São Paulo School Books Go Open Source

Originally published on IgneousQuill.org

As of June 7, 2011, all of the teaching materials produced by the Municipal Secretary of Education office in São Paulo are available online, for free, under a creative commons non-commercial license. This means that anyone with Internet access and a printer can obtain hard copies (or of course, simply save them to disk as pdf files) of this material and can use it, so long as it is not used commercially. From what I can see, the texts currently available are for Portuguese and Math from grades 1 through 9. Obviously the school system likely obtains its physics, chemistry, history and any other texts from publishing houses.

Beyond being a potential benefit to other school districts in Brazil, I can think of two other communities that can utilize this material.

First, school systems outside of Brazil where Portuguese is spoke. African nations in particular that speak Portuguese could easily download, print and bind (even if only spiral binding) these texts for use. There would be cost involved in the printing, but I have to think it would be less than professional publication of materials in-house.
Second, the Brazilian diaspora can use the Portuguese texts to teach Brazilian children being raised in nations around the world where Portuguese isn’t the primary language.

As for myself, I’m thinking any and all of this material can be useful to my family as we attempt to prepare ourselves for a move back to Brazil. With a daughter in her teens and a son who will likely be entering his teen when we move, the academic challenges they will face may be the biggest hurdle to their transition back to life there.

Click here to check out what’s available, and here as well to see where you can download school lunch manuals from Sao Paulo


See also:

Brazilian Ministry of Education Embraces Open Source in a Big Way (OStatic)

A Look at Linux Educacional 3.0 (IgneousQuill.net)

The Dignity and Death of a Child Worker

He was 10 years old, the main “actor” in a documentary about child labor in Brazil, and he was washed away in a flood and died three days before the short film premiered. His name was José Deyvison Fernandes and he lived with his mother at the Mutirão neighborhood dump in Campina Grande, Paraíba. In the early hours of July 17, 2011 heavy rains brought flooding that collapsed his home and washed him away. His mother managed to survive. His body was found the 20th, the same day the documentary had its first showing.

Due to his poverty and means of living his was the object of teasing at school. With this documentary, I believe, some dignity and respect was accorded to the boy. His death is tragic and senseless, but thank God he lived. Let’s remember that there are millions like him in this world, boys and girls, whose innate value and potential as human beings made in the image of God must be respected and encouraged to flourish.


See Also:
Vítima da chuva na PB era ator em documentário sobre trabalho infantil (G1)

Perhaps It’s Time to Learn HTML5

A few years ago I realized I’d best learn some basics of web development, starting with HTML. I worked through tutorials and mastered the basics. This, plus some familiarity with JavaScript, served me well in my mixed role with a Manhattan-based start-up. Though hired to be the one and only customer service rep, I ended up wearing many hats, including content manager, social media manager and – to a lesser extent – QA. My increasing familiarity with the ins-and-outs of the way the web works provided the background for me to now be a site producer with a major publishing company. Still, I’m not done yet. Not by a long shot. It’s past time to learn more.

For a couple of years now I’ve been dabbling in Ruby on Rails, and as much as I like the language and framework, it feels like I’m skipping some important steps when I try to work with it. In reality, my near-term professional goal is simply to become a web developer, not only a RoR developer. What I mean is that have become pretty convinced that the path forward for me involves greater mastery of the fundamentals, including HTML5, JavaScript and PHP. Database management system and web application framework knowledge logically, to my understanding, should follow on those.

Of course I understand that there are many, more knowledgeable than me, who would take issue with my conclusions here. It could be that I’ll change course yet again after this, but I rather doubt it. I don’t see how getting the fundamentals down for technologies that are essential for most websites to function can be a negative.

In connection with all of this, I’ll consider a first, public step in my new direction to be participating in Google’s HTML5 Web App Hackathon to be held August 1 in New York City. The full schedule for this event to be held in four cities is as follows:

August 1, 2011: New York
August 3, 2011: Chicago
August 8, 2011: Seattle
August 11, 2011: Mountain View

So, for the next couple of weeks, I’ll be devoting any spare time and energy to bringing myself up to speed on HTML5. One tutorial I’m sure to reference will be the one provided by W3Schools. At the same time, I’m open to suggestions for other online resources, including written tutorials and screencasts.

Suggestions, anyone?

Poverty and the Risk of the Possible

“Those who hope in Christ can no longer put up with reality as it is, but begin to suffer under it. To contradict it.”Jürgen Moltmann, Theology of Hope

It could be I’m the last to comment on this documentary about people who made their living by picking recyclable materials out of the world’s largest dump, located on the edge of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I write “made” because apparently the landfill is being closed down. The following is a brief synopsis of the film, taken from the official website, followed by my few thoughts on one aspect that seemed key to everything with this documentary.

Filmed over nearly three years, WASTE LAND follows renowned artist Vik Muniz as he journeys from his home base in Brooklyn to his native Brazil and the world’s largest garbage dump, Jardim Gramacho, located on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. There he photographs an eclectic band of “catadores”—self-designated pickers of recyclable materials. Muniz’s initial objective was to “paint” the catadores with garbage. However, his collaboration with these inspiring characters as they recreate photographic images of themselves out of garbage reveals both the dignity and despair of the catadores as they begin to re-imagine their lives. Director Lucy Walker (DEVIL’S PLAYGROUND, BLINDSIGHT and COUNTDOWN TO ZERO) and co-directors João Jardim and Karen Harley have great access to the entire process and, in the end, offer stirring evidence of the transformative power of art and the alchemy of the human spirit.

To me, the key point in this film was the question of whether it was fair and good to show a different life to folks working in the dump. Although certainly through TV they are aware of a reality outside of that which they live, most have never experienced it themselves. They’ve largely only known poverty and struggle. By engaging some of them in an art project and possibly even taking some to foreign countries (the latter of which did happen with at least one participant in the project) they would be seeing a side of life that could not be theirs.

Or could it?

To be perfectly honest, in the beginning I tended to side with the non-engagement perspective, the one that calls it unfair to make people think their lives can be any different, any better. Now I realize that was simply my lack of faith, hope and love.

We are all creatures of habit. We live a status quo that, however unpleasant it may be at times, we prefer over the uncertainty of unknown, different possibilities. When we plan for the future, we do it based on what our eyes can see and our minds can calculate. At some point it may become so bad that any alternative is welcome, but this tends to be rare and we run right back to the stability of the known and counted.

Sometimes, disruption is called for to break the spell of the status quo.

Is it unfair to dangle a different life before they eyes of the poor? No, not at all, especially if the intention is right and a willingness is present to at least provide encouragement. By seeing  new possibilities, people are enabled to dream new dreams and strive for goals they previously never considered setting. Is it risky? Of course. Failure is always a possibility, but despair cannot be considered a valid option.

Not everyone from Jardim Gramacho who was featured in this film has “come out on top.” None, however, walked away unchanged. That is what really matters. Whatever work is done with the poor, false promises should never be made, but also no one should be denied taking the risk of the possible.

“For nothing will be impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37 NRSV)


See Also:

Waste Land Official Website

Stolen Lives: Jaycee Dugard’s Story…and Those Yet Untold

In September 2009 I blogged about the “discovery” of Jaycee Lee Dugard after around 18 years in captivity. She had been kidnapped when she was 11 and repeatedly raped by sex offender Philip Garrido. This month, July 2011, Jaycee’s autobiography, entitled “A Stolen Life” has been published. After I’ve had a chance to read it I’ll surely provide a review. In my former post I reflected on the question of how God permits evils like this to happen in the world. The simple fact is that Jaycee’s situation was only exceptional in some details. Girls and young women around the world are routinely trafficked and exploited for sex. The real challenge for disciples of Christ is to stand up, speak out and act on behalf of those made in the image of God who are being used in degrading ways.

Jaycee’s rescue was long-delayed through the incompetence of those who where responsible for checking up on Philip Garrido. Now she’s telling the story of her life during the nearly two decades she was imprisoned by the Garridos.

What stories will never be told in this age, because the victims have been silenced in death? A day is coming when their suffering will be revealed, but until then those who call themselves Christians must take seriously their high calling and work to set the captives free.

What stories will be told of hope lost and then found because you and I chose to do something rather than remain apathetic?

Without further comment, here is a brief introduction to Jaycee’s recent interview with Diane Sawyer. The full interview can be seen by clicking here.


See Also:

Thoughts on Jaycee Dugard

Brazil’s Child Sex Trade

Dealing With Brazil’s Sex Trade

Child Sex Trafficking in the United States

Slavery Still Exists, Now More Than Ever

Christmas Wrap and Slave Trafficking: Getting Youth Involved to Help Rapha House

Poverty at the Gate

Originally posted on IgneousQuill.com


“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’ “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’ “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family,for  I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’ “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’” Luke 16:19-31 NIV

When I was in college at Harding University I was required to take preaching classes. Although I’d been preaching for a few years already at that point, or perhaps for that very reason, I despised taking those classes. I especially disliked making a video of me preaching and refused to watch it. While I was rarely nervous about preaching to a congregation, preaching to a class one day make me shaky. I got through it fine though, and my text was the one I quoted about about the rich man and the beggar. I think my message was good and correct, but I missed the point Jesus was making.

I’ve read articles puzzling out whether this was a literal depiction of hell or a symbolic representation. I’ve heard sermons based on this text that elaborate on the horrors of hell and the need for personal salvation. The day I preached it to my class I focused on the last bit, where Abraham says “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.” I talked about how we have the testimony of Scripture, the witness of the apostles and prophets, and despite Jesus having risen from the dead, people still don’t believe.

Well, that’s all essentially true. Putting myself in the mindset of Jesus at that time and in that context, as well as one can do this, it becomes rather obvious that his true focus was on the wicked greed and social inequality that was prevalent in Israel at that time. Why did masses of people follow Jesus around, looking for a meal or a miraculous healing? It wasn’t just the fault of the Romans who occupied their land. It was the result of the collaboration of wealthy Israelites with the foreign powers. They would make loans with high interest, confiscate land taken as collateral and use their influence and other machinations to avoid paying their required taxes, leaving the burden on the poor and uninfluential.

The rich man had a poor, sick man laying at his very doorstep. What did he do to help him? Nothing. Lazarus  was starving and even had dogs licking his sores. This is the very picture of misery. The rich man did nothing, and went to the flames of eternity while the poor man was embraced by the noble patriarch of Israel. Notice that, as in the other parables of Jesus, there’s no hard sell to make a decision to accept him and be saved solely for the sake of avoiding hell. What he tells us is that in this life we have many decisions to make, and if someone is in misery right in front of us, how can we do anything other than help? What kind of person lets those in dire need suffer while enjoying the pleasures of wealth?

This past January (2010) there was a massive earthquake in the island nation of Haiti. This country is just a hop-skip-and-a-jump from the U.S., making mobilization to help relatively easy. Already sustained largely by outside governmental and non-profit relief and development organizations, Haiti received in those days a massive influx of resources. Now, months later, people are still living in tent cities with limited toilet facilities, scarce food and little concept of hygiene. Disease, now including cholera, spreads easily among our Haitian neighbors. Here we sit in the United States, complaining about a recession that takes our jobs and our homes, but we don’t find ourselves in the place of the people of Haiti. Compared to them, our abundance is excessive.

Never did I ever feel “guilty” about having “so much” compared to the rest of the world. Even when I lived in Brazil I’d see people living under bridges and viaducts, feel bad for them but think, “That couldn’t be me, because I am who I am and was born where I was born, and I didn’t make them poor.” Fine bit of logic, that, but perhaps it’s one of the reasons I wasn’t ready to be in Brazil to stay at the time. My heart wasn’t right.

“Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God.” – Bob Pierce

The Scriptures time and again remind us that it is central to God’s will that the poor, oppressed and neglected be served by the rest of us, and that the powers and authorities be called to account for their failure to maintain justice. We can argue about capitalism versus socialism, but the world has yet to see a truly free market, and even if we had one I doubt we’d do much better with our social obligations.

Many people pray for, contribute to and go and help in Haiti. Great work is also being done elsewhere in our hemisphere, as in Honduras. My own future work is projected even further south, in Brazil, with a focus on helping poor and at-risk urban youth take advantage of their nation’s emerging economy to get on the grid and find their way out of poverty.

We simply must not turn a blind eye to the needs of those around us, be they on our streets, in our neighborhoods or even in our hemisphere. Will we reach out to those at the gate, sharing our wealth, or will not even the resurrection of Jesus convince us of the reality of his words and the message of the prophets?