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Monday, June 29, 2015

Children’s Budget 2015 brings bad news: fewer investments in kids


In reviewing the Urban Institute’s data, Anna Bernasek of Newsweek notes that if this trend continues, “the federal government soon will be spending more on interest payments on the debt than on children.”
Rather than being feared, America’s new diversity – poised to reinvigorate the country at a time when other developed nations are facing advanced aging and population loss – can be celebrated.

He hits it on the nail.  Our nation's new diversity is not only feared, but there is also nothing to fear and everything to gain from reversing this trend and investing not just in our so-called "future," but also our "present."




Children’s Budget 2015 brings bad news: fewer investments in kids


Child Abuse & Neglect Child Rights Childcare Children of Immigrants Early Childhood Education Federal Budget Health Housing & Homelessness Nutrition Poverty & Family Economics Safety Tax Policy
The federal government makes more than 200 distinct investments in children. These include traditional children’s initiatives like education and child abuse and neglect prevention. They also include other investments that improve the lives of kids, like Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly Food Stamps).
Every year, First Focus publishes a Children’s Budget offering a detailed guide to federal spending on children and an invaluable resource for those seeking to improve the lives of America’s youth.
This year’s Children’s Budget 2015 brings more bad and unfortunate news for children. The share of federal spending dedicated to our nation’s children has now fallen to just 7.89 percent, which is down from a high of 8.50 percent in 2010. Consequently, the federal share of discretionary spending dedicated to children has dropped by 7.2 percent over the last five years.
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In addition, on an inflation-adjusted basis, federal discretionary spending on children has dropped by 11.6 percent between 2010 and 2015. Discretionary funded dedicated to children’s health, education, child welfare, training, safety, and nutrition are all down even without adjusting for inflation.
In reviewing the Urban Institute’s data, Anna Bernasek of Newsweek notes that if this trend continues, “the federal government soon will be spending more on interest payments on the debt than on children.”
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Few would think these facts reflect the values and priorities of the American people. That is reflected in the fact that, by a 69-25 percent margin, a Battleground Poll in May by the Tarrance Group and Lake Research finds that Americans do not believe the next generation will be better off economically than the current generation. As Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post notes, “The numbers from the Battleground Poll echo other data that has come out over the past few years that suggests a deep pessimism within the electorate about what sort of country they are leaving their children.”
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We are failing to make the investments in children they need to fulfill their promise. As the Kids’ Share report concludes:

Without adequately funded education, nutrition, housing, early education and care, and other basic supports, the foundation of children’s well-being is at risk. When children grow up without adequate supports, they are less able to support themselves and to contribute to economic growth as adults. . . . A continuous decline in federal support for children over the next decade bodes poorly for their future or the future of the nation.

These assertions paint a bleak picture for our children if we as advocates don’t do something. While we saw increased spending as a result of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the 2011 Budget Control Act introduced sequestration that involved serious cuts to important domestic programs. The fiscal year 2016 discretionary spending levels, because of a lack of relief from sequestration, are the lowest in a decade. Federal investments in our children and our future are going in the wrong direction.

Simply, we are failing to invest in our children. And some of the problem is related to demographics and is intergenerational.  According to Steve Murdock, former U.S. Census Bureau Director in the Bush administration, and his co-authors Michael Cline and Mary Zey, in our publication Big Ideas: The Children of the Southwest:

What is also evident is that the children of today will not be successful without substantial assistance from an older population that now and in the future is likely to possess superior economic resources. . . .
The major question raised . . . is: Will the United States’ adult population (through elections, taxes and other factors) support the youth who are racially and culturally different from themselves and their children or will they perpetuate a dual class education and economic structure which has dominated many areas in the United States, including many areas in the Southwest?

How that question is answered will be critical to our nation’s future. William Frey, author of Diversity Explosion: How New Racial Demographics Are Remaking America writes:

. . . a growing diverse, globally connected minority population will be absolutely necessary to infuse the aging American labor force with vitality and to sustain populations in many parts of the country that are facing population declines. Rather than being feared, America’s new diversity – poised to reinvigorate the country at a time when other developed nations are facing advanced aging and population loss – can be celebrated.

In 12 U.S. states (Hawaii, New Mexico, California, Texas, Nevada, Arizona, Florida, Maryland, Georgia, New Jersey, Mississippi, and New York), the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that minority children under the age of 10 are in the majority. And, enrollment in our nation’s public schools has also become majority minority, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
“Yet, as Frey explains, “this youth-driven diversity surge is also creating a ‘cultural generation gap’ between the diverse youth population and the growing, older, still predominately white population.”
Frey points to states where the difference between the percentage of seniors and children who are white as places where there may be greater tension between the generations and competition for resources allocated to children and the elderly, and where children may be significant losers.
Murdock, Cline, and Zey share this concern and point to research by James Poterba that found “in communities with large proportions of elderly residents there were significantly lower per-capita educational spending, especially when the children were of a different race from that of their elders.”
According to Frey, among the states, Arizona leads the way with a “cultural generation gap” of 41 percent (83 percent of seniors and 42 percent of children were white). So, how is Arizona doing by its children?
The Arizona Daily Sun has documented how budget cuts to child protective services in Arizona caused child welfare caseloads to soar and reports of child abuse to be ignored, how cuts to public education resulted in per-public spending during the recession to decline by 24 percent, and how reductions in state funding to higher education were $300 million below pre-recession levels.
In addition, Arizona is the only state in the country to no longer provide health insurance coverage to children under the Children’s Health Insurance Program when it let the program expire at the close of 2013. It now has the second highest uninsured rate for children in the country.
Arizona is a state that enacted some of the some most stringent anti-immigration legislation in the country, SB170, and banned schools from offering courses such as Mexican-American studies, which federal courts have partially overturned.
As Murdock, Cline, and Zey said:
The future of areas such as the Southwest, and of the Nation as a whole, may be markedly affected by the extent to which its older populations are willing to step forward to support its increasingly diverse youth.
What is clearly evident is that the future of the Southwest and the United States as a whole is increasingly tied to the future of its minority populations. . . . Whether the nation prospers or struggles to maintain its current standard of living and whether it can compete internationally will depend on how well the diverse children such as those in the Southwest do. Ultimately, how well these children do will be how well America will do.
To ensure a strong future America, we must overcome the forces and ignorance and prejudice that are cutting – rather than investing – in education and our nation’s children. New York Times columnist Eduardo Porter adds:
If the next generation is going to be handed the bill for our budget deficits, we might as well make the investments needed to help it bear the burden. So far, we seem on track to bequeath our children a double whammy: a mountain of debt and substantial program cuts that will undermine their ability to shoulder it when their time comes.
Ronald Brownstein has also written extensively about this generational political challenge. According to Brownstein:
The nation faces the risk of sustained political tension between its racially diverse, Democratic-leaning youth population and its predominantly white, Republican-trending senior population — what I’ve called the Brown and the Gray. Although it’s rarely discussed now, both groups share an interest in equipping the young to obtain middle-class jobs that will generate the tax base to support a decent safety net for the old.
Since kids do not vote, we need an informed electorate that will translate its long-standing support for children into votes. This requires that advocates for children, including parents, grandparents, educators, etc., work together to build a grassroots movement to educate the public and demand from policymakers that they put forth a real policy agenda – and not just lip service – that would improve child well-being and then hold those policymakers accountable for real results.
Imagine how different things for children might be if politicians were the ones to lose their jobs for failing to improve education, reduce child poverty, etc. What is needed is a focus on the needs of children before it is too late.
Former Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor apparently agrees that the new 114th Congress should make children a focus of its agenda. He writes:
As the new Congress convenes, I hope the president and members from both parties will keep one number in mind: 8,053,000. That is an estimate of the number of new Americans expected to be born between now and the end of this Congress and President Obama’s second term two years from now. . . . The future of those 8,053,000 little boys and girls deserve to have the two years of this Congress focused on them and not the next election.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, “…50.4 percent of our nation’s population younger than age 1 were minorities as of July 1, 2011.”  We need to value each and every one of those children.
I remember understanding this for the first time so clearly when New York Governor Mario Cuomo said in a speech before the Democratic National Convention in 1992 about the plight facing children a generation ago:
They are not my children, perhaps. Perhaps they are not your children, either. But, they are our children. We should love them.
But even if could choose not to love them, we would still need them to be sound and productive. Because they are the nation’s future.
Now is the time for us to work together to educate policymakers at the federal and local level about the harmful path we are on. We must raise our voices in support of those who will put our children and our families first. It is imperative that we, as a country, move down a path that puts children at the forefront of policy decisions.
Download you copy of Children’s Budget 2015.

Download @First_Focus Children’s Budget 2015 on 200+ fed investments in kids: http://bit.ly/1N3ESQK #InvestInKids

Sunday, June 28, 2015

President Obama Eulogy at Clementa Pinckney Funeral Service

President Obama's moving eulogy on Friday for the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, also a South Carolina state senator, is a fitting response to those that say we are taking all of this business about bringing down the Confederate flag too far.  Reverend Pinckney, along with eight others, was murdered last week at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church by white supremacist Dylann Roof.

This, of course coincided with the Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage such that despite the enormous grief that our country has experienced in the wake of these killings to which President Obama gave voice through his impassioned speech and singing of Amazing Grace—has injected great hope and enthusiasm for the future of this country.

What a better way to end the week than with the #LoveWins and #GraceWins campaigns.
Now there's important work for all sectors of our society to do in order to address the prejudice, discrimination, and structural forms of racism—or "institutionalized oppression" that exists in laws, policies, priorities, and practices legally, as well as extra-legally.

For those of us in education, our task is to further the emancipatory potential of our writing, teaching, and research.

-Angela


 #knowtheirnames #GraceWins

 

President Obama Eulogy at Clementa Pinckney Funeral Service


President Obama delivers a eulogy for state Senator Clementa Pinckney, who was one of nine victims in the June 17, 2015, shooting at Emanuel African Methodist...
c-span.org

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: GIVING ALL PRAISE AND HONOR TO GOD. THE BIBLE CALLS US TO HOPE. TO PERSEVERE AND HAVE FAITH IN THINGS NOT SEEN. THEY WERE STILL LIVING BY FAITH WHEN THEY DIED, SCRIPTURE TELLS US. [APPLAUSE] THEY DID NOT RECEIVE THE THINGS PROMISED. THEY ONLY SAW THEM AND WELCOMED THEM FROM A DISTANCE. ADMITTING THAT THEY WERE FOREIGNERS AND STRANGERS ON EARTH. WE ARE HERE TODAY TO REMEMBER A MAN OF GOD WHO LIVED BY FAITH. A MAN WHO BELIEVED IN THINGS NOT SEEN. A MAN WHO BELIEVEED THERE WERE BETTER DAYS AHEAD. OFF IN THE DISTANCE. A MAN OF SERVICE WHO PERSEVERED, KNOWING FULL WELL, HE WOULD NOT RECEIVE ALL THOSE THINGS HE WAS PROMISED BECAUSE HE BELIEVED HIS EFFORTS WOULD DELIVER A BETTER LIFE OF THOSE WHO FOLLOWED. TO JENNIFER, HIS BELOVED WIFE, JULIANA, AND MILANA, HIS BEAUTIFUL AND WONDERFUL DAUGHTERS TO MOTHER EMANUEL FAMILY AND THE PEOPLE OF CHARLESTON, THE PEOPLE OF SOUTH CAROLINA. I CANNOT CLAIM TO HAVE THE GOOD FORTUNE TO KNOW REVEREND PINCKNEY WELL, BUT I DID HAVE THE PLEASURE OF KNOWING HIM. AND MEETING HIM HERE IN SOUTH CAROLINA -- BACK WHEN WE WERE BOTH A LITTLE BIT YOUNG. [LAUGHTER] BACK WHEN I DIDN'T HAVE VISIBLE GRAY HAIR. [LAUGHTER] THE FIRST THING I NOTICED WAS HIS GRACIOUSNESS, HIS SMILE, HIS REASSURING BARITONE, HIS DECEPTIVE SENSE OF HUMOR. ALL QUALITIES THAT HELPED HIM WEAR SO EFFORTLESSLY A BURDEN OF HEAVY EXPECTATIONS. WHEN CLEMENTA PINCKNEY ENTERED A ROOM, IT WAS LIKE THE FUTURE ARRIVED. THAT EVEN FROM A YOUNG AGE, FOLKS KNEW HE WAS SPECIAL. ANOINTED. HE WAS THE PROJECT ANY OF THE LONG LINE OF THE FAITHFUL, A FAMILY OF PREACHERS WHO SPREADS GOD'S WORDS, A FAMILY OF PROTESTORS, WHO SO CHANGED TO EXPAND VOTING RIGHTS AND DESEGREGATE THE SOUTH. CLEMENTA HEARD THEIR INSTRUCTION AND HE DID NOT FORE SAKE THEIR TEACHING. HE WAS IN THE PULPIT BY 13. PASTOR BY 18. PUBLIC SERVANT BY 23. HE DID NOT EXHIBIT ANY OF THE COCKINESS OF YOUTH NOR YOUTH INSECURITIES. INSTEAD, HE SAID -- SET AN EXAMPLE WORTHY OF HIS DISPOSITION, WISE BEYOND HIS YEARS. IN HIS SPEECH, IN HIS CONDUCT, IN HIS LOVE, FAITH, AND PURITY. AS A SENATOR, HE REPRESENTED THE SPRAWLING SWATH OF LOW COUNTRIES, A PLACE THAT HAS LONG BEEN ONE OF THE MOST NEGLECTED IN AMERICA. A PLACE STILL RACKED BY POVERTY AND INADEQUATE SCHOOLS. A PLACE WHERE CHILDREN CAN STILL GO HUNGRY. AND THE SICK CAN GO WITHOUT TREATMENTS. A PLACE THAT NEEDED SOMEBODY LIKE CLEMENTA. [APPLAUSE] HIS POSITION IN THE MINORITY PARTY MEANT THE ODDS OF WINNING MORE RESOURCES FOR HIS SANDWICH -- CONSTITUENT WERE OFTEN LONG. IT'S CALLS FOR GREATER EQUITY WERE TOO OFTEN UNHEEDED. THE VOTES HE CAST WERE SOMETIMES LONELY. BUT HE NEVER GAVE UP. HE STAYED TRUE TO HIS CONVICTIONS. HE WOULD NOT GROW DISCOURAGED. AFTER A FULL DAY AT THE CAPITOL, HE WOULD CLIMB IN HIS CAR AND HEAD TO THE CHURCH TO DRAW SUSTENANCE FROM HIS FAMILY, FROM HIS MINISTRY, FROM THE COMMUNITY THAT LOVED AND NEEDED HIM. THERE, HE WOULD FORTIFY HIS FAITH AND IMAGINE WHAT MIGHT BE. REVEREND PINCKNEY EMBODIED A POLITICS THAT WAS NEITHER MEAN NOR SMALL. HE CONDUCTED HIMSELF QUIETLY AND KINDLY AND DIGITALLY. -- DILIGENTLY. HE ENCOURAGED PROGRESS NOT BY PUSHING HIS IDEAS ALONG, BUT BY SEEKING OUT YOUR IDEAS. PARTNERING WITH YOU, TO MAKE THINGS HAPPEN. HE WAS FULL OF EMPATHY AND FELLOW FEELING. ABLE TO WALK IN SOMEBODY ELSE'S SHOES AND SEE THROUGH THEIR EYES. NO WONDER ONE OF THE SENATE COLLEAGUES REMEMBER SENATOR PINCKNEY AS THE MOST GENTLE OF THE 46 OF US. THE BEST OF THE 46 OF US. CLEM WAS OFTEN ASKED WHY HE CHOSE TO BE A PASTOR AND A PUBLIC SERVANT. BUT THE PERSON WHO ASKED PROBABLY DIDN'T KNOW THE HISTORY OF A.M.E. CHURCH. [APPLAUSE] AS OUR BROTHERS AND SISTERS IN THE A.M.E. CHURCH KNOW, WE DON'T MAKE THOSE DISTINCTIONS. OUR CALLING, CLEM ONCE SAID IS NOT JUST WITHIN THE WALLS OF THE CONGREGATION, BUT THE LIFE AND COMMUNITY IN WHICH OUR CONGREGATION RESIDES. [APPLAUSE] HE EMBODIED THE IDEA THAT OUR CHRISTIAN FAITH DEMANDS DEEDS, AND NOT JUST WORDS. THAT THE SWEET HOUR OF PRAYER ACTUALLY LASTS THE WHOLE WEEK LONG. THAT TO PUT OUR FAITH IN ACTION IS MORE THAN JUST INDIVIDUAL SALVATION. IT'S ABOUT OUR COLLECTIVE SALVATION. AND TO FEED THE HUNGER AND CLOTHE THE NAKED AND HOUSE THE HOMELESS IS NOT JUST A CALL FOR ISOLATED CHARITY, BUT THE IMPERATIVE OF A JUST SOCIETY. WHAT A GOOD MAN. SOMETIMES I THINK THAT'S THE BEST THING TO HOPE FOR WHEN YOU'RE JEWEL EYESED. -- JEWEL JIESED. -- EULOGIZED. AFTER ALL, THE WORDS AND RECITATIONS AND RESUMES ARE READ , TO JUST SAY SOMEBODY WAS A GOOD MAN. [APPLAUSE] YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE OF HIGH STATION TO BE A GOOD MAN. PREACHER BY 13. PASTOR BY 18. PUBLIC SERVANT BY 23. WHAT A LIFE CLEMENTA PINCKNEY LIVED. WHAT AN EXAMPLE HE SET. WHAT A MODEL FOR HIS FAITH. AND THEN TO LOSE HIM AT 41, SLAIN IN HIS SANCTUARY WITH EIGHT WONDERFUL MEMBERS OF HIS FLOCK. EACH OF DIFFERENT STAGES OF LIFE BUT BOUND TOGETHER BY A COMMON COMMITMENT TO GOD. CYNTHIA HURD, SUZY JACKSON, DEPAYNE MIDDLETON, SANDERS, DANIEL L. SIMMONS, SHARONDA COLEMAN SINGLETON AND MYRA THOMPSON. GOOD PEOPLE. DECENT PEOPLE. GOD-FEARING PEOPLE. [APPLAUSE] PEOPLE SO FULL OF LOVE AND SO FULL OF KINDNESS, PEOPLE WHO RAN THE RACE, PERSEVERED. PEOPLE OF GREAT FAITH. TO THE FAMILIES OF THE FALLEN, THE NATION SHARES IN YOUR GRIEF. OUR PAIN CUTS THAT MUCH DEEPER BECAUSE IT HAPPENED IN A CHURCH. THE CHURCH IS AND ALWAYS HAS BEEN THE CENTER OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN LIFE. [APPLAUSE] A PLACE TO CALL OUR OWN IN A TOO OFTEN HOSTILE WORLD. A SANCTUARY FROM SO MANY HARDSHIPS. OVER THE COURSE OF CENTURIES, BLACK CHURCHES SERVED AS HIGH SHOPPERS WERE SLAVES COULD WORSHIP IN SAFETY. PRAISE HOUSES WHERE THEY COULD GATHER AND SHOUT "HALLELUJAH." [LAUGHTER] REST STOPS FOR THE WEARY ALONG THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD. BUNKERS FOR THE FOOT SOLDIERS OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT. THEY HAVE BEEN AND CONTINUE TO BE IN THE COMMUNITY WHERE WE ORGANIZE FOR JOBS AND JUSTICE, PLACES OF SCHOLARSHIP AND NETWORK, PLACES WHERE CHILDREN ARE LOVED AND SAID AND -- AND FED AND KEPT OUT OF HARM'S AND TOLD THEY ARE BEAUTIFUL AND SMART AND TAUGHT THAT THEY MATTER. [APPLAUSE] THAT IS WHAT HAPPENS IN CHURCH. THAT IS WHAT THE BLACK CHURCH MEANS. OUR BEATING HEART. THE PLACE WHERE OUR DIGNITY AS A PEOPLE AND THERE IS NO BETTER EXAMPLE OF THIS TRADITION THEN MOTHER EMMANUEL. [APPLAUSE] A CHURCH BUILT BY BLACKS SEEKING LIBERTY, BURNED TO THE GROUND BECAUSE ITS FOUNDERS THOUGHT TO END SLAVERY ONLY TO RISE UP AGAIN, A PHOENIX FROM THESE ASHES. [APPLAUSE] PRESIDENT OBAMA: WHEN THERE WERE LAWS BANNING BLACK CHURCH GATHERINGS, SERVICES HAPPENED ANYWAY IN DEFIANCE OF UNJUST LAWS. WHEN THERE WAS A RIGHTEOUS MOVEMENT TO DISMANTLE JIM CROW, DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. PREACHED IN HIS PULPIT. MARCHES BEGAN FROM ITS STEPS. A SACRED PLACE, THIS CHURCH. NOT JUST FOR BLACKS, NOT JUST FOR CHRISTIANS, BUT FOR EVERY AMERICAN WHO CARES ABOUT THE STEADY EXPANSION OF HUMAN RIGHTS AND HUMAN DIGNITY IN THIS COUNTRY COME A FOUNDATION'S OWN FOR LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL. [APPLAUSE] THAT IS WHAT THE CHURCH MEANT. [APPLAUSE] [APPLAUSE] PRESIDENT OBAMA: WE DO NOT KNOW WHETHER THE KILLER OF REVEREND PICKNEY AND EIGHT OTHERS NEW ALL OF THIS HISTORY -- KNEW ALL OF THIS HISTORY. BUT HE SURELY SENDS THE MEANING -- SENSED THE MEANING OF HIS VIOLENT ACT. IT WAS AN ACT THAT DREW ON A LONG HISTORY OF BOMBS, ARSON, SHOTS FIRED AT CHURCHES. NOT RANDOM, BUT AS A MEANS OF CONTROL. A WAY TO TERRORIZE AND A PRESS. -- OPPRESS. [APPLAUSE] PRESIDENT OBAMA: AN ACT THAT HE IMAGINED WOULD INCITE FEAR AND RECRIMINATION, VIOLENCE, SUSPICION. AN ACT THAT HE PRESUMED WOULD DEEPEN DIVISIONS THAT PRICE BACK TO OUR NATION'S ORIGINAL SIN. OH, BUT GOD WORKS IN MYSTERIOUS WAYS. [APPLAUSE] PRESIDENT OBAMA: GOD HAS DIFFERENT IDEAS. [APPLAUSE] PRESIDENT OBAMA: HE DIDN'T KNOW HE WAS BEING USED BY GOD. [APPLAUSE] PRESIDENT OBAMA: BLINDED BY HATRED, THE ALLEGED KILLER COULD NOT SEE THE GRACE SURROUNDING REVEREND PICKNEY AND THAT BIBLE STUDY GROUP. THE LIGHT OF LOVE THAT SHOWN AS THEY OPENED THE CHURCH DOORS AND INVITED A STRANGER TO JOIN IN THEIR PRAYER CIRCLE. [APPLAUSE] PRESIDENT OBAMA: THE ALLEGED KILLER COULD NEVER HAVE ANTICIPATED THE WAY THE FAMILIES OF THE FALLEN WOULD RESPOND WHEN THEY SAW HIM IN COURT IN THE MIDST OF UNSPEAKABLE GRIEF WITH WORDS OF FORGIVENESS. HE COULD NOT IMAGINE THAT. [LAUGHTER] [LAUGHTER] [APPLAUSE] PRESIDENT OBAMA: HE CANNOT IMAGINE HOW THE CITY OF TRUST AND UNDER THE GOOD AND WISE LEADERSHIP OF THE MAYOR, HAVE THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA, HOW THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA WOULD RESPOND NOT MERELY WITH REPULSION AT HIS PEOPLE ACT, BUT WITH GENEROSITY AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, WITH A THOUGHTFUL INTROSPECTION AND SELF-EXAMINATION THAT WE SO RARELY SEE IN PUBLIC LIFE. BLINDED BY HATRED COME HE FAILED TO COMPREHEND WHAT REVEREND PICKNEY SO WELL UNDERSTOOD. THE POWER OF GOD'S GRACE. [APPLAUSE] PRESIDENT OBAMA: THIS WHOLE WEEK, I HAVE BEEN REFLECTING ON THE IDEA OF GRACE. [LAUGHTER] [APPLAUSE] PRESIDENT OBAMA: THE GRACE OF THE FAMILIES WHO LOST LOVED ONES, THE GRACE THAT REVEREND PICKNEY WOULD PREACH ABOUT IN HIS SERMONS, THE GRACE DESCRIBED IN ONE OF MY FAVORITE HYMNALS, THE ONE WE ALL KNOW. "AMAZING GRACE." "HOW SWEET THE SOUND THAT SAVED A WRETCH LIKE ME." I ONCE WAS LOST, BUT NOW I AM FOUND, WAS BLIND BUT NOW I SEE. [APPLAUSE] (music) PRESIDENT OBAMA: ACCORDING TO THE CHRISTIAN TRADITIONS, GRACE IS NOT EARNED -- [APPLAUSE] PRESIDENT OBAMA: GRACE IS NOT MERITED, SOMETHING WE DESERVE. RATHER, GRACES THE FREE -- GRACE IS THE FREE AND BENEVOLENT FAVOR OF GOD. [APPLAUSE] PRESIDENT OBAMA: AS MANIFESTED IN THE SALVATION OF SINNERS AND THE PISTOLE -- BESTOWAL OF BLESSINGS. GRACE IS A NATION OUT OF THIS TERRIBLE TRAGEDY. GOD HAS VISITED GRACE UPON US. FOR HE HAS ALLOWED US TO SEE WHERE WE HAVE BEEN BLIND. [APPLAUSE] PRESIDENT OBAMA: HE HAS GIVEN US THE CHANCE WHERE WE HAVE BEEN LOST TO FIND OUR BEST SELVES. WE MAY NOT HAVE EARNED IT, THIS GRACE, WITH OUR COMPLACENCY AND SHORTSIGHTEDNESS AND FEAR OF EACH OTHER. BUT WE GOT IT ALL THE SAME. HE GAVE IT TO US ANYWAY. [APPLAUSE] PRESIDENT OBAMA: HE HAS ONCE MORE GIVEN US GRACE. BUT IT IS UP TO US NOW TO MAKE THE MOST OF IT. TO RECEIVE IT WITH GRATITUDE AND PROOF -- PROVE OURSELVES WORTHY OF THIS GIFT. FOR TOO LONG, WE WERE BLIND TO THE PAIN THE CONFEDERATE FLAG STIRRED INTO MANY OF OUR CITIZENS. [APPLAUSE] PRESIDENT OBAMA: IT IS TRUE, A FLAG DID NOT CAUSE THESE MURDERS. BUT AS PEOPLE FROM ALL WALKS OF LIFE, REPUBLICANS AND DEMOCRATS NOW I'D KNOWLEDGE, INCLUDING GOVERNOR HALEY WHOSE RECENT ELOQUENCE ON THE SUBJECT IS WORTHY OF PRAISE. [APPLAUSE] PRESIDENT OBAMA: AS WE ALL HAVE TO HAVE KNOWLEDGE THE FLAG IS ALWAYS REPRESENTED MORE THAN JUST ANCESTRAL PRIDE. [APPLAUSE] [APPLAUSE] (music) PRESIDENT OBAMA: FOR MANY, BLACKS AND WHITES, THAT FLAG WAS A REMINDER OF SYSTEMIC OPPRESSION. AND RACIAL SUBJUGATION. WE SEE THAT NOW. REMOVING THE FLAG FROM THIS STATE'S CAPITAL WAS NOT BE AN ACT OF POLITICAL CORRECTNESS, NOT AN INSULT TO THE VALOR OF CONFEDERATE SOLDIERS. IT WOULD SIMPLY BE ENDED KNOWLEDGE MEANT THAT THE CAUSE FOR WHICH THEY FOUGHT -- THE CAUSE OF SLAVERY -- WAS WRONG. [APPLAUSE] [APPLAUSE] PRESIDENT OBAMA: THE IMPOSITION OF JIM CROW AFTER THE CIVIL WAR, THE RESISTANCE TO CIVIL RIGHTS FOR ALL PEOPLE WAS WRONG./ IT WOULD BE ONE STEP IN AN HONEST ACCOUNTING OF AMERICA'S HISTORY. A MODEST BUT MEANINGFUL FOR SO MANY UNHEALED WINDS. IT WOULD BE THE EXPRESSION OF THE AMAZING CHANGES THAT HAVE TRANSFORMED THIS STATE AND COUNTRY FOR THE BETTER. BECAUSE OF THE WORK OF SO MANY PEOPLE OF GOODWILL, PEOPLE OF ALL RACES A STRIVING TO FORM A MORE PERFECT UNION. BY TAKING DOWN THAT FLAG, WE EXPRESS ADDS GRACE -- GOD'S GRACE. [APPLAUSE] PRESIDENT OBAMA: I DON'T THINK GOD WANTS US TO STOP THERE. [APPLAUSE] PRESIDENT OBAMA: FOR TOO LONG, WE HAVE BEEN BLIND TO BE WAY PAST INJUSTICES CONTINUE TO SHAKE THE PRESENT. [APPLAUSE] PRESIDENT OBAMA: PERHAPS WE SEE THAT NOW. PERHAPS THIS TRAGEDY CAUSES US TO ASK SOME TOUGH QUESTIONS ABOUT HOW WE CAN PERMIT SO MANY OF OUR CHILDREN TO LANGUISH IN POVERTY OR ATTEND DILAPIDATED SCHOOLS OR GROW UP WITHOUT PROSPECTS FOR A JOB OR CAREERS. [APPLAUSE] PRESIDENT OBAMA: PERHAPS IT CAUSES US TO EXAMINE WHAT WE ARE DOING TO CAUSE SOME OF OUR CHILDREN TO HATE. [APPLAUSE] PRESIDENT OBAMA: PERHAPS IT SOFTENS HEARTS TOWARDS THOSE LOST YOUNG MEN, TENS AND THOUSANDS CAUGHT UP IN THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM AND LEAD ESTIMATES ARE THAT SYSTEM IS NOT INFECTED WITH BIAS. AND WE EMBRACE CHANGES IN HOW WE TRAIN AND EQUIP OUR POLICE SO THAT THE BONDS OF TRUST BETWEEN LAW ENFORCEMENT AND THE COMMUNITY THEY SERVE MAKES US ALL SAFER AND MORE SECURE. [APPLAUSE] PRESIDENT OBAMA: MAYBE WE NOW REALIZE THE WAY A RACIAL BIAS CAN INFECT US EVEN WHEN WE DON'T REALIZE IT. SO THAT WE ARE GUARDING AGAINST NOT JUST RACIAL SLURS BUT ALSO GOING AGAINST THE SADDLE IMPULSE -- SUBTLE IMPULSE TO CALL JOHNNY BACK FOR A JOB INTERVIEW BUT NOT JAMAL. [APPLAUSE] [CHEERING] PRESIDENT OBAMA: SO THAT WE SEARCH OUR HEARTS WHEN WE CONSIDER LAWS TO MAKE IT HARDER FOR SOME OF OUR FELLOW CITIZENS TO VOTE. [APPLAUSE] PRESIDENT OBAMA: I WRECK IT -- BY RECOGNIZING OUR COMMON HUMANITY, BY TREATING EVERY CHILD AS IMPORTANT REGARDLESS OF THE COLOR OF THEIR SKIN OR THE STATION INTO WHICH THEY WERE BORN OR TO DO WHAT IS NECESSARY TO MAKE OPPORTUNITY REAL FOR EVERY AMERICAN. BY DOING THAT, WE EXPRESS GOD'S GRACE. [APPLAUSE] [CHEERING] PRESIDENT OBAMA: FOR TOO LONG -- [APPLAUSE] PRESIDENT OBAMA: FOR TOO LONG, WE HAVE BEEN BLIND TO THE UNIQUE MAYHEM THAT GUN VIOLENCE AFFLICTS UPON THIS NATION. [APPLAUSE] PRESIDENT OBAMA: SPORADICALLY, OUR EYES ARE OPEN. WHEN IT OF OUR BROTHERS AND SISTERS ARE CUT DOWN IN A CHURCH BASEMENT, 12 IN A MOVIE THEATER, 26 AND AN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL -- I N AN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL. BUT I HOPE WE ALSO SEE THE 30 PRECIOUS LIVES CUT SHORT BY GUN VIOLENCE IN THIS COUNTRY EVERY SINGLE DAY. THE COUNTLESS MORE HIS LIFE ARE FOREVER CHANGED, THE SURVIVORS CRIPPLED, THE CHILDREN TRAUMATIZED AND FEARFUL AS THEY WALKED TO SCHOOL. THE HUSBAND WHO WILL NEVER FEEL HIS WIFE'S WARM TOUCH. THE ENTIRE COMMUNITIES WHOSE GRIEF OVERFLOWS EVERY TIME THEY HAVE TO WATCH WHAT HAPPENED TO THEM HAPPEN TO SOME OTHER PLACE. THE VAST MAJORITY OF AMERICANS, THE MAJORITY OF GUN OWNERS WANT TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS. [APPLAUSE] PRESIDENT OBAMA: WE SEE THAT NOW. [APPLAUSE] PRESIDENT OBAMA: AND I AM CONVINCED BY KNOWLEDGE THE PAIN AND LOSS OF OTHERS EVEN AS WE RESPECT THE TRADITIONS AND WAYS OF LIFE THAT MAKE UP THIS BELOVED COUNTRY, BY MAKING THE MORAL CHOICE TO CHANGE, WE EXPRESS GOD'S GRACE. [APPLAUSE] PRESIDENT OBAMA: WE DON'T EARN GRACE. WE ARE ALL SINNERS. WE DON'T DESERVE IT. [APPLAUSE] PRESIDENT OBAMA: BUT GOD GIVES IT TO US ANYWAY AND WE CHOOSE HOW TO RECEIVE IT. IT IS OUR DECISION HOW TO HONOR IT. NONE OF US CAN OR SHOULD EXPECT A TRANSFORMATION IN RACE RELATIONS OVERNIGHT. EVERY TIME SOMETHING LIKE THIS HAPPENS, SOMEONE SAYS WE HAVE TO HAVE A CONVERSATION ABOUT RACE. WE TALK A LOT ABOUT RACE. [APPLAUSE] PRESIDENT OBAMA: THERE IS NO SHORTCUT. WE DON'T NEED MORE TALK. [APPLAUSE] PRESIDENT OBAMA: NONE OF US SHOULD BELIEVE THAT A HANDFUL OF GUN SAFETY MEASURES WILL PREVENT EVERY TRAGEDY. IT WILL NOT. PEOPLE OF GOODWILL WILL CONTINUE TO DEBATE THE MERITS OF VARIOUS POLICIES AS OUR DEMOCRACY REQUIRES. THERE ARE GOOD PEOPLE ON BOTH SIDES OF THESE DEBATES. WHATEVER SOLUTIONS WE FIND WILL NECESSARILY BE INCOMPLETE. BUT IT WOULD BE A BETRAYAL OF EVERYTHING REVEREND PICKNEY STOOD FOR, I BELIEVE, IF WE ALLOW OURSELVES TO SLIP INTO A COMFORTABLE SILENCE AGAIN. [APPLAUSE] PRESIDENT OBAMA: ONCE THE EULOGIES HAVE BEEN DELIVERED, THE TV CAMERAS MOVE ON, TO GO BACK TO BUSINESS AS USUAL. THAT IS WHAT WE SO OFTEN DO. TO AVOID UNCOMFORTABLE TRUTHS ABOUT THE PREJUDICE THAT STILL INFECTS OUR SOCIETY. [APPLAUSE] PRESIDENT OBAMA: TO SETTLE FOR SYMBOLIC GESTURES WITHOUT FOLLOWING UP WITH THE HARD WORK OF MORE LASTING CHANGE. THAT IS HOW WE LOSE OUR WAY AGAIN. IT WOULD BE A REPUTATION OF THE FORGIVENESS EXPRESSED BY THOSE FAMILIES IF WE MERELY SLIPPED INTO OLD HABITS WHEREBY THOSE WHO DISAGREE WITH US ARE NOT MERELY WRONG BUT BAD. WHERE WE SHOUT INSTEAD OF LISTEN. WHERE WE BARRICADE OURSELVES BEHIND PRECONCEIVED NOTIONS OR WELL PRACTICED CYNICISM. REVEREND PICKNEY ONCE SAID "ACROSS THE SOUTH, WE HAVE A DEEP APPRECIATION OF HISTORY. WE HAVE NOT ALWAYS HAD A DEEP APPRECIATION OF EACH OTHER'S HISTORY." [APPLAUSE] PRESIDENT OBAMA: WHAT IS TRUE IN THE SOUTH IS TRUE FOR AMERICA. HE UNDERSTOOD THAT JUSTICE GROWS OUT OF RECOGNITION. OF OURSELVES AND EACH OTHER. -- IN EACH OTHER. MY LIBERTY DEPENDS ON YOU BEING FREE TOO. [APPLAUSE] PRESIDENT OBAMA: THAT HISTORY CANNOT BE A SWORD TO JUSTIFY INJUSTICE OR A SHIELD AGAINST PROGRESS. IT MUST BE A MANUAL TOOL AVOID HOW TO REPEAT THE MISTAKES OF THE PAST, HOW TO BREAK THE CYCLE. A ROADWAY FOR A BETTER WORLD. HE KNEW THAT THE PATH OF GRACE INVOLVES AN OPEN MIND. BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY, AN OPEN HEART. THAT IS WHAT I FELT THIS WEEK. AN OPEN HEART. THAT, MORE THAN ANY PARTICULAR POLICY OR ANALYSIS IS WHAT IS CALLED UPON RIGHT NOW, I THINK. WHAT A FRIEND OF MINE, THE WRITER MARILYN ROBINSON, CALLS THAT RESERVOIR OF GOODNESS BEYOND END OF ANOTHER KIND THAT WE ARE ABLE TO DO EACH OTHER IN THE ORDINARY CAUSE OF THINGS. THAT RESERVOIR OF GOODNESS. IF WE CAN FIND THAT GRACE, ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE. [APPLAUSE] PRESIDENT OBAMA: IF WE CONTACTED THAT GRACE -- CAN TAP THAT GRACE, EVERYTHING CAN CHANGE. AMAZING GRACE. AMAZING GRACE. (music) AMAZING GRACE HOW SWEET THE SOUND

Re-Naming as Decolonization

Very worthwhile read by Dr. Jessica Namakkal that speaks to the importance of names, naming, and this truly historic opportunity for a "decolonial reckoning," as follows:
In contrast to the many countries once ruled by European imperial
power, the United States has never had a decolonial reckoning as a
nation, despite calls from movements such as the American Indian
Movement and Idle No More, amongst others. Today there are
numerous indigenous, African-American,and Latin@ activists and
groups working to dismantle colonial language, but are held up not
only by conservative groups who actively promote maintaining white
supremacy, but also by mainstream and even left-of-center Liberals
nostalgic for the past who are certain they can improve the conditions
of the “wretched of the earth” while maintaining the status quo.

What we all have to realize—as Dr. Namakkal indicates—is that naming is claiming, and also that the (re)naming of the world continues into the present and that if looked at closely and critically, reveals extant social relations of power and privilege and how these are inflected by race/ethnicity, social class, gender, and heterosexual normativity.

Naming is not only about "who" is doing the naming, but also the world that gets constructed or reinscribed in the process.  These reinscriptions stubbornly adhere to old and enduring myths related to racial superiority—otherwise termed, "white supremacy," individualism, and meritocracy—while systematically silent on majority-minority relations and the unearned privileges of the dominant class.


Must we rename and go down this so-called, "slippery slope" of interrogating our history to make a possible dent in the symbolic violence associated with the specific names that track back to slavery, conquest, colonization, and imperialism? I agree with Dr. Namakkal that this is indeed our historic opportunity if we are to actually have this "reckoning," the absence of which will have been an opportunity squandered.  Yet this is much more than a geographic re-naming of the land and the re-calling of its tawdry, frequently blood-soaked, history.  Rather this is our historic opportunity to bring back into existence the heretofore muted voices, stories, and testimonies of the subaltern to restore our nation with a fresh spirit of respect, dignity, and inclusion that brings together the fragments of an imperial and colonial legacy that has systematically negated this conversation as one of its defining features.

As Paolo Freire wisely admonished in Pedagogy of the Oppressed, to name or rename requires dialogue and must occur between parties open to listening—most particularly to the historically marginalized Other.  This denial of the right to speak on such matters is part of the dehumanizing oppression to which President Obama spoke in Friday's eulogy.  

Do read this piece in its entirety. Also read and savor the president's exquisite, divinely-inspired eulogy that I also posted to this blog.  

Sí se puede!  Yes we can! And it's going to take a whole heck of a lot of work and really good thinking and a right heart, so we'd best get on with it.
 

Angela Valenzuela 
#knowtheirnames
Early Texas Flag

Early Texas Flag








Making History, Not Erasing It

by JESSICA NAMAKKAL
There has been an important hashtag — #knowtheirnames
— circulating through social media recently that encourages us all to
say out loud and remember the names of those murdered by a white
supremacist in Charleston on June 17, 2015. Just a few months ago, the Guardian launched an interactive project, “The Counted,”
that names all of the victims of police violence in the United States
in 2015, with a running toll in the left-hand corner (the toll was at
528 as I sat down to write these words). Saying the names of people who
have lost their lives to white supremacy is something we need to remind
ourselves to do, while at the same time large segments of the population
generally have no problem with swimming in a lake named after proponents of slavery and Native American genocide, entering buildings named after Ku Klux Klan leaders
to earn our college degrees, or spending and earning money with the
faces of slave owners on them. The names of the people responsible for
the deaths and oppression of large numbers of Americans are often on our
lips and at our fingertips in the United States.

Popular arguments in the South, where I live now, are that buildings
named after former Klan leaders and Confederates reflect the history of
the South and re-naming them would “erase” or “sanitize” the past. As a
scholar who studies and teaches history, I often hear students (as well
as fellow academics) write off these contested names, excusing the
benefactor because “everyone was racist then,” “everyone owned slaves
then,” or, in the context of 20th-century Europe “everyone
was anti-Semitic.” Of course, this is categorically untrue once you take
into account the enslaved, the Jewish targets of 20th-century
Fascism, and the many allies who fought for the abolition of slavery
and for the National Socialists in Germany to be stopped. History has
the power to establish the status quo, but it also the duty of
historians to expose the cracks in the monotonous façade.

While a lot of media attention has focused on South Carolina and the
reckoning with the confederate flag in the past few days, the
controversy over re-naming has made it to the “great white North”.
Recently, in my home state of Minnesota, there has been a call to rename
Lake Calhoun, one of the chain of lakes that is at the center of some
of the most expensive property in Minneapolis, as well as a public space
that attracts thousands of visitors to its beaches and running trails.
Before white colonialists settled the land, the Dakota people called
this body of water Mde Maka Ska, or White Earth Lake. In the early 19th
century, it was re-named for John Caldwell Calhoun (1782-1850), a man
who promoted slavery, owned slaves, and was as U.S. Congressman from
South Carolina, Secretary of War, as well as the seventh Vice-President
of the United States, under Presidents John Quincy Adams and Andrew
Jackson. Calhoun supported the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act, and was himself a
slave owner. As Jon Schwarz of the Intercept has pointed out,
the names and voices of the many slaves Calhoun owned, abused, and
profited from have remained “voiceless” in the history of the United
States, while Calhoun is remembered throughout the country, from this
lake in Minneapolis, to a statue in Marion Square in Charleston, S.C.,
not far from the Emmanuel AME Church that was attacked. Following the
massacre, the Calhoun was spray painted with the slogan “Black Lives
Matter.”

The terrorist act in Charleston that left Sharonda Coleman-Singleton,
Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Cynthia Hurd, Tywanza Sanders, Myra Thompson,
Ethel Lee Lance, Rev. Daniel L. Simmons, Rev. Depayne Middleton-Doctor,
and Susie Jackson dead, opened the eyes of many Minnesotans for the
first time to who John C. Calhoun was – leaving many confused as to why
there was a Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis. In the wake of Charleston, a
petition was started by Minneapolis resident Mike Spangenberg to rename
Lake Calhoun: according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the petition had over 2500
signatures by the end of the day on June 23rd.

People in the Northern United States tend to view racism and racial
segregation as a Southern problem. There is a certain air of moral
superiority that comes with the cold air in Minnesota – a state that has
a history of progressive politics, and a pride in being well north of
the Mason-Dixon. As I’ve followed the comments on social media around
the Lake Calhoun naming question, I’ve noticed a lot of Minnesotans –
white, middle-class, educated Minnesotans – urging caution on the
question of re-naming. Some people think it doesn’t really matter who
John C. Calhoun was, and are loathe to change something that is
familiar. To these individuals, it is immoral to “erase history” by
re-naming. “Why not keep the name and use it to educate?” some have
asked. They argue that re-naming is not that significant; that energy
could be better spent other places. Others still note that it is a
“slippery slope,” and ask, “What is next – renaming Fort Snelling?”

Just as large swaths of Minnesotans had never stopped to think about
who John C. Calhoun was while enjoying the lake, many of these same
people have been oblivious to a struggle not just to re-name but also to
raze Fort Snelling and mark it solely as a site of genocide. Dakota
activists, scholars, and their allies have occupied Fort Snelling,
 led marches to Fort Snelling in protest of its imperialist history, and
published editorials calling for its removal. The indigenous people involved in this
struggle are no stranger to John C. Calhoun — Calhoun was not only a
promoter of slavery in the South, he also founded Fort Snelling, the
site of U.S. military occupation used to control the Dakota people who
lived in the Upper Mississippi River Valley, using it as an internment
camp during the US-Dakota War of 1862.

The truth is, as indigenous scholars and activists have been telling
us for at least a century, that the majority of streets, towns, lakes,
forests, schools, and other government institutions are named after
white men (and sometimes women) who achieved fame for colonizing the
land, establishing a system of white supremacy, and annihilating
indigenous people, culture, and language. The indigenous peoples of the
United States have never been allowed the opportunity to decolonize,
which stems from an inability of a great number of Americans to
recognize they are part of a colonizing class. As many important
indigenous and African-American thinkers have reminded us, communities 
of color are still under occupation in the United States today.

Language and naming are important tools of colonial control. In
colonial India, for example, British administrators controlled the
population by naming everything in English – from encouraging local
people to give their children proper English names to insisting
that English education was modern while learning in Sanskrit was outdated (as
for the hundreds of regional and vernacular languages, those weren’t
even worth thinking about, except to control local populations).
Buildings, streets, and schools were named after the heroes of colonial
conquest. After a long struggle for independence from British rule that
ended in 1947, there was a massive movement to change the names of these
institutions that had once born the names of the masters. Part of the
decolonial process meant that street names lost their British character,
giving way to a multitude of streets named after the heroes of
independence, such as M.K. Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. These name
changes all have, however, a particular history and politics that tell
us about both the current political moment and the historical past. The
changed street names are often printed above or on top of the old names –
traces of the colonial past are all around the subcontinent, and have
certainly not been forgotten.

India is not the only post-colonial country to engage in massive
renaming campaigns. After the fall of the USSR, statues of Communist
leaders were toppled all over Russia, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia,
and thousands of streets named for Stalin and Lenin were either restored
to their original names or given new ones. Countries throughout Latin
America and Africa have also moved away from colonial names.

In contrast to the many countries once ruled by European imperial
power, the United States has never had a decolonial reckoning as a
nation, despite calls from movements such as the American Indian
Movement and Idle No More, amongst others. Today there are
numerous indigenous, African-American,and Latin@ activists and
groups working to dismantle colonial language, but are held up not
only by conservative groups who actively promote maintaining white
supremacy, but also by mainstream and even left-of-center Liberals
nostalgic for the past who are certain they can improve the conditions
of the “wretched of the earth” while maintaining the status quo.

People not involved in social movements led by people of color often
ask, should we really rename every one of these streets and lakes? Isn’t
that just asking too much? To this I reply – of course we should! Will
this dismantle white supremacy? Of course not, but it will create an
important note in the historical record that at this point in time a
significant number of people in the United States came to understand
that the history of this country is not in the official names we see on
government signs, but is in what is buried underneath. The year 2015
could be remembered because Wal-Mart banned the sale of confederate flag
items, South Carolina removed the confederate flag from flying in front
of the state house, activists at the University of North Carolina –
Chapel Hill fought successfully for the name change of Saunders Hall to
Carolina Hall (though their proposed name was Hurston Hall,
Carolina Hall the choice of the Board of Trustees), and all across the
United States, people removed the name “Calhoun” from monuments, lakes,
streets, buildings, and schools.

Calls for re-naming are happening all over the United States right
now – it’s not a Northern issue, a Southern issue, or a Western issue.
The United States, as a nation, is past due for a conversation about
what decolonization will look like. Re-naming never erases history; it
only makes the historical record richer. Many involved in the petition
to rename Lake Calhoun have suggested changing the name but including a
historical marker that explains the legacy of the name and the movement
that arose amongst the people of Minnesota to change it. That is, in my
opinion, one excellent way to make history.


Jessica Namakkal is Assistant Professor of the
Practice in International Comparative Studies and Women’s Studies at
Duke University in Durham, NC. She grew up in St. Paul, MN and received
her PhD in History from the University of Minnesota in 2013.





Saturday, June 27, 2015

New Consul Takes on Mexico's Texas Diaspora

We are very fortunate to have Carlos González Gutiérrez as our new consul general from Mexico here with us in Austin, Texas.  I know him personally.  We could not be more fortunate.  He'll be making some important changes.  This is part of what is at play between our two countries and the very important role that Texas plays in this regard:
"We trade annually about $200 billion, which is twice the amount of [trade between] the U.K. and the U.S. It’s three times what Mexico trades with California, and our prosperity depends on Texas and Texas’ prosperity depends on Mexico. My job is to make sure that awareness of that contribution is widespread. My job is to make sure that people who love Mexico and believe in this relationship contribute their talents and resources to strengthen that relationship."
Bienvenido a Tejas y a Austin/ Welcome to Texas and Austin, Consul General Carlos Gonzalez Gutierrez!

Angela Valenzuela


New Consul Takes on Mexico's Texas Diaspora

Consul General Carlos González Gutiérrez
Consul General Carlos González Gutiérrez
California has more Mexican immigrants living within its borders than Texas. But in the Lone Star State, the Mexican community is much more diverse. That's just one takeaway from Mexican Consul Carlos González Gutiérrez. After one month at the helm of Austin's 75-year-old consulate general's office, González, who served most recently as his country's consul in Sacramento, discussed the challenges and benefits of being a Mexican national in the capital city.
The following is an edited and condensed transcript of the interview.
The Texas Tribune: How was the consulate’s office in Austin selected? Is it based on how many Mexican nationals are in a city?
Carlos González Gutiérrez: The consulate of Mexico in Austin has been here since 1940. We have 50 consulates all around the United States; 11 of them are in Texas.
The responsibility of this consulate general, like any other consulate, is to promote and protect the rights of our nationals in our jurisdictions, promote its interests, and to promote the image and the prestige of Mexico. Because we are in the capital city, a particular responsibility of ours is to follow up and monitor and inform our government about public policies that are designed at the Capitol and the governor’s office that will have an impact on Mexicans living in Texas. We also ensure that we are able to transmit to elected and appointed officials our positions in a transparent and clear way.
TT: Do most people that arrive at the consulate have complaints about the way they are treated? Why do most people come here?
CGG: The most basic, and perhaps most important, service we can provide is documentation services. We provide travel documents such as passports or ID documents, like consular IDs. We also provide birth certificates and powers of attorneys so people don’t have to go to Mexico to conduct a commercial operation. I can act as a civil judge abroad, and according to Mexican law I can marry people. Besides that, there is a protection department. Our responsibility is to provide legal protections to Mexicans in dire straits. We help them with advice, make sure they understand their legal situation, and sometimes we are able to provide them legal counsel, or we refer them to trusted sources of legal counsel. We visit prisons, we visit hospitals. Like any other consulate in the world, we have strong immigration advice for people who live here on an irregular migratory status.
TT: Do you ever speak to state officials about state immigration policies, like the debate to eliminate in-state tuition for undocumented students? Do you testify or meet with the governor’s staff or other lawmakers on those issues?
CGG: Yes, on almost a daily basis. I do not testify. I am a diplomat, a representative of a foreign government. Even if I were invited to a hearing, it would not be appropriate for me to testify in front of another sovereignty.
TT: That’s according to Mexican law?
CGG: Yes, it’s our policy.
TT: So you meet behind closed doors with officials?
CGG: What I do is transmit the position of my government on different issues. The U.S.-Mexico relationship, in particular the Texas-Mexico relationship, it’s unique in terms of its intermestic character. “Intermestic” is a concept that tries to define a relationship in which the line that divides the domestic policy and its foreign policy is blurred. There are many areas of policy that are designed and implemented with a domestic policy focus. But nevertheless, they have an impact across the border. So on the one hand, it’s our responsibility at the consulate to let the Mexican government know in Mexico City what the priorities are here. But on the other it’s also in the interest of Texas’ decision makers and, of course, for Mexico to have an active consul in Austin and an active consulate general that is able to transmit with transparency and clarity what are positions are.
TT: How are you chosen for this office?
CGG: I am a member of the Mexican Foreign Service, and I have been for 28 years. I have reached the rank of ambassador, which is the top rank of a diplomatic career. I have been able to focus exclusively on Mexican communities in the United States. This is my vocation. This is the area I have been able to concentrate on in my professional career.
Previously I was the consulate general of Mexico in Sacramento. I was the executive director of the institute for Mexicans abroad in the foreign ministry. I have also had positions in the Mexican Embassy in Washington, D.C., and the consulate general of Mexico in Los Angeles.
TT: Do you see that from state to state and city to city, the needs and services you provide are the same? Or do you think the Mexicans living here have different needs or concerns than they do in California?
CGG: When you talk about our diaspora, you cannot talk about the one Mexican community. You have to talk about the many Mexican communities in the United States. And that is not truer than in Texas. The diversity, the variety, the complexity of the many Mexican communities that coincide here makes my job very challenging and very fascinating. It goes from the Mexican undocumented worker that had to cross the border surreptitiously to the other extreme of a highly skilled Mexican national that lives in Austin because of the global hunt for talent. And in the middle you can think about many other possibilities and communities. The university also attracts a lot of brilliant Mexican students. It’s completely diverse.
TT: How long is your term here in Austin?
CGG: I serve at the please of the president. We are nominated by the president and then ratified by the Senate. Usually a traditional diplomatic tour of duty lasts between two and five years.
TT: Is that enough time to do what you want to do in Austin?
CGG: It better be. I have to start fast, and the foreign ministry is supporting this consulate very heavily. We are going to be moving to a building that is more appropriate for our needs. We are going to increase our infrastructure in terms of officers that are working at the consulate. Texas is Mexico’s most important partner in the United States. We trade annually about $200 billion, which is twice the amount of [trade between] the U.K. and the U.S. It’s three times what Mexico trades with California, and our prosperity depends on Texas and Texas’ prosperity depends on Mexico. My job is to make sure that awareness of that contribution is widespread. My job is to make sure that people who love Mexico and believe in this relationship contribute their talents and resources to strengthen that relationship.
TT: When President Obama announced the extension of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), this office started offering birth certificates to help people apply for the DAPA initiative. Did you change those policies after the immigration plans were placed on hold by the courts?
CGG: No, we are making sure that people understand that the traditional DACA services (announced in 2012) have not been canceled and that almost half of the population that could benefit from it still has not applied. So we have created new programs, such as a partial reimbursement that we are offering to Mexican nationals who come here and ask for help to apply. The fee is $465; we help them with $150 reimbursement once the process is finished. We are also making sure that people do not fall prey to unscrupulous attorneys or non-attorneys who want to take advantage of the confusion.
The most important challenge that I have is that Mexican nationals understand that we are here to help, that this is a house of services. When your migratory status is irregular ...
TT: How would you define “irregular”? You mean “undocumented”?
CGG: Yes, let’s be more clear. If you are undocumented and living in Texas, you could have been here for two decades as an undocumented immigrant. When you are living your life that way, you have a permanent feeling of vulnerability because you know you can be deported at any moment. So a particular challenge for the consulate is making sure Mexican nationals understand this office is not an authority from which they should keep a distance, but instead an office that is here to help. It’s an office that is staffed by professional, trained people that will help integrate them into U.S. society.
TT: Is this building considered Mexican soil, like an embassy? Can someone come here for protection? Is U.S. law enforcement allowed in here?
CGG: It has diplomatic and consular immunity. It’s not as if it is Mexican territory. If the unthinkable happened, we’d need to call the police. But there are certain procedures and protocols that according to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations have to be followed. They cannot enter without an invitation from the head of the mission.
TT: Are you a member of the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) in Mexico?
CGG: No, I am not a member of any political party. I am a career diplomat and a Foreign Service official. Being a career diplomat allows me to work with whoever is elected president by the people of Mexico.
TT: Do you have an opinion in the recent nomination of Secretary Roberta Jacobson for the United States ambassador to Mexico?
CGG: Yes, I think that it’s one of the top-ranked diplomats that the United States has. Her nomination has been very well received in Mexico, and it shows clearly the top-priority status Mexico has for the president of the United States. And I am sure she will be welcomed with open arms in Mexico.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Hispanic population reaches record 55 million, but growth has cooled

Just out from Pew Hispanic. Key quote from within:

The data showed no change in ranking among the states with the highest Hispanic populations. California still leads the list (15.0 million), followed by Texas (10.4 million) and Florida (4.8 million). Together, these three states account for more than half (55%) the Hispanic population. But their share is down from 58% in 2000, reflecting a wider dispersion of the nation’s Hispanic population over the past decade and a half.
-Angela

June 25, 2015

Hispanic population reaches record 55 million, but growth has cooled

The U.S. Hispanic population has been a key driver of the country’s population growth since at least 2000. But the group’s growth has slowed in recent years, and that trend continued in 2014, as evidenced by new figures released early today by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The Hispanic population reached a new high of 55.4 million in 2014 (or 17.4% of the total U.S. population), an increase of 1.2 million (2.1%) from the year before. However, that 2.1% rate continues a trend of slower growth that began in 2010.

Hispanic population growth had peaked earlier, in the 1990s. From 1995 to 2000, annual average growth was 4.8%, and growth has declined since then. From 2010 to 2014, the annual average growth had dropped to 2.2%. Part of the reason for this decline in population growth is the slowdown in immigration from Latin America, and in particular, from Mexico.
Hispanic Population Growth
The Census Bureau’s annual population estimates detail the nation’s demographics in a variety of categories, including race and ethnicity, geography, and age. For example, the county with the highest Hispanic population by far is Los Angeles County in California (4.9 million), followed by Harris County in Texas (1.9 million) and Miami-Dade County in Florida (1.8 million).

Hispanic populations are not necessarily growing everywhere. From 2010 to 2014, the Hispanic population declined in 11 counties that have Hispanic populations of 10,000 or more, located in Alabama (Jefferson), Arizona (Santa Cruz), Florida (Hardee), Georgia (Clayton and DeKalb), New Mexico (Rio Arriba, San Juan, and San Miguel) and Texas (Duval, Hale and Willacy). The biggest decline came in DeKalb County in suburban Atlanta, where the Hispanic population was 64,279 in 2014, down 4% from 2010.

The data showed no change in ranking among the states with the highest Hispanic populations. California still leads the list (15.0 million), followed by Texas (10.4 million) and Florida (4.8 million). Together, these three states account for more than half (55%) the Hispanic population. But their share is down from 58% in 2000, reflecting a wider dispersion of the nation’s Hispanic population over the past decade and a half.

In addition, the new Census Bureau estimates show that Hispanics, with a median age of 29 years, are younger than most other racial or ethnic groups. By comparison, the median age for non-Hispanic blacks is 34; it’s 43 for non-Hispanic whites and 36 for Asians. But Hispanics are growing older: In 2010, the group’s median age was 27, up from 26 in 2000.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Resistance to High Stakes Tests Serves the Cause of Equity in Education: A Reply to “We Oppose Anti-Testing Efforts”

Consider adding your group or organization to this Coalition. -Angela

Authored by Jesse Hagopian and the NPE Board of Directors
Today several important civil rights organizations released a statement that is critical of the decision by many parents and students to opt out of high stakes standardized tests. Though we understand the concerns expressed in this statement, we believe high stakes tests are doing more harm than good to the interests of students of color, and for that reason, we respectfully disagree.
The United States is currently experiencing the largest uprising against high-stakes standardized testing in the nation’s history. Never before have more parents, students, and educators participated in acts of defiance against these tests than they are today.  In New York State some 200,000 families have decided to opt their children out of the state test.  The largest walkout against standardized tests in U.S. history occurred in Colorado earlier this school year when thousands refused to take the end of course exams.  In cities from Seattle, to Chicago, to Toledo, to New York City, teachers have organized boycotts of the exam and have refused to administer particularly flawed and punitive exams.
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan attempted to dismiss this uprising by saying that opposition to the Common Core tests has come from “white suburban moms who — all of a sudden — their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were, and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were.” Secretary Duncan’s comment is offensive for many reasons. To begin, suburban white moms have a right not to have their child over tested and the curriculum narrowed to what’s on the test without being ridiculed. But the truth is his comment serves to hide the fact that increasing numbers of people from communities of color are leading this movement around the nation, including:

You would expect the multi-billion dollar testing industry not to celebrate this resistance. Conglomerates such as Pearson, the over 9 billion dollar per year corporation that produces the PARCC test, could stand to lose market share and profits if the protests continue to intensify. But it is unfortunate that more civil rights groups have not come to the aid of communities resisting the test-and-punish model of education. In a recent statement issued by the national leadership of some of the nation’s most prominent civil rights organizations, they wrote:
Data obtained through some standardized tests are particularly important to the civil rights community because they are the only available, consistent, and objective source of data about disparities in educational outcomes even while vigilance is always required to ensure tests are not misused.
We agree that it is vital to understand the disparities that exist in education and to detail the opportunity gap that exists between students of color and white students, between lower income students and students from more affluent families. There is a long and troubling history of schools serving children of color not receiving equitable access to resources and not providing these students with culturally competent empowering curriculum. Moreover, the schools are more segregated today than they were in the 1960s—a fact that must be particularly troubling to the NAACP that fought and won the Brown vs Board of Education desegregation decision. For these reasons, we understand why national civil rights organizations are committed to exposing the neglect of students of color.
Yet we know that high-stakes standardized tests, rather than reducing the opportunity gap, have been used to rank, sort, label, and punish students of color.  This fact has been amply demonstrated through the experience of the past thirteen years of NCLB’s mandate of national testing in grades 3-8 and once in high school. The outcomes of the NCLB policy shows that test score achievement gaps between African American and white students have only increased, not decreased. If the point of the testing is to highlight inequality and fix it, so far it has only increased inequality. Further, the focus on test score data has allowed policy makers to rationalize the demonization of schools and educators, while simultaneously avoiding the more critically necessary structural changes that need to be made in our education system and the broader society.
We also know that standardized testing is not the only, or the most important, method to know that students of color are being underserved; student graduation rates, college attendants rates, studies showing that wealthier and predominantly white schools receiving a disproportionate amount of funding are all important measures of the opportunity gap that don’t require the use of high-stakes standardized tests.
The civil rights organizations go on to write in their recent statement on assessment,
That’s why we’re troubled by the rhetoric that some opponents of testing have appropriated from our movement. The anti-testing effort has called assessments anti-Black and compared them to the discriminatory tests used to suppress African-American voters during Jim Crow segregation. They’ve raised the specter of White supremacists who employed biased tests to ‘prove’ that people of color were inferior to Whites.
There are some legitimate concerns about testing in schools that must be addressed. But instead of stimulating worthy discussions about over-testing, cultural bias in tests, and the misuse of test data, these activists would rather claim a false mantle of civil rights activism.
To begin, we agree with these civil rights organizations when they write that over-testing, cultural bias in tests, and misuse of test data are “legitimate concerns about testing in schools that must be addressed”—and in fact we hope to hear more from these civil rights organizations about these very real and destructive aspects of high-stakes standardized testing.  Moreover, we believe that when these civil rights organizations fully confront just how pervasive over-testing, cultural bias and misuse of data is in the public education system, these facts alone will be enough to convince them join the mass civil rights opt out uprising that is happening around the nation. Let us take each one of these points in turn.
  • Over testing
The American Federation of Teachers (AFT, the second largest teacher’s union in the nation) conducted a 2013 study based on a analysis of two mid-size urban school districts that found the time students spent taking tests claimed up to 50 hours per year. In addition, the study found that students spent from between 60 to more than 110 hours per year directly engaged in test preparation activities. The immense amount of time devoted to testing has resulted in students in a constant state of preparation for the next high-stakes exam rather than learning the many skills that aren’t measured by standardized tests such as critical thinking, collaboration, civic courage, creativity, empathy, and leadership. The new Common Core tests are only in math and language arts and thus have served to skew the curriculum away from the arts, physical education, civics, social studies, science, music, and a myriad of other subjects that students of color are too often denied access to.
  • Cultural bias
Standardized tests have repeatedly been found to contain cultural biases. The process by which test questions are “normed” tends to eliminate questions that non-white students answer correctly in higher numbers. In New York, the number of Black students rated “below standard” jumped from 15.5% to 50% with the introduction of new Common Core tests. English learners did even worse – 84% tested “below standard” on the new tests. This sort of failure has devastating effects on students, and does not reflect their true abilities.
  • Violations of student privacy
Common Core tests are associated with the collection of unprecedented levels of data from individual students, with few safeguards for student privacy. These systems allow for-profit testing companies, and third party companies, access to information that could be used against the interests of students in the future.
However, if those problems weren’t enough there are a myriad of other ways that these high-stakes standardized tests are being used to perpetuate institutional racism.  Perhaps the most curious omission from their letter is the fact that they assert that, “The anti-testing effort has called assessments anti-Black and compared them to the discriminatory tests used to suppress African-American voters during Jim Crow segregation,” yet they offer no rebuttal of the assertion that the standardized tests today share many of the characteristics of the discriminatory exams of the past.  As a recent editorial by the social justice periodical Rethinking Schools asserted:
The United States has a long history of using intelligence tests to support white supremacy and class stratification. Standardized tests first entered the public schools in the 1920s, pushed by eugenicists whose pseudoscience promoted the “natural superiority” of wealthy, white, U.S.-born males. High-stakes standardized tests have disguised class and race privilege as merit ever since. The consistent use of test scores to demonstrate first a “mental ability” gap and now an “achievement” gap exposes the intrinsic nature of these tests: They are built to maintain inequality, not to serve as an antidote to educational disparities.
This is why some of the most prominent early voices of opposition to standardized testing in schools came from leading African American scholars such as W. E. B. Du Bois, Horace Mann Bond, and Howard Long. Du Bois, one of the most important Black intellectuals in the history of the United States and a founding member of the NAACP, recalled in 1940, “It was not until I was long out of school and indeed after the [first] World War that there came the hurried use of the new technique of psychological tests, which were quickly adjusted so as to put black folk absolutely beyond the possibility of civilization.”
The great educator and historian Horace Mann Bond, in his work “Intelligence Tests and Propaganda,” wrote this statement that so clearly reveals one of the primary flaws of standardized testing that persist to this day:
But so long as any group of men attempts to use these tests as funds of information for the approximation of crude and inaccurate generalizations, so long must we continue to cry, “Hold!” To compare the crowded millions of New York’s East Side with the children of Morningside Heights [an upper-class neighborhood at the time] indeed involves a great contradiction; and to claim that the results of the tests given to such diverse groups, drawn from such varying strata of the social complex, are in any wise accurate, is to expose a fatuous sense of unfairness and lack of appreciation of the great environmental factors of modern urban life.
Bond was expressing then what is today known as the “Zip Code Effect,”—the fact that what standardized tests really measure is a student’s proximity to wealth and the dominant culture, resulting in wealthier, and predominately whiter, districts scoring better on tests. Their scores do not reflect the intelligence of wealthier, mostly white students when compared to those of lower-income students and students of color, but do reflect the advantages that wealthier children have—books in the home, parents with more time to read with them, private tutoring, access to test-prep agencies, high-quality health care, and access to good food, to name a few. This is why attaching high-stakes to these exams only serves to exacerbate racial and class inequality.
This point was recently driven home by Boston University economics professors Olesya Baker and Kevin Lang’s 2013 study, “The School to Prison Pipeline Exposed.” In this peer-reviewed study they reveal that the increases in the use of high-stakes standardized high school exit exams are linked to higher incarceration rates. This landmark study should be a clarion call to everyone interested in ending mass incarceration to end the practice of high-stakes exit exams in high school and work towards authentic assessments.
A July, 2010 statement authored by many of the same civil rights organizations that penned the aforementioned letter titled, “Framework for Providing All Students an Opportunity to Learn through Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act,” stated:
The practice of tracking students by perceived ability is a major civil rights obstacle…Ideally, we must provide opportunities for all students to prepare for college and careers without creating systems that lead to racially and regionally identifiable tracks, which offer unequal access to high-quality.
We agree with this statement and thank these civil rights organizations for raising concerns about the terrible effects of tracking on the public schools and the detriment that tracking has been to Black students, other students of color, and low-income students.  We only want to emphasize that the standardized exams they are now defending are one of the most significant contributing factors to the tracking and racial segregation of students into separate and unequal programs and schools.
In that same “Framework” document the civil rights groups write:
Because public schools are critical community institutions especially in urban and rural areas, they should be closed only as a measure of last resort. And where a school district deems school closure necessary solely for budgetary or population reasons, the burdens cannot be allowed to fall disproportionately on our most vulnerable communities.
Again, we agree, but we want to point out that it is the use of test scores in labeling schools as “failing” that have contributed to clear cutting of schools that serve students of color in cities around the nation—most notably the closing of 50 schools in Chicago last year all in Black and Brown neighborhoods.
We call on the civil rights community to support the work of educators around the nation who are working to develop authentic forms of assessment that can be used to help support students to develop critical thinking. Innovative programs like the New York Performance Standards Consortium have a waiver from state standardized tests and instead use performance based assessments that have produced dramatically better outcomes for all students, even though they have more special needs students than the general population—and have demonstrated higher graduation rates, better college attendance rates, and smaller racial divides in achievement than the rest of New York’s public schools.
Finally, we ask that you consider the rousing call to action against the new Common Core tests that was recently issued by the Seattle/King County NAACP chapter in the following statement:
It is the position of the Seattle King County Branch of the NAACP to come out against the Smarter Balanced Assessment tests, commonly referred to as SBAC. Seattle and Washington State public schools are not supplied with proper resources and a lack of equity within our schools continue to exist.
The State of Washington cannot hold teachers responsible for the outcome of students test results; when these very students are attending schools in a State that ranks 47th out of 50 States in the Nation when it comes to funding education. Furthermore, Washington State cannot expect the majority of students to perform well on increased targeted performance assessments while the State continues to underfund education in direct violation of a Washington State Supreme Court Order. We also know that our students of color are disproportionately underfunded and will disproportionately be labeled failing by the new SBAC test.
For this reason, we view the opt out movement as a vital component of the Black Lives Matter movement and other struggles for social justice.  Using standardized tests to label Black people and immigrants as lesser—while systematically underfunding their schools—has a long and ugly history.
It is true we need accountability measures, but that should start with politicians being accountable to fully funding education and ending the opportunity gap. The costs tied to the test this year will run into the hundreds of millions of dollars. If the State really wants students to achieve academic performance at higher levels these dollars should be put in our classrooms and used for our children’s academic achievement, instead of putting dollars in the pockets of test developers.
We urge families to opt out of the SBAC test and to contact their local and state officials to advise them to abide by the State Supreme Court McCleary decision to fully fund education.
–Rita Green, MBA; Seattle King County NAACP Education Chair
We join the Seattle NAACP in calling for true accountability for educational opportunities. For too long, our nation has labored under the illusion that “shining a light” on inequities is an adequate remedy. Inequitable opportunities are manifestly evident to anyone who cares to look. The use of tests for this purpose has become part of the problem, rather than a solution. We reiterate our support for parents and students who make the difficult choice to opt out of high stakes tests, and call on our nation’s leaders to shift policies away from these tests.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Still learning to talk but muy bueno at other languages - news - TES

Glad to see this positive report on dual language schools in Austin, Texas.  

Dr. Pauline Dow, Chief Academic Officer of Instruction, has brilliantly led this overall dual language initiative for several years.

Drs. Deb Palmer​ and Leo Gomez are quoted herein.  For us in Texas and many other places throughout the Southwest, English only should become a relic of the past, particularly when bilingual education is imminently do-able throughout so many places in Texas and because bilingually educated children outperform their monolingual peers. 

Our Academia Cuauhtli / Cuauhtli Academy​ is a further testament to our district's focus.

-Angela


Still learning to talk but muy bueno at other languages - news - TES

news | Published in TES magazine on 12 June, 2015 | By: Laura Dixon
How Texan schools are creating bilingual three-year-olds
It is almost 3.30pm on a typically sticky Friday afternoon in Texas. There
is an end-of-the-week feeling in the air, but the three- and
four-year-olds at this Austin infant school have one more class to go.

Hola, buenas tardes,” their teacher says, counting “uno, dos, tres” as they filter into the room. In the background, a singer wails “baila conmigo” – Spanish for “dance with me”.

Although English is the usual language of instruction at St George’s Episcopal
School, this weekly Spanish class aims to bring children up to scratch
in Texas’ unofficial but increasingly important second language.

For years the aim of bilingual education in places such as Texas was to
ensure that children who spoke another language at home reached a good
level of English. But as the face of the US changes, English-speaking
parents are keen to get their children educated in Spanish so that they
can keep up with their bilingual peers.

Laura Gonzalez-de Leon, teacher of the Spanish immersion class at St George’s, says the best
time to start is “as early as you can”.

“Many parents wonder why the schools are not teaching [the children] Spanish when we are so close to Mexico,” she adds.

With the Texan population now almost two-fifths Latino, Spanish is the
lingua franca in many parts of this southern border region. In
supermarkets you often hear more Mexican accents than Texan. Spanish is
everywhere – and parents are increasingly realising that their children
will have more opportunities if they can speak it.

‘Competitive advantage’

“When I first came here, I thought a large proportion of the families coming
to the school would be Hispanic, but we mostly have Caucasian,
English-speaking families – I’d say 70-75 per cent,” says María Isabel
León, headteacher of the privately run Magellan International School in
Austin, which has a dual-language programme for children from the age of 3.

When she arrived in 2009, the school had just 45 students.
Today, it has more than 450. “These parents really want their children
to become bilingual in English and Spanish,” she says. “It’s now about
competitive advantage. Having a second language – having Spanish – is a
necessity now.”

Dr Deborah Palmer, an expert on bilingual
education at the University of Texas at Austin, says that about 60 of
Austin’s 80 elementary schools now offer some form of bilingual
schooling. In the 1980s, the programmes were largely seen as
transitional and “mainly interested in using the primary language as a
tool for students to acquire and shift over to English within a few
years”, Dr Palmer says. But today they have a wider goal: bilingualism.

“These kind of dual-language programmes are beginning all over the state in
increasing numbers and include a number of children who are English
speakers,” she adds.

One of the architects of the push for
bilingual education in Texas has been Dr Leo Gómez, now a retired
professor and consultant, whose bilingual education model is used by
more than 600 schools across the US.

“When I was in elementary school, 40 years or so ago, there was no bilingual education going on,”
he says. “The position of the state and federal governments was that all
kids should be communicating in English only. There were federal laws
mandating English-only instruction into the mid-1960s.”

But as evidence mounted that Spanish-speaking children were falling behind
under the English-only policy, border regions such as Texas and New
Mexico began to provide native language instruction as the children
learned English. That led to big improvements in the drop-out rate for
Latino pupils.

Look who’s talking

Texas now tells school districts that if they have 20 or more students at the same grade level
who speak the same language (other than English), they must by law
provide those children with some form of bilingual education.

This has had a huge impact. According to the Texas Education Agency, of the 5
million children currently enrolled in Texan state schools, more half a
million are registered for bilingual classes. A further 400,000 are
taking supplementary English courses to complement the language they
speak at home, and nearly a million (974,000) are currently enrolled on a
Spanish course.

“When kids are educated in two languages, where
they truly reach that level of biliteracy, these kids develop what we
call cognitive advantages,” Dr Gómez says. “As they continue in school,
the data shows – especially by middle school – they are beginning to
outperform their counterparts who were educated in English only.”

María Isabel León says that by the 2nd grade – when pupils are aged 7 or 8 –
monolingual children perform better on spelling tests. But by the time
children reach the 6th grade (aged 11-12), she says, the bilingual
students in her school are performing better than their peers.

“They have access to a lot more connections in their brain, access to Latin
routes in both languages; they can interpret better,” she says.

Around her, children shout to their friends in English, Spanish or “Spanglish” – a mixture of the two.

‘After puberty, we fall off the map’

In her TED talk on bilingualism and babies, Patricia Kuhl, co-director of
the Institute for Brain and Learning Sciences at the University of
Washington, says that when it comes to acquiring a second language,
“babies and children are geniuses until they turn 7, and then there’s a
systemic decline”.

“After puberty,” she continues – the age when many children first take up language learning at schools – “we fall off the map.”

Realising this, many parents in Texas are choosing to put children who can barely count into their first Spanish lessons.

“They can learn a language so effectively at that age, before the crucial
period of language development,” says Kathy Cloyd, whose two children
are studying at the Magellan International School. “We live in Texas so
they are learning Spanish – I don’t know it very well but I wish I did.
If I can give them this while they are learning English, it’s a
no-brainer.”