Unión del Barrio On the Question of Education And The Struggle For National Liberation

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Towards A Pedagogy of Liberation!
PART I HOW UNION DEL BARRIO SEES EDUCATION
Unión del Barrio is committed to the liberation of La Raza.  We believed that true liberation can only come about through the creation of a socialist  society based on the historical and cultural realities and conditions in which the great majority of Mexican/Raza (Mexicanos, Centro Americanos, and  other Indigenous people) communities exist; a society where there is no rich or poor, oppressor or oppressed, and where everyone, not matter what  race or ethnicity, are assured/guaranteed justice, peace, and dignity. To us, this means access to full employment with decent wages, access to  healthcare, the opportunity to learn how to think, read and write, acess to decent housing, access to a diet that is nutritious and healthy.  We also  understand, that this society can only be created by a fully conscious and educated people. It is from this materialist understanding of our history and  present realities, on which the foundation of our analysis and struggle around relevant education rests. Within   the   “belly   of   the   beast”   (United  States)  the   colonial   (a  social­economic­political   apparatus  imposed   by   foreigners   on   a  native   people)  educational system has not only failed whole generations of Raza youth, but has been a central component and pillar of the colonial oppression of  Raza and other nationalities.  As a result of colonialism, over 50 percent of Raza youth continue to be pushed out of school and never graduate from  High School. Many of these “push outs” become socially dysfunctional, doomed to live in poverty, easily exploitable, humiliated by colonial society  (the media, etc.), confused, psychologically damaged, many become enemies of their own people.  Full of self­hatred, many of these young people  have “learned” (from the colonial system) not only to hate themselves, but their families, communities, and their people (nation). 500 YEARS OF COLONIAL EDUCATION AND OUR STRUGGLE FOR LIBERATION In 1992, Unión del Barrio described the connection between our oppression and education as: “If we understand that the system [capitalism] benefits from our oppression, the theft of our lands, the exploitation of our labor, etc., –then we must  understand that knowledge is something that those who oppress us must keep from us.  And if we understand that the educational institutions are  controlled by the system (our oppressors), then we must come to terms with the reality that the oppressor will not allow for any type of education  which will provide us with a knowledge that would challenge the ‘status quo’ or our relationship to the colonial power.” (What Is A Liberation  Education, Education, Chicano Studies, and Raza Liberation, La Verdad Publications, 1992). For more than 500 years, colonial white supremacist education has had as its main goal to keep the masses of the colonized people passive and  deceived, and unable to win their liberation. Colonial education in America was designed to control, pacify, and socialize people.  (read, The White   Architects of Black Education, Watkins, 2001).   THE CHICANO POWER MOVEMENT AND EDUCATION This is precisely why those active in the period of struggle known as the “Chicano Power Movement” (of the late 1960s and early 70s), struggled for  Chicano Studies, Bilingual and Multicultural Education. The activists and revolutionaries of that period demanded an education that would liberate us  and through militant action, struggled to get rid of the colonialist­based educate being imposed upon our people. Describing the politics of education and liberation, which includes words that ring true today, in 1996 Unión del Barrio declared:     “The solution around the question of Raza education is to take control of the schools in our barrios or to create independent Raza liberation schools.  Only in this way can we witness the development of an education that is relevant to community needs, experiences and concrete conditions. This  movement to control the education of our communities and create Raza power calls for a unified­national movement that understands the fundamental  problems created by colonialism.’    “’Raza Power’ –as it relates to our education– means the power to create a curriculum that counters the systematic de­education of Mexicanos by  the anglo/colonial school system while at the same time creating barrio youth with advanced academic skills and the means to effectively utilize  higher education for the well being of the Raza community. This would emphasize courses that include both classroom instruction and education  through concrete barrio based involvement in Mexicano grassroots issues.  If our movement continues to offer ‘band­aid solutions’ (reforms) to the  oppression of our gente and does not vigorously fight the racist anti­Raza climate today, we will have to deal with much graver problems tomorrow.  (Education Must Serve As A Tool For Self­Determination, La Verdad, January ­ March 1996)

CAPITALISM AND EDUCATION

As a result of colonial education which we have described, our communities are faced with some terrible dilemmas:  (1) thousands who have been  pushed out school and because of their ignorance and confusion, are into some form of crime, drugs, or gang banging; (2) we have college graduates  with no common sense of purpose are devoid of any loyalty to their community, culture, or nation (Mexico); (3) and the vendidos, convinced by a  colonial education to joined the colonial master in the oppression of their own people, serve as puppets within a system known as “neocolonialism”  (where the colonialists­ white ruling class­ no longer rule directly, but have placed brown and blacks faces as leaders and administrators, as a means  by which to keep economic, political and social power over a people or nation). We understand that education can be used to both oppress and to liberate. Schools perform an important ideological function in capitalist­colonialist  society.  In a capitalist society, it is essential to present capitalism and all of its brutal consequences, as though it is natural, inevitable, rational, and  optimal (see The Architects of Black Education).  Explaining the political economy of education and how the rich capitalist control education, a recent article describe how private foundations (Walton  Family foundation, etc.) and institutes, “are often led by business leaders hoping to reshape education reform by directing their dollars to their  preferred projects.  In return for the donation, corporations often demand private sector­style accountability, including, at times, links between money  and test scores.   They often manage to steer education policy, using their money and their celebrity [status], without public input.” (With Strings  Attached?  Neatoday, April 2007) WHY WORKING CLASS AND POOR WHITE PEOPLE UNITE WITH RICH WHITE PEOPLE A further and critical observation of colonial education also informs us how the white ruling class works to keep its “own population”, the “white  masses”, in the state of manipulation and under control.  In fact, colonialist schools and the media successfully make  “white americans” dumb, while  at the same time making them think that they are smart (from commentary by Antonio Velasquez, Raza Press and Media Association meeting,  Oxnard, CA.,1996). This is why we see so many poor whites in unity and in the service of racist­fascist policies of the colonial ruling class.  It (white  people) is a population, that while they might be poor or workers themselves, willingly join in the bloody and brutal oppression of non­white people;  including the stealing and violent occupation of our lands and resources, exploitation of our labor, usurpation of our culture (music, science, arts, etc.)  and persecution based on race.  It is precisely here, within this dialectic (unity of opposites), where you find, that even the poorest whites, the so­called “white trash” (a name given to  working class or poor whites by upper class whites), fill the ranks of groups like the Nazi Party, Skin Heads, Ku Klux Klan, and the Minutemen.   It is  in the colonial education of white people that explains (in part) to us why we see so many white bums and hobos, sick and starving and without a job  (the homeless), waving American flags and blaming Mexicans for their predicament, instead of the real culprits, the small rich capitalist class.   It is  an education that has produced a white population that chooses to oppress and kill other poor or working class people, and support wars of conquest  and genocide –rather than joining the struggle for socialism and the liberation of humanity.  It is also this dialectic that tells us why the great majority of white people are against the funding of public education and support the growing  requirements (exams, etc.) that must be met in order to acquire a teaching credential.  It has nothing to do with “schools failing children” or the need  for “quality teachers”.   It has everything to do with the fact that the demographics of the student population in many areas of Occupied America  (United States) have changed. Mexican­Latino and African children (and other colonial people) are now the majority in many school districts. In  California alone the student demographics of non­white students stands at 67.6% of total enrollment, with Raza (“hispanic”) stands at 47.6%, while  white students account for 30.3%, (see Ed­Data, http://www.ed­data.k12.ca.us). Most white people are aware of this demographic change and their  adherence to white supremacy­ adherance to the ideological doctrine of manifest destiny­ moves them to support “their” government’s effort to deny  any resemblance of relevant education to non­white children. The capitalist­colonial school system by its oppressive nature must deny a relevant education to non­white students and must do everything it can to  keep them from receiving an education from teachers (black, brown, or white) who might be sympathetic to their economic­cultural situation. In fact,  the role of “educators” within the colonial schools is to is to lie, distort and falsify historical truths inorder to legitimize the current economic, political and social order. These lies and falisification of history has been well documented by James W. Loewen author of Lies My Teacher Told Me.

OUR WORK AROUND THE QUESTION OF EDUCATION: CRITICAL PEDAGOGY, ESCUELA AZTLAN, RAZA STUDIES, AND THE  ASSOCIATION OF RAZA EDUCATORS Unión del Barrio has studied our people’s struggle around the question of education, as well as the experiences of that of other oppressed nations. We  are very much aware of the activist­intellectual tradition of Raza (here in Aztlán­Mexico Ocupado and throughout Latin America).  The importance  we have placed upon this issue is demonstrated in the work we have done in the community, in the publication of numerous pamphlets and books, the  presentations our members make, and in our work for the last ten years to build the Association of Raza Educators (ARE), is a continuance of the  activist­intellectual tradition of nuestra Raza.

Central to our work has been projects such as Escuela Aztlán and the Raza Studies Programs.  The latter have been ongoing programs since 1990 and  have been held in community centers and schools in the San Diego area.  In these programs we have emphasized the teaching of Raza history and  culture, as well as critical thinking, and engaging students in social activism.    We understand that only from an education centered on critical pedagogy will our people develop the consciousness and determination to struggle for  liberation. To us, critical pedagogy, as described by the great Brazilian educator Paulo Freire, is an educational process “where men and women  develop their power to perceive critically the way they exist in the world with which and in which they find themselves; they come to see the world  not as a static reality, but as a reality in process, in transformation”. (Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Paulo Freire, 1970)  To fight against the colonial school system, as we explained in ¡La Verdad!, is to take sides/positions on issues that concern Raza and not remain  neutral.  Paulo Freire reminds us of this dynamic when he tells us: “There is no such thing as a neutral educational process. Education either functions as an instrument that is used to facilitate the integration of the  younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity to it, or it becomes ‘the practice of freedom’, the means by which  men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of the world.” (Pedagogy of the   Oppressed) ANOTHER WORLD IS POSSIBLE To bring about this transformation of the world that Freire, Che Guevara, and countless other revolutionaries have struggled for, is the reason that  Unión del Barrio has called upon our communities to organized themselves, fight back, and reclaim our humanity.  In response to our activism, the  colonizers (white power) and the neocolonialists (petty bourgeois vendidos), have campaigned against us with viciousness and slander.  In the pages  of  ¡La   Verdad!  we   have   documented   how   these   reactionary   and   reformist­conformist   forces   have   called   us   violent,   crazies,   hoodlums,   male  chauvinists, etc., albeit never directly to us, always at meeting where we are not present at or anonymously via newsreports, etc. The  colonial  newspapers  have historically described any militant response from our  community  as  violent  acts  or   terrorism.    This  is  why  we  understand so profoundly what Freire describes when he writes: “Violence is initiated by those who oppress, who exploit, who fail to recognize others as persons –not by those who are oppressed, exploited, and  unrecognized.  For the oppressors, however, its always the oppressed (whom they obviously never call ‘the oppressed’, but ‘those people’, ‘savages’,  ‘natives’, or ‘subversives’ [or terrorists]) who are the ‘violent’, ‘barbaric’, ‘wicked’ ­when they react to the violence of the oppressors.” (Pedagogy of   the Oppressed) (In Part II we will cover the Liberal’s Response to the Attacks on Education, The Formation of the Association of Raza Educators, No Child Left   Behind & What Needs to be Done, to be continued in the next issue of ¡La Verdad!)

PART II

Editor’s Note: This is the second article of a two part series on Unión del Barrio’s position on the question of Education and its role as a tool towards Raza Self-Determination and National Liberation. Part I, published in the February-June 2007 issue of ¡La Verdad!, covered: a) The role of the colonial educational system in failing Raza and other oppressed nationalities, as well as its role in keeping the great majority of society in a condition of generalized ignorance; b) The historic gains won by the Chicano Power movement of the 60’s & 70’s that opened space for Chicano Studies and bilingual education to be taught within the colonial public school system; c) how the rules of capitalism control public education/instruction; d) how the “general white” population unite in opposition to their “working class” interests in order to promote a racist antiworker, anti-Raza education; e) presented the Freidian (Paulo Freire) philosophy of Critical Pedadogy and its role in creating a process for authentic learning to emerge. We offer our readership the continuation of Unión del Barrio’s understanding on the role of education and what needs to be done to bring about lasting change.

A RESPONSE TO THE DEFEATIST LIBERAL STANCE ON EDUCATION
During the late 1980s, Unión del Barrio began to discuss the necessity of creating mass based committees and projects that would address particular questions facing our communities and connect these to the over all struggle for National Liberation. It was this period in the history of our organization that gave birth to Somos Raza; a barrio youth group, Comité de Mujeres; a womens group, Chicano Studies Concilio; a group of Chicano Studies instructors, students and community group, and the Chicano Mexicano Prison Project; a prisioner’s rights group. It was also during this period that we recognized the need for the formation of a group that would focus on the question of education as it relates to Raza (read Somos Un Pueblo, Sin Fronteras: A History of Union del Barrio, La Verdad Publications, 1996). It was the struggles and debates that took place in 1994 during the months leading up to the passage of Proposition 187 (a law that would gravely affect Raza, including the denial of social services and education to Mexican/Raza children) which moved us to join with other progressive elements to form the Association of Raza Educators (ARE) in 1994. The founding and first membership of ARE included Luz Chung, Ernesto Bustillos, Esteban Vela, Gerardo Reyes, Harry Simón, and many others. In the founding statement of ARE, its history and mission was described in the following way: “The ‘Association of Raza Educators (ARE) originally began as a response to Proposition 187 in September of 1994. ARE was organized by individuals who had correctly read the growing anti-Raza atmosphere within the United States, and recognized the urgency for something ‘different’ to be done. “These individuals - mostly middle and high school teachers - understood that the efforts led by most anti-187 activists were generally based on the idealistic assumption that the ‘voters’ and ‘pro-187 politicians’ could be won over by reason alone. We saw some activists go as far as to downplay the necessity for progressive community-based political consciousness. When discussions arose about how to best respond to the racist attacks confronting the Mexicano/Latino community, the importance of solid organization and the development of strong uncompromising strategies and tactics was never even seen as an option. “The original membership of ARE also understood that the ‘traditional-progressive’ educational organizations such as AMAE (Association of Mexican American Educators) and CABE (California Association of Bilingual Educators) were limited within this same frame of existence. What was needed was a different type of organization. An organization composed of educators united to effectively defend the democratic rights of our community - educational, political, economic, and civil. “Out of the initial meetings of ARE, a conference was proposed to prepare the activist-educators for actions that could be taken once Prop. 187 had passed (pickets, demonstrations, etc.). This conference was held in October of 1994 at St. Judes Church in the community of Shelltown in San Diego, with about 100 people attending. “After the conference, the ARE meetings began to be centered around discussing the need for building ARE as a progressive educators organization. A constitution was drafted and officers elected to carry out the work of this [Association]. It was during this time (post 187) that the question of raising the consciousness of educator’s themselves took place. “During this period ARE emphasized community involvement in education and Critical Pedagogy as central to our work. ARE upheld the important role of teachers in social struggles, especially in Latin America. We saw ourselves also as part of a [world wide] struggle to build a better society that would benefit the great majority of all people.” (founding statement, ARE, 1994). THE REALITY OF THE STATE OF RAZA EDUCATION AND WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE Unfortunately, the level of activism of ARE has been sporadic. There have been periods of high activism and times where little, if any, work was done. This was a result of taking on struggles without truly understanding the limitations of its membership and resources, as well as the social conditions in which we find ourselves. Contributing to the problems of ARE was the lack of interest and urgency within the educational community itself. The sad reality is that most Raza educators don’t see the urgency of responding to the racist attacks on our children, which would motivate them into joining a type of struggle that calls for risks and sacrifices. In order to address these realities, ARE held several meetings in 2004 in which the history of ARE was discussed, limitations and errors of work were identified, and a plan with long and short range objectives was formulated. Since then, ARE has been steadily working, according to its ability and capacity; and within the last year, 2006-2007, ARE has grown to include a chapter in the Los Angeles area. In a bulletin published in 2006, ARE raised concerns which profoundly describe the reality of the state of education today. ARE posed questions that need to be addressed and called upon educators to join the struggle for democratic schooling. The following were the concerns and the call in that bulletin: A. Concerns: 1. Bilingual Education has been virtually destroyed. It fact, it was never given a chance to succeed.

2. Raza Studies and Multicultural Studies, in the great majority of the schools, no longer exist. Educators who favor a multicultural, working class based education are under constant attack. 3. Critical Pedagogy is a thing of the past, and most teachers, as well as administrators, don’t even know what it is. 4. The English Only movement is getting stronger. Educators are told not to speak Spanish to students. Speaking Spanish will soon be a crime. 5. Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA) is being eliminated, especially where Mexican-Latino and African (Black) students are in the majority. 6. “Academic Freedom” is a thing of the past. Most teachers are scared to speak out. Teachers are being forced to use materials and limit their curriculum to a particular area of study, and utilize methods of instruction created and promoted by people who do not have the well being of our students in mind [i.e. publishing houses, private tutoring organizations Supplemental Educational Servivces, etc.]. 7. School administrators have rejected a space for alternative or creative methods of teaching and are demanding that educators teach to “the test,” or instruct in robotic, one size fits ALL approaches. 8. Administrators are now dictators, not educators, or have become enforcers and thugs for the racist-fascist Boards of Education or of the federal government. (e.g. NCLB, see below) B. Questions Facing Raza Educators: 1. What are we going to do when we attempt to include multicultural and critical pedagogy into our curriculum and are told by the administration not to do so? 2. How are we going to deal with the English Only laws, or requests from the state to turn over the information of students [or their families by Border Patrol/ICE (migra) agents]? Are we going to be accomplices in denying education to children? 3. What are we going to do when our school administrators start harassing or move to fire us for refusing to betray our students, or when we teach in a fashion or use material that we feel, as professionals and Raza, would most benefit our students? 4. What should be more important to us, the education of our students and their/our dignity as a people, or our jobs? And why should we be forced to choose? C. Joining The Struggle As A Solution: 1. The truth is that no progressive change ever came about without struggle. Educators must unite and fight to create positive progressive social change. 2. History has proven, that in numbers and in unity there is strength. If you want to protect yourself against harassment and reprisals, you must unite with other educators who share the same ideas or objectives as you. 3. Simply complaining or living in fear, or denying the realities around us, are not virtues of an educator. Our profession demands that we do something concrete about problems affecting our students and our communities. (In Unity There Is Strength Join The Association of Raza Educators Bulletin/Announcement May 2006)

CURRENT ATTACKS ON THE EDUCATION OF RAZA AND OTHER OPPRESSED PEOPLE: THE NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND (NCLB) ACT The attacks by the state to keep a relevant education from oppressed people are relentless. The following are but four examples that describe how the colonial system works against our communities. The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) pushed through the U.S. Congress by the criminal and genocidal G.W. Bush regime in 2001 is the latest federal law which attempts to destroy public education and transfer the task of “educating” the public to private corporations. Four key areas of this law that are particularly damaging to our youth were identified by ARE as well as Unión del Barrio: 1. It Opposes an Education that Promotes Critical Thinking and Humanities. Concentrating on math and acquisition of the English language, the NCLB closes this “space” (funding, support, legal protection) for multicultural and bilingual education, as well as critical thinking. It completely eliminates the “critical thinking spirit” of education and opposes the teaching of the Humanities (those branches of knowledge, such as philosophy, literature and art - anything concerned with human thought and culture- also known as the liberal arts). 2. It Creates a Dictatorship vs. Educational Administration. While claiming to be “Improving Teacher Quality,” this law could easily be used against those teachers who promote progressive and democratic schooling (an education based on improving the condition of the majority of the people: workers and the poor) or those who an administrator may choose to dismiss. Moreover, the NCLB promotes the privatization of education and the busting of teacher unions. 3. The “Safe Schools” Section of the NCLB is in reality the continuing criminalization of youth. The so-called “Safe Schools and Zero Tolerance” section of the law is just another way of getting rid of troubled youth and making criminals of them. It is a way of hiding the problems found in society. It will give more power to schools, enabling them to expel students for infractions that could be dealt with proper on-campus guidance and counseling. Data proves that most students expelled from schools are Raza/Latino and African (Black). [Analysis of the No Child Left Behind Act, informational pamphlet, Association of Raza Educators, 1995] 4. In addition, section 9528 of the NCLB Act requires that secondary and high schools turn over the name, address and telephone listing of all students to military recruiters upon request for the purpose of recruitment into the the U.S. imperialist armed forces. This provision, if not followed by School Districts, could have their funding taken away by the federal government. In short, the NCLB Act works to keep the masses from acquiring the critical thinking skills necessary to challenge colonialism, creates a mechanism that could be used against progressive teachers, makes it easier to criminalize Raza youth, and makes it easier for the state to recruite our younng people to be used as cannon fodder for the colonial wars of conquest.

RACIST ASSAULT ON THE “ACADEMIA SEMILLAS DEL PUEBLO” Another example of racist colonial reaction against the education of Raza children is the current attacks against Academia Semilla del Pueblo. Academia Semillas is a charter school in Los Angeles that teaches the Nahautl (language of many indigenous people of México and Central America) and Mandarin Chinese. Students also learn Tai Chi and Aztec Dance. The goal of Semilla is to provide students with an education which recognizes the cultures of all people, not just European (White). The response from certain segments of the white community, led by KABC radio (a right wing talk show) has been to call for the shut down of Academia Semillas and the mass deportation of Mexicans and Central Americans. (“Charter School Fighting Back”, Los Angeles Times, June 9, 2006.) DENYING AFRICAN CHILDREN THEIR CULTURE In San Diego, an Arabic language elementary school program is currently under attack. Carver Elementary School, with a large African student population, mostly Somali, offers a culturally relevant program where many cultures are recognized and celebrated at the school. It includes the teaching of Arabic, Middle Eastern culture and traditions, and the cafeteria provides children food that Muslim students can eat. The school is being investigated by school district officials because of a complaint from a substitute teacher that it was a form of “religious indoctrination.” (Arabic program offered at school, San Diego Union Tribune, April 12, 2007.) A WAR CRIMINAL CRITICIZES MULTICULTURAL EDUCATION Recently, the right-wing fascist pig known as Newt Gingrich (former congressman and speaker of the house, and 2008 presidential candidate) said, as he addressed hundreds of cheering middle and upper class white women, members of the National Federation of Republican Women, “We should replace bilingual education with immersion in English so people learn the common language of the country and they learn the language of prosperity, not the language of living in a ghetto”, (Gingrich scornful of bilingual education, Associated Press (AP), April 1, 2007). Gingrich, as an initiator of U.S. imperialist wars of aggression is responsible for the deaths of thousands of people around the world and thus has the blood of innocent people on his hands. UNLIKE SOME WITHIN OUR MOVEMENT, WE STRUGGLE OPENLY FOR OUR COMMUNITY’S RIGHTS Unión del Barrio, along with other progressive and revolutionary formations, most notably San Diego State MEChA and Mexicanos Unidos En Defensa del Pueblo-MUDP (both of these organizations have struggled for years for the creation of an education based on critical pedagogy), have made addressing the question of education a central component of our struggle for justice and self-determination. Unlike some liberals and “socalled” (wannabe) Chicano/a activists who use slander, rumors, secrecy, and police-like tactics, we openly fight for a democratic and multicultural education that includes giving voice to parents and the community. As we have said before, our struggle is neither based on one particular race or sex, but rather on true equality and justice for all. In the future, we will continue to expose and challenge colonial education, fight for the inclusion of parents and community in the education of our children, as well as to create programs and spaces where a pedagogy of liberation can take place. ¡Unidos Venceremos!