Thursday, August 26, 2010

Teaching Matters

In class, I've been reading "Coming into Language" by Jimmy Santiago Baca, addressing themes of literacy, and the redemptive power of self expression. However, it seems as though it's hard for students who have been in good educational systems to imagine how much of an impact under-trained and inexperienced teachers can have. In "Coming into Language," Baca mentions how his teacher made him stand with his nose against the chalkboard when Baca did something incorrectly as a student. As I was re-reading a counterstory by Tara j. Yosso, the impact of bad teaching came to a finer point when a composite character recalls that a substitute teacher once said to the class, "I don't care if you don't do this assignment. You don't have to be here at all. Within a few years, most of you will either be pregnant, in prison, or dead because you're in a gang" ("Students on the Move" 80).

Even though this character is a composite, the sentiment expressed by the substitute seems to echo arguments heard in the public discourse when it comes to deficiency rhetorics used to describe Latinos/as and education. At the same time, it's reaffirming of my own teaching philosophy that comes from a place of concern and encouragement.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Pass the Torch

(Re)presenting for the Next Generation

I was recently in contact with Robert Garcia, Outreach and Teams Coordinator for Pass the Torch, and I was pleased to learn about their one-on-one study team model that serves underrepresented student populations. Garcia is also the artist whose Chavez portrait I posted a few months back, and I was glad to hear about the Pass the Torch program because it reminds me of the New Start program at the U of A that is near and dear to me.
From the Pass the Torch website:
"Pass The Torch respects each student’s individuality. Our students come from a wide variety of economic, ethnic and cultural backgrounds. They work together in teams to strive for the highest possible grade for each individual member. Our primary goals are to see that every student in Pass The Torch has the opportunity of success regardless of his or her past educational experiences."

Issues of representation and identity come to mind because role models are important for students to help them envision success in school. If there aren't people with whom they can identify, and who have shared culture and experience, then it's much easier for a student to believe in negative discourses that portray minority students in unflattering lights. The metaphor of passing the torch is especially profound given that knowledge has been represented by fire, bringing enlightenment, perhaps as far back as Plato's allegory of the cave. The symbolism of passing knowledge within diverse ethnic communities, who can feel marginalized by large institutions, is also poignant in re-presenting not only a concern for education within these communities, but also an emphasis on individuals giving back to the community.

You can see more from Robert Garcia at

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Musicians, Activism & SB 1070

Lady Gaga vs. Rage Against the Machine

On William Nericcio's Tex[t]-Mex Blog, there's a thought-provoking post on Lady Gaga's recent entrance into the conversation on SB 1070.
What I noted in the video from her concert in Phoenix was her dismissal of what she could do as a pop musician, ignoring the pleas of other musicians to participate in the boycott of Arizona. Taking an all-too-literal interpretation of the boycott, Gaga comments that her concert, and the concerts of other musicians, will not economically break Arizona. As a performer who is very conscious of the images she steals and allusions she makes to other musicians (mainly Madonna), Gaga seems to be playing a bit obtuse, implying that the boycott is purely financial and not about anything more.

Notice in the video below, from the concert Rage Against the Machine put on in Los Angeles with Conor Oberst and other musicians, the performers are clear about their message of the concert that they held outside of Arizona, in conjunction with the boycott.