say it is one country, two systems, but right now we are losing a lot of the rights we value.”

Some chanted slogans demanding democracy, criticizing the territory’s ruling elite or the Communist Party. many called for the release of Nobel laureate and democracy icon Liu Xiabo, imprisoned in China since 2008 and this week taken to a hospital under close guard for treatment for advanced liver cancer.

“We want to show the mainland there are other voices, outside the official voice,” said teacher Tong Siu, 53. “We want to safeguard the core values of Hong Kong.”

In his speech, China’s leader said that the concept of one country, two systems was a great success, and should be implemented “unswervingly” and not be “bent or distorted.”

While his words made it clear that sovereignty took precedence over autonomy, he said neither aspect should be neglected. “Only in this way will the ship of one country, two systems break the waves, sail steadily and last the distance,” he said.

Yet many people here say Hong Kong’s autonomy was again badly distorted in March, with Lam’s election as chief executive. Although the former bureaucrat trailed well behind rival candidate John Tsang in opinion polls, she was chosen by a panel of 1,200 members of the territory’s elite that was packed with pro-Beijing loyalists.

Although Tsang was also an establishment figure, political experts say Beijing seemed to want someone in the chief executive’s chair who would not challenge its authority.

Xi did not shy away from raising two controversial demands that have previously brought Hong Kong residents out on the streets in the hundreds of thousands.

China’s leader said the territory needed to improve its systems “to defend national security, sovereignty and development interests,” as well as “enhance education and raise public awareness of the history and culture of the Chinese nation.”

China’s demand that the territory pass a national security law caused massive street protests 14 years ago, while plans to implement a program of “patriotic education” brought more people onto the streets in 2012 and helped politicize the territory’s youths.

Both plans were subsequently shelved, but Lam has indicated she aims to put them back on the table. But she also argues the time isn’t right to satisfy a popular demand for greater democracy by allowing a future chief executive to be chosen by universal suffrage.

Marchers said moves to interfere with the education system smacked of “brainwashing.”

Martin Lee, Hong Kong’s veteran pro-democracy political leader, said China was deliberately confusing patriotism with obedience.

“When they say you must love the country, what they mean is you must obey the Communist Party,” he said. “We have no problem with the Communist Party as long as it adheres to the promises made to us.”

But Lee said China had not fulfilled its promise to grant Hong Kong greater democracy.

“They kept on postponing democracy,” he said. “That’s why young people are losing their patience.”

On Saturday morning, a small group of pro-democracy protesters said they were attacked by hired thugs when they tried to stage a demonstration, and subsequently were briefly detained and beaten by police.

Joshua Wong, who led protests against patriotic education in 2012 and in favor of democracy in 2014, was among the group and called the incident another violation of the promise to maintain Hong Kong’s values, including the right to free speech. “‘One country, two systems’ has given way to ‘one country, one-and-a-half systems,’” he told The Washington Post.

“Why would Hong Kong people want to accept patriotic education from a country that is ruled by a single party dictatorship?” he said. “This is the core question. If the government is not elected by the people, how can we have a sense of belonging?”

Luna Lin contributed to this report.

Why Iran’s brightest young graduates are leaving their country behind

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Brain drain to the West

Why Iran’s brightest young graduates are leaving their country behind

Updated 7:20 AM ET, Tue June 27, 2017

Tehran, Iran (CNN) Sporting earbuds and sagging backpacks, students lounge on patches of grass, shaded by trees from the harsh sun. They sit in the library, hunched over laptops, massaging their temples, cramming for tests or bashing out lines of code.
It could be a college campus anywhere in the world, but Sharif University of Technology sits in the shadow of the Azadi tower in Iran’s capital, Tehran.
SUT represents the aspirations of a generation of Iranian policy makers who, in the wake of the 1979 revolution, were determined to put their country on the science and technology map.
It is often called the MIT of Iran — re-imagined after austere beginnings, based on the example of that American powerhouse, Sharif President Mahmud Fotuhi Firuzabad told CNN on a recent spring morning in Tehran.
“I don’t want to exaggerate the situation,” says Professor Jawad Salehi, tongue far from cheek, but “MIT is the Sharif of the U.S.”
Be that as it may, Iran’s educational leaders must also brace themselves for the fact that Sharif is a conduit out of the country.

Tehran's Sharif University of Technology was founded to help put Iran on the science and technology map.

The university cites as a point of pride the mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani, an alum who in 2014 became the first woman to win a Fields Medal, the Nobel Prize of mathematics. Now, though, she’s a professor at Stanford University, not Sharif.
“The computer engineering department in this university — they call that the airport,” says 19-year-old civil engineering student Kiarash. “Our main reason for joining this university is for going abroad.”

Knowledge, technology ‘fundamental’

Iran’s 1979 revolution swept aside a Western-backed monarch, and with it a system of outward dependency.
“Going back really to (the) early stages of the revolution, but it continues, the government has really invested in education, partly to address inequality,” says Arang Keshavarzian, associate professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at NYU.
That investment took on new importance after the bloody Iran-Iraq war launched by Saddam Hussein, says Salehi.
The war “showed the core of our system — that knowledge and technology is very fundamental for our survivability in the future.”

What's life like inside Iran?

What’s life like inside Iran?
The lesson, says Salehi, was broad. MIT “helped to advance the American society,” he says. “Iranian society at the time was in need of engineers, more than anything else.”
“Our society would have to advance itself based on knowledge, on science, and know-how.”
The resemblance between Sharif and major Western universities doesn’t extend much beyond the groups of students chatting beneath the trees outside — the buildings are heavy on breeze block and concrete. There are no starchitect-built theaters here, but faculty members and students speak of the place with pride.
“If you gave us the MIT budget,” says Salehi, ” and you gave us the facilities and laboratories, but here in the Sharif campus, I am sure that — I mean, I don’t want to exaggerate this — but I am sure that we would be at par with some of the best of the world.”
SUT staff would not allow CNN to chat to students on campus, but we spoke to several on the streets nearby; they are identified here only by their first names, as some of their comments could be considered controversial.
The university is “the best in the country,” says 25-year-old electrical engineering student Mehdi.
But he says Western sanctions — some now lifted in the wake of the 2015 nuclear deal — have limited students’ access to scientific papers, equipment, and the ability to “reach the technology. It’s heavily affected us.”

Influence of Western culture

Walking to campus with four friends, Kiarash says that the “university atmosphere is way better” than most other Iranian institutions.
Kiarash’s generation lives in a different world to that of their parents; through the internet, Western culture reaches Iran like never before.
Though many social media websites, such as Facebook and Reddit, are officially blocked, simple workarounds mean they are easily accessible. Encrypted messaging apps like Telegram have taken off, and allow of a form of communication completely out of the government’s sight; even Iran’s presidential campaigns have embraced Telegram.
Students like Kiarash and his friend Pegah, 20, recognize their privilege, but expect more.

With students lounging beneath the trees on campus, at first glance, SUT could be a college anywhere in the world.

“It’s known to be the best university of Iran, but we don’t have much facilities,” says Pegah.
“We have something,” Kiarash chimes in. “A device for mixing some kinds of concrete. It’s (from) the former king of Iran’s era.”
And there are bigger, more fundamental issues.
“I wear whatever I like,” says Kiarash. “But, for example, my friend here, she has to wear hijab.”
Their clothing would fit it in at any Western university — jeans and T-shirts. But Pegah, who is female, must adhere to Iran’s rules mandating conservative clothing for women.
Several times, Pegah says, she’s been reprimanded for her clothing. “For example, they say your jeans are too tight. But it’s not tight!”
“The MIT of Iran?” laughs Satya, a 20-year-old in her senior year studying physics. “It is the best university in Tehran, I guess. It’s hard. But I am doing it.”

Tug-of-war over lifestyles

The strictures placed on students are not just a matter of personal annoyances, says Iranian economy and education specialist Nader Habibi, of Brandeis University in the U.S. “The government imposes an Islamic lifestyle,” he says, but for many urban families, “their vision of a good lifestyle is more liberal.”
One way around this, Habibi says, would be to “create small areas where (a) more diverse lifestyle is tolerated” — think Dubai, an outpost of liberal excesses in a fundamentally very conservative country, the United Arab Emirates. That model has been successful in attracting foreign investment, and convincing multinationals to set up shop.

Women in Iran are expected to conform to strict rules on dress, wearing headscarves and modest clothes.

In Iran, there is a constant tug-of-war between politicians like President Hassan Rouhani — reform-minded, at least by Iranian standards — and the conservative, revolutionist clergy, with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei at the helm.
It’s evident everywhere in Tehran, where you’re as likely to pass a woman covered head to toe in a flowing black chador, as a woman made up to the nines, with coiffed hair, designer clothes, and a scarf half-way back on her head, barely conforming to rules requiring female head coverings.
The Iranian government, says Habibi, has thus far resisted implementing any Dubai-style system in Iran.
As far as Kiarash is concerned, that inflexibility is driving away Iran’s brightest students. “They only wait (for) their main civil rights,” he says. “And when they don’t give them, they have to go.”

Seeking greener pastures

Ramtin Keramati is one of those who left the country. On the phone from California, the SUT graduate recalls the first time he saw Stanford University’s campus. “I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is gorgeous! This is amazing!'”
Keramati says the transition was difficult, but he had company — in the form of roughly 8,700 Iranian students studying in the US, according to a 2014 study by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. They’re among as many as 50,000 Iranians studying around the world.

Capturing everyday life in Iran

Capturing everyday life in Iran 
Stanford even has a Persian Students Association, which Keramati says picked him up from the airport and helped him get acclimatized to life on a US campus.
“It’s really hard,” he says. “I didn’t know what to expect … everything was a surprise.”
There is a rich history of Iranians seeking greener pastures — at least temporarily — abroad.
President Rouhani studied in Scotland. His foreign minister, Javad Zarif, studied in California. SUT’s Salehi got his bachelor’s degree at the University of California at Irvine and his PhD at the University of Southern California before working at Bell Labs in New Jersey, which he calls “one of the best periods of my life.” Firuzabad, the president of SUT, got his master’s degree and PhD in Saskatchewan, Canada.
Rouhani, Zarif, Salehi and Firoozabad all came back to Iran, but what of those who don’t return? Some leave because of what they see as a lack of basic civil rights. Others see little hope in an economy in which the real — as opposed to official — unemployment rate could be well over 20%.

‘Significant’ brain drain

The “brain drain is significant,” says Brandeis’ Habibi; he says Iran’s government has tried to stem it, using economic incentives.
Anyone who receives a government scholarship to study abroad can have that loan written off if they return to Iran to work for a certain number of years, but “that’s only a small fraction of Iran’s brain drain,” Habibi says.
Much more significant are the students or professionals who move abroad for better opportunities. Once someone has completed their mandatory military service, Habibi says, the government can do nothing to stop them from leaving.

Many students leave Iran for work overseas once they have completed their degrees, prompting fears of a brain drain.

The brain drain is a “very sensitive question,” Salehi acknowledges. Everyone has the right to emigrate, he says, “but we can influence their choice.”
“It is the duty of the government, or the society, to give so many opportunities in our country that a young person who was thinking of leaving would have a bit of a doubt,” he says.
The government often reaches out “to educated professional Iranians in … Western countries, to encourage them to come back,” Habibi says; he estimates that the Rouhani government, aided by the lifting of some sanctions, has convinced 100 to 200 Iranians a year to return to work in their homeland.
And the desire to leave is by no means universal.
Aerospace engineering student Mohammed, 21, says his faculty members have “good connections with the industry to get a job later,” adding: “I just want to stay here.”

Mohammed, an aerospace engineering student at SUT.

But a very unscientific survey found that the call of foreign countries resonates with plenty of Sharif’s students. That’s certainly the case with physics student Satya.
As far as she’s concerned, “every one” of the university’s students goes abroad.
“That’s the goal when we come here,” she says. “This is why Sharif is important, and very famous, because we can apply and we can go and never come back, maybe.”

Kashmir Schools Being Closed 60% Of The Time: Causing A ‘lost’ Generation?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF INDIA NEWS 18.COM)

One of the biggest schools of Jammu and Kashmir became a venue to a fierce 16-hour gun-battle between security forces and militants early on Sunday. The encounter inside DPS Srinagar ended when security forces eliminated two terrorists.

In some time from now, security forces will finish a room-by-room search of the school and will announce the school safe. And a few days later its students, a lot of who presumably are right now curiously following the violence unfolding in their classrooms, will be asked to resume classes.

It will be tough, but DPS Srinagar’s students won’t be the only ones who would’ve felt violence unfold palpably close to them, who would’ve stayed away from each other and the school for long periods, and intermittently attended a few school classes.

Over the last one year, schools and colleges in the Valley have remained shut for six out of every 10 working days, leading to near-loss of entire academic year. Since July 8, 2016, educational institutions have stayed open on only 80 out of 197 working days, according to a report by IndiaSpend.

In April, for the first time, one saw images of young school girls flinging stones at security forces in Kashmir.

And during this period, starting from the death of Hizbul commander Burhan Wani, well over 150 people have died, about 20,000 have been injured and hundreds have lost their eye-sight.

“A couple of years ago, it was okay for me and my friends to come back from school in evening. Now, we are home by early afternoon, that is, if we go to school at all,” rues Bashir, a Class 10 student from Pulwama. People in Kashmir are no stranger to the vicious cycle of conflict and violence, and children, like Bashir, are the worst-hit.

Union Home Ministry’s data shows that in 2016 as many as 2,690 incidents of stone-pelting took place. And with every such incident, the state administration’s first response has been to shut down educational institutes as a precautionary measure.

Changing Face of Classrooms

Although schools and colleges have often been used as protest venues by students, it was for the first time that they’ve turned into active battlegrounds.

In April this year, local police barged into a degree college in Pulwama and fired tear-gas shells and pellets at protesting students inside. Over 60 students were injured, most of them girls. In retaliation, for the first time in the Valley, thousands of students across schools and colleges erupted in anger. For the first time, one saw images of young school girls flinging stones at security forces in Kashmir.

Classes were suspended for weeks as educationists kept urging students to go back to schools.

As their schools remain shut most of the times, students are forming neighbourhood groups where those who can afford have hired tutors and those who can’t are helping each other.

Once schools reopened, the discussions in classrooms went beyond topics of the solar system or equations of mathematics. Children were seen huddled, discussing turbulent environment around them, either with a sense of fear or rage, said Nayeema, a teacher based in Pulwama.

“What else do you expect? Students here can’t afford to be innocent. They are deeply political as they the worst-hit. There is no way they can concentrate on academics. The Valley is deep into conflict and the first thing that happens whenever the situation snowballs is a crackdown on schools and colleges,” said Nayeema.

A feeling of being discriminated, Nayeema said, rules the minds of students.

“Forces march inside school and college campuses at their will. Will a normal student be fine with that?” asked Mir, a budding writer and Class 12 student based in Baramulla. Mir recounts the day he was sitting on the window sill of his classroom, along with a friend, when a tear-gas shell was allegedly thrown into the school playground. “We were evacuated by teachers. Many students fell unconscious due to breathlessness,” she added.

“I have lost friends. It’s not like we have seen total peace, but earlier we at least has schools to divert our attention,” said Mir.

Learning Without Schools

Bashir and Mir are among students who are struggling not to lose their grasp on academics. As their schools remain shut most of the times, students are forming neighbourhood groups where those who can afford have hired tutors and those who can’t are helping each other.

“We all try and sit together to study. There are few seniors around my home. So, I take my books and see if they can help. Rest of it is self-study,” said Bashir. His parents said even on days when schools are open, they are scared of sending their son to school.

Nayeema said internet came as a boon for students in the Valley as those who missed school could catch up through online tutorials. But that too remains shut most of the times.

Uncertain Future

Educationists fear that if schools and colleges continue to remain shut, an army of uneducated and unemployable youths will be created, further pushing Kashmir into violence and protests. Angry and directionless youths might also make for easy target of terrorist groups.

“The youth in the Valley is staring at a bleak future. There are no two ways about it. Schools and colleges are shut for most of the times. There are bans on the internet. On top of it all, even if there were community study circles, parents are scared to let their children step out of the houses,” said Mushtaq Ul Haq Sikander, a writer and researcher.

Security forces in and around campuses has become a common sight in the Valley. So is the sight of boys and girls, in their school uniforms, attacking forces with stones.

Vijay Dhar, founder of Delhi Public School, Srinagar, highlighted how the school functioned in the face of constant curbs and shutdowns. “We kept our schools open on Sundays. We conducted pre-board exams in the indoor stadium. Results of the students have been stupendous. So, it’s clearly not like the students don’t want to study. If given a chance, they want to excel,” he said.

Additionally, the school had, during the period of curbs on internet, sent out video lessons on various gadgets to the homes of its students. While Dhar could pull it off successfully, scores of other students who had no access to such lessons at home suffered.

A Fight for Rights

Security forces in and around campuses has become a common sight in the Valley. So is the sight of boys and girls, in their school uniforms, attacking forces with stones. The idea of being looked at with suspicious eyes is a trigger in itself.

“What good will the forces and the administration get by shutting our schools, and then looking at us with suspicious eyes and doing physical search whenever they feel like?” asked Mir.

But, what about those who are found indulging in stone pelting incidents? “They have no option,” said Mir. “We are finding ways to channelise our anger and the environment around us making it worse,” he added.

Dhar said, “Many of them are angry at the sight of forces all around them. But there are also many more youngsters who are furious because they don’t know a thing about their future. Their education is suffering and there are no concrete jobs. Their mindset is that of looking after themselves, and not caring about anyone else.”

“The youths need to be educated. They need to be empowered. The way things are going, Kashmir will have a big percentage of semi-literate generation,” said Mushtaq.

Dalai Lama speaks at UCSD commencement amid Chinese student objection

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE USA TODAY COLLEGE NEWS)

Dalai Lama speaks at UCSD commencement amid Chinese student objection

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dalai lama ucsd

The Dalai Lama speaks to the crowd at the start of a press conference at the University of California-San Diego, June 16, 2017. The Dalai Lama gave a speech titled “Embracing the Beauty of Diversity in Our World.” He is in San Diego to deliver a commencement speech to the university graduates on June 17, 2017. (Photo: Bill Wechter, AFP/Getty Images)

This year, the trend of college students protesting against speakers they find to be offensive or oppressive has led to the cancellation of speeches by such figures as alt-right writer Milo Yiannopoulos and pundit Ann Coulter. But even when universities select figures renowned for their dedication to peace, their choices are not exempt from scrutiny.

The 14th Dalai Lama — a 1989 Nobel Peace Prize laureate and the spiritual leader of Tibet — is the latest speaker to drive controversy and protest on a college campus. He was invited by the University of California-San Diego to deliver the keynote at this year’s commencement. But not all students have celebrated his visit.

With the announcement of the Dalai Lama’s speech came opposition by many Chinese students, who say he stands for divisiveness with the goal of achieving Tibetan separatism from China. (Many Tibetans view China as an oppressor keeping them from expressing their culture and religion.)

There are about 4,600 international students from China at UCSD, with China sending the most students of any foreign country.

One campus organization, the Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA), has been outspoken about its opposition to the Dalai Lama’s presence on campus. In statements made to its WeChat page, the CSSA said it would “resist the university’s unreasonable behavior.”

When UCSD stood behind its decision to host the Dalai Lama, a group of Chinese students met with university administrators to discuss their concerns and were assured by Chancellor Pradeep Khosla that the speech would not be political in nature, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.

Indeed, the Dalai Lama’s two talks at UCSD — in a public forum Friday, then at commencement exercises Saturday — focused on themes of diversity and compassion.

View image on TwitterView image on Twitter

“Embracing the Beauty of Diversity in Our World” @DalaiLama

 

But Chinese student Ruixuan Wang even wrote an op-ed in student paper the Guardian saying that the Dalai Lama’s very presence at graduation would “ruin our joy,” noting that many Chinese students’ families would also be present for graduation and affected by the speaker.

But the university held fast to the position that the Dalai Lama is a figure who represents peace and “global responsibility and service to humanity.”

“These are the ideals we aim to convey and instill in our students and graduates at UC San Diego,” university spokesperson Christine Clark wrote in an email to USA TODAY College. “Our focus and mission, including climate science and public good, and the messages by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama are aligned.”

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama at UCSD speaking on the importance of embracing diversity.

 

It’s not the first time the Dalai Lama has been protested by college students. In 2008 Chinese students at the University of Washington protested his visit to Seattle, expressing beliefs that the Dalai Lama himself was behind violence in Tibet.

This time around, Chinese students have used some of the same rhetoric as the Chinese government to oppose the Dalai Lama. The CSSA has ties with the Chinese Consulate General in Los Angeles to promote “news and messages from the government to our members.”

Not all Chinese students identify with the opposition, however. Jesse Zhou, a Chinese senior graduating from UCSD on Saturday, says he thinks the decision to host the Dalai Lama is a good one, but understands the concerns of some students.

“It’s a bit of a slap to the face to the international students who paid four to five years of tuition money,” Zhou wrote in a message to USA TODAY College.

On May 30, the CSSA held a demonstration on Library Walk — an area at the center of campus and a free-speech zone — with signs explaining their opposition to the speaker.

dalai lama ucsd protest

A demonstration by the Chinese Students and Scholars Association on May 30, 2017, at Library Walk on UCSD’s campus. (Photo: Jesse Zhao)

Ricky Flahive, the UCSD senior chosen to give the student speech at graduation, told USA TODAY College before graduation that this demonstration was one of the only visible forms of opposition from the organization. “Generally, most of the people know about it, but I haven’t seen it be very active,” Flahive says of the movement against the Dalai Lama’s speech. “I’ve heard excitement more than I’ve heard concern so far.”

And, Flahive says, the university prepared for the possibility of protest at commencement by adding a free-speech zone in the parking lot near the location of the graduation. As the student chosen to give a speech on the same stage following the keynote, Flahive said he was excited that the university was able to bring the Dalai Lama to UCSD. As far as the possibility of protest at commencement, Flahive says it doesn’t bother him.

“I don’t really mind, personally,” Flahive says. “As a political science major, I’m totally in support of peaceful demonstration.”

.@DalaiLama: “Whether believer or non-believer, we must all focus on deeper value of human kindness and compassion.”

 

Members of the Tibetan community gathered to meet the Dalai Lama during his public address on Friday morning and at the Saturday morning commencement. Tenzing Dolma, who just graduated from UC Berkeley, is a Tibetan refugee who came to the U.S. with her family when she was two years old. She joined a group of Tibetan students driving to San Diego for the occasion.

“We want to ensure that when he comes on campus that he sees us, and not them and he doesn’t get disheartened by seeing people protesting his commencement speech,” Dolma says. “Our issue is not with Chinese students, our issue is not with Chinese people. It’s with the government, it’s with the institution.”

Dolma says much of the information being put forth by students protesting is coming straight from the Chinese government and acts as propaganda, but says she is not opposed to the students protesting because they have a right to do so. And given that the Chinese government promotes a narrative of the Dalai Lama as being divisive, Dolma feels the decision to bring him as a commencement speaker is a symbol of acceptance.

“Tibetans all over the world rejoiced and were happy that there was finally this opportunity, this platform to show the world that there is another side,” Dolma says. “You’re seeing someone up there addressing an audience of young scholars, and it’s amazing to see that someone that can be, according to the Chinese students, a ‘polarizing figure’ has the opportunity and is granted the freedom of speech to speak when inside China, inside Tibet that’s not a reality.”

Jeanine Santucci is a student at Georgetown University and a USA TODAY College correspondent.

China: Explosion At Kindergarten, 8 Dead 65 Injured 9 In Serious Condition

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

At least eight people were killed and 65 were injured, including children, in a blast Thursday near a kindergarten in eastern China, according to Chinese state media.

Two people died at the scene and six died at the hospital, the Xinhua news agency reported. Nine are in serious condition, according to CCTV.
No kindergarten students or teachers are among the dead, the Fengxian government said on Weibo, a Chinese social media platform similar to Twitter. Classes were underway when the incident happened, the government said.
The blast occurred in front of the gate of the Chuangxin Kindergarten at about 4:50 p.m., according to Fengxian police.
“The police and related departments rushed to the scene as soon as it was reported and conducted rescue and investigation work on the site,” police said on Weibo. “Currently, the investigation work is still underway.”
Authorities have not said what caused the explosion, but police were treating it as a criminal case and have targeted a suspect, according to Xinhua. The Fengxian communication department did not answer a phone call from CNN.
Graphic images purporting to show the chaotic aftermath of the blast have circulated on Twitter and Chinese social media.
A child with a bloodied face, stumbling back and forth in only her underwear, could be seen surrounded by children splayed out on the ground. Screams were heard in the background.
CNN has not been able to independently verify that the video is from this incident, but it’s been recirculated by various Chinese state media outlets.
Fengxian is in eastern China’s Jiangsu province, about 370 miles (595 kilometers) northwest of Shanghai.
It’s home to 1.2 million people, according to the government’s website.

NYT: Trump brags to Russians about firing ‘nut job’ Comey

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN AND THE NEW YORK TIMES)

NYT: Trump brags to Russians about firing ‘nut job’ Comey

“I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Trump said, according to the Times. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”
Trump’s Oval Office meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak came one day after Comey was fired.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer did not refute the Times story but said it was Comey’s “grandstanding and politicizing” of the Russia investigation that put pressure on the administration’s ability to engage Moscow.
“The President has always emphasized the importance of making deals with Russia as it relates to Syria, Ukraine, defeating ISIS and other key issues for the benefit and safety of the American people,” Spicer said in a statement to CNN. “By grandstanding and politicizing the investigation into Russia’s actions, James Comey created unnecessary pressure on our ability to engage and negotiate with Russia.”
He added, “The investigation would have always continued, and obviously, the termination of Comey would not have ended it. Once again, the real story is that our national security has been undermined by the leaking of private and highly classified conversations.”
Trump’s dismissal of Comey was met with bipartisan derision. The move, which came after Trump asked Comey for his loyalty and, according to memos written by the former FBI director, requested he kill an investigation into Trump’s top national security adviser, was seen as a clear violation of protocol and had some Democrats calling for impeachment.
The President maintains he was surprised by the response to Comey’s firing.
“Director Comey was very unpopular with most people,” he said Thursday at a news conference. “When I made that decision, I actually thought that it would be a bipartisan decision. Because you look at all of the people on the Democratic side, not only the Republican side, that were saying such terrible things about Director Comey.”
The news broke shortly after Trump took off for his critically important five-country, eight-day foreign trip, the first of his presidency.
Even before Friday’s report, news about Comey and the newly named special counsel for the Russia investigation has threatened to overshadow Trump’s trip.
Trump’s meeting with Lavrov and Kislyak was controversial before news of talk about Comey ever came out. No United States media were invited in for the meeting, but a photographer from TASS, the Russian state media organization, was in the room for at least part of the gathering. The meeting was also personal request from Vladimir Putin. The Russian President asked that they meet when he spoke with Trump earlier this month.

What a new report reveals about white economic hardship and Trump’s big win

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

What a new report reveals about white economic hardship and Trump’s big win

May 10 at 6:30 PM

Roughly a third of white working-class Americans said that they have cut back on food or meals in the past year to save money. A similar share it would be difficult — if not impossible — for them to cover an emergency expense of $400. And among those who live in the same town where they grew up, only 17 percent say the quality of life there has improved.

Those are a few of the results of a detailed new survey by the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute and The Atlantic magazine. The report reveals the economic and material hardships afflicting the white working class, one of the report’s authors says, lending insight into why so many people in this group were willing to gamble on Donald Trump, a candidate with no governing experience.

As many of these voters felt they had little to lose, they were undeterred by the President’s failure to spell out — with any degree of detail — how he would deliver on promises that experts repeatedly cautioned were unrealistic, said PRRI’s Dan Cox, one of the authors of the report.

“Many folks — they can’t wait for a white paper, or a 12-point plan. They need help immediately,” Cox said. There was, he said, “a recognition that there was some danger with it too, but that it was, sort of, worth the risk.”

Indeed, when it comes to policy details, the white working class supports many economic proposals associated with Democrats, not Republicans. Fifty-three percent of those surveyed supported increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and 58 percent said the rich should pay more in taxes. (Those figures are similar to the results for the general population.)

Global trade was one specific issue on which Trump may have appealed to many of his voters by deviating from GOP orthodoxy, and by distancing himself from Hillary Clinton, who during the campaign turned against a prominent free trade agreement that she had previously supported. Among the white working class, 60 percent said that free trade agreements were mostly harmful.

Following Trump’s surprise victory, many observers continue to debate whether economic distress or anxiety about race, immigration and cultural change motivated his supporters. The survey suggests that all of these were important to Trump’s success, but also that a sense of cultural displacement has been an especially powerful of the president’s appeal among the white working class, Cox said.

Those who agreed that they sometimes felt like a stranger in their own country, or that U.S. culture had to be protected from foreign influences, were much more likely to support Trump, the survey found. “The cultural touchstones were really salient in the election,” Cox said.

At the same time, he added, it is difficult to distinguish among the many motivations of Trump’s supporters, Cox said.

“You can’t completely divorce it from the economic experience of these folks — the fears of economic insecurity,” he said. “That’s certainly in the mix.”

On the whole, about as many white-working class people say they are worse off financially today than they were as children as say they are better off, according to the survey.

The analysis defines as those without a four-year college degree and who are paid by the hour or by the job, a definition that excludes many white-collar employees in salaried positions regardless of their education. Retirees were included based on the work they did before they retired, and students were excluded unless they explicitly described themselves as working or lower class in the survey.

The stress of making ends meet from day to day contributes to elevated rates of depression and addiction in white working-class families, Cox said: “It’s really tragic and heartbreaking that that kind of insecurity and stability causes all sorts of problems downstream.”

Among the white working class, 38 percent said that they or someone in their household had suffered from depression, compared to 26 percent of white college graduates. Eight percent of white working-class respondents said the same about drug addiction, while the figure for white college graduates was just 3 percent. Alcoholism also appears to be somewhat more prevalent in white working-class households than among white college graduates (12 percent vs. 9 percent).

The white working class seems to be giving up on the kinds of institutions that have traditionally provided a measure of stability and economic opportunity to American life, particularly colleges and universities. Among white Americans with college degrees, 63 percent said getting a degree was “a smart investment in the future,” but among the white working class, that figure was just 44 percent. In this group, a majority (54 percent) described it as a risky decision “that may not pay off in the end.”

This group’s skepticism about higher education parallels their detachment from other prominent institutions, including churches. Aside from weddings and funerals, just 58 percent of the white working class goes to church even once a year, the survey shows. Among white college graduates, that figure is 66 percent.

The white working class is less involved in their communities outside of religion as well. Thirty-six percent said they never participated in secular organizations such as book clubs, sports teams, neighborhood associations or parent-teacher associations. Just 16 percent of white college graduates said they never took part in these groups.

“It’s, sort of, been part of the American Dream, that you work hard, you get an education, you can get ahead,” Cox said. “The fact that white working-class Americans are less likely to believe that I think really shows the dire situation that they believe themselves to be in.”

Fewer than half of the white working class believes that people who work hard can still get ahead, the survey found, while 61 percent say America’s best days are in the past.

That pessimism contrasts with white college graduates — just 43 percent of whom say the country’s best days are behind it — and with people of color. Although black and Hispanic Americans are often worse off economically than those in the white working class, they have found reasons to be optimistic about the future, Cox explained. For instance, 56 percent of black respondents in the survey and 68 percent of Hispanic participants viewed a college degree as a way to get ahead.

If their bet on Trump doesn’t pay off, Cox warned, the president might find the white working class abandoning him. Asked how well they felt Trump understood their communities’ problems, a majority of the white working class — 51 percent — answered “not too well” or “not well at all.” Those figures suggest Trump might not have long to deliver.

“It’s unclear how loyal this group will be to him,” Cox said.

How Reading Aloud to Therapy Dogs Can Help Struggling Kids

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘KQED’ AND ‘MIND/SHIFT’)

How Reading Aloud to Therapy Dogs Can Help Struggling Kids

Norman West Therapy Dogs at Pioneer Library System
Norman West Therapy Dogs at Pioneer Library System (Flickr/Pioneer Library System)

By Juli Fraga

Two years ago, principal Diane Lau-Yee grew concerned when she saw how family tragedies were impacting her students at Gordon J. Lau Elementary School in San Francisco’s Chinatown.

“Some of the students were acting out their feelings of confusion and anger by starting fights with their peers, while other children shut down and stopped participating in class,” says Lau-Yee.

When children are struggling at home, it’s often harder for them to concentrate in school. And if kids experience trauma — such as the death of a family member, divorce or witnessing family or community violence — research shows that kids will have more difficulty tolerating frustration, controlling their impulses and managing their aggression.

Lau-Yee wanted to equip her students with emotional tools that could help them manage these overwhelming feelings. So, she decided to enlist the help of a furry friend named Stanley, a therapeutic dog who is beloved by many children in the community. She hoped that Stanley could teach the kids about empathy, as well as nourish a deeper love of literacy among the students, too.

While many people are familiar with therapeutic pets and how they can help lift up people’s spirits, bringing them into the classroom might sound far-fetched. How can a therapy pet possibly teach children the life lessons of kindness and empathy? Can a pet really alter the way that students feel about learning?

Educational therapist Rebecca Barker Bridges believed that a dog could help students feel more confident about learning, and so she adopted Stanley, a golden retriever.

Stanley
Stanley (Courtesy of Golden Gate Publishing)

“I learned about therapy dogs from a colleague, and I knew that Stanley could help these children,” says Bridges.

She also says that research on pet therapy shows that animals connect people to each other and that this bond strengthens their ability to work together.

“Pets are very nonjudgmental, and their calming presence distills stressful situations,” Bridges says. “For children who feel insecure about their capacity to do things like reading, therapy pets bolster their self-confidence, which reduces their anxiety.”

“Students feel self-conscious about reading because they’re afraid of being judged by students and teachers if they don’t do a ‘good job.’ But Stanley dismantles this fear for them. He makes learning joyful,” says Bridges.

Lau-Yee had learned about Stanley through a colleague, and she invited Bridges and the dog to visit her pre-K, kindergarten and first-grade students during a school assembly.

Meet Stanley“I introduced Stanley to the students, and I read them a book that I wrote about his work as a therapy dog,” says Bridges, whose book is titled “Meet Stanley: The Reading Dog.” The book tells the story of Stanley’s job as a reading dog and how he’s trained to listen to children read. The book also shares that Stanley is an expert listener who is always encouraging, supportive and patient with all children who interact with him.

After the presentation, the students were invited to meet Stanley. Bridges says that Stanley’s presence sparked the children’s curiosity and that they asked him a lot of questions.

“Stanley, what do you like to eat?” asked one student.

“What’s it like to be a therapy dog, do you get paid for your work?” asked another.

“Stanley, do you get a summer vacation from your job?”

A THERAPEUTIC LESSON

Bridges says that therapy pets allow children to focus on the animal instead of feeling self-conscious themselves. She says that this is a therapeutic distraction technique that relieves children of their worries, which helps their performance when reading.

“Children love interacting with Stanley, and this connection also teaches them about kindness and empathy,” she says.

Lau-Yee used Stanley’s visit as a way to create a social and emotional lesson for the students.

“After Stanley’s visit, I told the students that Stanley is a helper who never judges others but offers them a lot of support merely by listening,” she said. “I also explained how people need different forms of support to help them do things like reading, sort through their feelings and solve problems. I encouraged the students to help each other out, too.”

Lau-Yee says that the teachers also used Stanley’s visit to teach the students that there are many unconventional ways to learn things and that his visit also helped foster a love of literacy among the children.

FINDING A READING BUDDY

While Lau-Yee’s students were fortunate to meet Stanley in person, she says that he doesn’t need to make a physical appearance for students to benefit from his services.

“Educators can read Stanley’s book and talk about the ways that we can incorporate service into our learning with trusted friends, such as big buddies, peers and older siblings.”

Bridges, who also visits libraries, says that educators can also reach out to their local SPCA to inquire if they have therapy dogs available. She also says that teachers can use a class pet as a “Stanley substitute.”

Several programs nationwide offer training and canines to help kids with reading, such as Intermountain Therapy Animals’ Reading Education Assistance Dogs program. There are also some organizations like Therapy Dogs International that have community programs called Tail Waggin’ Tutors. They provide therapy dogs that can help children learn how to read, too.

Some schools have a no-pet policy, and in those cases, Bridges recommends using a stuffed animal instead.

“You can apply the same principles to a stuffed animal. The most important thing is to give the child some space so that they can read to their pet (even if it isn’t a real one) in privacy, which helps them to feel safe,” she says.

Juli Fraga is a psychologist and writer in San Francisco. You can find her on Twitter @dr_fraga

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