Saturday, May 26, 2018

Amid anti-immigrant and racial clashes, ethnic studies programs blossom in public schools

Interestingly, despite anti-immigrant politics and policies and toxic racism that seems to be a daily affair these days, the amazing Ethnic Studies grassroots movement discussed by Jaweek Kaleem below is on how this call for inclusion is happening across the country.

The press on what's happening in Texas can be confusing but the gist of it is that while we here in Texas won the battle associated with the larger Ethnic Studies battle—such that we now have Latino Studies, African American Studies, Asian American and Pacific Islander Studies, and Native American Studies—we still did not get the "Mexican American Studies" course for which we, as a community of educators, elders, teachers, students, university faculty, and civil rights community, advocated. 

And now we have been put in the position of still having to struggle with the Texas State Board of Education in order to challenge the name that THEY gave US, namely, "Ethnic Studies: An Overview of Americans of Mexican Descent."  Many of us have expressed just how paternalistic and repulsive this name is—with echoes that go back to McCarthyism and subtractive cultural assimilation to which my parents were subjected in the public schools throughout the 1940s, 50s, and early-to-mid-60s.

The sought-after curricular and pedagogical approach centers children in their own experiences and thusly, their own possibilities in order to help them live more meaningful and fulfilling lives.  This not only helps our children to feel a part of the grand American narrative, but as mentioned in the article below, encourages prejudice reduction and openness to other cultures for all children exposed to this curriculum.

Just like every single individual deserves to get called their name, we, too, as a Mexican American Studies constituency, similarly warrant and demand as much.

Angela Valenzuela

Amid anti-immigrant and racial clashes, ethnic studies programs blossom in public schools

As public debates swirl around "Dreamers," President Trump's border wall and Black Lives Matter, the study of race and ethnicity is booming in public schools.
Nationwide, states and school systems are refining, expanding or adopting courses that explore history, literature and politics through the eyes of people who aren't white. The programs, which until recently were banned in Arizona and derided as anti-American, are thriving in unexpected places. Some districts are making ethnic studies compulsory — for whites as well as minorities.

"In our current political context, especially with the president, there has been a huge gain in the critical study of race and ethnicity, and the desire for students to see themselves reflected in what they are learning," said Julia Jordan-Zachery, a professor at Providence College in Rhode Island and president of the National Assn. for Ethnic Studies. "The interest predates Trump, but it's only growing now. It's a way of flipping the script on what teaching is traditionally supposed to be."
It's a profound shift from just seven years ago, when the closing of a Mexican American studies program in Tucson caused national uproar.

Last May, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb — who took over the job from Vice President Mike Pence — signed a law requiring every high school to offer an ethnic or racial studies elective each year. The move came after years of failed attempts to get similar laws on the books. What changed? Republicans teamed up with Democrats and called for classes to be electives instead of requirements. Students need the "opportunity to take a class that relates to their experiences and heritage," bill co-sponsor state Rep. Robert Behning, a Republican, said at the time.

Indiana leaders of the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People launched an aggressive lobbying effort, spurred in part by police shootings of unarmed black Americans.

In June, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed a bill requiring ethnic studies for all public school students between kindergarten and 12th grade. As in Indiana, racial minority groups — emboldened in part by a number of hate crimes in one of the country's whitest states — were behind the change.

The law compels Oregon educators to look at where they fail "to recognize the histories, contributions and perspectives of ethnic minorities and social minorities." It includes women, disabled people, refugees, immigrants and LGBTQ people among "social minorities."

Also last June, the Seattle school board said it would weave ethnic studies into its schools' curriculums after coming underNAACP pressure.

While previous campaigns to establish ethnic studies programs around the U.S. targeted minority groups, the Seattle NAACP made a different case, asserting on its website, "Ethnic studies courses benefit white students, who disproportionately have the privilege to be unaware of the realities of racism." The argument was similar in the mostly black and Latino city of Bridgeport, Conn., where last October school administrators decided to require students to take a half-year class on African American studies, Caribbean/Latin American studies or a course on race to graduate.
"Even in places where it hasn't fully blossomed, there are steps being taken to incorporate ethnic studies," Jordan-Zachery said. That includes Kansas and Texas, where legislators are pushing measures that would institute Mexican American studies classes and those on other ethnic groups.
"For much of the history of education in the U.S., we have been deleted and erased in textbooks," said Georgina C. Perez, a Latina Democrat on the Texas state Board of Education. Through ethnic studies, she said, "we're reclaiming our history."
States and cities are following California, where education officials are standardizing what's taught in ethnic studies classes after highly touted programs in San Francisco, San Diego and Los Angeles.
Ethnic studies grew out of the civil rights and anti-colonial movements of the 1960s. San Francisco State University was a pioneer, with its College of Ethnic Studies that launched in 1968. UC Berkeley opened an ethnic studies department a year later. In 1994, Berkeley High School became one of the first public high schools in the nation to offer ethnic studies.
A key for many programs is their reading lists. At Barack and Michelle Obama Elementary School in St. Paul, Minn., kids in an African American studies class read "Desmond and the Very Mean Word," a story based of the childhood of future Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu in apartheid South Africa.
At John O'Connell High School in San Francisco, ninth-grade ethnic studies students look at how news and entertainment media portray minorities, and they read from the autobiography of black nationalist Assata Shakur and the Eddie Huang memoir on his experience as an Asian American,"Fresh off the Boat."
In Sarah Rodriguez's ethnic studies class at Santa Monica High School, a recent lesson revolved around students discussing activism against gentrification in Boyle Heights, where art galleries and coffee shops have attracted white and more well-off newcomers in the traditionally Mexican American, working-class neighborhood.
Activists celebrated last year after an arts nonprofit called PSSST shut down amid criticism that it was helping to displace locals.
Rodriguez told the 17 students — a mix of sophomores, juniors and seniors — to discuss a Boyle Heights blog that suggested gentrification counted as a form of racist state violence.
She asked students if they agreed that the transformation of a neighborhood, often fueled by government policies that cater to business interests, could be described that way. Some said yes. Some said the answer wasn't so simple, especially after they watched a documentary about a Latina artist who praised the arrival of galleries and said the neighborhood was now safer than when she grew up there.
"The class really challenges you to think about your identity yourself," said Diana Hernandez, a Mexican American sophomore enrolled. "It helps us make more sense of what we're learning throughout the school day."
Nationally, supporters of ethnic studies say they lead to better grades and graduation rates. They frequently cite a 2016 Stanford University study assessing the San Francisco Unified School District's ethnic studies program when it was a pilot between 2010 and 2014. The study found that students who took ethnic studies courses, including many who came from lower-income families, performed better overall than other students.

Ethnic studies students' attendance rates were 21 percentage points higher, they earned more points toward graduation, and their grade-point averages rose by 1.4 points. Students made the biggest gains in science and math, and boys and Latino students made the greatest improvements.
Jr Arimboanga, an ethnic studies teacher at John O'Connell High, one of the schools in the San Francisco study, said confidence and study skills have increased among students who have taken the classes.
"When you look at traditional world history that many of our students take, the textbook is the dominant narrative," Arimboanga said. "It focuses on a Eurocentric experience. People of color are mentioned in negative or simplified ways. The African American experience only starts with slavery and forgets the previous rich history in Africa. Latinos and Mexican American students often have a paragraph around the Mexican-American War, but don't read about the native experience of Latinx peoples before colonialism."
His syllabus includes a screening of "Precious Knowledge," a PBS documentary about the fight for Mexican American studies in Tucson. The Arizona school district shut down the program in 2012 after state officials threatened to withhold more than $14 million for violating a newly passed law banning courses tailored for a particular ethnic group or that were deemed to fuel anti-American sentiment.
Then-Arizona Supt. of Education John Huppenthal said a Tucson class he observed — where a Che Guevara image hung on a wall and he said a lecture described Benjamin Franklin as racist — seemed anti-white. Kids "understood the framework that was being laid out — that Hispanics are the oppressed and Caucasians are the oppressors. That's very troubling," he told the Los Angeles Times at the time.
In response, the district introduced a program for "culturally relevant" teaching that didn't run afoul of the law but still allowed classes on government and history with Mexican American and African American perspectives.
In August, a federal judge in Phoenix declared the ban on ethnic studies unconstitutional, saying it violated Latino students' 1st Amendment "right to receive information and ideas." In December the same judge banned Arizona from enforcing the law, and cited Huppenthal's crusade against the courses.
Ethnic studies supporters hailed the decision, hoping it would spur the growth of such programs across the U.S.
But in Arizona, the subject remains touchy. State education officials said they want to preserve elements of the ban. Trustees of the Tucson Unified School District, although given the green light by the federal judge, held off on resuming Mexican American studies courses last month.
"While it's growing in California and elsewhere, it's still a controversial issue here," said school board member Kristel Foster, who sponsored the proposal to once again allow Mexican American studies. "Every election here people still ask about Mexican American studies. The ban is gone, and things have moved in many places nationally, but it's still having an effect here."​
Jaweed Kaleem is The Times' national race and justice correspondent. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Texas Becomes the Second State in the US to Implement Mexican American Studies by Christine Bolaños, REMEZCLA

Do pay attention to press conferences on the name change happening statewide next Friday.  
This piece by Christine Bolaños provides a good overview of the issue.  
Thanks to Sandra Telles Rojas for sharing!
Angela Valenzuela

By  | 1 month ago
Texas just became the second state to implement a Mexican-American studies course, following in the footsteps of Arizona, which created a similar in the 1990s (though it 
was banned for a few years). Today, the Texas State Board of Education gave final 
approval for a standard high school elective course for Mexican-American studies. Advocates, who have pushed for an official course since 2013, described the motion 
as a “historic decision” that could set a precedent for other ethnic courses in the future.
The state is modeling the course after an innovative class taught at the Houston school 
district called Mexican-American studies (MAS). The course meets Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills standards.
Today, supporters celebrate the approval of the course, but they vowed to continue 
fighting. On Wednesday, Board member David Bradley – a Republican representing 
Southeast Texas – proposed changing the name to “Ethnic Studies: An Overview of Americans of Mexican Descent.” He argued that “hyphenated Americanism” could lead 
to divisiveness.
Despite pleas from all Democratic Latinos sitting on the board to leave “Mexican-
American” in the title, a majority of the board approved the name change on 
Wednesday. On Friday, board member Ruben Cortez of Brownsville, urged the board 
to leave the name as is before giving the course final approval. “A lot of people are just deeply offended that the board has gone in this direction,” Cortez said. Board member 
Marty Rowley said the board would consider public reactions at upcoming meetings.
“It’s not just the title of a course, it’s the title of an identity,” said board member Erika 
Beltran of Fort Worth. “Our responsibility as members of this body is to acknowledge 
people’s differences and honor that and respect that, and that includes naming a course 
like this, it’s original name.”
Ultimately, a majority of the board voted to go with the course’s name change. After 
the vote, visibly emotional board member Marisa B. Perez-Diaz of Converse, shared a 
Mexican proverb followed with a passionate disapproval of the board’s decision. 
“Today what happened was my colleagues around this boardroom identified me. My 
identity is my own and I am to define myself. That did not happen today,” she said, 
adding that her tears were a sign of anger not of weakness. “We identified thousands of students across Texas today and took that power from them.”
Despite the setback, advocates view the decision as a historic win. Today’s vote is in 
direct contrast to 2014 when the board rejected a MAS course. It also hasn’t adopted a 
MAS textbook but has considered and rejected two different textbooks in the past, after 
one was considered racist, and the other not comprehensive enough.
Juan Tejeda of the Somos Mas campaign said plans are underway to contest the course 
name change during the public comments portion of the June SBOE meeting. The fight 
will also continue through the press and social media, he said. “The name change 
diminishes the field of study, diminishes us as a people and our history and 
contributions to the state, and it’s not (fully) accurate,” Tejeda said.
Angela Valenzuela, who serves as director for the Texas Center for Education Policy 
at  the University of Texas at Austin’s College of Education, called the decision 
paternalistic” and said it robbed Mexican-Americans of any true sense of 
Marcial Guajardo, an Austin area resident who works in the communications field, 
wrote a letter to the board defending the MAS course title. Part of his argument focused 
on how reputable sources, such as the AP Stylebook and several dictionaries, recognize 
the term Mexican-American. “Bradley,” said the self-described history buff, “either by ignorance or on purpose, is trying to strip us of our ethnicity by eliminating it from the 

 MASmexican-american studiestexasFriday, April 13, 2018 at 4:45 PM EDT

Time for a New Civil Rights Movement by Dr. Gary Orfield

MAY 24 2018

Time for a New Civil Rights Movement


Fifty years ago, a presidential commission warned that the country was coming apart, predicting that it could become two separate and profoundly unequal societies. However, the Kerner Commission’s powerful report had little impact. Its warning came as Republicans made a historic decision to embrace the Southern segregationists and create a new national coalition based on fear of social change. They won, and 1968 was a turning point.
President Richard Nixon was sworn in on a law-and-order platform, exploiting fear of Black violence, and quickly turned the Supreme Court around with four appointments. No Democratic president would name a justice for almost a quarter-century. The court that had helped spark the Southern civil rights revolution soon became the place where civil rights were interpreted away.
The War on Poverty and other policies in the 1960s to make education, health care, and housing accessible and affordable to lower income families and people of color were dismantled by conservatives. Efforts to expand desegregation from the South to the North and West became critically limited in 1974 by a changed Supreme Court. Reagan ended a proven program supporting successful interracial schools and asked the courts to end other desegregation plans.
A half-century ago, it was already obvious to civil rights groups and the courts that simply forbidding discrimination could not change deeply rooted social practices. A conscious plan to improve opportunities and measure the results was needed. In school desegregation court orders, this meant actually assigning both students and teachers to populate and sustain substantially integrated schools—a policy that produced decades of progress. Plans for military integration, carried out very seriously after severe racial problems in the Vietnam War, were among the most comprehensive and successful. Affirmative action practices improved opportunities for people of color in education and in business, and Title IX opened doors for women.
The conservative movement fostered a belief that social policy efforts to change race relations were unnecessary and unfair, and reinforced stereotypes blaming minority communities for their own problems. In the 1970s and 1980s, a huge wave of tax cutting at the state and federal levels greatly reduced money for social supports. Aid to colleges was slashed and costs transferred to students and their families.
The American myth is that there were severe racial problems before the 1960s but the great civil rights laws solved them. In truth, while there was historic progress in dismantling the official segregation of the South, profound racial separation and inequality continued in the great cities that were transformed by the Black exodus from the South and, later, by the even larger Latino migration. Both groups faced severe discrimination and segregation. Warnings from Martin Luther King before his assassination and from the authors of the Kerner report about the steps needed to create equal opportunities for urban Blacks were ignored. A large drop in the White birth rate and a huge non-White immigration changed society, even as the tools of civil rights reform were abandoned.
This blog is part of the series, Education and the Path to Equity, examining issues of education and equity. More from the series >
Over the past four decades, we have seen steady conservative pressure to dismantle civil rights in spite of evidence that those policies open doors to opportunity and help build bridges across racial difference. Opponents argue that race-conscious plans are unnecessary or illegal because systemic racial unfairness no longer exists and that the appropriate policy for fighting segregation is to put pressure on institutions and individuals of color to change. Since 1991, the federal courts have dismantled systemic integration policies. Nine states have prohibited affirmative action. Compensatory social and educational policies have also been cut. As inequality deepens because of these policies, the idea that we are a colorblind society in the time of Trump and Black Lives Matter is absurd.
Because there has not been a presidential commission, a major new Supreme Court decision, or a major law expanding racial integration in generations, there has been almost no coherent response to the radical transformation of the nation’s population. We have failed to address the educational needs of the changed society and great financial need among the nation’s young.
Now we have two very large and seriously excluded groups, most living in families too poor to pay for school lunches, in a society with a massive increase in economic inequality. Now we live with a level of incarceration among minorities that is hugely disproportionate and destructive. The ambitious housing, education, urban policy, and antipoverty efforts of the 1960s have been long since abandoned. We are now dealing with head-on attacks on what remains of civil rights policy under a president who rose to power on racial demagoguery.
 We are now, in key ways, in the worst situation for racial justice in more than a half-century.
We are now, in key ways, in the worst situation for racial justice in more than a half-century. Almost all the school integration progress of the past half-century has been lost, and the gaps in college access have actually increased. Our president has reinforced racial fears and stereotypes, and we see many state legislatures undermining voting rights, school integration, and college affirmative action. The Trump administration is gutting civil rights agencies and suspending policies intended to protect equality, including those addressing housing and education. The administration has fostered hatred of immigrants and devastated Latino communities and schools with deportation raids.
The cohesion of our society is at risk. Much was accomplished by the civil rights revolution and we have good evidence about policies that would advance equal opportunity. Much more explicit and sustained efforts are needed. Serious work in the 1960s created a powerful agenda for that time. We need a new agenda now for a much more complex society, more segregated and unequal in some critical ways, and a new vision of integration in a century where we will all soon be minorities and have to depend on each other.

Gary Orfield is a Distinguished Research Professor of Education, Law, Political Science and Urban Planning and Co-Director of The Civil Rights Project at UCLA.