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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

A NEW VISION FOR SCHOOLS & EDUCATION IN AMERICA

A NEW VISION FOR SCHOOLS & EDUCATION IN AMERICA

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The failure of our schools, particularly in regard to students of color is not new and well documented. The achievement gap continues to persist after numerous K-12 reform efforts, years of university research and outreach program investment. The economic disparity and polarization of American society along racial lines has grown, despite the gains of the civil rights era, and newfound political influence. These chronic conditions can be directly attributed to our nation’s ongoing preoccupation with a ‘national identity’. Since the advent of the belief in ‘Manifest Destiny’, our country created an educational system with a major purpose being the indoctrination of our citizens.(see Indian Schools) Although we often hear the rhetoric of America being ‘a nation of immigrants’, we have bestowed the position of power, privilege and superiority upon our Euroamerican members. By very narrowly tracing our roots along the genealogical lines of ‘western civilization’, we have relegated people of African, Asian, and Indigenous America to positions of inferiority. History, literature, and all the American cultural norms as taught in our schools, serve to perpetuate ‘Institutionalized Racism’. Speaking from a Hispanic/Latino/Chicano/Mexican-American perspective, I can cite countless instances in which I have been made to feel inferior or alien. The sinking of the Spanish Armada, Remember the Alamo, Remember the Maine…The choice has been to reject MY true identity or to always feel un-American, unwanted, unwelcomed, the enemy. Do I betray the memory and sacrifices of MY forefathers, or the country I love, the USA? Those lacking or confused about their identity, will surely lack self esteem and suffer as a result. They will neither possess the tools nor confidence to deal with life’s challenges. For they will at their core, in the deepest part of their subconscious feel insecure, inferior, unworthy and unable to cope and overcome. Every ethnic group has their own unique American experience, identity, successes, and challenges. They carry with them ‘baggage’ both good and bad from their places of origin. Some, long ago discarded or forgotten. These have been studied and debated too often in the confines of Ethnic Studies courses. Ethnic Studies must become American Studies! Now is the time in our nation’s history to meet the challenges before us by thoroughly examining the issue of race, the damaging consequences of continuing with a Eurocentric curriculum, and the advantages of true Diversity Appreciation in a global economy. It is well past the time to redefine what America has been, is today, what we will be tomorrow, and, what it means to be an American. All Americans will benefit from a broader perspective and exposure to a complete history of America, economic, cultural and scientific contributions, as well as the defense of American society and civilization.

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Mary Kate Land's picture
Mary Kate Land
Montessori 4-6th grade teacher
Blogger

...with regard to racism in our country is that it will be overcome without our enlightenment. As the number of multi-racial couples continues to increase, and cross fertilization becomes more common, we will start looking more and more alike to the point where we no longer have visual cues which allow for racial categorization.

Wouldn't it be sad if our racial mixing allowed us to move beyond racism without our ever having grown accepting of differences? Not as sad, of course, as a nation which NEVER overcomes the barriers of race and class...

I wish we could be the sort of culture that has the strength of character to break down these barriers. Realistically, though, It doesn't seem possible.

MK

Rocky Barrera's picture
Rocky Barrera
Student Services Professional

Right on MK! This is exactly what is missing. As you have accurately summed up, the real tragedy in all this, is that that we haven't and may never learn; to not only accept, but truly appreciate differences of all sorts. These are very real and deep seated psychological issues with the ever-present sociological implications. My hope is that we make a start. To give each child a sense of self, Identity, Self Esteem, Pride & Appreciation of themselves, as well as the commonalities and differences in all. I truly believe curricular reform begining with the 'deconstruction' of our Eurocentric curriculm is the 1st crucial step.

Bob Charles's picture
Bob Charles
I am in search of definitions for "Quality Eduction" and "Great School".

The history of the US should not be a State concern. Thus state institutions should avoid writting or rewiting it. Let the state keep archives but don't tell us our history.

"A Renegade History of the United States", Thaddeus Russel, is a example of good history that expands what we know. It helps smash streotypes. We need more of this stuff from many other perspectives.

http://www.amazon.com/Renegade-History-United-States/dp/141657106X

Hubert V. Yee's picture
Hubert V. Yee
social media and marketing manager of startup

Hi Rocky,
Thanks for your post! I am extremely interested in more detail your area of involvement in education, plus your study and background. My background might closely align with yours. FYI-American Studies is on the decline because of funding in universities. Ethnic Studies is declining even faster.

Rocky Barrera's picture
Rocky Barrera
Student Services Professional

I am a Student Services Professional w/35+ yrs engaged in the struggle for equity & access. I have worked for and have been a party to numerous efforts to address the issues of under representation and the achievment gap. I have concluded that our educational system, begining with the manifest destiny mindset, placed into perpetual motion, institutional racism resulting in internalized superiority & inferiority, giving birth to a whole host of social ills. I fail to see how curriculm & history is not under the business or perview of the state, when it is the state which has created this set of circumstances. It is the states responsibility to provide a fertile environment for the well being of our people(all people)and progress of our country. I personally have developed a curricular program model to counteract the effects of this system. I call it E Squared, Enlighten Empower.

Mary Kate Land's picture
Mary Kate Land
Montessori 4-6th grade teacher
Blogger

The People Shall Continue by Simon J. Ortiz.

It is a simple picture book which attempts to contrast the lives of North Americans before and after European contact. Another tip that has helped me develop lesson plans is to use sources from a particular culture to help students learn about that culture. This is especially helpful with US historical issues, since most sources which portray indians are still so misleading.

MK

Bob Charles's picture
Bob Charles
I am in search of definitions for "Quality Eduction" and "Great School".

Does everyone agree with definition of "Euro-centrism" found in Wikipedia?

"Euro-centrism is the practice of viewing the world from a European perspective and with an implied belief, either consciously or subconsciously, in the preeminence of European culture."

Why are the public schools teaching European history? What value is that to the state?

It appears that the public schools are promoting European racism since northern Europeans are, historically white. The United State, as defined by our Constitution, is anti-European. In fact I, personally, resist any attempt to be like them or use their governmental practices.

Why do public schools' world literature courses promote predominantly European literature.?

What is the state's interest in literature? Does being literate mean more than having a command of the English language?

Is the way our public schools teach English grammar Euro-centric?

Is American English racist? I know it is sexist (third person indefinite pronoun). I also know that American English evolves. It is very receptive to the introduction of new words. What is the state's interest in language, anyway? The states interest should be that it teaches students to read and understand government documents, government oral communication, and enables the students to voice opinions back at the state?

What about public education's attempt to teach the arts?

Arts content is cultural. What is the state's interest in defining and promoting culture?

The point of my response is that I am very concerned that he well meaning forces pushing the elimination of racism and sexism in the public schools, may be promoting racism and sexism.

They are trying to force the conduit of racism and sexism (the public schools) to define non-racist and non-sexist content. This requires them to define all the 2000 different cultures in this country and all the 1,000,000 different cultures in the world and define what characteristics make up the 100 different races. Then, use extremely limited time to present a sanitized representation of all this to students. Impossible. In fact it leads to damaging stereotypes. And thus promotes racism and sexism (and many other isms.)

Cultural expression and development should be a social thing. Not a state responsibility. The state should only be a blind framework of social order. And the system of laws should be there to protect people from getting hurt. (for another topic ... how does the state provide resources to allow people to develop and express their cultures without defining them?)

Rocky Barrera's picture
Rocky Barrera
Student Services Professional

Do we finally have a discussion going or what? Bob, my feeling is that we(the state) have and do in fact define culture...all the time, but it has been limited in scope and appreciation. I realize the challenge of attempting to 'define' as you say the thousands of cultures, histories...of the world. My concern is the restrictive limitations and how this institutionalizes racism. We can very easily diversify the curriculum. The source material is there. We can insure that a strong academic foundation is established. We can do it while empowering students to by fostering their innate creativity, and curiousity without destroying it along with their self esteem, by helping them develop a strong identity and appreiciation of others. When we all reach this level of confidence and security, we will have real cooperation, progress, & peace.

Hubert V. Yee's picture
Hubert V. Yee
social media and marketing manager of startup

@Mary Kate - Great resource! How about Zinn's "People's History" book? @Bob Charles - Love the followup questions! @Rocky-Any resources you would like to share? How about your curriculum? Love to hear more about it.

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