We need not be so cruel

It is time for every decent person to speak out against what is happening at U.S.-Mexico border.


Migrants guide their children through the entrance of a World War II-era bomber hangar in Deming, N.M. last month. Associated Press

Neil Steinberg’s June 26 column about our long, ugly history of inflicting misery on “others” was completely true.

He correctly pointed out that many times hate and cruelty were tolerated or simply ignored by people who chose to look away. He accurately pointed out that what is going on at the border is not an aberration in light of our history of the Trail of Tears, slavery and the treatment and rejection of immigrants of every color and religion, including desperate white Jewish children seeking asylum in the 1930s. As he wrote, those children were the “Right color, wrong religion.”

Steinberg then points out that things are indeed getting worse and uglier in the era of Trump and “this GOP.” He ends by writing, “This is how we are, were and probably will always be.”

But I say we don’t have to be like this.

The Skokie Holocaust Center teaches, “Don’t be a By Stander. Be an Up Stander.” That means fight the inclination to look away and sigh. The Holocaust did not begin with concentration camps. It began with hate and too many people being silent and averting their eyes.

Steinberg admits there have been freedom fighters, suffragettes, civil rights activists and kind-hearted souls. Remember, those eventually became mainstream movements.

To Steinberg’s hopeless conclusion, I call for action.

It is time for every decent person to be an up stander and speak out!

Do not look away.

Carla Feinkind, Hinsdale

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Liberians still hold great value in schools

Your editorial stating that opening “public library branches on Sunday is an excellent idea” briefly mentions the lack of school libraries. It is a disgrace that the Chicago Public Schools lack licensed librarians in hundreds of schools.

In a school district with more than 600 schools, there are fewer than 200 permanently assigned librarians, library assistants and part-timers who serve a relatively small number of the more than 360,000 students enrolled. In the past, this issue has been raised at Board of Education meetings to no avail.

The general impression is that librarians just check out books, but these trained professionals are multi-taskers whose skills and expertise benefit learning communities in a variety of ways. Recognizing how vital libraries are, organizations such as Raise Your Hand for Illinois Public Education have advocated for adequate funding to keep them operating on a consistent basis.

Librarians can contribute to student success in a number of ways.

They can coach students preparing for the academic decathlon and promote classroom enrichment by working with their fellow teachers and guiding their students when they need to do research for their Chicago history fair and science fair projects. They can teach the difference between primary and secondary sources, show students how to access available literature and demonstrate the importance of archives and databases through the use of innovational technologies.

Students might be more tech-savvy these days, but they still need guidance from trained professionals when it comes to doing research for comprehensive projects that will have to compete at the local, state and national level.

Librarians can forge partnerships with outside organizations such as Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art, and with the Art Institute of Chicago to encourage the love of the arts with students actively participating in presentations depicting the importance of art throughout American and World history.

Librarians can make contact with different racial and ethnic communities who can send representatives to the schools encouraging a dialogue and an appreciation of other cultures and identities.

Librarians can also assist students with meaningful service projects, help with the formation of after school book clubs and encourage students to participate in Read for a Lifetime which is a statewide reading initiative that promotes the love of reading for students in high school.

Many teachers go above and beyond their everyday classroom responsibilities. Librarians can be asked to seek, write and complete grant applications offered by public, private and professional organizations.

With current contract talks ongoing between Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union, hopefully an agreement can be reached mandating a licensed librarian in every elementary and high school in Chicago.

Larry Vigon, retired social studies teacher and member of the Chicago Teachers Union Retired Chapter

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