Latina teacher fired for not regurgitating the same old crap

Karen Salazar at a rally in response to her firing

cross-posted at AngryBrownButch

Yesterday while listening to Democracy Now! I heard about Karen Salazar for the first time. She is a high school teacher who was fired from her position at a school in LA because her curriculum was too “Afrocentric” – instead of, you know, the usual Eurocentric curriculum that’s delivered to American students on the daily. From a letter by Salazar posted on the Vivir Latino site:

I am being fired because I am trying to ensure that my curriculum is relevant to my students’ daily lived experiences, and in the process, create a space for them to be critical of Eurocentric society and curricula that only serve to reinforce their dehumanization, subjugation, and oppression …

I have been observed in the classroom and evaluated by administration over a dozen times (almost twice a month) this school year, whereas in comparison, most teachers are observed and evaluated 1-3 times per school year. The evaluations claim that I am creating “militancy” within students, promoting my personal political beliefs, and presenting a biased view of the curriculum. It has also been implied that I have been teaching students “how to protest.”

Three weeks ago, things began escalating when I was again observed, and in his evaluation, the administrator accused me of “brainwashing” my students and “forcing extremist views” on them. The class had been reading a 3-page excerpt of the Autobiography of Malcolm X (an LAUSD-approved text, of which we have several class sets in our school bookroom), in which Malcolm describes the first time he conked his hair…My contract is being terminated because according to the principal, I am “indoctrinating students with anti-Semitism and Afrocentrism.” The anti-Semitism accusation comes solely from the fact that I have an Intifada poster hanging in my classroom (a symbol of support for a free Palestine), and the Afrocentrism accusation comes from the fact my culturally-relevant curriculum reflects the demographics of my students, though I am surprised I am not being accused of Raza-centrism as well.

Needless to say, this shit is disgusting. And of course, as Democracy Now! reports, it’s not an isolated incident:

In 2006, Jay Bennish, a high school teacher from Aurora, Colorado, was briefly dismissed because one of his lectures was deemed “anti-American.” On the eve of the Iraq war in 2003, Deborah Mayer, an Indiana schoolteacher, was fired after telling her class, “I honk for peace.” A federal appeals court in Chicago upheld the school’s decision last year and ruled public school teachers do not have the constitutional right to express personal opinions in the classroom.

But this isn’t just about expressing personal opinions; it’s about the restrictions imposed upon teachers who may wish to counter the so-called history in most history books with information that actually reflects the many cultures and histories that make up this country – histories that often don’t make the United States look so swell.

In her post on Salazar’s situation on Vivir Latina, Maegan la Mala writes: “I had to go outside my school system to learn about Puerto Rican history, activism and coalition building when I was about 17 years old.” Same here. Granted, I went to Catholic schools for both elementary and high school, where I’d expect even less of a balanced perspective, especially on issues of colonialism – because we know what kind of a role the good ol’ Roman Catholic Church played in that travesty. But I can remember learning about Puerto Rico’s later re-colonization by the United States; from the history books that I had and the lessons my teachers taught me, I would’ve thought that it was all a happy arrangement in which a benevolent United States swept in to protect hapless Puerto Ricans from themselves, since their independence and sovereignty would clearly only lead to disaster. Imagine my shock – and my anger – when I started to learn that this was simply not the case.

The Democracy Now! interview also includes a conversation with Rodolfo Acuna, a professor at Cal State who started the largest Chicano Studies department in the country and whose book, Occupied America: A History of Chicanos, will may soon be banned from Arizona public schools:

A legislative panel in Arizona endorsed a proposal in April that would cut state funding for public schools whose courses “denigrate American values and the teachings of Western civilization.” The measure would also prohibit students of state-funded universities and community colleges from forming groups based in whole or in part on the race of their members.

Acuna talks about the book that would be verboten should this legislation pass:

It’s a standard history of Chicanos in the United States. It’s no more, no less. And it—one of the controversial places is that I say that the United States invaded Mexico. These people want to rewrite history. They want to build their walls, and they want to say what they say, and they want everybody else to say what they want them to say.

Keeping American students in the dark about America’s wrongdoings, keeping Latino, Black and other students of color from truly understanding their histories in the U.S. – that’s all key to maintaining white supremacy and white privilege in this country. If students need to go out of their way to learn the truth, they’re less likely to get angry about it, less likely to do something about it. That’s why community education is so crucial – to teach kids and adults alike everything that the schools are deliberately leaving out in an effort to exert control. And these elements of school curricula are so widespread, so normalized, so accepted that when an educator tries to break away from it even just a little, they’re the ones being accused of brainwashing students.

If it wasn’t so dangerous and so damaging, it would be funny. Instead, it’s fucking infuriating.

Here’s a video by students at the school responding to Salazar’s firing.

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82 Responses

  1. Latina teacher fired for not regurgitating the same old crap at AngryBrownButch

    [...] cross-posted at Feministe [...]

  2. Lala
    Lala June 19, 2008 at 7:11 pm |

    She is the kind of teacher we need. Young people aren’t stupid, we have the net we know America is not perfect. Its sad everyone gets taught American history but Americans.

  3. Toast
    Toast June 19, 2008 at 7:22 pm |

    This is a goddamned shame, and here’s why: Reading Salazar’s description of her course, my first thought was “That sounds like something you’d find in college, not high school.” That’s a problem. It’s a problem that you have to slug your way from K through 12 and into college before there’s even the slightest expectation that you might encounter something other than the mainstream, watered-down, yawn-inducing bullshit that passes for History and/or Civics or whatever the hell they call it these days. It’s especially problematic because, from the sound of it, a lot of the kids in Salazar’s school – and others like it around the country – probably won’t ever see the inside of a college lecture hall.

  4. Katie
    Katie June 19, 2008 at 7:33 pm |

    As a public high school student, I find this terrifying. I’m lucky my teachers this year never got observed… My history teacher not only spent lots of time going over how America got into the war in Iraq and why it was bad, but encouraged us to discuss discrimination and racism in the school. Is that brainwashing, too?
    They probably feel she was making her students “militant” because she was making them interested – and maybe rightfully angry that the history and literature relevant to them was so ignored by the regular curriculum!

  5. Katie
    Katie June 19, 2008 at 7:35 pm |

    “That sounds like something you’d find in college, not high school.”

    We had a few AP English teachers who tried to teach college-esque discussions and analysis and got in serious trouble for it. God forbid you do anything interesting or form your own opinions in school, right?

  6. natmusk
    natmusk June 19, 2008 at 7:43 pm |

    One of my good friends spent six months teaching in China and her lectures were constantly being observed to make sure she did not teach any “American” values such as democracy and freedom of religion.

    I remember when she was telling us this one of my friends commented on how she was glad our education wasn’t controlled or limited….

    This just makes me sad

  7. Manju
    Manju June 19, 2008 at 7:53 pm |

    i’m concerned about the intifada flag though, just as i would be about an israeli flag in a high-school classroom (outsidfe of israel, of course). wonder how she handles dissent.

  8. luzzleanne
    luzzleanne June 19, 2008 at 8:12 pm |

    It’s no more, no less. And it—one of the controversial places is that I say that the United States invaded Mexico.

    Wow, so people aren’t allowed to say that anymore? If we’re not, can we at least quote Lincoln on it?

    “It is a fact, that the United States Army, in marching to the Rio Grande, marched into a peaceful Mexican settlement, and frightened the inhabitants away from their homes and their growing crops,” Lincoln said. From here.

    In reading this, I’m kind of amazed at how liberal my highschool was about this kind of thing. I mean, we were pretty screwed up in other ways, but we had teachers vocally speaking out against the Iraq war pretty much as soon as the idea came up. We had a class that was specifically about African American history. Hell, our 10th grade English course did a poetry unit on lyrics which included old blues songs, Bob Dylan, and Tupac Shakur.

  9. Zander
    Zander June 19, 2008 at 8:19 pm |

    I’m a graduate student in education right now. This makes me terrified to be a teacher, but watching that video reminds me exactly why I want to work with high schoolers.

  10. Toast
    Toast June 19, 2008 at 8:28 pm |

    God forbid you do anything interesting or form your own opinions in school, right?

    No, child, such things are not for you. But we do have this lovely selection of pre-approved ideas for you to choose from. Learn two get one free on Fridays. ;-)

  11. Renee
    Renee June 19, 2008 at 8:29 pm |

    The school board wants revisionist history taught to these students because it maintains the racial hierarchy. When children of color learn the true knowledge of their ancestors, they develop a positive view of themselves. It supports the status quo for all POC to feel inferior.

  12. Toast
    Toast June 19, 2008 at 8:34 pm |

    i’m concerned about the intifada flag though, just as i would be about an israeli flag in a high-school classroom (outsidfe of israel, of course). wonder how she handles dissent.

    That “dissent” question is key, as it does determine the boundary between questioning and indoctrinating. Based on the bulk of what they quoted her on, however, I’m inclined to give the benefit of the doubt. After all, if you want to introduce young students to the concept of political contrarianism, taking the side of Palestine is a good place to start.

  13. Liberality
    Liberality June 19, 2008 at 9:07 pm |

    My son’s high school history teacher, who is a white male, regurgitated Fox News talking points to the classes he taught every day of the week. Want to make a bet that man will never get fired or challenged in any way?

  14. Anna
    Anna June 19, 2008 at 9:17 pm |

    This makes me think of a couple things:

    First is the book Lies my Teacher Taught Me, which is about the way history is mistaught with a strong racist bias, demonizing Black and Native history (I don’t think it talks specifically about Latin@ history) and white-washing the history of the US.

    Second is how Toronto is opening up a school next year with an Africentric curriculum, to try and break the Eurocentric curriculum. The theory is that giving students a history that is more relevant to them will engage them in school.

  15. Chel
    Chel June 19, 2008 at 9:32 pm |

    in my AP American History class my liberal, well informed, kind, funny, nerdy, white male teacher skipped over every single chapter involving women’s history/rights and people of color’s history/rights.

    EVERY TIME.

    I just thought he was an asshole, but now maybe it was because he was afraid of being reprimanded for teaching such things. Like I said, he was an extremely good teacher and for that he was also under the administration’s thumb already.

    p.s. to Anna, that was such a good read I agree. It’s too bad we need an “outside” book to educate us, when we should be getting that in the textbooks at school.

  16. Holly
    Holly June 19, 2008 at 9:35 pm |

    That Abraham Lincoln was a dangerous disseminator of anti-American ideas!! We ought to scrub the history books clean of his traitorous notions. And I mean, Abraham — doesn’t that sound like a middle eastern name to you? Plus, look at this quote from 1855:

    Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we began by declaring that ‘all men are created equal.’ We now practically read it ‘all men are created equal, except negroes.’ When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read ‘all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and catholics.’ When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretence of loving liberty — to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocracy.

    Nothing but a cheese-eating surrender monkey who wants to move to Russia!!

    As for teaching kids to protest, that’s a serious problem. Those kids might end up pulling some dangerous stunt like refusing to give up their seat on the bus to their betters, or marching on our nation’s capitol, or even throwing a shipment of tea into a harbor somewhere. Not just protests, criminal actions!! How dare an English teacher try to teach kids about protesting!? This kind of thing is totally against the heritage and history of the United States! Next thing you know she’d be making them read Thoreau, or speeches by that dangerous radical, Martin Luther King Jr.

  17. luzzleanne
    luzzleanne June 19, 2008 at 9:57 pm |

    @Holly,

    Yeah! Always trying to give special priveleges to those uppity black folk and trying to let those damn Mexicans have Texas!!

    Seriously, though, we lined up half our army on their border for “training drills” and then decided that one person getting shot (in the middle of the night, with no suspects, possibly by our side as justification) was grounds for a war. I don’t know that you can argue that we didn’t invade Mexico there.

  18. exholt
    exholt June 19, 2008 at 11:21 pm |

    History teaching, especially at the K-12 level is already quite atrocious due to time constraints, denigration of the subject by parents and society, and the tendency to teach to the state’s infantilizingly low expectations.

    Unfortunately, from what I’ve seen in the NYC Board of Ed as a junior high student…and heard from many friends who teach in public schools…politics, CYA, overly meddlesome parents, and institutional laziness tend to target teachers such as Ms. Salazar.

    In my AP American History class my liberal, well informed, kind, funny, nerdy, white male teacher skipped over every single chapter involving women’s history/rights and people of color’s history/rights.

    Though my urban public magnet high school’s regular US history class did use a standard US history text….albeit one at the college-level according to several alums who ended up using the exact same book at some well-reputed colleges, we were privileged to have excellent teachers who encouraged us to question and critique the text along with doing outside research as part of our assignments.

    Granted, my high school could have done more…though what was sadder was I heard from some classmates that their college-level American history courses were even more limited in covering topics outside of the mainstream US history curriculum and far less comprehensive and rigorous compared to what we received in our standard US history class in high school.

    To worsen matters, there was a great deal of pressure from department heads, college admins, alumni, trustees, and parents to keep those classmates’ colleges’ US history curriculum the way it is and to resist any challenges from students or outside groups.

    Didn’t experience this at my college as the progressive orientation of the campus made it that most of our US history course was spent studying marginalized groups and critiquing the Eurocentricity of the mainstream US history curriculum taught in many US colleges and K-12 schools.

  19. Craig R.
    Craig R. June 19, 2008 at 11:28 pm |

    When I was in high school (back when we had to walk uphill, both ways, through blizzards in May and June), our Social Studies/Civics instructor was teaching from materials produced with grants from the Annenburg Foundation — it was material that was, for many of us, a first intoduction to critical thinking applied to research materials, including quotes from primary sources wherever possible, and lots of comparison of different angles of analysis.

    I’m really sorry to see that that kind of teaching and analysis has been relegated to venues other than the public school system, where the needs for critical thinking and independent thought are all the more important for young people to be able to keep to their own centers of mind and integrity amidst the pressures upon them.

  20. Juan
    Juan June 19, 2008 at 11:39 pm |

    Chel says:
    June 19th, 2008 at 9:32 pm – Edit

    in my AP American History class my liberal, well informed, kind, funny, nerdy, white male teacher skipped over every single chapter involving women’s history/rights and people of color’s history/rights.

    Same thing happened to me throughout much of my K-12 life with history, and social studies, teachings. Heck, my world history class in highschool was taught by a black man and the only thing we touched outside of white civilization was Ancient Egypt, Ancient Middle East/Mesopotamia and Ancient China for around no more than a week. Once we touched Ancient Greece then world history became exclusively white.

    Maybe you have something there in that he was also less of an ass and more under the thumb of the school administration. My AP U.S. History teacher, I’m not quite as sure. That and she also taught an AP European History course too which was pretty much something that she came up with and created herself.

  21. lilacsigil
    lilacsigil June 19, 2008 at 11:41 pm |

    This was really fascinating, because we’ve just been through all this in Australia, where the former Prime Minister declared that teachers were teaching “Black Armband History”, i.e. talking about bad things in Australian history and society as well as the good things. This fit in perfectly with his view that we should be proud of good things Australians had done in the past, but declare that anything bad (such as kidnapping part-Aboriginal children as an official policy of genocide) was “a long time ago” and not relevant to modern Australians. Or that it didn’t happen.

  22. Manju
    Manju June 20, 2008 at 12:07 am |

    My son’s high school history teacher, who is a white male, regurgitated Fox News talking points to the classes he taught every day of the week. Want to make a bet that man will never get fired or challenged in any way?

    if he hung a confederate flag in his classroom he probably would.

  23. Loren
    Loren June 20, 2008 at 12:57 am |

    This sort of bullshit makes it clear just how threatening teachers like Ms. Salazar are to the corporations that control public education in the United States. Educators who teach students about oppression, imperialism, and occupation shake up the “corporate ideal” in which public schools produce student-workers who fulfill predetermined functions (and nothing more) in a broader capitalist economy. Younger students, such as my 6th graders, are ready to be exposed to critical analyses of power, racism, sexism, homophobia, etc – and anyone who claims otherwise is either drastically underestimating them or strategically trying to limit their access to knowledge.

  24. Kate
    Kate June 20, 2008 at 2:52 am |

    I’m not from the US, so I don’t want to poke too hard (although we have similar issues here in Australia – Australian studies is still a joke). Like lilacsigil said, there’s been a lot of discussion here about how we deal with our history, how we teach it and own it.

    I realise that this is not necessarily representative, but I was listening to a This American Life episode – I think it was called Shouting Accross the Divide? One of the stories was about a Muslim family who lived happily in a small town until the first anniversary of s11, when one of the girls’ teachers’s gave the class a state-sanctioned book which explicitly said ‘Muslims hate Americans’. I was shocked. My jaw almost hit the floor. How is it possible that that is acceptable? And that teaching about black history is not?

    With the recent apology to Aboriginal Australians here, I will argue strongly for the idea that in order for the past not to matter in a negative way, we have to know it. If we ignore and suppress the fact that White people have almost always oppressed others, it’s a big deal. If we acknowledge it we can deal with it, move on from it.

    Isn’t the fact that people feel the need to suppress it a sign that they feel that it is dangerous, that they feel guilt or shame or something? It’s just appaling that there still have to be people who take personal hits for this kind of thing, though.

  25. Kristin
    Kristin June 20, 2008 at 4:22 am |

    Holy shit. Where can we contact to express outrage and support re-hiring her, or at least an apology, or something?

  26. Kristin
    Kristin June 20, 2008 at 4:26 am |

    OK, I did my own Google and I think this is the correct info, although I can’t vouch for it:

    David L. Brewer III
    Superintendent of Schools

    Office of the Superintendent
    333 S. Beaudry Ave., 24th Floor
    Los Angeles, CA 90017

    Mailing Address
    P.O. Box 3307
    Los Angeles, CA 90051
    Tel: 213-241-7000
    Fax: 213-241-8442
    superintendent@lausd.net

    Offices hours:
    8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday-Friday

  27. Linnaeus
    Linnaeus June 20, 2008 at 9:20 am |

    I’ll second exholt on this issue; I was fortunate enough to have good teachers who used a halfway decent textbook and went outside of it to make up for its shortcomings. I also agree that a big part of the problem with history instruction is the general demeaning of the subject as something that isn’t “useful”.

    (Full disclosure: I’m an historian myself, so my view is probably a bit skewed.)

  28. JFM
    JFM June 20, 2008 at 9:44 am |

    However, I’m not too worried, especially because if she didn’t indicate support for the Palestinians, these kids might never hear an actual critical thing about Israeli policy or the occupation.

    But we need to really be on guard against supporting indoctrination that is masquerading as ‘presenting an alternate viewpoint’. I don’t mean to say that’s necessarily what’s happening here–I don’t know any more about this particular case than what’s been posted here. But the solution to the often racist and US-centric bias of traditionalist history is not to inject another, different bias. We don’t need to make the mirror-image argument that conservatives have been making–“There are 100 Democrats on staff, therefore we need 100 Republicans too.” All that’s going to do is make classrooms more and more partisan.

    So while I enthusiastically support teaching more full accounts of historical events, there’s no reason that should extend to expressing and promoting specific political stances. That is, by all means discuss the history of the founding of modern Israel, take a thorough look at the various conflicts that have resulted, and examine the politics of the various groups involved (IF this topic is relevant to your class). But that doesn’t mean that during class, the teacher needs to express that he or she supports one side over another. And what would be the benefit of doing so? If you’ve done a good job exposing students to the complexity of the history, they should then have the ability to judge for themselves whom to support. In short, discuss who wanted to found Israel and why, who was opposed and why, how the debate played out, the history of the state’s interactions with its neighbors and with those it displaced, the various changes in domestic and regional political movements and how those affected everything, the history of and various reasons for US support, and such. Notice you don’t really need to add in there “I believe… you should believe…” in order to present information that might end up challenging the students’ existing views of the subject.

    Sorry to seem so traditionalist here or contrary–and I’m not someone who EVER makes the argument that schools are chock-full of liberal bias and conservatives are threatened or any such bullshit. So please don’t take that to be my point here. I just think that while we should absolutely include as complete an understanding of historical events as possible, that history class is not the right forum to make value judgments on political issues. Let’s aspire to a somewhat higher ideal here–engage students intellectually, teach them to think critically. That will go a long way toward helping them live in the world and give them the tools to come to their own conclusions.

  29. juju
    juju June 20, 2008 at 10:02 am |

    Unfortunately, from what I’ve seen in the NYC Board of Ed as a junior high student…and heard from many friends who teach in public schools…politics, CYA, overly meddlesome parents, and institutional laziness tend to target teachers such as Ms. Salazar.

    I have heard the same thing from public school teachers. Anyone who in anyway steps outside of the program can be targeted.

  30. William
    William June 20, 2008 at 10:34 am |

    I hope she’d handle dissent well; seems like she would, but even right-on leftists can be jerks about that.

    She seems like she’d handle dissent well based on what, Jill, the fact that she was fired by assholes for being contradictory? I don’t want to bring down the buzz anything but, at the end of the day, shes a teacher in a public high school who has strong enough beliefs about things that she was willing to get fired in order to make a point. Its admirable, yes, and the point she makes is both valid and vital, but that doesn’t exactly sound like someone who is going to countenance dissent very well. Especially when you hear dog whistles like “Raza” or spend thirty seconds on the Association of Raza Educators site and see a picture of Lucio Cabanas. Strong feelings, voluntary involvement in the public school system, and membership of an organization which glorifies a kidnapper doesn’t strike me as a combination likely to be open to dissent.

  31. Jill
    Jill June 20, 2008 at 10:46 am | *

    She seems like she’d handle dissent well based on what, Jill, the fact that she was fired by assholes for being contradictory?

    Jack =/ Jill :-)

  32. Adele
    Adele June 20, 2008 at 10:50 am |

    I just think that while we should absolutely include as complete an understanding of historical events as possible, that history class is not the right forum to make value judgments on political issues. Let’s aspire to a somewhat higher ideal here–engage students intellectually, teach them to think critically. That will go a long way toward helping them live in the world and give them the tools to come to their own conclusions.

    I think the issue here is the fact that critical thought is under fire. It is the question of approach to the study of history: do we accept facts at face value, or do we analyze them? A critical, dialect approach to history will necessarily yield “value judgements” on political issues past and present.

    I wonder if we will see a Freedom Writers-style inspirational teacher movie about Karen Salazar? It seems like the classic teacher movie narrative: teacher “shakes things up,” inspires youth of color, encounters resistance, kids rally around her. Oh, but wait… she’s not a Nice White Lady. Never mind!

  33. Jenga
    Jenga June 20, 2008 at 11:22 am |

    I feel lucky, for sure, come to think of it. My AP US History course was taught with the Standard White-Male text (Bailey’s American History) right along side with Zinn’s “A people’s history of the United States.” It was far from perfect, and it would have been amazing to include “Lies my Teacher Told.” But my teacher went out of his way to make sure that there was atleast one other side consulted when looking at the standard text. Possibly the most disparate parts were the sections on Andrew Jackson, and pretty much everything he did and stood for.

    That being said, I think that the Palestine flag is somewhat of a problem, I think every teacher should do hir best to keep personal politics out of it, and provide an overview of the ideas out there, ie: outline all the talking points, start the discussion and contribute when neccessary. If the teacher in question was going to have a free palestine flag, then i think she should have an israeli flag as well, to inspire discussion. However, I don’t know the whole story here, and as such am basing this off of what I can see.

  34. Bravo Romeo Delta
    Bravo Romeo Delta June 20, 2008 at 11:48 am |

    In reaction to the content of what the woman was teaching, it might be worthwhile to keep in mind the (what I assume is) the actual proximate cause of dismissal – failure to adhere to the curriculum.

    The best place to tackle the issue is at the school board level, otherwise diminishing the need for a teacher to adhere to the assigned curriculum will, as sure as death and taxes, be used by someone to start introducing Creationism at the expense of Evolution – or even much, much more pernicious ideas.

    It’s slower, and more difficult, but changing the curriculum at the board level and then leaning heavily on adherence to curriculum is a lot more effective way – in the long run – to get a message across. Individual teacher activism like could have negative unintended consequences.

  35. prefer not to say
    prefer not to say June 20, 2008 at 12:12 pm |

    I share other people’s wariness that teaching from the left can be just as indoctrinating as teaching from the right. I’ve definitely seen and experienced that.

    But my first impression upon hearing that she had a Palestinian flag hung in her classroom was “Wow. Her students have heard of Palestine? And might even be able to distinguish it from Israel? And might even know that actual historical events contribute to conflicts in the middle east, rather than a racial propensity for violence? How awesome!”

    That’s more knowledge than most of the highly accomplished college students I teach have about world affairs. Really. If leftist indoctrination involves letting students know that there are other nations in the world with their own motivations and history, then I say, bring on those indoctrinated students.

  36. Radfem
    Radfem June 20, 2008 at 12:53 pm |

    I think the issue here is the fact that critical thought is under fire. It is the question of approach to the study of history: do we accept facts at face value, or do we analyze them? A critical, dialect approach to history will necessarily yield “value judgements” on political issues past and present.

    I do too. And I don’t think she’d be as threatening to the administration if she were White.

  37. laurenamillion
    laurenamillion June 20, 2008 at 1:06 pm |

    This is terrible – but not really surprising. When I was in high school, I had the same woman of color teacher for freshman honors and AP American History. My freshman year, one of our first vocab words was “eurocentrism”, and in AP American History, one of our textbooks was Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States (the discussion that followed was great – there were a number of people in the class who disagreed with it, and it was never the kind of class where you had to agree with her, but I pretty much did all around). She was pretty awesome, and I think the reason she never got challenged was because we were in a basically all-white school. No superintendent would be afraid of promoting “militant” behavior – we’re all rich white kids. It’s the same reason that a lot of stuff you never hear in high school is taught in college – the domain of wealthy whiteness. Who cares if a bunch of privileged kids learn the truth – it’s people of color they’re afraid of, who might actually, you know, expect change, and “not let people oppress us” as the kid in the video so awesomely put it.

  38. exholt
    exholt June 20, 2008 at 1:08 pm |

    As for the question of indoctrination, I do share some of that fear due to hearing stories from my late great-aunt and her daughters about how all students from kindergarten to university level were forcibly indoctrinated into the Maoist inspired Cultural Revolutionary ideals with no tolerance for any dissent.

    In the US, however, what usually happens when an asshole teacher/Prof does end up indoctrinating or introducing bias/animus, especially if it is outside the mainstream is that most American students won’t stand for it, word will get around, and will rebel and otherwise do anything to fight it…including resort to launching legal suits against the teacher/school.

    In fact, this has been my observation of how most students deal with bad teachers in general….including myself.

    In high school, I once got into an argument with a White substitute science teacher who adamantly expressed her views about being a Clinton supporter in the ’92 election not only because of her seriously intolerant attitude towards students who disagreed, but more importantly because it was a distraction from what she was supposed to be covering….psychology and pharmacological science.

    In college, there was one instructor who was so infamously renowned for playing favorites and pulling arbitrary crap on students that the student orientation staff made it a point to tell us on the first day to avoid him…especially if we planned to major in that department.

    The only case of Professorial/teacher bias I know of that was so bad that it cannot be avoided was a high school classmate from a Jewish background who was about to drop out of a top-flight PhD program in Near-East/Middle East Studies. From what he recounted, he got fed up with both the Pro-Israeli and Pro-Palestinian Professors disturbing tendency to loudly browbeat their political opinions into their grad students as that was contrary to his goals to learn the research methods, skills, and sources necessary to be a scholar hoping to add new knowledge to the field. He also felt this tendency was endemic to the field based on his experiences in his field’s academic conferences all over the US and Canada.

    The best place to tackle the issue is at the school board level, otherwise diminishing the need for a teacher to adhere to the assigned curriculum will, as sure as death and taxes, be used by someone to start introducing Creationism at the expense of Evolution – or even much, much more pernicious ideas.

    In many of the cases where Creationism was introduced at the expense of Evolution, it was not usually done by activist schoolteachers on the right…but deliberately imposed from above by the local schoolboard to the opposition of most science teachers like the one in the Dover, PA case.

  39. laurenamillion
    laurenamillion June 20, 2008 at 1:13 pm |

    p.s., as far as not allowing “personal opinions” in the classrooms, we should ban “pledging allegiance to the flag” in schools as well – and abstinence only, etc. When a couple of my friends realized that at mandatory pep rallys we couldn’t get in trouble for not standing during the national anthem (this is right when Iraq was starting), it was ridiculous the number of shocked looks from other kids we got. Wait, we don’t have to unthinkingly obey every command from the authorities? It’s like the other kids were pod people and we were showing emotion – like with the pointing and the screaming.

  40. Bravo Romeo Delta
    Bravo Romeo Delta June 20, 2008 at 1:30 pm |

    @ Jack,

    Any word on the proximate administrative grounds for dismissal then? The specific accusation is pretty critical, especially if there are grounds to challenge.

    BRD

  41. Loren
    Loren June 20, 2008 at 2:24 pm |

    It’s difficult to speculate about how Ms. Salazar would have been treated differently if she were white – but part of me strongly suspects that if Ms. Salazar were white, organizations like Teach for America (which are so deeply problematic) would be chomping at the bit to make a “Freedom Writers” sequel glorifying her as the “nice white lady” coming in to “save the kids of color”. She would have a much stronger support structure in the faux-progressive organizations and groups – TFA, Teaching Fellows, charter schools, KIPP schools – that pretend to be fighting educational inequality but actually partner up with Goldman-Sachs in order to invest money in it.

  42. J
    J June 20, 2008 at 2:25 pm |

    I wish we’d had something even remotely like that course in my high school. We thought all our classes were made so that we were getting taught the bare minimum – and we were honors kids. We especially hated economics. Teaching a bunch of poor black and brown kids in a Rust Belt city that the capitalist system is the best of all possible systems doesn’t really fly.

    But I’d say from my experiences that college classes aren’t much better. To my knowledge, on my campus there are about three teachers like Ms. Salazar. One is on the verge of being fired because one of my uber-right wing classmates wrote a letter to the administration accusing the professor of being a racist and teaching “conspiracies” like the civil rights/women’s rights movements. Every other professor I know keeps on the admin’s line as far as what kinds of views they espouse in class. This prof tries to challenge his students’ predispositions and he gets fired.

    One history prof I had, I was shocked the man was able to keep his job. This man did not believe in evolution. He said that fossils weren’t evidence of evolution. They had been put there by the Flood. Yes, that flood. He also put way too much from the Bible in to his lesson on the Middle East, and he said that the unknown sixth pillar of Islam is to destroy Western society and especially Christians. He was forever going on “they hate us for our freedom” rants. I don’t get how he keeps his job but the other prof is likely getting fired.

  43. chingona
    chingona June 20, 2008 at 3:02 pm |

    Just wanted to let folks know that proposed legislation in Arizona didn’t pass.

  44. jamespi
    jamespi June 20, 2008 at 3:21 pm |

    I never really got this, probably never will. Teach all the “good” things about American History, and yes there is a ton of interesting, inspiring stuff. Teach all the “bad” things too as they can be just as informative about a people or nation. That being said it only makes sense to me to also teach about African History but also teach all the good and bad things that come with it. I dont usually try and compare things trying to figure out which is worse but African people/nations have done things just as fucked up, and just as great, as Americans have. Though it’s been lambasted a lot I prefer to take a guns, germs, and steel approach to history but I truly dont understand the negativity I get from some people when talking about American History. All they seem to want to talk about is invading Mexico for example, or other bad acts from nation state to some horrible event in their hometown 1, 10, or 200 years ago. Yes learn it all but sheesh, theres a ton of great stuff too and that should be tossed into the mix when trying to figure out or evaluate our history. Perhaps its not possible at the high school level but getting several perspectives on the same events/movements can be fascinating.

    Also does this depend on the makeup of the course? She said she was incorporating lessons on Africa due to the class makeup, should a history class in dearborn focus a ton more on Middle Eastern history?

  45. William
    William June 20, 2008 at 4:53 pm |

    Jack =/ Jill :-)

    …wow, just wow. Yep, I fucked up there. I can’t even think of a logical reason why…sorry about that.

    But I’m basing my assessment of her both on her voiced politics and her students’ assessments of her. I haven’t heard any of them complaining that she quashed their dissent. But maybe she has them so completely brainwashed that they wouldn’t complain? Yeah, that must be it.

    Again, sorry for thinking it was Jill who’d commented, I’m an idiot (must be a day that ends in y). Anyway…I wasn’t saying that she had the three students who stood up for her brainwashed, I was just saying that in my experience people who work in public schools don’t tend to be accepting of dissent. Also, people who have a cause are often disinterested in dissent. I was merely saying that assuming she was open to dissent was maybe not the best assumption. I’ll fully own my predisposition to assume that high school teachers are fascists, regardless of their stated politics ;)

    Your characterization of “La Raza” as a “dog whistle” is B.S. I’ll admit that I never really understood the “dog whistle” term but did a little research and the term doesn’t seem to apply. What do you think is the hidden subtext or meaning behind “La Raza?”

    Its a term that you really only hear in a small, militant portion of the Mexican immigrant community. It means “The Race.” My encounters with the phrase (while working as a counselor/therapist in a predominantly Latino , wonderfully politically active public school) have always had something of a supremacist undertone. You know how you get a feeling that something isn’t quite right when a white guy from Virginia is just a little too proud of the confederacy and gets a little too into Civil War reenactments? La Raza just isn’t a term you hear very often in neutral corners. Maybe Chicago’s activist Latino politics are unique in the connotations that that term holds.

    As for Lucio Cabañas, makes me think of the tried and true phrase about one person’s terrorist being another person’s freedom fighter. And anyhow, the standard U.S. history taught in schools glorifies colonialist conquerors, murderers, rapists, slave owners, kidnappers, and all sorts of people who were probably termed “terrorists” at one point or another (the patriots during the American Revolution, for one.) So where are your complaints about all of those people being glorified on a daily basis in American schools?

    One man’s freedom fighter is another’s terrorist, but if you target civilians you’re an asshole either way. Yeah, it happens on both sides, but that doesn’t make it right. The answer to the glorification of the seas of human shit that occupied high places in European history isn’t to glorify the other’s monsters, but to call out everyone’s evil. The standard course of history taught in most schools is bullshit (as is the bulk of public school curricula in general), but the solution isn’t to add more fantasy. Asking where my complaints are of other people’s crimes is a dodge. This discussion was about this case. If we were talking about war criminals in Darfur would you snidely demand I also mentioned Pinochet?

    Anyway, my point was not to invalidate Salazar’s argument (which I think is valuable.) My point was that we shouldn’t romanticize her and her struggle without, you know, evidence. Especially given her questionable associations. If we want to have an open and productive discussion about the problems with public school curricula we should be talking about the issues rather than looking for figureheads. Figureheads distract from the discussion, human beings have foibles fallibility that allow the other side to attack them rather than address the argument. It is far easier to tear down a person (even a good one) than it is a good idea.

  46. fastaire
    fastaire June 20, 2008 at 5:05 pm |

    Just teach what the school board and the administration instruct you to teach lady. If you want to teach something else when you interview with the school for your job ask in the interview if it’s alright to teach “afrocentric” subjects, whatever the hell that means. Something tells me that the only thing this woman knows about Africa is what she sees on Wild Kingdom. This is typical liberalism run amok. What would you say if instead of teaching algebra a teacher was teaching your child the math of some ancient tribe in Africa? You probably wouldn’t like it. On the other hand a liberal would probably think it was wonderful. This woman should not be teaching she should be tending bar somewhere. That way she could hold forth on “afrocentricism” to her customers. Now that would suit me fine.

    I am happy I will most likely not be around in 60 years to see how you libs have totally screwed this world up by working all your liberal wonders.

  47. Shankar Gupta
    Shankar Gupta June 20, 2008 at 5:33 pm |

    Too bad she wasn’t a pharmacist, because I hear they can interject their personal beliefs into their jobs all they want.

  48. miwome
    miwome June 20, 2008 at 5:38 pm |

    @jamespi: it wasn’t African history she was teaching so much as African-American. Part of the violent reaction you’re seeing is the marginalization of that story, which is as much a part of our nation’s history as the Boston Tea Party. Teaching African history in conjunction with U.S. history might be interesting, but in terms of basing the curriculum on the class makeup would be less relevant.

    Education is one of the strongest tools of nationalism and nation-building: if I learn about New England history in class (I’m from Boston) in addition to learning about the Gold Rush and the Harlem Rennaissance, then all those things are subtly positioned as being all part of the history that’s relevant to me and my country. By extension, the peoples of those ethnic groups and geographic locations are positioned as my compatriots, on the same level as myself. Marginalizing black history or Chicano history or any of the others is a way of keeping those peoples out and white, European people in.

    So really the issue here isn’t whether African peoples have done worse or better things than United States. It’s whether we deem African-American history worthwhile and relevant. I would argue that we should.

  49. miwome
    miwome June 20, 2008 at 5:40 pm |

    Also, side note: any other Spanish-speakers find themselves wishing about 50 times a day that there were an English-language equivalent for estadounidense? I always try to avoid the fallacy that “America” consists only of the United States when in fact there is, you know, all of Latin America to be considered here, but it’s always clumsy and difficult in English without that adjective.

  50. shah8
    shah8 June 20, 2008 at 5:48 pm |

    Education is a small obsession with me, and I have lots of opinions on them, some of them quite agressive. So I’m just shutting up (mostly) about most of this and the related thread on Racialicious.

    I just want to comment on one aspect.

    There has always been a spirit of propaganda within US education and history. Lost Cause mythology permeates almost all of the Civil War teaching, and it is an excellent example of the normativity used as a means to elicit support for The Way Things Are. So as many things white and elite are normalized and the heuristics that support that mythology are mass-spoken, extremely few people have had *any* sort of exposure to what, say, Slavery actually was all about, beyond that it was bad and it’s over. Nothing about the economic basis beyond cotton gin and triangle trade, nothing about why slavery in the US was doomed, and *especially* nothing about how Reconstruction ended and mass reenslavement of black people began. Moreover, we get absolutely nothing about Asian and Hispanic participation in US history, not how the Mexican War was a direct cause of the Civil War, and not how the increasing anti-asian feeling during the late 19th century was a driver in the later Japanese military imperialism. And that is only just one little stretch of history.

    What’s more important to mention is this: Without an accurate telling of history for everyone, everyone who opposes the status quo is in a situation of historical Babel. No public forum on these issues can get forward without lots of louts and assholes interrupting the dialogue with historical misinterpretions and faulty logic. Anytime someone talks about the Palestinian issue, others who are invested, like racist and insular jewish people, will always disrupt that conversation with cries of terrorist appeasers, and prevent any dialogue that might lead towards peace and allows exploitation of the valuable land and water resources of the Golan Heights, Gaza, and the West Bank. Control of history is pretty damn valuable to TPTB.

    Even in just more closed intra progressive movements, it gets really hard to communicate. I get the feeling sometimes that many feminists (and many other activists of *all* stripes) do not have a strong and syncretic understanding of what exactly happened. Since people have to actively seek out books on history to get a decent understanding, it’s too easy to have a *very* narrow and deep understanding of one topic, which warps the perception of how that activist percieves everything else. Said activist probably have many friends who respect that person’s views, and gives consideration to that person’s opinion even when it’s far afield of what that person really knows. Thus, a meme grows and has to get shot down, or everyone has to wait until the person and all her followers are in disrepute or dead.

  51. shah8
    shah8 June 20, 2008 at 5:55 pm |

    William, a small point…

    It’s not possible to be a freedom fighter *without* targeting civilians.

    One of the weirdest fucking thing about The Matrix was how casual it was about killing bystanders left and right, who *really* will die. However, those people accept that matrix of oppresion, and the Matrix is accurate in representing the necessity of killing civilians and destroying the framework of their existence. Go deep into any rabit hole, and it’s inevitable that one has to deal with “The Greater Good” rather than seek any general and gradual pareto improvement.

    It’s true, but it’s bleached of any compassion for those necessary victims. That bothers me.

  52. jamespi
    jamespi June 20, 2008 at 8:52 pm |

    miwome,
    I get the point about the marginilizing of certain areas of this countries history. I just wonder, when the rubber meets the road, what are we to do about it and what is the “proper” mix? The hours in a high school history class are limited and the overall curriculum has a lot of oversight, at least where I’m from which is also the Northeast. Do we shift the percentage of time covering African-American history in America if the class being taught is majority African-American? Do we shift it again, in Dearborn as I mentioned, or in my home state of Maine? Yes I get what youre saying about weaving a fabric showing the totality of our history but due to my own experiences, bias, and privilege its hard for me to value entirely equally all parts of our history, i have a hard time seeing the history of the Abenaki, Sokokis or Algonquin tribes having more value than the Enlightment, by value I mean time spent on the subject. Unfortunately with a limited timeframe priorities must be made and heck, for a guy from Maine, Native American Studies would have more relation than Chicano studies, in a limited environment, what to do? Can/should a teacher unilaterally make the choice? At what level should that choice be made as k-12 is largely, and hopefully will remain, a local/county/state issue? Net access for all cuts both ways, how to inform members of any group about the extremist or fundamentalist members of other groups and their beliefs? Tough stuff I dont even pretend to know much about. My school system was incredibly progressive, especially with history, for every significant white man we studied, there had to be one non-white man and so on. What I didnt understand about this, and I dont get this in most conversations I have about this subject, is why are Asians and Australians/Pac Islanders excluded from this? The history of China, just one region/country, is far more detailed than that of Africa or South America, why are those so rarely brought up in muticultural history discussions? Is it because of the high school level we are talking about?

  53. shah8
    shah8 June 20, 2008 at 9:47 pm |

    Iroquois Confederacy was a MAJOR part of your regional history. And they were very much worth knowing to some degree.

    This part is where it gets to be hard to get a more balanced approach to history. Until most people are familiar with just how *gappy* their history is, it’s hard to prove that the current history is inadequate.

  54. jamespi
    jamespi June 20, 2008 at 10:32 pm |

    yes it was a major part and i had a good amount of it, heck in grade school the students within each grade were split up into tribes, doubt that would fly now but the intent was good. thats what i was getting at in a way you put much better shah, a balanced approach is pretty much impossible due to the amount of information out there, how to go about it? OT: shah, are you iranian?

  55. jamespi
    jamespi June 20, 2008 at 10:35 pm |

    wanted to add, as a major part of my regional history growing up, should history classes there put more focus on that than another group, should history, civics, and other classes vary by region or the sex/race makeup of the class? goes to the question about balance i guess

  56. Roxie
    Roxie June 21, 2008 at 12:02 am |

    In my UP US HISTORY class my teacher (who doubled as the soccer coach) told us, and I quote verbatim, as I will ALWAYS remember these words,

    “Slavery wasn’t that bad”

    He then went on to note how all the slaves had split level houses and the really bad whippings only took place in Brazil..

    We need teachers like Salazar desperately.

  57. exholt
    exholt June 21, 2008 at 12:31 am |

    In my UP US HISTORY class my teacher (who doubled as the soccer coach) told us, and I quote verbatim, as I will ALWAYS remember these words,

    “Slavery wasn’t that bad”

    He then went on to note how all the slaves had split level houses and the really bad whippings only took place in Brazil..

    We need teachers like Salazar desperately.

    Out of curiosity, where in the US regionally and when did this take place?

    Sounds like this teacher bought into the Margaret Mitchell and Lost Cause “school” of US history where the dominant narrative is that African-American slaves were happy and well-taken care of by their kindly old masters…..blechh…. :roll:

  58. Roxie
    Roxie June 21, 2008 at 12:32 am |

    UP=AP when you’re super sleepy

  59. Roxie
    Roxie June 21, 2008 at 12:34 am |

    Marietta, Ga. year 2000
    You could literally feel the class just shutdown and not pay attention to him
    Then we had this weird day where we were supposed to dress up during “slave days”…I was the only black person in class. I should’ve just stayed home.

  60. William
    William June 21, 2008 at 1:21 am |

    It’s not possible to be a freedom fighter *without* targeting civilians.

    One of the weirdest fucking thing about The Matrix was how casual it was about killing bystanders left and right, who *really* will die. However, those people accept that matrix of oppresion, and the Matrix is accurate in representing the necessity of killing civilians and destroying the framework of their existence. Go deep into any rabit hole, and it’s inevitable that one has to deal with “The Greater Good” rather than seek any general and gradual pareto improvement.

    It’s true, but it’s bleached of any compassion for those necessary victims. That bothers me.

    Theres an arrogance there that I have difficulty comprehending. It simply is not ok to target people who have done you no wrong and are not involved in a conflict because they are part of a system that oppresses you. Its even worse to decide that your ideas are just so damned good that everyone ought, under penalty of death/dismemberment/poverty/kidnapping, to agree with you. Roll that one over in your head a little bit. You’re arguing that anyone, anywhere, can decide that there is an issue of the greater good and do anything in order to fix the world to their standards, regardless of what the people living there want or need. Its that arrogance (“I know better and I’ll civilize you one way or another”) that is responsible for manifest destiny, for the horrors of Mao’s revolution, for the decimation of native peoples pretty much all over the world, for Pol Pot, for the piles of corpses on both sides of the Latin American conflicts.

  61. shah8
    shah8 June 21, 2008 at 7:49 am |

    Damn, I graduated from Lassiter in 1996, Roxie. You Wheeler or Walton student?

  62. Did this woman deserve to be fired? - U.S. Politics Online: A Political Discussion Forum

    [...] LA high school history teacher has been fired for teaching an "Afrocentric" curriculum. Feministe » Latina teacher fired for not regurgitating the same old crap Now, I’m all for teaching pupils and students about different cultures, but the part which really [...]

  63. Roxie
    Roxie June 21, 2008 at 12:07 pm |

    Not quite that lucky Shah8…I was part of the neighborhood that got mysteriously switched from McEchearn to Osborne when it started to get a bit more brown in Cobb Co.

  64. shah8
    shah8 June 21, 2008 at 1:04 pm |

    William, to me, it’s apparent that you obviously need to read a little more about revolutions and their causes. It’s damn near impossible to change anything, and it *IS* impossible to change even practically and morally horrific situations without a) a lever (Communists for us black people–I’m ALWAYS thankful for the Soviet Union), and b) a determination of that elite that the oppression isn’t worth it anymores (Soviet Bloc economic collapse for Poland).

    Absent of that, it’s a near certainty that you will have to kill people in order allow a beneficial change. For some reason, it’s always easier to get people to go the be-more-evil route…

  65. William
    William June 21, 2008 at 1:29 pm |

    William, to me, it’s apparent that you obviously need to read a little more about revolutions and their causes. It’s damn near impossible to change anything, and it *IS* impossible to change even practically and morally horrific situations without a) a lever (Communists for us black people–I’m ALWAYS thankful for the Soviet Union), and b) a determination of that elite that the oppression isn’t worth it anymores (Soviet Bloc economic collapse for Poland).

    Absent of that, it’s a near certainty that you will have to kill people in order allow a beneficial change. For some reason, it’s always easier to get people to go the be-more-evil route…

    No, I have a pretty good understanding of revolutions and their causes, I’m just not generally a big fan. If government A is evil that doesn’t justify Person B from kidnapping/raping/murdering/starving persons C, D, and E in order to hurt government A. The only time these kinds of actions even vaguely approach acceptable is when the government being attacked is so atrocious that a significant portion of the people actually stand up and fight, rather than a handful of burgeoning monsters who’ve made the decision that any level of suffering on the parts of others is justified in order to advance their cause. Sure, even the good revolutions have their monsters, but that doesn’t somehow make the monsters ok or their actions acceptable. Especially when the “freedom” they promote really means setting themselves up as the new king.

    As for change being impossible without horror on the part of the revolutionaries, I’d direct you to India’s relatively bloodless rebellion against Britain, the Singing Revolution in Estonia (as well as Latvia and Lithuania), the collapse of the USSR, the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia, the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, the relatively fast advance of LGBT rights in the US since Stonewall (an excellent example of well-directed violent action)…

  66. shah8
    shah8 June 21, 2008 at 1:33 pm |

    You know, Roxie, I had to *look* up Osborne high school. I had never heard of them, for some reason! But that stat showing that Osborne was 49% black clarified things for me.

    And *still*, you were the only black student in the AP course?

    Man, I feel your pain. At least in MY high school at the time, blacks were lucky to break 5% of the whole population. It wasn’t uncommon for me to be the only black person in class at any level.

  67. shah8
    shah8 June 21, 2008 at 1:39 pm |

    William, ok, I can just agree to disagree. Let me only just add that revolutions that have a role for anti-civilian violence are almost exclusively about deeply entrenched and malvolent governments.

  68. Teachers Get Fired for “Anti-Americanism” « There Goes the Ruddy Two-shoes

    [...] was browsing through important recent news and blogs and found this on Feministe. It appears that Karen Salazar, a high school teacher in Los Angeles, was fired a few [...]

  69. exholt
    exholt June 21, 2008 at 3:27 pm |

    Marietta, Ga. year 2000
    You could literally feel the class just shutdown and not pay attention to him
    Then we had this weird day where we were supposed to dress up during “slave days”…I was the only black person in class. I should’ve just stayed home.

    Please tell me there were students who were willing to challenge and argue with him in class.

    Dressing up for “slave days”?!!! Sounds like the type of teacher that I would have much fun arguing with and yes, deliberately aggravate in class.

    Though my language teacher was nowhere as bad, his extremely demeaning contemptuous attitudes towards his students, especially those who were not as gifted in learning the foreign language concerned was such that my 13 year old self felt arguing and aggravating him daily was necessary to fight back…even though it resulted in being sent to the dean multiple times and ultimately flunking his class.

  70. “Anti-Americanism” Gets You Fired « There Goes the Ruddy Two-shoes

    [...] was browsing through important news and blogs and found this on Feministe. It appears that Karen Salazar, a high school teacher in Los Angeles, was fired a few [...]

  71. Solitary
    Solitary June 21, 2008 at 6:48 pm |

    Along with elementary education, I took History and English when I was in college. I love history, but it quickly became apparent that history, along with science, when done correctly is one of the most devisive subjects out there. The winner writes the history books, after all, but that doesn’t mean the losers don’t exist.

    I’m nearly 30 and there are still parts of the history of my state (I’m a Texan), not to mention my country, that I still have to come to grips with and try and overcome my early indoctrination. That’s all school really is, after all, indoctrination. It’s been a lesson in three parts meeting people online from other parts of the country and the world. One of the good things about the internet is that it makes it harder to spoon feed the kool-aid to the next generation.

    I think it would be fascinating the see Salazar’s lesson plans and how she had it all set up. I love history, but I would be stumped about how to start teaching it.

  72. William
    William June 21, 2008 at 6:51 pm |

    William, ok, I can just agree to disagree. Let me only just add that revolutions that have a role for anti-civilian violence are almost exclusively about deeply entrenched and malvolent governments.

    Fair enough, god knows that the likelihood of either of us being completely right approaches nil. I still feel that targeted anti-civilian conflict, in any context, is anathema and ought to be considered a war crime. Take WWII. Germany and Japan were terrible, brutal, undeniably evil governments which committed atrocities that are hard to fathom. Someone had to put them down. That doesn’t change the fact that Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Dresden (to name three off the top of my head) were pretty much unforgivable. It only gets worse when you’re dealing with people who are essentially unaccountable.

  73. links for 2008-06-22 « Canadian People of Colour

    [...] Feministe » Latina teacher fired for not regurgitating the same old crap “She is a high school teacher who was fired from her position at a school in LA because her curriculum was too “Afrocentric” – instead of, you know, the usual Eurocentric curriculum that’s delivered to American students on the daily.” (tags: afrocentric eurocentrism US education) [...]

  74. PJ
    PJ June 23, 2008 at 3:54 am |

    I’m a teacher, and I guess I should be glad I wasn’t observed too often this year! I teach elementary school, so my lessons were obviously different, but I think exposing kids to complicated and sometimes uncomfortable history is a good thing. I also think it’s important for all kids, but especially kids of color, to see positive images of people of color.

    So, when we did a unit on biographies this year, I read my kids the (boring) books about George Washington we had in the book room, sure. But then I read them (awesome and beautiful) books about Marian Anderson and Dizzy Gillespie. They grabbed on to the idea that it wasn’t fair to tell someone they couldn’t do what they wanted just because of the color of their skin. They identified with Dizzy, whose dad beat him up and who got in trouble for breaking the rules (of school AND of jazz). The writing they did in response to those stories was amazing. They took that unit and made it their own.

    And I sometimes answered their questions about history with, “It’s complicated.” I feel like so many teachers do their students such a disservice because they assume kids can’t understand complicated ideas. Obviously, as students get older, they can have a deeper understanding. But even little kids can be introduced to the idea that there aren’t always (or often) easy answers.

  75. Ask ARP: Should my biracial family break ties with racist in-laws? at Anti-Racist Parent - for parents committed to raising children with an anti-racist outlook

    [...] note: Visit Feministe or Angry Brown Butch to read about teacher Karen Salazar, who was dismissed for offering her [...]

  76. Ojibway Migisi Bineshii
    Ojibway Migisi Bineshii June 26, 2008 at 7:16 pm |

    Interesting, I read about this case in Colorado awhile back.

    History is named for men too. “His” story. What about her story =Herstory? What about the working class, middle class, poor, Native Americans, Black, Latino/Latina and other people who I don’t consider minorities but the people who have written this “history,” have called these folks “minorities.” By the way I just can’t stand the term minority.

    As a Native American womyn I would ALWAYS speak up when I read and discussed “history” in high school, college and grad school. I could not stand that these books were written saying such biased things about Native American people. I was also raised with a different thinking because of what the “white man,” did to this land. I always heard so much different stuff from my Father which when I share with people gives them a good laugh.

    The way “history” was written is also very capitalistic and corporate. It does not share how the story is from other genders, races, sexes, religions, ect.

    This women is awesome, by the way for teaching this way! :)

  77. Leaving Blogger « Blue Lyon
    Leaving Blogger « Blue Lyon June 29, 2008 at 1:24 am |

    [...] on Male Privilege, Cyberstalking and the Election A little while back, Feministe reported on an awesome Latina teacher in LA who got fired for teaching her mostly minority students about their own histories instead of [...]

  78. Teacher Fired for not Regurgitating Same Old Crap « re:examine all

    [...] 29, 2008 This is a teacher, Karen Salazar, who was fired from the high school she taught at in LA because she strayed from the normal [...]

  79. What if teachers were allowed to teach? « Professor, What If…?

    [...] Jack at Feministe warns us: Keeping American students in the dark about America’s wrongdoings, keeping Latino, [...]

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