government Archives - The Jose Vilson

government

Speaker John Boehner

Speaker John Boehner

When I woke up this morning, I felt no different from the day before. The lights came on, the water ran for the shower, the locks didn’t loosen, and the sun took its sweet time rising past the upper Harlem skyline my window frames for us. When NBC News reported on the 25th hour government shutdown, I felt hard-pressed to feel anything but increased disappointment in a system that continues to push average people further to the edges of our so-called American Dream.

To wit, Dr. Chris Emdin, hip-hop professor and all-around thoughtful guy wrote:

Schools are ineffective, the criminal justice system is broken, poverty is running rampant, unemployment is at an all time high, the people have lost hope … NEWSFLASH, the government has been shutdown for quite a while now.

As a teacher seeing the shift of our neighborhood’s population before my very eyes, a neighborhood formerly dominated by Dominicans now shifting towards South and Central Americans and families from the Middle East, our culture is moving at a faster rate than our government wants to accept. Rather than working on a set of laws and programs that employs people to fortify our roads, train tracks, and bridges in decay, bolster infrastructure, solidify a better vision for immigration reform, eliminate hunger and homelessness, or compensate our public servants appropriately, a few nonsensical men want to jeopardize the millions of people directly or indirectly affected by a federal shutdown.

The cost of medicine, rent, and fresh food slim down our wallets by the inches, and our military industrial complex is immune to the inefficiencies of the House, and this is what we’ve been asked to pledge our allegiance to.

I contemplate my families’ futures, as so many of them have bought into this vision for success we call the American Dream. More of my students’ parents speak and read in English as well as their children, working as many jobs as their bodies allow them. This country’s vision is seriously flawed for effective government when the least of us have a better work ethic than our representatives.

I’m sorry, kids. This generation that’s supposedly leading us are doing an awful job. We’ll do better. I hope.

Jose

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On January 1st, 2011, Arizona instituted a set of directives against certain segments of educational curricula in the state. This bill follows the already tenuous relationship between underrepresented people in their state and their government, with officials like Governor Jan Brewer in the forefront. People reporting on the bill have called it a “ban on ethnic studies,” a misleading title if I ever read one. While it serves well to draw attention to this story, the ramifications of this obfuscating bill reach far greater than the small district in Tuscon this bill was meant for.

Reading this bill, I noticed this section here (Subsection A):

A. A SCHOOL DISTRICT OR CHARTER SCHOOL IN THIS STATE SHALL NOT INCLUDE IN ITS PROGRAM OF INSTRUCTION ANY COURSES OR CLASSES THAT INCLUDE ANY OF THE FOLLOWING:
1. PROMOTE THE OVERTHROW OF THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT.
2. PROMOTE RESENTMENT TOWARD A RACE OR CLASS OF PEOPLE.
3. ARE DESIGNED PRIMARILY FOR PUPILS OF A PARTICULAR ETHNIC GROUP.
4. ADVOCATE ETHNIC SOLIDARITY INSTEAD OF THE TREATMENT OF PUPILS AS INDIVIDUALS.

Compare that to the language of this piece a few sentences down (Subsection E and F):

E. THIS SECTION SHALL NOT BE CONSTRUED TO RESTRICT OR PROHIBIT:
1. COURSES OR CLASSES FOR NATIVE AMERICAN PUPILS THAT ARE REQUIRED TO COMPLY WITH FEDERAL LAW.
2. THE GROUPING OF PUPILS ACCORDING TO ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE, INCLUDING CAPABILITY IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE, THAT MAY RESULT IN A DISPARATE IMPACT BY ETHNICITY.
3. COURSES OR CLASSES THAT INCLUDE THE HISTORY OF ANY ETHNIC GROUP AND THAT ARE OPEN TO ALL STUDENTS, UNLESS THE COURSE OR CLASS VIOLATES SUBSECTION A.
4. COURSES OR CLASSES THAT INCLUDE THE DISCUSSION OF CONTROVERSIAL ASPECTS OF HISTORY.
F. NOTHING IN THIS SECTION SHALL BE CONSTRUED TO RESTRICT OR PROHIBIT THE INSTRUCTION OF THE HOLOCAUST, ANY OTHER INSTANCE OF GENOCIDE, OR THE HISTORICAL OPPRESSION OF A PARTICULAR GROUP OF PEOPLE BASED ON ETHNICITY, RACE, OR CLASS.

The writers of the bill clearly tried to include language to confuse people into thinking this bill doesn’t bolster the legacy of the dominant culture in this country. Yet, in more pragmatic terms, it fails the logic test, something I’m sure the lawmakers let happen on purpose. For instance, how can a class specifically addressing Chicano culture not be designed in one way or another for pupils of a particular ethnic group, especially in K-12 education during a child’s formative years? Learning about the legacy of Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, a student might violate the tenets of Subsection A: the student might advocate for ethnic solidarity, might feel resentment toward a race or class of people, and perhaps might want to overthrow the United States government.

Even the word “might might not be enough.

After all, once a community empowers its citizens to think of the underrepresented cultures in this country, they might ask questions, like why The Black Panthers had to exist in the face of Black oppression, why John Lennon’s message of peace often (and literally) put him in the crosshairs of the FBI, or why Frederick Douglass and John Brown were so important to the discussions of slavery in this country as Abraham Lincoln. If nothing in this bill restricts or prohibits the instruction or discussion of controversial topics in the history of the United States, then wouldn’t the discussion of these groups and figures have to violate Subsection A in at least 2 out of 4 ways?

Unless of course, this law prohibits actual discussion. Then, this bill should state that, when discussing these topics, the teacher should read a few prescribed facts about the topics, sugarcoat it, have the teacher say “I went through this struggle, too” with no deep comparison or contrast, then give a multiple choice test where all the answers are given word for word before the test. That’s how I learned history for the majority of my years.

Plus, I also question what their definition of “overthrow” means when, throughout history, anyone seeking social or cultural equality has been called every synonym for anti-American, even as they ascend to the top of the most American post possible. Indeed, the current status quo promotes unity under the dominant culture’s perpetual dominance and its histories sacrosanct to the American identity instead of embracing the diversity of our histories, struggles, and progress in empowering everyone accordingly. When it comes to the solidarity of those who desperately need to understand their identity in the American context, lawmakers create bills to ensure division and directly peg those who seek community as anti-American.

Thus, it’s not a ban on ethnic studies; it’s a ban on education progress from the status quo. That’s a crime within itself.

Jose, who’s laying it all on the table …

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Senator Bernie Sanders

On Friday, I came back from another CoCoLoco meeting in which someone suggested I become an administrator (for the umpteenth time) because I was asked to be a table leader even though I had no idea I was leading the table until my name was put at the top of a name chart at an 8th grade table … and proceeded to lead it well. Fair enough, but there’s no way I can be an administrator, even if I know how to get people re-focused on a task and actually come appropriately dressed for a professional development day.

After the meeting, I came home to the news that Senator Bernie Sanders, the Independent socialist from Vermont, was in his 5th hour of speaking to a mostly empty chamber about the corrupt calamity that is Barack Obama and the GOP leaders’ tax plan “compromise,” which includes the extension of unemployment benefits but also includes the extension of the previous president’s affluent-appeasing tax cuts. I watched the grand spectacle of him reading letter after letter about the tax compromise, him wondering out loud how this should help our least fortunate Americans, him detailing the extreme economic inequalities, him dissecting case after case of families barely able to put food on their tables and leave lights on but having to pay more in taxes percentage-wise than the multi-millionaires and billionaires whose only worry includes whether they’ll be wearing a blue tie or a black tie to work the next day.

It’s through that lens that I view how a school runs. Irrespective of what people might think about the brick-and-mortar buildings that speckle any town’s landscape, everyone in the building matters, from the custodian who cleans up the leaves in front of the building in the morning to the principal whose vision and work keeps the school in line. Often, the talk in district offices (that trickles into school offices) is that these little things don’t matter. They focus far too much on the decor of instruction (I mean, does it look like kids are learning?) and the appearance of rigor and calm in a school instead of the relationships between students, teachers, parents, and everyone else involved that make a school efficiently.

For example, if I ever became an administrator, I couldn’t ever see myself as a closed-door principal. I’d welcome having parents and students, and frankly, they’d know my name by first week of school, if not before they even stepped into the building. I’d probably ask teachers to be mindful of hallways and protocol for sending kids to the dean’s office. I’d probably have my finger dipped in every critical situation within the school, from the parent getting loud with teachers to the teacher still reading the newspaper or their phone in the middle of class. I’d probably get up and help with some things myself if I wasn’t busy.

I mean, everyone matters, right? All the teachers everyone leaves alone, the assistant principals and deans who do the dirty work when others don’t want to, the person who programs schedules and the secretaries who address attendance, and the random people who, upon seeing a situation, handle it themselves even when they know it’s going to stir problems later on. The guidance counselor who pull a frustrated kid from a class and calm her down, the PTA president or coordinator who rallies parents around a central issue that matters to the school environment and the director of a floor that doesn’t have a license but was put there out of necessity all keep the ride smooth for the passenger, even when the principal’s holding the gas pedal at 100mph.

Schools don’t just run. Things rarely ever just get done.

People work behind the scenes to ensure that schools run. Just because we don’t see people working on something doesn’t mean they’re not. If it’s a good school, chances are, there’s something about what each person does that eventually contributes to the environment. Part of that is Bernie Sanders’ point: we need to work on infrastructure and the sorts of things that make the least and neediest of our people better. It’s not just a poverty of economics, but a poverty of ethics.

When schools take on that model, the poverty only expands.

Jose, who never has to say “I said it” anymore. People just know.

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