Thursday, February 11, 2016

Texas State Board of Education Districts

A friend of mine, Georgina Perez, is running for State Board.  Check her out here, particularly if you live in the El Paso Area.  Here's some other helpful links:

TX SBOE District Map

TXSBOE Members


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

We Need to Change How We Teach Black History

Great piece by my colleague, Dr. Bentley-Edwards in Educational Psychology, at UT.  It appears in the latest issue of Time Magazine.  I like the view expressed herein that to NOT address African American's prior history is to be indifferent to them.  

The inclusive, more comprehensive treatment of history that she calls for carries over well into all area studies curriculum.  

If you see my last post on the prison-curriculum project out of California, we may similarly infer just how dehumanizing our assimilationist educational systems are, on the one hand, and the potential of curriculum, on the other, to illuminate extant hierarchies of power as much as by what is taught, as by what is systematically not taught.  

After all, you cannot defeat a people with a history and therein derives the motivation, the civilizational racism, the unexamined assumptions that are the motors of racist ideologies that keep our current system "working"—not to liberate, but to domesticate—and to do so through the subjugation of specific kinds of knowledge itself. 


We Need to Change How We Teach Black History

Getty Images
Keisha L. Bentley-Edwards is an assistant professor of educational psychology in the College of Education at The University of Texas at Austin

When the teaching of African Americans’ history begins with slavery, it ignores their humanity now

Columnist and Black Lives Matter activist Shaun King recently wrote that Black History Month should not begin and end with lessons of American slavery. This is exactly right but for reasons somewhat different from the ones that he puts forth.
School children, as well as adults, should understand the breadth of black heritage. When we study any other group, we recognize the fullness of their humanity. Just as we should never forget the pain of the Holocaust when we talk about Jewish history, we do not often begin discussions with that horrific event. When you recognize a group’s humanity, you understand that these historical moments were preceded by their own socio-historical contexts.
Well before the rise of European imperialism, the peoples of Africa had their own empires and political systems. In West Africa, the fall of the Songhai Empire and ensuing civil wars left its people vulnerable for colonial exploitation and enslavement. Points in history are also related to events that occur years later and influence current perceptions and policies. Stereotypes of African American men as strong but not smart and women as hypersexual can be traced to common perceptions of enslaved Africans.
I am not suggesting that people should know the vast history of Africans just for knowledge’s sake or for a sense of cultural pride, although each is important. People should learn this history because everyone should know that my black ancestors were humans, not slaves. These Africans were kidnapped and later enslaved.
Enslaved Africans brought culture and norms with them that impacted their language, diet and spirituality. When enslaved Africans are described as slaves instead of as humans, the harms they suffered are diminished. Take, for example, Scholastic’s unfortunate decision to publish a children’s book called “A Birthday Cake for George Washington” just in time for Black History Month. It shows the pervasive misunderstanding of the African American experience.
This modern-day slave book, which was recently rescinded by the publisher, portrays the life of Hercules, George Washington’s enslaved master chef. I don’t know whether it is ironic or blatant indifference to write a book about Hercules having so much pride in baking a grand birthday cake for George Washington while omitting that he escaped bondage on a subsequent birthday. It should be understood that people can have pride in their work, or even a privileged position within the hierarchy of slavery, yet still know they are oppressed and still seek their freedom. If Hercules’ humanity were accepted, then the authors and publishers would understand that a skewed depiction of happy slaves is neither refreshing nor new.

I vividly remember that my elementary history book included depictions of grinning enslaved Africans playing the fiddle, couples dancing and babies toddling about in its two-page section on slavery. I remember being uncomfortable then, and it disturbs me that these or similar images continue to be the introduction to black history for so many people.
Which leads to this point: The ways in which we teach black history need improvement.
Incessantly reciting lists of black inventions and firsts without discussing the contexts of the accomplishments provides only a shell of what Carter G. Woodson intended when he initiated our annual celebration of black people. For example, Benjamin Banneker, who was a freeman and prolific scientist, is most often recognized for being a key surveyor of Washington, D.C. What is not typically discussed is that he gained much of his scientific knowledge from his formerly enslaved father, who was from a learned Wolof family. The Wolof people (in present day Senegal) are an ethnic group that was once part of the Songhai Empire — known for its cultural and intellectual hubs. This context provides insight about how Banneker, with little formal education, would become a scientist and surveyor, among other accomplishments.
When the telling or teaching of African Americans’ history begins with slavery, it ignores their humanity now, just as their humanity was denied in the past. When the profound contributions of African Americans before, during and after their enslavement are recognized, then their humanity — and therefore my humanity — is undeniable, and black lives would, in fact, matter.

Curriculum Goes Behind Bars By Whitney Frasier

This is so incredibly moving.  I was contemplating today on how many of our youth are infantilized by a curriculum that is "dumbed-down" ostensibly for them at the same time that many of them are old enough to get tried as adults and get sent behind bars. Glad to read about this wonderful initiative that breathes life, identity, and soul into these sterile, forbidding spaces.


San Marcos,

February 01, 2016

Curriculum Goes Behind Bars

By Whitney Frasier

When a group of California State University San Marcos (CSUSM) students started sending curriculum to a seven-student cohort in prisons throughout Southern California, they never thought their program would grow to more than 200 active students behind bars across the United States.
Homie UP, short for Homie Universidad Popular, is a program that offers American history from a Chicano/Latino perspective free of charge to incarcerated individuals. The initiative started after community members participating in a similar curriculum known as Universidad Popular, or People’s University, expressed interest in presenting the information they were learning to their incarcerated loved ones.
“The program was initially intended for those serving a life sentence, but then we received so many requests, we felt compelled to make it accessible to all incarcerated individuals regardless of sentence length,” said Flor Alvarez, a Homie UP coordinator and National Latino Research Center (NLRC) Research Assistant.
As the popularity of the program increases, the program coordinators are beginning to feel some growing pains as their staff and funding remains the same.
“We have spent countless hours creating the Homie UP curriculum and reviewing assignments— sometimes we work overnight or even on the weekends,” said Alvarez. “It’s all on a volunteer basis, so many times we pay out of pocket to send assignments. When we are fortunate, some family members will contribute stamps, paper and envelopes.”
When the program was at its infancy, all the students were of Latino decent. Now, Homie UP’s student base is very diverse and includes both male and female inmates of all ethnicities convicted of a variety of offenses. The team’s future plan is to offer an increased variety of classes, and not just from a Latino perspective.
“This project has really catapulted us into this national discussion that’s going on around incarceration,” said NLRC Research Director Arcela Nuñez-Alvárez. “Our project is very much aligned to issues that happening nationally and at the state level and locally.”
A $10,000 grant from California Humanities has allowed the team to tell the story further through a documentary titled, Homie UP: Stories of Love and Redemption. The grant supports documentary films, radio and new media productions that enhance the community’s understanding of California and its cultures, peoples and histories.
The team had a one-year turnaround time to create the film and worked with filmmaker Jennifer Myhre, as well as an advisory group consisting of CSUSM professors David Avalos, Bonnie Bade, Marisol Clark-Ibáñez and Charles “Chuck” Allen.
The hour-long documentary recently received accolades and was presented with a Silver Award by the Spotlight Documentary Film Awards in December 2015.
So far the award-winning film has hosted 10 screenings throughout California from San Diego to San Francisco. The documentary features real students who have been released from prison, and family members. Screenings are usually accompanied with an art exhibit displaying the work of Homie UP students, as well as a panel discussion about how the prison system affects the entire community.
According to Nuñez-Alvárez, there is still a lot of discussion to be had concerning families, inmates and the so-called school-to-prison pipeline, a systematic process by which students, primarily African Americans and Latinos, are pushed out of the mainstream educational system and channeled into the criminal system.
“This happens through harsh and discriminatory school discipline policies,” said Nuñez-Alvárez. “Research shows that students of color receive harsher punishments. Incidents at school tend to be the first encounter with law enforcement and thus begin the pathway to jail or prison.”
The documentary is now being used as an educational tool for the community. An expansion of the documentary, which looks at why certain populations are over represented in prisons and in jail, is already in the planning stages.
“There is finally a shift of dialogue,” said Lilian Serrano, CSUSM alumnus and NLRC research coordinator. “Everyone can talk about the numbers, but the film gives faces to mass incarceration. For every person that is in prison, there is a mother, a father, a sibling or even children. I think that is a contribution to the discussion that no one else is making and that’s what makes this project unique.”
To learn more about Homie UP or to view an upcoming screening of Homie UP: Stories of Love and Redemption contact NLRC at 760-750-3500.

Growing Critically Conscious Teachers by Valenzuela, A. (Ed.) (2016). NY: Teachers College Press.

Dear Blog Readers:

I am happy to announce this volume, Growing Critically Conscious Teachers: A Social Justice Curriculum for Educators of Latino/a Youth. The expected publication date is April, 2016.  

All of the royalties will go to the National Latino/a Education Research and Policy Project (NLERAP) in order to help the organization's efforts with respect to its Grow Your Own Teacher Education Institutes (GYO-TEI) initiative that is fully described in this volume.
You can also learn about the initiative here.

You can place your order here.



Saturday, January 30, 2016

Latino School Segregation: The Big Education Problem That No One Is Talking About

As is indicated in this piece, it is interesting that there isn't much of a discourse around school segregation in the Mexican American or Mexican-origin community.  My parents' generation growing up in West Texas was definitely aware of segregation. Heck, crossing the railroad tracks to the other side of town risked life and limb.  For the guys, forget dating the white girls.  You could get beat up or killed for doing so.

I'm sure that school segregation was easier to see back then because it aligned to segregation and discrimination in other areas like hotels and restaurants where your money as a Mexican wasn't good.  All the way through the 1940s and 1950s, there simply weren't jobs for Mexicans.  The majority survived by going on the migrant stream.  This, of course, took the children out of schools for several months out of the year.

Despite this lack of an explicit discourse today, I am regularly told by many of my students at UT from South Texas or certain places in San Antonio that they didn't realize that schooling was different in other places: It's what you are used to and come to expect—unless, of course, you find yourself outside of this environment, invariably representing a wake-up call for them.  

As our students acquire a more critically conscious perspective, that's when they begin to connect the dots with respect to the politics and policies pertinent to public education, how schools get funded through property taxes, together with histories of redlining, racial covenants, housing discrimination, loan discrimination, gentrification, displacement, and the like. 

It doesn't have to be this way, but you pretty much have to go to college to get to this place of understanding the history and context of Latino school segregation.  So if our communities seem to not have an opinion, well, they've been schooled in such a way that they're NOT supposed to have one—to have a standpoint.  From a majoritarian standpoint, the degree to which the masses of brown and black people do not evolve this consciousness, all is good and well in America.

This (mis)education of an entire community into a narrowed sense of its own possibilities leaves in tact current constellations of power and with that, our highly unequal status quo.

Angela Valenzuela

Latino School Segregation: The Big Education Problem That No One Is Talking About

Separate and unequal.

10/26/2015 10:49 am ET | Updated Oct 26, 2015

Don Bartletti/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images 
In 2004, student Hector Flores (left) marched through the rain near Hoover Elementary in California. The walk commemorated Mendez v. Westminster, the case that led to California being the first state in the nation to end school segregation.
Nearly a decade before the Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education made segregated schooling of black students unconstitutional, a group of five Mexican-American families in California fought for integrated schools in Mendez v. Westminster.
It was 1946. For years, the state's Mexican-American students had languished in inferior "Mexican schools" to which they were assigned based on name and complexion. Plaintiffs in the case argued that the segregation of Mexican-American children violated their right to "equal protection" under the Constitution, noting that their schools were severely under-resourced compared to nearby white schools, and the plaintiffs' experts testified on the negative impact segregation has on children's self-esteem. Defendants in the case -- four school districts -- argued that Mexican students had poor hygiene, carried diseases and were intellectually inferior.
The case -- which was decided in the plaintiffs' favor -- never made its way to the Supreme Court, and thus its impact was never felt on a federal level. But soon after, California became the first state to ban state-sponsored school segregation.
It's now 2015, and while much has changed in California, much has remained the same. Segregation is no longer based on official policies or law -- called de jure segregation -- but based on voluntary housing or schooling choices. Still, the Golden State remains the most segregated one in the country for Latino students, according to research from the UCLA's Civil Rights Project, which studies civil rights issues.
To be an average Latino student in California today means that you likely attend a school that is 84 percent nonwhite, with high rates of concentrated poverty. It means you live in a two-tiered society where only 20 percent of Latino students taking the SAT in California are deemed college-ready, compared to 41 percent of students statewide.
California's situation is extreme. Its Latino population is exceptionally large and exceptionally segregated. But the state's issues are symptomatic of a long-term, nationwide trend of Latinos quietly becoming the most segregated minority population of students in the country, the UCLA center has found.
In 2011, the typical Latino student attended a school that was 57 percent Latino, according to the UCLA research. Comparatively, an average black student student attended a school that was 49 percent black. A typical white student attended a school that was 73 percent white.

Why Is No One Talking About This?

There is a dearth of research on how segregation impacts Latino students specifically, although there are plentiful data on how racial isolation impacts African-Americans. As efforts to address African-American segregation have faltered, public discourse on growing Latino segregation remains elusive.
“Schools that are integrated better reflect our values as a country.” John King, U.S. Department of Education

"We’ve been through a demographic revolution with almost no policy attention to the racial dimensions of these changes," Gary Orfield, co-director of the Civil Rights Project at UCLA, told The Huffington Post. "It's not exactly true that anyone is paying attention to black segregation either -- we’re a third of the century into kind of doing nothing and a quarter of the century into systematically dismantling what we did earlier."
Little attention has been paid to the issue of Latino segregation because segregation has historically been a black-white issue, said Patricia Gándara, Orfield's co-director at the Civil Rights Project.
Brown v. Board of Education focused specifically on African-American students. In 1973, the Supreme Court ruling in Keyes v. School District No. 1, Denver, Colorado, recognized that Latino students also have a right to integrated schools, but the case had minimal impact. When African-American and white students were being bussed away from their neighborhood schools to help achieve racial balance, Latinos were mostly ignored.
"We’re stuck in a black-white paradigm that doesn’t work quite the same way for Latinos," Gándara said.
Jennifer Lee, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Indiana, predicts that in the coming years, we will start to see more research about the schooling of Latino students.
"With this increase in the Latino population I think there are lots of scholars who are very interested the Latino student community. It just takes time," she said. "We can't extrapolate studies on African-American students to Latino students."
With little research on the topic, it is difficult to come up with potential fixes.
"We have to really understand what it is we’re studying," said Lee. "We can't assume the mechanisms are the same across different populations -- or all Latino students."
David Garcia, an associate professor at Arizona State University, ran for the state's superintendent of public instruction in 2014 and lost. During his campaign, he did not hear the issue of school segregation brought up once, he said, "not even by minority groups."
"The entire discussion from how we come to study it really comes out of the South and in the '60s and blacks and whites," said Garcia. Meanwhile, Western states -- those that typically have some of the largest populations of Latino students -- are studied less frequently.
Research on the issue of Latino school segregation is also somewhat complicated by the diversity within this group of students, Garcia noted. Latino students may experience segregation differently depending on when they came to this country or where their family is from, for example.
"I think first and foremost in the conversations I've had, people want to know how Latino students are doing" in school, Garcia said. "Who they are attending with does not rise to the level of public discussion." 

AP Photo/Gosia Wozniacka
In this June 26, 2013, photo, students eat lunch during the school's summer program at Jefferson Elementary School in Sanger, California. The Sanger Unified School District, which was once named as one of the lowest-performing in the state, is now known for its success in educating its predominantly Latino student body: It graduated 94 percent of its Hispanic students in 2012, 20 percent more than the state average.

Is Anyone Doing Anything About Latino Segregation?

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan largely ignored the issue of school segregation during his work under the Obama administration, but there is some speculation that his replacement, John King, will put the issue back on the political map. King, who will start in the job in December, served as the state education commissioner in New York before spending the past few months as an adviser to Duncan.
In New York, King enacted a grant program that will use $25 million to encourage more affluent students to attend certain high-poverty, struggling schools. In September, he emphasized the importance of integrated schools at a National Coalition on School Diversity conference.
Schools that are integrated better reflect our values as a country,” he said in a speech.

It is now impossible to ignore the role that Latino students play in the issue of school segregation. If King does focus his attention on school diversity, it is likely that the issue of Latino segregation will receive more attention than it ever has before.

Abbott, Patrick Boost Charter Schools at Rally

Yesterday's school choice rally at the Texas State Capitol is a dressed up attack on public education in Texas with Governor Abbott and Land Commissioner George P. Bush present. And this in light of a lack of leadership regarding the equitable financing of our public education system. 

Handing over the education of our youth to charters operators is anathema to democracy when they eliminate the structures about which we as a community have a vote—that is, elected school boards. Plus, they prey on public schools that can't cherry pick children; they must accept all children which sets them up at a competitive disadvantage in many instances relative to charter schools (IDEA and KIPP are frequently touted as our children's and community's solutions).

Don't drink the Kool-Aid, my friends. Despite the convenient civil rights rhetoric that these officials spout, so-called "choice" is an abandonment of the civil rights goal and agenda for equity.

Angela Valenzuela


Abbott, Patrick Boost Charter Schools at Rally
  by Morgan Smith, The Texas Tribune
  April 29, 2015

Saying parent choice about where to send their children to school is a "civil rights issue," Texas Gov. Greg Abbott called for an expansion of charter schools in the state Wednesday at a rally on the Capitol's south steps, where students, parents and educators gathered to show support for the publicly funded but privately managed schools.

"The reason we are here today is not Republican, it is not Democrat," Abbott, a Republican, said after thanking lawmakers from both parties working to pass charter-friendly bills. "The time has come to open more charter schools in the state of Texas. The time has come to empower more parents to chose the right school and the best school for their child."

Abbott was joined by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who was not originally scheduled to appear at the event, and a handful of other elected officials including Land Commissioner George P. Bush, state Rep. Dwayne Bohac, R-Houston, and state Sen. Don Huffines, R-Dallas. 

In 2013, lawmakers passed the first major overhaul of the state's charter school system since it was established in 1995, increasing the number of state contracts available for charter operators and streamlining the process to close low-performing charters.

Charter advocates have pushed for access to state facilities funding during the current legislative session — a lack of which they say creates an unequal playing field with traditional public schools.  

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://www.texastribune.org/2015/04/29/abbott-patrick-boost-charter-schools-capitol-rally/.

Friday, January 29, 2016

White Debt by Eula Biss

Powerful piece.  My only critique is with the Black-White binary (little different from a lot of other accounts these days, unfortunately). A long history of white privilege and racism with respect to other groups like Mexicans, Asians, indigenous people, for example, is not mentioned.  It's excellent on the topic of white privilege itself though.  

Here's a good quote:
I asked myself what the condition of white life might be. I wrote ‘‘complacence’’ on a blank page. Hearing the term ‘‘white supremacist’’ in the wake of that shooting had given me another occasion to wonder whether white supremacists are any more dangerous than regular white people, who tend to enjoy supremacy without believing in it. After staring at ‘‘complacence’’ for quite a long time, I looked it up and discovered that it didn’t mean exactly what I thought it meant. ‘‘A feeling of smug or uncritical satisfaction with oneself or one’s achievements’’ might be an apt description of the dominant white attitude, but that’s more active than what I had in mind. I thought ‘‘complacence’’ meant sitting there in your house, neither smug nor satisfied, just lost in the illusion of ownership. This is an illusion that depends on forgetting the redlining, block busting, racial covenants, contract buying, loan discrimination, housing projects, mass incarceration, predatory lending and deed thefts that have prevented so many black Americans from building wealth the way so many white Americans have, through homeownership. I erased ‘‘complacence’’ and wrote ‘‘complicity.’’ I erased it. ‘‘Debt,’’ I wrote. Then, ‘‘forgotten debt.’’
It's long-ish but well worth the read.


White Debt

Reckoning with what is owed — and what
can never be repaid — for racial privilege.