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The Dialectics of Educational Revolution


 

Ramón Del Castillo, PhD

 

Editor’s Note: The following is the keynote speech presented to the 2021 CO CABE Association on October 23:

 

It is with great humility that I accepted this opportunity to be the keynote speaker for the 2021 CO CABE Annual Association Conference titled: Leading for Equity & Excellence Through Bilingual Education. This evening’s gala brings together Colorado’s premier bilingual bicultural educators, administrators, community parents and guests to celebrate our victories and learn from our mistakes. Our communities are indebted to bilingual bicultural educators, whose effective implementation of its mission, resulted in salvaging the Spanish language that was absorbed through linguistic imperialism throughout history and a Mexican/Chicana/o culture that suffered from forms of annihilation in public and private schools; schools whose missions were to maintain the status quo.

 

Bilingual bicultural education has a long history of struggle in the field of education as bilingual bicultural educators have had to contend with a mantra whose hit tune was “English Only,” coupled attitudes of monoculturalism, white supremacy, and a lack of cultural understanding of our communities. However, educators have withstood the pressures of educational hegemony, conformity, racism, and cultural differences, with resilience, fortitude y ganas.

 

The reality is that the historical struggle endured by our communities in the field of education since at least the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848 has been replaced with new challenges and issues conjured up by a current educational power structure whose policies continue to deprive students of a constitutional mandate to be educated.

 

The backdrop of education in American society continues to be fed carte blanche by major values of meritocracy, that is, attempting to convince us that the most qualified personnel gets hired, while behind the curtain, supporters of racism and cronyism have already struck a deal. Our people continue to be window dressers, inculcated with a second belief that colorblindness prevailed, that is, creating a false illusion that color doesn’t matter and that racism is now gone.  The third part of this trilogy is individualism as shared by Robin DiAngelo in White Fragility who states: “Individualism is a story line that creates, communicates, reproduces, and reinforces the concept that each of us is a unique individual and that our group memberships, such as race, class, or gender are irrelevant to our opportunities.  Individualism claims that there are not intrinsic barriers to individual success and that failure is not a consequence of social structures but comes from individual character,” this reinforces the old adage of blaming the victim. Ibram X. Kendi, in How to be an Antiracist, states, “If we truly believe that all human beings are equal, then disparity in conditions can only be the result of systemic discrimination.”

 

The reality is that the historical struggle endured by our communities in the field of education since at least the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848 has been replaced with new challenges and issues conjured up by a current educational power structure whose policies continue to deprive students of a constitutional mandate to be educated.

 

However, we cannot lose faith that victory is impossible. There is light at the end of the tunnel. Colorado has the most progressive piece of legislation in the country regarding the teaching of Ethnic Studies in its curriculum from K-12.  HB19- 119, the teaching of the history, culture, and contributions of Native Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans and African Americans is the dialectics of pain and suffering in education.  Passed in 2019, this progressive piece of legislation is an old revolutionary idea that has garnered steam.

 

If it is implemented correctly it is going to unveil some of the hypocrisy and outright lies that have been fed to American students since the inception of public education. But it will paradoxically offer healing for marginalized groups that have been isolated, invisible, and whose group memberships have been blamed for the unjust atrocities in American society. It will require, for many, reviewing the newest literature on Ethnic, Chicana/o, African American, Native American and Asian Studies, through the lenses of intersectionality that include other marginalized groups in our community. Don’t be surprised if La Raza’s historical and intergenerational trauma surfaces during its initial implementation. Trauma caused by the Spain’s colonization of Mexicanos in the 15th century augmented with further colonization caused by the Mexican American War in 1946-48. This has caused undue pain in our communities, as the tentacles of colonization dismantled cultures beyond the comprehension of western man. It continues to traumatize our children causing further pain, insecurity, wonderment, anxiety, and depression culminating in collective soul wound. When this is added to youth dealing with the current pandemic and deteriorating social conditions, our communities have a lot of work to do in order to maintain the mental health of our families and communities.

 

What are other challenges that our communities face? One issue that remains on the radar screen is the teaching of critical race theory with all of its spillover effects such as internalized racism, colorism, a historical caste system and a fear that is growing by leaps and bounds as the demographic shift predicted by social demographers in the 1980’s is coming to fruition. A national organization, No Left Turn in Education, spearheaded by Shawn McBreairty, has vowed to prevent the teaching of Critical Race Theory (CRT). Texas has mandated the ouster of CRT as the cultural wars continue.

 

The last area that I want to mention is the banning of books, which at best violates the freedom of speech guaranteed to all Americans by the Constitution of the United States of America and at worst, is a continuation of protecting White Supremacy. You may remember El Alma de la Raza, a multicultural curriculum in a partnership between the Latino Education Coalition, the Chicana/o Studies Department at Metropolitans State University of Denver and Denver Public Schools (DPS) created in the 1990’s. I had the privilege of having DPS educators create a unit, which included some of my poetry with the poetry Dr. Lorna Dee Cervantes.  Dr. Lorna Dee Cervantes was at the time a premier poet whose work was used at the doctorate level in English Literature classes. To fast forward the story, during the fiasco in Arizona over the Mexican American Studies Program, a tragedy occurred, “The MAS-TUSD curriculum which comprised some 50 books [all of which] were removed or confiscated from every classroom.”  Books by scholars such as Gloria Ansaldua, Carmen Tafolla, Betita Martínez, Rodolfo Acuña, Paulo Freire, Antonio Esquibel’s book on Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales speeches, Lori Carlson, Howard Zinn and many others were banned and removed. I received an email from Dr. Roberto Cintli Rodríquez, a Meso American scholar who had been involved in this fiasco. He informed me that his book titled, Cantos Al Sexto Sol, wherein he had invited me to submit poetry and literature, was banned; therefore, he stated, “You are banned. Think about this.” Cool Salsa by Lori Carlson was also banned. My signature poem, Bato Loco was in her book.

 

Now that I have diagnosed the problem, what are the remedios? We must work collaboratively to eradicate those days when the sacredness of the individuals in our communities was taken away; perhaps when acculturation, an outdated methodology, was forced upon us. The antidote to our collective soul wound lies within us. The paradox of healing is that you have to go through pain before you find remedios; the medicine we need is on the other side of the painstaking experiences forced upon our communities. Healing wounded souls is critical in our growth as a people. Activism can be a remedio to heal wounds. We will overcome.

 

Dr. Ramón Del Castillo is an Independent Journalist. ©10-21-2021

 

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