Wednesday, August 28, 2019

"The Struggle to Decolonize Official Knowledge in Texas’ State Curriculum: Side-Stepping the Colonial Matrix of Power" by Angela Valenzuela

Friends and Colleagues:

Happy to share a publication of mine that is hot off the press in the journal of Equity and Excellence in Education (EEE).  Aside from documenting the movement for Ethnic Studies in Arizona and Texas, I had to do a lot of reading and research for this.  It took me at least two years to write.  I want to thank both Dr. Nolan Cabrera and Dr. Korina Jocson for making this possible.  Nolan, in particular, challenged me throughout.  That's what good friends and colleagues are for.  In much appreciation, Nolan.

It tells the story of the struggle for both Ethnic and Mexican American Studies here in Texas, with Arizona's struggle as a meaningful, and indeed inspirational, backdrop to what he have accomplished here in Texas in our historic, legacy struggle for inclusion in the state's K-12 curriculum as scholars, elders, leaders, and community members.  And how we not only struggle and labor, but also succeed—and at such a massively important time in our history when we are under a seemingly unrelenting attack.

Thanks for those cited and not cited among whom are members of the K-12 Committee of the NACCS Tejas Foco who helped me to generate and theorize this account.  I feel so fortunate and honored to have them as my community.  They are the most loving, caring, and intellectually stimulating set of colleagues and scholar-activists that anyone could ever have or hope for.  

I try in this piece to blur a few theoretical boundaries based primarily on what we experienced here in Texas.  I hope that you read this and get inspired to join the movement and make a better world.  Yes, despite all the terribleness and madness, a better world.

We must decolonize ourselves.  To get there, we must task ourselves with learning about, and responding to, the colonial matrices of power in our lives where power relations are deeply implicated and where struggles for social justice, must occur.

The whole issue is worth reading, by the way.  You can access it at the EEE website.

-Angela Valenzuela


Published online: 27 Aug 2019

Sunday, August 25, 2019

A Central Valley man’s lifelong quest to build his own Chicano library

This piece by Julia Wick in the Los Angeles Times is a wonderful story about Richard Soto who single-handedly, through the help of a non-profit he established in 2016 and his own personal resources, set up his own Chicano library in Stockton, California, that boasts over 20,000 books and journals.  Anyone of us would be astounded to enter into just such a space.  

Hopefully, we all also have our own libraries in our homes, but this clearly takes it to another level.  I'm  sure there are multiple  treasures on every shelf.

How beautiful and important to be a keeper of the history and knowledge!

-Angela Valenzuela

Newsletter: A Central Valley man’s lifelong quest to build his own Chicano library

Richard Soto holding a book about Ruben Salazar at the Chicano Research Center in Stockton.
(Julia Wick / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Thursday, Aug. 22, and I’m writing from Stockton.
History usually belongs to the conquerors, or the esteemed academics. But sometimes it also gets told by whoever most carefully corrals all the pieces and wrestles them into place.
The Chicano Research Center, a storefront library on a rundown stretch of Stockton’s east side, is the product of one Central Valley man’s obsessive, expansive quest.
Richard Soto, a 75-year-old, semi-retired educator, has spent the lion’s share of his life quietly building his collection of Chicano literature and history — first as a young man hungry to learn more about his own identity, and later with the dream of someday sharing it with the public like this.
He opened the Chicano Research Center as a nonprofit in 2016. All are welcome to come in, and Soto will probably offer you coffee at the door. He estimates that he has about 20,000 books, journals and ephemera (along with cases of corrido-filled CDs and LPs) housed in this former panaderia.
He built the bookshelves lining every inch of the room himself, with $3,000 worth of pine wood (including his 10% U.S. veteran discount) from Home Depot.
The library is organized according to the self-described “Soto” method, starting with indigenous history in the front corner of the room furthest from his desk, and wrapping all the way around to the present day, with labeled sections based on historical periods and events, individuals and other topics. (The library’s focus includes Mexican history as well as Mexican American history: “One of the things that I learned is that you can’t read Chicano literature, and appreciate and understand it if you don’t know Chicano Mexican history,” Soto explained.)
See also: “Chicano Research Center is freeze-frame into the past” in the Stockton Record]

The walls are brightly punctuated with art, flags, and framed awards and accolades from Soto’s career as an educator, as well as a certificate honoring him for his bravery as a Brown Beret medic during the Chicano Moratorium.

chicano research center
A section of books at the Chicano Research Center in Stockton. 
(Julia Wick / Los Angeles)
Soto’s collecting quest began when he was a young man, just back from Vietnam and participating in the Chicano Movement. He went looking for the books that would speak to his story — as a Mexican American born in the United States — but the books he wanted didn’t seem to exist.
“I wanted to know what contributions had we made and what had we done,” Soto said. “And for me, I always wanted to know why people hated me. You know, I pretty much let people alone, but for some reason they had this, I don’t know, hereditary hatred for me.”
During his two years at San Joaquin Delta College, he “found all of maybe five books.” He went to Sacramento State and “found 10 more.” It was only when he left Sacramento for San Francisco that he started to really find what he was looking for, at a now-shuttered progressive bookstore called Modern Times in the Mission District.
After getting his master’s in counseling from San Francisco State, Soto returned to his Central Valley hometown of Tracy, where he worked as a high school counselor for nearly 40 years. He’d loan his students books to learn their history and build their self esteem, parceling out poetry or history or biography depending on what they seemed to need.
“There’s so much beautiful Mexican history. There are so many dynamic Mexican men and women, social political activists that have done something that is just not out there,” he said. “So, I started buying all this stuff.”
Time marched forward and all the while he quietly built his collection, bit by bit. He bought what he could, when he could and stored it where he could. “Everywhere I went, I created a room for all the books.”
When he officially retired, he took another full-time job teaching at an adult school. Suddenly, he had an income and a pension.
“I had a lot of extra money. So I thought man, I’m gonna really hit this,” he recalled. He would turn to the bibliographies in history books and mark off everything he already had, to see what was still missing. Then he would spend a few hours every morning on eBay, looking for discarded library books.

Richard Soto
Richard Soto holds an item from his collection — a laminated program from a 1949 event featuring a young Dolores Huerta (then known as Dolores Fernandez) — at his Chicano Research Center in Stockton, Calif. 
(Julia Wick / Los Angeles Times)
And finally, he found this space and carefully renovated it to house and share his glorious, sprawling collection.
“Most people, when they come here, they’re overwhelmed,” he said. “They can’t believe that something like this exists.”

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Why Some White Liberals Will Probably Vote For Donald Trump

In a study of “dog-whistle politics” involving hundreds of white people by Brown and Stanford University professors, respectively, Rachel Wetts and Robb Willer, they found that Donald Trump’s racism appears to be particularly effective with self-identified liberals that harbor racial resentment.  These are the whites who voted for Trump after having voted for Obama in the previous election (this article references several studies since 2016 that corroborate this).
That is, the overtly racist messages do not impact as powerfully as the implicit ones, particularly for resentful whites that perceive a loss of centrality in society.  As we know well, however, whites still pretty much dominate the upper-echelons of society, but they are vulnerable to manipulation which is what Trump is all about.  He himself is in power and sees himself and “his people” as “victims.”
This is a preemptive political strike from within via dog-whistles, or coded language, that amounts to yet another ploy to suppress the voices, perspectives, and needs of diverse communities. 

-Angela Valenzuela

Why Some White Liberals Will Probably

Vote For Donald Trump

A new study demonstrates that racist dog whistles work.
by Arthur Delany | Huffington Post 8.20.19

Reporters often describe President Donald Trump’s
racism as a strategy to excite Republican voters,
may actually work better on certain self-identified
liberals. That’s the conclusion a pair of academic
researchers reached after conducting an experiment
with hundreds of white Americans earlier this year.
Continue reading here.

KIPP and IDEA Have Launched an Attack on San Antonio Public Schools: Why would we ever support an agenda to eliminate structures about which we have a vote?


According to this message by Diane Ravitch that she just posted to her blog, the public writ large should be deeply concerned about this attack on public education—specifically, in San Antonio public schools.  This is an aggressive move to not only enrichen their corporate pockets, but to simultaneously disenfranchise our community.  If this were otherwise, then why are they planning to have charter schools in nearly every neighborhood in San Antonio, including, if not especially, in more affluent neighborhoods such as those located on the Northside?

Plus, it speaks volumes that IDEA and KIPP have to circumvent the popular vote by working closely with the neoliberal Betsy DeVos to secure their largest grant ever, overriding public, open, deliberative processes to get this done.  Moreover, according to this recent report dated March 20, 2019, they're also circumenting trends related to a slowing of charter school growth!

Por favor, mi gente...this is a money grab.  A power grab.  A corporate grab.  A land grab.  Accumulation by dispossession.

To educate yourself further, please read this massively important document titled, "Increase the Transparency and Efficiency of Charter Schools in Texas," that many of Texas' state-level organizations signed onto that tell the awful truths about charter schools and their undue impact on public schools.

I only hope that the citizens of San Antonio contest this, even if on a school-by-school basis.  Don't attend these schools.  Support public education.  Join the movement!

Remember, these are our hard-earned tax dollars that are paying for all of this.  Yet these structures that are getting built eliminate school boards and as a consequence, governance and democracy.  Why would we ever support an agenda to eliminate structures about which we have a vote?

-Angela Valenzuela

Betsy DeVos Funds IDEA and Kipp to Saturate San Antonio with Charter Schools

By diane ravitchAugust 17, 2019

Texas Public Radio describes Betsy Devos’s audacious plan to overwhelm San Antonio with charters created by two corporate chains: IDEA and KIPP.
Some of the new charters will open in middle-class areas with good public schools.
Apparently, DeVos just wants to torpedo public schools in a major Texas city.
Camille Phillips of TPR reports:
San Antonio’s largest charter school network is gearing up for a fast-paced expansion over the next three years. IDEA Public Schools plans to add 15 schools in Bexar County by 2022, doubling its local enrollment to nearly 24,000 students.
It is part of an ambitious larger plan by the Rio Grande Valley-based charter network plan to add 120 schools in Texas, Louisiana and Florida by 2024. IDEA has gotten a big boost to help make that plan happen: four federal grants in five years worth more than $211 million combined.
This year, the U.S. Department of Education awarded IDEA its largest grant yet: $117 million to expand classrooms and launch new charter schools.
“We cast a vision for our growth plan, and then it has to be paid for somehow. So this just gives us confidence that what we envision in terms of growth will actually become a reality,” IDEA regional director Rolando Posada said.
When Posada came to San Antonio seven years ago, he said he made it his goal to have an IDEA school less than 10 minutes away from every family.
“We realized that this was one of the biggest cities in the country with one of the biggest needs. And so my vision was to put a school everywhere on the map of the city of San Antonio,” he said….
Several of IDEA’s new schools will likely be located in the Northside school district, one of the region’s wealthier and higher performing districts.
Northside Superintendent Brian Woods said he finds it interesting that charter schools are no longer limiting themselves to areas where the traditional public schools are struggling.
“If you have an area that’s being served extremely well, why would you need to introduce a duplicative service?” Woods asked.
DeVos gave KIPP $88 million, and it too plans to expand its presence in Texas.
Mark Larson, chief external officer for KIPP Texas, said KIPP is creating a growth plan to determine where to expand next in the state, but “a sizeable chunk” of the $88 million awarded to the national KIPP Foundation is reserved for Texas.
“We have full intention to continue to grow and continue to grow in the San Antonio market,” Larson said.
DeVos gave $15 million to another charter network to open new schools in Texas.
One of our readers, who identifies herself as Chiara, recently explained why charters rely on federal funding to expand.
She says they know they would never be funded by popular vote as public schools are. The purpose of the federal funding is not only to help charter schools (like KIPP, funded by billionaires like the Waltons), but to bypass democracy.
She wrote:
The second of 20 San Antonio IDEA Public School campuses is headed to the South Side and and is scheduled to open in fall 2019.
”The new campus — which has yet to be named — will be built on an eight-acre plot of land on the corner of South Flores Street and West Harding Boulevard.”
If IDEA had to go to the public and ask for facilities financing to build and operate each of 20 new public schools, the public would reject all or some of the new schools, because they would (rightfully) ask why they’re replicating a system they already have. There would be a long public debate on public investment. They would have to scale back plans or scrap them completely.
Charters know this, so they use federal and private financing. If they used local facilities funding they would have to get the consent of the public.
When ed reformers say they want local facilities funding remember that if they had local facilities funding the approval process would have to go thru the public, and the public would object to funding 20 new school buildings that replicate schools they already have. That would make it impossible to plunk down 20 new charter schools.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Jose Angel Gutierrez recipient, 2019 United States Hispanic Hero Award

View this and get inspired.  

This is a wonderful video about Dr. José Ángel Gutierrez,
recipient of the 2019 United States Hispanic Hero Award by the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute that also
provides good historical context for the Mexican American
Civil Rights movement.

Congratulations, José Ángel!  We are deeply indebted to all
that you and the activistas of your generation have done to provide us with the self-awareness, critical knowledge and tools, and cultural pride that are needed to carry forward a movement for social justice.

And this was back in the day when there were "only" 2.3 million million Mexican Americans identified as "persons of Spanish surname" in the 1970 U.S. Census, accounting for 4.5 percent of the total population (U.S. Census, 1970-2050).  Compare this to today where the approximately 58.9 million Hispanic people in the United States comprise 18.1 percent of the total U.S. population.

If they had the audacity to hope for a better world despite their relatively small numbers, what's impeding us right now?

If there is anything I have learned, it is that our work is never done even as we benefit from the continuing struggles and sacrifices of our political antepasados, our elders in the movement. 

In a July 14, 2012 post to this blog titled, "A Reflection on Age and Generation: Last Weekend’s Raza Unida Party Reunion in Austin," I lend support to the notion advanced in this video that the Raza Unida Party generation was indeed a singular one, changing the course of history.  My message to that generation was, and continues to be:

We needed you then.  We need you now.

Sí se puede!  Yes we can!

-Angela Valenzuela