April 20, 2008

Dumb meets dumb

Who knew that the Tucson (Arizona) Unified School District had a "Raza" Studies program? "Raza" means "race" literally, but its meaning in English sounds harsher than the Spanish equivalent. It probably best translates to "the people," obviously meaning Latinos/Hispanics. At any rate, this program has miffed one Rep. Russell Pearce (R) who has intro'd a bill in the AZ House that would ban the program, and essentially "would keep Arizona public schools from teaching anything that is anti-Democratic or counter to Western civilization."

Say whaaaa ...?? OK, tell me how one is going to determine that.

I don't know which is dumber -- Pearce's bill, or the silly program which spawned it.

Let's see what Augustine Romero, senior academic director for Ethnic Studies at TUSD, has to say about the Raza Studies program:

In reality we expose students to these materials so they understand where things have been and where we're trying to move away from. We want to become more inclusive and at the same time want students to be fully aware of barriers that can be out there and know how to remove these barriers.

Translation: America is a racist nation. It was founded thusly, and continues to be so today. The gringos not only stole land from the Native American, but they stole yours, too. The gringo doesn't want to give you a fair shot. You'll never make it in America. The only way to be successful in this country is to put into practice what brother Che created, the glorious revolution. Only then will the Greater Aztlán come into being.

We honestly believe we are doing the right thing for our children. First we want better academic success, and how to accomplish that is through the development of a cultural identity and an intensified and elevated sense of purpose, which creates a stronger sense of hope in these students. That, at the essence, is what we're about and I don't see how people can question it.

Translation: Only Hispanics can properly teach Hispanics. It is the only way they can succeed. Just please don't ask how it is that Asians, Jews and other minorities manage to be so successful without "role model" teachers. There's no answer for that. At any rate, the whole "cultural identity thing" means that kids will learn about things that really don't pertain to making them successful in the mainstream American culture and economy, but they'll certainly feel good about themselves.

Any program in schools that fosters separatism from the American cultural and economic mainstream is ultimately a failure. Kids may have their self-esteem boosted and take pride in their ethnic and cultural heritage, but if they have difficulty with English and don't have the basic education to get a college degree and hence a good-paying job, alas ...?

Place your vote in the comments -- which is dumber, the Raza Studies program, or a state rep. wasting time on passing a bill which would withhold state cash to districts/schools that teach anything which deemed [the ever-nebulous] "anti-Western" or "anti-democratic"?

Posted by Hube at April 20, 2008 04:25 PM | TrackBack

Comments  (We reserve the right to edit and/or delete any comments. If your comment is blocked or won't post, e-mail us and we'll post it for you.)

I work in the district. Supposedly the ethnic studies departments (we have Pan-Asian Studies, Native American Studies and African American Studies as well as Raza Studies) cost the district $2.6 million per year, paid (as far as I know)for through desegregation funds. We're facing a huge budget shortfall next year (school closings, teacher, librarian, and counselor layoffs are all on the table), so these departments are the subject of some controversy, anyway. In any case, a job with one of these departments is a cushy gig, with less time in actual classrooms and more time for research, and writing materials and papers and whatnot.

I went to a workshop on Mexican "corridos" run by one of the teachers involved with the Raza program, during a LULAC conference. A lot of the material dealt with the racism of and antagonism toward the white man...."soy más americano que el hijo del sajón" etc. In one instance, the word "gringos" was translated as "the racist whites". I've worked in the past as an interpretor/translator, including of literary texts, and could find no justification for the word being translated this way. The students were exhorted at the end of the presentation to do a Raza clap--but only those in the room "of the real Raza".

The bill is obviously stupid, of course, and will never pass.

Posted by: Anonymous at April 21, 2008 10:05 PM