Friday, July 4, 2008

For most of America, celebrating the 232nd anniversary of our republic’s Declaration of Independence from the British empire inspires at least a moment of reflection of what brought our nation to greatness.

If the national revelry indeed has any deeper purpose at all beyond binging on hot dogs and beer, it must be that we acknowledge our ancestors’ strong work ethic, their bloody sacrifice, our unique national sense of exceptionalism and our bedrock respect for the rule of law.

But once the fireworks are over, Americans would be wise to take note that our national holiday is not seen as something to celebrate by significant and growing numbers of students at public high schools across the Southwest. In school districts from Tucson to Los Angeles, advocates of a radically ethno-centric agenda are expanding their reach into the student body and the curriculum, teaching a core message that holds the United States is a racist police-state that is bent on the oppression of Latinos and other ethnic minorities.

Students at Jordan High School in Watts began a series of protests in June after the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) refused to renew the contract of Karen Salazar, an untenured English teacher at the campus. The LAUSD determined that Miss Salazar was engaged in blatant ethno-political indoctrination of her students. Miss Salazar recently appeared on the television program “Democracy Now!” to offer a reasoned defense of her teaching; noting that she used district-approved textbooks and taught them in compliance with state-mandated standards. In the vacuum of a television studio, her explanation sounded like she was indeed the victim of an overly cautious administration. But then there’s the footage of Miss Salazar standing in front of the school clutching a bullhorn and declaring “Historically the school system has been used as a project of colonization to rob students of their identity.” And judging from Miss Salazar’s students’ outrage over her firing — which was captured on video and posted on YouTube — just how much fundamental grammar and writing skills were being taught in her classroom is questionable.

One female student, with a penchant for calling her classmates “comrades,” seems to confirm the basic premise of LAUSD officials decision to fire her. “She goes out of the curriculum and teaches us our history,” the student said. Instead of that [expletive deleted] U.S.-centrism they teach us in our history class.” In another video clip the same student declares students are being “hunted down and treated like terrorists” at schools that are really prisons. One of her “comrades” chimes in that Ms. Salazar “teaches us how to be strong and not let nobody oppress us.” Well, so much for English standards.



Ethnic Studies courses used as academic cover to brazenly indoctrinate students with a racially based, anti-American perspective come as no surprise to John Ward, a former history teacher in the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD). Mr. Ward, who is of Latino heritage, was tapped to teach a history course at Tucson High Magnet School. Mr. Ward said he was comfortable that the course featured a Mexican-American perspective, but what he didn’t know was that he was expected to only assign grades — a bureaucratic loophole that allowed the students to be lectured by advocates without teaching credentials.

The coursework was steeped in hard-edged anti-American rhetoric. “They declared students were living in an occupied, colonized land,” Mr. Ward recalled. A central tenet of the instruction was that white Americans oppress Latinos, and that the education system is a tool of white oppression. The impact on students, Mr. Ward said, was dramatic.

“By the end of the class, they were very pessimistic and angry about America,” he said. “They were convinced that anyone who isn’t brown is out to get them, to oppress them.” When Mr. Ward challenged the angry, one-dimensional instruction students were receiving through the class, he said his own Latino heritage offered no protection. “They called me a racist, a tool of the oppressor, a ‘Vendido’, which means ‘sellout,’” he said. “They replied that all education is politically-charged and that they must combat the dominant culture’s view of history. They believe non-white kids need an anti-white curriculum.”

If Mr. Ward was hoping that administrators from TUSD would intervene, he quickly learned otherwise. “They didn’t want to pick this battle,” Mr. Ward said. “They were white administrators that could see the writing on the wall if they tried to defend me. They’d immediately be tarred as “racists.’”

Mr. Ward eventually resigned his position and now works for the Arizona state auditor. He said the radicals who lectured his class now have their credentials and are teaching “Raza Studies” at TUSD. The program is set to be expanded throughout the district.

If Americans are unwilling to defend their national heritage to the emerging generation in its classrooms, then the fireworks this Fourth of July will really have been just flares illuminating a mighty nation that is sleepwalking to its own demise.

Mark Cromer is a senior writing fellow for Californians for Population Stabilization.

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