curriculum Archives - The Jose Vilson


Luis Rodriguez

What Luis Rodriguez makes evident in the following excerpt from the preface of Always Running is our responsibility to speak to the injustices of the world from the lens of a common struggle. Check:

Criminality in this country is a class issue. Many of those warehoused in overcrowded prisons can be properly called “criminals of want,” those who’ve been deprived of the basic necessities of life and therefore forced into so-called criminal acts to survive. Many of them just don’t have the means to buy their “justice.” They are members of a social stratum which includes welfare mothers, housing project residents, immigrant families, the homeless and unemployed. This book is part of their story.

The more we know, the more we owe. This is a responsibility I take seriously. My hope in producing this work is that perhaps there’s a thread to be found, a pattern or connection, a seed of apprehension herein, which can be of some use, no matter how slight, in helping to end the rising casualty count for the Ramiros of this world, as more and more communities come under the death grip of what we called “The Crazy Life.”

Last Friday, a bunch of artists, students, and activists convened for the 50 for Freedom Librotraficante event on La Casa Azul Bookstore in East Harlem, USA, to listen to and read excerpts from books that have been banned by Arizona’s legislature for specific (read: Mexican / Latino) teachers to read with students. With writers like Martin Espada and Luis Urrea in attendance (both of whom had some of their books banned in Arizona), performers gave powerful interpretations of texts such Sandra Cisneros’ House on Mango Street and Rodolfo Acuna’s Occupied America.

Under the guise of “universal education,” legislators have walked into classrooms all over the state, pulled these books out of teachers’ libraries, and put them in boxes and cases like some sort of literary internment camp, assaulting the right to a relevant, cultural education for our most disenfranchised students. We’ve already seen how this plays out as a model for civic engagement. How does this fare for teachers in the classroom?

Well, we already have an excess of standardized testing, a battle we need to have ad nauseum until our children win. In Arizona, all the national issues around education only get exacerbated. The law has stripped those teachers of the choice to even present culturally relevant texts, and the students of seeing their histories told through the learning they do. The lawmakers saw it fit to assure that one of the few centers where our most disadvantaged students learn about their people became centers for acculturation, not unlike what happened to Native American / indigenous people in this country in the late 19th century through early 20th century.

Reminding people of their histories starts in the places where we shape our young minds.

Thus, the Librotraficante movement (a play on words meaning “book trafficker / smuggler”) means more to the American people than just an assault on American studies. It’s a referendum for the proliferation of an oral and written tradition, of speaking to civil rights and the necessity to incorporate everyone into the story, and assuring that those of us entrusted with the duty of teaching our youth have a say in letting them know that they belong.

We get to strengthen the common thread, the pattern or connection, that assures of all of us gets the right to an equitable education well before they become a statistic.

Jose, who thanks Rich Villar, Charlie Vasquez, Aurora Anaya-Cerda, and Tony Diaz for having the event …

p.s. – Full disclosure: Yes, I did read excerpt from the aforementioned Always Running alongside Papo Swiggity and Mark Anthony Vigo, and it was an honor …


Don’t Talk To Me About The Good Old Days

by Jose Vilson on January 26, 2012

in Jose

Violent techniques used on peaceful protesters in 1963. (Look how good it was back then.)

As recently as last month, I saw someone tweet that cops always made their whole city feel safe, and #OccupyWallStreet inspired a distrust of the executive branch unlike any other. It’s probably not the first time a Black person had to say, “I told you so.” It’s also not the first time a Black person had to say, “Are you serious?” to someone, however well intentioned, riding on the surfboard of their privilege. It’s amazing that, even after seeing a history of the boys in blue stomping horses over Negroes, pushing them off the sidewalk when White people walked across, and turning on hoses against children of color, people can still claim everyone in their city has never felt intimidated by law enforcement. Some say people of color commit the most crimes, have lower academic achievement, and generally have nothing better to do so getting arrested happens to the idle.

As long as it fits into our mold of what we believe America stands for, they make it work. In their minds, not in real life.

The same thing happens in current education discussions. It seems like we’ve reached a point where every “solution” involves Finland, a schoolhouse, and a vision of these good old days. Unlike many of my contemporaries, I don’t believe the people corporatizing the education system are completely at fault for what’s happening in education. Actually, they’re just continuing the not-so-secret tradition of trapping our kids into their socio-economic castes. The only reason why so many people have started to pay attention to this is because the idea of social mobility and prosperity has come to a standstill.

An education certainly helps, but, if you go by the research, even that’s no guarantee. The school-to-prison pipeline continues to undermine federal efforts like Affirmative Action and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. People still try to dilute our most disillusioned kids’ anger about their own experiences with the isms with a “I went through that, too! … kinda …” They were barely learning about their own culture and history as is before this Arizona fiasco. If the student of color can make it out of the 12-14 years of “normative” (read: dominant culture) education and make it to college, governors and other pundits have begun the offensive against people realizing their true history here.

In some pockets, the meme that the good old days were better for children of color rings true. For one, there were more Black teachers (men AND women), and because of this, our kids got the underground education they so desperately sought. Not having a curriculum gave some teachers the ability to get into pride for their own culture while still giving them the tools to succeed in a world that wasn’t inherently theirs. Because of these teachers (oh to be one of them!), administrations across many districts started to fire and replace these types of rebel teachers in favor of teachers who taught the normal material with no real connection.

Honestly, many people of color get that this education is not really for them. Funding issues aside, Lisa Delpit’s Other People’s Children implies how children of color prefer learning how the “master’s tools” work so they can succeed in the dominant world while still retaining the parts of themselves. Little do they know that so few of us actually have the capacity to teach them in that vein. With less time and more high-stakes, sticking to one “viable, normalized curriculum” inevitably means the dwindling of a chance at any in-depth conversation about race in K-12 where it’s so desperately needed.

But alas, when people make arguments against edu-deformers about the status quo of the day by highlighting times when a Black man like me would get thrown out of their high-brow institution, I have a hard time not tuning them out. It’s easy to relegate the discussion of race to euphemisms like “poor kids” and “kids in need” and only in a tight corner as an after-thought to listing the latest noisemaker.

Gates this, Duncan that, Obama this. Yes, yes, all true. But if you’re still teaching children about our country’s history as a history unexaminble, you’re complicit in the edu-deform as well.

Jose, who keeps it way real before Black History Month …


Bro Fist

To my New York State math teacher brethren,

By giving you these three PDFs, I’m also sharing where I work. Yes, I’m also going to say I made these documents, which is 85% true (the other 15% was done by others in my school’s math department, but I’ll give them absolute deference to within my school when asked “Who made these?”) Please note that these are just drafts and if there’s anything we need to add, let me know. Also note that NY hasn’t mapped out completely how they’re going to roll out the Common Core in this state.

Otherwise, enjoy and share alike. Just make sure that if you’re going to use it, leave a comment here and say hello.

8th Grade Common Core Appendix to NYS Math Curriculum

7th Grade Common Core Appendix to NYS Math Curriculum

6th Grade Common Core Appendix to NYS Math Curriculum

Aren’t they just pretty?

Jose, who loves sharing and sharing alike …

P.S. – As a bonus, check this out, too. We haven’t started the school year yet, so if I can have it, you can, too. (That list isn’t mine, I promise.)