education


In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self purification; and direct action.

Martin Luther King Jr’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” was written exactly 50 years ago, on this day. Do read it again if you can. A paragraph:

You may well ask: “Why direct action? Why sit ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?” You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood. The purpose of our direct action program is to create a situation so crisis packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue.

MLK Jr’s tone is conversational — he tries to reason with his readers — as well as indignant and righteous. And he takes great aim at the ‘white moderate’. His description of the white moderate feels… timeless.

First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

“Look for the helpers. You’ll always find people who are helping.”
— Mister Rogers

I’m imagining Mister Rogers dropping the mic and swaggering off the set in his sweater, knowing these words would help kids and adults alike focus on what needed focusing on, after a tragedy. Thank you, Fred. Now can this be our collective motto for everything, everyday?

Brenda Ann Kenneally, a photographer who documents the poor, was interviewed by Alternet (link to the interview and a photo essay of poor people in Troy, New York). A must read. Two excerpts:

NB: How was this “upstate” born?

AK: It came into being during the 1970s with the enactment of the Rockefeller drug laws, which created thousands of new convicts facing drug sentences of 10, 20, even 30 years for possession charges. The result was a prison boom upstate, which became increasingly important in towns like Troy, as manufacturing jobs were lost to globalization. So young male inmates with brown skin and low incomes were shipped from New York City to be counted as widgets in the state inventory where government money was awarded according to population numbers. And the only population gain in upstate New York over the past 10 years has been from inmates and those connected to inmates. Drug crimes have risen and the local police and sheriff have adopted a zero-tolerance policy, Giuliani-style, leading to more arrests and incarcerations, and the circle spins round and round. This has particularly impacted juveniles. There is now a special section in Albany County Jail for under 18 years old known as “baby jail.”

The policy of judicial intervention has become more widely acceptable, spreading to schools — children who are seen as behavioral problems are required to take medication. If parents do not comply, there have been cases where the parents have been charged with neglect through family court. The medication is seen as a permanent solution to an often short-term problem and can turn into another form of warehousing already disadvantaged young people. Many times the students have problems because they lack structure at home due to a working mother and an incarcerated father, so it is like they are criminalized at every turn. I met one woman who had been arrested and jailed because her teenage daughter became pregnant while “living under her mother’s roof.” It happened during a period when the woman was working at Wal-Mart and the daughter was home unsupervised. She was reported by a bitter ex-husband…

NB: Your photographs show three generations of poverty under one roof with no end to the cycle. Most of the men are in jail or have abandoned their partners and children. The women are battered in low-wage jobs, and the children, moved from apartment to shelter to youth homes, are traumatized, treated with prescription drugs for so-called learning disorders and depression. Through it all, more babies are being born. After spending five years photographing these families, what solutions can you imagine to stop the cycle?

AK: What saved me is this gift that came from the outside, almost like the big bang. I was lucky to meet some people who introduced me to radical thought. In these young women’s lives, there is no outside air getting in. You buckle down and accept hard work and drudgery, and you conform. The schools, rather than trying to open their minds, are trying to just get them to learn a trade at best. Their parents have not gone through any higher education, so the way would not be paved by them.

The force that should have empowered these women was the feminist movement, but this took place among women of education and privilege and rarely reached “downward” to the sisters who could have not only benefited form the movement, but strengthened and diversified it in a way that would be valuable today in the empowerment of this permanent underclass of working female heads of household. This is the same problem that the youth movement of the ’60s tried to address when the college-educated organizers tried to recruit the children of the proletariat. It was not seen as valuable to working class youth. … It is the educated class that learns and takes seriously their role in the larger world. This is the role of education — to expand the worldview. It is not as simple as the working-class kids did not have time to think of philosophical matters like stopping the war or fighting hypocrisy; they just did not understand this kind of impractical thinking, nor were they groomed to feel a sense of duty to such causes. Also, there was a resentment and suspicion for the educated class that still lingers today.

Press release of a community event against Prop 6 and 9 (more info on Prop 6). Sponsored by InnerCityStruggle.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
SCHOOLS NOT JAILS

East LA & South LA Communities Unite to Get-Out-the-Vote for November Election

WHAT:
Press conference to announce Get-Out-the-Vote efforts in East Los Angeles and South Los Angeles for Election Day, November 4th, 2008.

Community organizations, leaders and activists, representing thousands of East LA and South LA community residents, parents and youth will mobilize the community to vote NO on Propositions 6 & 9 and YES in support of Measure Q.

WHO: Hon. Mónica García, President, Los Angeles Board of Education Maria Brenes, Executive Director, InnerCity Struggle Marqueece Harris-Dawson, Executive Director Community Coalition Youth and Parent Leaders from East LA and South LA communities

WHEN: Thursday, October 30, 2008 – 10:00am – 11:00am

WHERE: Garza Primary Center, Front Entrance, 2750 Hostetter Street, Los Angeles, CA 90023

WHY: As the economy continues to decline, the people of California need to reprioritize its needs and spending. Currently, the state of California ranks 47th in education spending and 1st in prison spending as compared to the rest of the nation. InnerCity Struggle calls on voters to invest in SCHOOLS NOT JAILS by taking a NO position on Propositions 6 & 9. Californians must not lock away opportunities for our future doctors, teachers and lawyers- Props 6 & 9 threaten education spending. It is critical that voters in the City of Los Angeles support Measure Q. If passed, Measure Q will create over 270,000 new jobs needed to repair old classrooms and will provide funding to build new science labs across LAUSD to prepare students for a 21st century global economy.

VISUALS: To represent our future leaders, local high school students will be dressed as doctors, lawyers, teachers, and scientists. They will use images and props to demonstrate the choice Los Angeles voters will have to make between support for schools or prisons.

NOTE:
If you would like to make arrangements in advance to interview any of the speakers listed above, or want more information about this event, please contact Lizette Patron 323-481-7346.

One of the most respected military figures of the Republican Party endorsed Obama yesterday. He spoke eloquently, and he systematically broke down every argument and tactic that the McCain campaign has used. Full transcript here. He talked about the politics of unity versus division, spoke about domestic policy issues and supreme court judges even though he’s a foreign policy person, and called out the anti-American smears for what they were. He also essentially said that McCain put campaign first, not country first, in choosing a completely unqualified vice presidential candidate.

Here’s an excerpt that I was especially thankful to hear:

Now, I understand what politics is all about. I know how you can go after one another, and that’s good. But I think this goes too far. And I think it has made the McCain campaign look a little narrow. It’s not what the American people are looking for. And I look at these kinds of approaches to the campaign and they trouble me. And the party has moved even further to the right, and Governor Palin has indicated a further rightward shift. I would have difficulty with two more conservative appointments to the Supreme Court, but that’s what we’d be looking at in a McCain administration. I’m also troubled by, not what Senator McCain says, but what members of the party say. And it is permitted to be said such things as, “Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim.” Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he’s a Christian. He’s always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, what if he isàIs there something wrong with being a Muslim in this countryàThe answer’s no, that’s not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be presidentàYet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, “He’s a Muslim and he might be associated terrorists.” This is not the way we should be doing it in America.

I feel strongly about this particular point because of a picture I saw in a magazine. It was a photo essay about troops who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. And one picture at the tail end of this photo essay was of a mother in Arlington Cemetery, and she had her head on the headstone of her son’s grave. And as the picture focused in, you could see the writing on the headstone. And it gave his awards—Purple Heart, Bronze Star—showed that he died in Iraq, gave his date of birth, date of death. He was 20 years old. And then, at the very top of the headstone, it didn’t have a Christian cross, it didn’t have the Star of David, it had crescent and a star of the Islamic faith. And his name was Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, and he was an American. He was born in New Jersey. He was 14 years old at the time of 9/11, and he waited until he can go serve his country, and he gave his life.

Now, we have got to stop polarizing ourself in this way. And John McCain is as nondiscriminatory as anyone I know. But I’m troubled about the fact that, within the party, we have these kinds of expressions.

Thank you Colin Powell, for your judgment, your timeliness, your thoughtfulness.

Last week I was a resident. This week, a fellow.

Ack! Suddently, I’m supposed to be smarter, more beautiful, more intense, and lots more fun. All that in wonderwoman style, with such a quick transition from Family Medicine resident to Family Medicine Fellow? Bollocks!

What in the world is a “fellow”? As always I first consult the handy dandy Wikipedia:

A fellow in the broadest sense is someone who is an equal or a comrade. Historically, the term fellow was also used to describe a man, particularly by those in the upper social classes. Nowadays, it is most often used in an academic context: a fellow is often part of an elite group of learned people who work together as peers in the pursuit of knowledge or practice.

Ah yes, elite. One would think that’s a bad thing after all the “elitism” thrown around about the Obama campaign. Anyway, I just completed an intense 3 year long residency training in Family Medicine (in early August i’ll take my Family Medicine boards exam, which means that after passing, I’ll be properly boarded in this field and if I want, I’ll be able to set up my own little humane, innovative clinic for low-income folks).

I made the decision to pursue a 1-year Fellowship in Faculty Development at my program in Los Angeles, with a focus on Homeless Health Care (and Resident Education). It’s a win-win situation for me. It’s not that I don’t know what i’m going to do and thus am stalling with a fellowship. No-ho-HO. I gave up a wonderful move to Albuquerque to do totally rad work there, I passed on a better salary and possibly more flexibility in my work in Los Angeles, to do this fellowship. It’s all part of a larger strategy for the 10 year clinic/neighborhoodchange/community-building/healing plan :>

I’ll post some of my goals for the year in another post (after I’m done narrowing them down — you have NO idea how long that list is right now!). But for now, this fellowship will afford me opportunities to continue to develop as a competent (and hopefully excellent – in the future) physician, opportunities to teach residents (and therefore really solidify my knowledge as well as develop my teaching skills), and opportunities to also work with homeless populations in Los Angeles and pursue some really rad projects with amazing folks in LA.

So it’s off I go, first thing tomorrow, to serve as a “preceptor” in the clinic in the AM (which means family medicine residents will present a story, if you will, of the patient that they’re seeing in clinic, and i’ll give feedback and suggestions and ask questions about what they plan to do for management of that patients’ conditions, before they go back in to finish seeing the patient and explain their thought processes to the patient to come up with a solution that both of them find acceptable). I’m excited and nervous, and stoked to develop skills to nurture, teach, and challenge doctors in training!

(I’ve also made the decision to try to blog more spontaneously here at Los Anjalis and on the community health justice blog Cure This, which turned one years old this past week!) Hope to share more of what inspires me, more on music, and more on strategy for community change, on a more regular basis.

Just a few days ago I was discussing the woes of Los Angeles’ near-freeway-construction with a colleague, and we were thinking about health and the built environment. We’ve known for a while that LA Unified School District schools have often been built dangerously close to freeways. And now good news arrives:

Making broad pronouncements about the need to protect the health of children in their care, the Los Angeles Board of Education on Tuesday restricted the district’s ability to build schools near freeways and other sources of air pollution.

After a string of public speakers supporting the measure and impassioned debate, the board approved a resolution calling for the school system to study airborne pollutants up to half a mile from a potential site, rather than the current quarter mile requirement. It also seeks air quality health-risk assessments for all schools, including charter schools, although officials said it is unclear whether they could force the independently run but publicly-funded schools to do so.

“Basically I’m trying to push the envelope as far as we can,” said board member Yolie Flores Aguilar, who co-wrote the resolution with board member Julie Korenstein.

Flores Aguilar took on the issue after The Times reported in September that the district continued to build schools close to freeways, despite a state law discouraging it and recent studies indicating that children living near them showed signs of increased respiratory harm. About 60,000 Los Angeles Unified School District students attend campuses within 500 feet of a freeway.

Sheesh. Sometimes I wonder who plans this city. Obviously a group of people who can’t seem to connect the dots on the built environment and health.. I have grand hopes that all of this craziness can be reversed, and that with enough public pressure, future urban planning in this gargantuan sprawling city can be done right, with benefit to all (ok, most) involved.

german kids in blackface
below, an explanation and reaction from the blog black women in europe:

This is an actual ad-campaign by UNICEF Germany!

This campaign is “blackfacing“ white children with mud to pose as “uneducated africans“.

The headline translates “This Ad-campaign developped pro bono by the agency Jung von Matt/Alster shows four german kids who appeal for solidarity with their contemporaries in Afrika”

The first kid says:

“I’m waiting for my last day in school, the children in africa still for their first one.”

second kid:

“in africa, many kids would be glad to worry about school”

third kid:

“in africa, kids don’t come to school late, but not at all” (!)

fourth kid:

“some teachers suck. no teachers sucks even more.”

Besides claiming that every single person in “Africa” isn’t educated, and doing so in an extremely patronising way, it is also disturbing that this organisation thinks blackfacing kids with mud (!) equals “relating to african children”. Also, the kids’ statements ignore the existance of millions of african academics and regular people and one again reduces a whole continent to a village of muddy uneducated uncivilized people who need to be educated (probably by any random westerner). This a really sad regression.

Bottom lines of this campaign are: Black = mud = African = uneducated. White = educated. We feel this campaign might do just as much harm as it does any good. You don’t collect money for helping people by humiliating and trivilaizing them first.

Umm… UNICEF? i’m speechless.

Thanks to brownfemipower for the link to the black women in europe blog piece on the unicef campaign.

I truly wonder how the idea for this ad campaign developed, without the organizers even THINKING it could be racist and patronizing?  I can only imagine what the UNICEF staff or consultants discussed as they came up with this idea.  Any thoughts as to what they discussed?  hit me in the comments below…

from “Dialogue or Diatribe?” on Poynter Online, May 18, 2007:

But when The Orange County (Calif.) Register published a story on March 2 about the birth of her son, Walter — a baby she did not know she was carrying until two days before his arrival — Branum saw a whole new side of mean. Online readers were unforgiving and cruel…

One poster suggested that Branum was inherently unqualified to be a mother and that the state of California was going to take her baby away. Because she had no prenatal care, a visiting nurse checks in once a week, Branum said. The baby is healthy and thriving and the state is not trying to gain custody…

Like I said, Branum’s a pretty tough woman and all that was tolerable. But the new mother lost it when her critics turned their sites on her baby, suggesting that the child was doomed to grow into a fat, unhealthy drain on society’s resources.

“That was the worst,” she said. “Disrespecting an innocent little baby.”

Of course Branum’s case is not an isolated one. An Internet mob is generally ruthless, fueled by the ease and anonymity of posting. News Web sites around the country are struggling to address the viciousness of commentary on stories, blogs and message boards. Some sites have turned off comments in specific areas. Many are developing mechanisms to help the online community police itself.

I’ve seen this time and time again. People are racist, cruel, insensitive, and stupid when offered the opportunity to make anonymous comments. User registration and moderated comments (or better yet community moderation of comments) should be the standard. Say what you want to say with your name behind it, don’t be a coward and hide behind the veil of anonymity.

Many of these districts had sought to prepare their students for a technology-driven world and close the so-called digital divide between students who had computers at home and those who did not.

“After seven years, there was literally no evidence it had any impact on student achievement — none,” said Mark Lawson, the school board president here in Liverpool, one of the first districts in New York State to experiment with putting technology directly into students’ hands. “The teachers were telling us when there’s a one-to-one relationship between the student and the laptop, the box gets in the way. It’s a distraction to the educational process.”

Liverpool’s turnabout comes as more and more school districts nationwide continue to bring laptops into the classroom. Federal education officials do not keep track of how many schools have such programs, but two educational consultants, Hayes Connection and the Greaves Group, conducted a study of the nation’s 2,500 largest school districts last year and found that a quarter of the 1,000 respondents already had one-to-one computing, and fully half expected to by 2011…

Such disappointments are the latest example of how technology is often embraced by philanthropists and political leaders as a quick fix, only to leave teachers flummoxed about how best to integrate the new gadgets into curriculums. Last month, the United States Department of Education released a study showing no difference in academic achievement between students who used educational software programs for math and reading and those who did not…

But Mr. Warschauer, who supports laptop programs, said schools like Liverpool might be giving up too soon because it takes time to train teachers to use the new technology and integrate it into their classes. For instance, he pointed to students at a middle school in Yarmouth, Me., who used their laptops to create a Spanish book for poor children in Guatemala and debate Supreme Court cases found online.

“Where laptops and Internet use make a difference are in innovation, creativity, autonomy and independent research,” he said. “If the goal is to get kids up to basic standard levels, then maybe laptops are not the tool. But if the goal is to create the George Lucas and Steve Jobs of the future, then laptops are extremely useful.”

from “Seeing No Progress, Some Schools Drop Laptops“, NYTimes, May 4, 2007.

If I may, I’ll add a few questions. Did these schools have a concrete plan for integrating computer technology into the curriculum or, more likely, did they just hop on the laptop bandwagon? How did the school districts intend to incorpate math and other paper/pencil subjects into the curriculum? How did they NOT expect students to surf the web, use instant messaging programs, and find ways around barriers to socialnetworking and websites? How do they expect to keep students’ attention when students get to have laptops in front of them ALL the time? In other words, why didn’t think they think of using the laptops during specific lessons or exercises and NOT during others? (maybe they did this). And I agree with Warschauer — you can’t expect laptops to increase studnets’ SCORES necessarily on lame-ass standardized tests. Laptops and innovative uses of such technologies have the best results when used for research and creativity (which in my book have a LOT of use in the classroom setting, if used right)…

A few things I’d use laptops in the classroom for (were I a teacher or a school administrator):

1. Teaching kids how to effectively search for good sources of information for the history, social studies, or related topics they’re working on. Practical skill. SO useful.

2. Creating a blog or discussion site for kids to post their creative thoughts to.

3. Using online videos and other interactive media formats for classwork and homework assignments.

But through all this, there would definitely have to be laptop on and laptop off times, in order to facilitate concentration and less distractions during various times of the day. If I had a laptop at school that I could use during all my classes (some of which were gag me with a spoon boring, and others which were not conducive to laptop use) i’d be breaking security codes to be able to distribute instant messaging to MY friends too.

I don’t mean to be wholly critical, as I understand the challenges involved (teachers who aren’t bought into the idea of using this technology, the costs of repairing laptops on a daily basis, and the distractions present in laptop use) and I also know that school administrators had only good intentions when they picked up the idea of using laptops in the classroom. And I’m SO sure that many classrooms have actually benefitted from the use of laptops. Fascinating topic.

From “The Higher Power of Scrotum” (by Brigitte Schon): 

Try this for size: “Shock and Awe” rephrased as “America Hits Baghdad’s Scrotum” – immediately, this action would of course have endangered the innocence of America’s children! I am convinced that the Republicans themselves would have stopped the bombings and the entire attack. Immediately. Never-ending apologies to America’s parents, school-teachers and librarians. Why did nobody think of it at the time??

Or else: A recent CNN headline like “U.S. planning for possible attack on Iran”, rephrased as “US plans to bite Iran on the scrotum”, is bound to lead to genuine outrage in conservative regions of the US! Angry schoolteachers, parents and librarians – start counting, that’s a huge crowd! – might march on Washington in utter dismay. Demanding impeachment.

In my opinion, the sky’s the limit when it comes to the many suitable usages of the word “scrotum”. This word might change American politics forever.

So my humble advice to politically active American citizens is simply to stop using harmless words like “war”, “invasion”, “bloodshed”, “murder”, “attack”, “bombing”, “Guantanamo”, “torture”, “deriched uranium”, “famine”, “rape”, “land mines”, “dead” and the like in order to reach out to Conservatives. None of that is seen as a threat to the innocence and purity of American children, as we have learned.

(if you’re wondering what this is in reference to — a public librarian from Los Angeles, Susan Patron, wrote the novel The Higher Power of Lucky, for which she won the Newbery Medal, America’s highest honor for children’s literature.  The book mentioned the infamous word once, and libraries around the country are banning the book).

This summary in from the Center for American Progress Action Fund’s daily “Progress Report”:

GLOBAL WARMING — SCIENCE TEACHERS ASSOCIATION REFUSES COPIES OF ‘INCONVENIENT TRUTH’: Global warming activist Laurie David reported in the Washington Post that the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) refused 500,000 free DVD copies of An Inconvenient Truth, which scientists gave “five stars for accuracy.” David wrote, “In their e-mail rejection, they expressed concern that other ‘special interests’ might ask to distribute materials, too; they said they didn’t want to offer ‘political’ endorsement of the film; and they saw ‘little, if any, benefit to NSTA or its members’ in accepting the free DVDs.” The NSTA also expressed concern that accepting the DVDs would place “unnecessary risk upon the [NSTA] capital campaign, especially certain targeted supporters.” But those supporters already include “special interests,” including Exxon-Mobil, Shell Oil, and the American Petroleum Institute, which have given millions in funding to the NSTA. The NSTA has freely distributed oil industry-funded “educational” content like “Fuel-less: You Can’t Be Cool Without Fuel,” produced by the American Petroleum Institute (API). The film features the opening line: “You’re absolutely not going to believe this, but everything I have that’s really cool comes from oil!” An API memo leaked to the media in 1998 explains the motivation behind such videos: “Informing teachers/students about uncertainties in climate science will begin to erect barriers against further efforts to impose Kyoto-like measures in the future.”

More on this issue from Laurie David, in the washington post:

It’s hard to say whether NSTA is a bad guy here or just a sorry victim of tight education budgets. And we don’t pretend that a two-hour movie is a substitute for a rigorous science curriculum. Students should expect, and parents should demand, that educators present an honest and unbiased look at the true state of knowledge about the challenges of the day…

While NSTA and Exxon Mobil ponder the moral lesson they’re teaching with all this, there are 50,000 DVDs sitting in a Los Angeles warehouse, waiting to be distributed. In the meantime, Mom and Dad may want to keep a sharp eye on their kids’ science homework.

…what? 50,000 DVDs sitting in a Los Angeles warehouse? wait, i’m in LA. Who wants to join me in storming the warehouse and handing these dvds out to kids and saying — hey share this with your buddies? :>

Today I stumbled upon the blog Xispas — Chicano Culture, Art, and Politics through a listserv. The most recent post was about recent antagonism about a LA school that was created with an ancestral school environment, a multilingual education, and immense diversity of cultures and students (which all sound so amazing). Even in Los Angeles, there’s a predictable “haters” response from a right-wing talk show, and guess what? they’re making schoolkids fear for their lives. I’ll try to find out more about this situation, but here’s an excerpt from the post:

Academia Semillas del Pueblo is an LAUSD (Los Angeles Unified School District) sanctioned charter school in the Eastside community of El Sereno with students from kindergarten through the eighth grade.

“[Academia Semillas del Pueblo is] dedicated to providing urban children of immigrant native families an excellent education founded upon their own language, cultural values, and global realities,” their official website says (www.dignidad.org).

Besides meeting all requirements for students in LAUSD schools, ASDP provides an ancestral Mexican (indigenous) school environment, based on the Mexika/Aztec concept of kalpulli, which caters to the mostly Mexican/Central American community in El Sereno. Besides English, they also have language classes in Nahuatl (native Mexican), Spanish, and Mandarin. While the majority of the students are Mexican/Central American, the Academia is open to all children of any race, culture, or creed.

Recently, KABC-AM talk radio, which the right-wing has used for years to spout their ugly divisive politics, has targeted ASDP for closure because “they do not instill ‘American’ values.” In particular, Scott McIntyre, a morning talk show host, claims the school is part of the “multiculturalism” push in this country, which has become a particular focus of attack by some US conservative fringe organizations.

Last week, their rabid attacks against ASDP led to death threats against the school and its children (even forcing students to go home).

KABC-AM, which is apparently owned by Disney, is a disgrace to academic freedom and the celebration of a rich, cultural reality in Los Angeles and throughout the country. They argue for the homogenization of everyone in this country into what they deem is “white” American society. In essence, they are saying everyone should believe like them, act like them, talk like them.

This is fascism, pure and simple — people walking in goose steps (literarily or figuratively, it’s the same concept). It’s also racist (in fact, McIntyre once stated on his radio show that it was good that Whites attacked and killed Native peoples for their land)…

KABC is trying to close Academia del Pueblo not on any legal basis or for incompetence or any issues of malfeasance. The sole focus of their hatred is that the school is run by Xicanos, for Xicanos, and dedicated to Xicano/Mexicano culture and traditions.

What McIntyre and some of the other KABC anchors fail to realize is that Xicanos, Mexicanos, and Central Americans, particularly the indigenous Aztec/Mayan and other tribal roots that these people come from, are part of “America.” They are as native as any Native American in this country. They were here for tens of thousands of years before any Europeans arrived. American English itself has many Nahuatl (Aztec) words, including avocado, jaguar, chocolate, maize, tomato, and more. While we at Xispas are not against European culture or people in this country, we are against any imposition of European (Anglo or otherwise) culture to people who are not European (that’s colonialization).

While we agree this country should have a unifying language such as English, we also should be able to be fluent in Spanish and/or tribal tongues (or any other of the more than 250 languages in California schools)…

We need to stop KABC-AM’s racist campaign to remove the variety of human lives and expression in this country. We ask all activists, leaders, speakers, teachers, youth, and elders to contact the radio station and demand they cease any more attacks against Academia Semillas del Pueblo and other non-European community-based institutions.

In my next 2 weeks of my family medicine residency program, I’ll be working at and learning from various community health projects in LA. These are two weeks that other residents tell me are grounding — they awaken us sleepy/agitated/tired/hospital-based first year residents to the community health work around us and inspire us again — THIS is why i went into family medicine, or THIS is community health!

I’ll be going to prison clinics, job corps, a clinic at a high school for pregnant teens (started by one of the faculty members when she was a resident!), and a tattoo-removal clinic — started by one of the former Harbor-UCLA family med residents, in collaboration with Father Greg Boyle and his organization Homeboy Industries, who have been working with former gang-members (with tattoos on their faces and other exposed areas) to help them back into society and into the workforce.

I’m not sure if it’s because i’m rested after a vacation, or because i’m ready for something other than the hospital right now, but i’m pumped about this rotation. On one of the afternoons, I’m going to have to talk to high school kids at one of the local schools about a health-related topic, and I’ve already been thinking about incorporating music into my session, for so many reasons (music is great at breaking the ice, connecting with youth, and helping to convey messages). And really, I just wanna be down with the kids :>

So I was elated when I read about ‘musical cues’. Andy Hilbert is a teacher in Los Angeles who runs a blog where he discusses education, the Los Angeles Unified School District, and teaching, from his perspective — as an 8th grade teacher and chair of the Carson area United Teachers of LA. He’s experimenting with musical cues in the classroom:

On my first attempt I opened the class with a question, “What is a musical cue?”
Usually there was little response.

So, I continued. “What if I could play a sound or a tone or a piece of music and everyone in the class would instantly know what to do? Well that would be a musical cue.”

The class seemed perplexed yet curious.

“I think musical cues work. I’ll play a note or sound or song and everyone will know what to do and start doing it. It works. You’ll see. Let’s try it.”

I walked slowly to the CD player and pushed play on track nine for the song “Hey ya” from which I had lifted the “shake it, shake it, like a Polaroid picture” lyrics. Once my students heard the song, they burst into exclamations of recognition, started singing, smiling, and taking out 8½ by 11 pieces of paper and folding them into word charts. I illuminated the definitions on the screen and everyone started copying the definitions as the song continued to play. When the song finished, the class was in a trance. They could not be bothered. They wanted to complete the word charts quietly by themselves without my instruction. I didn’t have to issue a single instruction, let alone repeat one twenty times. It even took me a little while to bring them back from absolute silence, but I slowly managed to engage the class in discussion about the words.

Now I just have to think of appropriate tunes to cue transitions into group work, silent reading, and clean up time. Hey maybe I can turn my students on to Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Ben Harper, and Victoria Williams. I better not push it; this is supposed to be a job.

Check out the rest of his blog, Horsesense and Nonsense. He’s pretty passionate about his classes *and* about Los Angeles politics and education. Rock on.

(cross posted at To the Teeth)