affirmative action Archives - The Jose Vilson

affirmative action

Short Notes: Why We Shouldn’t Grade Schools

by Jose Vilson on November 25, 2012

in Short Notes

Before I proceed, dozens of people from various school districts have told me that my site is blocked on their school computers. In the event that it is, you can always get my articles via e-mail by signing up on the right-hand side of this blog or by subscribing via RSS for my savvy readers, also on the right-hand side.  They can block my site’s URL, but they can’t block your e-mails or your RSS reader.

A few notes:


“Yesterday, we had a nice conversation on Twitter [with regards to] experience, newbies, and challenges in teaching profession. It’s been a busy semester and what I share online is to try to bridge understanding as to what’s happening on the ground level, the ground zero of education reform, [namely] the school. So I share this: whose fault is it that a rambunctious classroom wreaks havoc on a campus? The teacher, the admin, the school, the system? We have a math/science shortage in the U.S. so we import teachers in these areas from the Philippines where [their education] system is vastly different. They arrive in South Central [Los Angeles], shell-shocked. The district mandates struggling readers to take a prescribed curriculum, READ 180.

Students are grouped together because behavior issues are strongly correlated to reading difficulties. By end of the day, kids are up to no good. The teacher new to the country struggles. [There's no money] for mentors, no money for appropriate number of admins to supervise teachers adequately, plus a language barrier. Do we expect such students to not throw chairs, not say f**k you to staff members before eight in the morning, or not throw bloody maxi pads around? So, in conclusion, experience matters, but so does a well-funded educational system, community resources to combat poverty and empathy by all.

- Martha Infante, emphasis and brackets mine



Junot Diaz

An awesome thing happened today when Junot Diaz, author of the meritorious and raw The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and more recently This Is How You Lose Her, won the MacArthur Award / Grant. As a fellow Dominican, my initial thought was, “Watch how many new cousins, aunts, and former lovers he suddenly has after the news breaks out.” My second, and more important, thought was, “Wow, he did it.” From my informal research, a sizeable collective of Latinos have also won the MacArthur Award, including Sandra Cisneros (author, House on Mango Street) and Joaquin Avila (voting rights advocate). Yet, news like this ought to make it to the forefront of cultural news because it means we can recognize genius in every sphere.

Conversely, the mere mention of under-representation by National Hispanic Foundation’s president Felix Sanchez apparently warranted a vulgar response from KC’s Michael Kaiser. That’s how fiercely the dominant group protects its so-called prestige, and how badly we need affirmative action-type policies throughout the nation.

The general public has often misinterpreted affirmative action these days as a policy that puts people of color above all candidates and gives them special privileges that tip the scales so much that even those who fall under its umbrella has to defend themselves with “I would have gotten in without it anyways.” Statements like these lack a sense of history, immediate and otherwise.

Without affirmative action (and private versions of a similar policy like the NFL’s Rooney Rule), people of color may get no consideration whatsoever.

Let’s face it: we’re not post-racial. At this point, we’re post-post-racial. As many Latinos as we see in the media, there are still far too many spaces that still equate “prestigious” with a gradually high percentage of White male attendees, that still think Black quarterbacks ought to run first with their “natural talent” for doing so, that will always preface an actual discussion on race with “But we have like five of them in attendance so we don’t have a problem,” that prefer their “minorities” as compliant as possible, or that simply act as mantlepieces for a history long past, never present.

Affirmative action, therefore, is a policy of inclusion, a question of diversity answered with (at least) some suggestion. It assures that the powers that be at least assure that all qualified members get a chance to get their efforts validated and endorsed. While even qualification is subjective, with affirmative action, we dissuade the inner bias so organizations can better contribute to the entire population, not just their silos and speakeasies. When beneficiaries (White women, Latinos, Blacks, LGBTQ, or anyone else that doesn’t fit a certain mold) walk into institutions that were never opened to us, we have every right to walk into those with pride because we went from “The first …” to the second, third, and possibly, a legacy.

Jose, who appreciates the recognition of genius …


Actions Affirmative

by Jose Vilson on February 28, 2007

One of the teachers in my school said this in his ever-so-Dominican Spanish:

“What some of these kids need is another option besides the regular schooling system. Not every kid can be an engineer, a scientist, or a doctor. Some of them would be better put to work as a mechanic, a plumber, or some other repairman. They need to have more alternative schools for kids like that.”

Of course, I understood where he was coming from. As long as he’s been in the teaching profession, he has seen the pitfalls that many of these children fall into. Many of these children receive little support either at home or in their own schools, and they see no other fate but leaving school and participating in very dangerous extracurricular activities. I have also witnessed (as a student and as a teacher) my fair share of kids who thought they were hopeless, and fulfilled their own prophecies.
My only problem with that broad statement is that it might be interpreted as an indirect attack on our “affirmative action.” If we think about the principle of having affirmative action for those in underrepresented ethnic communities (read: non-Whites), it’s about making a better attempt to integrate these communities into the mainstream society; it also then follows that these communities would have the option rather than the obligation to chose “lower-end” jobs.

This educational system at times seems to contradict itself. The public education system publicizes how well it works, and how these kids are virtually hopeless, yet even the curriculum is set up so these kids can read, write, and do basic operations as prerequisites for the “low-end” labor force.

Those in more successful school systems (and of course, those that produce the leaders) tend to have a more well-rounded education, consisting of all the subjects every day. They may even host the same populations, but something about having higher expectations, a more structured and scholarly curriculum, and people willing to deliver effectively seems to inspire the kids to do better despite their issues outside of the classroom.

In turn, while I understand that some students may no longer have the mentality it takes to see beyond their dire straits, I’d like to believe that everyone needs a chance to get that whole education so they’re not just good students and test-takers, but better citizens and people, wherever they go.

jose, the educator

p.s. – It was just a thought. Yours?