Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Youth civic engagement - when Chicano History is ignored


    An interesting  and valuable publication was released today, “Opportunities and Challenges for Youth Civic Engagement”, by the  California Civic Engagement Project of the Center for Regional Change at U.C. Davis and funded by the California Endowment, among others.  The Civic Engagement Project describes itself as  a “new, nonpartisan data repository  and research initiative for the State of California.
Thanks for the good work.  If these organizations are indeed interested in improving youth engagement, they should look at the 48% of  public school youth who are Latino or descendents of Latinos.   As CCEP Policy Brief #1 says,  “ the proportion of state registration that is Latino and Asian has remained far below the proportions of these groups in the state’s overall population. “  Now, that is not new news.  
 Public schools, more than any other institution, reach these students.  Unfortunately due to past decisions and current budget restraints, the public schools are not usually  promoting civic engagement.   How does that happen?
 When the 48.72 % of students who are Latino , and the 11.5 % who are Asian do not see themselves as part of history,  for many their sense of self is  marginalized.   Marginalization negatively impacts their connections with school and their success at school. School marginalization contributes directly to low level civic engagement.   It contributes to an nearly 50% drop out rate for Latinos and some Asian students.  An accurate history  would provide some students with a  a sense of self, of direction,  of purpose. History and social science  classes  should help young people acquire and learn to use the skills, knowledge, and attitudes that will prepare them to be competent and responsible citizens throughout their lives.   Instead, the current history textbooks tell a fairy tale of what happened here in the Southwest.

      As a consequence of the  outdated History Social Science  Framework for California Public Schools, most schools, most teachers,  fail to teach an accurate, complete, history of the Chicano- Latino people and of Asian Americans.  This essentially means that the writers are choosing not to recognize reality. – not to tell the full story.  This  a problem created  in part by the failure to revise the history/social science framework.
     Textbooks for  California schools are selected by the State Board of Education based upon recommendations of their Curriculum Committees and the state frameworks and standards.  The current Framework was written in 1986 by neo conservative scholars.  It needs revision. It is urgent that the History-Social Science Framework be revised to provide an accurate history of the contributions of Mexicans, Mexican Americans, Latinos and Asians to the history of the state and of the nation.
      For this reason, further work on the frameworks for history-social science, science, health, and mathematics has been stopped. On July 17, 2009, the Curriculum Development and Supplemental Materials Commission (Curriculum Commission) approved the draft update of the History-Social Science Framework for California Public Schools for field review. The draft framework has been posted on the CDE Web page at http://www.cde.ca.gov/ci/hs/cf/, but the actual field review and online survey will not occur at this time. For more information go to the Curriculum Frameworks and Instructional Materials Web page at http://www.cde.ca.gov/ci/cr/cf/index.asp.

      When  students do not seem themselves as a part of history, their sense of self is limited.  Marginalization negatively impacts their connections with school and their success at school. It dis-empowers.
 An  accurate history provides a sense of self, of direction, of purpose.
  Lack of history of self, does not commit students to democratic participation in the society.
       An outline of Latino history is on the Chicano/Latino Digital History Project.  Here. https://sites.google.com/site/democracyandeducationorg/chicano-mexican-american-digital-history-project.  I urge  teachers to teach your students the truth- Yes, some inconvenient truths, not just myths.  For example, if a person is going to understand our  society and the economy, they need to understand immigration.   The history of Chicano/Mexicano people in California exists – but it was ignored by the writers of the  current State Framework and the current textbooks.
History classes  should help young people acquire and learn to use the skills, knowledge, and attitudes that will prepare them to be competent and responsible citizens throughout their lives.  History classes should encourage civic engagement.  They can’t do this if they ignore half of the students.
So, we can begin to respond to civic engagement.  But, first we will need to teach the students an honest history of this region. 


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