Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Second Chance Pell: An Opportunity for Higher Education to Increase Access to Opportunity for Incarcerated Students

by Erin L. Castro, Assistant Professor, University of Utah & Instructor Affiliate, Education Justice Project:

and Augie Torres, Undergraduate Student, Governors State University & Alumni, Education Justice Project:

Last month there was a debate contest, and you have probably heard about it by now. A debate team comprised of students who are incarcerated at Eastern New York Correctional Facility (ENYC), a maximum security prison, beat Harvard’s undergraduate debate team. The students who are incarcerated attend classes through the Bard Prison Initiative, a postsecondary education program run by Bard College. Both teams have impressive records: the Harvard debate team earned national championship status in 2014 and the incarcerated debate team has victories against the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and the University of Vermont. NBC’s headline describing the win for students incarcerated at ENYC Facility – and the loss of students at Harvard – reflects a common tone among popular headlines after the event: Harvard’s Prestigious Debate Team Loses to a Group of Inmates. For the most part, the headlines were disappointing. There appears to be a certain sensationalism associated with “inmates” beating ivy-league students, but there shouldn’t be.

The win for imprisoned students at ENYC is not surprising for those of us who teach inside prisons and work with students who are incarcerated, have family members and friends who are incarcerated, have a keen understanding of how mass incarceration works, or have been incarcerated ourselves. To be surprised, one must rely upon dangerous raced and classed assumptions about both individuals who are incarcerated and those who attend Harvard. We don’t often hear about the educational, intellectual, and academic work being done inside prisons across the United States and so perhaps a bit of amazement is warranted. It is our hope, however, that for those of us involved in higher education, the feeling of astonishment at the ability of individuals who are incarcerated to intellectually outperform students at one of the most recognized institutions of higher education becomes less of a spectacle and more commonplace. The current emphasis on college-in-prison programming on behalf of the Department of Education makes us optimistic.

On Thursday, September 17, the Department of Education hosted an informational webinar open to anyone who was interested titled The Second Chance Pell: Pell for Students Who Are Incarcerated. The webinar follows up on the Federal Register notice released by the U.S. Department of Education on August 3, 2015 inviting higher educational institutions to apply to participate in the new initiative under the (ESI), which tests the effectiveness of statutory and regulatory flexibility for higher educational institutions that disburse Federal student aid. The webinar provided educators with information about the Second Chance Pell, a new institutionally-based initiative. The initiative provides an opportunity for participating institutions of higher education, in partnership with one or more Federal or State penal institutions, to provide Federal Pell Grant funding to otherwise eligible students who are incarcerated. As many readers of this blog know, the Higher Education Act stipulates that students who are incarcerated in Federal or State penal institutions are ineligible to receive funding through the Federal Pell Grant program. The 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act eliminated Pell Grant eligibility for incarcerated individuals and as a direct result, the overwhelming majority of college-in-prison programs closed due to lack of funding. The steady withdrawal of higher education programs from U.S. prisons has effectively severed access to educational opportunity for incarcerated individuals and severely limited future educational access as formerly incarcerated individuals find themselves without the educational credentials to successfully pursue postsecondary opportunities upon release.

The initiative is good news. According to the webinar, it aims to do the following:

  • Examine how weighting the restrictions on providing Pell grants to individuals in Federal or State penal institutions influences participation in educational opportunities, and academic and life outcomes;
  • Examine whether the waiver creates any challenges or obstacles with an institution’s administration of the Title IV HEA programs. The DOE is interested in determining how disbursement of federal Pell grant funds affects incarcerated students and;
  • Allow participating institutions to provide federal Pell grant funding to otherwise eligible students who are incarcerated in federal or state penal institutions and who are eligible for release into the community.
There are a number of requirements that schools must meet in order to be eligible for the program, including providing academic and career services as well as transition guidance to support successful reentry. Potential students must meet specific criteria, too. Preference is to be given to potential students who are eligible for release back into the community, with emphasis on individuals who are scheduled be released in the next five years. The initiative does not weight certain restriction criteria and it does not waive costs of attendance. It is worth reading the specifics and a transcript of the webinar is available here
The informational webinar was the first in a series sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education to encourage institutions of higher education to partner with State and Federal prisons to provide access to postsecondary education. The initiative is not perfect; for example, both of us would like to see greater emphasis on individuals who are not eligible for release in the next five years and we have a number of questions regarding what constitutes education in this context. Yet, reinstating Pell grant eligibility for incarcerated students is a necessary first step to increasing access and one that we hope invigorates conversations about what postsecondary educational opportunity in prisons should look like during our era of mass incarceration.

We urge the higher education community to learn more about postsecondary education efforts in prison contexts. There are a variety of ways to learn and we only touch upon a few here. Find out if your local or regional prison provides educational opportunities for incarcerated people by talking with the Department of Corrections. If they exist, see if you can support already established efforts by donating time, resources, and/or desperately needed funding. Ask if your own institution is involved in providing or supporting classes for incarcerated people. Listen to what directors of college-in-prison programs across the nation need and learn more about the long history of postsecondary education provision in prisons. Begin conversations with non-incarcerated individuals on your own respective campuses about the Prison Industrial Complex, mass imprisonment, and the contemporary carceral state. Find out if prior criminal history is considered in your institution’s admissions criteria. Importantly, if you have never been to a prison, go. Call and make an appointment and ask for a ‘tour’ (this, inappropriately, is the dominant language – at least in the state of Utah). For an institution so integral to the political and economic fabric of the U.S., we urge you to go see what you are paying for. Prisons are institutions in which we all invest and in at least 11 states, we spend more on imprisonment than higher education. It is outrageous.

The National Conference on Higher Education is Prison is held annually and this year it will take place in Pittsburgh, PA November 6-8 (an unfortunate date for many of us AHSE-goers, but there is no conflict next year!). The conference attracts educators, volunteers, activists, formerly incarcerated and felony disenfranchised individuals, and others interested in and committed to prison education. Last year’s conference was held at Danville Correctional Center in Danville, Illinois. Andra Slater, who was released late last year, presented a paper as part of a panel on critical approaches to education in prison titled, The Underestimation of Carceral Intellect: Problematizing the ‘Wow’ Factor Among Prison EducatorsAndra later published his paper as part of a larger multi-author manuscript examining the purposes of higher education in prison during mass incarceration. You can read the manuscript here: encourage all people to watch Andra discuss the seemingly innocent element of surprise at the intellectual capabilities of individuals who are incarcerated, particularly those who find it challenging to believe that ENYC’s debate team beat Harvard’s.

Providing access to high quality postsecondary education for incarcerated students through the reinstatement of Pell grant eligibility is one important element of much-needed criminal justice reform. The Second Chance Pell initiative is welcomed within a larger context that Marie Gottschalk makes so clear: individuals can’t be given a second chance if they were never afforded a first. The DOE’s initiative can partially help to bridge this gap and so too can institutions of higher education. All of us have a responsibility to ensure that incarcerated individuals have access to high quality postsecondary educational opportunities during and after incarceration. For those of us involved in higher education, we can do this by supporting already established efforts, learning more about the extensive history of prison education, beginning conversations on our respective campuses, and listening to and learning from students like Andra. We can only be surprised if we are not seeing incarcerated people as potential postsecondary students and degree completers. As David Register, Director of Debate for the Bard Prison Initiative, describes: “It is critically important to remember that our debaters are students first and debaters second – and prisoners a distant third.”

Let’s work to ensure that incarcerated individuals are given the opportunity to become college students.

Friday, August 21, 2015

A Look Back at Federal Support for the For-Profit Sector

by Nidia Banuelos, Doctoral Candidate at University of Chicago, Dept. of Sociology

The “Corinthian 100’s” recent debt strike has brought much-needed attention to the level of support for-profit colleges and universities (FPCUs) receive from the Federal Government.  Although they enrolled only 9 percent of all degree-seeking students, FPCUs received 25 percent of all Department of Education student aid funds in 2009-10.  That’s about $32 billion (U.S. Senate, 2012).  This kind of unqualified support makes it easy to forget that, not long ago, students were barred from using most kinds of federal aid at FPCUs.  What changed?  Why does our current system make it easy for some schools to profit from federal money?  It’s worth turning, for a moment, to history for some insight. 

Often called “proprietary” schools, FPCUs have been operating in the United States since the late-1800s.  Early proprietary schools were a far cry from Corinthian Colleges, Inc.  Into the 1960s, they had modest goals—most enrolled between 100 and 300 students at a single campus location and conferred certificates (not degrees) in business, secretarial skills, cosmetology, or electronics.  Yet, as early as 1922, there were documented cases of proprietary schools cutting costs by eliminating basic instructional necessities—like desks and textbooks (Marvin, 1922).  These practices became more common after the passage of the GI Bill in 1944, when soldiers used their federal aid at for-profit schools that cashed their checks and offered them little to nothing in return.  (The term “degree-mill” comes from this era.)  In response to these abuses, Congress created the accreditation system we still have in place today.  Nevertheless, this early experience of funding the for-profit sector was so harrowing that, even as college enrollment ballooned in the 1960s, Congress limited proprietary schools’ access to aid. 

In the 1970s, lawmakers faced unprecedented pressure to increase access to college for diverse groups of students while also keeping costs down for taxpayers.  Proprietary schools offered a solution: they promised to “democratize” higher education by giving students who had neither the time nor money to attend a traditional university the opportunity to learn skills that would help them make a living.  And because proprietary schools focused on occupational training alone, they would not waste taxpayers’ money on esoteric research projects, grandiose architecture, or theoretical instruction.  Compared to the free-loving, flag-burning hippies protesting the Vietnam War at elite institutions across the country, the hard-working, low-income students attending proprietary schools looked like saints.  This image—of the beleaguered for-profit student, unable to pay her tuition bills because the federal government refused to consider her school a viable “institution of higher education”—was a powerful tool and supporters of the for-profit sector employed it often.  Words like “discriminatory” and “minority group” were used to argue against the unfair practice of denying for-profit students access to grants and loans (Statement of Richard A. Fulton, 1970, p. 1034).  If a student wants to attend a proprietary school to learn a useful trade, who is the Federal Government to deny her the right to do so?   

Most importantly, education was not immune from the free market ideology that was so rampant in the 1970s.  Supporters of the for-profit sector (Congress included) believed that proprietary schools that were providing a subpar education would lose their students to higher quality competitors.  A representative of the National Association of Trade and Technical Schools put it this way:  “The cost of education in a proprietary school has an even greater safeguard by the fact that if their tuition rates are too high, there is a great tendency on the part of the students not to come to the institution” (Statement of Leo Kogan, 1970, p. 1784).  In other words, if the free market works as it should, for-profit schools will have an incentive to regulate themselves.  Students will notice if the education they’re getting is inadequate and will choose to attend a different school if they are unsatisfied.  Indeed, a little competition from the for-profit sector might even encourage non-profits to better serve the public. 

The Department of Education (then “Office of Education”) initially opposed this plan.  They worried that giving proprietary schools access to aid (and grants, especially) would encourage them to cut spending per student.  But curiously, the DOE was the proprietary sector’s most vocal opponent.  Even community colleges—proprietary schools’ closest competitors—testified before Congress in support of for-profit students (Statement of Joseph Cosand, 1971).    

So, in 1972, Congress passed legislation making proprietary schools “institutions of higher education” under federal law (Education Amendments of 1972, p. 260).  In doing so, it gave them access to nearly all forms of federal aid for which non-profits are eligible.  Congress hadn’t forgotten about the for-profit sector’s sordid past when it made this decision—it just had many reasons to be optimistic about the industry’s future.  It’s also important to remember that the for-profit sector was not nearly as notorious then as it is now.  The DOE simply did not know how big the proprietary sector was, how big it would get, or how well it was doing with the few federal programs to which it already had access.  In other words, Congress made this decision blind.

Finally, lawmakers grew more comfortable with expanding access to federal student aid because they believed accreditation would weed out predatory schools.  Then, as now, in order to receive access to federal student aid, colleges and universities had to be accredited by an independent, non-governmental agency approved by the Department of Education.  Again, the government created this system after WWII, when millions of federal dollars went to degree-mills that took advantage of tuition assistance for veterans.  Before 1970, regional accrediting agencies—those that also accredit respected non-profit institutions—refused to even consider proprietary schools for accreditation.  But, in the 1970s, the growing demand for diversity in higher education also forced their priorities to shift.  At this time the North Central Association (which, in addition to venerated institutions like University of Michigan, also accredits more FPCUs than any other regional agency) made it their mission to craft a “diverse educational system needed for our diverse peoples” (North Central Association, 1977, p. 8; Kinser, 2006).  In 1978, this new philosophy led them to accredit the University of Phoenix, which offered, “so far as our evaluators can determine, programs of a quality comparable with those of traditional institutions” (North Central Association, 1977, p. 15). 

All this goes to show that the for-profit sector benefited greatly from a general move toward democratizing higher education by supporting new kinds of schools.  For both Congress and regional accreditors, betting on these schools seemed a responsible, and perhaps even, patriotic thing to do.  Although the for-profit sector has changed in size and scope, the arguments used to support it remain remarkably unchanged.  FPCUs still describe their project as a democratizing one.  They still cast themselves as opposing the elitist educational establishment. (Consider, for example, DeVry University’s new advertising campaign, which claims that the school is “Different. On purpose.”)  These themes are compelling—not only to students, but to accreditors and lawmakers as well. 

Now that students are refusing to pay back the debt they incurred from attending Corinthian Colleges, Inc. the Department of Education will be financially responsible for the actions of predatory institutions.  As awareness of this issue increases, we may see the Federal Government getting more involved in oversight of the for-profit sector than ever before.  Debates will ensue, accusations will be made, and defenses will be mounted.  Through it all, we should carefully evaluate the validity of the arguments presented.  Are these new ideas or merely old ones repackaged?

Works Cited
Education Amendments of 1972, Pub. L. 92-318, codified as amended at 318 U.S.C. § 417B.

Kinser, K. (2006). From Main Street to Wall Street: The transformation of for-profit higher education (ASHE higher education report). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Marvin, C.H. (1922). Commercial education in secondary schools. New York, NY: H. Holt and company.

North Central Association. 1977. Emerging Issues in Postsecondary Education: Standards and Accreditation. Box 12. Records relating to the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools/Higher Learning Commission.  Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Archives. 5 September 2014. 

Statement of Leo Kogan: Hearings Before the Subcommittee on Education of the House of Representatives. 91st Cong. 2 (1970).

Statement of Joseph Cosand: Hearings Before the Subcommittee on Education of the House of Representatives. 92nd Cong. 1 (1971).    

Statement of Richard Fulton: Hearings Before the Subcommittee on Education of the U.S. Senate. 91st Cong. 2 (1970).

U.S. Senate. Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. (2012). For profit higher education: The failure to safeguard the federal investment and ensure student success. (S. Prt. 112-37, Volumes 1-4). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Academics as Transformational Community Leaders

by DeWitt Scott, Doctoral Candidate at Chicago State University

In this current era of increased accountability and scrutiny surrounding higher education, there has been a great deal of questioning of the usefulness of higher education, particularly the liberal arts.  Governor Scott Walker’s attack on higher education in Wisconsin, and an increased push by businesspeople and politicians for colleges and universities to display a return on investment, has placed increased pressure on academia to prove its value to society.  While some of these arguments are illogical, it is safe to say that academics have found themselves in a battle that more than likely will not subside anytime soon.

As academics (and, in my case, aspiring academics), we find ourselves in a very unique position in terms of ability and change that we can affect.  After years and years of studying pertinent issues and concepts, through rigorous research methods that require us to validate, substantiate, and triangulate our findings, we approach the brink of expertise in our respective fields.  We have become the philosophical authority on a number of topics.  It is standard in academia to use this hard earned knowledge and status to advance our agenda and employment status within the ivory tower.  The desire for tenure, job security, peer recognition, promotion, and increased income is unmistakable.  While there is no knock on these desires, it is evident that the seriousness of today’s times requires us as experts to use our professional expertise in useful ways outside of our towers.

Many of the issues we face today in education, the economy, leadership, race relations, etc., could benefit tremendously from tangible, grassroots assistance that we could provide.  For example, there are a number of K-12 school districts that struggle yearly with devising adequate and relevant curriculum for its students.  At the same time, there are numerous curriculum and instruction scholars at nearby schools of education who have studied and done work around this issue for years.  Imagine the benefit to a community if these university professors would open community Saturday schools for K-12 teachers and administrators who need insight and improvement on curriculum development.  The theory of university professors can meet the practice of K-12 teachers to help produce a more valuable educational experience students.

Another example is the unavoidable issues in recent months surrounding police and communities of color.  Sociologists who have covered related issues for decades can facilitate community projects that allow scholars to convene with citizens and explain actions that can be taken, if any, to avoid negative encounters with the police.  Putting the entire burden on the citizens certainly isn’t the answer, but I honestly feel academics would be more successful in reaching community residents than they would police.  We could explore the idea of political scientists advising politicians, business professors working with small business owners in their neighborhoods, African American Studies professors holding evening seminars in the Black community on issues relevant to African American life, leadership scholars conducting leadership training for community organizations.  The possibilities are endless.

Through these activities we can provide leadership in our communities that is transformational.  Defined as the process of encouraging constituents to achieve more than what is expected of them, transformational community leadership provided by academics can influence communities to address their most significant challenges in ways in which community members had not previously conceived (Northouse, 2013).  By being professors and higher education professionals who do not hesitate to step outside of the elite institutions in which they work, and lend their expertise in ways that are meaningful to the community, citizens can become inspired by this work.  Evening seminars on African American issues can not only provide adequate and sufficient ways of addressing issues but it may also stimulate thinking and inspiration in a child or young adult and possibly produce a future Ph.D. recipient.  Communities that were once filled with hopelessness can begin to look to their educated, established comrades for leadership that can inspire change that at one time was unimaginable.  Our knowledge, expertise, and commitment can be a precursor to transforming our communities in discernable ways.

Essentially, what I am advocating is for more academics to seek to be public intellectuals.  The 21st century connotation of that term usually implies an articulate scholar from a noted institution that is featured on the standard Sunday morning talk shows or who gives paid lectures to large audiences around the country.  We tend to equate public intellectual with someone who is famous.  Fame is not what I mean when I use this term.  A public intellectual who is a transformational community leader is someone who uses his/her proficiency in a given field to engage the public and improve the day-to-day lives of the people in the community.  These are scholars who are willing to give devote their energies and talent to those who may never enter the halls of academia.  From their work and thinking, these scholars can push the people in their communities to begin the path achieving more than they ever thought possible.

It is understood that this sort of work falls under the “service” category of academic institutional responsibility, and it is no secret that it is the least desired of the evaluated triad (publications, teaching, and service).  But I believe that we are living in a time where creative approaches are necessary to meet the challenges we as a nation face.  Academics are needed in our communities for leadership and direction.  This is especially true in communities of color where doctorate holders are few and far between.  In many Black and Brown communities, our scholars have become content with studying and writing about the problems rather than finding tangible ways to address these issues and affect change.  There are many scholars, of all colors, who have incomparable national recognition for their work but who are unknown to the people on the block of which they live.  The societal value of what we do as scholars can be amplified simply by using what we know and study to become visible leaders in our community.  By providing our expertise within the ivory tower and expert leadership in our neighboring communities, our value and worth as professionals will be indisputable.


Northouse, P. G.  (2013).  Leadership: Theory and practice.  Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage
            Publications, Inc.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Race, Terror, and Tenure - On Collective Outrage

by Antar Tichavakunda, PhD student, University of Southern California Pullias Center for Higher Education

There’s been a lot of talk, criticism, and collective outrage about the decision to weaken tenure and shared governance at University of Wisconsin at Madison. The anger is well founded.  Scholars from institutions across the nation and across disciplines expressed their opinions and often, harsh criticism of the decision. The widespread response is not a surprise; it affects the majority of scholars and higher education, as we know it. It’s in our nature to voice our opinions on events, decisions, and policies that impact us.

Around the same time, in early June, I went on a tweeting rampage after a Texas cop pointed a gun at unarmed black partygoers and brutalized a bikini-clad girl. Of course Twitter provides an avenue to voice opinions and gauge how other people feel about an event.  A day later, I checked around the #edchat hashtags and perused different academics’ Twitter profiles to see their thoughts. Surely education scholars would want to decry police brutality.  I was happy to see that some scholars took a stand. Others however, with little more than a retweet concerning the recent brutality, were passionately critiquing the UW-Madison decision to weaken tenure.

I say this not to imply that scholars were wrongheaded to inveigh against the UW-Madison decisions.  I also do not think scholars should be mandated to tweet or broadcast their thoughts about every issue. I say this to pose a question—what is worth our outrage? I tweeted about the lopsided amount of tweets of scholars who seemed more concerned about tenure than police brutality against black children.  Someone responded to my tweet saying, “You’ll find that most of us advocate for more than tenure, at least I do.” I did not offer a response before because I did not have one.  After the racist terror attack in Charleston, SC however, I have the words.

Ironically, my words were birthed in the silence of others. Although many people took a stance, many scholars, who focus on education related issues, did not state their opinion on the matter. Audrey Watters, an education writer with a focus on education technology, tweeted, “#BlackLivesMatter and the silence of ed-tech should remind us of how ed-tech speaks with corpses in its mouth.”  The silence concerning police brutality and the Charleston Massacre in the #edchat hashtag was deafening. There is something insincere about tweeting about the best methods of blended learning when police are filmed brutalizing black teenagers. Education research is important. The lives of black students however, are more important.  Discrimination, images of police brutality, racist killings, and extrajudicial murders of black people have physical and psychological impacts.

Many people outside of the academy are outraged. Stewart Butterfield, CEO of Slack, rightly critiqued a Wall Street Journal article that claimed that institutionalized racism did not exist. Butterfield does not have an academic background, but as a human, was compelled to respond.  Some are calling for philosophers to be more engaged in public life. I’m calling for some scholars to do some soul searching. Tenure affects higher education as a whole. What’s happening to Black lives right now—the police brutality, the terrorist attacks, and the biased media coverage—affects more than higher education. The physical and symbolic violence on black lives are attacks on humanity as a whole.

As Desmond Tutu said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” Scholars feel comfortable talking about and critiquing higher education policies because they all have a stake. You don’t need to have a focus on academic freedom to fight for it. In a like manner, you don’t need to have a focus in Black Studies to say Black Lives Matter. An egregious crime on humanity should elicit outrage—collective outrage. What good is our background in analytic thinking and research if it cannot be used to fight for humanity? Many scholars are outraged and have made it known.  If you cannot see how these attacks affect you, if you feel uncomfortable voicing your opinion, if you feel like this is out of your jurisdiction, then this blog is for you.  Your silence speaks volumes: "In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."

Bill Tierney, USC Pullias Center for Higher Education

I had lunch with a retired colleague today and we discussed a bunch of topics.  It’s been quite a week.  Millions of people get to keep their health insurance.  Millions of other people get to get married, or at least have it as a possibility.

As typical of older academics, I suppose, at some point our discussion turned to the diminishing numbers of tenured faculty and the changing conditions of academic work.  My friend wondered who younger faculty would have to speak with if the tenure ranks grow even thinner.

I mentioned that I knew what he was saying, but that throughout my academic life my graduate students always have been my closest colleagues.  I see them on a day to day basis; we’re all in the Pullias Center and we constantly bump into one another; I can go weeks, even months, not seeing a faculty member who is a good friend.

I’ve long said that I learn as much from my grad students as they do from me.  I also half-jokingly have said that I am a “full-service advisor.”  I don’t think advising is just about academic work, and over the years I’ve had an awful lot of conversations about an awful lot of non-academic topics in my office.  I hope I have been helpful.  I know I have learned a great deal.

However great a week it has been I have not been able to get the news about Charleston out of my head and heart.  I am not religious, at least in a church-going sense, but that he killed people in a church I found particularly unsettling, vicious, evil.

My conversation with Antar earlier this week, and then the blog he wrote, coupled with a similar conversation with my former advisee, (who is headed to UC-Riverside as a postdoc!)  Raquel Rall helped me think through what my responsibility is not to simply speak out on matters of education, but also on the tragedy that has occurred in Charleston.  We changed the Pullias Center’s website:

I don’t think I would have done that if I had not spoken with Antar and Raquel.  I know that what we do in the Center is aimed at equity, but the question I always ask myself is:  is it enough?  What more can I do?

Martin Luther King’s well-known statement that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice” is what came to mind this morning when I heard the Supreme Court finally ratified gay marriage.   Like most gay people of a certain age I could never have imagined it when I first realized I was gay as a teenager.  But King’s statement makes it seems that the movement toward justice is inevitable and accretionary, step by step.  Perhaps it is.  But murders such as those in Charleston make justice seem not inevitable at all – unless we hear what Antar is saying in his blog, and act.