Saturday, November 26, 2022

Texas bill on ethnic studies would add Mexican American, African American history to curriculum. "Our history is not an elective."

This is super wonderful news from Rep. Morales' Nov. 13th press release and press conference joined by Senator Carol Alvarado, Representative Gene Wu, Tony Diaz, and other local leaders, Rep. Morales provides the following context for her HB 1504 filed in the last legislative session:

"The bill passed with unanimous support out of the House Public Education Committee last session, and in a historic vote on May 11th, 2021, passed on third reading in the Texas House of Representatives. Texas State Representative Morales said, “Throughout my life, I have been empowered by knowing my family and community’s history. This bill would ensure that all Texans, regardless of their background, have the opportunity to learn their history. Tomorrow we will come together to once again bring renewed effort to making these courses available statewide.

Community organizer Tony Diaz, El Librotraficante, added, 'It is an honor to unite to support courses that are proven to increase graduation rates, academic achievement, and inspire students to profoundly examine the role of our communities in forming this state and this nation.'” 

Love this quote by Rep. Morales: "The interest in these classes has only increased since they've been available as an elective, but I'm here to tell you that our history is not an elective." Full stop!

The 88th Texas Legislative session commences in January, 2023. It's about that time to reach out to whoever represents you to express your support for this legislation. 

Folks should know that this bill is inclusive of Asian American Studies and Native American Studies. These elective courses are stuck in the Texas State Board of Education that has postponed their getting TEKS aligned for at least a year or more. Very disappointing. The good thing is that if this bill passes, it makes it to the top of the docket for approval and implementation by the Texas SBOE.

A final comment is that the Ethnic Studies movement has been a unifier, bringing so many of us, meaning new, diverse publics, into conversation with one another making this an exciting time for our increasingly diverse community in Texas such that it's all already worth it, worth pursuing.

-Angela Valenzuela


Texas bill on ethnic studies would add Mexican American, African American history to curriculum

Photo of Sam González Kelly

State Rep. Christina Morales, center, laughs alongside Latino community advocates as she presents her ethnic studies bill Nov. 14, 2022, outside the historic LULAC Council 60 building at 3004 Bagby St. in Houston, Texas.

Citing strong student interest and the need for youth to understand their own history and culture, Texas Democratic lawmakers Monday reintroduced a bill that would require public schools to offer ethnic studies. 

House Bill 45 is one of several education-based bills introduced Monday, the first day state lawmakers could file legislation for the upcoming 88th session of the Legislature, which convenes in January. The measure aims to add ethnic studies, specifically Mexican American and African American history, to a high school social studies curriculum that already requires that students study Texas and U.S. history. While the Texas State Board of Education has already created some ethnic studies courses, they do not count toward the state's high school graduation requirements and are not universally offered across Texas. 

"The interest in these classes has only increased since they've been available as an elective, but I'm here to tell you that our history is not an elective," said the bill's lead author, state Rep. Christina Morales, flanked by other Democratic officials and Latino community advocates in front of the historic LULAC Council 60 building in Midtown.

"We need to ensure that all students in our Texas public high schools learn about their own history so that they can succeed, because that's for a better Texas," Morales said. 

The bill would allow ethnic studies classes to count as half-credits toward the three required social studies credits necessary to graduate from high school. An identical measure was introduced during the 87th legislative session last year, and it passed the House by a vote of 81 to 59 before stalling in the Senate.

It will likely come up against opposition again from Texas Republicans, who last year banned from public schools the teaching of critical race theory, an advanced academic framework that explores the influence of race in politics and society, arguing that it pits children against each other and makes white children in particular feel guilty for historical events beyond their control. 

CRT BILL: Legislature passes bill banning ‘critical race theory’ from Texas classrooms

Opponents of that ban say teaching America's history of slavery and segregation does not amount to critical race theory and that banning such subjects conveniently glosses over the country's history of racism and discrimination. In Texas, where people of color drove 95 percent of the state's population growth between 2010 and 2020, any history that doesn't include ethnic studies is incomplete, advocates of the newly proposed bill said. 

"We all helped build this country, and it's time that our own children, that our communities, are able to learn about it and respect themselves and love themselves and recognize that their forefathers had a part in building this great country," said Rep. Gene Wu, a joint author of the bill introduced in 2021.

Though the 2021 bill's lone Republican joint author, former Rep. Dan Huberty, did not run for reelection after the 87th session, Morales said its success in the House last session is evidence she can muster bipartisan support in a Republican-led Legislature. The new bill does not yet have a GOP representative signed on.

"My challenge the first day that I get there into session is to align myself with one of the Republicans ... to help me pass this bill," Morales said. "Everybody is an immigrant, everybody has a different ethnicity. This is a very diverse state and very diverse city, and this will help many, many students all over our state." 

"Interview: ‘The US can still become a fascist country’: Frances Fox Piven’s midterms postmortem," by Ed Pilkington


Welcome to the legendary Dr. Frances Fox Piven who is 90 years old and who co-authored with her late husband, Richard Cloward, the groundbreaking Poor People’s Movements: Why They Succeed, How They Fail. Pointing to the "MAGA mob, she calls out much of what she sees today as "vengeance politics" and the "human lust for cruelty," arguing that fascist movements don't actually have to be very large for them to "set in motion the kinds of policies that crush democracy.”

She cautions that “[M]ovements need the protection of electoral allies – they need legislative chaperoning.” Indeed, movements must combine policy making and policymakers with allies holding elective office.

Check out this Democracy Now! interview from January 14, 2011 to see how she has been the target not just of the right, but the violent right.Why is Glenn Beck Obsessively Targeting Frances Fox Piven? Glen Beck's fear-mongering is based on exaggerated lies that are dangerous and corrosive of democracy.

She asks us not let our guards down since the elements of fascism reside within the body politic, as we speak.

-Angela Valenzuela

‘The US can still become a fascist country’: Frances Fox Piven’s midterms postmortem

Frances Fox Piven with fellow sociologist Fred Block in Boston in 1987. Photograph: Boston Globe/Getty Images

The 90-year-old sociologist on ‘vengeance politics’, cruelty and climate change as she looks back on half a century of activism

Frances Fox Piven has a warning for America. Don’t get too relaxed, there could be worse to come.

“I don’t think this fight over elemental democracy is over, by any means,” she said. “The United States was well on the road to becoming a fascist country – and it still can become a fascist country.”

The revered sociologist and battle-tested activist – an inspirational figure to those on the left, a bogeywoman for the hard right – is sharing with the Guardian her postmortem of the 2022 midterm elections and Donald Trump’s announcement of a 2024 presidential run. While many observers have breathed a sigh of relief over the rout of extreme election deniers endorsed by Trump, and his seemingly deflated campaign launch, Piven has a more sombre analysis.

All the main elements are now in place, she said, for America to take a turn to the dark side. “There is the crazy mob, Maga; an elite that is oblivious to what is required for political stability; and a grab-it-and-run mentality that is very strong, very dangerous. I was very frightened about what would happen in the election, and it could still happen.”

That Piven is cautioning against a false sense of security in the wake of the midterms would not surprise her many students and admirers. The co-author, with her late husband Richard Cloward, of the progressive bible, Poor People’s Movements: Why They Succeed, How They Fail, has for decades sounded the alarm.

She has raised red flags over the vulnerabilities of the country’s democracy, the inequalities baked into its electoral and judicial systems, and how poor Americans, especially those of colour, are forced to resort to defiance and disruption to get their voices heard. Now, with the Republicans having taken the House of Representatives, she foresees ugly times ahead.

“There’s going to be a lot of vengeance politics, a lot of efforts to get back at Joe Biden, idiot stuff. And that will rile up a lot of people. The Maga mob is not a majority of the American population by any stretch of the imagination, but the fascist mob don’t have to be the majority to set in motion the kinds of policies that crush democracy.”

To say that Piven has come to such a perspective through years of experience as a sociologist and anti-poverty warrior would be an understatement. She recently celebrated her 90th birthday, and her earliest political memories go back to the 1930s.

Her first is from 1939. It was prompted by the Russo-Finnish war which, though thousands of miles away, spilled out on to the streets of her neighbourhood. She was brought up in the New York borough of Queens by Jewish immigrant parents from Uzliany, in what is now Belarus.

“I was seven, so perfectly equipped to have a position on this issue,” she recalls. “Tutored by my father, I took the side of the Russians and fought with all the kids on the block.”

Her next vivid recollection relates to the death of Franklin Roosevelt in April 1945. “When FDR died, the whole street was bereft, almost sobbing. And these were people who didn’t talk much about politics, immigrants whose perspective was very narrow, getting by for another day, another week.”

Piven said she thought a lot about that communal mourning for FDR in the aftermath of the midterms with all their discord and rancour. “The thing about FDR was much bigger than partisan politics, anywhere,” she said.

That shared grief over FDR’s death seems worlds apart from the acrimony of today’s politics – all the more so after Trump’s declaration that he is running for the White House again. She talked about the former president’s “performative politics”, and the way it incorporates what she called “the human capacity for cruelty”.

Asked to point to an example of such cruelty, Piven referenced the attack last month on Paul Pelosi, husband of the Democratic speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. “This crazy man broke into the Pelosi home and attacked an 82-year-old man with a hammer, broke his skull. And there were actually politicians speaking to a mass audience and laughing at it.

“As thinking people, we don’t pay enough attention to the human lust for cruelty. We are at a point in American politics where those aspects of our nature are being brought to the fore; Trump has been doing that for a very long time, and we have to stop it or else it will continue to grow.”

What distinguishes Piven is not only her razor-sharp dissection of how American society fails its poor citizens, but also her determination to do something about it through activism. With Cloward, who died in 2001, she spearheaded rent strikes in New York’s Lower East Side through a group known as Mobilization for Youth, which she joined in 1962 and which became a prototype for Lyndon Johnson’s war on poverty.

More recently she helped to spawn in 2014 the progressive training program for movement organizers, Momentum. That in turn has seeded powerful grassroots networks such as the climate crisis disrupters the Sunrise Movement.

Piven scaled the side of the maths building at Columbia University to join student protesters in 1968. Photograph: Society for US Intellectual History

The lengths to which she has been prepared to go in her own activism is captured in a photograph from 1968. It shows Piven scaling up the side of the maths building at Columbia University in order to join student protesters occupying the premises.

“I was a fairly new assistant professor in the school of social work,” she explained. “An issue was bubbling among students and younger faculty about Columbia’s immoral, noxious policies with regard to the Vietnam war and participation in research for the defense department.”

So up she clambered to join the occupation. No matter that in a couple of weeks she was due to face a crucial faculty vote on whether or not she would be granted tenure.

The photo was published by Life Magazine and shortly after that, her troublemaking notwithstanding, she did get tenure. Being Frances Piven, however, she promptly quit the Ivy League university and transferred to Boston University, and from there to the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, where she remains a distinguished professor emerita.

That leaning towards agitation – what she calls the power of “dissensus” as opposed to “consensus” – still burns strongly in her. In her academic writings, as in her on-the-ground organizing, she sees movement politics and seeking change through the ballot box as essential partners.

“I don’t think any large-scale progress has ever been made in the United States without the kind of trouble and disruption that a movement can cause by encouraging large numbers of people to refuse to cooperate,” she said. “But movements need the protection of electoral allies – they need legislative chaperoning.”

She sees that dual model applying to today’s struggle to confront global heating. “The action on the climate crisis has to defeat the fossil fuel industry which in turn is closely connected to many politicians. You have got to break that, and the only way I think in American history that kind of power has been overcome is by just shutting things down.”

Her championing of such acts of defiance have made her a popular hate figure for the far right. Security guards were posted outside her university office after the demagogue broadcaster Glenn Beck published a photoshopped image of her with her hair on fire on the front page of his website TheBlaze.

“Beck blamed everything on Richard and me,” she recalled. “Are you kidding! I wish I could claim that credit.”

It’s been a long, rich life of political thought and action. I ask her to stand back a little, take in the big sweep. How does America look today perceived through the lens of her years?

“It’s a very strange time in history,” she said. “It’s not only the strangeness of our politics, it’s global warming, the seas are rising. I just had yet another booster shot. It’s very weird – I do not make predictions.”

It sounded like her answer was completed. But after a pause she started up again.

“I do think that the only way to live is to live in politics. To me, it’s an almost life-transforming experience – to be part of the local struggle. Even a dangerous struggle. You make friends that never go away. You see people in their nobility, and you find your own nobility as well. I would not trade my life for anything.”

 This article was amended on 24 November 2022. It was 1968, not 1967, when Piven scaled the maths building at Columbia University to join student protesters occupying the premises.

Friday, November 25, 2022

Dear Mrs. President—An Award-Winning Short Film by "Planet Classroom"

Just came across this award-winning short film titled,"Dear Mrs. President" that I think will excite a lot
of Black and Brown girls and their families, too. Check out all the "Planet Classroom" videos on their youtube channel. This is SO cool! And so encouraging. Thought I'd share.

 -Angela Valenzuela

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

VICTORY: After FIRE lawsuit, court halts enforcement of key provisions of the Stop WOKE Act limiting how Florida professors can teach about race, sex


Considering that academic freedom is under attack in our nation's universities right now, cheers to the plaintiffs represented by Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) in this victory against Gov. Ron De Santis' "Stop WOKE Act."

Without academic freedom, we are not free. Plain and simple.

-Angela Valenzuela

FIRE Plaintiffs Adriana Novoa (left) and Sam Rechek (right).

Today a federal court halted enforcement of key parts of Florida’s “Stop WOKE Act” in the state’s public universities, declaring that the law violates the First Amendment rights of students and faculty.

The court ruled that the “positively dystopian” act “officially bans professors from expressing disfavored viewpoints in university classrooms while permitting unfettered expression of the opposite viewpoints.” The court invoked George Orwell to drive home that if “liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” 

In September, the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression filed a lawsuit challenging Florida’s Stop WOKE Act. FIRE’s lawsuit, on behalf of a professor, student, and a student group, argued that the higher education provisions of the act unconstitutionally chill free expression and mandate faculty censorship on the state’s college campuses.

“It is a happy day not only for Sam and me, but for the institutions of this country,” said FIRE plaintiff Adriana Novoa, a University of South Florida history professor of 17 years. “I hope that the courts will defend the existence of a public education that cannot be manipulated by politicians to push any ideology, now and in the future.”

In the wake of the Stop WOKE Act — which restricts instruction on eight concepts related to “race, color, national origin, or sex” in college classrooms — colleges warned faculty that the law prohibits endorsing “any opinion unless you are endorsing an opinion issued by the Department of Education,” limits offering a “critique of colorblindness,” and requires faculty to censor guest lecturers. 

The law is not only unpopular — it’s also unconstitutional, as today’s ruling makes clear. “[T]he First Amendment does not permit the State of Florida to muzzle its university professors, impose its own orthodoxy of viewpoints, and cast us all into the dark.”

To defend its position, Florida argued that faculty members speak on behalf of the government, which can “prohibit the expression of certain viewpoints.” The state also agreed that its theory meant that if Florida’s government changed hands, it “could prohibit . . . instruction on American exceptionalism because it alienates people of color and minorities because it suggests . . . that American doesn’t have a darker side that needs to be qualified.” As FIRE pointed out, that argument is at odds with every federal appellate court to have considered the question.

“Faculty members are hired to offer opinions from their academic expertise — not toe the party line,” said FIRE attorney Adam Steinbaugh. “Florida’s argument that faculty members have no First Amendment rights would have imperiled faculty members across the political spectrum.”

Judge Walker rejected the state’s arguments that faculty speak for the state — that is, that “so long as professors work for the State, they must all read from the same music.” The court made clear: “The First Amendment protects university professors’ in-class speech.”


Novoa is joined in the lawsuit by student-plaintiff Sam Rechek, head of USF’s First Amendment Forum. Its members cannot engage in a full and frank discussion of contested matters — race and its role in both history and modern society are among the most fraught issues in the United States — if they fear that a professor’s response to their questions may be reported to administrators or government officials for formal action.

“I’m excited to hear that the Stop WOKE Act has been put on hold,” said Rechek. “While there is still more work to be done, every vindication of free speech and academic freedom is worth celebrating. That said, I hope that future proceedings will produce similar victories for speech. The Stop WOKE Act doesn’t just need to be enjoined. It needs to be struck down.”

In contrast to other lawsuits challenging the act filed by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the American Civil Liberties Union, FIRE’s suit is limited to higher education and does not take a position on the truth of the prohibited concepts of race and sex. Rather, FIRE takes the viewpoint-neutral approach that faculty retain the right to give an opinion — whether that opinion supports or opposes the prohibited concepts in the Stop WOKE Act. 

“College campuses are spaces for debate, not dogma,” said FIRE attorney Greg H. Greubel. “Americans recognize that the government cannot be an all-powerful force permitted to control every word uttered by a professor in the classroom. Today’s ruling is an important first step in ensuring that professors’ First Amendment rights are respected by the state of Florida.”

The plaintiffs in FIRE's case are represented by Greg GreubelJT Morris, and Adam Steinbaugh of FIRE, and Gary Edinger of Benjamin, Aaronson, Edinger & Patanzo is serving as local counsel.

The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to defending and sustaining the individual rights of all Americans to free speech and free thought — the most essential qualities of liberty. FIRE recognizes that colleges and universities play a vital role in preserving free thought within a free society. To this end, we place a special emphasis on defending the individual rights of students and faculty members on our nation’s campuses, including freedom of speech, freedom of association, due process, legal equality, religious liberty, and sanctity of conscience.