Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Worse off than in the 60's ? Mexican Americans in schools

 Who Gives a Damn?
By   Rodolfo F. Acuña

Teresa Wiltz in America’s Wire writes that despite claims of increased educational opportunities for minorities that the performance of black and Latino teenagers remains the same or lower than 30 years ago.  In fact, the math and reading performance of black and Latino high school seniors equal that of 13-year-old white students – so much for the post racial society.

Educators and liberal politicos point the finger at low expectations, inequality of resources, less qualified teachers, the income inequality, teacher bias, and inexperienced teachers. They throw in the tracking of black and brown students into remedial class while whites are put into university bound classes.

Further, minority students are more likely to be given "A’s" for work that would receive a "C" in a rich school giving the illusion that they are being educated.  Society would not tolerate this record in a football team at any level, or for that matter if we had fewer weapons of mass destruction than 30 years ago. 

However, in my view, the major reason for the lack of progress of Mexican American and other minorities is society’s historical amnesia or more aptly its Alzheimer disorder that erases the memory of previous efforts or commitments to bridge the gap between black, brown and white – rich and poor.  

The truth be told, educators pay less attention today to Mexican Americans than it did 50 years ago. In the sixties educators and reporters at least talked about it.  The late Los Angeles Times’ columnist Ruben Salazar attacked the dropout problem and the failure of the schools to devise a relevant curriculum, as well as the failure to recruit and train effective Mexican American teachers.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Immigrants and Labor

By David Bacon
Chapter 11 in "Wisconsin Uprising - Labor Fights Back"
Monthly Review Press, 2012

One sign carried in almost every May Day march of the last few years in the United States says it all: "We are Workers, not Criminals!" Often it was held in the calloused hands of men and women who looked as though they'd just come from work in a factory, cleaning an office building, or picking grapes.

The sign stated an obvious truth. Millions of people have come to the United States to work, not to break its laws. Some have come with visas, and others without them. But they are all contributors to the society they've found here.

In the largest U.S. May Day event this year, marchers were joined by the public workers who protested in the state capitol in Madison, Wisconsin, who have become symbols of the fight for labor rights in the U.S.  Their message was the same: we all work, we all contribute to our communities and we all have the right to a job, a union and a decent life.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Mexican American students matter

Associate Editor Pia Lopez of the Sacramento Bee  wrote an interesting essay, “Can we find common ground on schools?”  on the ideas of Diane Ravitch in the Bee this morning- except for one paragraph where Lopez is substantially wrong.   She says,  “ In the 1980’s she (Ravitch) helped write a history curriculum framework for California that still today is considered among the best in the country.”
Lets see.  She must mean the California History Social Science Framework of 1987 – still in use today- that almost completely ignores Mexican American History.
From my essay , “Why California Students Do not know Chicano/ Mexican American History.  
“The 1987 Framework still in use today  expanded African American, Native American, and women’s history coverage but remains totally inadequate in the coverage of Latinos and Asians. The only significant change between the 1985 and the 2005 adopted Framework was the addition of a new cover, a cover letter, and additions of photos such as of Cesar Chavez . Latinos currently make up 48.1 percent of California’s student population and Asians make up 8.1 %. 
The dominant neo conservative view  of history argues that textbooks and a common history should provide the glue that unites our society. Historical themes and interpretations are selected in books to create unity in a diverse and divided society, a unity from the point of view of the dominant class.  This viewpoint assigns to schools the task of creating a common culture. In reality, television and military service may do more to create a common culture than do schools and books.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Group Delivers Hundreds Of Tacos To Connecticut Mayor Who Insulted Latinos With ‘Tacos’ Comment

Group Delivers Hundreds Of Tacos To Connecticut Mayor Who Insulted Latinos With ‘Tacos’ Comment: pLatinos in East Haven, Connecticut delivered hundreds of tacos to the town’s mayor Thursday, just two days after he made a flippant, derogatory comment about them while discussing alleged police discrimination and violence in his community. In the wake of those allegations, Mayor Joseph Maturo Jr. was asked what he would do to reach out [...]/p

Don't Get Angry - Get Even

When Do You Start Counting?  Rodolfo F. Acuña 

When the great Muhammad Ali was asked how many sit ups he did, he responded,  “I don’t count my sit-ups, I only start counting when it starts hurting, that is when I start counting, because then it really counts, that’s what makes you a champion.”

These words resonate in Tucson where Latina/o students are fighting for an education by sitting-in in the office of Tucson Unified School District Superintendent of Schools John Pedicone, walking out of classes, demonstrating, and taking to the streets. 

Students are dispelling the myth that Mexican Americans do not care about education; they have started counting because it hurts. They know the difference between being warehoused, sitting through classes where teachers go through the motions. They know when the subject matter is relevant; and the teachers believe in what they are teaching.

At my own campus at California State University Northridge students are mobilizing.  Up until now, a small minority protested the rising cost of tuition, which now tops $5,550 a year, promising to climb another 30 percent next year.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Global Capitalist Crisis and the Second Great Depression

Armando Navarro
RIVERSIDE, Calif. - Ethnic studies professor Armando Navarro will present a brief lecture and sign copies of his new book, "Global Capitalist Crisis and the Second Great Depression" (Lexington Books), on Jan. 25 at 6:30 p.m. in HUB 302 at UC Riverside.
Sociology professor Jose Calderon of Pitzer College will present his observations of the book and its timeliness. The event is free and open to the public. Parking costs $5. Event sponsors are Chicano Student Programs, the Department of Ethnic Studies, MEChA, African Student Programs, Asian Pacific Student Programs, and Native American Student Programs.
In "Global Capitalist Crisis," Navarro, a political scientist who teaches in the UCR Department of Ethnic Studies and has authored five other books, analyzes the political and economic decisions that led to the on-going global economic crisis that he contends put the nation's survival at risk. He argues that the country is in the midst of a deepening depression, which he calls the Second Great Depression. He calls capitalism a failed economic/political system controlled by "capital" that is in dire need of systemic change, and he provides several ominous forecasts that he believes will impact the country greatly in this decade, particularly in 2012 and 2013.
"In the history of modern capitalism, with the exception of the Great Depression, the world has never been economically in such calamitous turmoil," Navarro writes. "Not since that period have the economies of the world, especially that of the United States, been so egregiously impacted and threatened."

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Debating Tucson School District's Book Ban After Suspension of Mexican American Studies Program

Debating Tucson School District's Book Ban After Suspension of Mexican American Studies Program
Democracy Now.

Tucson eliminates Mexican American History

Arizona School District Wipes Latino American History Off the Map

- Common Dreams staff
A catastrophe in slow motion has played out in Arizona schools over the last several years as anti-immigrant sentiment crept into state legislation guiding how and what kind of Mexican American and indigenous history could be taught in classrooms across the southwestern border state.  What may have seemed absurd until recently is now a reality as boxes of banned books will now be gathered up and locked away.
UPDATED on 1/18/12: Jeff Biggers updates his previous reporting after the Tuscon Unified School District responded to various reports of books being banned in Arizona schools:
In a clarification of last Friday’s announcement of a list of Mexican American Studies books to “be cleared from all classrooms” in order to comply with a state ban on ethnic studies, the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) declared Tuesday that it ”has not banned any books as has been widely and incorrectly reported.”
But, Biggers continues, opponents were not satisfied with TUSD's explanation:
The TUSD statement “lacks accuracy and represents a thinly veiled attempt to cover up with distortions what is happening,” said Richard Martinez, the lead attorney on behalf of teachers and students challenging the ban in federal court.  “Pandora’s box has been opened and the ugly face of the bigoted right wing has been exposed for what it is: an attempt to keep Latinos, poor, dumb and abused.”

Whether the removal of the books from all classrooms should be considered an outright ban or a possibly temporary prohibition brought little comfort to supporters of Tucson’s Mexican American Studies program, who sponsored an emotional community forum last Saturday with students and teachers who had witnessed the forced removal of the books from their classrooms.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Acuña- Arizona and the Struggle Before Us

In this installment of our multi-part series on the struggle to defend ethnic studies in Arizona, ethnic studies pioneer Dr. Rodolfo Acuña, author of Occupied America, talks to CultureStrike’s Michelle Chen about what the ongoing debate over Tucson’s Mexican-American Studies program says about deeper currents of America’s history and political culture.
 Michelle Chen: You made public statements last year warning that the crackdown on ethnic studies in Tucson was a harbinger of things to come (see this previous interview with Jeff Biggers). Since then, we’ve seen the legal and political war on ethnic studies intensify, culminating in the “book ban,” along with a slew of other anti-immigrant policies from the state legislature. In your view, have those earlier fears been borne out in the last few months?
Rodolfo Acuña: Yes, they unfortunately were borne out. What many don’t understand is that Arizona is a much more fertile test ground from the right than places like Wisconsin or Ohio where there is a long tradition and trade union movement. The press in Arizona is much more reactionary and money via the Koch Brothers and other special interests gets much more for the buck. Consequently ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council), the Tea Party, the Southern Arizona Leadership Council, et al can control the legal system. It does not help that the White House is spineless and does not enforce the Constitution. It will get worse because there are no brakes. Mexicans don’t count for much–even among the Left.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Increasing Reliance on Guest Worker Programs – CIP Americas

Increasing Reliance on Guest Worker Programs – CIP Americas
by David Bacon.

The Purge of Mexican Americans in Tucson schools

by Salomón Baldenegro 
Estimadas/os: First, let’s get the media-driven nonsense out of the way: “Ethnic Studies” was not dismantled in the Tucson UnifiedSchool District. Mexican American Studies was dismantled. It is the Mexican American community whose legitimacy in this country is being challenged. It is the history and contributions of the Mexican American community that are being de-valued by the concerted attack on our community by the Mexican haters and their enablers. All the other “ethnic studies” curricula in TUSD are intact and functioning—and “legal.”
The other bit of nonsense we need to get out of the way is the fiction—purveyed most recently in the Arizona Daily Star’s editorial of Sunday, January 15—that TUSD did what it had to do, that it really had no choice but to dismantle Mexican American Studies.
The indisputable fact of the matter is that TUSD had a choice: to go along with the Mexican haters Horne and Huppenthal or appeal Huppenthal’s decision, which would have put a hold on the threatened financial penalties on TUSD until the issue was resolved in court. TUSD made the conscious and deliberate choice to support Huppenthal.
Now to the matter of TUSD’s Mexican Purge:
The Purging of the Mexicans has begun in earnest in TUSD, one day after the pusillanimous TUSD school board, led by its chief Mexican hater Mark Stegeman, voted 4-1 to join hands withTom Horne and John Huppenthal and dismantle the Mexican American Studies curriculum.
Students forced to witness the Purge
The very next day after its nefarious vote, while classes were in session, TUSD conducted a purge of any and all books and teaching materials having to do with Mexican Americans and/or that deal with topics that are banned (e.g., civil rights) from MAS classrooms. Award-winning journalist Jeff Biggers reports that,
“According to district spokeperson Cara Rene, the books ‘will be cleared from all classrooms, boxed up and sent to the Textbook Depository for storage.’ ”
(The link below takes you to Biggers’ article in Salon.)
TUSD teachers and students who witnessed the purging of the books corroborate what Biggers reports. (Below is a link to a Three Sonorans article that contains relevant video about this.)

Tucson bans books by Chicano and Native American authors

Tucson schools bans books by Chicano and Native American authors
Posted by Brenda Norrell - January 14, 2012 at 11:53 pm

Banned books fuels calls for revolution in Tucson

Native authors in banned book include Leslie Marmon Silko, Buffy Sainte Marie and Winona LaDuke

By Brenda Norrell

Breaking news: Updated Sunday with response from banned author Roberto Rodriguez

TUCSON -- Outrage was the response to the news that Tucson schools has banned books, including "Rethinking Columbus," with an essay by award-winning Pueblo author Leslie Marmon Silko, who lives in Tucson, and works by Buffy Sainte Marie, Winona LaDuke, Leonard Peltier and Rigoberta Menchu.

The decision to ban books follows the 4 to 1 vote on Tuesday by the Tucson Unified School District board to succumb to the State of Arizona, and forbid Mexican American Studies, rather than fight the state decision.

Students said the banned books were seized from their classrooms and out of their hands, after Tucson schools banned Mexican American Studies, including a book of photos of Mexico. Crying, students said it was like Nazi Germany, and they were unable to sleep since it happened.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Remember Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Almost 40 years ago, a united black community in Memphis stepped forward to support 1,300 municipal  sanitation workers as they demanded higher wages, union  recognition, and respect for black personhood embodied in the slogan “I Am a Man!” Memphis’s black women organized tenant and welfare unions, discovering pervasive  hunger among the city’s poor and black children. They demanded rights to food and medical care from a city and  medical establishment blind to their existence. That same  month, March 1968, 100 grassroots organizations met in  Atlanta to support Martin Luther King’s dream of a poor  people’s march on Washington. They pressed concrete  demands for economic justice under the slogan “Jobs or  Income Now!” King celebrated the “determination by poor  people of all colors” to win their human rights. “Established  powers of rich America have deliberately exploited poor  people by isolating them in ethnic, nationality, religious and  racial groups,” the delegates declared.
So when King came to Memphis to support the strike,  a local labor and community struggle became intertwined  with his dream of mobilizing a national coalition strong  enough to reorient national priorities from imperial war in  Vietnam to domestic reconstruction, especially in America’s  riot-torn cities. To non-poor Americans, King called for a  “revolution of values,” a move from self-seeking to service,  from property rights to human rights.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Tucson- No Tienen Madre : Rudy Acuña

Tucson’s Sin of Scandal
Failing Students
Rodolfo F. Acuña

What is missing in the media’s coverage of the elimination of the Tucson Unified School District Mexican American Studies program is that students were learning and they wanted to go to school.  I take this travesty personal.  One of the reasons I have stayed in education for over fifty-five years is that I wanted to do something about the dropout problem.  I always heeded John Dewey dicta that a student failure was that of the teacher. If students drop out then there is something wrong with the educational system.

Arizona education has many problems:  taxpayers do not want to pay for schools and it is dead last in student per capita spending.  White parents don’t want their children going to school with Latinos and blacks as well as other working class people, so charter schools have multiplied to “balance” student ethnicity by making it whiter.

Arizona has blatantly avoided federal court orders to desegregate: more than fifty years after Brown v. the Board of Education (1954), the TUSD is still under a federal court mandate to “balance” the schools. The federal government, meanwhile, has poured millions of dollars into Arizona to help pay for integration purposes.

The truth be told, there has been no improvement. The dropout problem remains over fifty percent. As part of an effort to correct imbalances, the federal court in its desegregation plan, included the MAS program, which federal government paid for.  

Migration: A Product of Free Market Reforms – CIP Americas

Migration: A Product of Free Market Reforms – CIP Americas
by David Bacon

Thursday, January 12, 2012

California Dream Act

Uncertainties Hover Over California DREAM Act
By Edgardo Cervano-Soto
Despite the announcement of Gov. Jerry Brown signing into law the California DREAM Act last October, students applying for colleges at Richmond High School’s College and Career Center showed a muted response towards legislation that may benefit undocumented students in the next two years.
The California DREAM Act-- so-title from the acronym, Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors--actually consists of two State Assembly Bills. AB 130, which went into effect on Jan. 1, allows colleges to make private scholarships available to undocumented students. AB 131 will, starting Jan. 1, 2013, make state funding, such as CalGrants, accessible to undocumented students.
But some high school counselors are hesitating to promote the act’s benefits enthusiastically because of major problems with the law.
No Celebration of DREAM

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Alabama's anti immigrant campaign

SPLC Ready for Long Legal Battle Over Alabama’s Harsh Anti-Immigrant Law
            By Dan Werner, Deputy Legal Director
The Southern Poverty Law Center has won some encouraging victories in the months since we launched our effort to defeat Alabama’s harsh anti-immigrant law.
We’ve also had some disappointments. And we’ve seen this law bring fear and chaos to this state. More than 3,000 calls have poured into our hotline for immigrants affected by the law. But this legal battle is far from over. In fact, it’s just getting started.
Currently, the following provisions of HB 56 are in effect:
                Police are allowed to check the immigration status of people they stop and reasonably suspect are in the country unlawfully.
                All new contracts between an undocumented immigrant and another person are unenforceable in state court, with the exception of contracts for one night’s lodging, food purchases and medical services.
                It is a felony for undocumented immigrants to enter into a “business transaction” with the state of Alabama. The scope of this felony remains unclear, but includes applying for a driver’s license or a business license. The provision also include transactions with subdivisions of the state, such as cities and counties.
Beginning April 1, 2012, employers will be required to use e-verify to determine the immigration status of prospective employees.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Obama Administration changes rules on immigration adjustment of status

 The Obama Administration acted on Friday to permit the husbands, wives, and children of U.S. citizens to adjust their status and to allow them to gain Green Cards or permission to become a resident alien.   This is a return to the policy before the 1996  Republican sponsored Immigration Act.
The primary beneficiaries of the  Obama administration's move are families in which some members are US citizens and some aren't.  At present some family members must return to their home country for up to 10 years while they apply for U.S. residency as a 1996 law – approved by a Republican-led Congress – mandates.
The proposed change will undergo a review but doesn't require congressional approval. Under the so-called "hardship waiver," illegal immigrants who are married or otherwise related to US citizens would be able to pick up the waiver before leaving the United States and then be allowed to return almost immediately after picking up visas in their home countries.  This policy used to be known as advanced parole.
According to an article in the New York Times, for Sat. Jan. 7,  by Julia Preston    the union representing ICE agents is resisting this policy change.  It has not allowed its members to participate in training to implement the new rule.   Chris Crane, the president of the American Federation of Government Employees claims that new rule amounts to violating the law.  ( This was the law prior to 1996) Crane, of AFGE, is working closely with Lamar Smith, the Texas Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and a Republican leader on opposition to immigration reform.
In examining individual cases that may not be representative I note that   the current practice with ICE is that residents from White ( European) countries are commonly allowed to adjust their status while remaining in the U.S.  Residents from non White countries, particularly Latin American and Asian, are required to return to their home countries and apply for immigration- a process that can take up to a decade. The reason for the difference ?  Persons from mostly European countries ( and Australia), do not have a significant backlog of applications for immigration  thus, their cases can be resolved in a  matter of months- not so for Mexican, Philippinos, Chinese and similar groups.
SEIU Vice President Eliseo Medina praised the new rules on Friday.  Here is the SEIU statement on the issue.
SEIU applauds today's announcement by the Obama Administration to knock down bureaucratic obstacles for U.S. citizens who currently face hardship because their spouses cannot remain in the country legally.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Migration from Oaxaca,

by David Bacon 
OAXACA, MEXICO  - The Oaxacan Institute for Attention to Migrants, and its director Rufino Dominguez, called for a new era of respect for the rights of migrants, in commorating the International Day of the Migrant in the Palacio del Gobierno, Oaxaca's state capitol building.  Representing the newly-elected state government, Dominguez paid tribute to the contributions of the braceros, the first of Oaxaca's migrant workers to travel to the United States. from 1942 to 1964, and to the women who cared for the families they left behind. 

Around the balconies of the palacio's courtyard hung photographs showing the lives of current migrants from Oaxaca, working as farm laborers in California.  Migrant rights activists, artisans and public officials spoke about the important role migration continues to play in Oaxaca's economic, social, political and family life.  The state, in southern Mexico, is the source of one of the largest waves of migration from Mexico to the U.S.

Dominguez, the former coordinator of the Binational Front of Indigenous Organizations, which organizes indigenous migrants in both Mexico and the U.S., was appointed director of the IOAM by Oaxaca's new governor, Gabino Cue Monteagudo.  Cue defeated the PRI, the party that governed Oaxaca for the previous 80 years.  In an interview with David Bacon, Dominguez described the different road the new government is taking to ensure social justice for Oaxacan migrants today:

Obama Administration proposes Immigration change

Today, the administration is proposing changes that would keep hundreds of thousands of families together.

Imagine this scenario: your father leaves home to apply for his US visa -- and finds himself barred from returning. Or your wife, finalizing her application to gain a visa, is stuck waiting months across the border, with no form of recourse.

Situations like these are reality for hundreds of thousands of immigrants and their families. It’s a catch-22 in the American immigration system: if you return to your country of origin to apply for a visa, you trigger a bar of 3 or even 10 years that prevents you from coming back to the US.

The administration is proposing family unity waivers that would allow spouses and children of US citizens to file for visas while remaining in the US.