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.

Conservatives assign the task of cultural assimilation to schools, with particular emphasis on the history, social science, and literature curricula. Historians advocating consensus write textbooks that downplay the roles of slavery, class, racism, genocide, and imperialism in our history. They focus on ethnicity and assimilation rather than race, on the success of achieving political reform, representative government, and economic opportunity for European American workers and immigrants. They decline to notice the high poverty rate of U.S. children, the crisis of urban schooling, and the continuation of racial divisions in housing and the labor force. In California they decline to notice that Mexicans, Mexican-Americans and Latinos as well as Asians contributed to the development of this society.”
            At present California students are about 48% descendents of Mexican and other Latino cultures yet they are not in the textbooks as a consequence of the Ravitch History/Social Science Framework. 
            That is not “still considered among the best in the country,” except perhaps by persons who know little about the issue,  or care little about  Mexican American students, their history and their success in schools.
            See more on the Institute for Democracy and Education web site
Duane Campbell,
Professor Emeritus, Bilingual Multicultural Education.
Author, Choosing Democracy: a practical guide to multicultural education.  2010.  

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