Thursday, March 30, 2017

2,000 terrified children skip school following an ICE raid in New Mexico

It's heart wrenching to see how these immigrant, Mexican children are being terrorized and traumatized in New Mexico such that according to a 2013 Health Impact Study,
“almost three-fourths of undocumented parents with children under the age of 18 reported that their children experienced symptoms of PTSD, including repetitive thoughts about stressful experiences, avoidance of certain activities, and hyper-alert behavior.”
 I just posted yesterday on a disturbing piece that just came out in The New Yorker titled, The Trauma of Facing Deportation in Sweden (March 29, 2017) where coinciding with families facing deportation orders, otherwise perfectly healthy children children enter suddenly into a comatose-like state that they can stay in for years.  They are described by physicians as suffering from "resignation syndrome" ("uppgivenhetssyndrom.") 
Why this type of emotional or psychological response?  The answer is in the question.  It is indeed a type that is culturally mediated and explains why at least to date it is only observed in this specific context in the world.
This doesn't necessarily mean that they suffer more than other children roughly similarly situated such as in this story about New Mexico—or for that matter, anywhere in the U.S., including Austin, Texas, where we are witnessing raids, but rather that they cope and suffer differently.  Not to pit forms of oppression against each other but rather to underscore the importance of culture and context.

Drawing a comparison to the Holocaust in The New Yorker, survivor Bruno Bettelheim observed that some concentration camp prisoners were
“so totally exhausted, both physically and emotionally, that they had given the environment total power over them.” They “stopped eating, sat mute and motionless in corners, and expired.”
As I write, I wonder about our immigrant fathers, mothers and children behind bars at this very moment in U.S. prisons—many of them detained for weeks and months.  This of course amounts to massive profits for the prison-industrial complex and a nightmare for those ensnared within it.  I was pleased to see that Sweden is changing its policies in this regard.  We in the U.S. still have a long way to go.

Angela Valenzuela
c/s

2,000 terrified children skip school following an ICE raid in New Mexico

Terrified immigrant parents kept thousands of children home from school following an ICE raid that targeted the New Mexico community of Las Cruces last month, resulting in a 60 percent spike in absences that the district’s superintendent called “alarming”:
On February 15th, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ice) officers conducted a raid in Las Cruces, arresting people at a trailer park on the outskirts of town. The raid came a few weeks after President Trump signed two executive orders, signalling his plans to fulfill a campaign promise of cracking down on undocumented immigrants. Rumors spread that there were further raids planned, though none took place. On February 16th, a Thursday, Las Cruces’s public schools saw a sixty-per-cent spike in absences compared to the previous week—twenty-one hundred of the district’s twenty-five thousand students missed school. Two thousand students stayed away again the next day. Attendance returned to normal the following week, which made the two-day rash of absences all the more pronounced. “It was alarming,” Greg Ewing, the district’s superintendent, told me. News of the raid caused such fear in the community that Ewing wrote a letter to parents on the 16th, in English and Spanish, reassuring them that “we do not anticipate any ice activity occurring on school campuses.”
At the city’s high schools—Arrowhead Park Early College High is nearly entirely Latino, according to the New Yorker—absentee rates went up by 25 percent following the raid and subsequent rumors. But at the city’s elementary and middle schools, where younger students are more likely to be dropped off by an undocumented immigrant parent or relative, the numbers skyrocketed.
“In the two days after the raids, absences at elementary schools rose by almost a hundred and fifty per cent.”
ICE issued a 2011 “policy memo to field officers outlining a list of so-called ‘sensitive locations’—including schools, churches, and hospitals—where they should refrain from searching, interrogating, or arresting individuals ‘for the purpose of immigration enforcement,’” but advocates don’t trust Trump regime officials to uphold Obama-era instructions.
What is assured here is that we are traumatizing a generation of children. According to a 2013 Health Impact Study, “almost three-fourths of undocumented parents with children under the age of 18 reported that their children experienced symptoms of PTSD, including repetitive thoughts about stressful experiences, avoidance of certain activities, and hyper-alert behavior.”

“Nearly 30 percent of undocumented parents reported that their children were afraid all or most of the time.”

Another study found that children who have had one parent who has been deported “may also suffer from poverty, diminished access to food and health care, mental health and behavioral problems and limited educational opportunities.” An estimated 5 million U.S. citizen children in this nation have at least one undocumented parent.
As raids continue to terrorize immigrant communities across the nation, expect these kinds of tragedies to become more and more common. Donald Trump keeps pledging that America will return to winning again, but it’s really our kids who are losing here.

An American Reichstag Fire? by Peter Schrag


As unpleasant as it feels and sounds, one can't help but wonder what our country's "Reichstag Fire” might be.  Check out this brief but important history in Germany for what became Hitler's pretext to his seizure of consummate power.  And note what author Peter Schrag observes:

“Trump's security policies,” he said,  “are creating greater insecurity and likelihood of terrorist attack, which in turn strengthens his hold on power. It's a vicious circle, similar to how Eastern European autocrats have used the refugee crisis to strengthen their hands.”

If and when a contrived or convenient "threat to security" happens that justifies a meteoric rise to power by Donald Trump and his followers based on a manufactured crisis of peril and doom, we must all be astute enough to catch this in the moment and protest.  

I agree with Schrag that though ironic, Angela Merkel and Germany at this moment are indeed "the most hopeful and stable outposts of Western democracy."  

If we are to preserve our democracy, my friends, we must learn from this history about Nazi Germany and remain ever vigilant of such machinations even as we preserve and continue to extend individual, civil, and human rights. 

Thanks to my dedicated blog readers from Germany, by the way, for keeping hope alive!  We are all in this together!

Peace,

Angela Valenzuela

c/s

 An American Reichstag Fire?

AP Photo
The tribunes of Berlin's Reichstag, the German parliament, lie in ruins February 28, 1933, one day after a fire destroyed the building.
Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens blame him and the court system. 
                                  —Donald Trump, tweet, February 5

On the night of February 27, 1933, less than a month after Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany, fire gutted the central chamber of the Reichstag in Berlin, the nation’s parliament building. To this day, historians are still debating whether it was the work of a lone arsonist, the Dutch communist Marinus van der Lubbe, who was caught at the scene and soon confessed, or as journalist William L. Shirer later asserted in his classic Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, that there was “enough evidence to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that it was the Nazis who planned the arson and carried it out for their own political ends.”

But of one thing there was no doubt.

Within hours of the fire, hundreds of people were arrested and put in “protective custody” or sent to concentration camps, and the next morning (in the words of the Cambridge University historian Richard Evans), “the cabinet, which still had a non-Nazi majority, met to draw up an emergency decree that abrogated civil liberties across Germany. Signed by President Hindenburg the same day, it abolished freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and association, and freedom of the press, suspended the autonomy of federated states, such as Baden and Bavaria, and legalized phone-tapping, the interception of correspondence, and other intrusions.”

The decree was the first of two major measures that eliminated all institutional checks and gave Hitler absolute dictatorial powers. The second, passed a month later by the Reichstag, gave Hitler plenary power—the power to enact laws without any action by the parliament whatever. Quoting Evans again,
The Nazis used them to bludgeon their opponents into submission and their allies into compliance. By the summer of 1933 all opposition had been crushed, more than a hundred thousand Communists, Social Democrats, and other opponents of the Nazis had been sent to concentration camps, all independent political parties had been forced to dissolve themselves, and the Nazi dictatorship had been firmly established.

Could it happen here, as the historian Robert S. McElvaine of Millsaps College recently warned in the Huffington Post?  

The odds are that it could not—not in the same way and certainly not to the same extent, despite Donald Trump’s megalomaniacal rhetoric and the radicals in his entourage. Trump has no global agenda, clings fanatically to no ideology, has no Weltanschauung, as Hitler had; his highest priority appears to be himself.

Nor is America in 2017 like Germany in 1933. The two cultures are vastly different and the technology that enabled Trump to gain political power is just as accessible to his opposition. It’s also likely, judging by his appellate court opinions, that Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s nominee to fill Antonin Scalia’s seat on the Supreme Court, will, despite his conservative leanings on issues like abortion, be faithful to the Constitution’s protections of the press and free speech; he will not eviscerate them. 
Moreover, in the view of CUNY historian Benjamin Hett, whose 2014 book Burning the Reichstag: An Investigation Into The Third Reich’s Enduring Mystery makes a strong case that the fire was a Nazi plot,

The media environment of today [he wrote me in an email]—with 24-hour cable news, the internet, Twitter, Facebook, etc., etc.—is so much more intrusive than in 1933 (and the federal government is so full of people who would be happy to leak incriminating information, not least in the intelligence services) that the Trump administration would have no chance of getting away with a deliberate terrorist attack as a pretext for a coup d’état. … The other important difference is that Trump is dramatically less popular than Hitler was in 1933 and there is significantly more pushback from the population to the things he is trying to do. Not that I wouldn’t put it past Trump and [Stephen] Bannon to be thinking about this kind of thing.

But as a refugee from Hitler (Class of ’41), I’m too much aware of the extent to which the Nazis were underestimated as low-class clowns and thugs until it was too late. Similarly, in the past election, the media, the pollsters, the Democrats and millions of other Americans, and not just the left, also underestimated Trump. In that context, I’m reminded of Hannah Arendt’s post-war observation that “in 1933, indifference was no longer possible. It was no longer possible even before that.”

Again there are troubling signs: the willingness of the Republican leadership in Congress to excuse or disregard Trump’s arrogant contempt for conflict of interest law and ethical standards and, worse, its spineless refusal to call for an independent investigation of the links between Trump and his people with the Kremlin; the administration’s draft memo on activation of “members of the state National Guard … in the apprehension, investigation and detention of aliens in the United States;” Trump’s call for “extreme vetting” of Muslim immigrants and the ill-disguised vilification of all Muslims as terrorists; the attacks on Mexican immigrants as criminals and rapists; the vastly broadened deportation criteria allowing the removal of virtually any undocumented immigrant, excepting only the “Dreamers” who were brought here as young children; the “America First” mantra, a favorite of isolationists, anti-Semites, and Nazi sympathizers in the years before Pearl Harbor; the invocation of “alternative facts” and other lapses into Orwellian Newspeak by Kellyanne Conway and the president’s other Trumpets; Trump’s attacks on the courts and “so-called” judges and on the media as the “enemy of the people.”

‘‘When you look at history,” warned John McCain, hardly a left-wing radical, “the first thing dictators do is shut down the press.” But maybe none of those things are as troubling or as apposite to Hitler’s Germany as the racism of some of the people around Trump and the instability, egomania, and psychological insecurity of Trump himself.

We’ve had periods of repression in the past, some supported by large segments of the population: the great Red Scare, accompanied by the Palmer Raids, the trial and execution of the anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti, and the rise of the second KKK, which at one time had between three and six million members, in the years immediately following the first World War; the McCarthyite witch hunts and the blacklists of the 1950s and 1960s; the enactment of the Patriot Act with its vastly broadened powers for government wire-tappers and other official snoopery after the September 11 attacks; the unconstitutional detention and internment of Japanese-Americans in the years immediately following Pearl Harbor. In the days after Trump’s election, one of his backers even cited the Korematsu decision upholding the interment, one of the most repugnant Supreme Court rulings in American history, as a possible legal precedent for registering all Muslims.

Even the extremists around Trump can’t organize anything like the Reichstag fire. But a shrewd terrorist group could well bomb some sensitive place in the United States—an attack on one or two of his hotels or golf clubs would probably drive Trump even beyond the fragile restraints of his already belligerently egocentric personality—and thereby provoke the larger war that extremists on both sides could well be itching for. Such a war—starting, say, with a retaliatory U.S. aerial attack on Tehran, or possibly a U.S. sanctioned Israeli attack on an Iranian facility—would quickly divert public attention from any of the administration’s scandals and open the doors to unprecedented repression of civil liberties. Could anyone count on Paul Ryan or Mitch McConnell or Jason Chaffetz to stand up to that? 

Eric Larson, author of the highly regarded In the Garden of Beasts, about Berlin in the first years of the Hitler regime, has similar concerns, though he’s slightly more optimistic about Congress. Trump, he told me in answer to my emailed questions,

might try to use a terrorist event to pressure Congress into passing something akin to Hitler’s Enabling Act. Let’s hope that no such event occurs, and that if something does happen, that the GOP will at last stand up and say, “enough.” Republican senators and representatives are not idiots. They have to know this president is an authoritarian lunatic.

But would they have the political courage to act on that? Would the courts resist, as they resisted Trump’s travel ban, in a time of real national hysteria?

On those questions our most thoughtful civil libertarians are hardly reassuring. “In the past,” said Erwin Chemerinsky, the dean of the law school at the University of California Supreme at Irvine, wrote in an email, “the Supreme Court generally has done a poor job of standing up to the government’s restrictions of liberties during times of crisis.” Ira Glasser, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union from 1978 to 2001, recited the “legion of examples,” from Dred Scott and Korematsu to the decisions upholding the anti-communist Smith Act, in which the Court found no violations of the right to free speech and association:

James Madison [Glasser said] predicted much of this unhappy history back in the 18th century, when he expressed skepticism that a Bill of Rights would work when it was most needed, calling it a “parchment barrier” during moments of fear and hysteria. Jefferson argued with him, saying that an independent court system would enforce constitutional limits, but although that has been true over extended periods of time, Madison had much the better argument during moments of madness and fear.

In his reductio ad absurdum response to my question, Richard Evans, the Cambridge historian, provided an ironic and hardly reassuring thought. “Fortunately the terrible terrorist attacks in Sweden and at Bowling Green,” he said, “did not prompt the president into assuming emergency powers.” But the international legal scholar John Shattuck, who’s been both a diplomat and university president in Central Europe, may have summarized the threat most succinctly. “Trump's security policies,” he said,  “are creating greater insecurity and likelihood of terrorist attack, which in turn strengthens his hold on power. It's a vicious circle, similar to how Eastern European autocrats have used the refugee crisis to strengthen their hands.”

At bottom, there also remains this additional question: Not withstanding the obsessive lying, the Newspeak, and the malevolence and belligerence of people like Bannon and the Old South racism of men like Attorney General Jeff Sessions, is Trump focused or serious enough, and is his administration competent and organized enough, to consistently pursue any strategy? Still, it’s more than ironic that more than 80 years after the Reichstag Fire, some of us Hitler refugees, who could not have imagined such a thing even five years ago, are now looking to Angela Merkel and Germany as the most hopeful and stable outposts of Western democracy.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Trauma of Facing Deportation in Sweden

This should totally move us all.  Children in Sweden are becoming radically ill, shutting down, suffering from "uppgivenhetssyndrom," or "resignation syndrome," upon hearing of their families' deportation notices. Quote from within:
By 2005, more than four hundred children, most between the ages of eight and fifteen, had fallen into the condition. In the medical journal Acta Pædiatrica, Bodegård described the typical patient as “totally passive, immobile, lacks tonus, withdrawn, mute, unable to eat and drink, incontinent and not reacting to physical stimuli or pain.” 
Such are the "weapons" of the weak, the defenseless victims of xenophobic policies that offer a way to communicate where words have failed.  Horrifically, "Swedish news programs broadcast footage of children on stretchers being loaded into airplanes and expelled from the country."

Forty-two psychiatrists are accusing the government of “systematic public child abuse.”  There was also public outcry so it appears that such families and children
are now allowed to stay in Sweden with an illness that can last for years.
 
I shudder to think of the mental anguish and physical stress and illness our own children are facing right now in the U.S. in the wake of Donald Trump's ICE arrests, deportations, and family separations.  

These are traumatizing times for our community, as well.

In prayer, sadness, and solidarity with Sweden's refugee children and families.

-Angela


The Trauma of Facing Deportation

In Sweden, hundreds of refugee children have fallen unconscious after being informed that their families will be expelled from the country.

Georgi, a Russian refugee who came to Sweden with his family when he was five years old, could talk at length about the virtues of the Volvo. His doctor described him as “the most ‘Swedeified’ in his family.” He was also one of the most popular boys in his class. For his thirteenth birthday, two friends listed some of the qualities that he evoked: energetic, fun, happy all the time, good human being, amazingly kind, awesome at soccer, sly. 

Georgi’s father, Soslan, had helped found a pacifist religious sect in North Ossetia, a Russian province that borders Georgia. Soslan said that in 2007 security forces demanded that he disband the sect, which rejected the entanglement of the Russian Orthodox Church with the state, and threatened to kill him if he refused. He fled to Sweden with his wife, Regina, and their two children, and applied for asylum, but his claim was denied, because the Swedish Migration Board said that he hadn’t proved that he would be persecuted if he returned to Russia.

Sweden permits refugees to reapply for asylum, and in 2014, having lived in hiding in central Sweden for six years, the family tried again. They argued that there were now “particularly distressing circumstances,” a provision that allowed the board to consider how deportation will affect a child’s psychological health. “It would be devastating if Georgi were forced to leave his community, his friends, his school, and his life,” the headmaster of Georgi’s school, Rikard Floridan, wrote in a letter to the board. He described Georgi as “an example to all classmates,” a student who spoke in “mature and nuanced language” and showed a “deep gratitude for the school.”

Continue reading here.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Re-indigenization is Underway, by Dr. Roberto Cintli Rodriguez

Important analysis by Dr. Roberto Cintli Rodriguez regarding the roots and process of re-indigenization that I agree is not only irreversible, but also quite hopeful and beautiful.
-Angela

Rodriguez: Re-indigenization is Underway




Fleshing the Spirit: Spirituality and Activism in Chicana, Latina and Indigenous Women’s Lives is a book that I regularly teach. As I was going through my students’ papers this past week, I came to the realization that something radical is happening within these communities alluded to in this book. It is a process referred to as re-indigenization.
This is a huge development, not simply in the history of this country, but on this continent. I venture to say that this process has been going on for at least a generation, though with the rise of this administration, this process appears to be accelerating now even faster. In addition, it is greatly accelerating precisely because of the hostility of the current administration, which actually rises to the level of a full-scale immigration war against these communities.

This war — whose primary feature is to rip millions of families apart — can aptly be referred to as modern-day Indian removal. In addition, it can only be waged if these communities are viewed and treated by government and society as foreigners and less than human. This is precisely why these actions are also contributing to the process of re-indigenization.

To understand the significance of re-indigenization to these peoples and communities, one needs to understand its anti-thesis: the 500-year process of de-indigenization.

De-indigenization is what in history is known as La Otra Conquista or The Other Conquest, and which was somewhat memorialized by a 1998 movie by the same name. This second conquest actually had a name, reducciones, and it was a 300-year process designed to kill the Indian ​and create a Christian in its place. After independence in the 1800s, this process never actually ended, and yes, it is virtually the same process that took place in the 1800s through 1900s in this country, what is referred to as the boarding school system: “kill the Indian; save the man.”
Guillermo Bonfil Batalla argued in Mexico Profundo: Reclaiming a Civilization (1996) that the reducciones actually failed because, despite the outward appearance, Mexico’s roots remain undeniably indigenous. In fact, Enrique Florescano, in National Narratives in Mexico (2006), takes the argument further and argues that the many thousands of years-old maiz-based cultures of Mesoamerica are alive and well today, including anywhere Mexican and Central Americans live today, i.e., the United States.

In this country, one can argue that the process of re-indigenization began during the Chicano Movement of the 1960s and ’70s, though some might argue that this actually marked an era more of romanticization of ancient Aztec/Maya cultures, rather than actual re-indigenization. Romanticization permits the glorification of the ancient, while permitting a people or culture to ignore, demean and marginalize living indigenous peoples.

Despite this, the roots of this re-indigenization process did generally begin during the Chicano Movement era, and perhaps accelerated shortly thereafter as a result of the subsequent and heightened anti-immigrant movement, whose primary feature has been to virtually alienate these entire communities.

It is the response to this virulent racism and xenophobia that has triggered an indigenous consciousness, not based on romantic notions, but on connections with all the indigenous human rights movements of this continent. (One might credit Jack Forbes and the Movimiento Nativo Americano in the early 1960s for presaging this re-indigenization process, including his later work, Aztecas Del Norte, in 1973).

Fleshing the Spirit is a generation removed from that earlier era, which rejected that romanticization, in favor of mestizaje ideologies and narratives. In one sense, the women writers in this book, such as Inez Hernandez, Lara Medina and Josephine Talamantez, and its editors, Elisa Facio and Irene Lara, are the ones who went beyond mestizaje and set in motion this re-indigenization process. And to be sure, especially for many writers in this book, the takeoff point for many was the revolutionary work on indigenous mestizaje by Gloria Anzaldua.

To reverse that 500-year de-indigenization process has many implications.

In the 1960s and 1970s, political lore had it that the FBI most feared the unity of Mexicans/Chicanos and American Indians. Why? The conventional wisdom was because, along with the browning of the nation, if Mexican Americans developed an indigenous consciousness, that could lead to the claiming of lands and, at minimum, assertions that they in fact were not aliens to these lands. In fact, that is what led to the “We didn’t cross the border; the border crossed us” ideology of the 1980s and 1990s.

This topic merits a book-length treatment. The minimum that should be understood is that Chicanas/Chicanos with this consciousness generally see themselves, not as separate, but as part of all the other original peoples of this continent, with shared histories and struggles.

What is known is that this society, and especially this administration, in effect, has ceased to treat the peoples from these communities as full human beings with full corresponding human rights. Thus, the question is being asked: what social contract remains with this government with these communities that trace their histories thousands of years before the arrival of the Pilgrims and who today live in every state of this country, including Canada, and via deportation, Mexico and Central America?

The answer and this future is uncertain, yet what is certain is that this process of re-indigenization, despite opposition even from within, now appears to be irreversible.

“You can take our bodies, but never our spirits.” — The Other Conquest
Dr. Roberto Rodriguez is an associate professor in Mexican American Studies at the University of Arizona.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Author Interview, Angela Valenzuela: 'Growing Critically Conscious Teachers'


I am very pleased to share with you this interview with Larry Ferlazzo of EdWeek on my latest anthology, Growing Critically Conscious Teachers: A Social Justice Curriculum for Educators of Latino/a Youth. Hope you find our efforts helpful.  Thanks again, Larry, for giving us this exposure!

-Angela


By Larry Ferlazzo on March 27, 2017 1:50 PM
Angela Valenzuela agreed to answer a few questions about the new book she has edited, Growing Critically Conscious Teachers: A Social Justice Curriculum for Educators of Latino/a Youth.
Angela Valenzuela is a professor in both the Educational Policy and Planning Program Area within the Department of Educational Administration and the Cultural Studies in Education Program within the Department of Curriculum & Instruction at the University of Texas at Austin where she also serves as the director of the Texas Center for Education Policy and the National Latino/a Education Research and Policy Project (NLERAP).Valenzuela is also the author of Subtractive Schooling: U.S.-Mexican Youth and the Politics of Caring and Leaving Children Behind: How "Texas-style" Accountability Fails Latino Youth.
 
LF: You write that the book came out of the Grown Your Own Teacher initiative. Can you tell us about that effort and the book's origins?

Angela Valenzuela:
The anthology, "Growing Critically Conscious Teachers: A Social Justice Curriculum for Educators of Latino/a Youth," examines the knowledge, skills, and predispositions required for higher education institutions to effectively educate the future educators of Latino/a children, children of color, and language-minority youth, in general. "Growing Critically Conscious Teachers" refers both to creating pathways into the teaching profession via our organic partnership model, as well as fostering teachers' critical consciousness.  There is no need to outsource education to the corporate sector or recruit educators from overseas. 
Our vision instead is to grow our own future educators from within our own communities, armed with the knowledge, skills, and dispositions that no longer perpetuate what I term, "subtractive schooling," while also strengthening local capacity.  Asset-based pedagogies instead become a new default with a humanizing, social justice praxis that allows students to be transformative agents of change in the world.  That is, they must help students get out from under the dominant group's imposition of its monolingual, monocultural, and objectifying values, and ways of knowing and being that, drawing on Paulo Freire, domesticate rather than liberate.
"Growing Critically Conscious Teachers" reflects the history and work of the National Latino Education Research and Policy Project (NLERAP; pronounced "nel-rap"), a national consortium and nonprofit.  We are comprised of primary, secondary, and post-secondary educators, leaders of community-based organizations, as well as university and school district partners that work together to address, in a context of teacher, parent, and community empowerment, the teacher preparation and retention crises in our states and nation, as well as the underrepresentation of Latino/a teachers (7.1% nationally).  As one of our NLERAP elders out of one of our sites in Dallas, Texas, Hector Flores, wisely admonishes, "The teaching profession is the most important profession of all because it is the key to all the other professions."
 LF: What are two-or-three specific examples from the book that teachers can apply practically to their classroom tomorrow?
Angela Valenzuela:
Faculty using the text have already shared with me that they find the exercises that interrogate deficit thinking and White privilege useful. 
Bafa Bafa is the name of another fun but highly instructive activity on how we as individuals make assumptions about members of other cultures that are frequently distorted.  The exercise involves dividing preferably a classroom of 20 students minimum into two cultures, an Alpha and a Beta culture.  They convene separately perhaps in two different rooms and they develop their own respective cultures with their own norms, values, and customs. They can even come up with their own "foreign language," with made-up rules that govern its use.  Then there's a series of "visits" made by perhaps two or three students from each culture visiting the other where they are supposed to experience a kind of culture shock because while exposed to the other group's culture, they are not taught it.  This happens two additional times with fresh sets of students visiting the other culture.  Alpha and Beta groups then convene separately to draw inferences from each others' cultures based on the visits each paid to the other.  Then the whole class comes together for a group discussion. Students come to understand how stereotypes of other cultures get formed and perpetuated. It's truly fascinating and worth incorporating as a regular feature of the college curriculum. Most importantly, it helps everyone to realize that they have a lens through which they view the world and how this is consequential to assumptions that we make about members of other groups, and thusly, relationships, that in turn impact policies and practices that impact them.
Though time consuming, I highly recommend university faculty to consider having their pre-service teachers conduct an ethnography in a local community.  This fosters a deep sense of context that would be useful to any future educator, and professors themselves.  Participatory Action Research (PAR) prepares future educators to administer PAR projects that in their future classrooms at any grade level, transforms youth into researchers so that they can become more aware and conscious about injustices, while preparing them for college careers that are re-cast not solely as individual achievement, but as a perpetual process of community empowerment and uplift.
LF: How would you say the book's suggestions compare to the ideas of culturally sustaining pedagogy and/or culturally responsive teaching?
Angela Valenzuela:
"Growing Critically Conscious Teachers" is premised on the notions of both culturally sustaining pedagogy and culturally responsive teaching, but also goes beyond these massively important constructs to offer an organic, community-anchored framework through which this progressive kind of education can be accomplished.  It calls upon us as educators to forge common cause with community-based organizations that are in turn partnered with school districts and universities to develop pathways to the teaching profession.  This is a grassroots approach that helps us to sidestep the vacuous, objectifying, competitive framework enshrined in ESSA--and formerly, NCLB and our state accountability systems--that are jealously wedded to rating and ranking children and schools and in so doing, dehumanizing and objectifying them. 
In contrast, we advocate for grassroots collaboration and partnerships--old-style democracy, as it were.  In this vein, we hope that the reader will take away a sense of the infrastructural framework or architecture for the alternative that we advance, as it reflects years of important thinking drawn from our collective experiences in both the academy and our communities across the U.S.  With the help of earlier Ford and Kellogg funding, we continue to carry out this work across our GYO sites in Sacramento, California; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Chicago, Illinois; Brooklyn, New York; Dallas, Texas; and Austin, Texas.
LF: What did you learn from your work across these different sites nationally?
Angela Valenzuela:
In trying to get GYO efforts off the ground throughout the country, what became abundantly clear for us as an organization is that the investment needs to be in our CBOs where they lead these initiatives.  A CBO could be a civil rights organization, a non-profit, or simply a group that forms and moves into action at the local level.  Among the reasons why we think CBOs need to anchor the GYO educator agenda is that they have the greatest stake in whatever reform is advanced when they're almost always an afterthought.  Relatedly, our approach contributes to sustainability over the long term. There is a lot of mobility in our universities and school districts.  You find your champions and invest in them and before you know it, they're either gone or "restructured," making for a poor foundation on which to pursue any reform.  Another important factor is that given the lack of teachers of color in our K-12 system, our current bureaucratic model leaves them with having to bear the burden of implicit bias and stereotypes that are often debilitating.
It is totally unreasonable for anyone of us to expect these teachers to excel in spaces of oppression simply because, in our minds, we in higher education, NLERAP scholars included, have prepared them well.  In the meantime, teacher retention remains a ubiquitous crisis--and we're not resolving this when we disregard educators' work situation.  Our teachers need support and here is where the community comes in.  It can partner with districts and universities to develop authentic, place-based curricula, prepare teachers, and forge pathways into higher education for students in ways that tap into, as scholar Tara Yosso theorizes, the community's cultural wealth.  In our own GYO site in Austin, Texas, we, too, are finding that our partnership supports dual language teachers that feel alienated in their own schools where speaking Spanish is not particularly valued.


LF: The book discusses "participatory action research projects." Can you give an example of such an effort, how and why teachers would organize one, and describe how similar or different it might be to what some educators know as teacher action research?
Angela Valenzuela:
PAR is quite different from teacher action research.  PAR assumes that people who are impacted by a particular issue should be co-researchers from beginning to end. This is opposite a more common situation where, for example, "member checking" occurs for validity purposes but only after the investigation occurred.  Moreover, since students, as well as their families and communities, have the biggest stake in the outcome of a particular problem it tends to tap positively into students' own motivations to rectify injustices.
An example of PAR is from a chapter authored by Julio Cammarota where students in a Tucson Unified School District High School were punished for speaking Spanish in class, a widespread problem that surfaced in dialogue. They conducted observations, generated field notes, and they analyzed the data, identifying the relevant patterns or "codes." Drawing on scholarship, as well as their own experiences and observational data that they collected, the students developed codes like "English submersion" and "Spanish disadvantage" for drawing inferences on the labeling of youth as delinquent or deficient for speaking Spanish in class.
The students then created a role-playing skit that re-told a racist incident but which was illustrative of the broader problem.  After developing a script and strategy, they then presented this work to parents, students, and community across various gatherings, creating a reflective space where constructive dialogue could take place.  Community members were able to learn about their experiences while giving voice to comparable experiences at the work place.  All learned about language rights and how their rights are systematically violated in their schools and work places.
Through this process, the students learned about Arizona's anti-bilingual law and discovered that it only impacts teachers and not students.  Even if Arizona public school teachers are restricted from speaking languages other than English during instruction, this does not apply to students.  Just as importantly, the research process contributed to community awareness and empowerment while helping students to acquire research and presentation skills that help them to see themselves as knowledgeable, enhancing their academic self concepts, dispositions important in the college classroom.
LF: With the practical struggles and challenges that many teachers face on a daily basis, it can sometimes seem overwhelming to many when they hear that responding to social justice issues needs to be on their agenda, too.  How would you and your chapter contributors respond to that concern?
Angela Valenzuela:
Not sure about my colleagues, but I'll give this a stab.  My sense is that if social justice pedagogy of the kind that we advocate for in "Growing Critically Conscious Teachers" were the default in higher education, this question would not even get raised.  So clearly, higher education needs to engage in soul searching and transform itself in order to preempt this kind of question.  
Another thought is that since there are ways, big and small, to be social justice educators, it's probably the big ways that are more overwhelming than the small ones.  Everyday life involves choices and decisions in the classroom and at school that can and should involve a personal ethic of fairness, respect, and equity.  So being a social justice educator in itself doesn't quite strike me as the rub. However, especially for Anglo educators--and some teachers of color--relinquishing power would be.  A critically conscious teacher can no longer hide in the comfort zone that they only teach subjects as opposed to students.  Instead, they must re-tool to incorporate social justice pedagogy, as well as interrogate the extent to which they themselves are perpetrators of unjust policies and practices. 
They sometimes don't even see how policies like high-stakes testing and curricular tracking work to systematically privilege majority group children and youth, while under-privileging their minority counterparts.  And then to realize that these correlate to race, ethnicity, language, class, and gender can be an overwhelming thing to seriously ponder.  Entire educational histories and research programs are dedicated to addressing these institutionalized, embedded injustices.  Though difficult and challenging, an effective, social justice pedagogy provides no refuge in "individualism" or "color-blindness" as a legitimate discourse or ideology.  For all social justice educators have to consider the role that white supremacy and its logics, including Anglo-centric curricula, implicit bias, structured silences, and institutionalized forms of discrimination, have historically worked to stratify culturally diverse children for unequal futures.
That said, there has to be plenty of scaffolding and professional development for educators for them to go in this direction.  It also helps enormously to have enlightened leadership along these lines within a school or district that explicitly calls for ending all institutionalized forms of oppression for this not to be an insurmountable burden or responsibility for educators.  Ideally, as we suggest, this can get accomplished through strategic, meaningful partnerships anchored in our community-based organizations.  Ultimately, we can also grow our own leadership and policy makers from the ranks of our GYO teachers, too.

LF: Is there anything I haven't asked you that you'd like to share?
Angela Valenzuela:
Yes.  I'm in policy.  I have struggled for many years, particularly in the Texas State Legislature, to eliminate not standardized tests, but high-stakes testing, and met with some success that I'm very proud of.  The reason that many of us get into policy is because we see the big picture and realize that systemic problems are oftentimes an artifact of inadequate or harmful policies that need to get remedied or eliminated altogether.  Another motivation is a frustration that many have working in and with classrooms and schools where the impact does not often feel or seem "systemic enough."  That is, we feel that while our contributions are positive, they are not widely felt across systems that need to be transformed.  This is a good reason for getting into policy.
However after working for well over 16 years in the legislature to kill bad bills and to get good ones to get heard and passed into law, I have come to feel that the legislature is frequently a weapon of mass distraction.  Every single session, it gets us all ramped up to oppose the most egregious legislation impacting our communities and they suck the energy and oxygen out of the good efforts of our civil rights groups and coalitions.  Don't get me wrong.  We must continue to do this work, but none of those 16 years built a school, a partnership, or a civil rights, social justice curriculum like we are now doing in Austin, Texas.  And I honestly think that it is a strategy of the right to keep us on the left busy so that we don't "graduate" to taking on their pet projects.  Just as importantly, this work in the policy arena has the effect of reinscribing what truly are oppressive policy discourses and agendas.
I always tell my students that those of us in policy should perpetually be haunted by Audre Lorde's dictum, "The master's tools will never dismantle the master's house."  We all teach--and our graduate students learn--the master's tools and will continue to do so.  What we must always be mindful of, however, is that the current discourses valorize competition, individual merit and achievement, false notions of entitlement, mental testing, and uninspiring notions of reform like narrowing the "achievement gap," even when the metrics themselves work against our children.  In so doing, these discourses structure out what our communities really want. 
We want our children not just to achieve, but to thrive.  Nor do we want to be white.  We seek respect and full inclusion of our subjugated knowledges, histories, languages, identities, and ways of knowing and being in the world that have served us well on this continent for millennia.  I hope that our work inspires others to go deeper into their communities to form organic partnerships and grow the critically conscious teachers that we desperately need if we are to get out from under the yolk of objectifying and dehumanizing discourses that are incapable of giving us the liberation that we seek both for ourselves as educators and society as a whole.  Thanks so much for this opportunity to share.
LF: Thanks, Angela!

Larry Ferlazzo is an award-winning English and Social Studies teacher at Luther Burbank High School in Sacramento, Calif., Larry Ferlazzo is the author of Helping Students Motivate Themselves: Practical Answers To Classroom Challenges, The ESL/ELL Teacher's Survival Guide, and Building Parent Engagement In Schools.He also maintains the popular Websites of the Day blog. In this EdWeek blog, an experiment in knowledge-gathering, he will address readers' questions on classroom management, ELL instruction, lesson planning, and other issues facing teachers. Send your questions to lferlazzo@epe.org. And offer your own thoughts and responses in the comments section.

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