Saturday, November 06, 2010

Arizona and Multicultural Education

Multicultural education conference
The  Sacramento conference  on November 6 began with an excellent presentation by Dr. Eugene Garcia, a prominent researcher on Latino school achievement. and a  vice president for education partnerships at Arizona State University.  The morning speech was to some 600 students and teachers from the Sacramento community.
Garcia explained Arizona’s new immigration policies and the infamous SB 1070, and how it affects the education of children. 
"Arizona is taking a set of steps to mitigate what they perceive to be the negative effects of immigrants, particularly Mexican immigrants. There's a very ambiguous and negative climate towards Latinos in Arizona," Garcia said. "The idea here is to present a set of commentaries and analysis, research that we've done."
Garcia described dramatic demographic changes in Arizona ,  California and the Southwest leading to a 400% increase in Latino students in the last 30 years.  Of these students over 70% are U.S. citizens, but they are citizens impacted by the immigration experience.
In Arizona specifically, crime is down.   Employment and prosperity was actually up prior to the current national economic crisis. 

In the following session  I spoke to a smaller group of some 40 students and teachers on the topic, “Stop the Anti Immigrant and anti public school political movement.”
 I argued that anti Mexican racism played a significant role in the elections on Tues.   when the Democrats lost the House, and they won  the Senate, illustrating the role of racism with a video clip of  a Sharon Angle ad used against Harry Reid.   I noted that ost of the limited progress we have seen will now  stop such as the passing of a stimulus bill that currently provides unemployment 15,000 teachers in California alone.   Anti immigrant forces are mobilizing in Arizona and some 20 other states. We discussed Arizona's law SB 1070 as described in the earlier session by Eugene Garcia.
The current governor of Arizona- who was not elected as governor, was well behind in the polls. She polled at less than 40%.  Then she began her anti immigrant rants and promoting SB 1070.  She now has an over 60% support. 
Anti Mexican racism works in elections.   Here is how it happened in California in 1994.
 In the Summer of 1993, a failing economy and governmental retrenchment combined to make Governor Pete Wilson the most unpopular governor in recent history.  By November of 1994 Wilson won re-election with over 56% of the vote.  Two factors combined to deliver victory to Wilson; a mean spirited, divisive, and racist campaign directed against Mexican and Mexican Americans, and an inept campaign by Democratic Candidate Kathleen Brown.
    In 1994 The voters of California voted 62% to 38% in favor of Proposition 187, the Save Our State initiative to restrict illegal immigration.  A number of groups including FAIR, the Republican Party, and the Perot organization worked together to qualify the initiative. Significant parts of the this proposition became federal law in the 1996 welfare reform laws.
    In 1994 California has a population that is 56.3 % White, 26.3 % Latino, 9.4% Asian, 7.4 % African American, and 0.6% other.  However, according to exit polls, the voters in this election were 80% white, 9% Latino, 7 % African American, and 4 % Asian. Exit polls show that Latinos voted against Prop. 187 by 3 to 1, African Americans split their vote 50 -50, and the Anglo electorate passed the proposition by over 60%.
" From Our Struggle/Nuestra Lucha.  Vol.13. No. 1. Winter 1995.
After developing this theme, we went on to consider the anti union, anti teacher efforts promoted by the film, Waiting for Superman.  I played a clip of the trailer from the film and encourage all to see the film.
In October the film, “Waiting for Superman” dominated the television talk shows, forums, and press with a message that public schools are failing, the teachers’ unions are to blame, and that charter schools are the answer to the problems of public schools.   Superman is not only a film about schools, it is also a part of a wider sophisticated assault on unions and particularly public sector unions.  In the Fall 2010  election in California  Meg Whitman extended the criticism of the teachers union and made it  a major issue in her  $160 million dollar self financed campaign  for Governor.  The film and the Whitman campaign  illustrate how corporate funding produces a political narrative.
Superman is a part of the effective  strategy of corporate take over of education policy and corporate victories in framing the issues of education reform . Historian Diane Ravitch describes  this corporate take over in her well written  book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System; How Testing and Choice are Undermining Education. (2010).  There are several specific criticisms of the  facts and the framing in the film including  Ira Shor of the City University of New York saying  “Overall it benefits the hedge fund billionaires now bankrolling charter schools and conservative politicians,”  on the site
Prominent education historian Diane Ravitch, formerly an Under Secretary for Research in the Department of Education during the Reagan Administration, criticizes the film  as propaganda citing  substantial evidence that charter schools do not have a record of producing better achievement than public schools . ( NYReview of Books). ). [ full disclosure.  I have  long criticized Ravitch for her positions on multicultural education and particularly for her role in writing the California  History/Social Science Framework, the document that shapes whose history is taught in California school textbooks.]  Ravitch argues  that Superman  is a propaganda master piece blaming unions for the many problems of public schools including the budget crises and  alleged problems recruiting and keeping  quality teachers.
Following the video clips and discussion, we went on to discuss how students, teachers, unions,  and community education activists could work together to  oppose both the anti immigrant racism and the anti teacher- anti union corporate assault on public schools.
            We talked about the recent campaigns o increase Latino voter turnout and efforts of teachers to work with their unions to oppose the corporate “reformers” and to struggle for equity based school improvement.
Strategies and suggestions for organizing were shared including working with civil rights and political organizations such as the Sacramento Progressive Alliance, DSA, and others to organize for social change.  DSA literature on the  Bill of Social and Economic Rights was shared along with copies of Democratic Left.  Eight people out of the audience signed up for further organizing work- although it is difficult to read several of their names and e mail addresses.

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