Complicity with Colonizing Public Education

How can we construct liberatory, community based, internationally minded, indigenous-engaged, autonomous and sovereign centers of educational resurgence? What do we mean by education when what we want is a human process of cultivation rooted in wisdom, deep in knowledge, and engaged in the massive amounts of information available to teachers and learners today?

At Semillas, we call it a kalmekak. An indigenous Mexican root and path of education.

The LAUSD’s projected $700 million deficit is due to a failed educational agenda, largess at Beaudry and colossal failures that have cost millions and the irredeemable innocence of dozens of children. It is not due to charter school growth. Even the underdog newbie LAUSD Board member Ratliff is now an apologist for the bloated bureaucracy. If the Beaudry Building was “purchased and renovated by LAUSD in 2001 for $154 million” a decade ago, LAUSD can sell it now and off-set its deficit.

To be sure, a current appraisal of the Beaudry building would certainly value the real estate at at least ten times as much value as when it was purchased.

Our kids don’t need a skyscraper school district, they need art and culture and inquiry taught by human teachers of the community, by the community, for the community. Teachers who don’t molest them and administrators who don’t cover it up.

Yet, to radical (meaning return to the root, the truth, the earth) educators, there is more to the LAUSD crisis than pedophiles and panderers. Let’s agree that a regenerative educational design is what is needed.

It’s amusing how pedagogues in private, christian universities will preach from their safe pulpit about the racism of privatization in public education. Not so amusing, is the fact that the so-called anti-privatization bantering against charter schools ignores the fact that for indigenous peoples in many communities, there are no other options to build autonomous education which fosters culturally rooted, community-based learning rich in maternal language and ancestral knowledge than the charter school mechanism. Often, indigenous peoples are forced to reject the overtly biased premises and agendas of deculturalizing pedagogies – even if they purport to be critical pedagogies as these too may contradict the central priorities of indigenous resilience, survivance and sovereignty.

Schools like Hālau Kū Māna Native Hawaiian Charter School in Hawaii that NoelaniGoodyear-Ka‘ōpua helped build, and the Native American Community Academy which, “is the collaborative effort and the dream of many educators, parents, professionals and leaders throughout New Mexico,” in Albuquerque, New Mexico, are powerful examples of self-determination and cultural-intellectual sovereignty. If we cannot teach our children we exist, we cannot continue to exist as indigenous peoples. According to NACA‘s website, there are approximately 5,500 Native American students in the Albuquerque school system that currently serves a total of 80,000 students, adding that, “This population is steadily growing, mirroring nationwide estimates that 66% of all Native American families currently live in urban areas.”

Of course, even to critical educators, often the statistics of indigenous peoples seem tiny compared to the massive numbers of students that can be conjured up when education is analyzed in a non-cultural paradigm. It is often easier to claim to defend the best interests of half a million students in LAUSD, than it is to define who these students are, what languages they speak, what heritage they hold or what cultures have formed their characters. Likewise, it is irresponsible and even unethical for purported allies to lambast all autonomous schools as either racist, segregated or “privatizing” when there are important, albeit few, examples of a community-based liberatory practice of education among indigenous communities.

As written in this blog before, the experience, theories, practices and initiative Semillas engages in are collectively named Tlamachilisxochiponajle – flowering knowledge. Tlamachilisxochiponajle is an autonomous educational initiative aimed at radically regenerating education in self-determined communities of Indigenous Peoples through more learner-centred, linguistically aware pedagogy focusing upon education which advances: 1) maternal language, 2) autocthonous culture, 3) autonomous education and 4) universal access for indigenous children to national and international educational institutions. As an Indigenous community-based organization and as a traditional society of Aztec Dancers, Semillas has become an active advocate of the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The recent adoption of a resolution requiring students of LAUSD to take an ethnic studies course as a graduation requirement is yet another example of the corruption of civil rights era rhetoric for the expedient “advancement of colored people” for political gain. What was born of a multi-year gathering of educators towards the advancement of Chicana and Chicano Studies in the second largest school district in the country, was hijacked for the self-serving interest of an incumbent politician alienated from the voting and non-voting constituents he is supposed to serve.

No sooner had the ink on the newspapers dried announcing the community “victory” than the “Ethnic Studies Now” coalition’s Facebook page began inviting its members to a fundraiser sponsored by the coalition for LAUSD incumbent Boardmember Benett Kayser. The crass manipulation of the banner call for inclusion of the stories and struggles of people of color was again sold to the highest bidder as a cheap trick to gain black and brown votes.

The underlying fear to advance a resolution which directly addresses the need for Chicana and Chicano Studies in all public schools was evident by its omission in the classic bait and switch administrators have played with “ethnic studies” for decades.

Why else would a full focus on calling for the implementation of Xicana/o Studies be avoided over forty years after the writing of the historic Plan de Santa Barbara? 

The Arizona judge that upheld the ban against ethnic studies there noted: “This single-minded focus on terminating the [Mexican American studies or MAS] program, along with Arizona Attorney General Horne’s decision not to issue findings against other ethnic studies programs, is at least suggestive of discriminatory intent,”. In order to take down MAS, the state then had to target all other courses. The opposite is true here as well, in order to circumvent the virulent anti-Mexican sentiment pervasive throughout LAUSD and to promote a semblance of Xicana/o Studies in LAUSD, the effort was masked with an “ethnic studies” front. The test will be how the rhetoric of oppositional politics privately feigned by the campaign organizers will be found to uphold “the teaching of legitimate and objective ethnic studies courses.”

The broader community call for a new, more visionary “plan de Los Angeles” has been supported by Semillas for the last few years as a part of the growing movement to defend Chicana and Chicano Studies as a reaction to the draconian anti-Mexican laws in Arizona.

Granted, people like Kayser are probably not as stupid or racist (lost maybe, described by some as the runt of the litter in his family) as Horne who has stated that public education should, “not be held captive to radical, political elements and that students treat each other as individuals — not on the basis of the race they were born into.”

So exactly when will the LAUSD Board affirm that the ethnic studies courses will teach: “not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness – and our ability to tell our own stories. Stories that are different from the ones we’re being brainwashed to believe.” as called for by ethnic studies coalition members and Kayser party-builders?

“Brainwashed”? Did LAUSD just accept that it “brainwashed” students for decades?

Is that what the six LAUSD Board members voted yes to?

More importantly when and how will the Ethnic Studies resolution be funded?

The victory, if there is one, should include at least start up funding for the resolution which can conservatively be estimated at $50,000 to $500,000 per high school. Oddly, the ethnic studies coalition did not call to raise funds for Ethnic Studies resolution implementation – just to pay for Kayser’s campaign. But then, LAUSD is in a perennial deficit.

Surviving the deficit is entirely possible for LAUSD, but as the bureaucrats like to tell us, they have to make hard decisions – like selling Beaudry, decentralizing administration and turning over control of the education of our communities’ children back to the community. It is interesting that neither El Rancho Unified School District’s (ERUSD) board of education nor LAUSD’s Board have actually funded the resolution promoting ethnic studies.  For its part, ERUSD  has a deficit of $5,000,000 projected to grow to $9,000,000 over three years and is currently in a type of financial receivership under the Los Angeles County Office of Education. So for all the publicity and banter – there is no true ethical commitment to either of these resolutions without the financial commitment of resources. This means that all the hype is made for Hollywood, but our children need REALITY.

An Anahuacalmecac alumni recently sought my help with a paper on Chicano “identity” for an introductory course in Chicana and Chicano Studies at a local public university. The course did not exist when I was an undergraduate, and exists now as a part of a department students of my generation organized to establish. The prompt challenges the student to explain the relevance of the Chicano “identity”. The paradigm of “identity” however, is thus set to individualize, personalize and de-politicize the struggle of the Chicano People. It is as a nation – an indigenous people – that Chicanos and Chicanas gain standing in questions of international law, not as individual citizens of an ethnic minority of the United States. The minority mentality of the ethnic studies paradigm is more than a convenient dialogue starter for teacher pedagogues at a union happy hour, it is in fact a counter-productive acquiescence to complicity with the deculturalization of our children in public schools continuing the legacy of boarding schools among indigenous peoples and a denigration of the consciousness and practice of sovereignty among indigenous Mexicans. Ethnic studies amalgamates, obfuscates and melts the distinction of indigenous peoples and our relations to land, culture, language and colonization. Certainly teachers can be trained to engage youth in their own decolonization – but who and how will the teachers become decolonized?


We remain open to critical dialogue on deculturalization in public schools and the work towards decolonization.

A note to our supporters:

On behalf of our amazing students, passionate teachers, committed Council of Trustees, dedicated leadership and myself, I thank all of our supporters throughout cyberworld on ThinkMexican and elsewhere. Please like us on our Facebook page as well to stay informed and go to to download important updates on our struggle and even to make a donation if possible. Overcoming a recession is not easy for any community-based nonprofit, but with your support our children’s educational future remains bright!

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Stupid America! Student Unrest: How Chicanas/os Lost Their Swagger

I constantly hear references to winning football teams having swagger – they play with a chip on their shoulder.

In the sixties, black youth had that swagger — after years of being taught that they should stay in their place, they adopted the mantra of “black is beautiful — don’t fuck with me.” Mexican Americans and Puerto Ricans displayed a similar swagger as if to say “I am someone, I demand respect.

The Chicano Movement was serious business. It spawned a ton of characters.  You delighted in their audacity and their challenging of the man. I remember Dr. Ricardo Sanchez telling anyone who would listen that he went from a GED to PhD.

Sanchez, a high school dropout and ex-convict, wrote poems about cultural justice. He received a doctorate from the Union Institute in Cincinnati and had an academic appointment at Washington State University, teaching creative writing and Chicano studies.

He would saunter into El Paso restaurants and deliver poems “reciting not from memory but from the moment.” I remember how he and Tigre captured a Tex Mex cafe in Milwaukee.

You had those who would snicker about his doctorate. But he did not give a shit – he knew he was a doctor because he willed it and his poetry established that. Ricardo did not need to attend a Princeton or a Yale to validate himself — his swagger said it all.

Another favorite was Abelardo. Like Sanchez he was from el Chuco (El Paso).  A teacher, social worker, and administrator of community service organizations he declared himself a poet, producing mountains of poetry, fiction, and essays. We both taught a summer session at the University of Utah.

He loved the sound of his name, my favorite poem was “Stupid America.”

stupid america, see that


with a big knife

on his steady hand

he doesn’t want to knife you

he wants to sit on a bench

and carve christ figures

but you won’t let him.

stupid america, hear that


shouting curses on the street

he is a poet

without paper and pencil

and since he cannot write

he will explode.

stupid america, remember

that chicano

flunking math and english

he is the picasso

of your western states

but he will die

with one thousand


hanging only from his mind.”

The truth be told, a person or country is only stupid when they make the same mistakes, over and over and deny them.  For example, in August 2014, Ferguson, Missouri Police Officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown, a black youth. Two grand juries failed to indict the white police officer. The previous month Eric Garner was strangled by Staten Island, NY police officers. These incidents tapped the grief and grievance of centuries of injustices. Protests against the police killings of Brown and Garner turned violent and spread to campuses and cities throughout the country. .

On September 26, 2014, 43 Mexican students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College of Ayotzinapa went missing in Iguala, Guerrero, Mexico. In all probability, they were assassinated and incinerated.

In the 60s, the U.S. spent millions of dollars studying the causes of urban and student rebellions — studies that were ignored. The catalyst was the 1965 Watts Rebellions that shook the nation “to its democratic foundation.” A 101-page report of December 2, 1965 titled “Violence in the City—An End or a Beginning?: A Report by the Governor’s Commission on the Los Angeles Riots, 1965” startled America and then went away.

Two years later the Kerner Commission, “The National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders,’ was commissioned by President Lyndon B. Johnson to investigate the causes of the 1967 race riots in the United States and to provide recommendations. It warned “Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white—separate and unequal“, adding that “Unless there are sharp changes in the factors influencing Negro settlement patterns within metropolitan areas, there is little doubt that the trend toward Negro majorities will continue.”  The report called unemployment a major cause of the unrest as well as the poor training of police.

Despite or because of the war on students, launched by the patron Saint of Greed, Governor Ronald Reagan, student activism escalated. The largest and most heated were at the University of California, Berkeley that along with San Francisco State was the flagship of student protests. .

Reagan’s (1967-1975) approach to solving student turmoil was to “get rid of undesirables. Those there to agitate and not to study might think twice before they pay tuition. They might think twice how much they want to pay to carry a picket sign.” It was a smoke screen for one of the biggest shifts in taxes from the rich to the poor, and the wedding of the Republican Party to the super rich.

Student protests came to a climax on May 4, 1970 when guardsmen shot down four student protesters students at Kent State, leading to nationwide campus protests. More than 450 violent and non-violent demonstrations broke out across the country. At New York University banners read, “They Can’t Kill Us All.”

Over 100,000 people demonstrated in Washington, D.C., against the war and the killing of unarmed student protesters — “The city was an armed camp. The mobs were smashing windows, slashing tires, dragging parked cars into intersections, even throwing bedsprings off overpasses into the traffic down below. This was the quote, student protest. That’s not student protest, that’s civil war,” said a Nixon adviser. The Jackson State killings occurred on Friday, May 15, 1970, at Jackson State College (now Jackson State University) in Jackson, Mississippi. It resulted in the killings of two students and injury of twelve.

According to the Urban Institute’s national study the Kent State shooting was the single factor in the first nationwide student strike in U.S. history, as over 4 million students protested in over 900 American colleges and universities that were closed during the student strikes.

Yet another commission, “The President’s Commission On Campus Unrest,” was chaired by William W. Scranton, the Former Governor of Pennsylvania. The report gave a sense of urgency. It exhausted the available material on the subject, concluding that “Studies of activist youth reveal that in most cases students become activists through an extended process.”

Rounding off the reports was a 1979 book by Fresno State English Department Chair Kenneth Seib — The Slow Death of Fresno State: A California Campus under Reagan and Brown. The conclusion was that Black Studies and La Raza Studies programs were intentionally killed by far right senior professors in collusion with Governor Gov. Ronald Regan and CSC Chancellor Glenn Dumke. They deliberately murdered the programs.

These studies are readily available on the internet. As I have said, it is not stupid to make a mistake but is to keep on making the same mistakes. Americans are stupid not because they are Americans but because they won’t admit their mistakes and find ways to correct them.

“Stupid America.” You lost generations of geniuses. Gone is the boasting, “From GED to  PhD,” giving of gritos of liberation. As a result Chicana/o lost their swagger condemning the poorest them to staring an “Y Qué” look. Part of the swagger was hope.

– by Rodolfo F. Acuña

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Lessons from Arizona: Mas Sabe el Diablo por Viejo que por Diablo

Mexico is a nation of memories – the people treasure their favorite stories of the past. They know the oldies. Go to a Mexican concert or night club, and unlike Anglo American events the audience spontaneously breaks out in song.

As a child, I’d listen silently to my elders — children did not speak unless someone called bacin (literally a bed-pan).  It was fascinating  how everyone would recall a proverb and nod. No one had to explain what it meant.

There were hundreds of sayings, which I absorbed with time. I felt like an adult when I understood them. The older people seemed like the most communicative, they were in the know. The refranes became part of my shared knowledge.

My favorite saying — one that I have often repeated is “Mas sabe el diablo por viejo que por diablo.” I have repeated it in my writings and it becomes truer as my hair turns white.

It is not just age that makes one wiser, but the chaffs and sparks of life. I have known people of my age who have learned little about life, and their most profound decision is the color of their RV.

A big part of my life has been Arizona. I have memories of my childhood and grandparents talking about it as if it were the Holy Land. The names of people and places over time became familiar through published proverbs — so much so that by the time I visited Tucson at the age of five or six, it was déjà vu.  The streets seemed familiar as if I were seeing them through the eyes of my grandparents.

In 2010, I spoke at a teacher institute sponsored by the Tucson Unified School District’s Mexican American Studies Program.  Although there were clouds in the horizon, I was able to grasp the situation. I could foresee the imminent storm and ugly stain of xenophobia that had increased since the early 1970s, acerbated by the arrival of large numbers of white easterners and Midwesterners, who incessantly complained about Mexicans messing up their Pleasantville – too much color. This was so even though “the Mexicans” cleaned after them and cared for them in hospices.

A month before the MAS Institute the Arizona Legislature passed the draconian SB1070 that made it a crime for an alien to be in Arizona without carrying required documents and obligated police to make “lawful stops, detentions or arrests“, to determine a person’s immigration status if there is reasonable suspicion that the person was an “illegal alien”.  I did not have to read much to realize that this was the beginning of  open warfare on immigrants – a race war many of us had predicted.

Almost simultaneously HB 2281 wove its way through the Arizona Legislature. It prohibited public schools from offering courses at any grade level that advocated ethnic solidarity, promoted the overthrow of the US government. It was as if the ghost of Joseph McCarthy had returned to haunt us.

After meeting with Sean Arce, students and teachers I enlisted in the struggle. Being from California I knew my limitations and the landmines ahead. It reminded me of the refrain, “amor de lejos es de pendejos.” In this environment you did not have the luxury to become a true believer, and as an outsider was limited to advice and support. Because of the distance, I could do little about ameliorating the predictable mistakes and misjudgments.

You gain more from activism than any library. You learn to rely on your instincts.  The barrio is the ultimate learning laboratory where you test what you have learned. I immediately recognized that 1070 and 2281 were related and they did not happen by accident.

This led me to two questions: why Arizona? And, who was paying for the disorder? I instinctively “followed the money.” Arizona is a small state, and it was and is part of a national campaign to privatize public institutions and resources. For the corporations, privatization means paying little or no taxes and the opening huge new markets without a heavy investment of capital. It is analogous to the federal governments handing out free land and giving away of national resources such as the airwaves.

The assault on Arizona was possible through the selling of two American commodities — fear and hate. Go to the movies and to Magic Mountain to have the shit scared out of you. This tactic was used in Arizona as the Koch Brothers and other merchants of fear paid Tea Party organizers and encouraged the growth of wannabe Nazis called minutemen.

Fear and hate of Mexicans is nothing new. Its commodification made it profitable and SB 1070 was the perfect vehicle. Many Arizona prisons had already been privatized so 1070 was a boon —  the federal government and the taxpayers paid to incarcerate “the illegals.”  It opened a free market on guns and gun manufacturers made a killing selling to the fearful as well as Mexican cartels. The banks made a profit laundering the dirty money.

2281 complemented 1070, and it was just as insidious – it ensured supplies of future inmates. It sought to keep Mexicans ignorant about the political, economic and social realities of Arizona. Finally, schools are profit centers for corporations. The ruling elite influence the appointment of high paying administrators and control over lucrative contracts. In Arizona, Charter schools are totally privatized and outside the control of boards of education. They are islands of white flight that is spurred by fear of Mexicans.

No doubt the organizers against 2281 made mistakes. Unlike the forces of reaction such as the Tea Party, they did not have paid organizers. Personalities loomed as did petty jealousies of early supporters. That was, however, to be expected; however, it can rip a movement apart.  “Porque los celos son el furor del hombre, y no perdonará en el día de la venganza”.

Through this experience  I learned that what is ultimately important is not the Chicana/o Studies model. I thought that we had the key at Northridge with our area studies model. However, the lesson from Arizona was that while the curriculum is important, the gut of the Tucson success was not the model but teachers who believed in their students and in the importance of the subject matter. They acted as a team to instill in the students that they were actors in history. This is something that you cannot design.

In California the struggle to get a curriculum into the public schools is underway. But if we are to make a difference we have to go after the Colleges of Education that train teachers. In 1985 I went after Chancellor Anne Reynolds for proposing to raise the CSU’s admission requirements. She almost had me fired, and even the liberals attacked me. LA Times columnist Frank Del Olmo came to my defense pointing out if students came unprepared to the CSU, it was because they were poorly prepared by the CSU that trained most of California’s teachers. “Árbol que nace torcido jamás su tronco endereza“;

Finally, the devil learned from Arizona how a state was totally privatized and taken over by corrupt corporate interests. When the UNAM controversy came to light in November 2013, I immediately sent up the alarm that this was the final leg of the privatization of CSUN. I warned the Provost that the deal would come back to bite him. Mexico like Arizona is controlled by people who believe that greed is good, and our provost is blinded by the color green. “Acuestate con perros y tendrás pulgas“.

– by Dr. Rodolfo Acuña

Posted in AmeriKKKa, Arizona, Aztlan, Chicana/o, Chicana/o Activism, Chicana/o Community, Chicana/o History, Chicana/o Identity, Chicana/o Ideology, Chicana/o Politics, Chicana/o Power, Chicana/o Studies, Chicana/o Underground, Chicana/o Youth, Community, CSUN, Decolonization, Education, History, Indigenous, Knowledge, Land, Language, Los Angeles, Mexican, Mexico, Movimiento, Quotes, Racism, Resistance, Social justice, Solidarity, Unity | Leave a comment

DACA Workshop in Boyle Heights (12-6-14)

DACA Workshop

DACA Workshop

Posted in Aztlan, Central American, Chicana/o, Chicana/o Community, Chicana/o Studies, Chicana/o Youth, DACA, Education, Immigration, Indigenous, Knowledge, Los Angeles, Mexican, Migrant, Movimiento, MuXer, Resistance, Social justice, Solidarity, Unity | Leave a comment

Thinking Critically, Is a Victory Really a Victory? Obama’s Immigration Order and Ethnic Studies: If it stinks light a match

People want to believe, they want to have hope. Everyone loves a happy person, and that’s great but it makes critical thinking all the more difficult. It is like having a gas attack at a party. No one appreciates Mr. Doom in their midst. Most people are just making a living and surviving, and no one wants that Chicano bullshit messing up a good time.

I am very mindful of stepping on shit and getting those sniffing stares.  So when I heard President Barack Obama’s announcement about signing an executive order staying the deportation of about 4.5 million undocumented parents of children born in the United States, my reaction was cautious.

Watching the White House playing out the immigration scenario has been like watching a schoolyard toughie tell someone repeatedly, “I am going to beat you up.” About the 20th time he sings the same old song you want to say to him, well just do it!

A lot of us were hopeful when Obama first said that he was going to fix the immigration mess. Indeed, there have been partial actions such as that for the Dreamers; however, at almost every step of the way he seems afraid that to alienate Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats – afraid they will not love him.

ICE data shows the Obama administration deported 357,422 (2013); 409,849 (2012); 396,906 (2011); 392,862 (2010); 389,834 (2009); and 369,331 (2008) — totaling 2,316,204 deportations between 2008 and 2013.  Also, according to ICE statistics for the fiscal year 2013, of the 357,422 deportations,  67.6 percent were from Mexico; Guatemala 13.4 percent; Honduras 10.3 percent; El Salvador 6 percent; and Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Brazil, Colombia, Nicaragua, and Jamaica 2.7 percent.  The deportees were almost all Latino/a  or of Caribbean origin. Contrary to popular belief over 40 percent had no criminal record.

The truth be told, even before Obama gave the speech, many Latino/a immigration advocates were praising the president for “a monumental and historic undertaking”.

Obama’s plan limited it to undocumented parents who had children that were born in the United States – the parents of the dreamers would not be protected, and the order will only be in effect for as long as Obama is in the presidency.

When some critics mentioned this, the cheerleaders started lighting matches, hoping that the “sulphur smell from the match masks the fart smell from the dog.”

In this context, the recent Los Angeles Unified School Board of Education’s vote to make an ethnic studies course a graduation requirement, beginning with the class of 2019, has produced a similar euphoria among many Latina/o activists.

Student Cindy Reyes told ABC7, “We want to learn our side of the story as well.” The board’s motion calls for a phasing in of the requirement, beginning with a handful of schools in 2015-16. It will become a one-semester course by 2019.

This one is difficult to criticize because the Ethnic Studies Now Campaign and other supporters have invested an awful lot of emotional capital. Activists such as Jose Lara (AKA Jose del Barrio) have worked tirelessly. ·Ibarra, a Board Member of El Rancho Board of Education got the Pico Rivera School District to adopt an ethnic-studies requirement for all students starting in 2016, and there have also been rumblings in Santa Monica and other districts.

In the summer, the hopes of the activists were raised when California Assemblyman Luis Alejo (D-Salinas) introduced a bill that require the state’s Department of Education to develop a model for implementing a standardized, statewide ethnic studies curriculum for high schools. It met with opposition and the bill was never taken to the floor.

Latinos are the largest ethnic group in California schools comprising 53 percent of the California student body (whites are 26 percent, and Asians, 9 percent). Despite this, as a rule a student learns very little about the Mexican/Latino heritage of the state.

More important and fundamental to Ethnic Studies, it leaves out critical thinking.

The California thrust for Ethnic Studies comes from the “Save Ethnic Studies Campaign” around the outlawing of the Tucson Unified School District’s tremendously successful Mexican American Studies Program that almost eliminated the dropout problem and significantly improved the attendance in higher education. They forget it was based on a pedagogy of critical thinking.

The MAS model was never intended to be merely cultural experience or courses on race theory.  It was based on the research of educators such as Paulo Freire and Edwin Fenton. The goal was to produce critical thinkers.

Nevertheless, the devil is in the detail and there are a lot of pitfalls — as we witnessed in the Alejo Bill. Chicana/o legislators like Obama are with you for as long as it is not inconvenient for them. Moreover, as we learned in the Tucson campaign just calling it “Save Ethnic Studies” does not unify people and in fact builds in contradictions.

So take out the matches while I air some of my concerns:

  • This could prove to be atole con el dedo– 2019 is a long way to away, and there is no funding as of yet. Will conservative members and the internal bureaucracy use the budget to kill it?
  • We were further down the path with bicultural-bilingual education; what have we learned from that experience?
  • One of the biggest obstacles to Mexican American Studies at the university level was our fellow teachers who would ask, “Well, if we give you this, how about the Asians, the Native Americans, Russian Jews, and later ArmeniansYou are asking for special treatment.
  • That leads to the question, what is a minority?
  • What is an ethnic minority? Or, for that matter, a Latino and should they all be given equal time?
  • Who is going to determine the curriculum and the pedagogy?

My own opinion is that Mexican American Studies deals with identity, skill development and critical thinking.  Its development has to have internal checks and benchmarks in order for it not to become one more senior problems class.  Our community deserves more. Up until now education has been exclusively the study of white America; it must be expanded to reflect the nation’s diversity but at the same time attack the dropout problem.

The truth be told, few educators know much about Mexican Americans and they only think that they know about black Americans. We have the opportunity to educate the majority society, which will not easy. It is also educators who control our universities, and it is the universities who have contributed to this ignorance and kept us in this state.

Is a Victory Really a Victory? We are supposed to have diversity in academe; however, we are more segregated than the community at large. Only 3-5 percent of the faculties are of Mexican origin.

The cheerleaders say that Obama’s Immigration Order shows he is pro-immigrant, does it? If questions are not asked, we’d better get a supply of matches and light them – in case we are not able to stand the smell.

– by Dr. Rodolfo Acuña

Posted in AmeriKKKa, Aztlan, California, Chicana/o, Chicana/o Activism, Chicana/o Community, Chicana/o History, Chicana/o Identity, Chicana/o Ideology, Chicana/o Politics, Chicana/o Power, Chicana/o Studies, Chicana/o Underground, Chicana/o Youth, Chicano Movement, Community, CSUN, Decolonization, Education, History, Indigenous, Knowledge, Mexican, Mexico, Movimiento, Palabra, Quotes, Racism, Resistance, Social justice, Solidarity, Unity | Leave a comment

“There will be No Change”: Debunking the Illusion

Recent political developments in Mexico and the United States have killed any illusion that political change is possible through the electoral process. Bluntly, “there will be no change” and conditions will become much worse.

The disappearance of the 43 Ayotzinapa normalistas killed any moral authority that the Mexican state had that an alternative political party would make a difference. Almost simultaneously the Republican sweep ended the illusion of free elections, showing the collusion of elected officials and even the Supreme Court justices with Corporate America.

The crises ended the illusion that everyone had an equal vote, exposing the mechanisms of social control. This is important because the illusion creates a conformity and compliance with the laws and mores of society. Social control is the political processes that regulates individual and group and gives the state moral authority.

In Mexico there is no illusion among the masses that they can bring about political and social change through elections. Nevertheless, some had faith that the Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD) would end corruption. After all the PRD won the presidential elections of 2006 and 2012 but was robbed.

Political parties excite people, give people hope that they can win peacefully without a revolution.

The PRD was founded in Mexico City on May 5, 1989 by Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas along with other leftist leaders. It coalesced all of the left-wing parties as well as the progressive sector of the then ruling party el Partido Revolucionario Institucionalsuch, PRI. I remember at the time commenting, much to the chagrin of my Mexican comrades that the Left had been wiped out.

However, at the time there was hope. The organizers were convinced that they could unite the voters into a major political party and become an electoral force. The PRD did win important elections such as the Mexico City mayor’s office.

In the United States, the illusion of inclusion is much more engrained and varies from race to race and class to class. Minorities are latecomers to the process, but they are increasingly inculcated with the illusion of inclusion. Their political presence has increased as the number of Latino voters has become statistically more significant.

Mexican Americans are the oldest and most numerous of the Latino groups. Since at least the 1950s, they have had the illusion that they were becoming political players, and would share in in economic its economic bounties.

In the 1950s, Mexican Americans and Puerto Ricans were the two largest Latino groups. In the Southwest anthropologists began referring to Mexican Americans as the sleeping giant. The term symbolized their potential to organize and demand equal opportunity. This became a popular phrase during the 1960s and the 1970s.

The sixties had brought new meaning to the illusion. In 1969, Raza Unida leader Jose Angel Gutierrez wrote, “The sleeping giant awakes.” In 1968 the ELA Student Walkouts and those in Texas laid a context for the future.

During the 1970s, the population grew as did electoral victories. This excited the base and encouraged regional Chicano organizations to take on national aspirations. Chicano leaders became national,  and they started the chant of “Hispanic Power”. In 1980, Raul Izaguirre, the head of the National Council of the Raza, announced the Age of the Hispanic. Its popularity grew to the point that the word Mexican became an endangered species. Soon the chant changed to “We’re Number 1.”

The 2010 Census counted 50.5 million “Hispanics” in the United States, making up 16.3% of the total population. (35 million were of Mexican origin). This population accounted for most of the nation’s growth—56 percent– from 2000 to 2010.

The popular illusion was that we could screw our way to power. However, fundamental changes were taking place in both countries. For instance, once Mexican Americans became middle class they had less babies. The poor multiplied and economic opportunity shrank. The price of higher education prevented universal access, and recruitment patterns shifted to bring in students with Pell grants or those attending magnet or charter schools.

In the 1980s, I used to ask my students if they are Bulldogs, Rough Riders, Tigers etc. Today most are from magnet or charter schools. The final implosion will come as the tuition rises and the federal government eliminates or drastically cuts back the size and amount of grants in aid. Then a crisis in confidence similar to that in Mexico will occur.

Meanwhile, it is significant that Iguala’s mayor, José Luis Abarca Velázquez and the Governor of Guerrero, Ángel Aguirre Rivero, are both members of the PRD, although it is evident that they also have ties with the government of Enrique Peña Nieto. Mexico is “a society already divided by social class, skin color, linguistic differences, clothing styles, the size of one’s bank account, zip codes, and a host of other frivolous matters has found new ways of demarcating distinct types of Mexicans: “good” versus “bad”; those that receive justice versus those that do not; and those that can versus those that do not even deserve to try.

Ayotzinapa sends the message that nobody cares. “Mexico’s political parties are only interested in representing and advancing their own interests. The left has lost its identity in its efforts to reach power.”

Ayotzinapa reveals the deterioration of Mexico’s political and social spheres.

In a brilliant analysis visiting scholar Lorena Ojeda writes:

“The missing normalistas are poor, indigenous or mestizo (mixed-race), and brown-skinned. Their hair is straight, they are not particularly tall, and they speak with the accents of the countryside. Simply put, they are Mexicans. But their surnames – Tizapa, Jacinto, Patolzin, Ascencio, Tlatempa, and Lauro, among others – are not among Mexico’s famous, and they are more likely to be found in the country’s seemingly infinite number of mass graves, as opposed to a social club or the halls of the stock market. The divide between Mexicans has become so great that some are not even moved by the heartrending pain experienced by the parents whose sons are missing.”

The case of Ayotzinapa is symbolic of all that is wrong with Mexico

The normalista students are the poorest of the poor. They cultivate fields and raise domestic animals to pay for their schooling and subsistence. The government withdrew its financial support when the students began protesting the disappearance of their 43 classmates with the intention of starving them out.

They are peasants, like their parents and their grandparents. The 540 students are the sons of poor farmers in the Mountain, Sierra and Costa Chica [Little Coast] regions of Guerrero. They are proud of their origin.”

Meanwhile, the buildings are adorned in painted red, with images of Stalin, Lucio Cabañas and Che Guevara. “We do not bury our fallen comrades. We sow them so freedom might flourish.”

There is no silver bullet. Damage to the moral authority of the state is irreparable. La lucha sigue and

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.

Robert Frost, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

– by Dr. Rodolfo Acuña

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La Mission Film Showing in Boyle Heights (11/21/14)

La Mission

La Mission

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Marisa Ronstadt in Boyle Heights on December 13

Marisa Ronstadt

Marisa Ronstadt

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Noches Rasquache in Boyle Heights


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Sonia Henriquez at UCLA (November 20th)


Sonia Henriquez

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