Wednesday, May 05, 2010

The elephant in the room, or south of the border.

With Arizona creating an unconstitutional law and the issue of race constantly at the forefront of any immigration debate, I’ll do what I usually do with this touchy conversation.

I’ll talk straight.

Today I walked into to school with Red, White, and Green paper chains all over the east side of my building, Mexican flags hanging from the rafters, and the phrase “Viva Mexico!” in chalk on the ground.  If you haven’t figured it out yet, it happens to be May 5th, otherwise known as Cinco de Mayo.  If you are just arriving on the planet, Cinco de Mayo is known in the United States as a holiday to drink Coronas with Lime and dream that you have some ethereal connection with a beach on the Yucatan Peninsula.  In Mexico it’s the celebration to honor the state of Puebla and the Mexican army’s defeat over the French.  It’s pretty much celebrated in Puebla and nowhere else in Mexico. 

Students were “excused” by certain teachers to prepare for the lunchtime party on this day of celebration, just like they are excused for Latino Retreats, MESA party days, and other activities that are supposed to bring about self-esteem through the establishment of cultural identity.  This brought about quite the hidden rage from teachers and others (including me) who are starting some serious backlash regarding how this population is being treated.  We are talking about a massive amount of support that is going towards a population that doesn’t seem to be showing progress on those exams that the Federal government has deemed oh-so-important.  But how is that support been brought about?  Cultural identity.  Enhancing feelings of Mexican nationalism.  Working around students going to Mexico for weeks on end only to show up with no work completed.  That’s right.  The same population that is given a massive amount of support doesn’t seem to be paying off in terms of the investment, or doesn’t seem to want to work to that end.

Now calm down, I’m not some idiotic Tea Partier that is screaming to deport all the illegal immigrants.  I’m bringing up valid points that I’ve addressed in the past.

-Why do we seem to treat Mexican populations with cultural kid gloves compared to other immigrant populations?

-Why do we stress multi-culturalism over a rigorous academic model of instruction?

-Why do we deny the fact that certain immigrant communities don’t seem to value education very much, and why don’t we work towards changing that?    

And again, before you scream racism I’d like to point out that immigrant populations throughout history (and today) seem to be thriving in the system, while the population that gets some of the most generous financial support does not.  And I’ll also remind you that populations going back to the early 19th Century came to the United States because of opportunity and a chance to be a part of the educational system.  Today it seems like it is taken for granted that immigrants coming from Mexico should be treated with a careful awareness of their sensibilities.  Don’t worry about learning English or being “College or Career Ready”, just feel good about being who you are and everything will turn out fine.  Meanwhile, school scores go South because certain sub-groups can’t pass 8th grade equivalency tests.

Obviously this isn’t the only problem in public schools, nor is it a problem with with all immigrant families.  I have plenty of immigrant AP students that work their asses off and will make a fantastic contribution to society.  But guess what those students are doing while the Mexican dancers are showing off at lunch?  Those students are taking AP Calculus tests, and they are paying for it with their own goddamn money.  I wonder how much money went into that idiotic display at lunch, and who paid for it?

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