• October 28th, 2021
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Education and the Future of Democracy: Where Have All the Leaders Gone?


 

Ramón Del Castillo, PhD

 

With the mendacious propaganda being spread by our national leader—used as cannon fodder to confuse the public while stoking the fires of racism, Trump continues to make a mockery of a free society. His authoritarian tendencies are becoming more and more pronounced. The future of a true democratic education in American society is hanging by a thread as Trump threatens to take away freedom of speech by eradicating critical race theory and any alternative historical scenarios from the curricula used in teaching diversity to employees at the federal level.

Democrats need to prepare for an all-out war—not a violent conflict, but a war of words, intelligence, and courage, using political power as its weapon. At the local (Colorado) level, John Hickenlooper candidate for US Senate can address one of the most current issues confronting América since the Civil War. In fact, the lack of addressing this matter may result in a second Civil War in this country. The issue is White Supremacy, a white elephant that has been sitting in the American’s front rooms for too long, unaddressed but as powerful an entity as ever that continues to cause destruction and mayhem on América’s streets.  And although, there is some change on the horizon, Americans have a lot of work to do get there.

Locally Democrats have been somewhat shy about confronting core issues such as racism and white supremacy. Black Lives Matter activists and their constituents and what seems to be a coalition of other activists continue to shout out for social justice. Democrats should not fear any repercussions from members of their own party by building coalitions with BLM. Hickenlooper has an opportunity to show his leadership by stepping up to the plate and engaging in dialogue with its leadership.  His presence and words of encouragement are important for Denver’s citizens. He should consider building bridges with BLM—I believe it would catapult him into a winning circle. The key would be to dodge agitators that have infiltrated the ranks, trying to shape the narrative in the process.

The time is now as another generation of Children of Color are seeking opportunities to develop their collective sense of agency over their lives and personal growth and empowerment in a democratic society.

Trump’s recent verbal criticism against war veterans, who feel chided by the insensitive name calling are not “suckers and losers.” Americans are in an uproar regarding the ongoing verbal assault on the military. As you might imagine, Trump’s political cronies came to his defense, while the president in usual fashion, denied any wrongdoing, projecting blame on his enemies—many discontented voters whose numbers have grown by leaps and bounds. People of Color who display altars of their sons and daughters in their homes are equally outraged. Their stories regarding the valor of their children have been left out of history books. Read “Among the Valiant” by Raul Morin for a more in-depth historical account of Mexican Americans who served in all branches of the military and their heroics during WWII and Korea.  Read Juan Carlos Trejo’s account of “The Viet Nam War and its Detrimental Effects on Chicanos,” for an account of patriotism at its best. Books and research papers just mentioned are not taught in American History—who’s really the historical revisionist?

The President’ s recent attack, ordering governmental agencies to stop facilitating diversity workshops, is just another bigoted tactic to avert some of the more salient economic and social issues that are plaguing América—a nation beleaguered by the polemics of racism. The contradiction is that healing the American soul of racism is at the top of the list of issues that Americans would like its leader to address. Trump accuses progressive curricula of being un-American. The reality is what has been standardized curricula in public schools, sometimes referred to as the master narrative, is racist, sexist and homophobic. The war of words will continue.

There is a precocious antidote to all of this craziness. It’s called the law.

HB 19-1192, recently passed by the Colorado State Legislature wherein all Colorado school districts have to develop culturally appropriate curricula regarding history and People of Color contributions is happening in this state. It may not be the panacea to end racism, but implemented properly, it could have long lasting positive effects as students begin to learn about the many heroes, contributions and cultures that constitute this great society. Colorado’s law can be used as a template that can be shared throughout the country. Recently, several prominent educators and activists have offered their knowledge, expertise and experience to assist the governor’s appointed commission in shaping culturally relevant pedagogy. This newly developed public policy reads:

“Concerning the inclusion of matters relating to American Minorities in the teaching of social contributions in Civil Government in public schools, and, in connection therewith, establishing the history, culture, social contributions, and civil government in education commission to make recommendations to include the History, Culture, and Social Contributions of American Indians, Latinos, African Americans, and Asian Americans, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual , and Transgender individuals within these minority groups, the contributions  and persecution of Religious Minorities, and the Intersectionality of significant social and culture features within these communities, in the teaching and content standards for History, civics , and making an appropriation.”

Why not start the process for passing a national law now? What are its benefits? In states where similar laws have been created, the traditional invisibility of People is being transformed into visibility. Currently, at a national level states and progressive school systems are creating and adopting courses that expand and explore history, literature and politics through the lenses of people who are not white—with an expectation that more perspectives can lead to more new ideas.

There is a growing body of academic research that demonstrates the importance of culturally responsive and relevant curriculum. Its reverse corollary is that when students do not see a reflection of themselves in school curricula, doubt and wonderment invade the consciousness wherein students begin to believe that their particular groups have nothing to offer the American narrative—ending in a self-fulfilling prophecy. Information shared by the National Education Association (NEA) publication, “The Academic and Social Value of Ethnic Studies” informs us that the inclusion of ethnic studies in a curriculum has a positive impact on pupils of color. Interaction between students of all colors leads to critical thinking and engagement. With the value added approach of inclusion, overall academics improves, performance increases on academic tests; thus leading to higher graduation rates.

States that have incorporated Ethnic Studies in their curriculum have included core values such as equity, inclusiveness, and social justice—something that is currently on the national radar screen as communities realize that the world is changing. All students are treated equally without regard to race, gender, ethnicity, nationality, income, sexual orientation, or disability. Global citizens are being prepared to enter the changing world order—with a tinge of social justice, as groups that have historically been absent in school curricula are now being incorporated into educational structures. Collective prejudice and insensitivity are now being discussed in classrooms with an appreciation for the contributions of multiple cultures. Achievement gaps are being reduced, truancy has dropped, and matriculation into colleges and universities is on the increase. All students have increased their awareness and appreciation of cultural diversity in the United States.

In conclusion, from the research reviewed, the inclusion of all students leads to more engagement as students see reflections of themselves in curricula in a positive manner.  It also addresses the category of “high risk” students that generally drop or are pushed out; therefore, filling the ranks of the employed and/or increasing the number of students entering the school to prison pipeline. The time is now as another generation of Children of Color are seeking opportunities to develop their collective sense of agency over their lives and personal growth and empowerment in a democratic society.

Candidate for the Senate, John Hickenlooper has an opportunity to address and support this issue during his local campaign. Furthermore, he can take this message to Washington, passing the baton to our future President Joe Biden. But he will be challenged to build inroads into youth enclaves who are thirsty for social justice. Hick’s presence, verbalization regarding this matter, accountability, and struggle are needed on this treacherous journey.

 

Dr. Ramón Del Castillo is an Independent Journalist. © 9/8/20 Ramón Del Castillo.

 

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