Thursday, October 24, 2013

In Latest Scandal at UT Austin, a Bake Sale Attacks Race

In Latest Scandal at UT Austin, a Bake Sale Attacks Race

Not cool. -Angela
ake sales have long been a go-to solution for organizations looking to make money. More recently, they've also provided a platform for protest — and not the most savory kind.
The University of Texas at Austin’s Young Conservatives of Texas group last month hosted an “Affirmative Action Bake Sale” where they charged customers prices based on their race. It was part of a larger effort to clarify their position regarding the controversial Fisher v. University of Texas case, which is now being debated at the U.S. Supreme Court level, concerning affirmative action admissions policy of the university's Austin campus.
The bake sale, held on September 25, was more an act of protest than a money-making move by the conservative student organization. UT officials were not impressed; in a statement issued two days after the sale, the university's Vice President for Diversity and Community Engagement, Gregory Vincent, said not only was the action inflammatory and demeaning, but it set the stage for further exclusion and disrespect within the student, faculty and staff communities.
- See more at:
In Latest Scandal at UT Austin, a Bake Sale Attacks Race
Mon, 10/14/2013 - by Reihaneh Hajibeigi
 205  47 reddit0 tumblr0
Bake sales have long been a go-to solution for organizations looking to make money. More recently, they've also provided a platform for protest — and not the most savory kind.
The University of Texas at Austin’s Young Conservatives of Texas group last month hosted an “Affirmative Action Bake Sale” where they charged customers prices based on their race. It was part of a larger effort to clarify their position regarding the controversial Fisher v. University of Texas case, which is now being debated at the U.S. Supreme Court level, concerning affirmative action admissions policy of the university's Austin campus.
The bake sale, held on September 25, was more an act of protest than a money-making move by the conservative student organization. UT officials were not impressed; in a statement issued two days after the sale, the university's Vice President for Diversity and Community Engagement, Gregory Vincent, said not only was the action inflammatory and demeaning, but it set the stage for further exclusion and disrespect within the student, faculty and staff communities.
“The choice of a tiered pricing structure creates the misperception that some students either do not belong at the university or do not deserve to have access to our institution—or worse, that they belong or deserve only to a certain degree,” Vincent said. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”
Representatives for Young Conservatives of Texas-UT did not respond to multiple attempts for comment, but in an interview with college- and fraternity-centered site “Total Frat Move,” YCT Chairman and UT student Lorenzo Garcia defended the bake sale saying actions like these will spark a necessary political debate.
“If we didn’t do something like this, a lot of students wouldn’t really pay attention to the issue. Whether it’s the affirmative action bake sale or other things that are pretty controversial but prove a point, and you know, stick it to the liberals pretty much,” Garcia wrote. “With college kids, you have to do something like this to get their attention.”

“Affirmative Action Bake Sales” are not a new occurrence. The University of California at Berkeley experienced a similar incident in 2011 in protest to an upcoming Senate bill that would allow public universities in California to adopt affirmative action policies.
In 2008, Young Conservatives of Texas at Texas A&M University hosted their version of the bake sale to protest against the upcoming employment of James Anderson, who would assume the post of Vice President of Institutional Assessment and Diversity for the university.
In their statement to the media, Rebecca Falkowski, current issues director for YCT at Texas A&M, said, “We hope our affirmative action bake sale and pledge drive will show the students of Texas A&M University the fallacies of many of the so- called ‘diversity’ initiatives being pursued by Texas A&M and other universities across the country.”
Some university officials, like Southern Methodist University in Texas, have stepped in and shut down potential bake sales before they even got started.
But UT biology senior Nick Mitchell doesn’t agree that it is the place of universities to stifle free speech by preventing the bake sale.
“It’s not the university’s job to stop speech, it’s the student community’s job to pressure racists into stopping,” Mitchell said. “Race is a complicated issue, and the YCT dumbed down the entire complex issue of affirmative action into something so simple and silly that I really don’t think anyone, even those who agree, could take them seriously.”
When Mitchell himself passed by the bake sale, he saw most people just laughing off the protesters. “I think the worst thing that can happen as a protestor is to have people laugh at you, and that’s the biggest response I saw,” he said.
- See more at:

Top authors — including Maya Angelou — urge Obama to curb standardized testing

As a board member of FairTest, I'm so glad that we're doing this.  If you have a Facebook account, please consider liking FairTest at  So glad to see this happening. 


Top authors — including Maya Angelou — urge Obama to curb standardized testing

By Valerie Strauss, Updated: October 22 at 11:07 am

More than 120 authors and illustrators of books for children — including Maya Angelou,  Judy Blume and Jane Yolen — urged President Obama in a letter sent Tuesday to curb policies that promote excessive standardized testing and said they are “alarmed” about the impact “on children’s love reading and literature.”
The letter, delivered to the White House, was organized by The National Center for Fair & Open Testing, known as FairTest, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending the misuse of standardized tests. It says in part:
We are alarmed at the negative impact of excessive school testing mandates, including your administration’s own initiatives, on children’s love of reading and literature. Recent policy changes by your Administration have not lowered the stakes. On the contrary, requirements to evaluate teachers on student test scores impose more standardized exams and crowd out exploration.
Angelou is noteworthy on this list not only because of her position in the literary world but because she has been a big public supporter of Obama. Other signers include Jules Feiffer, Donald Crews, Alma Flor Ada, and National Book Award winners Kathryn Erskine and Phillip Hoose.
The mention of Obama’s education initiatives is in part a reference to Obama’s main ed program called Race to the Top. Critics say it has extended the high-stakes testing mandates on public schools that started during the No Child Left Behind era of former president George W. Bush by insisting that student test scores be used to judge teachers through  ”value-added” methods that many experts say are unreliable and invalid.
Here’s the text of the letter:
President Barack Obama
The White House
Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Obama,
We the undersigned children’s book authors and illustrators write to express our concern for our readers, their parents and teachers. We are alarmed at the negative impact of excessive school testing mandates, including your Administration’s own initiatives, on children’s love of reading and literature. Recent policy changes by your Administration have not lowered the stakes. On the contrary, requirements to evaluate teachers based on student test scores impose more standardized exams and crowd out exploration.
We call on you to support authentic performance assessments, not simply computerized versions of multiple-choice exams. We also urge you to reverse the narrowing of curriculum that has resulted from a fixation on high-stakes testing.
Our public school students spend far too much time preparing for reading tests and too little time curling up with books that fire their imaginations. As Michael Morpurgo, author of the Tony Award Winner War Horse, put it, “It’s not about testing and reading schemes, but about loving stories and passing on that passion to our children.”
Teachers, parents and students agree with British author Philip Pullman who said, “We are creating a generation that hates reading and feels nothing but hostility for literature.” Students spend time on test practice instead of perusing books. Too many schools devote their library budgets to test-prep materials, depriving students of access to real literature. Without this access, children also lack exposure to our country’s rich cultural range.
This year has seen a growing national wave of protest against testing overuse and abuse. As the authors and illustrators of books for children, we feel a special responsibility to advocate for change. We offer our full support for a national campaign to change the way we assess learning so that schools nurture creativity, exploration, and a love of literature from the first day of school through high school graduation.

Alma Flor Ada
Alma Alexander
Jane Ancona
Maya Angelou
Jonathan Auxier
Kim Baker
Molly Bang
Tracy Barrett
Chris Barton
Ari Berk
Judy Blume
Alfred B. (Fred) Bortz
Lynea Bowdish
Sandra Boynton
Shellie Braeuner
Ethriam Brammer
Louann Mattes Brown
Anne Broyles
Michael Buckley
Janet Buell
Dori Hillestad Butler
Charito Calvachi-Mateyko
Valerie Scho Carey
Rene Colato Lainez
Henry Cole
Ann Cook
Karen Coombs
Robert Cortez
Cynthia Cotten
Bruce Coville
Ann Crews
Donald Crews
Nina Crews
Rebecca Kai Dotlich
Laura Dower
Kathryn Erskine
Jules Feiffer
Jody Feldman
Mary Ann Fraser
Sharlee Glenn
Barbara Renaud Gonzalez
Laurie Gray
Trine M. Grillo
Claudia Harrington
Sue Heavenrich
Linda Oatman High
Anna Grossnickle Hines
Lee Bennett Hopkins
Phillip Hoose
Diane M. Hower
Michelle Houts
Mike Jung
Kathy Walden Kaplan
Amal Karzai
Jane Kelley
Elizabeth Koehler-Pentacoff
Amy Goldman Koss
JoAnn Vergona Krapp
Nina Laden
Sarah Darer Littman
José Antonio López
Mariellen López
Jenny MacKay
Marianne Malone
Ann S. Manheimer
Sally Mavor
Diane Mayr
Marissa Moss
Yesenia Navarrete Hunter
Sally Nemeth
Kim Norman
Geraldo Olivo
Alexis O’Neill
Anne Marie Pace
Amado Peña
Irene Peña
Lynn Plourde
Ellen Prager, PhD
David Rice
Armando Rendon
Joan Rocklin
Judith Robbins Rose
Sergio Ruzzier
Barb Rosenstock
Liz Garton Scanlon
Lisa Schroeder
Sara Shacter
Wendi Silvano
Janni Lee Simner
Sheri Sinykin
Jordan Sonnenblick
Ruth Spiro
Heidi E.Y. Stemple
Whitney Stewart
Shawn K. Stout
Steve Swinburne
Carmen Tafolla
Kim Tomsic
Duncan Tonatiuh
Patricia Thomas
Kristin O’Donnell Tubb
Deborah Underwood
Corina Vacco
Audrey Vernick
Debbie Vilardi
Judy Viorst
K. M. Walton
Wendy Wax
April Halprin Wayland
Carol Weis
Rosemary Wells
Lois Wickstrom
Suzanne Morgan Williams
Kay Winters
Ashley Wolff
Lisa Yee
Karen Romano Young
Jane Yolen
Roxyanne Young
Paul O. Zelinsky
Jennifer Ziegler

Friday, October 18, 2013

No time to waste: We must advocate for books for our children

of the University of Texas at Austin

Somos en escrito: The Latino literary online magazine

October 17, 2013

  •  In 2002, only 94 books were written about, and 48 books written by, Latinas/os: That number has not improved.
  • For instance, 2012 statistics reveal that out of a total of 5,000 children’s books published that year, 54 of them were written about, and only 59 were written by, Latinas/os.
  • In 2011, just over 3% of 3,400 books reviewed were written by or about Latinos.
  • Only 18% of Latino fourth graders were proficient in reading; meanwhile, 44% of their white peers were classified as being proficient in reading.
  • In Texas alone, by the year 2050, another study shows, public schools will serve 9 million students, from the 5 million at present—of these, 6 million will be of Hispanic origin.
Despite flash flood warnings, an unusual spate of rain and high winds in a drought-devastated Central Texas, about 45 dedicated community activists, librarians, historians, archivists, scholars, and local leaders gathered in Austin on September 20, 2013, to address the significance of these figures. The consensus was a mixture of concern, outrage, and a commitment to take action.
The timely publication of a Young Adult novel, Noldo and His Magical Scooter at the Battle of the Alamo and a visit by its author, Armando Rendón, sparked the event. Rendón is founder and editor of “Somos en Escrito Magazine”.
The entire experience was otherworldly in that Rendón’s visit coincided in space and time with a conversation that has been building in the Austin community regarding the systemic unavailability of books that are not only written by, but that also have content that is relevant to the history and experiences of Chicana/os and Latina/os. Merging these agendas found expression in this historic gathering of local leaders that further sought direction from one of our own, Oralia Garza de Cortés, who is a leading voice for children’s literature and library and literacy services for Latino children and families at local, state, and national levels.

A teacher speaks at MACC reading/forum

This was truly a shared community effort that involved the following co-sponsors: the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center (also referred to as “the MACC”), Austin Parks and Recreation, Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book, Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies; Benson Latin American Collection, the Center for Mexican American Studies and the Texas Center for Education Policy at the University of Texas at Austin, the National Latino/a Education Research and Policy Project, Modesta and José Treviño, and El Corazón De Tejas, the Central Texas Chapter of REFORMA, an affiliate of the American Library Association. REFORMA is a national association to promote library and information services for Latinos and the Spanish speaking. 
Serving as moderator, Dr. Angela Valenzuela from the University of Texas at Austin’s Texas Center for Education Policy, opened the event with general commentary on how the dearth of children’s books with content that is important to Latino/as intersects so powerfully with other advocacy areas that are also germane to the needs and experiences of our communities, including literacy, our literary heritage, intellectual traditions, archives, cultural preservation, and the arts. She urged the audience to consider ways that they can become advocates.
Through his presentation, Rendón brilliantly and magically transported his eager audience to Noldo’s barrio in San Antonio, Texas’s West Side.  The novel, set in the 1950’s, finds Noldo playing outdoors and witnessing sudden cloudbursts, lightning, and thunder that drenches the rutted street that is his playscape (caliche barrio). What follows next is Noldo’s own time travel story that transports him to 1836 to the Misión San Antonio de Valero, known today as “El Alamo,” where he befriends a young person his own age on the eve of this historic battle.
After reading several passages from his novel, Rendón shared with us his own evolution as an editor-turned-children’s book writer. He mentioned how he came to realize through his research, looking through library catalogues, and talking to people around the country just how dire the situation is with regard to Latina/o children’s books. “There isn’t much available for young adults—certainly Chicanos and Latinos. And certainly not adventure stories, something that kids might read and see themselves in there, their story. And I think that’s what you’re talking about, that when young people read a book, they’re reading about themselves. When they pick up Noldo, I hope that young people will realize that this is their story and not just mine.”
He mused about Noldo’s time travel and how his plans are to take him to the Mexican Revolution of 1910 where Noldo provides a personal, eye-witness account of the battle at Juárez from the safety of El Paso.
Oralia Garza de Cortés

Oralia Garza de Cortés’ stirring presentation addressed a range of issues associated with the systemic lack of access to Latina/o children's literature and how best to advocate. She noted that “Publishers must bear the brunt of this responsibility, although they’re not the sole culprits. The publishing industry is like a giant ship in that it has many moving parts. There are literary agents, editors, reviewers, selectors, librarians, book sellers, and book buyers,” she asserted. “Everyone plays a critical role in promoting, reviewing, and purchasing these books that have been vetted by a combined team of professional librarians to select the best of the best. Without the published books, there can be no selection,” she said.
Oralia shared the shocking news that at this year’s Pura Belpré Award—one of three major awards given to Latino/a children’s book authors—the selection committee did not select books for special honors. “It was stunning to be in a room of 5,000 librarians and it’s like the Academy Awards when you’re in this room,” she said. “When they read the statement that said ‘no honor books for writers,’ there were gasps in the room.”
She explained how this rare occurrence was the result of not having enough books to select from and how this speaks volumes about the lack of literature from which to select, as well as one committee’s insistence on quality. She further situated this crisis in the context of a 50 million and growing school-age, Latino population, noting that the limited number of published books—less than 200—is a travesty. “Que verguenza!” she exclaimed.
What followed was a lively conversation on how to begin to change this with the multiple and varied strategies that can serve as guideposts for what many of us in Austin believe is an idea whose time has come.
Archivist, scholar, and activist Martha Cotera launched the conversation with the following observation: “I think one of the issues is that as a community, we fail to serve on city boards and commissions. And I think that the local REFORMA chapter should definitely ensure that there’s always a member on the library commission. I did my time. I’m a founder of REFORMA National and I did eight years on the Austin Public Library Commission. . In those eight years,we did extensive evaluations and surveys on service to Hispanics. There is much service one can do.  So if you are not serving on a board or commission, you cannot blame anybody for bad service.”
Local labor leader and library activist, Teresa Perez-Wiseley, agreed that advocacy in small and large ways is a must. She shared that it should not be a difficult proposition getting these books into our children’s schools, but it is. Teresa suggested to the audience that to override the bureaucratic hurdles it is often best to simply purchase and donate Latina/o children’s books to our local school libraries.
An audience member raised an issue mentioned by Garza de Cortés that many of the children’s books for Latina/os that she came across actually had damaging content. She asked whether there is any organization that sends out a list that says, “Do not buy this because this is not a culturally sensitive book?” None appears to exist.
Another person situated this conversation in the context of the Austin Independent School District’s dual language programs saying, “All of our teachers are complaining that they still cannot find enough Spanish literature for our children.” She asked for direction not on just how to get more books in their hands, but ones with appropriate, “correctly translated” content. She underscored how a demand exists. “We just need to know how to get the books. Just as Teresa said, they’re looking at South America. They’re trying to get the books to the kids, but it’s hard.”

Some discussion centered on how to become a Latina/o children’s book writer. Both Rendón and Garza de Cortés referred to the important, if complex, negotiation of two language systems that capture well the discourses, identities, and histories of our communities but also work politically to elevate us in the eyes of publishers beyond our more typical designation as “regional minorities” for a “regional market.” This is an antiquated mentality that needs to get challenged.
Other issues that surfaced included a lack of Latina/o librarians or other committed individuals responsible for insuring that our library collections are sufficient, that is, the pipeline for careers in librarianship is fragile and should be strengthened.
Aside from Cotera’s and Perez-Wiseley’s commentaries on assuming leadership positions locally and advocating singlehandedly, respectively, both Texas historian Dr. Emilio Zamora and Martha Cotera suggested workshops or a Saturday school for our community that could be held at the MACC. It could be a site for professional development workshops, as well as organized events around different kinds of writing like history or poetry that brings writers and community to spaces like these to address larger issues related to writing and publishing.
The evening ended with a reception and book-signing event with multiple copies of Noldo finding their way into eager hands. The reception was rife with hope and expectation that we would reconvene soon to begin contemplating artist workshops, a Saturday school for Latina/o children, and a targeted strategy involving the City of Austin and Austin Public Libraries in order to begin to meet the demand that exists.
We conclude with Rendón’s apt commentary on the task that lies before us: “Writing for children is a political act. More people realize that in our community. Look at the powerful people in this room. It’s amazing. I feel like a kid, you know, imagining how we can get this movement growing into something even bigger.”
We feel like kids, too, Armando. You and Noldo are helping us to grasp our need to travel to the past in hopes for a brighter future. Gracias!

Angela Valenzuela, Ph.D., a nationally and internationally renowned scholar and professor in Educational Administration, chairs the Education Policy and Planning Program at the University of Texas at Austin and serves as the Department's Graduate Adviser. She also directs the Texas Center for Education Policy at UT.  She is author of the groundbreaking book, "Subtractive Schooling : U.S.-Mexican Youth and the Politics of Caring," published by State University of New York, 1999.

Clarissa Riojas, graduating this year from UT Austin with a B.A. in English Literature, Mexican American Studies, and a certification in Latino Education, Language, and Literacy under the Bridging Disciplines Program, is an intern with Dr. Valenzuela in the Texas Center for Education Policy.

Posted 6 days ago by Armando Rendón

Monday, October 14, 2013

The San Antonio COPS Revolution

Here is an important article on the history of Communities Organized for Public Service (COPS) in San Antonio It is very much about the potential power that poor, oppressed folks have to turn around their circumstances. This is a very important and rich history without which things would really have turned out a lot differently in San Antonio and beyond had COPS never entered the picture.

This is a painful and indeed shameful story of the ways in which the poor were directly victimized by city leaders in San Antonio.

The world is fortunate to have benefited from the extraordinary community activist leadership of Ernesto Cortes and Oralia Garza de Cortes who have dedicated their lives to helping the poor.  I remain deeply inspired and encouraged by all that they have done.  May God continue to bless this work greatly.


The San Antonio COPS Revolution 

By Roberto Vazquez, 

LaRed Latina News Network

Posted on March 14, 2005, Printed on March 14, 2005

In her San Antonio Express-News column of 6/6/04, Jan Jarboe Russel,
describes very graphically the 1974 confrontation of 
COPS Representatives and then Mayor Charles Becker.

"On a muggy Thursday night in August 1974, about 500 members of 
Communities Organized for Public Service converged in the City Council 
chamber and demanded to be heard. 

Now Father Albert Benavides and Beatrice Gallego stood at the microphone 
and insisted (Mayor) Charles Becker and the City Council hear them out. I 
will never forget the anger etched like granite on Benavides' face. The 
priest stood there, shaking his fists high in the air, looking like the 
prophet Jeremiah." 

What was not known back then was that Father Benavides, along with the 
other COPS representatives had been quietly organizing, and painstakingly 
researching the issues for a whole year before they decided to approach 
city officials. It turned out that COPS representatives were much better 
informed, and more knowledgeable about San Antonio socio-economic and 
political issues then were the Mayor, Councilmen, and City Manager. 

Even that famous 1974, confrontation between COPS and Charles Becker/City 
Council, was carefully choreographed and orchestrated beforehand by COPS. 
By the time COPS representatives decided to approach San Antonio city 
officials, they already had rehearsed political strategies, tactics, along 
with contingency plans to cover almost any conceivable scenario or counter 
action posed by the opposition.

In other words, the city government establishment had no chance against 
COPS. However, city officials did not know that. They were caught totally 
by surprise.

Through their intensive research, COPS members found out that city 
officials had for decades been diverting city funds from the inner city to 
newly developed subdivisions on the North Side. In effect city officials 
were stealing from the poor West and South side neighborhoods to provide 
funds for developers in the affluent North Side suburbs.

In a 1978 article, Moises Sandoval, a Alicia Patterson Foundation award 
winner, notes, "Officials whom they had held in awe had for years 
"re-programmed" to the suburbs bond monies earmarked for inner city 
projects such as critically needed storm sewers. Meanwhile, persons were 
drowning when heavy rains flooded low-lying barrios. Even as COPS was 
beginning to fasten an eagle eye on the City Council's activities, the 
city voted to buy a golf course from a developer with federal Community 
Development Act funds which were supposed to be spent for the improvement 
of poor neighborhoods. (COPS action led to a veto of the purchase of 
federal authorities.) Developers were receiving millions of taxpayers' 
money in subsidies for water main installations in subdivisions both 
inside and outside the city limits while central city neighborhoods had to 
make do with two-inch mains which made washing dishes and taking a shower 
activities that could not go on at the same time in one house."

Jan Jarboe clearly describes this issue in her 6/6/04 Express-News column 
about the legendary confrontation of COPS and Mayor Charles Becker. 

"Father Albert Benavides spoke directly to (Mayor) Charles Becker and 
told him that even though many drainage projects for the West Side had 
been authorized by the city in bond issues, they never were built. 
Becker turned to City Manager Sam Granata and asked if the priest was 
telling the truth. Granata indicated that it was true. Then Becker asked 
how long the drainage projects for the West Side had been planned. "About 
40 years," Granata responded." 

Forty years is a long time to wait for services. It's possible that if 
COPS had not intervened then, the West Side might still be waiting for the 
drainage projects today. 
In 1988, Henry Cisneros, former San Antonio Mayor was quoted as saying,
"I can say unequivocally, COPS has fundamentally altered the moral tone 
and the political and physical face of San Antonio." 

These words ring true today as they did back then. Since 1973, through the 
present, COPS/Metro Alliance, have managed to dramatically transform and 
diversify electoral politics in San Antonio, and Bexar County. This 
community organization has also managed to generate over one billion 
dollars in city/county, state, and federal public funds for capital and 
infrastructure improvements for the West and South sides of San Antonio. 
These projects included a community college, drainage systems, new housing 
and housing rehabilitation, public parks, health clinics, public libraries 
and a host of other related urban improvements. 

One may wonder how COPS became so effective in social and political 
engineering in San Antonio. Some say it's because they are a faith-based 
organization inspired by God, the scriptures, the Prophets and the Holy 
Spirit.  I personally think there may be some truth to this notion. 
However, I believe the main reason COPS has been so successful is because 
they are a grass-roots organization that works to build long term 
relationships among members based on family values, religious and social 
traditions, as well as good old "All American" Democratic ideals and 

Mark Warren, in "Connecting People to Politics,"  quotes Reverend Mike 
Haney as saying "COPS is a way of implementing the gospel's call to 
justice that it imposes on us. This happens in a couple of ways: dealing 
with issues themselves; and COPS calls us to work as a collective, to find 
strength in community, and that's a gospel call itself." Reverend Rosendo 
Urrabazo, in the other hand notes "The purpose of COPS is not issues; the 
purpose of COPS is leadership formation." 

In a Key Note speech "Building a Just Society Through Ethical Leadership,"  
in 2001 at the University of Texas,Ernie Cortez, current Southwest Regional 
Director of the IAF said,

"That's the role of a broad-based organization, to mentor, to guide, to
teach, to teach people to act on their own interests. That's the work that
COPS is involved in, that's the work that Valley Interfaith is involved
in, that's the work that all the IAF organizations are involved in." He
continues, "It's important for people who don't have any power to learn
that they can get power by organizing, to get power by beginning to
negotiate, to get power by developing broad-based institutions."

In a December 1999 article, Cheryl Dahle, senior writer at Fast Company, 
quotes Ernie Cortez, "We organize people not just around issues, but 
around their values. The issues fade, and people lose interest in them. 
But what they really care about remains: family, dignity, justice, and 
hope. We need power to protect what we value."

Cortez, also explains, "The politics that we talk about is the politics of
the Greeks -- the politics of negotiation and deliberation and struggle,
in which people engage in confrontation and compromise. My goal is to
reclaim that political tradition."

The COPS organizational philosophy  and strategies may be complex and at 
times esoteric in nature, but everyone agrees that their political tactics 
have been highly effective in bringing people together to participate in 
the American Democratic process. 

To understand the magnitude of COPS accomplishments in the last 30 years,
one has to understand the socio-economic and political situation of the
Mexican American community in San Antonio during the 60s and early 70s.  
Since the early 50s the GGL,(Good Government League) comprised of wealthy
Anglo ranchers and businessmen from the North Side had almost full control
of electoral politics in San Antonio. The GGL had the wealth, clout and
influence, to arbitrarily select as well as generate the votes to elect
City Councilmen in San Antonio.

Harry Boyte, of the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, notes," In the 
early seventies, San Antonio still had a "colonial" air where a small 
group of businessmen, most of whom belonged to the segregated Texas 
Cavalier Country Club, held sway. City council members were elected at 
large, which meant that Mexican and African American candidates could 
almost never raise funds to compete." 

In a 1988 Commonwealth article, Henry Cisneros, who holds masters and 
doctoral degrees from Harvard, noted that in the late 60s San Antonio was 
"so poor that Peace Corps volunteers were trained in its barrios (West and 
South sides) to simulate the conditions they would face in Latin America. 
Thousands of Hispanics and black families lived in colonias, with 
common-wall, shotgun houses built around public sanitation facilities with 
outdoor toilets. The barrios had no sidewalks or paved streets, no 
drainage system or flood control. Every spring brought flooding; families 
were driven from their homes; children walked to school through mud 
sloughs. In the shadow of downtown San Antonio lurked a stateside 
third-world 'country'." 

At the height of the civil-rights movement," Ernesto Cortes, former Senior 
COPS organizer and recipient of a MacArthur "Genius" Award wrote, "It was 
not unusual to equate the repressive conditions under which the Mexicanos 
of South Texas lived to the situation of blacks in the Deep South. Racism 
and cultural repression reinforced an economic need to maintain a 
reactionary social and political framework for the state." 

Fast Forward to 2005, when one sees the level of political diversity, and 
ethnic harmony in San Antonio, folks, especially young people, may think 
this is the way it has always been. Without COPS intervention back in the 
early 70's, it is likely that the GGL or some other similar elitist 
organization might still be holding a socio-political, and economic 
monopoly in San Antonio. It is also highly likely that the dire economic 
and political conditions of the Mexican-American community in San Antonio 
might still be the same, or perhaps even worse, today as they were in the 

San Antonio, was virtually turned upside down socially, economically and 
politically. COPS indeed revolutionized San Antonio, and did so in a 
relatively peaceful, and harmonious fashion. Some of COPS major 
accomplishments are the following: 

1) "COPS" notes Boyte, "shattered San Antonio's established conservative 
order," by helping to transform and reform the city electoral system in 
San Antonio. COPS was instrumental in changing the electoral process in 
San Antonio from an at-large to a single member district system. This 
vital change in the electoral process allowed City candidates to be 
elected from single member districts, and provided the opportunity for 
Mexican Americans to form a majority in the San Antonio City Council since 

2) COPS managed to generate over one billion dollars in city/county, 
state, and federal public funds for capital and infrastructure 
improvements for the West and South sides of San Antonio. Along with a 
brand new community college in the Southside, COPS was instrumental in 
developing a host of projects including street paving, drainage systems, 
new housing and housing rehabilitation, public parks, health clinics, 
public libraries and other related urban improvements

3) By conducting city-wide voter registration drives, COPS helped elect
Henry Cisneros, who in turn gained national prominence and visibility as
the first Hispanic mayor of a major American city.

4) COPS was instrumental in the establishment of PROJECT QUEST, a 
nationally recognized job training and educational program, and a 2003 
winner of The Enterprise Foundation and The J.P. Morgan Chase Foundation 
Award for Excellence in Workforce Development. PROJECT QUEST was also a 
winner of a 1995 Innovations Award from the Ford Foundation and the 
Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. 

5) Another one of COPS major achievements was their keen ability and
acumen to hold politicians accountable and honest. For the past 30 years
COPS has been the conscience of the San Antonio, and Bexar County
electoral system. Through their civic vigilance, and rigorous
accountability sessions, COPS has steadfastly worked to keep politicians
honest, fair, and accountable to the voters.

But the work is not done yet. There are still vital economic and 
employment issues, and challenges that need be addressed in San Antonio. 

In a 1999 Texas Observer editorial Louis Dubose, quotes Ernie Cortez, as
follows,"Among the fifteen largest cities in the country, San Antonio has
the second-highest number of people living below the poverty level. Half
of those living below the poverty level are between the ages of eighteen
and fifty-nine. And most are working: San Antonio's current unemployment
rate is lower than 3.5 percent. Why are people working to remain poor?."

This may be one of the reasons that education and job training have been 
central issues for the COPS organization. COPS has been instrumental in 
the establishment and development of a host of innovative and progressive 
educational and job training programs in San Antonio. According to Louis 
Dubose, on a 1999 Texas Observer editorial, COPS has been directly and 
indirectly responsible for the establishment of the following programs.

1) A city-wide after-school program that currently serves 34,000 
   students in San Antonio public schools; 

2) An education partnership program that has provided college 
   scholarships for 4,500 students and reduced the dropout rate; 

3) A job-training program that has placed more than 1,000 workers in 
   jobs that pay an average of $10.16 an hour; 

4) A program in the city's Alliance Schools, which provides 
   after-school programs, curriculum innovations, and counseling for 
   students and their families.

Perhaps San Antonio should join and rally with COPS to expand these 
programs, as well as develop new ones. The future of San Antonio may well 
depend on the quantity and quality of these educational and job training 
programs and how well these prepare the workforce to meet the challenges 
of an ever changing and increasingly complex, technical, and sophisticated 

Margaret Mead once wrote, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, 
committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that 
ever has." 

During the last 31 years, COPS/Metro Alliance, has indeed changed and 
transformed the world in San Antonio, and continues to work towards 
empowering the poor and the voiceless, as well as improving the social, 
educational, and economic conditions of all San Antonio citizens. 

Inequality is a Choice

This piece by Nobel economic laureate Joseph Stiglitz is a must read. The solutions to this are not simply economic, but also political. Here's where schools, curriculum, tracking, underfunding, etc. come in, too, though not spelled out herein.

Thanks to Kenneth Bernstein for sharing. Here are Kenneth's views on the matter, too:


Inequality Is a Choice

It’s well known by now that income and wealth inequality in most rich countries, especially the United States, have soared in recent decades and, tragically, worsened even more since the Great Recession. But what about the rest of the world? Is the gap between countries narrowing, as rising economic powers like China and India have lifted hundreds of millions of people from poverty? And within poor and middle-income countries, is inequality getting worse or better? Are we moving toward a more fair world, or a more unjust one?
These are complex questions, and new research by a World Bank economist named Branko Milanovic, along with other scholars, points the way to some answers.
Starting in the 18th century, the industrial revolution produced giant wealth for Europe and North America. Of course, inequality within these countries was appalling — think of the textile mills of Liverpool and Manchester, England, in the 1820s, and the tenements of the Lower East Side of Manhattan and the South Side of Chicago in the 1890s — but the gap between the rich and the rest, as a global phenomenon, widened even more, right up through about World War II. To this day, inequality between countries is far greater than inequality within countries.

Continue reading here.

Friday, October 04, 2013

The Paradox of Girls' Educational Attainment | Americas Quarterly

The Paradox of Girls' Educational Attainment | Americas Quarterly

AQ Feature 

By Hugo Ñopo

Why hasn't greater schooling for Latin American girls translated into better jobs?

Women’s socioeconomic and political progress advanced dramatically across the globe in the last half of the twentieth century, especially in Latin America and the Caribbean. Yet gender disparities remain high, and bridging those gaps has been a slow process. This is partly explained by negative stereotypes and misguided perceptions of gender roles—both still prevalent in Latin America. Such stereotypes not only distort many social interactions at home and in the workplace; they act as disincentives for girls to apply themselves in advanced study—particularly in mathematics.
Just as significantly, they affect the overall labor supply. In both formal and informal labor markets, where Latin American families get 80 percent of their total income, gender gaps remain. Although the level of women’s participation in the workforce has markedly increased over the past two decades across the region, three out of every five workers are male.
Since the beginning of the 1990s, the proportion of working-age women in the labor market has increased from one-half to two-thirds, with married and cohabiting women leading the charge. Many of those women married more educated husbands or were unburdened by dependents such as children or elderly relatives.
The gender inequalities extend to salaries. In my recently published book, New Century, Old Disparities: Ethnic Earnings Gaps in Latin America and the Caribbean, we document that—based on representative data from 18 countries in the region circa 2007—males earn from 29 to 31 percent more than females with the same age, level of education, number of children, presence of other income earner at home, type of employment, and average hours worked per week.
This has improved only marginally from two decades ago, when the same metric was from 33 to 35 percent.

Facing the Glass Ceiling

Female underpayment in the labor market is more pronounced among informal workers, the self-employed, workers in small firms of five employees or fewer, and part-time employees working at most 30 hours per week.
Females dominate the part-time economy. It is a convenient way for them to both enter the workforce and design flexible hours around household responsibilities. One in four female workers is a part-time employee, compared to only one in 10 male workers. Examples of popular flexible-hour professions include domestic workers and pre-school teachers. But the flexibility for females comes at a cost—reflected in the earnings penalties they absorb.
Women work more hours than men overall, but they are not fully compensated for those hours. Recent data from official national household surveys in Colombia reveal that in a typical week, working men and women devote an average of 48 and 40 hours, respectively, to paid work and 13 and 32 hours, respectively, to unpaid work such as household responsibilities.
There are perceptions about gender roles that limit women’s bargaining possibilities in the search for a fairer split of chores within their households. The 2009 Latinobarómetro survey, administered across 18 countries in Latin America, reports that one-third of respondents agree with the statement, “It is better to have women at home and men at work.”
Thus, in the limited scope for such a fairer split of responsibilities, women often resort to more flexible segments of the labor markets. Doing so limits their access to top-paying occupations in the long term, illustrating a glass ceiling that hinders—or even blocks—their movement up the corporate ladder.
Household surveys from eight Latin American countries show that, out of 10 top-paying occupations, including CEO, architect, lawyer, doctor, physicist, and production manager, women hold a smaller share of these lucrative posts compared to men. Indeed, the gender-based earnings gaps among these high-paying occupations are more pronounced than in the rest of the labor market. That is, flexible and top-paying occupations show higher gender earnings gaps than the rest of the labor markets. [See Figure 1] Many of these high-paying positions rely heavily on quantitative skills—an area in which males of the region still have more training, despite the gains that females have made in terms of general schooling.

Women in Education

Gender disparities in the workforce are perplexing—particularly in light of evidence that suggests females across Latin America and the Caribbean are actually outpacing males in educational attainment.
Our research team at the Inter-American Development Bank has found, for example, that females born by 1980 attended, on average, one more quarter of a school year than males (9.5 versus 9.2). In contrast, males born by 1940 achieved, on average, one extra year of schooling over females (6 versus 5).1 This gender educational attainment gap reversed from being male-dominated to female-dominated on a regional level beginning with the cohort born in 1968.
The higher schooling attainment of women is clearly seen among the highest educated. While by 1992, 16 percent of working females and 11 percent of working males in Latin America either partially or fully completed tertiary education, by 2007 those distributions were 26 percent and 17 percent, respectively. Moreover, the global phenomenon of higher schooling achievement among females began earlier in Latin America than in the rest of the developing world.
The only countries in the region where boys still attain more schooling than girls are Bolivia and Guatemala—two countries with sizable Indigenous populations—which suggests important links to ethnicity, culture and gender parity.
Yet despite the fact that females are staying in school longer, their test scores in math still fall short of males’.
Consider data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)-administered Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). The 2009 PISA was applied to more than 475,000 students in 65 countries, with 97,000 of them from nine Latin American and Caribbean countries: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, and Uruguay. Boys outperformed girls in the quantitative section of the test in 35 out of 65 countries—including in seven out of the nine Latin American nations. Only in Trinidad and Tobago did girls outperform boys. In Panama, the gender differences in quantitative performance were statistically insignificant.
Girls still score lower than boys globally in the PISA, but the gap is magnified in Latin America, even more so among the highest performers.
About one-third of the world’s top 1 percent of PISA test-takers are girls: 1,700 students in total. Of this population, however, only two students are from Latin America, despite the fact that about one-fifth of all female PISA test-takers—more than 50,000 students—hail from the region. [See Figure 2]
Compare gender disparity in top performance across world regions. In East Asia and the Pacific, for instance, 42 percent of top performers are girls and 58 percent are boys—compared to 13 percent and 87 percent, respectively, in the Latin American sample. Indeed, Latin America and the Caribbean has the single lowest share of any global region in terms of the top female PISA math scorers.
This lower mathematics performance also induces gender differences in fields of educational specialization. UNESCO data indicate that by 2008, females across six countries in South America—Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Uruguay—constituted almost 60 percent of all graduates from college programs. Yet they represented only 30 percent of those studying engineering, manufacturing or construction. Women, however, made up a majority of graduates in the fields of education (73 percent), health care and sociology (71 percent).
It’s not a question of global gender inequity. Half of the countries that participated in the 2009 PISA had equal levels of gender attainment. But what do those countries have in common insofar as educational outperformance of Latin America? What makes one country more prone to gender parity in students’ mathematics performance?

Underlying Social Elements

Using data developed by the World Economic Forum and the World Values Survey, Paola Sapienza of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and her co-authors argued in Science in 2008 that countries with greater gender parity in economic and political opportunities tend to show lower or no gender gaps in math performance.2 The findings lend support to the idea that the current status of adult women shapes expectations for girls and influences and the way girls and boys decide how to apply themselves in their studies, in this case in math. Here, negative stereotypes about gender roles play a role in inducing males and females to pursue certain paths of study.
The idea that math- and science-related work is better suited for boys is rooted in many societies, both in the developed and the developing world. Dario Cvencek and his co-authors from the University of Washington’s Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences provide recent evidence from the United States in a study published in 2011 in Child Development. They found that in a sample of Seattle schoolchildren, primary-school students implicitly and explicitly tended to associate math more with boys than with girls as early as the second grade.
In Cvencek’s research, his team provided students with names of boys and girls as well as with mathematics- and reading-related words (e.g., addition, numbers, graph, books, story, and letter) on a computer screen. In a first set of exercises, students explicitly tended to associate boys’ names with mathematics terms and girls’ names with reading words. In a second set of exercises, researchers provided not only the names and words but also the associations (e.g., Jacob-graph; Joshua-letter; Emily-addition; and Jessica-book). Here, students took longer to react to a female-mathematics association than to any other, revealing a stronger implicit association between gender and field.3
Such perceptions are nurtured by cultural and commercial stereotypes that can have an impact from an early age. Take the “Teen Talk Barbie” doll from the 1990s, which spoke phrases such as, “Math class is tough.” At local toy stores, science- and math-oriented toys are hardly conducive to gender neutrality with respect to their shapes and colors. However, popular culture has begun to address these vestiges of sexism. One example is the famous 2006 episode of The Simpsons titled “Girls Just Want to Have Sums.” These are good signs, but there is still work to do.
Juan Camilo Cárdenas at Universidad de Los Andes in Bogotá and his colleagues from Stockholm provide the most recent evidence of changing attitudes.4 They tested gender differences in competitive settings in 2011, comparing children from Colombia and Sweden—two countries that substantially differ in terms of gender parity. They measured performance for kids aged nine through 12 on four tasks linked to different degrees of gender stereotyping: mathematics, running, word search, and skipping rope. Their study design allowed them to measure competitiveness and risk-taking for performing the tasks. It provided encouraging signs: boys and girls performed equally in mathematics, word search and running in both countries. The dramatic gender gap: boys’ tendency to take risks was significantly higher than that of girls in both countries, but the disparity was even more pronounced in Colombia than in Sweden.
The embedded stereotypes sometimes appear in a seemingly inadvertent or unconscious way. A 2005 study I conducted with Martin Benavides at the Peruvian think-tank Grupo de Análisis para el Desarrollo (Group for the Analysis of Development—GRADE) analyzed the images contained in Peru’s official school textbooks for the fourth, fifth and sixth grades. In the textbook pictures, males outnumbered females two to one. Moreover, males were more likely to be depicted in school and work environments, while the images of females showed them performing household and leisure activities.
Similarly, with colleagues at the Universidad de Los Andes, I analyzed photos of people published in nationally circulated Colombian newspapers and magazines during the second quarter of 2011. At first glance, the gender split seemed unbiased: one-third of the images contained only men, another third only women, and another third both.
However, the context in which they appeared was wildly imbalanced. Women were usually depicted in situations related to health, friendship, love, and beauty; men were pictured in environments denoting entrepreneurship, security and justice. The business publication used in the sample depicted less than one-fifth of women-only images, with only half of those in an environment denoting entrepreneurship, security or justice.
Peeling back the onion of gender disparities in Latin American and Caribbean labor markets reveals gender stereotypes as discomfiting sources of bias, rooted as early as primary school—or before that, at home or in the public sphere.
The effects are tremendous: fewer women pursue an educational path suited to quantitative acumen—skills that pay well professionally—and thus hold fewer positions of leadership. In this regard, regional economies inadvertently limit their development opportunities as they fail to take advantage of the full potential of half of their populations.
Crafting economic policy with gender parity foresight is smart economics.
What can be done? For one, investment in early childhood development is strongly recommended. That is, teaching children before they enter school that “mathematics is for me” and “yes, I can.” Training teachers to eradicate stereotypes works—but only to a fault. It is equally important, if not more, that children learn about gender parity from their parents and support structures at home.
Addressing gender inequality is essential to tackling longstanding—if inadvertent—stereotypes. Expectations of female achievement must be reshaped, because the continuation of an unacceptable status quo will prevent women from realizing their true potential in the workforce.

View Endnotes

To read more from Americas Quarterly, sign up for a free trial issue of the print magazine. No risk, no commitment.

Twitter YouTube Itunes App Store