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AB 101 – Moving Forward?

The State of California is going through the process of deciding whether classes in Ethnic Studies should be mandatory. If everything goes as planned, every school district in California, with seventh through twelfth grade classes must follow a state mandated curriculum offering Ethnic Studies as a social science elective.

In case you are not familiar with the story, here is the story by the Long Beach Report:
http://www.lbreport.com/news/mar15/ethstud.htm

(Mar. 30, 2015) — In his first hearing as chair of the Assembly Education Committee, Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell (D., Long Beach), the former 4th district Councilman whose campaign reminded voters that he’s a teacher, has voted to support and advance a bill that would require all CA School Districts (with grades 7-12 inclusive) to offer a course in Ethnic Studies as a social science elective, using a Sacramento-developed model curriculum.

AB 101, authored by Assemblyman Luis Alejo (D., Watsonville), cleared O’Donnell’s Committee on a 6-1 vote — with Republican Rocky Chavez (R., Oceanside) voting “no” — sending it the Assembly Appropriations Committee and potentially one step away from the Dem majority Assembly floor.

Specifically, the bill would:

Require the State Superintendent of Public Instruction to oversee the development of, and the state board to adopt, a model curriculum, framework and other support systems to ensure quality courses in ethnic studies. The bill would require the Superintendent to establish an Ethnic Studies Advisory Committee and would require the committee to advise, assist, and make recommendations to the state board about programs, curriculum content, and other issues related to ethnic studies. The bill would require the Superintendent, on or before June 30, 2016, to submit to the state board a plan to fully implement these requirements. The bill would, beginning the school year following the adoption of the model curriculum, require each school district maintaining any of grades 7 to 12, inclusive, to offer, as an elective course in the social sciences, a course of study in ethnic studies based on the model curriculum framework.

  • To view the full text of AB 101, click here.
  • To view the Assembly Education Committee’s Legislative Analysis of the bill, click here.

Additionally, Prof. Armando Vazquez-Ramos – a Professor in the Chicano and Latino Studies Dept. at California State University at Long Beach – made a similar suggestion urging LBUSD to start teaching Ethnic Studies in high school. Prof. Vazquez-Ramos wrote: “I firmly believe that young men of color will greatly benefit from a strong sense of identity and social responsibility, which will be derived from a profound knowledge about their history and culture.”

You can read the full article here: http://voicewaves.org/2015/03/time-to-introduce-ethnic-studies-into-the-lbusd-curriculum

So, here are my thoughts regarding the proposals contained in AB 101 and the statement by Prof. Vazquez-Ramos. I completely understand the thoughts and sentiments behind these proposals. From my experience, there is no question that high school education in the USA could be a lot better. There is no question that adding more information would help young people to know about the cultures they think they come from.

However, I question the effectiveness of these measures in either the short or long term. In fact, I think they are continuing to emphasize the wrong things. Primarily:

  1. The continuing direction of dialogue that young men of “color” NEED special help and commissions, programs so they can accomplish anything in life.
  2. That young men of “color” NEED other people’s help in learning about themselves.
  3. I have a problem with the same government that was chiefly responsible for taking away rights and stripping people of their culture, being in charge of teaching these same groups their history.
  4. If they teach everyone’s history as they have annotated and truncated world and American History like they have up until this point, then we all can only be in more trouble.
  5. We still need warriors! What groups puts others in charge of teaching their children how to be warriors?

Sure, I know the popular marketing bandwagon these days is to rejoice about the fact that we are all Americans – we are all one. We have all made so much progress that we are at the dawn of a new age that has never existed before. But, “we” all aren’t here because of lack of growth or because we needed one group to coach and counsel us all.

Sure, people are made of the same stuff, but that doesn’t mean everyone should end up in the same place! In fact, for most of the people who might read this, your ancestors weren’t the ones to illogically break themselves and other people into arbitrary and illegally undefined categories. It wasn’t your people who came up with all of these names for other people. In fact, most people all around the world don’t have any problems with other people based on skin color etc.

I will try and not getting everyone riled up regarding my opinion of the way world and US history has been taught to “us” over the last six or seven hundred years. But, in my opinion, just about everything anyone in the USA has learned about any place – or any other people – on the planet; has been distorted or relevant information has been completely left out to make it seem that the US is leading the world to places and ideas that have never been seen before.

This “oversight” was not because the information was not known or readily available. This lack of information was and continues to be a part of the strategies to keep the weak, weak; and make the strong, stronger. Or, at the very least, keep everybody at the level they are artificially at now. While making it seem like “we” are all growing towards a level of enlightenment that never existed before.

It is all not so clever double talk! Its main purpose is to separate people from the resources in their lands for the benefit of other people. The trick is making everyone believe it is for the benefit of all, when actually only a very few benefit.

On the face of it seems a great idea for the professor at CSULB and representatives of the State of California to be among the groups taking the lead in helping to educate all the kids, including the kids in the so-called “minority” groups.

It is only when you take a closer look do you start to ask yourself a few “why questions.”

“Why does one “group” need to have other “groups” involved in the teaching of its young people?”

“Why would the supposed suppressed “groups” even allow people from the long-term oppressive “group” to be involved in the process of educating their children?”

“If they have messed up the teaching of American History to the point that most people – who haven’t taken it upon themselves to learn more – don’t have a working understanding of the subject.” “Why would you want to let them teach your kids about who they are?” What are they really going to learn?

Want to take a few paragraphs to focus specifically on this part of the article:

Specifically, the bill would:

Require the [state] Superintendent [of Public Instruction] to oversee the development of, and the state board to adopt, a model curriculum, framework and other support systems to ensure quality courses in ethnic studies. The bill would require the Superintendent to establish an Ethnic Studies Advisory Committee and would require the committee to advise, assist, and make recommendations to the state board about programs, curriculum content, and other issues related to ethnic studies.

So the State appointed Superintendent would be required to appoint State approved commissioners to build, then implement, a State approved curriculum for teaching all “ethnic” kids who they are?

That seems a little odd, and off balance when you consider it is the State that continues to allow – in the face of all logic – such arbitrary and completely legally undefined categories such as “Black,” “Latino,” “White,” etc. on their State approved forms.

I recently started a new job. Some of you might have seen a paragraph like this on the paperwork that is required for most human resources departments:

Any information relating to race, ethnicity, and gender is collected to comply with federal regulations, which require certain record keeping and reporting requirements of (Your Company Here). Submission of this information is voluntary and refusal to provide it will not subject you to any adverse treatment.  If you elect not to provide your ethnicity, your Enrollment Administrator will make a selection on your behalf.

Therefore, you can refuse to not continue to participate in the rules set-up by them, but it doesn’t matter because one of the folks in HR will make a selection for you. A person whom you just met not more than a week or two ago is required to place you in one of the State approved arbitrary categories. You have to fit into one of their categories! You cannot opt out. (Reminds me of some lyrics in the song ‘Hotel California.’ “You can check out, but you can never leave!”)

My next question would be, exactly what is the State approved board of commissioners going to teach these kids about themselves? It is one thing to know the information; it is another to put the information into action. What is going to be the limit?

Most of these “ethnic” kids come from cultures that had fierce warriors, outstanding fighting traditions. They were not easily defeated, accomplished great things. However, over the years, everyone who was brave enough to stand up to the US government – as it was stretching across the country stealing land – was murdered, imprisoned, forced to disband by starving the women and children. Military and legislative forces did this. This was part of a plan.

What information does the same government that put their people in the situation they are in, have to tell them about how to be themselves now?

We still need warriors! In addition, we still need people to teach them how to be warriors!

One of the biggest problems I ever have with legislation like this or groups who always seem to think there needs to be one more program to help all of these poor disenfranchised youths, is that this sort of stuff helps perpetuate the very idea that these people NEED help from outside sources to just be equal with other people.

They are so broken down that they just cannot possibly do it all by themselves. The whole process continues to perpetuate a slave mentality whereby grown men are conditioned to continually ask…. or even tell via protests and marching, other men what they need to do in order to make them whole.

After returning home from World War II, William Powell faced discrimination on the golf course. With the help of his wife and children, he carved nine holes out of farmland while working nights as a security guard. In 1946, he established Clear View Golf Club in East Canton, Ohio.

You can and should do more research about Bill Powell and many others, but I like this story as an example for what it does not say. It does not say that Bill Powell sat around and waited for other people to finally decide if he could play or not. It does not say that Bill Powell went around asking other people for money so he could turn his dream into reality. It doesn’t say that Bill Powell waited for the State approved people to come along and help him, make sure he had the same chances at happiness as everyone else. This was 1946, the PGA of America was around, but offered no hand in helping Bill Powell build his course. In fact, “Black” players could not join the Professional Golfers Association of America. Charlie Sifford would become the first official (State Approved) “Black” player in 1961. (Many years later, the PGA gave Bill Powell a Lifetime Achievement Award for his accomplishments and dedication to golf. My personal opinion is that it was given more to improve the perception of inclusiveness for the PGA. Surely Bill did not need the award after his course was built.)

I am over 50 years old. Most of my family is from the Delta region of Mississippi, by way of Champaign, IL. I personally know many people who never had the opportunity to get as much formal education as the kids in most “under-privileged” programs, yet they were very smart people. They did not let what other people thought or felt keep them from accomplishing their goals. My father only finished the 6th grade, but he could tell you everything you wanted to know about concrete and how to build stuff. He will probably never get a lifetime achievement award from the Concrete Finisher’s Association of America, but that doesn’t mean what he had to tell me was irrelevant. I’m going to guess that a lot of the stuff he talked to me about while I was growing up would probably never make it through the filtering process of the State approved commission.

Let us look at this in another context. Americans love sports. Once again, the New England Patriots are World Champions of the National Football League. How did they get there? Did they hold protests against the other teams in the league demanding that they set up special programs so they could win? Did the Patriots boycott the other teams? Did the Patriots refuse to buy their products until they come to their senses and do the right thing?

On the other hand, does Coach Belichick always work on his team, looking for ways to make his team better? Often times the Patriots will take on players that did not perform well in other places. However, once they are trained the way he wants them to be – in his system – they perform at a high level and get the job done! It is not just true of the Patriots. EVERY successful team in the world does one thing and they do it well. They do not let other people define who they are and what they can accomplish. When they get on the field or court, etc. they focus on what their strengths are, what it is they need to accomplish. We still need warriors!

I was watching a show  – can’t remember the name – and I heard someone ask, “What happened to all of the great “Black” leaders?” I can tell you what happened to them. They have all been corrupted by TV and marketing money. The good ones that are left cannot get enough exposure to be relevant on a large-scale; the bad ones are on everywhere! This brings us right back to the questions. “Exactly what is the State approved curriculum in AB 101 supposed to do? “Will it tell “our” children about the accomplishments of “our” people before they were artificially held down and back by the people who control this state/nation?” Or, is the purpose to keep our kids fighting to be equal with people who were never historically equal to them. This is not growth. It is continued stagnation.

At this very moment, at a time of record corporate profits on Wall Street, every good cause to help any “under-privileged group” is completely under-funded! It is not an accident! In addition, it is not the job of “White” people to fix.

A large percentage of the adults in the “under-privileged” groups are marginally employed or grossly underemployed. Last, to be hired, first to be fired, still! “Why?” Because they are complacent. Willing to sit around participating in conferences and a direction of dialogue where they still have to explain to another man what it is he can do for them. If these people knew ANYTHING about the long history of their people, they certainly would do something else. A State approved curriculum will not be designed to do that. We still need warriors!

The purpose of TV has become to conquer and divide people at will. Whatever a very limited group of people wants to showcase or shutdown, they do so with the tools of mass media. (TV, Internet, Facebook, etc.)

Most people reading this  – let us expand the group because we all know no one ever acknowledges reading any of my stuff – most people in the world are not “racist.” “Racist” meaning they hate other people’s skin colors to the point they cannot get along with them.

The biggest fallacy of everything having to do with the continuation of thinking along the lines of race and racism is that people would constantly be at each other’s throats ready to kill each other! That could not be any further from the truth. However, TV needs the “conflict” otherwise, people would recognize it for what it really is, just another appliance.

In August of 2014, I invited several people to a series of book discussions. The people asked to attend were chosen because they were educators who mostly worked with high school age kids. High School teachers, University teachers, community activists. The purpose was to read and analyze a book called ‘Nature Knows No-Color Line’ the book was written by J. A Rogers and has been reprinted several times, but good luck finding a copy!

I bought copies of the book, distributed them at the meetings, and gave away a few of them.

In the research for his 235 page book, J.A. Rogers traveled to Europe several times. To churches, libraries, government halls of records, etc. Everything he mentions in the book, J. A. substantiates by providing footnotes that shows the source of the information. Therefore, he is not asking you to believe him. He is saying if you disagree with what he found, you can do your own research.

I liked this approach so much that I built my ‘Other Awareness Project – 95% Guilt & Anger Free!’ project in the same way. I passed out footnotes at every presentation.

J. A.Rogers was a member of several professional associations including the Paris Society of Anthropology, the American Geographical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Academy of Political Science. In other words, he was not a member of these organizations because he picketed, boycotted, or stomped his feet! He submitted his research papers  – like everyone else – and based on their support of his research he was admitted!  Precisely the message we need to be sending to our young kids. Your mom and maybe a few other people care about what you feel. In an adult world, other people care about how well you substantiate your opinions. There is only one step. You have to do the work.

There is only one middle school in America named after J. A. Rogers.

Overall, the results of the book discussions were mixed and disappointing to me. Very few of the highly educated college graduates in the group had ever heard of J.A. Rogers or any of his books. I made it a point to specifically ask, “Do you think any of the information presented in the book would be useful for young “Black” kids to know? The overall answer was yes, but they were not sure how it should be presented in a class.

As a kid who is a product of many of the situations under-privileged kids face each day, I thought the book would certainly help kids understand their real place in the history of the world, rather than just seeing themselves as products of slaves. One day hoping to overcome. Overcome what?

For the last, several hundred years the history of America and position of every other group has been a one-sided story. The State taking steps to tell the other stories is admirable, but they really should leave people alone to tell their own stories the way they should be told.

When I talk about this, everyone instantly think I am talking just about “Black” people. In fact, I am talking about everyone who continues to get his or her ideas about themselves from other people. There are two recent news stories that I would like to highlight and connect to what I am talking about.

The people of Scotland recently had to vote on whether they would stay part of Great Britain, or go back to being an independent country. The debate was hot, heavy, and very interesting. Many of the Scottish people had no confidence in their ability to make it in the world without being governed and told what to do by the English. They had grown up this way and did not know anything different.

Of course, I did not have a horse in the race, but my thoughts were aligned with former First Minister Alex Salmond, who worked extremely hard to get the Yes Scotland independence initiative brought up for a vote. He no longer wanted to use Scottish resources to help pay for the wars and other excesses caused by England. He wanted the Scottish people to remember or learn about their great history of accomplishment before being ruled by England, and gain the confidence that they could make it in the world on their own, without any outside help. The Yes Scotland initiative was defeated in November 2014 and Alex Salmond resigned.

After much debate, Tanzania just passed a law that Kiswahili will go back to being the official language taught in its schools. It is set to become the first sub-Saharan African country to use an African language as the medium of instruction throughout the schooling years. (They probably should have said the first sub-Saharan African country to go back to primarily teaching an African language in its schools.)

Again there was and continues to be a lot of debate about whether a country can make it on its own terms, without some how being connected to the English. Many people even questioned whether it was smart or not.

If you are going to be successful in the world, it is simple; you must do so on your own terms. You will never be successful trying to move ahead on other people’s terms of success or who you are.

The message is true for “Black” kids as well. It is a waste of time and the continued misuse of time to continue arguing with and defining and redefining who you are with someone else.

Yes, people are made from the same stuff. It was true before Europeans started spreading their mis-education and misunderstanding of the world to everybody else as fact. It was true for the past 700 years, it is true now. It is not a new understanding we as people just arrived at. We are made from the same stuff, but that does not mean everybody should end up in the same place! Rarely is there a race where everyone who lined up at the start, finishes at the exact time.

Yes, some people have natural talent at certain things – nothing you can do about that – but it is not dictated by skin color. Usually the people, who worked hard at whatever the competition is for, finish ahead of the people who did not.

Education is important. So is the source of that education. No matter what name you call yourself, take some time off from being told by other people what you can and cannot read about the history of “your” people, and you will begin to understand what you are meant to accomplish in this world. It’s not that hard, and it doesn’t take forever.

Michael James Brown is the writer /producer of ‘Other Awareness Project – 95% Guilt & Anger Free!‘ A now 12 year project that looks at why intelligent people – using current information – still call themselves arbitrary and poorly defined “racial” categories. Categories that are not supported by science, religion, or any legal systems. Categories that a person’s ancestors NEVER called themselves! Are we solving any problems – real or perceived – by continuing this dialogue along these lines? Previous career titles include: Marketing Operations Manager, Creative Services Manager, Director of Operations. In his spare time, Michael rides his motorcycle around to real cities, having real conversations with real people. He is already aware that the OAP presentations and topics do not fit the expected mold and therefore he will never be invited to speak on any national media shows! 🙂 (http://www.otherawarenessproject.com) (http://facebook.com/otherawarenessproject)

Related Stories:

8th Graders/U.S. History
http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/study-8th-graders-score-low-us-history-civics-30666222

Bill Powell
http://www.clearview-gc.com

Best Foot Forward

403430_10150850173492580_912131900_nJust in case you haven’t noticed some of my recent posts, the NCORE Review Committee has once again accepted ‘Other Awareness Project – 95% Guilt & Anger Free’ for presentation at the 26th Annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education®.

NCORE® 2013 will be held May 28 through June 1, 2013, in Hilton New Orleans Riverside, Two Poydras Street, New Orleans, Louisiana 70130. My presentation is on Saturday, June 1st.

I know many people are unfamiliar with the direction and importance of this conference. Here is a short paragraph from the NCORE® website outlining the scope and purpose of the organization and conference:

The NCORE® conference series constitutes the leading and most comprehensive national forum on issues of race and ethnicity in American higher education. The conference focuses on the complex task of creating and sustaining comprehensive institutional change designed to improve racial and ethnic relations on campus and to expand opportunities for educational access and success by culturally diverse, traditionally underrepresented populations. (http://www.ncore.ou.edu/about_ncore.html)

So, in a nutshell, the attendees of these conferences are experienced educators (Master’s/PHD’s) looking for ways to solve the “problem” of poor academic achievement. They go on to further break things down into what I see as the continuation of poorly defined “racial” categories. As in “helping the Black kids, helping the Brown kids, etc.”

There is no differentiation or categorization in my message. As I tell the kids when I speak at any of the continuation or second chance schools – schools designed to help kids who aren’t succeeding in regular schools – look around the room, you are all here for the same reason, despite what you think your race or ethnicity is! Therefore, whatever you think about your race or ethnicity CANNOT be the cause of where you are now. Besides, there are people who look just like you, who came from the same circumstances or worse, who aren’t here with you now! What’s the difference? Why are they where they are and you are here? (Shortly after this, I also tell the kids, let’s talk more about the real world and less about the world that is presented to you through mass media, I can help you solve your problem. That’s when most start listening and asking questions!)

2013 will be my third and probably last appearance at this conference. (San Diego 2009, San Francisco 2011.) Both of the previous presentations were 3 hours long, well attended and I made many important contacts, gathered lots of information to research and discuss.

This will be the last presentation simply because I think there are more people and institutions more focused on having an NCORE conference next year, rather than focused on actually solving the problem.

(At this point I want to add that although my presentation is primarily focused on why trying to solve any problems based on continuing to use incorrect and poorly defined categories established by people who created them to dominate other people hasn’t worked. I actually respect the members of the selection committee(s) for reviewing and approving my participation at this conference three times! When the attendees find out what my topic is many are amazed that I’m allowed to make a presentation at all! But, after hearing the whole presentation, many of those same people have written or expressing approval of the direction of the project. (Actual follow up and bringing the presentation to their campus or organization has been another thing entirely. But I know the reasons behind that!) Over the past 10 years there have been many groups/organizations who will not even review or research my submissions.)

This year’s presentation is only 2 hours long, with a significant portion dedicated towards highlighting the work of Mr. Joel Augustus Rogers. My focus is specifically his book; ‘Nature Knows No Color Line: Research into the Negro Ancestry in the White Race’ (New York: J. A. Rogers, 1952). (Outdated title, I know.)

In my opinion, this book is quite simply THE one book that I think EVERYONE who wants to be more knowledgeable about human history in Africa, Europe, and the United States of America should read. If one of your goals or tasks is to teach other people about human history in Africa, Europe, etc.; then I think discussion of this book should be included in primary and secondary schools everywhere!

Documentation of information is what makes this book a must read! On every page, starting with the photo on the cover, J.A. Rogers tells you where he found the information! If you don’t “think” or “feel” it is accurate, YOU can do more research for yourself! It helps provide a starting point so YOU can add to whatever education YOU feel YOU didn’t get from the other man!

(There is already a J. A. Rogers Elementary school in Kansas City! http://www.kcpublicschools.org/Domain/32)

I am writing today because I have already sent messages to selected book clubs, groups, and people whose opinions I can respect, around the country, to think about starting the process of including this book in any upcoming discussions. I have even offered to fly anywhere and help moderate/lead the discussions. I am now expanding the suggestions to friends (and frienemies) everywhere.

I know everyone likes to talk about all sorts of unconnected topics, but for this exercise, the discussion will be limited to talking about J. A. Rogers, his research and how he went about his work, and the information contained in this book!

This book is hard to find. It is usually out of stock. I was able to purchase a copy at:

EYERIE CULTURE SHOP
6695 Downey Ave
Long Beach, CA
562-408-1000
(Ask for Z)

It is important to me that you do your own research, but here are a few paragraphs about J. A. Rogers. You can read more at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joel_Augustus_Rogers

Joel Augustus Rogers (September 6, 1883 – March 26, 1966) was a Jamaican-American author, journalist, and historian who contributed to the history of Africa and the African Diaspora, especially the history of African Americans in the United States. His research spanned the academic fields of history, sociology and anthropology. He challenged prevailing ideas about race, demonstrated the connections between civilizations, and traced African achievements. He was one of the greatest popularizers of African history in the 20th century.

Rogers was a meticulous researcher, astute scholar and concise writer. He traveled tirelessly on his quest for knowledge, which often took him directly to the source. While traveling in Europe, he frequented libraries, museums, and castles, finding sources that helped him prove African ancestry and history. He challenged the biased viewpoint of Eurocentric historians and anthropologists.

Rogers articulated ideas about race that were informed by anthropology and biology, rather than social convention. He used vindicationism not as end in itself, but as a tool to underscore his humanist beliefs, and to illustrate the unity of humanity as a people. He discarded the non-scientific definition of race and pursued his own ideas about humanity’s interconnectedness. Thus, although the work of Rogers has often been relegated to the controversial genre of Afrocentric history, his main contribution to African scholarship was his nuanced analysis of the concept of race.

Rogers was a member of professional associations such as the Paris Society of Anthropology, the American Geographical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Academy of Political Science.

You can start reading reviews of ‘Nature Knows No Color Lines’ on Amazon.com:
 http://www.amazon.com/Nature-Knows-No-Color-Line-Research/product-reviews/0960229450/ref=dp_top_cm_cr_acr_txt?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1

If you are an educator, community organizer, or just interested in discussing this book, by all means contact me. (After reading the book and doing your own research!) If not, I completely understand. It is hard to step away from the group and do something different.

In my opinion, if this book is not considered for inclusion/discussion by more schools, etc., “we” simply aren’t putting our best foot forward towards solving any problems and “we” will be talking about this stuff for another 500 years!

Thanks!

Michael James Brown
Writer/Producer
Other Awareness Project – 95% Guilt & Anger Free!
mjb@otherawarenessproject.com

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