The Best of GRIID 2017: Exposing systems of power and reporting on movements of resistance

Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

It is always difficult to try to limit the amount of stories you want to highlight in an end of the year summary of local news.

There have certainly been numerous stories that have developed in the past year, but in many ways these stories are symptomatic of larger, more systemic problems that certain sectors of the West Michigan community has to deal with all the time.

While we can acknowledge that there is maybe a new awareness around deeply entrenched issues like White Supremacy with the Trump administration, these issues are not new.

One thing we try to do here at GRIID, is to expose the systems of power and oppression in West Michigan, while at the same time shed light on the grassroots resistance and social movements that are opposing these systems. So here are some of the main stories/issues we have written about in 2017.



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EXTRA: A Teacher’s Summary of What Proficiency Might Mean


Here, in The Insufficiency of Proficiency, Oklahoma teacher, Rob Miller speculates on what proficiency might mean. His essay specifically explores any of a number of kinds of complex (or simple) understanding that we might be aiming for—but really cannot measure—when we test “reading proficiency.”

His post is far deeper, however—about the meaning for all of us of more than 15 years of nationally mandated standardized testing. This is a fascinating essay about making educational policy based on a reductive theory of human learning.

Miller begins with a seasonal theme:

Twas the week before Christmas, when all thro’ the state
All the children were stirring, eager to learn their fate;
Their test scores from April would soon be delivered,
I hope I’m proficient the children all quivered;
The wait’s been soooo long…my hands are all sweaty
I need to know now … am I college and career ready?


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Betsy DeVos Watch: More student protests and hypocritical commencement speeches

Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

What has come to be commonplace when Betsy DeVos visits a campus or speaks publicly across the country, she is greeted by people who protest her policies and her presence. 

Earlier in the week, DeVos gave the commencement address at the University of Baltimore. As has happened at other campuses where DeVos was scheduled to speak, students and faculty attempted to get the administration to cancel the Secretary of Education’s talk.

Before the graduation ceremony people gathered outside of the auditorium to protest the decision of the university to have DeVos as the commencement speaker, as you can see in some of these photos above.

During the commencement speech by DeVos, about 50 students that were graduating turned their back on DeVos, while others booed during her comments as can be seen in the photo below.

In addition, to the protests that confronted DeVos during her speech, it is…

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DeVos supported Michigan Freedom Fund says anti-gerrymandering group is hyper-partisan

Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

A few days ago, the group Voters Not Politicians delivered 425,000 signatures to Lansing, hoping to get a 2018 ballot initiative that would put an end to gerrymandering of political districts. One organization that is opposing this effort is the Michigan Freedom Fund.

The Michigan Freedom Fund was the creation of Greg McNeilly, a DeVos political operative who also serves as the spokesperson for Dick & Betsy DeVos entity know as the Windquest Group. The Michigan Freedom Fund was created by the DeVos operative McNeilly right around the time that Michigan Governor Rick Snyder was deciding to make Michigan a Right to Work state. It is no coincidence that the Michigan Freedom Fund and Right to Work were happening at the same time. The Michigan Freedom Fund is essentially designed to promote and lobby to neoliberal economic reforms and attack working class efforts and labor unions, which becomes clear when…

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CEO of group that promotes the business class, says that NAFTA did not eliminate jobs in Michigan

Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

Last Thursday, the Right Place Inc hosted its annual economic forecast event in downtown Grand Rapids.

The function of the Right Place Inc. is to promote the business class in West Michigan and recruit new companies to operate in the area. Their board of directors is made up of people who are part of the West MI power structure, like John Kennedy (AutoCam Corp), David Van Andel (Van Andel Institute), Mike VanGessel (Rockford Construction), Hank Meijer (Meijer Inc.) and Blake Krueger (Wolverine Worldwide). 

During the Right Place Inc event last week, their CEO Birgit Klohs made the following comment about the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA):

“It was not a job killer for Michigan. In fact, in West Michigan alone, almost 50,000 jobs depend on exports and many of those are going to Canada.”

According to an article posted on MLive last Friday, Klohs also had this to say…

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Community Responses to the GRPD violence against Honestie Hodges and the limits of reform politics

Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

It has more than a week since the news that several Grand Rapids police officers handcuffed at gun point and 11 year old black girl while looking for a suspect.

Initially, Police Chief Rahinsky and other members of the Grand Rapids City Commission responded with concerns about how this 11 year old black girl was treated, with Rahnisky even saying he felt “nauseated” after watching the body cam footage. Our post last week made the point that the city and the police department would not make any fundamental changes because this is how policing is designed, especially when interacting with communities of color and poor working class white people. 

Since then, the Grand Rapids Police Union has made it clear that they felt the officers responsible for handcuffing Honestie Hodges at gunpoint followed standard protocol. 

According to MLive, on Friday, At the press conference, Rahinsky said he thought there…

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As Vouchers Expand, Researcher Explores Textbooks Being Used in Unregulated Voucher Schools

Just as Ohio considers expanding its tuition voucher program, an in-depth report complied by Rebecca Klein appeared this week in the Huffington Post. Klein cautions about the curricula being used in many voucher supported, religious schools across the country. While the majority of Ohio students carry their tuition vouchers primarily to Catholic and Lutheran parochial schools and Jewish Day Schools, Klein’s in-depth report this week surveys the curricula adopted in private evangelical Christian schools nationwide where students are paying tuition with public tax dollars.

Here is how Klein conducted her investigation: “Several months ago, HuffPost set out to create a database of every private school in the country that receives taxpayer funding. We also tracked the religious affiliation of each school and looked at how many taught from… evangelical Christian textbooks… Our analysis found that about 75 percent of voucher schools across the country are religious—usually Christian or Catholic, with about 2 percent identifying as Jewish and 1 percent identifying as Muslim… Since a plurality of schools in these programs (42 percent) are non-Catholic Christian schools, we dove deeply into researching the curriculum of those schools. We searched their websites for information on curriculum sources and sent out emails to school leaders if they did not make their academic plan public. We did not assess Catholic schools, which made up 29 percent of Christian schools, since there is already a large body of research on the outcomes of students who go to these schools. Evangelical Christian schools are newer—many popped up only a few decades ago—and remain less scrutinized. Indeed, we found many of the non-Catholic Christian schools (32 percent) were using Abeka, Bob Jones or ACE textbooks in at least one subject or grade.”


In Ohio, State Rep. Kyle Koehler’s bill to expand school vouchers may soon move to a vote of the state’s House of Representatives.  Koehler’s proposed legislation would consolidate three of Ohio’s school voucher plans into one bigger program and at the same time increase the number of students who are eligible

Here is Patrick O’Donnell of the Plain Dealer: “A plan to expand Ohio’s private school tuition voucher program to more middle class families could soon go to vote in the Ohio House, despite stalling out in the Senate earlier this year. House Bill 200, just like the earlier proposal in the Senate from State. Sen. Matt Huffman, would combine the three voucher programs Ohio has now—one with strict income requirements, one for students in ‘failing’ schools and one for only Cleveland residents—into a single program.  The new ‘Opportunity Scholarships’ would give families a state subsidy toward private school…

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Class Action Lawsuit, Corporate Polluters and Erin Brockovich bring out hundreds to forum

Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

On Saturday, hundreds of people came to Comstock Park High School to hear environmental activist and consumer advocate Erin Brockovich.

The forum was hosted by three law firms, Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd, Miller Law and Weitz & Luxenberg. The forum was designed to present information on a class action lawsuit filed jointly by these three law firms, a lawsuit that was filed on December 1st. A Press Release by the three law firms states:

A national team of law firms today announced a new class action lawsuit against Wolverine WorldWide, 3M Corporation and Waste Management Inc. for dumping toxic waste and polluting groundwater in Belmont, Rockford and other areas in Kent County. This is the first environmental class action lawsuit filed against these companies, and it seeks immediate blood testing, monitoring, and damages for residents who have been harmed by the pollution.

The fact that all three corporations –…

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Koch nonprofit president’s anti-net neutrality campaign

After nearly a year of lobbying on both sides of the FCC’s proposed repeal of net neutrality protections, tech companies and internet service providers watched an FCC ruling Thursday to determine the fate of plans opposed by roughly eight out of 10 Americans, polling suggests.

Nearly 100 quarterly reports filed by those who lobbied the FCC this year cite the words “net neutrality” or “internet freedom.”..Read More

by Emma Leathley

Money and Net Neutrality

In February 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved new rules protecting net neutrality. As part of the ruling, the FCC prohibited internet service providers (ISPs) from blocking, slowing or speeding up web content or charging customers additional fees to access certain web services.

On Dec. 14, the FCC voted to repeal the rules safeguarding net neutrality, which telecommunications companies, such as AT&T, Comcast and Verizon, have long opposed…Read More