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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation



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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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Rocky Barrera's picture
Rocky Barrera
Student Services Professional

Why won't anyone respond to the premise that our curriculm is Eurocentric, that this is Institutionalized Racism and a major factor contributing to the Acheivment Gap for students of color? Pretending that it doesn't exist won't make the elephant in the room disappear. Are you all just too blind, as products yourselves of this system that you can't see it?

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

...other posters weren't quite certain how to respond. I don't take that to mean that they do not agree with you.

In southern California, multiculturalism is just a fact of life. Good teachers strive to present bias-free material as much as possible. Many of the newer texts are including primary source material, presenting multiple viewpoints. Inroads are being made. Joy Hakim's series "A History of Us" brings a Howard Zinn approach down to the elementary level.

I read Simon Ortiz, Jospeh Bruchac, and Sojourner Truth to my class alongside Franklin and Jefferson. We talk about Walt Whitman's horror at the sight of a slave auction, as well as Sacagawea's delight at the sight of her brother. My students know that fractions come from India and numerals come from the Arab world. They know that Manzanar is open all night, and you can stop to pay your respects anytime.

All teachers probably aren't as focused on multiculturalism as I have been, but be assured that the ideas are out there, and teachers are aware of this problem!


Rocky Barrera's picture
Rocky Barrera
Student Services Professional

4 mths w/2 comments, not so great, but thanks MK for what you do & BC for the in depth response and keeping the discussion alive.
BC, I do need to reply, that in some ways you are taking what I have stated 'out of context'. I guess this s/b expected anytime we enter into a public forum. I think you are missing the focus of what I am saying, and are just a little naive to think the 'founding fathers' were acting with alturistic motives when framing the Constitution. Although it is the most beautiful document and standard to govern a civil society that could have been imagined, I don't believe the vision as it was originally intended nor the subsequent interpretations have been all that pure.
But for the sake of arguement, let's assume everyone was considered 'equal under the law' from the get go, and there existed no assumptions of superiority.
My major premise is that, given that these founding fathers traced their own ancestoral 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. 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. We are dehumanized, exploited and thus the resulting poverty, alienation, loss of identity, self esteem and under achievement.
Everyone in America and the world loses as a result. So, I come back to the firm conclusion that for America and American Education to truly be great, we must be more inclusive in all the language arts, literature, visual & performing arts... We must demand the truth, the whole truth...concerning our His/herstories. Then and only then will we dismantle the instituionalized racism that was created as a tool of indoctrination and has been a disastrous failure for far too many of our people.

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