Friday, May 31, 2019

AERA Names Two Congressional Fellows for 2019-2020--Congrats, Dr. Wei-Ling Sun!

Amazing! What can I say other than that I’m happy and honored to have been your doctoral dissertation chair, Dr. Wei-Ling Sun and to recommend you to this incredible opportunity that despite so many applications to the largest educational research organization in the world for this highly-coveted opportunity in Washington D.C., yours rose to the very top!

And after a year in Washington, she heads back to Texas, specifically the University of Texas El Paso where she will be a tenure-track assistant professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy.

All of this is truly a testament to your extraordinary talent, hard work, and commitment to addressing substantively the school-to-prison pipeline. Plus, you’re just an all-around wonderful human being that I’m so happy to have gotten to know and enjoy all of these years.

A feather in your cap, Dr. Wei-Ling Sun! I couldn’t be more happy or pleased. I can only imagine how your parents and family feel about all of this. Don’t forget us little people over here in Texas, OK? 🙂

I love you! We love you!❤️


Sunday, May 26, 2019

Identity and dignity: Bolivia’s Minister of Decolonization talks education


There's really a lot to know and learn about the present moment in Bolivian history and politics where the notion of decolonization is a grounding political, economic, and philosophical concept.  With President Evo Morales' rise to power in 2006, decolonization occupies center stage, including the establishment of a  Ministry of Decolonization within the Ministry of Culture headed by Aymaran Vice-President Félix Cárdenas Aguilar.

Benjamin Dangl's book, The Five Hundred Year RebellionIndigenous Movements and the Decolonization of History in Bolivia, is a text  cited in another related story also by Dangl titled, "Bolivia’s Decolonization Mission."

None of us has been untouched by colonization that intellectuals like Walter Mignolo and others refer to as the flipside of "modernity."  It's great to see people like Félix Cárdenas Aguilar give voice to this history and continuing narrative that today is otherwise referred to as "neoliberalism."  A right to identity and to a life of dignity is minimally what should result from this deep engagement with decolonization and decolonial projects.

-Angela Valenzuela

Identity and dignity: Bolivia’s Minister of Decolonization talks education

Monday, June 1, 2015
Christine McKenna, student blogger at Congress 2015
As the Honorable Félix Cárdenas Aguilar stepped up to the podium, I placed over my ears a fragile pair of grey plastic headphones. As he began a lively address to the packed auditorium, a gentle female voice echoed in my ears, translating his words from Spanish and Aymara to the English I can understand. Aguilar is the Vice Minister of Decolonization in Bolivia, and he travelled all the way to the unceded Algonquin territory known as Ottawa to share with us his insights on reconciliation, education, and justice, building on the theme of reconciliation and the academy at Congress.
A member of the native Aymara population himself, Aguilar has spent much of his life and career fighting for the rights of Bolivia’s many indigenous communities, and was at one point imprisoned and tortured for his criticism of the ruling political state. These days, however, the country is officially known as the Plurinational State of Bolivia, and for the first time there are indigenous people such as Aguilar in positions of power. In his talk at Congress, he discussed how his home country approached the long process of decolonization and “de-patriarchalization” in an effort to develop a more just and pluralist society.
Aguilar suggested that a key element of this process is the recognition of indigenous “identity” and “dignity”—it is important to understand how the sexism and racism of colonial laws continue to affect society today, and to realize that, while education teaches us to view history through a specifically white, male lens, “there is not only one, single truth.” Speaking of “truth,” do keep in mind that this is just my interpretation of a translator’sinterpretation of what he actually said.
One point I found particularly interesting was the idea that we need to “decolonize our brains,” which would in turn allow us to go even further and “de-patriarchalize” them. To do this, it’s necessary to pay closer attention to how many racist and sexist attitudes subtly inform our everyday habits. For example, Aguilar pointed out that the anthem sung at Bolivian schools every Monday morning is essentially saying “Thank-you Spain for invading and stealing from us!” He also discussed how the Christian religion brought over by settlers emphasized moral precepts that limited the social development of women and the poor. There was a great line in Aguilar’s talk that neatly summarized this idea, and it went more-or-less like this: “When they arrived, the Catholics gave us their Bible and said ‘close your eyes and pray,’ and when we opened them, they had our land and we had their Bible.”
Aguilar stated that decolonization is not about “revenge,” nor is it a romantic desire to return to the past—it’s about working toward a new paradigm of balance, where everyone can be different but have the same rights, and where settlers actually listen to what indigenous people have to say. One important learning area is the environment, a point that Aguilar emphasized well: “It’s not the colour of my skin that should scare you, it’s the colour of the water you’re drinking.”

Friday, May 24, 2019

Students can benefit from 'ethnic matching,' says dean of UNR's College of Education

This research by Dr. Easton-Brooks is consistent with a growing body of research which shows strong, positive, and consistent correlations to achievement when teachers share the same race/ethnicity as their students.  Research by Dr. Kenneth Meier further shows that Anglo students benefit as much from diverse environments, as well.

Dr. Easton-Brooks' recently-published book is titled, Ethnic Matching: Academic Success of Students of Color.  I look forward to reading it.

-Angela Valenzuela

Students can benefit from 'ethnic matching,'says dean of UNR's College of Education

Donald Easton-BrooksPublished 12:07 p.m. PT May 21, 2019 | Updated 12:11 p.m. PT May 21, 2019| Reno Gazzette Journal

Donald Easton-Brooks (Photo: Provided by Donald Easton-Brooks)
I am excited to be the incoming dean of the College of Education at the University of Nevada-Reno and to work with the schools and their ever-changing demographics. I also feel that my new book, "Ethnic Matching: Academic Success of Students of Color," can provide districts like Washoe and others insightful ways to provide equitable education for all students.
When talking about ethnic matching, what I often hear is, “What is ethnic matching?” Ethnic matching is when you pair a student of color with a teacher of the same race/ethnicity. The research in my book shows that students of color tend to perform better academically when they encounter at least one teacher of color. Similar research found this to be true in human resources, counseling, management/supervision and higher education. 
So is it safe to say we feel more comfortable with people of our own race than we do with people of other races? If so, why not just hire the same race of people who match the demographics of the people we serve, or simply bring back segregation? I would argue that ethnic matching is not that simplistic, and if we were to only hire those who fit our demographics or move back to segregation practices, we would be breaking a number of civil rights and labor laws.
Additionally, ethnic matching is not to imply that we segregate ourselves from one another or create a homogeneous work environment. Yet the findings around this work can be complex. For instance, why do students do better when interacting with teachers of their same race/ethnicity? One argument can be that when engaging in a stressful, possibly unfamiliar situation — like learning new information, stressing over test, or feeling out of place — it can be subconsciously comforting to be around others who share some semblance of normality. One other argument is that there can be social cues, words, phrases or expressions that are culturally significant that set us at a level of comfort.
I understand this because, being in a field that is 2 percent Black, there are interactions and social comforts that I can find and share with other Black colleagues in higher education in the same way I witnessed two White males in the airport, from two different parts of the country, talk about deer hunting. The same as East Oregonians talk about “jockey-boxes,” or Rhode Islanders talk about “cabinets or frappes,” or Southerners talk about “grits with or without sugar.”
These comforts or interactions do not suggest that one likes people from other races/ethnicities less or that they cannot have a best friend or favorite teacher whose race is different from their own. On a subconscious or conscious level, there can be similarities that make a situation more comfortable, less stressing, or more relaxing. Since we are in the U.S. and race is very talked about in our country, it is understandable how ethnic matching carries such significant weight.
However, what I would argue and do in my book is that ethnic matching produces significant findings that are worth exploring. We must ask ourselves, what is the research really telling us?
1.  We do not pay attention to one another as much as we think we do, meaning we are not intentional in our actions to understand one another
2.  We pay more attention to those things that we are most familiar with than with those with which we are not
3.  Diversifying the education workforce is critical.
Related to the latter, in many large cities, the White population makes up about 25 percent or less of the student population in public schools. In the top20 largest suburban schools, nearly half of the students are students of color, and rural schools are now 25 percent students of color. Yet teachers of color make up only 16 percent of the public-school teacher workforce.

The example here is based on the three points above. Research in my book found that even though 98 percent of teachers of color and 96 percent of White teachers took a course in multicultural education or culturally responsive practice, 88 to 94 percent teachers of color used culturally responsive practices in their classroom. In comparison, 76 percent of White teachers used this practice in their classroom. Teachers acknowledge that they did not use culturally responsive practice in their class because there was no support by their district or school leaders, they were not trained, they were not sure what to do, and a small percentage stated that they were not sure it mattered. 

Further, I found that professionals of color who attended public schools had a different interaction with White teachers depending on the number of teachers of color they encountered when attending public school growing up. I found that 88 percent of professionals of color had positive interactions with White teachers if they had at least four teachers of color. In comparison, only 56 percent of these professionals of color had a positive interaction with White teachers if they had one or fewer teachers of color. Another relevant finding in the book is that when White teachers worked with at least 30 percent of the workforce being teachers of color, White teachers were more willing and better able to effectively use culturally responsive practice with their students, regardless of the level of professional development.

Therefore, we know that segregation is not the answer; rather, we must diversify the teacher workforce to provide all students with representation in  schools and to enhance educators’ ability and motivation to implement culturally responsive practices. As I articulate in the book "Ethnic Matching: Academic Success of Students of Color," ethnic matching can provide an insight into understanding students  of diverse backgrounds, enhance the ability of educators to communicate within a diverse work environment, and create a more diverse learning environment in which teachers, students, families and communities benefit.

Donald Easton-Brooks, Ph.D., is the incoming dean of the College of Education at UNR. He is the author of "Ethnic Matching: Academic Success of Students of Color."