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

Rocky said, "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."

I think you have hit on something here for me, personally. I do not have a ethnic identity. I really do not know how that applies to me. Sure, I am classified by others, who put me into groups, and label me by racial, social and ideology. But, I never subscribed to any of that my self.

I do not even call my self an American, what ever that means. I just live here. I am a Dad to my kids, they do not care what I look like. I am husband to my wife. She doesn't care so much what I look like. (Well, she use to when we were young) I am accepted by my family, and we share love and peace.

I work with people from all over the world. None of us can be grouped into a local office majority. We work in a computer/software support environment. Race and ethncity do not play an obvious role. Except at lunch time. Columbus has a lot of fine ethnic restaurants, we have been to many of them. I can not idenitfy any of their traits as being an attribute of some classification. I never practice that. I guess I am niave .. maybe that is good.

With online forums like this, it is comfortable to not have a picture of the other person. Same with online gaming. My mind does not have to go through the trouble of matching someones appearance with a ingrained sterotype I learned in school, or TV, or whereever.

Think about it. How many times have we had a relationshiop with someone we can not see, and try to picture what they look like? Then we see them and we are almost always wrong? (even authors or radio people). And conversely, how many times have we seen someones picture or face before we meet them, and classified them all wrong? I bet most of the time.

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

His work is legendary, and I love the idea of creating a text as a class. Joy Hakim has a wonderful series called the History of Us. I like resources which allow children to identify with others across time and space. I try to humanize historical figures whenever possible with anecdotes and by highlighting their contradictions and foibles. I want students to think that history is for them, and it's about people just like those they know in their daily lives.

MK

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

I want to point out the importance of Critical Thinking in the study of history. My example is the Chinese and the building of the US Transcontinental Railroad. This is just one of a "thousand" points of contention between these two great historians.

Topic Chinese workers on transcontinental railroad:

See Zinn's "History is a Weapon: A people's History of the United States", chapter 11 "Robber Barons and Rebels". And other places.

See Ambrose's "Nothing Like it in the World", paper back 1st Touchstone edition. Introduction, Chapter 7 ,. And other places.

It is important for a teacher to present various complementary points of view. Note that Ambrose and Zinn agree on many things. When many good historians agree you can have more confidence that it is factual. When they shade the events differently you need to examine the author's purposes and even their background for clues.

I would never suggest depending on one historian when studying history. The fact that I am a little uncomfortible with Zinn's world view, encourages me to study his works. It is important to use him in challeging Ambrose. I can relax when they agree and keep researching when they don't by bringing in other historians, etc.

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

@Bob-Great point. I would add facts and figures need to be checked and cited.

Rebecca Alber's picture
Rebecca Alber
Edutopia Consulting Online Editor

For teacher development, and to read and explore with your professional learning community, or perhaps whole school site if you are a school leader:

Courageous Conversations about Race: A Field Guide for Achieving Equity in Schools.

I can't recommend this book enough. It gently, though honestly, provides strategies for discussion and reflection around not only issues of race, but also class.

Warmly,
Rebecca Alber
Edutopia

Rebecca Alber's picture
Rebecca Alber
Edutopia Consulting Online Editor

For teacher development, and to read and explore with your professional learning community, or perhaps whole school site if you are a school leader:

Courageous Conversations about Race: A Field Guide for Achieving Equity in Schools.

I can't recommend this book enough. It gently, though honestly, provides strategies for discussion and reflection around not only issues of race, but also class.

Warmly,
Rebecca Alber
Edutopia

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

Thanks Rebecca Alber. This book really opened my eyes on racism and the achievement gap.

Maybe there is valuable information to be gained by how the gender gap is being attacked successfully.

Some points that stood out to me:

o Definition of race: "We refer to race as the socially constructed meaning attached to a variety of physical attributes including but not limited to skin and eye color, hair texture, and bone structure of people."

Race is not a biologial term. It isn't a scientific term. We are are of a single species.

o Definition of racism and racist: "one set of characteristics is superior [or more beautiful] than an another... A racist is someone who subscribes to these beliefs and perpetuates then consciously or unconsciously. Racism does not require intent."

Consiously or unconsciously! ... does not require intent!

o The dominate race and racism in the US "People of color face ongoing personal and institutional biases every day ... For these acts to become systemic they must emanate from the dominate race."

White people simply can not be passive about this issue.

o Shirley Chisholm said, "[racism] is invisible because it is so normal"

o Equity "The school will meet the needs of students of color to the same degree it meets White students' needs... The students of greatest need receive the greatest level of support."

Note that equity requires unequal levels of resources and support.

My point - The fight against racism in the United States appears to be the first serious effort in all of the world's history. It has never been attempted before. (going out on a limb here. At least, other attempts were not mentioned in the book) The book does not attack our amended Constitution or our base social order. We can solve these problems with out becoming a socalist or communist state.

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

Rocky Barrera:
In bold are key words from your original post:

"An achievement gap continues to persist after numerous K-12 reform efforts." The root cause for the achievement gag is socio-economic. There is a proven relationship. When that is corrected the students-of-color will perform like everyone else IF: The state schools limit their education to state required, non-cultural, basics. This only includes things that are required by all, to function in this country. I have a lot more to say on this in later posts.

"Polarization" of American society along racial lines has grown because the education system has ignorantly and coarsely created definitions of what it means to be one race or another; one ethnicity or another; one culture or ant\other. The education system, with good multicultural intentions, has taught race, ethnicity and cultural classification that stereotypes all of us. How else could they possibly attempt to teach multiculturalism? You better believe it is polarizing. And full of appeasing too. The political parties use it to target groups for votes. Others use it to pit one against another.

Here is one place the education system could have broken away from what you term indoctrination. But, it has chosen not to: The USA should not and does not have a cultural identity. The only identify it has is the land within its borders and the social order defined by the Constitution. People who try to force a national identity on this country are wrong. Our country belongs to anyone in the world that supports the ideas in the Constitution.

Our country, defined by the Constitution, wasn't designed for any particular religion or ethnic group or culture. Our Constitution (as amended) is really blind to all that. Political pressure has distorted its true meaning. We can talk about the 3/5th compromise on a different post. I do not care who the founding fathers were; I don't care what religion they believed in; I don't care why they came here ... their product, the Constitution, disregarded all that. What our Constitution is about is universal. It is part of being human. It is the best answer to the human condition. One thing to the founders' credit was that they thumbed their noses at their own European identity. They and their families would have been killed if this country had failed.

"Class" is another thing that was not part of our country's design. Classist terms exist to divide people in to political groups designed to fight each other. It didn't help things with capitalist made corporations equal to people. It doesn't help when rich people have a better chance in the legal system. It doesn't help that rich public school have better education. It doesn't help that rich people have more political influence. This for another post also.

"a nation of immigrants?" Someone left out 15% of our population, the African American. They weren't emergrents. Either were the people of the original nations. Under our Constitution (as amended) one group has no special privilege over another. No individual has special privilege over another.

"Do I betray the memory and sacrifices of MY forefathers, or the country I love, the USA?" Do not do either. Our Constitution is nothing but a framework for social order; Nothing more. It doesn't identify with any race, culture or ethnic group. Those that make it more; or make identify claims about it are terribly wrong.

Every ethnic group has their own unique American experience, identity, successes, and challenges. Yes. They can exercise them anyway they want within the bounds of the Constitution. They do not need to be defined by some politician. And their Ethnicity doesn't have to taught by some state school. Everyone should be able to have the opportunity to teach their own ethnicity outside the state system. The only thing the state should supply for this type of education is per capita funding without strings attached.

"Ethnic Studies must become American Studies!" There are millions of "histories" in the land called the USA. (We are just part of the America's). No public school history curriculum even comes close to teaching them. I would rather school give students the tools to learn their own history. Put the histories online like a Wikipedia. Let grandparents and parents teach their children. Let local recognized leaders teach their people. Keep the state out of it, except to provide per capital funding for it. It is not the responsibility of public education to try to bring groups together; to try to develop histories that appease everyone. If groups want to share amongst themselves let them do it. Believe me, private companies know the value of a multi-cultural work force. See http://diversityinc.com/

Rocky, as one human being to another, I will stand with you.

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

Rocky Barreras said,

"My major premise is that, given that these founding fathers traced their own ancestral roots to Europe, and England in particular, all things deemed good, and Holy are of these origins. So, those of us in this country, in this world who come from a different experience and perspective are relegated to 2nd class status & inferiority. "

I believe and I think I can document that the founders examined ideas from the whole world. French philosophers were very influential, no doubt. But many other ideas from many other cultures dating many centuries in the past were studied. They proposed new ideas not tested in Europe. Europe was full of dictators (Kings) and Theocracies, at the time.

The founders are dead. But, their product, the Constitution, is what is important. Frankly, I do not care about the founder's personal problems. I do not think those got into the Constitution. People are wrong to suggest that the attributes of the founders somehow justify various racist thoughts and actions. It is disturbing to me every time I hear Conservatives talk about the founders personal lives and then claim that is what American is about. Or that the Constitution is based on the Bible. That is wrong. America is about the Constitution. And anyone from any culture can claim it.

BTW, the Declaration of Independence is not a founding document. It has ZERO influence on the interpertation of the Constitution or the formation of law. Anyone who holds it up to justify religion or anything else is Constitutionaly wrong.

Is there anything in the Amended Constitution that is offensive to any culture or heritage?

Rocky Barreras said, "Regardless of the benefits afforded all of us under the constituion, the promise of America, and the opportunities presented, if we are not of the dominant cultural group(or capable of blending in thru assimilation/acculturation, & the surrender of Identity), then we are not viewed as having our own value, history or story of contribution."

The Constitution is culture blind. The supreme court is supposed to be culture blind. The dominate culture, how ever it is defined, does not have the right to push around other cultures or groups. People have no Constitutional restriction on whether they assimilate or remain pluralistic. All that garbage about assimilation (Glenn Beck, others) and the "emigrants" is BS. It is wrong!.

Here is where our public education system has failed in this regard:

The term "culture" is defined in Dictionary.com as "the sum total of ways of living built up by a group of human beings and transmitted from one generation to another."

Cultural Education should not be the responsibility of the State. Cultures are not well defined. They change over time. There are to many to classify. The public schools are not capable and are not qualified to teach culture.

Cultural Education is related to the "Pluralism and Assimilation" issue. In the United States the government is designed to benefit most any mix of cultural behavior. People are free to associate any way that choose. Native or emigrant, anyone may choose to group with people of common cultural background or they may choose to assimilate into any combination of cultural practices. Or choose not too. Anyone in this country is free to participate in any cultural activity or invent their own.

The State can not possibly keep up with all the cultural derivations that occur in this country let alone all that occur in the world or in history. Generalizations require classification and that polarizes and fuels uncomfortable stereotypes.

The public schools' attempts to teach cultural subjects generally fail.

As an example I am fimilar with, the public schools attempt to teach about "Native American" cultures with similar failure. There have been over 500 nations occupy the land we call the United States. The State classifies them by geographic location into 20 or so "tribes". They present composite description of various "Native Americans". Fifth grades spend several weeks studying all this, then go to a football game and see an "Indian" human mascot dressed in a collection of symbolic dress clowning around on the side line.

Cultural education is best handled as the definition implies: by passing it down from one generation to another in private associations outside the control of the State. My idea allows for local money to be used for cultural education designed by the local communities. Music, art, social studies, athletics are among the subjects considered cultural education.

Rocky Barreras said,
"We are dehumanized, exploited and thus the resulting poverty, alienation, loss of identity, self esteem and under achievement."

The people or groups that do this are not acting out with justification of the Constitution. They are doing it based on their own personal problems. It is wrong. This is a human problem. The Constitution give us the freedom to fix it.

A C T I O N Here are my thoughts on what to do. Tell me groups you know about that are fighting this. I will donate my money, which represents my labor, to the cause!

1) This is not a political party problem. Do not alienate or disenfranchise anyone because you have labeled them as a member of any group. This is an individual conscience problem. There are appeasing racists in both parties. There are arrogant ruthless capitalists pigs in both parties. But, neither party has any of that in their charter.. And no group can exclude their bad apples. Attack the ideas and actions of individual leaders themselves, not their association with groups; no matter where they are.

2) Carry the AMENDED Constitution with you and shove it in the faces of the racists, bigots, founding father lovers, etc.. Examine it for cultural or racist language or ideas. If there are any I want to know about it.

3) Debunk people defining what an American is. Because it can not be defined. Anytime there is a "essay contest" or it is even mentioned about "what it means to be an "American" , blast away! I am only American because I live in this country. I do not have to be of any culture, color, ethnicity, religion, etc. I am a person as far as the Constitution goes.

4) Fight human mascots at the high schools and universities! They are racist symbol of everything you talk about.

5) And similar to 1) Do not align with any external group or organization! You are a group of individuals. Companies, political parties, unions, etc, can be manipulated if needed, but you should not rely on them to represent you.

6) Borrow tatics and stratigies, from MLK and the also the 60's peace movement, farm worker in California, etc: Non violent civil disobedience and public protest. Borrow from Saul Alinski.

7) Fight unconstitutional actions in the courts. The goal is to get to the Supremem Court. Sue the eduction systems and groups, companies, political parties, individual leaders, public and private.

Sarah's picture
Sarah
New Albany, Indiana Secondary Spanish

I teach in a community that seems to be full of racism. No, not that it SEEMS to be full of it, it is. I have tried a few things to try to change the attitude of at least the children I teach, but the community always knocks it back into them. It really is a hinderance to my teaching. The majority of my students have NO desire to learn Spanish (no matter how excited I am about it) and I cannot persuade them that it is important. Does anyone have any suggestions?

Unfortunately, I have no effect on the rest of the curriculum within my district and I am having increasingly less control over my own.

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