Fall 2003 - Volume II, Issue 3
Berta Berriz's Political Autobiography encompasses the affirmation of her
identity and the integration of that process into her life and work now as a
bilingual third grade teacher. [Editor]"Home was the place
where I was forced to conform to someone else's image of who and what I should
be. School was the place where I could forget that self and, through ideas,
reinvent myself"Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice
autobiography begins with a personal story of my Cuban family life. At home
there were heroines and the oppressed, family stories that were national
stories, military government, police corruption, revolution and exile. At home,
the expectations were for me, the only girl, to grow up to be a beauty queen.
While my home was like bell hooks' home, a place where I was forced to conform
to someone else's image of who I should be; my home also, through the family
stories, provided a cultural identity that sustains me. My school life was also
a dialectical experience. It was through the exercise of resistance that I
reinvent myself in school--resistance to alienating experiences in schools that
attempted to crush my home stories. That is why, as a teacher today, I
emphasize the importance of family stories as cultural grounding for the
optimum learning experience for my students.
I present my political
story in two parts: Home and School. Home tells of the contradictions that
shaped the warrior in me. Home is the part of my political life that takes
place in Cuba, the place of my birth and of my ancestors. School, then, is a
story of exile and of coming of age. School is the story of my evolving
political life: my praxis as an urban educator in the state of Massachusetts.
I was born in La Habana, Cuba the same year that
television came to the island. I have two brothers, one was nine years older
and my other brother was six years younger. My father was, and still is, a
business man. My mother was in charge of the children.
We lived the
life of the middle class, then called the nouveau riche. My mother was busy with
the house, gardening, the club. My mother was una mujer de sociedad (lady of
society). Her picture was in the social pages. As a young woman she was a
beauty queen. She played canasta at the country club, raised money for the
church, took lessons about classical music and art at the cultural center. On
the dark side of her life, she had repeated abortions, psychiatric treatment
and was a woman alone in her marriage. Through her eyes I lived feminist
oppression in a machista culture. I am my mother's only daughter. She
transmitted her rage to me. I know now that my mother's story is different from
my own story, yet, I do know the oppression of women. I have brought up a son,
who is marvelous in his own personality and not a machista.
When I was a
young girl, in La Habana, my grandmother, Abuelita, was my primary care taker.
We would spend the days together walking to the park, coloring with prismacolor
pencils, laughing and spinning stories. Abuelita told me about her parents,
José Camejo Payents and Caridad Rodriguez Algeciras. They were Mambises who
fought in the last war for Cuban independence. José Camejo Payents, born in the
Dominican Republic came to Cuba with his brother in the company of General
Máximo Gomez. The resistance to Spanish colonialism was fought over a ten year
period. The Mambises fought the war on horse back with machetes. The families
fought this war together. The women would accompany the men, set up camp and
nourish and heal the soldiers. Some women became warriors as well. The family
story places my great grandfather in the Caballería, the troops of General
Antonio Maceo. Abuelita said that Maceo -- a free black man -- was a racist,
and that he did not like to have white soldiers in his ranks. He made an
exception, the story goes, for José and his brother. General Antonio Maceo, she
said, was a military genius. José Martí, on the other hand was not a soldier,
but a poet who expressed the Cuban spirit that won the revolution.
Martí should never have gotten on that horse." Abuelita would say; "The Cuban
people, the men were foolish push Martí into battle." José Martí was killed the
first time he got on horse back to fight in the war. He was not a soldier; his
sword was his word. Abuelita recited the poetry of José Martí: Le
llega a los pies la espuma;Gritan alegres las dos;Y se va, diciendo
adiós,La del sombrero de pluma. [The foaming wave
touches their feet, They both shriek happily, And she leaves saying good bye,
The one with the feathered hat.] I remember these words from "Los Zapaticos de
Rosa," that teaches little children that poor children and rich children are
both dear yet live quite different lives. He also wrote about racism: "Esa de
racista se está siendo una palabra confusa, y hay que ponerla en claro. El
hombre no tiene ningún derecho especial porque pertenezca a una raza u otra;
dígase hombre, y ya se dicen todos los derechos." (Mi Raza, 1893, p. 52) [ The
word racist is a confusing word. It needs clarification. Man has no special
right because he belongs to one race or another. Say, man and all of the rights
I still remember my great grand mother Caridad. She
fought for Cuba's independence as the wife of a Mambis. I was two years old
when she died. I remember her sitting in her rocking chair in the kitchen of
her house. She was barefoot. I could see that the nails on her toes were fuzzy
as if they were wasting away. She made a chocolate cigarette for me by grinding
the Spanish chocolate. She was making hot chocolate for the children. I feel a
powerful sense of pride and responsibility that I was born in a family of
warriors. In my spirit, I was born into a family of guerreros, warriors. A
sense of racial and economic justice was instilled in me through these family
There was one more historical hero in my family stories. It was
said that, el Indio Hatuey was an Arawak Indian born on Cubanacán--as the
island was known to its native peoples. He was one of the most brave of the
casiques, native leaders, who fought against the Spanish. The story says that
Hatuey was captured by the Spaniards and was tied to a stake to be burned to
death. A Spanish priest came to Hatuey and offered him conversion. The priest
said, "Let me baptize you and you will enter the kingdom of heaven." Hatuey
responded with a question, "Tell me, do the Spaniards go to heaven?" The monk
said that the Spaniards would go to heaven, of course. El indio Hatuey said,
"Kill me now. Why would I want to go to heaven with those beasts."
wasn't until many years later that I would discover that el indio Hatuey was
not a family member. He is, however, among my warrior guides. In La Habana I
went to a private catholic school, Las Esclavas del Sagrado Corazón de Jesus.
(The Hand Maids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus). In that school there was a small
museum. We would have social studies class in the museum. The exhibit was about
the Taíno and their conquest. The dioramas of Taíno life drew me in. As if in a
dream, imagined myself among them. The sisters told us that all of the Indians
had been killed by the Spaniards. My father says that because Cubans have no
Indian blood, we are smarter that other Caribbean people. I never quite
believed this story. In my spirit I feel a kinship with the Indians.
Many years later, when I was forty, I encountered José Barréiro, a Cuban
Taíno, at Cornell University. He opened up a world of understanding about the
Taíno presence in Cuba today (Barreiro, 1993). I tell Taíno stories.
Environmental justice and cultural justice issues are part of my Taíno
heritage. My family in Cuba today is very involved in environmental protection,
sustainable agriculture and alternative sources of energy. (Cuba Solar: http://www.cubasolar.islagrande.com)
As a child, nature was my sanctuary from the madness of adult life that
surrounded me. A large part of my day was spent watching the lizards. I learned
their language. I call this my first bilingual experience. This served me well
in Philadelphia where I could understand almost anyone who I could see.
Abuelita, the teller of these tales, the daughter of José y Caridad was also
active politically. In her day, she was involved in leftist politics. My mother
tells me the story of the day Abuelita took her, at age 9, to a demonstration.
There was a vigil for the death of Julio Antonio Mella (1905-29), a promising
democratic politician. My mother said that there was a tiroteo, a shoot out,
and she ran into a house and hid under a bed. On my last trip to Cuba, I saw
picture of the massacre that took place during the Mella burial. It was part of
the historical development of the revolution on display in the Muséo de la
Abuelita had been a first grade teacher in one of the poor
neighborhoods of La Habana. She went to la escuela normal, normal school, and
later became an inspector. She would tell me stories about her challenging
students. "Yo le daba la llave al mas majadero. Asi yo estaba segura que nada
me faltaría en mi cartera." [I would give the key to my most challenging
student. That way I was sure nothing would be missing from my purse.] So often
we would be walking to the park and some chubby bald guy would greet her so
warmly. I could see that she was loved by her former students. They remember
her cariñosamente from their first grade experience. We would stop at the
bodegas and street corners and talk to folks. This happened in Miami too. My
grandmother taught me how to write with beautiful handwriting, use color
pencils and to laugh with the people.
One of our usual walks in our
neighborhood was to ride my horse that was kept behind the cemetery. Someone
once paid off a debt to my father by giving him a horse. Papi gave it to me. I
love horses. I was riding my pale plump palomino in the field. That day only
the chubby boy with the white horse that looked like Hopalong Cassidy was
there. There was something about that boy that I did not like. He invited me to
ride with him on the road behind the cemetery. The adventure led us to a place
like I had never seen before. It was a llega y pon neighborhood. It was called
llega y pon [get there and set up] because the huts were all make shift without
water or electricity. The poor children saw us and came running out with rocks
in hand. They were angry. I saw into the eyes of one of the children. This was
the first time that understood about poor and privilege. I will never forget
that awakening. The children were angry at me because I represented the
I remember this anger at times when I see some of my
students act out their rage. For example, one of my students, Johnny was always
getting into fights. When I spoke with his family they invited me to their home
in the Cathedral projects. Johnny's father wanted me to see what Johnny sees
everyday. On the grounds of the projects I could see people openly using drugs.
The elevator was out of order and it was being used for a bathroom. Some people
were living in the halls. When I got to Johnny's home, the apartment inside was
a sharp contrast. On every surface were hand made tapestries. The apartment was
painted a bright blue and green. It was spotless and welcoming inside. I
understood Johnny's anger and respect his sense of injustice. Children know the
difference between right and wrong. Yet, they may not always know that
everything that is happening around them is not their fault. Politically I
position my self in their midst. That is, I too feel a strong sense of justice
and I am working by their side.
Soon after the cemetery horse ride, the
revolution came to La Habana. Our family was in Cuba for one last Christmas,
but we were already settled in Philadelphia. The Fidelistas had arrived to La
Habana. I was eight years old then. I did not leave Cuba with empty sacks. My
grandmother filled them with family stories of fighting for independence,
justice, and resistance to oppression. In the United States, they call the
Cuban War for Independence the Spanish-American War. There is never a mention
of Martí, Maceo, or Hatuey. Nevertheless, new experiences in this country
shaped my politics through my new marginalized status: female, immigrant of
color who speaks a language other than English.
Moving to the United
States of America at age eight has influenced my feminist outlook. My mother
clandestinely participated with other Cuban women in feminist study groups. She
divorced my father and worked for a living. Because, I am the only girl, my
brothers had their education paid for by my father, but I paid for my own. It
is a point of honor with me to continue. This doctorate at Harvard has a
feminist significance for my family and the women who are encouraged that I am
here. My feminist position is always developing. I have just married for the
last time. My husband is supportive of my power and we have a home which we
treasure. I appreciate my femaleness. I am not in competition with men. I have
learned about male emotional oppression. As a teacher, my favorite students are
the girls. I appreciate them as mature, bright, collaborative, creative and I
rely on them for the cooperative group work. I begin my story of school life
with third grade in the U.S.
A story from my two-way
bilingual third grade classroom.
It's Tuesday morning in our two-way
bilingual third grade classes. Eramos de una visión...la música de su corazón
is playing softly as the children write in their morning journals. Ramona
Mejia, my teaching partner, and I are talking about the day in the doorway
between the Spanish and English classrooms. It is time for morning circle. The
chékere--a beaded gourd instrument calls us to order. Echoes of names bounce
back around the circle as we play the whispering name game: Yismilka/Yismilka,
Rodney/Rodney, Maria/Maria. "Frederick" says Frederico with a nervous smile.
The game stops. Frederico has changed his name over the long weekend.
"Federico, let me tell you a story of how I lost my name in third grade" I
tell Federico and the class this story:
My name is Berta... Berrrrrr-ta.
I was born in La Habana, Cuba. When I was in third grade my family moved to
this country. I spoke no English. The folks at the school spoke no Spanish.
Sadly, not one my twelve blond, blue-eyed, third grade guardian angels could
say Berta. "Bbbbbbb-eeeeee-rrrrrrrrrr ... como tren, ferrocarril, tigre:
rrrrrrrrrr ..." Not one. I decided that I had to teach my new classmates how to
pronounce my name. I gave lessons during recess and after school. I recited the
rhyme: "Erre, con erre cigarro, erre con erre barril, rapido corren los carros
sobre las lineas del ferrocarril."
The teacher told me that I must
change my name to something Americans could pronounce easily: Bertha - but
there is no thuh sound in our Spanish. We are Cubans, we are not a colony of
Spain, we do not use the royal lisp. I had to practice th-th-th-th, and
discovered, instead, zzzzzz - another sound not found in Cuban Spanish.
At lunch, the second week of school, I eyed the tray of grilled American
cheese sandwiches and the white milk without sugar - food I could not eat. I
was gagging at the prospect of swallowing that bland white stuff all at once -
the food stuck in my throat, like the name they wanted me to adopt:
Ber-thz-thz-thz... Ber-zzzz-a. Not my name, not my name! I lost my name, my
Frustrated and disappointed, I compromised by calling myself
"Bert" while reluctantly answering to "Bertha." Without the support and
encouragement of teachers and other adults it took me ten years to reclaim my
name, and with it, my Cuban identity. But at 18 years old I declared, proudly,
for all to hear: ¡No! Me llamo Berta. ¿Te gusta? Berta.
So Federico, I
tell you this story so that you never give up your name. Keep on, Federico!
'Federico' we whisper back. The ritual call and response of names settles.
Others around the circle share stories about their names, nicknames and
namesakes. Miguel was named after his father's favorite uncle. Marilyn was
carrying the name of her great grandmother who was an important matriarch.
Kevonia was called Kiki by her sister and now everyone called her Kiki. Joshua
was carrying his father's name and his sister their grandmother's name who is
still in Puerto Rico. Each name holds a thread on the weave of the family
heritage regardless of the immigration route.
Chairs from the circle
get shuffled back to the desks clustered in small groups. Students are in
charge of much of the organization of the day. Rodney walks over to get the
materials cubby for his group. Maria is the checker this week. She pulls out
the group's clip board an begins to check for homework from each member of her
group. Josymir, the group librarian is collecting books signed out from our
popular Multicultural classroom library. I am going over last nights word
problems with Jamar and Robert. The teacher's desk serves as a resource
materials area. The agenda for the day, homework, schedules and announcements
are posted. The resource teacher joins us. The language arts class begins.
Teaching within dual language programs we have found an inclusive structure for
quality urban education.
I have lived in the US for over 40 years. But
in my heart, I remain that dark-haired, Cuban third grader forced to give up
her country, her language and her name. I am my students -- I have felt their
confusion, embarrassment and anger firsthand. I understand how the imposition
of a new language and culture can profoundly affect the process of
identity-formation, self-esteem and the capacity for learning for a young
child. I have dedicated my life and career to fighting for them and for all of
"It always astounds me when
progressive people act as though it is somehow a naive moral position to
believe that our lives must be a living example of our politics." Bell Hooks
For the last twenty-three years I have been a bilingual educator in the
Boston Public Schools. I have taught in elementary two-way bilingual programs,
special education classrooms, and middle school. For four years I coordinated
native language literacy services for the bilingual department and am currently
a literacy coach at he Charles Sumner School. Lesley University is my
professional and artistic oasis.
I discovered my gift for teaching as a
dancer, creating opportunities for young children and families to explore
movement together. Although undergraduate studies in sociology provided
insights into the dynamics of social grouping, the degree promised few
opportunities for meaningful employment. I decided to return to school, the
Lesley Arts in Learning program, and for the next few years I juggled education
courses, a job, and single-motherhood.
I remember my first elementary
classroom. Armed with methods courses and theories on arts and learning, I met
my students -- a small group of Latinos, six boys and a girl, each labeled
"behaviorally disordered." Across the hall, the African-American teacher of
behaviorally disordered black students welcomed me. I soon discovered that the
four classrooms along this corridor were set aside for students deemed unable
to handle mainstream placement due to language, physical or emotional problems.
This form of blatant ghettoization shocked me -- how could a learning community
that routinely segregates children claim to provide equal access to a quality
education? (Radical Teacher, 1984.)
As a new teacher, I was learning
more from my students, than from any of my courses. Their experiences resonated
with remembrances of my own childhood. I resolved to create a nurturing and
supportive learning environment that would allow my students to explore "real
life" situations. This encouraged them to define their own values,
responsibilities, and identities with respect to the larger society -- as well
as to refine their cognitive and social skills. "Engaged pedagogy does not seek
simply to empower students. Any classroom that employs a holistic model of
learning will also be a place where teachers grow, and are empowered by the
process." (hooks 94, p.21)
I recall the day the children hung their
first mural in the hall. It was a representation of the fairy tales and
connections to scenes from their lives. Passers-by were moved by the beauty and
the insight of their work. The children became more interested in reading,
thinking and writing when they heard praise and recognition. The power and
influence of this simple act demonstrate the strong connection between learning
and cultural production.
"For the notion of literacy to become
meaningful, it has to be situated within a theory of cultural production and
viewed as an integral part of the way in which people produce, transform and
reproduce meaning. Literacy must be seen as a medium that constitutes and
affirms the historical and existential moments of lived experience that produce
a subordinated or a live culture. Hence, it is an eminently political
phenomenon, and it must be analyzed within the context of a theory of power
relations and an understanding of social and cultural reproduction and
production." (Freire and Macedo, 87, p. 142)
Over the years, critical
reflection on my classroom practice and independent study, framed by my
lived-experience, has evolved into a general philosophy of education responsive
to the needs of children from minority and foreign-born cultures.
believe that learning takes place in a web of relationships; an environment
that fosters community and connects knowledge to everyday life. Our children
come from diverse family cultures and each child brings to the classroom
abundant resources that reflect family values, language and knowledge based on
lived-experience. When the classroom and school fabric reflect family cultures,
each student's identity is affirmed and learning takes on a personal and social
meaning (Berriz, 2000). As a teacher my intention is to orchestrate this web of
relationships so that I value the knowledge that students bring while expanding
and presenting new challenges. When the classroom teacher is comfortable with
her cultural identity, she can more easily inspire a sense of belonging for her
diverse students. It is easier for me to know what questions to ask my students
about their culture because I have gone through the process of affirming my own
cultural identity. For this reason I believe that a cornerstone for student
success in a multicultural classroom setting is the relationship of the teacher
to her own cultural identity.
Attention to relationships and
contextualizing learning form part of my political pedagogy. I teach within the
political reality of public urban education in a democratic society.
"Separating education from politics is not only artificial but dangerous. To
think of education independent from the power that constitutes it, divorced
from the concrete world where it is forged, leads us either to reducing it to a
world of abstract values and ideals (which the pedagogue constructs inside his
consciousness without even understanding the conditioning that makes him think
this way), or converting it to a repertoire of behavioral techniques, or to
perceiving it as a spring board for changing reality." (Freire 85, p. 167) My beliefs and politics motivate the quality and intensity of my work with
children, teachers and parents. Teachers, as well as children, thrive in
collaboration. Articulating the effectiveness of our work leads to creativity
and educational reform. Agreement among educators on a common philosophy and
goals for the children is essential for a successful educational program.
I recall the first time that I stuck my head
out of the water of my classroom practice to reflect on what was taking place
both inside and outside the classroom walls. Then, I worked collaboratively
with Beth Handman to combine Special Needs sixth graders with Advanced Work
students in an accelerated curriculum at the Mackey Mosaic Middle School. We
called our work TeamStream (Wheelock 1990). TeamStream demonstrated a new
approach to building integrated learning-communities. The Lucretia Crocker
Fellowship year (1989), was the first time research and critical reflection
became an integral part of my teaching method.
New questions arose from
my two-way bilingual third grade. Third grade is a critical year for minority
youth regarding developing a strong sense of identity, pride in their family
heritage and making connections between schooling and their community (Kunjufu
95). There was a group of us who wanted to guide our own professional
development regarding matters of race, culture and learning. I convened and
facilitated a teacher research project exploring the dynamics of biculturalism
in our classrooms. We designed a two-year study project built around the
writings of Antonia Darder and Lisa Delpit. These discussions generated
specific questions about our practice that evolved into classroom-based
participatory research projects. I quote from our research journal:
ideas for the project came out of the constant frustration I was experiencing
as a teacher of young children. Many of my students seem to lack social skills.
The children needed guidance and support in the area of conflict resolution,
friendship, sharing and respect issues. I wanted to provide a safe nurturing
environment where children respect each other. I struggled with the issues of
developing a peaceful classroom community. Was I contributing to the problems
or helping to reduce it. What was my role as the teacher? Where did I go from
here? I began the project by reflecting on my school experience." Teacher
researcher, Cheryl Meyers 1997.
My own research question addressed an
understanding of biculturalism both in my own history and as a necessary
consciousness for teachers of children of color. "Hence the notion of
biculturalism must not be reduced to an absolute determined moment or a linear
developmental stage. One the contrary, its critical dimension must be
emphasized though its representation of bicultural existence as a complex
process encompassing all the conscious and unconscious contradictory,
oppressive and emancipatory responses that can be found along a continuum that
moves conceptually between the primary culture and the dominate culture.
Educators who possess this dialectical understanding of biculturalism will be
better equipped to assist their students of color critically examine their
lived experiences in an effort to reveal genuinely the impact that cultural
domination has on their lives" (Darder 91, p. 14). Darder's ideas at once
pierced the shadows of my own cultural identity formation and planted the seeds
for further inquiry with my students.
Issues of race, identity,
language, and community are central to my work as both educator and artist. In
the bilingual/bicultural paradigm, students' native language and culture is
afforded equal status in the learning process. This enables students to begin
to overcome the silencing effect of language domination and racism (Darder 91,
Freire & Macedo, 87). I am most interested in third graders because of the
critical importance of cultural identity formation in students ages 8 to 10 and
its relation to success in schooling (Delpit 93, Nieto 92).
ethnic disparities in student academic achievement persist in the Boston Public
Schools (BPS Office of Assessment and Evaluation, 2001) This disparity in
achievement intensifies after third grade (Applied Research Center, 2000;
Berriz, 2002b; Garcia, 2001). Studies have documented a relationship between
the cultural identity and academic performance of youth of immigrant origin.
Cultural identity is demonstrated to be particularly significant in relation to
academic performance for second-generation immigrant youth (Garcia, 2001;
Portes & Rumbaut, 2001; Suárez-Orozco, 2001; Valenzuela, 2000).
While there is significant evidence of the link between cultural identity
and academic outcomes among adolescents, the relationship of identity to
academic performance for students of latency age, is yet to be well documented
in the research (Troyna & Carrington, 1990). I am interested in studying
and understanding the relationship between latency-age students' cultural
identities and their teachers' assessments of academic performance. The focus
of my dissertation research is understanding how second-generation third-grade
children from families of Puerto Rican and Dominican heritage describe their
cultural identities, and how these descriptions relate to teachers' assessments
of these children's academic performances.
Our study group wanted to
find a voice for teachers -- and in particular bilingual teachers -- in the
reform process. By creating a space for collective study, mutual support and
encouragement, and debate, we were supporting the solitary role of classroom
teaching in the midst of dramatic, system-wide change. Out of a sense of mutual
respect, our study group was a source of authentic accountability for our best
At the same time that our study group was motivating change in our
classrooms, Boston responded to the Massachusetts Educational Reform Act
(1993). Teachers in our school experienced little opportunity to contribute our
knowledge to improving the learning conditions for their students. In actual
practice, the traditional decision making hierarchy constituted a structural
and ideological barrier to democratic participation. Structures encouraging the
open and critical exchange of ideas (such as our study group) are conspicuously
under-utilized, or totally absent (Berriz, 97).
I believe that
improving the quality of urban educational systems will require taking a
broader view of the relationship between the university and the community.
Further, that this improvement is an essential ingredient for the success of
the current education reform movement. How can teachers play a greater role in
contextualizing theory-based learning of the schools of education? How can the
university continue to support new teachers? How can teacher education programs
better utilize the expertise of veteran teachers?
personal, political and intellectual present.In order to maintain balance and
currency I must continue with my cultural development. I must tell stories,
dance, travel to Cuba, work with children. My dispersed family is central to
me. Ty dePass and I were married in May 1998. In our new family we share
political hopes and dreams for our community. We both have worked for our
ideals and now are in school to develop, read, write and move our agenda
I am a teacher in a democratic society where I interpret my
role and responsibility to prepare students to become active participants in
our democratic society on behalf of our communities.
I understand the
process of becoming bicultural and bilingual as an additive one, that holds
promise and possibility for our increasingly global reality. As a member of the
District 7 education committee, my mission is to educate about bilingual
education and to engage families in the defense of bilingual education.
It is a question of democracy: The vote against bilingual education this
past November on the Unz initiative is a violation of democratic principles. In
Massachusetts, only 5% of families chose bilingual education for their
children. It is most difficult for me to explain to my students how, in a
democratic society, a multimillionaire has the power to overrule the Supreme
Court by carpet-bagging the English only agenda of those who oppose public
education. The vote by the majority of voters essentially denied access to
comprehensible public education to immigrant students.
On November 2002
Massachusetts voters who have no need for bilingual education, like the
citizens of Arlington, Hull or Mendon, overruled the educational rights of
immigrants established by the Supreme Court in Lau v. Nichols (1974). In Lau,
parents of non-English speaking children of Chinese descent sued the San
Francisco school district alleging that their children did not have equal
opportunities to learn because they could not access general education
instruction and were not receiving any special instruction. The United States
Supreme Court held that the San Francisco school district violated Title VI of
the 1964 Civil Rights Act and discriminated on the basis of race and national
origin because the Chinese-speaking students were receiving fewer benefits than
their English-speaking peers and were denied a meaningful opportunity to
participate in the educational program. Current reality for immigrant students
who enter our Boston Public School doors by October is that they are
accountable for the MCAS test by the spring of the same year. While the school
system is not accountable for educating immigrant students to pass the test
that will deny them a high school diploma, our state also requires a second
language as a graduation requirement.
Words of children cut to the
point of urgency:
¿Maestra? Does this mean that I can't speak Spanish
with my family" Fourth grade student on November 6. As a caring teacher, I know
that youngsters interpret events in their lives very personally. "Why do they
want to take away my teacher?"
"Why do they hate us because we speak
"We came all the way here for this?" In the 23 years that I
have been teaching in public school, I have seen no greater inhibitor of
learning than the feelings of rejection and alienation. Analysis of this event
must enter the curriculum of our classrooms and living rooms. The social mirror
just came crashing down on them (Suarez-Orozco, ). Student cultural identity is
an important link to academic achievement of our students.
impulse is to assure children that the vote taken on November 5 was a result of
ignorance and misinformation about bilingual education. There is a history of
struggle for equality through equal access to education opportunity. This
history includes repression of culture and language of Native Americans, denial
of literacy to African Americans, and the history of bilingual education that
springs from the work of Chinese families (Spring, 1997). Considering our
current reality in the context of history helps us to consider ways that we,
together with our students and their families, can influence future history.
Ballanger, C. (1992) Because you like us: Language
of control. Harvard Educational Review. 62).199-208.
Barreiro, J. (1993)
Indian Chronicles. Houston, Texas; Arte Público Press.
Hooks, B.( 1994).
Teaching to transgress: Education as the practice of freedom. New
Berriz, B. (2000). Raising children's cultural voices:
Strategies for developing literacy in two languages. In Z. F. Beykont (Ed.),
Lifting every Voice: Pedagogy and politics of bilingualism.(pp.71 - 94).
Cambridge: Harvard Education Publishing Group.
Bueno, S. (Ed.) (1978).
Leyendas Cubanas. La Habana, Cuba: Editorial Letras Cubanas.
(1991). Culture and power in the classroom: A critical foundation for
bicultural education. Westport, Connecticut: Bergin and Garvey.
(1995). Other people's children: Cultural conflict in the classroom. NY: New
Dentzer, E. & Wheelock, A. (1990). Locked In/ Locked Out:
Tracking and Placement Practices in Boston Public Schools. Boston, MA: Eusey
Press. Individual copies are available for $10 prepaid to the Mass. Advocacy
Center. 95 Berkeley Street, Boston, MA 02116.
Freire, P. (1985). Politics of Education. NY: Bergin and Garvey.
Freire, P. & D. Macedo
(1987). Literacy: Reading the word and the world. South Hadley, MA: Bergin and
Foner, P. S.(1977). Antonio Maceo: "The Bronze Titan" of Cuba's
Struggle for Independence. New York : Monthly Review Press.
(1986). Countering the Conspiracy to destroy Black Boys. Chicago, Ill: African
Lazo, R. (1982) José Marti: Hombre, apostólico y
escritor: Sus mejores paginas. México, S.A.:Editorial Porrúa,.
(1992). Affirming diversity: The sociopolitical context of multicultural
education. New York:Longman.Spring, Joel. (1997) Deculturalization and
the struggle for equality: a Brief history of the education of dominated
cultures in the United States. New York: McGraw Hill.
(2000). Identities under siege: Immigration stress and social mirroring among
the children of immigrants. In A. Robben & M. Suárez-Orozco (Eds.),
Cultures under siege: Social violence & trauma. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 194-226. Return to the Journal of Pedagogy,
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Fall 2003 Issue Main Page
Introduction to Volume II, Issue 3
Miren Uriarte - Holding to Basics and Investing for Growth
Flora Gonzalez and Raysa Mederos -;¿Patria? ¿Potestad?
Vivian Poey - Fictional Grounds and Culinary Maps
Berta Berriz - La Revuelta
Nicole T. Clark-Ramirez - Ramirez - A Poem
Dalia J. Llera - Caminando por La Habana
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