BY JACK D. FORBES
NATIVE AMERICAN STUDIES
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA
Part I: 1998 K-12 CURRICULUM STANDARDS ARE IN VIOLATION OF THE CALIFORNIA STATE CONSTITUTION
I. The Requirements of Law
The California State Board of Education has adopted new standards for K-12 curriculum in social science, history and geography. Before analyzing the new standards, it is necessary to set forth what the State Constitution requires of public education, especially since the passage of Proposition 209.
All proposed curriculum standards must meet the requirements of the California State Constitution which, at Article I, Section 7b, states:
A citizen or class of citizens may not be granted privileges or immunities not granted on the same terms to all citizens.
Facially, this means that the culture and history of all citizens must be recognized in the schools, on the same terms, and that no single class of citizens may have their culture and history enshrined above that of everyone else. The latter constitutes a privilege of immense value and one giving a distinct advantage to the favored class of citizens.
In the same spirit, Article I, Section 31a(Proposition 209) requires that:
the state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, and public contracting....[Cal. Const. art.1, 31(a) underlining added]
The "operation of public education" must include the creation of the heart of education, its very core, which is the curricula pursued in the schools. Thus no curricula can be adopted which discriminates against any ethnic or national group, or either gender, or which gives preferential treatment to any ethnic or national group, or either gender.
A preference bestows an advantage or position of privilege, and discrimination provides a disadvantage, and a lack of privilege. Thus no standards may be legally adopted which provide an advantage to Anglo-Americans, Caucasians, European-Americans, males, or any other gender or racial/ethnic/national/color group, nor may the standards provide any disadvantage to any such groups.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in Coalition for Economic Equality v. Wilson, 97-15030, 97-15031, Opinion written by Judge Diarmuid F. O'Scannlain, makes it certain that the State Board of Education and the State Department of Education must obey the provisions of I(31a):
When...a state prohibits all its instruments from discriminating against or granting preferential treatment to anyone on the basis of race and gender, it has promulgated a law that addresses in neutral-fashion race-related and gender-related matters....[I]t prohibits all race and gender preferences by state entities. [ at 3923, underlining added].
Judge O'Scannlain's opinion goes on to assert in strong terms that the Board, if it gives the same kind of preferential treatment, as cited below, to persons of European descent and specifically to Anglo-Americans, is disadvantaging persons of other ethnic and national backgrounds. Both the preference and the injury suffered by non-Europeans or non-Anglo-Americans are outlawed by I(31a).
....When the government prefers individuals on account of their race or gender, it correspondingly disadvantages individuals who fortuitously belong to another race or to the other gender. "Consistency does recognize that any individual suffers an injury when he or she is disadvantaged by the government because of his or her race." Adarand, 115 S.Ct. at 2114. Proposition 209 amends the California constitution simply to prohibit state discrimination against or preferential treatment to any person on account of race or gender." [ at 3911. "Race" in O'Scannlain's opinion always stands for all other ethnic and national characteristics enumerated in the text of I(31a); underlining added].
I(31a) provides even greater protection for ethnic groups than does the Federal Fourteenth Amendment, according to Judge O'Scannlain:
To the extent that Proposition 209 prohibits race and gender preferences to a greater degree than the Equal Protection Clause, it provides greater protection to members of the gender and races otherwise burdened by the preference. [at 3927n].
Thus to avoid illegal curriculum standards, Section 31 requires a process whereby all such standards be subjected to a thorough content-analysis by scholars who are content-experts before any adoption can be made. The scholars, in order to meet the anti-preference test of 31, will have to be equally divided between men and women and they must represent diverse races, ethnicities and national origin groups, so as not to preference any single group.
Article I, Section 31’s strongly worded prohibitions against discrimination and preferential treatment on the basis of race, color, sex, ethnicity and national origin apply specifically to all levels of public education.
In California's public education system (including private schools receiving any public funds) the history books and teaching units must now become absolutely plural in their treatment of whites, African-Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans, et cetera. No longer can the textbooks and units be basically a history of Anglo-Americans with a few pages inserted and with a paragraph or two on the First Americans, African-Americans, or other non-white groups. The history of the United States and of California must begin with the Ancient Americans of 30,000 years ago and must move foreword following all pertinent ethnic threads.
Similarly, the history of women (of all races) must be given equal treatment with that of males. No longer can texts be revised merely by inserting the picture or the name of a woman every few pages! To give equal status to the history of women (as is required now by law) means, of course, that our entire approach to history must be altered, must be shifted largely from the story of politics and wars, to the story of society-building and cultural evolution.
In the same way, courses in literature, reading, art, dramatic arts, economics, government, social studies, music and so on must all be thoroughly revised so that no one ethnicity, race, color, national origin or sex receives preferential treatment. This will mean a drastic reduction in the amount of attention focused upon Anglo-American (male) subjects and a radical increase in the focus upon other groups and upon women.
Federal civil rights law and the Fourteenth Amendment support the above argument for a multi-ethnic and bi-gender approach to curricula. However, the California Constitution is so absolutely clear and unambiguous on this issue that it is not necessary to refer to any other authority.
II. The Nature of the California Student Population
The ethnic and cultural composition of the California population is directly related to the kind of curricula the schools should offer, since virtually all modern education theory would argue that curricula must be relevant and supportive of the values, culture, and history of the students for whom it is intended. Conversely, curricula which is not relevant to the backgrounds of the students is likely to lead to alienation, boredom, anger, rejection, and anti-social behavior, and specifically to high "push-out" rates for the most vulnerable groups.
The majority of California public school students in grades K-12 are persons who are descended from the Original Americans, that is, from the peoples whose ancestors have been living in the Americas from the days when the great glaciers covered much of Canada, that is, before 13,000 years ago. Often calling themselves "Human Beings" in their own languages, the indigenous inhabitants of this hemisphere have been called Americans since that term was first applied to part of South and Central America in the 1500's. They have also been known as "Indians" (by mistake, since some Europeans saw America as a part of India), as well as by other names. From this American race (to quote the usage of Daniel G. Brinton and other scholars) are now descended a majority of our California public school pupils.
It is true, of course, that these students are known by various names, some using Chicano/a, while others will use Mexicano/a, Mexican-American, Latino/a, Hispanic, American Indian, Indigenous, Mestizo/a, Cholo/a, or even African-American or white, but they all have in common their American ancestry (in whole or in part) stemming from the Incas, Garifunas, Nahuas, Otomies, Mayas, Yaquis, Mixtecs, Navajos, Cherokees, and other Original Peoples or First Nations of North and South America. By the year 2010 some scholars project that Brown Americans with indigenous ancestry will constitute an absolute majority of the California population. This represents a fundamental shift in California history.
In the Los Angeles Basin, for example, one can drive from West Los Angeles to San Bernardino or from Eagle Rock to Compton without hardly ever leaving an area where persons of American indigenous ancestry are either the majority or a substantial element of the population. In many of these areas, the Spanish language is widely spoken along with American languages and other tongues.
In 1848 English-speaking Euroamericans suddenly became a majority in northern California, and then in the 1870's-1880's in southern California as well. Now, a century or a century and a half later, the pre-1848 situation is being recreated, with a non-white majority. In addition to the persons of mixed or indigenous race, California is also home to growing numbers of persons of Asian, Pacific, Middle Eastern, and African ancestry.
The proposed history-social science standards basically denigrate the non-Anglo-American majority in California, usually treating them as either recent "immigrants," as laborers, or as slaves, or as problems for the westward-moving white "settlers." In actual fact, however, our very large Asian-American, African-American, and Meso-American populations have roots which long precede the arrival of English-speaking white settlers anywhere in the Americas. For example, the first permanent settlers in what is now the United States were Africans who, in the 1520's, successfully rebelled against the Spaniards and who intermarried with the Native Americans of the South Carolina area. St. Augustine, in 1565, was also a place where African and part-African settlers landed long before Raleigh or Jamestown.
Asian-Americans can trace their activities back to the well-known voyage of Asian Buddhist monks, led by Hwui Shin, who visited Ta-Han (thought to have been California) and Fu-sang (thought to be Mexico) in c. 458 CE, not to mention the numerous Filipino and Chinese sailors who came each year to the California coast after 1565 (a Filipino died in the San Luis Obispo area in 1587) on the Manila Galleon, and the Japanese who reached the Pacific Coast on numerous drifting junks caught up in the Japan Current by storms, or the Chinese man from Manila who is listed as one of the first settlers of Los Angeles in 1781, or the Pacific craft, including persons with tightly-curled hair, who were seen in the Gulf of California by early Spaniards, or the ancient traditions of Polynesian and American contact.
Mesoamerican influences in the present area of the United States are extremely ancient, going back at least to the appearance of maize, beans and squash horticulture, several thousands of years ago, but actually extending back to the period of 40,000-13,000 BP (before the present) when a prominent linguist, Dr. Johanna Nichol, argues that the ancestors of later Americans (except for Inuit-Aleut peoples) were living south of the great ice-sheets, mostly in Meso and South America. After the ice-melt began a great northward movement commenced, bring many of our American language families into the present area of the USA. But most of our great language groups still have speakers spread out from Montana to Meso-America, and from Wyoming and Idaho to Nicaragua.
The proposed standards cannot, in fact, deal with the true history and contributions of the ancestors of our California students because of fundamental flaws in the design of the curriculum which in turn is warped by a fixation with Anglo-Americans only, making other peoples insignificant in the American story.
Nonetheless, the great changes in the racial and ethnic character of California must require a corresponding change in the way we teach history and social science.
If we are to make education meaningful for the huge numbers of youth of American race, of African race, of Asian background, of mixed and other ancestries we must make our curriculum California-centered, Americas-centered, Pacific-centered, and world-centered.
The old patterns of male-focused, European-focused, East Coast-focused, Atlantic-centered curricula must be replaced. If we do not we can expect additional generations of troubled youth and gangs, contributing to social chaos and growing prison populations. I would aver that an irrelevant education is, in many ways, an education for gangs and alienation, since an education which ignores youngsters deprives them of the knowledge of who they are, what their ancestors have achieved, and what they can become.
III. The Proposed Standards are Fundamentally Flawed
The proposed standards possess a fundamental legal flaw, which cannot be corrected by changing a word here or there or adding a few additional lines. The structure itself is illegal because it is based upon ethnocentric, racist, and chauvinistic definitions of "America," "Americans," and the United States of America.
Standards which display ignorance can be condemned from a pedagogical perspective but when ignorance is combined with the falsification of major concepts in order to give preferential treatment to a particular ethnic and racial group, that of Anglo-American Caucasians, then the standards are facially illegal.
The preparers of the proposed standards use the term "America" to refer solely to the political territory occupied by Anglo-Americans who joined the rebellion against Britain (or their European-derived predecessors), even excluding therefrom those Anglo-Americans who remained loyal to Britain and who remained part of British America (later Canada, Bermuda, Barbados, etc.). "America" is an elastic concept in the proposed standards, an area which expands as Anglo-Americans expand their political area of dominance.
This misuse of the term "America," which defies five centuries of geographical usage, is designed, I will argue, to allow the preparers to concentrate almost exclusive attention upon the adventures and accomplishments of a particular ethnic group and race. By identifying "America" solely with non-British Anglo-American areas of control they have been able to ignore virtually the entire history of North America prior to English settlement as well as such regions as Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, Hawaii, Alaska, Samoa, Guam, and, in fact, most sections of the United States area when the latter were possessed primarily by First Americans, people of mixed races, or colonists from non-Anglo-American areas.
This racist and ahistorical use of the term "America" also allows the preparers to limit the very potent word "American" primarily to Anglo-Americans or to those other groups which have been incorporated with Anglo-Americans (even if of actual European birth).
The terms "America" and "American" are extremely powerful, evocative and emotional terms. When an ethnic group is inaccurately given the exclusive use of these names, it gives them a privilege and preferential treatment of inestimable value. It also denigrates, insults, alienates, and disadvantages those Americans who are denied the right to be known by the name of our continent and our hemisphere.
I have written several articles about the early use of the name "America," which was first applied either to the Venezuela or Nicaragua areas. Here let me simply cite two scholars, first Charles Maclaren, fellow of the Royal Society, Edinburgh, Scotland, who wrote a long British encyclopedia article on "America" in 1875 (which was reprinted in a U.S. encyclopedia as late as 1909, without change). Maclaren's America consists in the entire" American continent" including both North and South America. He includes a "Sketch Map of America" which shows our entire hemisphere. He writes:
The indigenous population of America presents man under many aspects... from ... Mexico and Peru, to savage life.... The American race is distinguished by the form of the skull.... The color of the Americans... is more uniform than that of the inhabitants of Asia and Africa.... Of all the groups of American languages, the various dialects of the Algonquin stock furnish the most inviting field for the philologist.
A second scholar is Daniel G. Brinton who wrote his book The American Race in 1891. He writes:
The American race was that which was found occupying the whole of the New World when it first became revealed to Europeans. Its members are popularly known as "Indians," or "American Indians," because Columbus thought that the western islands ... were part of India;... To the ethnographer, however, they are the only "Americans," and their race is the "American Race."
Many other examples could be cited, but it should be crystal clear that the name "America" belongs to the entire continent and that people of indigenous American ancestry, such as Mexicans, have every right to be seen as and to be treated as "Americans." Anglo-Americans do not have an exclusive right to the term any more than the Dutch have an exclusive right to the name of Europe. Moreover, the countries organized together as the European Community do not have an exclusive right to the name of Europe since many Europeans are still outside of that political unit. In the same manner, the United States is "of America" but not all of America, as the name of the Organization of American States should tell us loud and clear.
Of course, we all know that Anglo-Americans have developed the habit of referring to themselves as Americans, a habit which began innocently enough when they used the term in much the same way that someone in France might say "I am European." But it becomes an ethnic weapon when other people who have equal (or better) claim upon the name are excluded from its embrace.
Popular or vulgar usage aside, one must expect the highest standards of impeccable scholarship and language usage in the preparation of curricula, since it has a powerful impact upon the sensitive and formative minds of children. Therefore, one cannot be casual about the use of America and American.
Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary defines the noun "American" as: "1: an Indian of No. America or So. America, 2: a native or inhabitant of No. America or So. America, 3: a citizen of the United States." Let us examine how the preparers of the proposed standards use "American."
The preparers make it very clear, on page 1 of their overview, that they intend to use "America" in a racist and ethnically-biased manner. They state:
...the standards proceed chronologically and call attention to the story of America as a noble experiment in constitutional democracy. They recognize that America's on-going struggle to realize the ideals of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.... While emphasizing Western civilizations as the source of American political institutions, laws, and ideology....
The above statements show beyond any reasonable doubt that the preparers have defined "America" in an ethnically-exclusivist manner so as to consist solely in the political unit established by white Anglo-Americans who have rebelled against Great Britain, thus excluding any part of America existing beyond the boundaries of that political unit including areas belonging to independent American tribes or nations.
Moreover, the preparers have chosen to openly assert that "western" civilizations (in practice, mostly England) are to be emphasized "as the source" of "American political institutions, laws, and ideology...."
This assertion ( which negates all Native American influences on democracy, the love of nature, and ecological-mindedness, for example) makes it absolutely clear that the preparers believes that the political institutions, laws and ideology of First Americans are not "American" and certainly denies any non-European influences on United States institutions, law, and ideology, a rather contentious, partisan, and doubtful position.
The long struggles of African-Americans, for example, are precluded from being a source for any "American" institutions, law and ideology, and indeed the text of the standards is remarkable for ignoring the numerous Black rebellions, the significance of the Haitian War for Independence, and the influence of Black thinkers on the law of freedom and bondage.
The well-documented influence of the Iroquois confederacy on the United States Constitution is totally ignored, as are any Native American philosophical influences on European thinkers during the Enlightenment. Mexican and Spanish legal influences in the Southwest, and French influences in Louisiana, are ignored, as is any discussion of the Mexican Constitution of 1824 which set a standard for racial equality in the early nineteenth-century.
But what is especially significant is the absolute identification of "America" with Anglo-American (non-British) territory and "American" with the Anglo-American ethnic group. Thus by this reasoning California was not part of America before 1848-50. In other words, the preparers take California out of the American continent and place it in a geographical no-name-land until it is occupied by soldiers and immigrants from the United States. The latter movement is referred to in the standards (p. 13) as "rapid American immigration" after 1850, thus denying American status to Native Californians and Mexican Californians even after Anglo-American conquest.
(In many places in the proposed standards the term "American" is used in an ethnically-exclusivist manner. For example, in Grade 1 "American ideals" and "American symbols" are referred to and in each case the examples are all connected primarily with the Anglo-American heritage. The opportunity existed to include Original American or Mexican-American examples, but that was not done.)
"America," then, becomes a rolling, westward-moving concept coterminous with the Anglo-American ethnic group, and totally unlike Africa, Asia, Europe, and Australia which seem to adhere, as names, to some definite piece of geography. The preparers also refuse to acknowledge the United States as a physical, geographical area on the face of the continent, because such a view would require that all of the United States be considered. Instead, by picturing the United States as a process (and a westward-moving one), the preparers believe that areas outside of the then United States (at whatever date) have no history which has become part of United States history. Thus the Kingdom of Hawaii, Puerto Rico before 1898 (and after), and the Muscogee Nation can all be ignored. They are part of the United States today but their past is not to be dealt with in these proposed standards.
In other words, "America" and the United States are both used as ethnocentric, racist conceptions so as to exclude the actual in-depth history of our continent and our country. By ignoring our country's history, the history of our land, the preparers have sought to deal almost exclusively with the history of only the Anglo-American group and not with all of the peoples who make up our country today.
In short, only white people who speak English count in these proposed standards and geographic sections of our land become worthy of study only after they pass under Anglo-American rule. This is a one-sided and ethnically-biased way of teaching, one sure to tell non-white youth that they do not belong!
The claim that the standards "proceed chronologically" is surprising in view of the fact that there is absolutely no historical coverage, chronological or topical, of the history of northern America from 30,000 or 40,000 BP to the recent period (depending on the area). This analysis will be amplified in Section V (below). When one ignores 30/40,000 years of chronology what does the term "chronologically' mean? The treatment of California history in Grade 4, for example, is totally non-chronological prior to Spanish contact and even than is basically non-chronological until U.S. occupation. Likewise, the treatment in Grade 7 of ancient Meso-America and Peru are both essentially non-chronological.
In conclusion, the fundamental flaw in the proposed standards is that they openly espouse an ethnically-biased view of United States development. I argue that the preparers have the intent of providing preferential treatment to white Anglo-Americans by structuring the standards in such a manner as to focus exclusively on areas controlled by Anglo-Americans when United States history is being dealt with, by arbitrarily depriving Native Americans of a knowledge of their American heritage and contributions, by depriving all students of a knowledge of the great cultures and civilizations developed in North America before 1500, by refusing to deal seriously and chronologically with African-American, Asian-American, Pacific-American, and Meso-American history and contributions, and by using the term "American" in an exclusivist, biased, and inaccurate manner. Moreover, the proposed standards are also structured so as to provide preferential treatment to male figures and activities and to denigrate or ignore female figures and activities.
IV. The Proposed Standards Discriminate Against Women
Upon examining the proposed standards one is struck immediately by the incredibly strong bias against women. Women are everywhere left out of the mainstream of history, whether it be in the ignoring of Minoan civilization and other women-centered cultures of ancient times, to the total neglect of the history of the victories of patriarchy and the elimination of female deities in Europe and the Middle East, to the figures selected for special biographical study throughout the curricula.
I have attempted to analyze the proposed standards on a quantitative basis, in order to provide at least an impressionistic view of relative treatment of women and other groups. The standards include roughly 260 inches of content (29 pages x 9" per page). . Women receive about 1/2" of the 260", along with eighteen "mentions" or references to a single name. The entire modern women's' movements from the right-to-vote struggle through the 1960's receives 1/2"! Roe v. Wade goes unmentioned, as does anything before E.C. Stanton or after the sixties. No significant court cases have ever involved women's issues, according to the standards.
Students will not have to know about women's struggles to obtain a serious education or to attend major universities or to do graduate work, or their efforts to open job opportunities outside of the home or factory, or their efforts to control the kind of clothing and restricted environments imposed upon women, or their ability to write and to read literature of their own choosing; nor will students understand the crucial role of women in the reform of prison conditions, of facilities for the mentally ill and retarded, for the deaf and blind, or in the entire settlement house movement for immigrants etcetera. The women who go unmentioned include incredible figures such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Julia Ward Howe, Ida Wells, Florence Nightingale, Rachel Carson, Margaret Sanger, Helen Keller, Pearl Buck, Lorraine Hansberry, Isadora Duncan, and the list goes on and on.
The immense contribution of women to the cultural development of our land is almost totally ignored.
State law now requires that there be no preferential treatment for males. By that test, these proposed standards must be rewritten from start to finish. They are illegal on their face.
V. The Anti-Native American Bias of the Proposed Standards
The proposed standards also have a strongly anti-Americas bias. The evolution of American civilizations from the great Louisiana mounds of 4,000-5,000 years ago, to the development of the worlds largest cities in Peru and Mexico, to the fantastic urban centers of Cahokia in Illinois and Moundville in Alabama, to the intensely democratic and often matri-focused federations of the Hodenasaunee (Iroquois), Leni Lenápe (Delaware), and Muskogee (Creek), to the many rich artistic and architectural traditions of the Adena-Hopewell, Mochica, Chimu, and Totonaca, one finds a big glaring hole. The tapestry of American history and political-social evolution is reduced to a few short units of study, all in the early grades.
As incredible as it may seem, the section in the standards dealing with the pre-500 CE period contains nothing about American origins and students will be led to believe that all civilization commenced on other continents. Yet in my study of "The Urban Tradition Among Native Americans" I note that
"the evidence seems to indicate that from about 1600-1700 BC. until the 1519-1520 CE period the largest cities in the world were often located in the Americas...." (see Forbes, in forthcoming issue of American Indian Culture and Research Journal).
The domestication of crops in Mexico now extends back to almost 10,000 years ago, and, of course, these crops are among the most important in the world, including maize, potatoes, sweet potatoes, squashes, beans, and tomatoes, among many others. Very large cities began to appear as early as 2,000-1,600 BC. along the coast of Peru at Aspero and Las Haldas. The latter may have been one of the largest cities for its time in the world. Subsequent great urban areas included many Olmec sites in Mexico, Kaminaljuyu in Guatemala, Mitla and Monte Alban in Oaxaca, Tikal in Guatemala, Tiahuanaco near Lake Titicaca, Huari farther north in Peru, and the great center of Teotihuacan in central Mexico, all flourishing before 500 CE. Teotihuacan was a contemporary of Rome and was probably the greatest urban center in the world, with seven square miles of ceremonial/educational areas and a vast population.
That perhaps the greatest urban centers of the pre-500 CE period could be left out of the standards, centers which often directly influenced developments in our country, is astounding indeed! But we must also sadly note that many great cities and cultures of the post-500 CE era are also left out including Chan Chan in Peru, Snaketown in Arizona, Yellowjacket in Colorado, and Tula and El Tajin in Mexico.
The proposed standards fundamentally neglect the 20,000 or 30,000 years of American history in favor of a few "snapshots" inserted without any understanding that over half of our pupils possess American racial ancestry (including, incidentally, a high percentage of African-American youth) and that they need in-depth exposure to the greatness of the indigenous American mind and to the wonderful intellectual, architectural, artistic, mathematical, scientific, and social accomplishments of the Original Americans.
"Aztecs are us" might be a good slogan to keep in mind. For the majority of our pupils have, or will soon have, some degree of Nahua ancestry or heritage. But "Aztecs are us" is best seen as a symbol that we must stop thinking of ourselves primarily as Europeans.
Native American civilizations and historical experiences receive a total of 5.5" with virtually all of that in grades 3 to 7. First Americans simply do not exist in the high school curricula proposed, except that there is a brief mention of tribes in grade 12. The standards commission is clearly telling Native children to drop-out after grade 7!
VI. Bias Against Mexican-Americans and Others
Mexican-Americans receive about 1.25" of attention, virtually all in grades 4 to 8. Another 2" deals with Aztecs, Mayas and Incas in Grade 7. Virtually nothing actually deals with Latina/os, Chicana/os or any aspect of the current student majority in California's schools! Again, one is persuaded that the preparers intend to drive large numbers of Latina/os out of high school at an early age.
There are two mentions of Mexican settlements and immigration, but nothing to indicate that many Chicanos and Hispanos are, in fact, descended from indigenous Pueblo and Plains tribes or from California tribes and have never immigrated, or that they became southwesterners before Jamestown. Moreover, there is no hint of the tremendous Mexican heritage of the Southwest, including the fact that some traditions hold that Aztlan, the Aztec homeland, was in the United States.
Incredible as it may seem, the struggles of Mexican-Americans after World War II, with such groups as CSO, LULACS, American GI Forum, etc. are entirely left out, as are the long organizing efforts of unions such as CUCOM, formed long before. The Mexican American Political Association, MAYO, MECHA, Tijerina, "Aztlan," and Cesar Chavez, the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee and the Delano strike are ignored or not treated in any appropriate depth. Sara Estela Ramirez, Jovita Ida de Juarez, Emma Tenayuca, Edward Roybal, Henry B. Gonzalez and countless others also go unmentioned.
In short, the "civil rights" and cultural, social, and political history of the present majority of California students is virtually non-existent.
VII. Discrimination Against Racially-Mixed Americans, Americans with Disabilities, and Many Other Groups
Millions of Americans are of mixed ethnic and racial heritage and this is especially true of California. Race mixture began at least as early as the 1520's in South Carolina and Georgia when Africans who had successfully rebelled against the Spaniards intermarried with Original Americans. From that time on the intermixture of Africans and Americans was extremely common, as was the intermixtures of the Spaniards, French, Scots, English and others with Americans and Africans. After 1565 Asian ancestry was introduced into Mexico and California. Thus for over four hundred years multiracial people have been contributing to the richness of our common history.
To ignore interracial marriage and multiracial persons in standards designed to serve California is inexplicable unless the preparers are incredibly ignorant, racist, or afraid of offending racist groups. Whatever the reason, it is illegal to discriminate against multiracial Californians and to ignore their history.
Similarly, the proposed standards totally ignore the millions of our people who have a disability, including persons who are blind and deaf. This neglect is part and parcel of the preparers fascination with dominant males and their adventures in war and politics. In any case, many of our students will have handicaps and they need to know about great heroes of our country, such as Helen Keller, who triumphed over disabilities. Moreover, they need to know the history of the long struggle of the deaf to be able to use sign language and the general struggle of people with disabilities for the right to be mobile, educated, and employable. This is a great story and should be told.
Many other inexplicable glitches appear in the standards. Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans, Southeast Asia, the Philippines, the Pacific (including Hawaii), Iran and Persian civilization, Armenia, eastern Europe generally, coastal Africa from Senegal to Angola where most of our African ancestry stems from, Ethiopia, the expansion of Bantu peoples, connections between Africa and the Pacific, the development of democracy in Switzerland and other places besides England, the history of Canada, Mexico and Latin America are among the areas or topics strangely overlooked or barely mentioned. Given the ethnic and cultural legacies of our California students one would expect otherwise!
And let us be reminded of the fact that pre-Columbian contacts between Africans and America are totally ignored, as are Chinese and Japanese early contacts with the west coast and Mexico. How is it that Chinese, Filipino, and Japanese visitors to the west coast are ignored, even though some of them preceded Jamestown?
VIII. Asian-Pacific Americans Are Severely Discriminated Against
Shockingly, Asian-Americans receive virtually "0" out of 260" (that's right, zero) unless we can interpret "immigrant" as covering all of our Asian nationalities including Asians in contact with California as early as the sixteenth-century or in the case of the Hwui Shin voyage, in the fifth-century. Unknown vessels of Pacific design were seen by the Spaniards along the Pacific Coast and some sixty Asian craft are known to have reached the region in the century after 1770. Contacts between Native Americans and Polynesians receive no attention and the entire subject of our Pacific history, including the internal development of the Kingdom of Hawaii, and of Samoa and Guam are ignored.
There is a brief mention of Japanese-American internment in World War II, but it is never explored as an economic as well as a racial and constitutional issue. The important Korematsu case is not mentioned. This follows the pattern of completely ignoring discrimination against Chinese, Japanese, Filipino and other Asian workers from 1848 on, and also ignoring the economic, cultural, and labor union organizing contributions of such groups in Hawaii and along the west coast.
Asian civilizations receive some coverage in grades 6 and 7 but Korea, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaya, Cambodia, Burma, and Japan ( except in the medieval period for the latter) receive no attention. India is dealt with in grade 6 but is basically ignored after the Maurya period. The 1 million Indians living in the United States are ignored, as is the ahimsa movement of Mahatma Gandhi.
IX. African-Americans Are Treated Insufficiently
African-Americans are treated with incredible disdain by the standards. In addition to my remarks above, it should be said that Africa (including Kem/Egypt) receives 3" in grades 6-7, with perhaps only two trace references in high school. The section on sub-Saharan Africa in Grade 7 (2 of the above inches) strangely focuses upon Islam, Arabic, and Muslim kingdoms and ignores the coastal non-Muslim region from Sierra Leone southwards to Angola and southern Africa. This is odd because a high proportion of our African ancestry stems from the latter region with its impressive Yoruba, Ashanti, and Kongo kingdoms.
African-Americans, who have almost always made up a significant proportion of the U.S. population, receive about 6.5'' of 260", mostly in grades 8 and 11. Much of this attention has to do with slavery, Reconstruction or civil rights and very little focuses upon the rich cultures of Black Americans or on their internal history. The "Harlem Renaissance" seems to end Black cultural developments and little is said about Black religion, music, dance, art, literature, theater, film, or economics. Politics are pretty well limited to Garvey in the twenties and the so-called civil rights era of the fifties and sixties..
The sections dealing with the African-American struggle and civil rights, found in grade 11 are an example of very poorly prepared material, even when there is an appearance of dealing with non-Anglo-Americans. There are so many things left out, that a major essay would be needed to fill in the gaps, but let us note that the struggles of Jews, Native Americans, Chicanos, and others, going on often at the same time as the Black struggle, are not mentioned at all, except as a brief afterthought. This, of course, distorts the entire issue of racism and prejudice in the USA. The struggle of Jews (and sometimes Catholics) to obtain admission to elite "white" universities in the early part of the century and the anti-semitism of the KKK and other right-wing movements are ignored. But still further, the long efforts of Blacks to build up their own universities and to gain admission to "white" colleges is left out, along with numerous campaigns for jobs and fair play which long preceded the post-World War II era. The difficulties faced by Black troops in both world wars along with the prejudice faced afterwards, the racial attacks of the 1920's, lynching, the segregation of musicians (such as that faced by Lena Horne when she sang with white bands), are among the countless topics not explored. The intellectual history of African-Americans, including figures such as W.E.B. DuBois, is ignored.
One has a tendency to either laugh or cry when one sees the way in which this significant sector of the American population has been shunted into a few little ghettoes of attention. But then, the examples of the struggle for democracy never draw upon the Haitian rebellion against France or for that matter on any rebellion involving African peoples. So what we have is a rather systematic policy of exclusion which can hardly be accidental. Again, one wonders if Black youth are supposed to stay in school to graduation after being so thoroughly insulted.
X. The Neglect of Middle Eastern Peoples
The Middle East and South Asia also suffer from under-attention, somewhat surprising in view of the very large numbers of Indians, Pakistanis, Arabs, Iranians, and other Middle Easterners now living in California. The Middle East receives about 5.5", all in grades 6 and 7, and focused on ancient Hebrews, Islam, and (very briefly) Mesopotamia. The discussion of India begins with geography and then jumps immediately to the "Aryan invasions," ignoring the ancient "black" Dravidian and Veddoid civilizations as in the Indus Valley. Zoroastrianism, Mithraism, and other aspects of Persian civilization are ignored, along with countless other topics. Basically, Christian theological ideas dominate the treatment of the Hebrews and Islam is not discussed in relation to its many sects and the Sufi tradition. The suppression of traditional pre-Christian religious traditions by both Christians and Muslims, including those featuring female deities, is not hinted at.
XI. The Standards Falsify the Struggle for Freedom and Exhibit Class Bias
But the standards not only suffer from racial and ethnic blindness. They seem to also downgrade the historical experiences of the vast majority of Europeans and European-Americans who belong basically to the peasant-small farmer tradition, to the working class, or to the classes of artisans, small-shopkeepers, and so on. The historical standards' focus is upon the kings, princes, elites, wealthy planters, presidents, and other well-known persons who are almost inevitably male and privileged. The standards would have us believe that the struggles of the peasants, factory workers, miners, and other common folk played small roles in the evolution of "democracy." Instead, credit is usually extended to a document such as the "magna carta" or some elite empowerment such as the "Glorious Revolution."
Considerable space in several grade levels is devoted to the supposed evolution of democracy, individualism and freedom, but the focus is on the wealthy elites, and always on white people, preferably English. The well-documented influence of Native American democratic practice upon European thinkers such as Voltaire and Rousseau is ignored, as are the countless daily examples provided by Native People's contacts with their colonial neighbors. The specific contributions of the Great Binding Law of the Iroquois, superbly documented in the writings of Professor Donald Grinde (as well as by Benjamin Franklin) are left aside unmentioned.
But still further, the actual struggles of European peasants and workers is ignored. The Swiss "Everlasting Compact" from 1292 receives no mention, nor the Peasant Revolt of 1525 or the Anabaptists or the struggles of Scots, and Dutch, and Icelanders, and Norwegians, and Catalans of Andorra, and countless others to obtain free cities, constitutions, charters, parliaments, and so on. Instead, the emphasis is placed largely upon how elite males brought us democracy.
Students will be hard pressed to understand why the Delaware sachem Tammany was ennobled by the Atlantic Seaboard colonial masses during their uprising against George III and why Tammany Day (May 1) was a major holiday in the early days of the USA.
In any case, the Regulator's Rebellion of North Carolina, Black American rebellions, and other uprisings join the Luddites, Cromwellians, Brethren of the Poor, and urban rebels as subjects not mentioned or sectionalized by the standards. Although a reference to the Whiskey Rebellion and Shay's Rebellion have been added in Grade 8, they are not seen as helping to build our democratic institutions. Grassroots activism by ordinary people seems to be insignificant in our history, according to the preparers. The various farmers' movements of the USA from that of the Greenbackers and Populists of the last century, to the Grange and National Farmers' Union of our own, seem to be ignored. The growth of the Industrial Workers of the World, the Knights of Labor, the Socialist Party and its strength before 1920, the Lincoln-Roosevelt League, and the anti-monopoly and reform movements often led by women find very little mention.
XII. A False Appearance of Neutrality in Some Sections
In all fairness, it must be said that many sections of the standards appear, at first glance, to be ethnically, racially, class, and gender neutral; and, of course, a great deal might well depend upon how a given teacher or local school district might interpret a particular section. On the other hand, California teachers are not tested for their competence in Native American, Black, or Chicano history, for example, nor are they required to take courses in women's history or women's economics. Thus the apparently neutral sections are not likely to be interpreted in culturally diverse fashion.
Moreover, many of the apparently neutral sections are not really neutral at all. In grade 12, for example, (12.1) students are supposed to deal with the fundamental principles "and moral values" of "American" democracy, but, in fact, every subsection reflects only white European male ideas either explicitly or because no references to Native American, female, or non-European influences are included.
In section 12.2 students are asked to "compare the relationship between government and civil society in constitutional democracies with the relationship in authoritarian and totalitarian regimes." This might seem to be neutral, but will the teachers and students be sophisticated enough to know that regimes which call themselves "constitutional" and "democratic" may be filled with totalitarian or authoritarian areas such as Native reservations from the 1850's through the 1920's or later, Black segregated regions, "Bantustans," "company towns," et cetera, or may have colonies and non-self-governing territories (such as the Canal Zone or Puerto Rico), or may exclude entire classes of persons from voting (such as women or non-whites)?
Subsection after subsection, by ignoring the reality of life in the United States, that is, by ignoring the specific situations of Native Americans, African-Americans, Puerto Ricans, and women, for example, creates an artificial neutralness which is actually a cloak to hide the existence of non-white and non-middle class persons.
In 12.5, for example, students are asked to explain "why an independent judiciary is essential for the preservation of freedom." This is clearly not a neutral question. From the perspective of Native Americans, who have had court after court deny them the status of "persons" in the Constitution, or of Black Americans who similarly were for a long period denied the status of "persons," or of working-class Americans who have seen judges overwhelmingly represent the business and wealthy classes of the country, the idea of an "independent" judiciary is a cruel joke. (The Supreme Court has dubbed inanimate corporations as "persons" while denying such a status to Native Americans) A neutral section would have to ask: "how can one obtain a judiciary which might be balanced between all ethnic groups and economic classes, and both genders, given the overwhelming difficulty of working-class persons, women, Native Americans, Chicanos, etc. to obtain appointments as judges."
XIII. Proposed Standards Are Ideologically and Class Biased
Tragically, the sections of the standards which could be used to excite non-white and working-class students are designed instead to directly turn them off because they are so blatantly false or so obviously attempting to sell a particular ideology. The economics sections in grade 12 are not only boring, I would aver, but they are anything but multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, and objective. For example, at 2 under 12.3 students are asked to "explain economic rights (e.g., right to acquire, use, transfer, and dispose of property; right to choose ones work, join labor unions, copyright and patent), how they are secured and their importance...." One can immediately think of a thousand ways in which poorer persons and non-whites have been systematically denied such "rights" and in which such "rights" do not exist at all. On the other hand, I am also concerned about the creation of the "right" to "patent" since we are faced with huge corporations and avaricious scientists now attempting to "patent" genetic characteristics which they never created, or to "patent" traditional Native American herbs, medicines, and biophysical formulas and materials, or to gain control over the world's plant genetic materials, or to copyright the works of creators who are forced by contracts to turn their creations over to corporations, etc.
Is there a "right" to "patent" and if so, what about the rights of taxpayers who so often have paid the costs of the research through Federal grants and generous subsidies but who receive no economic return? In short, we are often dealing with the ideology of advancing the interests of investors and powerful corporations, not of the working-class or middle-class children in our schools or their taxpaying families.
The discussion of "property rights" fails to explain how Native American land, timber, mineral resources, wetlands, bays, and coastal zones have been taken, often without any payment, and then transferred to non-Natives. Similarly, the standards do not discuss the property rights of Mexican-Americans under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and how communal and ranch lands were taken from them after 1848. And then there is the taking of the property of Japanese-Americans during World War II. Finally, there is no discussion of how many African-Americans and Native Americans, held as slaves, were deprived of the right to acquire property and, in fact, were granted to other persons as "chattel." In all four of these examples, immense wealth in land, resources, and labor was given by government to other persons, thus creating the present economic divisions of society. The failure of the government to adequately compensate Native Americans, Mexican-Americans, Japanese-Americans, and African-Americans is clearly a major feature of economics in the United States today.
In grade 12 I see no significant discussion of the "national security state" with all of its omnipresent secret agencies, huge budgets, masses of spies, investigators, satellite surveillance systems listening to many of our messages, other satellites capable of recording our movements, electronic devices of all kinds capable of recording our conversations, and, of course, a well-documented record of subsidizing dictators, carrying out assassinations, smuggling arms and drugs, and on and on. Isn't this one of the most significant realities of United States Government today, the dilemma of how we can preserve even a rudimentary popular government while at the same time trying to fund massive defense and security agencies which civilians may not really control?
Should the United States persist in its role of "world policeman?" Can we afford it? Should our citizens be expected to give their lives and resources to do so? Can we preserve "democracy" while being a world power? Or should we strengthen the United Nations or give responsibilities to regional groups such as the Organization of American States? None of these kinds of questions are dealt with in grade 12, in spite of the fact that many young men and women will be asked to join the military soon after their graduation. The United Nations, of great importance in other countries around the globe, is badly neglected, as is the United States' role in the Security Council and in financing the UN.
Similarly, there is no discussion of the World Trade Organization as the new government of the world, a non-democratic government. What are the implications of GATT and NAFTA and the proposed MAI for the "three levels of government" discussed in the standards. Actually, the WTO is a new fourth level of government with the power to set aside laws adopted by any of the other levels of government, but the standards ignore this.
Similarly, the existence of Native American tribal governments with their own constitutions and judicial systems is ignored except for a brief mention in a list. The other territories of the United States are also ignored.
The immense "war on drugs" and the powerful Drug Enforcement Agency, the arbitrary way in which marijuana is outlawed but alcohol is allowed, the fight with the huge tobacco industry, other public health issues, the right-wing militia movement and extremism, the threat of terrorism and the equal threat of anti-terrorist legislation, the attempted assault on the separation of church and state by some groups, the issue of victimless crimes and their political and civil impact upon women (prostitutes, for example), homosexuals, and others, the failure to vigorously fight against HIV by promoting public health solutions such as the use of condoms - one can go on and on.
Another topic of major importance left out is the question of the impact of television and of the violence seen on both film and video; and, still more important perhaps, the increasing concentration of ownership of media of all kinds, including newspapers, publishing houses, film studios, music products, and so on, along with the appearance of bookstore chains putting independent stores out of business. The media has a decided impact upon elections and political discourse, so how can one discuss government and democracy while ignoring this crucial question: how can we have a free press and free access in all communities to a diverse range of books, periodicals, and other forms of media? And what are the implications of huge foreign-owned conglomerates controlling large segments of the US media?
These are real issues of democracy, significant ones, which should be taught instead of repeating old themes already exhausted in earlier grades.
At 12.12 students are asked to talk about the ideas of Alexis de Tocqueville, an illustration of the tendency to always look to a white male for ideas. But why not direct the students to William Apess, a Pequot American of part-African ancestry, and a brilliant first-hand student of US character? Perhaps he is ignored because he wrote seminal books about white racism and authored a study of five poor women, of various races. Apess is one of our great American thinkers, so why is he left out?
The senior economics course is a rather strange mixture of some economics theory with some very ideological concepts favoring the wealthy-investor class at the expense of ordinary Americans. What is largely left out are the kinds of knowledge which Native Americans, Latinos, African-Americans, and many Asian-American groups would want or need to know, along with women's economics. The so-called "free market " brand of economics is presented almost exclusively, but in a very naive or unrealistic manner which ignores actual state intervention, subsidies, and other non-market aspects of the way most countries run their economies.
Concepts of "scarcity," "choice," "benefits," and "costs" are presented without reference to the values of Native Americans and others who place emphases upon sharing, simplicity, human relationships, extended families, the conduct of ceremonies, and other cultural considerations. Economic activity is presented as being distinct from other aspects of life, which may indeed be the ideological perspective of a certain school of economic theory. But alternative ways of looking at "incentives" and profit must be considered, along with concepts such as usury and excess profit.
Students are asked to "explain the elements of the United States market economy in a global setting" at 12.15 but the question of whether we have ever had a "market economy" should be asked. Most industrialized states developed their economies behind high tariff barriers and with all kinds of government interventions and subsidies. The business sector of the US even today receives massive subsidies and the government promotes the sales of company products overseas ranging from military weaponry to agricultural goods. Moreover, a good part of the US economy is directly dependent upon government defense and space spending, and congresspersons actively lobby for projects which even the Department of Defense does not desire. None of this is discussed.
The concept of how prices are set is extremely naive, since large mega-corporations have been setting prices for decades based upon market manipulation and collusion, coupled with advertising. The concept of monopoly or of concentration in a given industry or of the operation of inter-locking directorates, et cetera, are not discussed. And yet, the lessening of competition in many fields is a major concern of observers today.
The idea that an "entrepreneur" might value the personal satisfaction of producing an excellent product through the working together of a close-knit work-force has no place in the economic theory presented. "Profit" is the "incentive," or so the students are to be told.
The concept of "command economy" is applied to Marxian systems, while the US is supposedly a "free market." (see 12.16 at 3). But from the perspective of most of us, the US economy is largely a "command economy" with most activity being determined either by government (defense, energy, space, subsidies, giveaway of research results, etc.) or by huge corporations operating on a command principle. The actual "free" sector of the US economy is not discussed because it involves small farmers, small business people, small entrepreneurs, organic food manufacturers, etc. Many constraints also exist on independent producers, of course.
Ideology is also expressed by statements such as: "explain the factors that may cause the costs of government actions to outweigh the benefits...." This is political unless placed within the context that a high percentage of the federal budget is used to subsidize business or for defense/space spending supported by the most conservative sectors of Congress. Similarly, also in 12.17, we read "explain distribution of income... and methods that federal, state, and local governments use to influence income distribution through transfer payments and taxes." This again is very political unless "transfer payments" include agricultural subsidies for wealthy agribusiness corporations and other subsidies of the wealthy classes, and unless the analysis of the tax system honestly compares the types of deductions given to businesses (such as depreciation, transportation expenses, deductible ocean cruises, etc. ) which are not given to workers who also use aging vehicles etc. Moreover, many taxes, such as sales taxes and even income taxes often fall most heavily on workers.
But perhaps more important than these examples is the fact that students are not asked "what kind of a society do we want? Do we want to live in a place where everyone has access to adequate health care, to a good education, to decent housing, to a good job, and to a safe and non-toxic environment, for example?" Do we want to have extremely rich people, and lots of very poor people as in Brazil, or do we want a huge middle-class, as in Netherlands or Scandinavia?
The teaching of economics in grade 12 should revolve around real world questions, ones which are not answered according to a particular ideology but which are open-ended and studied in relation to ethics. But also the subject must be relevant to women, who as homemakers and caregivers, have often been denied any wages, benefits, or even any status in the economy. The fact that caregivers, whether men or women, often receive no recognition in economics is simply an indictment of a male bias. The so-called "welfare" system, which is really a misnomer, must be analyzed fully since it impacts a high percentage of our students.
But one of the key issues facing our society is completely left out, and that is the way in which technology is altering our economy faster than we can deal with the changes or grasp their implications. One crucial example of this is the "downsizing" which has resulted from robotization and profit-taking by management and major investors, a process threatening the job future of many of our students. Can we continue to robotize and still support the necessary numbers of workers? Whose studying this issue? What are their findings? So long as profit remains the only guiding principle can anything be done?
Other issues relate to the future impact of GATT and NAFTA on the removal of factories from the United States, proposals for shorter work weeks in order to share wealth gains with workers and to provide more jobs, and the question of who should own the labor-saving machines purchased with the contributions of both capital and labor. All of these questions seem to be avoided in the standards proposed for grade 12.
In short, we seem to have an elitist, upper-class approach to U.S. history, politics, and economics, an approach which hides the history, politics, intellectual life, and struggles of the ethnically-different and of the oppressed and less fortunate of all colors beneath a curriculum designed to maintain preferential treatment and privileges for Anglo-Americans of upper economic status. For all of its pretense to be interested in individualism and freedom, these curriculum standards are also designed to help create (or maintain) a command society, a social system where commands come from wealthy elites through their corporate organizations and through their control of media and government.
I have not yet seen a section of curriculum which would seek to have students study changes which could be made to bring us a society where power is decentralized and where huge organizations are brought under democratic control. Thus a command society is what is being offered, not a democratic one.
The proposed standards are a disgrace to us as educators approaching the year 2000. They represent, by and large, the prejudiced thinking of a half-century ago. They make little or no use of the wonderful scholarship of recent decades, especially the scholarship of women and non-whites. Anglo-American males and other Caucasian males are given preferential treatment generally. Non-whites and women are discriminated against, along with several European nationalities who have contributed to the building of California, such as people of Armenian, Italian, Jewish, and Irish origin.
The standards are illegal, failing the tests of both Article I (7b) and I (31a) of the California Constitution. Moreover, it seems highly likely that the standards are in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, in that "equal protection" is clearly being denied to women and non-Anglo-American groups.
My conclusion is that the proposed standards should be set aside or tabled until a task force can be selected to thoroughly revise them to meet legal requirements. Such a task force must be comprised of knowledgeable persons who are of diverse ethnic, racial, and national origin backgrounds. Half of the task force should be women. No one ethnic or national group should be allowed to dominate the task force, and persons representing working class perspectives should be included.
It would be a serious mistake to attempt to adopt standards which are not only illegal, but which also will continue the process of alienating large sectors of our youth.
Part II: COMMENTS ON LANGUAGE ARTS STANDARDS FOR CALIFORNIA SCHOOLS
English as a Multi-Ethnic World Language
As in the case of history and social science curriculum, the schools of California must avoid granting preferential treatment to any ethnic group or gender in the teaching of language arts. Certain it is, then, that the teaching of English and English-language literature must be multi-ethnic, multi-racial, and bi-gender. Since English (or "Englatino," as I term its modern descendant) is a world language spoken not only in many dialects in its home areas along the North Sea but also in Scotland, Ireland, Wales, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, India, and many other countries as an official or co-official language, it follows that the teaching of English as a world language is properly a multi-ethnic and multi-national subject. On the other hand, English can also be taught in a narrow, single-dialect and single-ethnic manner which ignores its international character. It can also be taught as if only one dialect exists, in spite of the tremendous dialectical vitality of English within North America as well as in the world as a whole.
By focusing on English as an international language one avoids some of the problems posed by Article I, Section 31(a) since the global approach immediately provides a multi-ethnic and multi-national dimension. One, for example, avoids discrimination against some Black Americans, Jamaican-Americans, Southern Whites, etc. if one follows a multi-dialectical approach to English since the dialects spoken by many Jamaicans and others of West Indian origin, for example, are very legitimate ways of interpreting English.
I do not wish, however, to dwell at this point on the teaching of the mechanics of the language as such but on the content to be used in that instruction.
Reading: Vocabulary and Concept Development
On page 4, for grades 5, 7, and 8 of the proposal being adopted by the California State Board of Education, reference is made to "vocabulary and concept development" by studying "abstract Greek and Latin derived roots...," "use knowledge of Greek, Anglo-Saxon and Latin roots to understand content area vocabulary" and "understand the history of English language and use word origins to determine the historical influences on English word meanings."
This is an excellent opportunity to bring in the many thousands of Native American words used in English, as well as Asian, African, and Pacific Island terms. A term such as "enchilada," for example, allows students to see how "chile" from a Native American language has been incorporated with Spanish prefix and suffix to produce a modern English food term (which most school cafeterias serve regularly I should think). The American contribution to ethnobotanical terms is phenomenal, as well as to the names of animals, medicines, and pharmaceuticals. One can easily show how American terms become incorporated with Latin or Greek to produce scientific names.
My book AMERICAN WORDS (1979) lists almost 1,000 Native terms in English, not including any geographical names. Such words as totem, manito, cajun, caucus, chum, gee, okay, wow, hammock, maraca, mackinaw, parka, chocolate, guacamole, hominy, jerky, tamale, bayou, savannah, pampa, coumarin, guanine, mescaline, quinine, canoe, kayak, toboggan, buccaneer, hike, hobo, condor, jaguar, iguana, coyote, barracuda, sisal, cigar, papaya, potato, tomato, and many others are of American origin and have served to give our dialects part of their unique and distinctive character. Some of these words also link English with American Spanish and can serve to help bring Spanish-speaking students into the dialogue in important ways.
On p. 5 the proposed standards state for grades 9/10: "1.3. identify and use knowledge of the origins of ...words...derived from Greek, Roman, and Norse mythology to understand the meaning of new words...." I believe that it is ethnically biased to neglect Native American mythology whether derived from Mexico, Guatemala, Canada, or the United States. Coyote stories are very important and such texts as the Popol Vuh yield many concepts of significance. Similarly, the literatures of Asia and Africa are immense in this area. It is far more important to relate traditional stories to California students' actual backgrounds than it is to develop an entire curricular unit around words such as "narcissistic" drawn from a myth which virtually no one in the society is conversant.
It is sheer pedantry, and biased pedantry at that, to reach back into certain European cultures only for somewhat obscure word origins when we possess rich American heritages which are being ignored, not to mention those of Africa and Asia.
Also on p.5, for grades 11/12 we have" 1.2. apply knowledge of Anglo-Saxon, Greek and Latin roots and affixes to draw inferences concerning the meaning of scientific and mathematical terminology." Again, one sees here a bias, since a high percentage of names of animals, plants, medicines, and pharmaceuticals are derived from Native American, African, West Asiatic, Asiatic, and other languages. The Arabic language is noteworthy in relation to the evolution of science and mathematics, for example.
The teaching of the Latin element within modern English ( which I call Englatino in any case) is certainly crucial but it should be taught as a living part of our creole idiom, not as an exotic and separate element. More on that later.
On p.8 the "California Reading List" is referred to. I have not seen a copy of this list, but to meet the legal requirements of the California Constitution it clearly must be completely multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-national, and bi-gender. No ethnicity or sex can possess a position of advantage on that list.
On p.9 for Grade 3 at 3.2 the proposal states: "comprehend basic plots of classic fairy tales, myths, folktales, legends, and fables from around the world." In order to include traditional American literature chants, stories, songs, and poems should be added. Navajo chants, California tribal stories and songs, and Aztec poems and songs all will have rich meanings for California students. Also the term "classic" must not be a hidden marker for "European."
I believe also that in grades 1 through 4 songs and poetry should be included along with prose. Song and poetry is part of the heritage of many California ethnic groups and can be analyzed in the same manner as prose. Moreover, poetry may well open up the creative abilities of students who might have difficulty with prose.
On p.10 for Grade 7 the text states (3.1) that students should "articulate the expressed purposes... of different forms of prose (short story, novel, novella, essay)." This should be broadened to include autobiography, story, speeches and historical accounts, as many early Native American writers use the latter forms.
Also on p.10 for Grade 8 at 3.1 the different forms of poetry should not be limited to primarily European patterns ("ballad, lyric, couplet, epic, elegy, ode, and sonnet") but must be expanded to include free verse, chant, haiku, improvisational, jazz, and other poetic forms. Such an expansion will allow for consideration of First American, Asian, African, and other non-European poetry including contemporary ethnic, street, political, and social poetry. This can make poetry relevant to, and belong to, the lives of California students.
On p.11 at 3.3 mention is made of "man vs. nature" as a conflict. But this is a European dualism not always found among other traditions. It should say "humans vs. nature or humans as part of nature." It is vital that First American philosophies be represented, along with those of other indigenous peoples.
Reading: Literary Response and Analysis
On p.12 at 3.5 students are asked to compare works that express a "universal theme" and two examples are given, specific books by Russell Baker and Ed McClanahan. I would argue that if examples are to be given, then a female author should be included (such as Leslie Silko's Ceremony) and works should be by Asian-Americans, African-Americans, etc., and not solely by two Caucasian males.
On p.12 for grades 11/12 at 3.2 reference is made to Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn and Kipling's Kim, two works written by Caucasian males (again) and both rather controversial. It should certainly be possible to find works by a woman or by an African-American, Native American, or an Indian. I doubt personally that the harm done to Native American students by the portrayal of "injun Joe" can be undone even by balancing Twain with a positive text.
3.5 states "analyze recognized works of American literature representing a variety of genres and traditions, including...." It then goes on to two subsections which raise questions about the meaning of "recognized" and "American."
"Recognized" is a loaded word since very often Anglo-American male literary scholars have tended to ignore works by women, First Americans, Asian-Americans, Mexican-Americans and other groups. The word "recognized" should be removed and American literature should be pluralized since we possess more than one body of literature or literary tradition.
The term "American" must be used in a non-discriminatory way, that is, to refer to all peoples who have a legitimate right to be Americans, including both North and South Americans. If the objective is to confine literary study to only works by United States authors, then that should be made explicitly clear (although I think that that would be a mistake). Also, the United States must be seen as a country (a physical space or area) extending from Hawaii, Samoa, Guam, and Micronesia (and during the period from 1898-1902 through the post-World War II period including also the Philippines) eastward to Puerto Rico and Maine, and not simply as the westward-shifting home of migrating Anglo-Americans.
Treating the United States as a country or region on the Earth allows Native American, Mexican-American, Spanish colonial, French colonial, Russian-Alaskan and other non-Anglo literatures to be considered. This is especially important because it allows California's age-old oral and written literatures to be placed at center-stage.
Under 3.5 it states in the first subsection: "1) tracing the development of American literature from the Colonial period forward." Clearly, this is an illegal attempt to discriminate against Original Americans since the above language excludes all pre-colonial and non-colonial literatures. That is, all of the literature of Americans living away from European colonial territory or prior to European colonization are excluded.
Moreover, this type of language is probably designed to also exclude French-American, Spanish-American, Russian-American, and Mexican literature, since Anglo-American ethnic bias has heretofore interpreted "American literature from the Colonial period" as including English-born newcomers or visitors (such as William Bradford or John Smith) but excluding all non-English colonizers, as well as all Africans and all First Nations peoples. The capitalization of the word "Colonial" tends to confirm that a single colonial group is being considered.
To meet the law the standard must read something like: "tracing the development of American literatures (relevant to the modern cultures of the United States) from earliest times forward and including all geographic areas and all ethnic groups." The parenthetical insert is appropriate if one is focusing on the United States rather than upon America, north and south.
3.5, point 3 states: "analyzing the philosophical, religious, ethical and/or social influences...." This should, I believe, be modified by adding racial, ethnic, sexual, and social class to the list.
3.6 refers to the use of "archetypes" and refers to one from Macbeth. Although I respect Shakespeare very much, I would think that it would be better to refer to an African-American play or a Mexican-American novel, in this instance. In any case, I find the supposed archetype rather debatable, since Macbeth, for me, has to do with the all-too-frequent corruption caused by the lust for power by political leaders.
3.7 at 1) asks students to contrast literary forms, etc., in major literary periods and states "(e.g., Homeric Greece, Medieval Period, Romantic, Neoclassic, Modern)." These categories are blatantly eurocentric and have nothing whatsoever to do with the literary periods of North America, Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and so on.
Our students will very soon be living in California at the year 2,000 on the edge of the Pacific Rim, and their backgrounds are highly diverse, but by the year 2010 the majority will possess some degree of First American ancestry. That is, their ancestry will extend back on this land of America to when the great ice age blocked off Canada and when most of our indigenous ancestors lived south of the ice and tundra in Meso-America and South America. A great proportion of the rest of our peoples will be derived from Asia, Africa and the Pacific, or from areas of Europe long left out of the curriculum. We must, therefore, respond creatively to the exciting challenge of developing curricular standards suitable for California and for all Californians.
We can no longer look at literary periods through the eyes of northwestern Europe, both morally and legally.
Teaching English as a Living World Language
Modern English (or Englatino) is a very exciting language because of its mixed and creole character. It developed its modern form while in a state of colonial subordination to French after the Franco-Norman conquest of England (1066) and the subsequent Franco-Norman conquests or invasions of Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. Thus English, under the hammer of Franco-Latin domination, became a creolized tongue with an immense capacity for change and for the absorption of foreign elements. This colonialized quality and hybrid character makes English extremely suitable for use in California and in the California schools, because many of our youth come from groups which have also experienced colonial subordination and many of their cultural experiences are typified by mixture, diversity, and hybridization.
In order, however, to make the teaching of Evolving, Living English relevant and comprehensible to California youth there are a few principles which should be adhered to, in my judgment: (1) the language should be taught as if it belongs to the students in the sense that they, along with other English-speaking peoples, possess ultimate control over what the English of the future will be like; i.e., they must be actors in the development of English, not simply passive learners of a dead English controlled by a non-existent "royal academy."
(2) English should be taught as a multi-dialectical language and students should be trained to be bi-dialectical, that is, to be able to readily speak and decode several dialects, none of which is more correct than the other, but some of which may confer higher social status. Moreover, this bi-dialectical approach should include learning how to accent English in several different ways, so as to acquire better skill in phonetics in order to facilitate both competency in English dialects and in non-English languages. Phonetic skills are vital for understanding how dialects differ from each other and for true fluency in new languages. Students should be encouraged to game-play with accents (phonetics) so as to overcome any reluctance at pronouncing things "differently." In addition, instruction should deal with the tendency of some persons to mispronounce names such as Martínez, Villaraigosa, and Vanderhoef because of a lack of phonetic skill. Finally, the ethnic and class significance of accent variations should be explored.
(3) The "latino" part of modern English should become a living part of the language and should serve as a bridge to speaking other "Romance" tongues (e.g., the "ject" in subject, object, reject, inject etc. should become a living tool so that we can also coin "outject" and "upject" because we know that "ject" means "to throw or propel;" or the verb facere, to do or make, in sacrifice (sacra-facere), in manufacture (manual doing ), and in factor (doer) becomes a living part of the idiom, so that we can say "autofacture" (self-making) if we wish, et cetera). It is not advantageous when words making up over half of our vocabulary have lost their ability to serve as tools for new expression. Moreover, it is useful, given our tremendous number of Latin-based speakers (American Spanish, Portuguese, Italian etc.) to teach English in such a way as to make it relevant to them.
(4) Special attention should be given to the First American influences upon English, and also to African and other influences. African and Asian influences upon ancient Greek need to be noted, since the Greeks were highly influenced by the Egyptians, and various West Asiatic and Semitic peoples.
(5) Students should, at an appropriate age, be encouraged to participate in alternative spelling systems for English, including student attempts to develop a phonetic alphabet for English (ŕ la George Bernard Shaw and others). They must understand that the spelling "though" instead of "tho" is not only an artifact of history but that it makes it difficult for learners to master a word such as "rough." In either case, what we have is a kind of a pictograph to be recognized visually rather than a phonetic form of writing. Many believe that the time has come to reform English spelling, but whatever we believe, students can better understand their language if they are able to game-play with different ways of spelling and to understand that there is no right or wrong, only making thoughts comprehensible. It is also important to acquaint students specifically with Canadian and British spellings. Needless to state, this is a vital section in relation to students who are of non-English-speaking backgrounds.
(6) Above all, the teaching of language arts should be designed to create a critical consciousness on the part of students and to give them the tools to deconstruct and to criticize what may be presented to them in advertising, political discourse, propaganda, or in any other form. Part of this process is to give them control over their own common language, as discussed above, so that it does not remain a "foreign" and imposed idiom. But this process also involves being absolutely honest and truthful about the evolution of English and how language is often used as a means of control and subordination. Thus, for example, specialized jargons and elite vocabularies may be used as screening devices and as gate-keeping mechanisms and all of our students need to understand that.
In short, we will want the teaching of literature and English to be a liberating and self-empowering experience for all of our California students and not only for the few. The teaching of English must be grounded in the reality of the racial, ethnic, social and economic condition of California society and it must serve all students equally well. It is with this goal in mind that I submit these comments.