Wednesday, May 27, 2015

These Students Want an Education


 Children and young adults need to see themselves in the curriculum.  Students, particularly students of color, have low levels of attachment to our communities, to  California and U.S.  civics messages in significant part because the government institution they encounter the most- the schools- ignore the students own history, cultures and experiences. This is not an accident- it was a choice. 

The 1987 California History Social Science  Framework still in use today to guide the selection of  California textbooks   expanded African American, Native American, and women’s history coverage but remains totally inadequate in the coverage of Latinos and Asians. The only significant change between the 1985 and the 2005 adopted Framework was the addition of a new cover, a cover letter, and a photo of Cesar Chavez.
You can help us change this situation.  See here

What are they missing? The history of the Chicano movement.
For example:
The Chicano Movement began in 1965 in Delano, California when Dolores Huerta and Cesar E. Chávez, founders of the National Farm Workers Association (later it became the United Farm Workers union), led a national boycott against table grape growers in the region because they failed to recognize their collective bargaining rights. Chávez, the president of the farm workers union, and the farm worker struggle, became the face of Chicano protest and struggles. While the United Farm Workers union brought national and even international recognition to the plight of Chicanos for labor rights, it had overarching consequences. Many young Chicanas and Chicanos felt connected to the farm worker struggle even though the majority resided in urban areas and had never themselves worked in the California agricultural industry.


By 1968, the Chicano Movement had evolved from the countryside to the cities. The first to demonstrate in mass were Chicana and Chicano high school students who walked out of their schools in protest of poor and inadequate educational conditions. On March 1, 1968, students from Wilson, Lincoln, Garfield, Belmont, and Roosevelt High Schools in East Los Angeles walked out of their high school as they grew frustrated with the administration’s inability to understand their cultural and educational needs. These were largely segregated Mexican high schools and had been neglected by the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) for some time. By week’s end, 10,000 high school and even middle school students had joined the Walkouts. The students outlined a list of 36 demands which they presented to the LAUSD Board of Directors. Some of these demands included: the hiring of Chicana/o teachers and administrators, formation of Chicano Studies courses, culturally sensitive teachers, and bilingual education. Unfortunately, these students were met by a brutal police backlash. 


When the 51%  % of students who are Latino , and the 9 % 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.  It contributes to an up to  50% drop out rate for Latinos and some Asian students.  A more accurate, more complete  history  would provide some students with a  a sense of self, of direction,  of purpose, even a sense that  they should stay in school and learn more. History and social science  classes  should help young people acquire and learn to use the civics  skills, knowledge, and attitudes that will prepare them to be competent and responsible citizens throughout their lives.   

Add their stories to the history textbooks, add their literature to the literature textbooks. They are not migrants from some distant place. They are California's children. Include them.  
The hard work of teachers and advocates, Los Angeles and San Francisco Unified  School boards have added ethnic studies to their curriculum.  This is an important step toward the inclusion of these students in civic education.  http://choosingdemocracy.blogspot.com/2014/12/la-unified-san-francisco-unified-to.html
To include more, the  1987 History Social Science Framework for California’s Schools needs revision. See here. See https://sites.google.com/site/chicanodigital/home/why-california-students-do-not-know-chicano-history

And, yes, a revised civics course and appropriate support for teacher in-service preparation  is needed. The place to do that is in the History/ Social Science framework scheduled to be revised in 2015/2016.   It will require focused attention of many, including scholars, political leaders and editorial boards to overcome the inertia of the past frameworks.  
A more accurate, more complete  history  provided in Ethnic studies courses  would provide some students with a  a sense of self, of direction,  of purpose, even a sense that  they should stay in school and learn more.  And, ethnic studies would provide Anglo  students with an informed, accurate history of the political and cultural development of the state.  Ethnic studies classes should help young people acquire and learn to use the civics  skills, knowledge, and attitudes that will prepare them to be competent and responsible citizens throughout their lives.   

The Department of Education, the Quality Instructional Materials Committee  and the Board of Education can start by revising the California History/ Social Science Framework to include the history of the majority of students in the schools  and by  joining LA Unified in requiring Ethnic Studies Classes in high school. 

The Framework determines what goes into the California  textbooks.  Having sought for decades to change this framework, I recognize how difficult it will be.  The next revision is up for consideration this summer.   See https://sites.google.com/site/chicanodigital/home/why-california-students-do-not-know-chicano-history

There is a network of scholars and professionals interested in writing a more complete history of our state.  This has been said before and we will keep reminding these folks.
Duane Campbell,  
Mexican American Digital History project. 



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