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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