Tuesday, January 31, 2017

White Australians Celebrate, Aboriginal People Mourn

Same with Columbus Day in the U.S.  Instead of celebratory, it is a day of mourning in the U.S. for native people and their descendants.  As in Australia, some would opine, native people should "just get over it."  Even if we're not fully aware of how the conquest and subsequent colonization has impacted us, or continues to impact us, such views are not only mean-spirited, but they thwart the spirit of reconciliation that would optimally replace them—and not just for the oppressed, but for the oppressors themselves.  A legacy of violent dispossession begets current, existing harmful legacies and agendas of violent dispossession.  We collectively have so much to learn and gain from reconciliation and reparations.


Angela Valenzuela

White Australians Celebrate, Aboriginal People Mourn

Credit Marta Monteiro

Every year on Jan. 26, at the height of summer, Australians pull out their flags and barbecues, and raise a glass for Australia Day. But as the nationalism rises with the temperature, so does the anger and alienation felt by Aboriginal people, and increasingly, many other Australians.
The date commemorates the landing of the First Fleet in Sydney Cove in 1788. Around 1,400 people arrived, half of them convicts, transported from England to establish a penal colony. In the aftermath of the American War of Independence, the British needed a new place to send criminals. The colonizers and their courts considered Australia “terra nullius” or “land belonging to nobody,” a legal fiction used to justify the theft of Aboriginal land over the next two centuries.
White Australians celebrate this as the beginning of their history, but little space is given to Aboriginal people, like one of the authors of this essay, Ms. McQuire, who on this day mourn the attempted destruction of their own nations. Aboriginal people have instead rebranded this as a day of mourning, calling it “Survival Day” or “Invasion Day.” The time may be coming when this kind of rebranding captures the attention of a much broader public.
Conflict with the local Aboriginal population began almost immediately after the First Fleet’s arrival. It remained a constant feature of the frontier over the next century. White settlers poisoned water holes and flour sacks, and they massacred men, women and children with impunity.

But Aboriginal people fought for their land. For example, the Darug nation, led by the renowned warrior Pemulwuy, along with neighboring nations, started a war near what are today the outskirts of Sydney that lasted more than two decades. Aboriginal clans fought guerrilla battles against settlers on the southern island of Tasmania with increasing intensity in the early 19th century.
The attempted exterminations on the frontier eventually evolved into official government policy. Aboriginal people were forced off their land and into missions and reserves. Their children, known as the Stolen Generations, were routinely taken away from their families as part of an attempt to breed Aboriginal people out of existence, a practice that continued into the 20th century.
The most insidious part of the colonial project was the dehumanization of Aboriginal people and the attempt to destroy their culture and knowledge. Aboriginal people had formed a symbiotic relationship with land, sea and sky over tens of thousands of years, and had developed complicated systems of land management and agriculture, interwoven with spirituality. Their children were later told that their people were simply “hunters and gatherers” and their traditional knowledge, sacred sites and languages were devalued and destroyed. The truth is that Aboriginal people are the oldest civilization on earth. There are about 330 known Aboriginal languages, but researchers have found that only 13 are now spoken natively by children.
The legacy of dispossession is felt starkly today. Aboriginal men, women and children are incarcerated at shockingly high rates. In the Northern Territory, for example, 84 percent of the prison population is Aboriginal. Aboriginal women are the fastest growing incarcerated group nationally, with the imprisonment rate rising nearly 120 percent since 2000. Aboriginal children are also tortured behind bars, as was the case at Don Dale Youth Detention Center in the Northern Territory as recently as 2014.
Many Australians, faced with the reality of what Australia Day symbolizes, tell Aboriginal people and their supporters to “get over it.” But for many Aboriginal people, Jan. 26 involves celebrating the symbolic beginning of a state program of genocide. The massacres, the theft of land, the removal of children, the attempted assimilation and the mass imprisonment all trace back to this date.
Without a proper reckoning with the past, a future reconciliation will be impossible. The Frontier Wars remain unrecognized in any official capacity, which is unusual for a country that routinely glorifies war. The history of Aboriginal resistance to colonization has been largely erased. Unlike the United States, Canada and New Zealand, Australia has no treaty with any Aboriginal nation. In 2008, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, in a high point of his political leadership, made an official apology for the removal of Aboriginal children from their families, but he never offered reparations. The rates of Aboriginal child removal have gone up every year since he promised it would never happen again.
Aboriginal people continue to fight for justice, but the system is stacked against them. The legal fiction of “terra nullius” — a land belonging to no one — was eventually overturned by the High Court in 1992 in what’s famously known as the Mabo case. That paved the way for the Native Title Act, which recognizes Aboriginal rights over land, but only in very specific circumstances, and provides native titleholders with little say in land-use decisions. The few state and territory policies allowing for more but still limited rights for Aboriginal landowners are under constant threat. Too often, laws that govern Aboriginal land rights favor businesses trying to exploit natural resources over preservation-minded titleholders.
The problems facing Aboriginal people require policy makers to work with communities in good faith, using considerable material resources. In this context, symbolism is important. Australia must start by changing the date of Australia’s national celebration.
Increasing numbers of Australians have joined Aboriginal people in resisting the celebrations of Jan. 26 and calling for a proper acknowledgment of the past. Some communities are now discussing whether it is time to find a new day to celebrate. This particular conversation began in the Western Australian town of Fremantle, where the local council voted to move the date. The federal government opposed this proposal, creating controversy but leading the movement to grow.
Maybe, with Aboriginal people at the forefront, we will see how Australia Day could be the beginning of something better. It could be a date that recognizes that the country we now know of as Australia has a history that is tens of thousands of years old. If we need a celebration of this kind at all, perhaps it could be on Mabo Day, June 3, the day in 1992 when terra nullius was formally overturned. This would at least be a more solid foundation from which to build a shared understanding of the country’s history.
Celebrations of genocide could be confined to the annals of history. In the famous words of the Aboriginal singer and songwriter Kev Carmody and Paul Kelly, “from little things, big things grow.”

An Important Message from Madeleine Albright Former Secretary of State

By now, I'm sure you've heard about the executive order on immigration and refugees that the President signed on Friday. It bans Syrian refugees from entering our country, suspends the entire refugee program for 120 days, cuts in half the number of refugees we can admit, and halts all travel from certain Muslim-majority countries.

I felt I had no choice but to speak out against it in the strongest possible terms.

This is a cruel measure that represents a stark departure from America's core values. We have a proud tradition of sheltering those fleeing violence and persecution, and have always been the world leader in refugee resettlement. As a refugee myself who fled the communist takeover of Czechoslovakia, I personally benefited from this country's generosity and its tradition of openness. This order would end that tradition, and discriminate against those fleeing a brutal civil war in Syria.

There is no data to support the idea that refugees pose a threat. This policy is based on fear, not facts. The refugee vetting process is robust and thorough. It already consists of over 20 steps, ensuring that refugees are vetted more intensively than any other category of traveler.

The process typically takes 18-24 months, and is conducted while they are still overseas. I am concerned that this order's attempts at "extreme vetting" will effectively halt our ability to accept anyone at all. When the administration makes wild claims about Syrian refugees pouring over our borders, they are relying on alternative facts -- or as I like to call it, fiction.

The truth is that America can simultaneously protect the security of our borders and our citizens and maintain our country's long tradition of welcoming those who have nowhere else to turn. These goals are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, they are the obligation of a country built by immigrants.

Refugees should not be viewed as a burden or as potential terrorists. They have already made great contributions to our national life. Syrian refugees are learning English, getting good jobs, buying homes, and starting businesses. In other words, they are doing what other generations of refugees -- including my own -- did. And I have no doubt that, if given the opportunity, they will become an essential part of our American fabric.

By targeting Muslim-majority countries for immigration bans and by expressing a clear preference for refugees who are religious minorities, there's no question this order is biased against Muslims. And when one faith is targeted, it puts us all at risk.

I will never forget sailing into New York Harbor for the first time and seeing the Statue of Liberty when I came here as a child. It proclaims "give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free." There is no fine print on the Statue of Liberty, and today she is weeping.

This executive order does not reflect American values. If you agree, make your voice heard now.


Madeleine Albright
Former Secretary of State

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Diane Ravitch: An Open Letter to Senator Lamar Alexander Regarding Betsy DeVos

Here's an Open Letter by Diane Ravitch to Lamar Alexander that's worth reading.  Among other things, she provides information on Michigan where multi-millionaire, school choice advocate Betsy DeVos is from that reveal the ruins left by the charterization and privatization agenda.
In 2003, Michigan ranked 27th in fourth- grade math; by 2015, it had declined to 42nd among the states. 
Michigan has hundreds of charter schools. About 80% of them are run by for-profit operators. The Detroit Free Press conducted a one-year review of the charter sector and concluded it was a $1 billion a year industry that operated without accountability or transparency and that did not produce better results than public schools. Last year, when the legislature tried to develop accountability standards for the charter industry, Ms. DeVos successfully lobbied to block the legislation.
I hope Lamar Alexander pays attention to this.
Angela Valenzuela

An Open Letter to Senator Lamar Alexander Regarding Betsy DeVos

From 1991 to 1993, I worked for Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander in the administration of President George H.W. Bush. I was Assistant Secretary in charge of the Office of Education Research and Improvement and also Counselor to the Secretary of Education. Lamar Alexander is now Senator from Tennessee and Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee (HELP), which is evaluating the qualifications of Betsy DeVos to be U.S. Secretary of Education.*
An Open Letter to Senator Lamar Alexander
Dear Lamar,
I hope you don’t mind my taking the liberty of writing you a public letter.
I was just reading your book of sayings, the “Little Plaid Book.” For those who don’t know, this is your book of “311 rules, lessons, and reminders about running for office and making a difference whether it’s for president of the United States or president of your senior class.”
The main lesson of the book for me is that you should be honest with people. You shouldn’t bore them. You shouldn’t lecture them or try to impress them. You should get to know them, listen to them, respect their concerns, and try to understand their problems.
Rule 151 is very important at this time in our national life. It says, “When stumped for an answer, ask yourself, ‘What’s the right thing to do?’ Then do it.”
Rule 168 says, “Read whatever Diane Ravitch writes about education.” It doesn’t say that anyone should agree with what I write, it just says you should read it.
So I am writing you this letter in hopes that you will read it and that I can persuade you to do the right thing.
When I worked for you in the early 1990s in the Department of Education, I absorbed important lessons about character and ethics in public life. You were a model of dignity, integrity, and respect for others. You never raised your voice. You smiled and laughed often. You were always well informed. You picked the best person for whatever job was open.
Now you are in the position of selecting a new Secretary of Education. I watched the hearings, and it was evident to all but the most extreme partisans that Ms. DeVos is uninformed, unqualified, unprepared, and unfit for the responsibility of running this important agency.
When asked direct questions about important federal issues, she was noncommittal or evasive or displayed her ignorance. She thinks compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Act–which protects children with disabilities– should be left up to the states; she does not know it is a federal law and is not optional. When asked about higher education, she was stumped. She was unfamiliar with the basic terminology of education issues.
Her lack of experience leaves her ill-equipped to address the needs of the vast majority of America’s schools. I understand that she doesn’t like public schools and much prefers religious schools and privately managed charter schools, including those that operate for-profit. 
Frankly, it is unprecedented for a Secretary of Education to disapprove of public schools. At least eighty-five percent of American school children attend public schools. She has no ideas about how to improve public schools. Her only idea is that students should leave them and enroll in nonpublic schools.
She would be the first Secretary of Education in our history to be hostile to public education. I have written extensively about the history of public education and how important it is to our democracy. It seems strange to return to the early 19th century, when children attended religious schools, charity schools, charter schools, were home-schooled, or had no education at all. This is not “reform.” This is backsliding. This is wiping out nearly two centuries of hard-won progress towards public schools that enroll boys and girls, children of all races and cultures, children with disabilities, and children who are learning English. We have been struggling to attain equality of educational opportunity; we are still far from it. School choice promotes segregation and would take us further away from our national goal.
Since Michigan embraced the DeVos family’s ideas about choice, Michigan has steadily declined on the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
In 2003, Michigan ranked 28th among the states in fourth-grade reading; the latest results, in 2015, showed that Michigan had dropped to 41st.
In 2003, Michigan ranked 27th in fourth- grade math; by 2015, it had declined to 42nd among the states.
Michigan has hundreds of charter schools. About 80% of them are run by for-profit operators. The Detroit Free Press conducted a one-year review of the charter sector and concluded it was a $1 billion a year industry that operated without accountability or transparency and that did not produce better results than public schools. Last year, when the legislature tried to develop accountability standards for the charter industry, Ms. DeVos successfully lobbied to block the legislation.
Detroit is awash in charters and few of them perform as well as the public schools. Detroit is the lowest rated urban district in the nation on the NAEP. The proliferation of choice and charters has not improved education in that city.
As I am sure you are aware, Tenneesee’s “Achievement School District” has been an abject failure. The state’s lowest performing schools were taken over and given to charter operators. The leaders of the ASD claimed that these low performing schools would go from the bottom 5% in the state to the top 20% in five years. That was five years ago. Not one of the promises was kept. The schools are still among the lowest performing in Tennessee. There are actually research-based approaches that would have helped the children and the schools, like reducing class size and providing medical services. Charters are not a research-based reform.
As for vouchers, there have been many state referenda over the past 20 years, and the voters have rejected them every time, by large margins. When Ms. DeVos and her husband Richard led a movement to change the Michigan state constitution to permit vouchers for religious schools in the year 2000, the referendum was defeated by 69-31%. Even in deep red Utah, the public rejected vouchers overwhelmingly in 2007. Florida was the last state to reject vouchers, in a 2012 vote deceptively named the Religious Freedom Act; voters rejected it by 58-42%.
Time and again, the American public has said that they don’t want public money to be spent to pay tuition for religious schools. That is the responsibility of the family, not the state.
There is ample evidence about vouchers, which have been imposed by legislatures, not by popular vote. Milwaukee, Cleveland, and the District of Columbia offer vouchers, and these districts are among the lowest performing in the nation on national tests. Milwaukee and Cleveland have had vouchers for more than 20 years, and neither district has seen any improvement in its public schools, nor do the voucher schools outperform the public schools. When the taxpayers’ precious dollars are divided among two or three sectors, none of them flourishes.
I feel sure that you do not want your legacy to be that you aided in destroying the historic institution of universal public education in the United States. Every dollar that goes to a charter school or to vouchers is taken away from the budget of the community’s public schools. In a regime of free-market choice, public schools, which educate the great majority of students, will have larger classes and fewer programs, services, and electives, all in the name of a failed concept called “choice.” I need not remind  you that the origin of school choice was the sustained effort by racist governors and legislatures to preserve racial segregation in the South; the term was tainted by its origins for many years, but the effect remains the same: School choice will exacerbate racial, religious, and socioeconomic segregation without improving education. 
The Every Student Succeeds Act, which you worked so hard to produce in a bipartisan spirit, goes a long way towards devolving control of education to states. I, of course, would have liked to see the elimination of the federal mandate for annual testing, which has proven to be ineffective for 15 years.
But the best way to enable ESSA to work is to appoint a Secretary of Education who comes to the job with knowledge, experience, a strong devotion to civil rights and equality of educational opportunity, and a commitment to let districts and states nurture better ideas than those mandated by Washington.
With kind regards and great respect,
Diane Ravitch
*I posted this column yesterday at the Huffington Post in a slightly abridged form (I edit and revise constantly). Much to my surprise, the comments were remarkably positive. People are truly aware that Ms. DeVos is ill-suited for this job.
An Open Letter to Senator Lamar Alexander Regarding Betsy DeVos | Diane Ravitch's blog

Monday, January 30, 2017

The Role of Teacher Unions

Excellent compilation from Rethinking Schools on the role of teacher unions.  Bob Peterson, in particular, has written extensively and cogently on this.

The Role of Teacher Unions

A Compilation of Articles from Rethinking Schools
Rethinking Schools Online presents a special collection of articles on one of the most critical issues facing public education today: the role of teacher unions.
This collection includes articles from past issues of Rethinking Schools as well as letters received in response to those articles. The listings provide a link to the online version when available. (If the article is not online, the link will take you to our Order Page, where you can buy paper copies of the back issue the article appeared in using our secure order form.)

Be sure to check out the RS book, Transforming Teacher Unions, a 144-page anthology that looks at exemplary practices of teacher unions from the local to the national level. The 25 articles weave together issues of teacher unionism, classroom reform, working with local communities, and social justice. (See the complete Table of Contents.)
Also see The New Teacher Book, a handbook ideally suited for new teachers, perhaps the only book for new teachers that addresses important issues of race, class, testing, and teacher unions. Teacher unions and school districts have found The New Teacher Book especially useful for new teacher orientation and inservices. For more info click the title.
Listings (updated 11-14-11)

General Background on Social Justice Unionism

Rethinking Teacher Unions: A lot has changed in the 20 years since Rethinking Schools was born, by Bob Peterson. Teacher union activist and Rethinking Schools editor Bob Peterson looks at the past two decades of teacher unionism. (Vol. 20, #3, Spring 2006)
What Will Be The Future of Teacher Unionism? by Bob Peterson A review of United Mind Workers: Unions and Teaching in the Knowledge Society by Charles Taylor Kerchner, Julia E. Koppich, and Joseph G. Weeres, and thoughts about the evolving role of teacher unions. (Vol. 12, #4, Summer 1998)
Social Justice Unionism: A Working Draft -- A Call to Education Unionists by the National Coalition of Education Activists Leading education activists spell out the key components of social justice unionism for teachers. (Vol. 9 #1, Fall 1994)
Which Side Are You On? A Look at Teacher's Unions by Bob Peterson How the historic dual nature of many unions -- on the one hand protecting the needs of poor and working people, and on the other undercutting the interests of some of those very people -- manifests itself in many teacher unions, and why democratic unionists must fight to overcome it. (Vol. 8, #1, Fall 1993)
Letters about "Which Side Are You On?" Readers respond.
Confronting Racism, Promoting Respect by Tom McKenna A program developed by a Canadian teachers union takes on racism, giving students new ways to confront their beliefs and the racial discord in their communities. (Vol. 13, #4, Summer 1999)
The Role of Education Unions in Advancing Public Education keynote speech by Bob Peterson to the Australian Education Union, January 15, 2005 (abridged version from AEU professional journal)

International Teacher Unionism
Teachers in Oaxaca Face Repression and Violence, by David Bacon. As protests against working conditions continue, the Mexican government responds with brutality (Vol 21, #2 Winter 2006/07)
Review of video Granito de arena by Lois Weiner. A film on Mexican teachers presents an activist, hopeful vision of unionism. (Vol. 21, #1, Fall, 2006)
We Are the World, by Mary Compton A call for solidarity among teachers around the world to combat forces of globalization and privatization (Vol. 19 #3, Spring 2005)
Australia Battles Privatization -- An interview with Angelo Gavrielatos, by Barbara Miner. An interview with Angelo Gavrielatos, deputy president of the Australian Education Union. Gavrielatos was recently in the United States to meet with union leaders. Barbara Miner of Rethinking Schools interviewed him on conservative education policies in Australia. They explored the issue of growing government funding for private schools. (Vol. 21 #2 Winter 2006/07 )
Australia New South Wales Teachers Federation (NSWTF) statement on the Iraq war. The NSWTF decision was adopted at that State Council which consists about 300 delegates on Saturday Feb 15, 2003
Australian Education Union statement adopted at the Federal conference of AEU January 17, 2003

Special Tribute to Union Leader Tom Mooney (1954 - 2006)
Tom Mooney - A Teacher First by Bill Bigelow (Vol. 21, #3, Spring 2007)
Ohio’s Children Lose a Labor Leader by Michael Charney who recalls Tom Mooney as "a champion who combined unionism with a passion for public education and the inherent worth of all children." (Vol. 21, #3, Spring 2007)
Union Power for Quality Schools by Mark Simon (Vol. 21, #3, Spring 2007)
An interview with Tom Mooney (Vol. 20, #2, Winter 2005/06)

Professional Unionism
Teacher Quality: Cincinnati's Teacher Union Tackles Quality by Barbara Miner. Despite complexities and shortcomings, the district's teacher quality initiatives are making a difference. (Vol. 20, #2, Winter 2005/06)
Teachers as Learners: How Peer Mentoring Can Improve Teaching Two teachers describe how evaluations by their fellow teachers gave them a valuable new perspective on their teaching practice. (Vol. 12#4, Summer 1998)
The Hows and Whys of Peer Mentoring by Marc Osten and Eric Gidseg. Practical nuts-and-bolts information on how the authors structured and maintained a peer mentoring program in their school. (Vol. 12 #4, Summer 1998)
Teachers Evaluating Teachers By Barbara Miner An earlier look at peer evaluation, the concerns raised about it by some educators and the praises sung by others. (Vol. 6, #3, Spring 1992)

Historical Background
What Happened to the Merger? By Ann Bastian A look at the NEA-AFT merger proposed this summer, why it didn't happen, and where we go from here. (Vol. 13, #1, Fall 1998)
NEA-AFT Unity: History in the Making A Rethinking Schools Editorial This Rethinking Schools editorial, written before the NEA and AFT voted not to merge, lays out some of the opportunities and challenges facing teachers and unions. (Vol. 12#4, Summer 1998)
The New NEA: Reinventing Teacher Unions for a New Era By Bob Chase Excerpts from a speech made by Chase, shortly after assuming leadership of the National Education Association, in which he called for teacher unions to shift their priorities and take more responsibility for the quality of teachers and learning environments. (Vol. 11 #4, Summer 1997)
The New Vision of Teacher Unionism By Bob Peterson Coverage of the controversy over Chase's remarks: Some Wisconsin teacher union leaders feared he was playing into the hands of anti-union forces. Also some thoughts on the evolving "social justice" vision of teachers as union members. (Vol. 11 #4, Summer 1997)
Letters about "The New Vision of Teacher Unionism" Readers respond to the above article.
Chase is Attacked Letters from two Wisconsin teacher union leaders criticizing Bob Chase's remarks. (Vol. 11 #4, Summer 1997)
Chase Responds Bob Chase responds to his critics. (Vol. 11 #4, Summer 1997)

Useful Links
USA links
American Federation of Teachers
National Education Association
TURN (Teacher Union Reform Network) is a union-led effort to restructure the nation's teachers' unions to promote reforms that will ultimately lead to better learning and higher achievement for America's children.
International Links
British Colombia Teachers Federation, a progressive teacher union that has a long history of militant trade unionism and social justice activism.
Education International, the federation of organizations representing over 30 million teachers and other education workers, through 384 member organizations in 169 countries and territories. As the Global Union representing education workers worldwide, Education International unifies all teachers and education workers. Be it a remote village or a cosmopolitan city, Education International promotes the rights of every teacher wherever they are, and the rights of every student they educate. Education International is the voice of education workers worldwide.
The New South Wales Teachers Federation has a long history of militancy and advocacy for social justice.
If you have another site to suggest to add to these links, please contact Bob Peterson at

Stop Saying This Is a Nation of Immigrants!

From Dr. Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz.  It's certainly a "feel-good" expression, though wholly inaccurate to see ourselves as a "nation-of-immigrants" when this false narrative includes people native to this continent.

Angela Valenzuela

Stop Saying This Is a Nation of Immigrants!

by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
A nation of immigrants: This is a convenient myth developed as a response to the 1960s movements against colonialism, neocolonialism, and white supremacy.  The ruling class and its brain trust offered multiculturalism, diversity, and affirmative action in response to demands for decolonization, justice, reparations, social equality, an end of imperialism, and the rewriting of history -- not to be "inclusive" -- but to be accurate.  What emerged to replace the liberal melting pot idea and the nationalist triumphal interpretation of the "greatest country on earth and in history," was the "nation of immigrants" story.

Roxanne Dunbar-OrtizBy the 1980s, the "waves of immigrants" story even included the indigenous peoples who were so brutally displaced and murdered by settlers and armies, accepting the flawed "Bering Straits" theory of indigenous immigration some 12,000 years ago.  Even at that time, the date was known to be wrong, there was evidence of indigenous presence in the Americas as far back as 50,000 years ago, and probably much longer, and entrance by many means across the Pacific and the Atlantic -- perhaps, as Vine Deloria jr. put it, footsteps by indigenous Americans to other continents will one day be acknowledged.  But, the new official history texts claimed, the indigenous peoples were the "first immigrants."  They were followed, it was said, by immigrants from England and Africans, then by Irish, and then by Chinese, Eastern and Southern Europeans, Russians, Japanese, and Mexicans.

There were some objections from African Americans to referring to enslaved Africans hauled across the ocean in chains as "immigrants," but that has not deterred the "nation of immigrants" chorus. 
Misrepresenting the process of European colonization of North America, making everyone an immigrant, serves to preserve the "official story" of a mostly benign and benevolent USA, and to mask the fact that the pre-US independence settlers, were, well, settlers, colonial setters, just as they were in Africa and India, or the Spanish in Central and South America.  The United States was founded as a settler state, and an imperialistic one from its inception ("manifest destiny," of course).  The settlers were English, Welsh, Scots, Scots-Irish, and German, not including the huge number of Africans who were not settlers.  Another group of Europeans who arrived in the colonies also were not settlers or immigrants: the poor, indentured, convicted, criminalized, kidnapped from the working class (vagabonds and unemployed artificers), as Peter Linebaugh puts it, many of who opted to join indigenous communities.

Only beginning in the 1840s, with the influx of millions of Irish Catholics pushed out of Ireland by British policies, did what might be called "immigration" begin.  The Irish were discriminated against cheap labor, not settlers.  They were followed by the influx of other workers from Scandinavia, Eastern and Southern Europe, always more Irish, plus Chinese and Japanese, although Asian immigration was soon barred.   Immigration laws were not even enacted until 1875 when the US Supreme Court declared the regulation of immigration a federal responsibility.  The Immigration Service was established in 1891.

Buried beneath the tons of propaganda -- from the landing of the English "pilgrims" (fanatic Protestant Christian evangelicals) to James Fennimore Cooper's phenomenally popular "Last of the Mohicans" claiming "natural rights" to not only the indigenous peoples territories but also to the territories claimed by other European powers -- is the fact that the founding of the United States was a division of the Anglo empire, with the US becoming a parallel empire to Great Britain.  From day one, as was specified in the Northwest Ordinance that preceded the US Constitution, the new republic for empire (as Jefferson called the US) envisioned the future shape of what is now the lower 48 states of the US.  They drew up rough maps, specifying the first territory to conquer as the "Northwest Territory," ergo the title of the ordinance.  That territory was the Ohio Valley and the Great Lakes region, which was filled with indigenous farming communities.

Once the conquest of the "Northwest Territory" was accomplished through a combination of genocidal military campaigns and bringing in European settlers from the east, and the indigenous peoples moved south and north for protection into other indigenous territories, the republic for empire annexed Spanish Florida where runaway enslaved Africans and remnants of the indigenous communities that had escaped the Ohio carnage fought back during three major wars (Seminole wars) over two decades.  In 1828, President Andrew Jackson (who had been a general leading the Seminole wars) pushed through the Indian Removal Act to force all the agricultural indigenous nations of the Southeast, from Georgia to the Mississippi River, to transfer to Oklahoma territory that had been gained through the "Louisiana Purchase" from France.  Anglo settlers with enslaved Africans seized the indigenous agricultural lands for plantation agriculture in the Southern region.  Many moved on into the Mexican province of Texas -- then came the US military invasion of Mexico in 1846, seizing Mexico City and forcing Mexico to give up its northern half through the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.  California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Texas were then opened to "legal" Anglo settlement, also legalizing those who had already settled illegally, and in Texas by force.  The indigenous and the poor Mexican communities in the seized territory, such as the Apache, Navajo, and Comanche, resisted colonization, as they had resisted the Spanish empire, often by force of arms, for the next 40 years.  The small class of Hispanic elites welcomed and collaborated with US occupation.

Are "immigrants" the appropriate designation for the indigenous peoples of North America?  No.
Are "immigrants" the appropriate designation for enslaved Africans?  No.
Are "immigrants" the appropriate designation for the original European settlers?  No.
Are "immigrants" the appropriate designation for Mexicans who migrate for work to the United States?  No.  They are migrant workers crossing a border created by US military force.  Many crossing that border now are also from Central America, from the small countries that were ravaged by US military intervention in the 1980s and who also have the right to make demands on the United States.

So, let's stop saying "this is a nation of immigrants."

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz is a long-time activist, university professor, and writer. In addition to numerous scholarly books and articles, she has written three historical memoirs, Red Dirt: Growing Up Okie (Verso, 1997), Outlaw Woman: Memoir of the War Years, 1960–1975 (City Lights, 2002), and Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War (South End Press, 2005) about the 1980s contra war against the Sandinistas.


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Sunday, January 29, 2017

Business Group’s Report Says Broken Education System Will Sink Texas Economy

The concerning report mentioned here is titled, "Why Investing in Education Fuels the Texas Economy."  Those involved in this conversation in Texas need to address, as well, the sociocultural (e.g., language, how to teach to the ELL population and otherwise culturally diverse student populiations) and sociopolitical dynamics (the political aspects of schooling, including harmful laws, policies, and practices that reflect these) that inform minorities' progress in schools or lack thereof.  I hope that lawmakers heed the warning of this report as matters are indeed critical and deteriorating from a school funding perspective.


Business Group’s Report Says Broken Education System Will Sink Texas Economy

SAISD Superintendent Pedro Martinez walks down the halls of the Young Men's Leadership Academy. Photo by Scott Ball.
Scott Ball / Rivard Report

SAISD Superintendent Pedro Martinez walks down the halls of the Young Men's Leadership Academy. 

Advocates for education reform might finally be speaking the language of the Texas Legislature: economics. 

According to a new white paper released by a group of independent business leaders and academic researchers, Texas’ current education funding crisis will jeopardize the state’s economy unless comprehensive reforms are put in place. The business leaders behind the report titled Why Investing in Education Fuels the Texas Economy claim that the state’s economic future depends upon fixing a broken and underfunded public school system.
John Gonzalez, founder of JDG Associates, Inc.“The current state of education is unacceptable,” said John Gonzalez, founder of employment consulting firm JDG Associates Inc. and one of the project’s leaders. “We are not providing quality education to our children, and by extension, we are not addressing the needs of the business community.”
Courtesy of John Gonzalez
John Gonzalez, founder of JDG Associates Inc.

The group, which has been operating under the name Educate Fir$t, is a collaboration of independent entrepreneurs, business owners, academics, and educators. The business leaders became interested in education when they began to notice serious skill and knowledge gaps in new hires. 
The lack of qualified personnel is a great concern to us [as business leaders],” Alamo Travel Group President Patricia Stout said. “We don’t have the workforce to attract certain companies” to Texas.
Stout served as advisor to the report, along with Matt Diana, CEO of Boerne-based Covenant Strategies Inc., and Terri L. Williams, director of the University of Texas at San Antonio’s SBDC Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC).
María “Cuca” Robledo Montecel and David Hinojosa with the Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA) served as special advisors. All served on a volunteer basis, and the collaboration has yet to apply for any grants or funding. The costs associated with the report were funded through member contributions.
The group’s passion for the project is partially fueled by urgency. The condition of Texas’ education system is more dire than the Legislature seems to acknowledge, Stout said, calling it “a bomb that is ticking.”
Educate Fir$t hopes that the report will be eye-opening for the business community and that its members will be moved to speak up. Because of the Legislature’s business-friendly posture, the group may succeed where others have failed, Gonzalez said. Educate Fir$t is calling on Texas’ 54 Fortune 500 companies and other influential businesses to speak up for education in hopes that money will indeed talk.
“This is not a partisan issue,” Diana said.
He said that rather than education being seen as the bedrock of growth in every sector, some in the Legislature treat it like a special interest or partisan cause. The report demonstrates that economic growth is intimately tied to education. In a way, all revenue flowing to the capital and back to taxpayers in the form of infrastructure, tax cuts, and incentives are essentially the dividends of educational investment.
“We believe that alerting the business community about what [is] potentially in store for their bottom line is the last best chance to bring about the kind of changes that are necessary,” Gonzalez said.
While the group is sympathetic to the competing demands on legislators, they hope to reframe the conversation. 
Alamo Travel Group President Patricia Stout speaks at the 86th annual San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce gala.

“While it is true that our state has many needs, the main emphasis of this paper is to illustrate how much is at stake for the business community of Texas if we continue to undereducate our children and ill-prepare them for rewarding careers that allow them to properly contribute to both the state and nation’s economy,” the report reads.
Patricia Stout, a former board chair, at the 86th annual San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce gala. Photo by Scott Ball.As business owners from typically conservative small towns, the members of Education Fir$t represent a different type of  education advocacy group. Diana wants to call attention to the need for proponents of the three main agendas in education reform – property tax recapture, charter schools, and finance reform – to come together to find a solution.
This business-centric approach has caught the attention of conservative lawmakers. State Sen. Donna Campbell (R-25) of New Braunfels and U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-21) have both expressed interest in the report’s findings, and Texas Economic Development Council CEO Carlton Schwab has endorsed the findings, Diana said.
Courtesy of Matt Diana
Matt Diana, CEO of Covenant Strategies Inc.
The report’s findings, which analyze current and projected demographic data, tell of a growing minority and economically disadvantaged population that will make up the workforce of coming decades. While CNBC recently ranked Texas 2nd for business and economic climate and 8th in overall workforce, the report focuses on the lack of sustainability of these standings without an educated workforce. That same CNBC report ranks Texas 37th for quality of life and 40th for education.
According to the report, the current booming economy is not benefitting everyone. Between 2008-2018 Texas will have produced 1.8 million jobs that require post-secondary degrees, but not the workforce to fill them. Importing talent at that level while the low-wage workforce falls further behind is not a sustainable model.
“The fact of the matter is that businesses must recognize that remaining profitable will, to a large extent, depend on what is happening in the classrooms at all levels. A quality education determines the quality of a future workforce and the eventual success of a company. The importance of human capital cannot be over-emphasized,” the report states.
Matt Diana, CEO of Covenant Strategies Inc. The gap between education and jobs weakens the middle class, the report states, and people in low-wage jobs don’t have the disposable income to sustain a consumer economy.
“If the middle class is already struggling, adding more undereducated and low-paid workers to the pool will not improve matters. A lack of disposable income severely limits an individual’s ability to purchase products or services other than basic necessities, and families will likely defer or be unable to acquire many large purchases that drive our local tax base, such as homes,” according to the report.
What is a problem for Texas – currently ranked 5th for economic disparity – will also be a problem for the nation, the report states. Meanwhile, growth in the state’s population of children is far outpacing the rest of the country.
“Between 2000 and 2014, nearly 90% of child growth in the United States came from Texas. To put that in perspective, the number of children in Texas increased more than 1.2 million, while the country itself had an overall growth of 1.4 million children. The state currently has the second largest population of children, with 7.1 million,” the report states.
If that population boom consists of poorly educated – and thus low-wage earning – children, the workforce of the entire country could suffer.
“Unfortunately, if current educational trends continue, especially for economically disadvantaged and minority populations, many of these children could end up undereducated and a potential liability for the state, the nation, and the economy,” the report states.
The groups considers the paper a call to action rather than a criticism of the state.
“It’s not just about funding. It’s about taking a long, hard look at what we are doing,” Gonzalez said.
In addition to properly funding schools, the group advocates a holistic focus on workforce development even in early childhood education.
“Workforce training should start as early as pre-K,” Gonzalez said.
At that level, it might be as simple as asking children, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” From there the discussion moves on to ambition, character, and goals, Diana said.
How to enhance and refocus curriculum, engage parents, and develop “soft skills” for students continues to be the subject of robust discussion. Financing education, however, is the group’s biggest emphasis. By putting the white paper into the hands of lawmakers at the beginning of the biennium, they hope to spur support for legislation aimed at significant changes in the school finance system.
“Tweaking isn’t going to work,” Gonzalez said. “It has to be reform. It has to be an overhaul.”


Bekah McNeel
Bekah is a native San Antonian. She is a frequent contributor to The Rivard Report. You can also find her at her blog,, on Twitter @BekahMcneel, and on Instagram @wanderbekah.