The Shocking History of My People and My State

The Shocking History of My People and My State
I didn’t think racism was much of a problem until I took ethnic studies.
Though the country’s first ethnic studies department was born at University of California–Berkeley in 1969 and the first ethnic studies Ph.D. program was established there in the 1980s, the discipline is still widely derided on that campus. People tend to think ethnic studies classes are full of disgruntled brown people ranting about “the system,” “oppression,” and “white/male/class privilege.” A common response to saying you are an ethnic studies major goes something like “Oh, so you don’t care about having a job.”

I, too, saw myself as someone who would never take an ethnic studies class, but for a different reason. I’m Asian American, born and raised in San Francisco, and every school I ever attended there was majority-Asian. This can skew your racial identity just a little. Not only did I never encounter racism, I felt like Asians were past that. We were one-third of the city’s population and had established ourselves deep in the city’s politics, cultural institutions, and society. There was no question we were Americans. We spoke flawless English. We wore American brands like Abercrombie & Fitch and Tommy Hilfiger and ate at McDonald’s and watched MTV. We had white friends. Racism was dead—hoorah!

I learned otherwise when I arrived at Berkeley.

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The Academic and Social Value of Ethnic Studies A Research Review

The Academic and Social Value of Ethnic Studies
A Research Review
Christine E. Sleeter (2011, NEA)

National Education Association
Research Department
Ronald D. Henderson, Director


What is the value of ethnic studies in schools and universities? Supporters say ethnic
studies promotes respect and understanding among races, supports student success, and
teaches critical thinking skills. Critics, however, increasingly question the relevance of
ethnic studies education programs in the post-integration era.

As issues involving ethnic studies take center stage in education policy and practice, the
National Education Association believes any discussion of the role of ethnic studies in
education and in student achievement rightfully begins by asking:

• What do we know from prior research and practice about ethnic studies,
especially as they relate to student achievement and narrowing achievement gaps?

• Are there ways to examine and talk about what we have learned that will enable
us to apply those lessons to creating and establishing ethnic studies programs that
support student and teacher learning?

The evolution of ethnic studies has sparked its share of controversy. NEA commissioned
a review of the research on ethnic studies programs and curricula—specifically the ways
in which such programs and curricula serve to improve student achievement and narrow
achievement gaps—to inform the discourse on this issue. This paper provides a research
base for discussing best practices for designing and implementing ethnic studies programs
and curricula that meet those targets.

We hope this review is useful for revisiting ideas and generating new thoughts about
the relationship between ethnic studies and student achievement. And we hope that our
efforts in this regard will help ensure a great public school for every student.

Dennis Van Roekel
National Education Association

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Students fight assault on history

Students fight assault on history

This is a tale of two countries.

The first country was built on a radical new promise of human equality and a guarantee of the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That country made it possible for even those born in the humblest and most meager circumstances to climb to the pinnacle of prosperity and achievement. It helped save the world in a great global conflagration, fed and rebuilt the devastated nations of Europe, planted the first footprints on another world.

The second country was built on the uncompensated labor of human beings owned from birth till death by other human beings. That country committed genocide against its indigenous people, fabricated a war in order to snatch territory belonging to its neighbor, put its own citizens in concentration camps. And it practiced the “science” of eugenics with such enthusiasm that it inspired advocates of mandatory sterilization and racial purity all over the world. One was an obscure German politician named Adolf Hitler.

Obviously, the first of those countries is America. But the second is, too.

This would not come as a surprise to any reasonably competent student of American history. But that is a category that soon may not include students in Jefferson County, Colo. The good news is, they are not taking it lying down.

To the contrary, hundreds of them staged mass walkouts from at least five area high schools last week. They chanted and held up signs in protest of a proposed directive from a newly elected conservative school board member that would require teachers of history to “promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free enterprise system.”

In Their Own Words: The Fight to Save Tucson’s Ethnic Studies Program

In Their Own Words: The Fight to Save Tucson’s Ethnic Studies Program
Posted: 25 Aug 2011 08:39 AM PDT

Each day this week, Amicus will feature an editorial post written by one of CRCL’s new General Board members. Today’s post discusses the controversy surrounding Tucson’s ethnic studies program.
Arizona, home of SB 1070, has proven itself to be ground zero in the nation’s immigration debate. At the center of racially charged controversy is Tom Horne, former Superintendent of Public Instruction and current state Attorney General, who has waged a four-year campaign to eradicate the Tucson Unified School District’s Mexican-American/La Raza Studies Program.
Horne ran for superintendent on the platform to “stop La Raza”, which he accused of teaching “ethnic chauvinism” because it uses works by authors critical of the United States’ historical relationship with Latin America and its past treatment of Latinos. He authored a bill signed into law on May 11, 2010, A.R.S. §§15-111 and 112, which bans courses that promote resentment toward a race or class of people, advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals, or promote the overthrow of the United States government. On his final day as Superintendent, Horne announced that La Raza was in noncompliance with HB 2281. No other ethnic studies programs were targeted.
La Raza is fighting back. It organized the Save Ethnic Studies Movement and on October 18, 2010, attorney Richard Martinez filed suit in the United States District Court against Superintendent Horne and State Board of Education, on behalf of eleven TUSD Mexican American Studies teachers and two TUSD students. The legal challenge contends that A.R.S. §§15-111 and 112’s attempts to wipe out the Mexican American Studies program is an unlawful infringement of free speech, and a denial of due process and of equal protection based solely on the teachers’ and students’ race. In late April La Raza students chained themselves to the school board members’ chairs, preventing a vote to terminate the program’s accreditation.
At a recent press conference, current Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal proclaimed that a $170,000 audit he commissioned proved that the Mexican American Studies Program was in noncompliance with state law. An actual look at the audit proves Huppenthal’s claims are outright lies. According to the audit, students in the Mexican American Studies program graduate at a rate of 11 percent more than their counterparts, and “no observable evidence suggested a violation of the law A.R.S. 15-112.” Hundreds of thousands of tax dollars and several dozen arrests later, it ironically appears that the ethnic studies program is in compliance with a likely unconstitutional law engendered to eliminate it.
This baseless attack on the Mexican American Studies program highlights the shortfalls of Brown v. Board of Education and a need to articulate the right of ethnic groups to retain group identity and cultural integrity in the public sphere, including in public education. While institutionalized segregation is no longer sanctioned, curriculum continues to focus on the historic perspective of the oppressor, and not the oppressed. In an educational system that disproportionately fails minority students, ethnic studies programs offer educational engagement and success and should be supported on a federal level.