Kick Off Hispanic Heritage Month with An Education Twitter Chat:

Kick Off Hispanic Heritage Month with Education Twitter Chat:

ETHNIC STUDIES in Our Schools

by Melanie Mendez-Gonzales

In some school districts across the country, a debate on ethnic studies in high school is happening.

What is ethnic studies? It is the critical and interdisciplinary study of race, ethnicity, and indigeneity with a focus on the experiences and perspectives of people of color within and beyond the United States.

Advocates for ethnic studies believe that it will support academic success and bring an understanding between races. Opponents argue that ethnic studies are anti-American and teach divisiveness.

According to the National Education Agency, research finds that the overwhelming dominance of Euro-American perspectives leads many students to disengage from academic learning. In fact, a recent Stanford study shows the opposite effect that an ethnic studies course had on, particularly Hispanic male, students. Students in the study who took ethnic studies classes in a pilot program in San Francisco high schools increased attendance rates, improved their grades and even increased the number of earned course credits for graduation.

These courses allow students to connect to their own culture and see their home life inside their classrooms. That has a powerful impact. Some argue that ethnic studies could have a powerful impact on white students, too.

“Similar to students of color, white students have been miseducated about the roles of both whites and people of color throughout history,” Siobhan King Brooks, an assistant professor of African American studies at Cal State Fullerton said, and culturally relevant lessons allow white children to “not only learn about people of color, but also white people’s roles as oppressors and activists fighting for racial change. This is very important because often whites feel there is nothing [they] can do to change racism.” ()

Ethnic studies were born out of both educators’ and students’ desires to counterbalance inaccuracies and predominance of the Euro-American perspective found in U.S. schools’ curricula. However, the most recent rise of ethnic studies came out of the 2010 ban of a Mexican-American studies course in the Tucson United School District and the Arizona H.B. 2281. Mexican American studies has spread to high schools at a rate no one could have imagined before Arizona banned the class in 2010.*

Five California school districts, for example, has since made an ethnic-studies class a requirement, and 11 others offer it as an elective. Currently, California AB-2016, which would require the Instructional Quality Commission to develop, and for the state board to adopt, a model curriculum in ethnic studies for all districts to offer a course of study in ethnic studies, is sitting on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk.

Albuquerque Public Schools will launch a new ethnic studies program for all 13 of its high schools beginning August 2017.

In Texas, there’s a different debate.

“The ban of Mexican American studies in Arizona opened our eyes to the discrimination,” Tony Diaz, El Librotraficante, says, “and how important it is to embrace our history and culture. We realized there was nothing to ban in Texas, so we needed to start one.”

Diaz and others began to demand that the Texas State Board of Education make Mexican-American studies a requirement in Texas schools. The result was an agreement from the SBOE to call for textbook proposals for the Mexican-American curricula that would be put in place in 2017 and until then, allow schools who wished to teach MexicanAmerican studies, to do so but without direction from the SBOE. Some Texas teachers have begun to implement Mexican-American studies in their classrooms.

The one textbook “Mexican American Heritage’ that was submitted for review has come under fire for what some have called ‘deeply flawed and a deeply offensive textbook’ that is filled with stereotypes. Protestors, including Diaz, will be in Austin, Texas to testify against the textbook at the SBOE hearing on Tuesday, September 13. A final vote on adoption is scheduled for November.

These are just some of the discussions happening today about ethnic studies courses in our schools.

Join our Twitter chat as we discuss more about ethnic studies in K – 12 education this Thursday, September 15. It is the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month. Let’s have a real chat about what are Latino students are learning about their own heritage in schools.

LATISM Education Twitter Chat with Special Guest Tony Diaz

9 p.m. EST – 10 p.m. EST

TWITTER.COM/LATISM

Hashtags to follow: #LATISM #LATISMedu

Special Guest: @Librotraficante

Moderator: @LATISM

TonyDiazBio--element45Tony Diaz, El Librotraficante, founded Nuestra Palabra: Latino Writers Having Their Say in 1998.He is the leader of the Librotraficantes-champions of Freedom of Speech, Intellectual Freedom, and Performance Protest. He holds a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, and wrote the award winning novel THE AZTEC LOVE GOD. He also hosts the Nuestra Palabra Radio Program on 90.1 FM KPFT Houston, Texas.

He was recently named the Director of Intercultural Initiatives at Lone Star College-NH and will be starting their Mexican American Studies Program. Learn more about Tony Diaz at

###

Sources:

*

https://ethnicstudies.berkeley.edu/

NEA, The Academic and Social Value of Ethnic Studies: A Research Review

https://news.stanford.edu/2016/01/12/ethnic-studies-benefits-011216/

https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2016/03/the-ongoing-battle-over-ethnic-studies/472422/

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Perspective | It’s time we stopped with the phrase “gifted and talented”

By Stephanie Sprenger
@mommyforreal

Last week, I saw two toddlers wearing “Genius” T-shirts. When I saw the first one, I smiled, as I undeniably have a soft spot for ironic baby clothing. But when just hours later the second “genius” came waddling along, it gave me pause. I know these clever shirts proclaiming that our children are “brave like Daddy” or “sassy like Mommy” are just supposed to be funny and cute. Yet I feel slightly troubled by what lies under the surface of our attempts to label our children with myriad superlatives.

The “Genius” one left a distinctly bad taste in my mouth, and after a few days of pondering, I realized why. It was a tiny incarnation of the “gifted and talented” program, which is a concept I’ve been struggling with as a parent.

When I was in 5th grade, I was selected to participate in TAG (yes, talented and gifted), a program that took place during two hours of every Friday afternoon. I recall playing challenging brain games that required teamwork and higher-level questioning, completing independent study projects, on one occasion making a collage about photography (hmmm), and then trotting merrily back to class with my other above-average classmates.

I moved the following year, and was placed in a similar program with a different name: Alpha. Was it, shudder, because we were “alpha students?” It was my first and last meeting. Although I carried straight A’s—aside from my B in P.E.—after a snide comment from one of my fellow Alpha students, I chose never again to participate in a gifted and talented program.

Over the years, I’ve heard it referred to as ULE—Unique Learning Experience—and Exceptional Learners, but where I live now it’s straight up “GT—gifted and talented.” My experience with GT as a parent of non-GT students has been eye-opening.

When my oldest daughter, now 13, was in Montessori preschool, the staff provided a parent meeting where we could ask questions about kindergarten and elementary school options. Hands shot up all around the room: “Tell us more about the GT programs in the district.” “When can we test for GT?” Aside from the occasional inquiry about bilingual education programs, it was pretty much the same: How do we get into the GT program?

My husband and I raised our eyebrows at each other. Who knew that all this time our precocious little darling had been surrounded by entirely gifted students? Over the next few years, acquaintances would ask me when I was getting my daughter tested for GT. “I’m not,” I usually replied simply. The high-pressure program was not something I wanted for my child, who now is a 4.0 honor roll student in middle school. To be honest, I wasn’t really sure she qualified for GT; her grades have much more to do with her personality and determination. But the entire operation left a bad taste in my mouth.

Semantics matter to me, perhaps more than most people. Don’t even get me started on my hang-ups about the word “blessed.” To me, being “gifted and talented” sounds a whole lot like being bestowed with a well, gift, that others were not granted. It’s pretentious, and slightly obnoxious.

However, the value of these programs is undeniable. There are students whose needs are not being met in a one-size-fits-all curriculum: a multitude, and not just the above average variety. It is difficult to comprehend the challenge of teachers who must constantly adapt their learning experience to the diverse group of students they teach. These programs are absolutely essential and provide a much-needed, enriching, stimulating education for the kids who are becoming bored in their classrooms, who are potentially even causing problems because they aren’t being challenged.

The future of New York City’s public gifted and talented programming is now in the spotlight, thanks to the mayor-appointed School Diversity Advisory Group’s recommendation that the existing GT programs be replaced by magnet schools. A group of gifted education teachers have instead called for an overhaul and reform of the system instead of elimination, which they hope may affect other GT programs around the country. But perhaps there is more fundamental reform required than altering the selection process and addressing the issues of economic privilege and racial segregation.

Perhaps what we really need to address is what we call these programs and the way parents conceive of them. The pressure behind TAG, including the language we use to describe it, needs to change. So too the frenetic rush to test our kids, not necessarily because we want to accommodate their learning style, but because of the proclamation that they are gifted and talented and therefore destined for a higher purpose, will lead to a breeding ground of stress, anxiety, and self-esteem issues. And what does it do to the kids who are excluded from this elite group?

I often cringe when I hear someone counter the name of these kind of programs with the sentiment that “All kids are gifted and talented in their own way.” Because it sounds so trite—the equivalent of a participation award. And yet. At the risk of revealing myself as a special snowflake kind of person, I do believe all children are gifted and talented. Whether they are athletic, artistic, deeply empathetic, or bold leaders, or simply themselves. Platitudes be damned, they are all gifted and talented in their own way.

It’s time to change the labels of these advanced or specialized learning classrooms to reflect that. Our children are paying attention, and they can absolutely read between the lines. What kind of message do we want to send them?

Stephanie is a writer, mother of two girls, early childhood educator and music therapist, and Executive Producer of Listen To Your Mother Denver and Boulder.

Image: an actual shirt that was given to one of our editor’s children.

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