This blog is in response to a controversy regarding the book publisher Harper Collins and school libraries in 2011. First, I am against lending ebooks to libraries for a preset limited number of times to be “checked out.” It is easier to criticize private companies who sell their products that some may see as unfair. However their are important parameters here that must be established to gain the whole picture of what is going on with ebooks and libraries. Companies are in the business of making profits, therefore we can confidently assume that a publisher like Harper Collins is set out to make money, period. Schools need books for many reasons we know. However one of the problems is that schools are underfunded as it is ( Acedo & Leverkus, 2014). So the aspect of renewing contracts every cycle of these limits could be burdensome. On the other hand the business model of selling books is also morphing and has to innovate to stay relevant in a growing competitive market. Amazon is arguably one of the largest companies on Earth. They certainly do not just sell books. Their business model relies on morphing itself into creating and buying markets.
More importantly I believe that the library itself is reinventing itself. Tangible encyclopedias are all but obsolete. The school library now serves as a center for virtual reality, computer service (lab), “makerspaces” expositions, etc. So in a sense publishers and libraries have entered a paradox, and no one knows how it should look like. In one hand children need books. On the other publishers are the only ones who can gather licenses to later offer the libraries. The debate will not be settled any time soon. In the meantime, luckily schools and publishers continue to offer physical books which can be a compromise. For now.
Acedo, S., & Leverkus, C. (2014). UPDATES ON EBOOKS: Challenges & changes. Knowledge Quest, 43(1), 44-52.
A few months ago I was asked to give my opinion after reading a parent's call to institute a Yelp type of app, but for teachers in the name of accountability. Here was my response.
It’s true that “accountability and metrics are infiltrating public education whether you like it, or not.” Unfortunately, just like many things in our country, there are negative connotations that undermine the true purpose of certain declarations and in fact convinces many of us of the total opposite of our interest. I’ll show as an example one of most significance and debate; accountability. With NCLB and RTTT (Race to the Top) this verbiage has set the tone for letting all of education’s conflicting issues rest on the least common denominator, the teacher (not least important). Accountability implies that it should be passed down to the most important link (again the teacher), therefore it is imperative that their performance must be sound, for the children are our future. No one argues the importance of the role they play. The less a word is used, it ceases to be a significant aspect of our daily lives, hence nutrition. The more the word is used, the more is expected. The overuse of the word “accountability” leads into the inevitable collective belief that teachers are not doing their job.
Why not promote responsibility? It’s because it implies equal distribution of work to be done from the top down or bottom up. Very few people mention this unique concept. It transcends the school into the local and global community. Responsibility implies that no matter how hard the task, we must all get it done, together. Accountability may imply a directive with laid out consequences.
The article suggests a consumer based model (which is probably its underlying interest) for evaluating performances of teachers. This is a view of those that are proponents of school choice. This model is based off a business premise. It says that if parents choose what school their children attend, then they have the option to shop around for the best school they see fit. In the schools, the ineffective teachers will be replaced by others. And if such school is deemed ineffective, it too will shut down. In theory parents can see the effectiveness of a school and enroll their child. Who would not want the best for their child?
However, schools are not markets to exploit. So far, little to no evidence has suggested this model of "choice" works. Contrary to beliefs, there are no consumers, buyers, or salesmen. Yet there are profiteers. There is not a tangible object we can possess and critique its effectiveness on Yelp. Education is not a business, it is civic duty that its surrounding community is responsible for. When a business produces goods and services, it is taking a risk in the name of profit. We cannot take risks with our future generations. When a business acquires a defective product, it cuts their loss and moves on. Current public education cannot and should not close the door to any child that walks through it. The model of choice promotes competition and segregation in an arena which begs collaboration and justice. Public education provides an equal opportunity for all students to succeed. Diane Ravitch says it best “the need to cut costs and generate a profit for shareholders is inconsistent with the need to assure a reliable, dependable, and equitable public service.”
If we are to define linguistic diversity, then we must understand our government's perspective. History has shown that when bills become laws, it can be a result of a mass movement which initiated such policy. This article will briefly interpret two pivotal laws that are significant perspectives from the government when it comes to defining linguistic diversity and the support that it provides to bilingual students.The first law will be the Bilingual Education Act of 1968. And the second law will be the no Child Left Behind Act. It is also interesting to point out how the two laws the address an important issue, yet it's underlying intent is a different story. Prior to 1968, nothing was mentioned at the federal level as to the equal opportunity issues of bilingual students (Petrzela, 2010). Before we understand the Federal Bilingual Education act of 1968 we must understand the civil unrest of the 1960s. The act came in the midst of the Civil Rights era. As America was redefining itself racially, it's laws were attempting to keep in par with social development. Politicians recognize this shift in thought and noticed the upper hand in voting potential when it came to addressing these issues. Since social justice was a hot issue for the times, politicians drafted a bill to be fair when it came to preserving diversity and native languages. When the bill was created Senator Yarborough from Texas stated the following:
“the creation of bilingual-bicultural programs, the teaching of Spanish as a native language, the teaching of English as a second language, programs designed to impart to Spanish-speaking students a knowledge and pride in their culture, efforts to attract and retain as teachers promising individuals of Mexican or Puerto Rican descent, and efforts to establish closer cooperation between the school and the home (Schneider, 1976, p. 22).”
This paved the way for conserving and affirming diversity within the United States.
Thirty-five years later we can observe with the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) a total shift in attitude. Since 2001, this has certainly been a subject of debate when it comes to education in United States.With the new law, bilingual students are now defined as English-Language Learners (ELLs). With this new label, the government’s involvement shifts from preserving linguistic diversity to assimilation and English-only instruction (Menken, 2013). Lawmakers claimed that students should learn the language of the land and that acquiring two languages at once could be detrimental to their education. However extensive research has demonstrated that preserving language diversity is essential for academic progress (Baker, 2011; Krashen & McField, 2005; Thomas & Collier, 2002). As a consequence of this new shift in English-only instruction, and the requirements for state-mandated testing, has led many to believe that bilingual students cannot achieve academic success (Menken, 2013). Testing a student on academic content through a second language is malpractice, yet this law implies that it is the correct approach to assess improvement. Furthermore, only bilingual students are required by law to be tracked on a yearly progress of English acquisition.
To anyone not familiar with appropriate second-language acquisition approaches, this may seem as an interest to help the student progress in our society. Yet the measure neglects to recognize and preserve the native culture. Policies that promote denial of linguistic diversities also speak of the state of collective opinion when it comes to addressing these issues. As stated before with the Bilingual Education Act of 1968, public support helped create the law. If this is true, then the same must be applied for the No Child Left Behind Act. A cultural regression has been occurring since 1968.
Baker, C. (2011). Foundations of bilingual education and bilingualism (5th ed.). Bristol, UK: Multilingual Matters.
Krashen, S., & McField, G. (2005). What works? Reviewing the latest evidence on bilingual education. Language Learner, 34, 7-10.
Menken, K. (2013). Restrictive language education policies and emergent bilingual youth: A perfect storm with imperfect outcomes. Theory Into Practice, 52, 160-168.
Petrzela, N. M. (2010). Before the Federal Bilingual Education Act: Legislation and lived experience in California. Peabody Journal of Education, 85(4), 406-424.
Schneider, S. (1976). Revolution, reaction or reform: The 1974 Bilingual Education Act. New York: Las Americas.
Thomas, W., & Collier, V. (2002). A national study of school effectiveness for language minority students’ long term academic achievement: Final report: Project 1.1. Berkeley, CA: Center for Research on Education, Diversity, & Excellence (CREDE).
It is not about you.
Whatever you have been told must be questioned.
You have been raised thinking that your problems will be extinguished with the passage of time.
The fact is that your tribulations mean nothing compared to
the rest of us.
We have been exposed to the most virulent form of inhumane perpetuation conceived by any
Our voices have been shunned
by the oppressors of hope.
me here with my frigid body exposed to the elements, and you hide when the truth, of the Bible must be applied.
I trust only my own.
Whether by “automatic association” or learned behavior, racial prejudice exists rampantly in America. Verna Myers’ TED speech reflects our automatic associations to the “failing race.” Her eloquent words inspire us to reach within ourselves and embrace the diversity of our collective culture. She opens our eyes to seldomly exposed images of a successful black man. Interestingly, West (1993) points out a theory of why this may be true. He says that we are embedded in a consumer-based market driven culture. I see both of their arguments every day being perpetuated by mainstream media. Think about it: How many images of black men are we exposed to? If so, what image is being drawn? Positive or negative? In the words of Dr. West, are they being portrayed as a “them.” Mainstream media feeds mainstream’s preconceived notions about other races that are not obedient to the mainstream establishment. And its very existence relies heavily on ratings and audience, therefore gives us concrete proof of prejudice in the US. But mainstream knows what to say, when, and how. This is especially true when it targets our misinformation regarding the black community, homosexuality, religion, and so on. This all goes back to the Racial and Cultural Difference Theory by Noel (2008). Those that do not fit to the establishment, are inferior to the beliefs of an organization that exploits its advantages.
Interestingly, the establishment is not one single race. Rather it is a group that directly or indirectly believes that how they live is “the correct” way. Those that cannot and/or will not give in to subjections must prepare for a lifelong commitment in defending differential beliefs. The Los Angeles riots that West (1993) described are a reflection of a problem that “we all” have and must address.
Fortunately today the way we have the power to seek information actively rather than a passive feeding at the six o’clock news. This trend has forced the mainstream to be more creative and rely on different tactical approaches when feeding information. These approaches may not be successful with our newer generations. Rather we are the last ones that rely on old habits that keep us misinformed. The Millennials are the ones who will restructure us a give us all a new identity. The access to information at their fingertips is unprecedented. They will seek the truth that will set them free. Only the true word passed down from generations will prevail.
Myers, V. (2014, November). How to overcome our biases? Walk boldly toward them [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/verna_myers_how_to_overcome_our_biases_walk_boldly_toward_them
Noel, J. (2008). White privilege: Unpacking the invisible knapsack. In J. Noel Editor (Ed.), Classic Edition Sources: Multicultural Education (56-59). Boston: Pearson Education.
West, C. (1993). Race Matters. In J. Noel Editor (Ed.), Classic Edition Sources: Multicultural Education (50-52). Boston: Pearson Education.
For whatever the reason, when populations see a new demographic prevailing in their established area, they may perceive it as an intrusion. Worst of it is that it intrudes on ethics and ideals. These intruders not only bring a different color to the table, but also ways of life that the current population refuses to diffuse. The resistance is the irony. During the "Manifest Destiny" proclamation era, thousands of natives of this land underwent a genocide which brought it to the border of extinction. Surely the intruders of this land were met with much resistance from different tribes throughout the land. Why is it that we masquerade the truth of an invasion of culture and beliefs to these people, and today see inner city kids as the cause of the downfall of public education? It's because they do not represent the overwhelmingly majority, and their voices are sealed shut through deceiving ways.
Specifically in the Southwest, the majority may feel threatened by a new rapidly growing population. Worst of it is that it intrudes on ethics and ideals. These intruders not only bring a different color to the table, but also ways of life that the current population refuses to diffuse.
Think about the accessibility of information you are able to reach. Generations before you had to endure diverse hardships to access a fraction of what you have at your fingertips. A schoolhouse was the source of information, truth, and influence. Then, as time progressed books where more readily available to a certain few at least, for not everyone necessarily was literate.
Most of us have no idea in the capabilities of the magnitude of accessibility to information we have today. When we think of how envious we are of those that attend higher learning institutions (I admit), take notice of the fact that today you have access to information once envied by those before us.
With obvious exceptions, there are very few excuses for us not to be considered intellectuals of society. Access to masterpieces (free press) from the likes of James Joyce, Miguel Cervantes, Oscar Wilde and many more can and will provide the base for the information revolution. No longer are the masterpieces of human kind confined to the privileged few.
Whoever coined the term "information is power" probably noticed the true potential, whilst considering the beholder. Since only a privileged few held it for so many generations, they saw to exploit the rest of us. Today is a different story. Most people are kind at heart despite what the mainstream constantly feeds us. The same people are gaining knowledge and using it in a way seldom seen before; progressively. They are no longer believing the rhetoric preached infinitely. They have realized that true power comes from within.
Lesson Objective: Learn the purpose of the U.S Bill of Rights. Where does one start? These are 5th graders. Are they capable to withstand and embed the truth behind a document relying solely on my words and take them to be "self evident". They must make a connection relative to their daily lives to understand the bill's imperative. So they are to Investigate 3 crucial questions derived from the art of teaching: What are the Bill of Rights? What do they mean to you? Does Venezuela have a "Bill of Rights"?.
The questions definitely yielded a plethora of critical thinking. In the 5th grade computer lab of Hodge Elementary, students are constructing knowledge through experience and inquiry.
Curiosity of what is going in Venezuela's conflict deeply catches the attention of one of my students, "Ana"(I think to myself: curiosity fulfills initiative). She finds out that our Bill of Rights guarantees certain liberties that are universal. As she digs deeper she realizes that yes, Venezuela does have a form of a constitution. "So why the violence?", she asks. My next question as a faciliator role is, "what do you think?".
Her answer is mindblowing, worthy enough of a public debate amungst high school students. Her elaborate, well thought answer shows what she "knows" and better yet, prove.
Yet her beautiful conclusion could never be measured on a multiple choice test. But her input on society WILL be an asset for us all in the future. Could we measure such input?
I was able to see my favorite painting in El Prado in Madrid last summer. It is purity in the face of cowardice.
My students must realize that at some point in your life you must do what is just, even more so in the face of intimidation and defeat. Because without such virtues the meaning of life ceases to exist.
The risks and struggles that I create for them in the class must mirror life's vicious grip. I must play the role of friend and foe. The cowards in the painting give my students 2 strikes. 1 "not knowing the language" and 2 "being Latinos/Latinas". They must discover that true intellectual wisdom will destroy ignorant barriers.
This was another essay I wrote in 2010.
I am Puerto Rican. My culture is a mix of three roots: African, Taino(Indigenous), and Spaniard(or European). Before I lived in Puerto Rico, I resided in Killeen, Texas. My father was in the military and therefore I attended English speaking schools. In my home we spoke Spanish. We ate our cultural dishes. My father always listened to Salsa music (deep African roots). Our way of life was Puerto Rican, yet living in Texas and overseas. Go figure.
I cannot help but to feel a personal connection to this assignment. Though I am not a refugee or political asylee, I do have a different culture from where I currently live in Dallas, Texas. As far as being an immigrant, yes I am one. But, since Puerto Rico is not a sovereign country, I may not be considered an immigrant by all sense of the word. We are one of the last colonies on Earth. Yet we are U.S. Citizens at birth. But that subject is a whole other essay.
By definition we must know the difference between a refugee, political asylee, and immigrant. A refugee is a person who seeks protection from UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) due to fear of “persecution or death because of race, religion, membership in a social group, political opinion, or national origin”. A political asylee is “a person residing in a country in which there is a well-founded fear of persecution because of race, religion, membership in a social group, political opinion, or national origin”. An immigrant is a person who resides in “a particular country who decides to reside in another country”.
The difference about an immigrant is that he/she decides to move freely between the two countries. An immigrant does not necessarily moves to another country in fear of persecution, death because of race, religion, membership in a social group, political opinion, or national origin. Though political asylees, and refugees are immigrants since they are residents of a particular country who decide to reside in another country. The rights that immigrants have depend on the legal status of residency. Technically, if a person is a legal immigrant in the United States, then he/she has most rights that citizens have. They also have the right to reach citizenship through due process. An illegal immigrant does not have the same rights. Not to say that the United Nations recognizes universal human rights.
Refugees are those who flee across international borders in search of a safe haven. They live in refugee camps before resettling into a new host country. They petition “for protection from outside of the country in which they hope to live”. They have the right to establish permanent residency in the new host country to become “productive members of society”. They petition relocation from a country outside of their “country of last habitual residence to qualify as a refugee”. Refugees often times go through very difficult journeys leaving their home countries. After reading about experiences that refugees have in Dr. Cowart's article, I gained a profound respect for them. The stories about war impacted me the most. Particularly the one about Ishmael Beal growing up as a child soldier. I could not even fathom the idea of taking a human life as a child. We as teachers must take into account the experiences that refugee children inherit.
A significant difference between a refugee and a political asylee is that a political asylee “petitions the United States government for protection and legal recognition after entering the country”. “While the refugee requests protection from outside the United States”. Political asylees go through much of the same turmoil as refugees.
These children that migrate to the United States might go through cultural bereavement. “Cultural bereavement is the sense of being separated from the past and losing touch with all that is familiar from the homeland”(Cowart, 2007). It is very dangerous to lose ones cultural identity. Though we all have a name to distinguish ourselves, culture is the way of life that we take for granted. Children are far better at adjusting to a new life than adults. To an extent, it can hurt them in the long run. By assimilating more and more to a new culture, they begin to lose certain characteristics of their native one. They might not feel the impact of cultural bereavement until they reach adulthood. Take Spanish for example. If a child comes into this country and assimilates well with its peers, he/she begins to take off in the U.S culture. After reaching adulthood he/she applies for a job that requires them to be bilingual yet does not know how to read or write with proficiency in Spanish. It is a sad when a person realizes that he/she cannot reach back into its roots at that moment. But it is never too late. After my father retired from the Army, we relocated to Puerto Rico. My soul was half full of my culture until we reached the island. It was a cultural awakening. I was reborn. My sense of belonging was not even half of that when I was living in Killeen. Though I am sure I have not gone through half of what these children have seen, I must be aware of their experiences.
Acculturation on the other hand is the opposite of cultural bereavement. It should be embraced by all teachers of all cultures and backgrounds. It embraces the culture that students bring into a classroom. We as teachers must find materials that are pertinent to acculturation. We must “become or continue to be a student of cultures and languages, particularly those of our students so that our knowledge of their experiences and needs will grow regularly”. Two way immersion education embraces acculturation. It involves the students and community to learn and appreciate different cultures. I am still fascinated after watching a video of two way immersion. To see native English speakers embrace and speak Spanish is something that settles well with me. Caring about other cultures goes hand in hand when implementing acculturation. It is the unmeasurable tool that must be with teachers throughout their careers. If not, it will be a bumpy road. “Without a caring and knowledgeable adult to guide the acculturation experience and to provide reassurance that learning a new language and culture does not mean that the heritage language and culture must be eliminated or forgotten, the refugee student will flounder, literally taking one step forward and two steps back out of fear of losing his or her cultural identity”(Cowart, 2007).
Though I write this paper learning about how students retain or lose their cultures, I cannot help but see my life story applied into some of these ideas. My parents where the ones who facilitated acculturation for me. As a young boy, every time I stepped in our house, we only spoke Spanish. My mother also embraced other cultures. She always told me that whatever girlfriend I brought home was to be accepted, no matter what culture(acculturation). My father always played Salsa music wherever we lived, even in Germany when we were stationed there, yet we always found time to experience German culture (acculturation).