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home : community forum : community forum - submit/review comments December 7, 2016


Posted: Sunday, December 4, 2016
Community forum entry by: Michael Loewenstein

If you go out walking or biking at night in dark clothes you are putting yourself in real danger. The bright lights of oncoming cars make people in dark clothing in the street almost invisible to drivers. Adding reflective tape to coats really helps. One way to do that at little expense is to fasten Reflective Bicycle Ankle Straps around the forearms of your dark coat. They can be easily attached using their Velcro fasteners and are available at any bike shop. Protect yourself as a driver and as a pedestrian.

Posted: Sunday, December 4, 2016
Community forum entry by: Rosalie Riegle

Re: The Evanston Public Library and MENA. While I applaud the EPL and MENA for offering programs about Muslims, I join the growing chorus calling for more education on that most pressing of Middle Eastern problems--the increasing marginalization of Palestinians in all areas. Evanston citizens deserve frequent programs which give a Palestinian perspective to counter the main-stream media which is likely to continue its pro-Israeli sentiment. All educational institutions must become ever more watchful that they don't pander to government power it's up to us to keep alight the flame of free speech. I stand ready to help plan such programs. Thank you.

Posted: Saturday, December 3, 2016
Community forum entry by: Timothea Papas

Dear Editor, Yesterday I sent the following letter to the Board of Directors of the Evanston Public Library and to Northwestern University's Middle East & North African Studies Program (MENA). I would appreciate your making it available to the Evanston community at large. Thank you.
Timi. Papas

"The recent episode of defacements of Islamic materials at the Evanston Library is truly disheartening. As a 3rd-generation resident of Evanston and a 1967 graduate of Northwestern University's College of Arts & Sciences, I am ashamed that such malice could express itself---and so openly---in our town.

Of course I am not totally surprised. What those graffiti openly express is the hidden, unspoken prejudice that many people here and elsewhere hide from polite conversation. But isn't that the problem? That even here in 'enlightened' Evanston there are those who out of deep-seated ethnic, religious, and political bias don't hesitate to manifest their anger by scribbling and defacing papers and books that represent their 'enemy'.

In a country whose politics are so flawed and divided, shouldn't our city aspire to a higher standard of thought and action? What I am getting to here is the fact that your two institutions, supposedly the twin fonts of broad public education and probing analysis, the public library and an important university think-tank (if I may call it that), have not seriously examined one of, if not the most fundamental, critical, and contentious problem of the 20th and 21st centuries---the Arab-Israeli conflict.

So I have to ask: When the majority of your programs over the past few years have focused on non-Middle Eastern and non-North African states like Iran and Turkey, where is the Middle East in all of this? Most egregiously, where is Palestine? Where is Libya? Why is the agenda so ill-focused?

Iran and Turkey and other states and regions certainly have their problems and are of great interest, especially with regard to great-power politics and rivalries, but those two and all the rest of the surrounding states---ALL of them are influenced by and exert influence upon the region of Palestine, a region which for centuries comprised not only what are now Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, but also Lebanon, Syria, and the Sinai Peninsula,---and, more broadly, the Arabian Peninsula, Iraq, Egypt and beyond.

It seems to me that it's time your two institutions start to grapple with the real Middle East. Such an endeavor could help to explain why the entire region is such a Hell why so many millions of Syrians, Iraqis, Afghanis, North Africans and others have either died or fled why Europe is in an uproar over immigration why our own country has become a militarized monster to the detriment of our infrastructure, let alone of the peace and tranquility aspired to at our founding.

Just because our own citizens are largely oblivious to the realities of the Middle East and North Africa, that doesn't mean that the rest of the world is too. Therein lies the real threat to our own security.

More locally, however, I hope both the Library and MENA will henceforth take more seriously their mandate to help educate the public, and to forthrightly confront the crucial issues before us. The Library must provide to the public the necessary resources to learn, and the University must initiate thoughtful leadership in examining the roots and the way out of conflict---in the Middle East in general and in Israel-Palestine in particular. You need to gather scholars, journalists, politicians and spokespersons from all sides and get beyond the platitudes and half-truths spouted by the media. Are there other institutions better suited to accomplish these things? None that I can think of."

Posted: Friday, December 2, 2016
Community forum entry by: Ghada Talhami, Catherine Buntin. and Carol Muskin

Free Speech., the Northwestern MENA Program, and the Evanston Public Library
Many in the community were shocked and dismayed to learn that several books at the Evanston Public Library were defaced with anti-Muslim graffiti last week.

The graffiti was discovered as staff were preparing for a program offered by Northwestern's Middle East and North Africa (MENA) studies department, titled "Is the Qur'an a Good Book?" In a statement, Evanston Public Library director Karen Danczak Lyons deplored the damage as an attack on free speech, and held up the library’s partnership with MENA as “One effective way to combat fear, hate and ignorance [which provides] access to information, informed discourse, debate, and opportunities to listen to others".

As Evanston residents, we agree that it is crucial for our institutions to provide spaces in which “public education around a complex and frequently misunderstood region can help address misunderstanding,” to quote Brian Edwards, the director of MENA.

However, we question how strongly the Evanston Library and MENA are committed to creating such open spaces, given that this program series has largely ignored possibly the most controversial and emotionally charged issue in the Middle East: Israel and Palestine.

Looking at the past three years, during which MENA presented 11 programs on Iran or Iranians, and 10 on Turkey only 5 mentioned Palestine even tangentially. Only one of these programs featured a Palestinian speaker... as part of a 4 person panel.

MENA has offered several programs with Israeli speakers, including faculty from the Crown Center of Jewish and Israel Studies both on campus and at the Library. Yet no MENA programs relating to Palestine have been presented at the Evanston Public Library.

How are EPL and MENA "fostering dialogue on the Middle East," when they clearly avoid one of the most significant issues in the Middle East, and do not present any thinkers representing a Palestinian viewpoint?

As residents of Evanston who support peace and justice for Palestine and Israel, we are puzzled as to why this extremely important issue is so rarely discussed in the MENA Mondays program. If MENA and EPL truly support access to information, informed discourse, debate, and opportunities to listen to others, then they should add lectures on Palestine to the program roster.

It’s important to recognize that the Palestinian/Israeli conflict has often been a catalyst for anti-Muslim expression, and in some cases has led to the demonizing of Muslims and those perceived as Muslim. Islamophobia is hardly a simple matter of “misunderstanding” or “lack of dialogue.” It is often deployed to achieve particular political ends, as happened recently at the University of Chicago where student activists for Palestinian rights were described as “terrorists.” To condemn Islamophobia while ignoring one of its causes is a poor form of solidarity indeed.

We encourage the MENA program and the Evanston Public Library to collaborate on a program series that will provide thoughtful perspectives on Palestinian life, and on Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, which include Palestinian voices. Commitment to free speech and solidarity with the targeted and oppressed is most important and significant precisely when it is most difficult. It is easy to see the censorship in defacing books, but we should also beware the soft censorship of merely avoiding difficult or unpopular topics.

Posted: Wednesday, November 30, 2016
Community forum entry by: Jeremy R. Wilson

Results of the Illinois 2016 Statewide Testing are now available on line. Again, District 65 fails to educate black and Hispanic children. Standards of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PAARC) are high, based on prediction of success as a freshman in college, but the standards are the same across the district and across the state. (44% of District children are white, 24% are black, 19% are Hispanic, 4% are Asian and 9% are multi-racial.) The results for the Spring of 2016 include:
While 67% of white third-graders in District 65 met or exceeded the standards in English Language Arts, only 19% of black third-graders met or exceeded the standards in English Language Arts and only 22% of Hispanic third-graders met or exceeded the standards.
While 80% of District white third- graders met or exceeded the standards in Mathematics. Only 25% of black third-graders met or exceeded the standards in Mathematics 33% of Hispanic third- graders met or exceeded the standards in Mathematics.
Sixth-two percent of District white eighth-graders met or exceeded the standards in English Language Arts. Only 18% of black eighth-graders met or exceeded the standards in English Language Arts 27% of Hispanic eighth-graders met or exceeded the standards in English Language Arts.
While 72% of District white eighth-graders met or exceeded the standards in Mathematics, only 8% of black eighth-graders met or exceeded the standards in Mathematics 28% of Hispanic 8th graders met or exceeded the standards in Mathematics.
In January 2017, District 65 will present its annual Achievement and Accountability Report.
It will blame children because they come from low income families.
It will blame children because they enter without adequate pre-child program preparation.
It will demonstrate that it is doing as well as other failing districts.
What it will not do is allocate more reading and mathematics instructional time to black and Hispanic children so they can read and cipher as well as white children.
(Data for other class levels, and by school, are available at the state website:

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