Since this is our last day of class, I’d like you all to consider the intellectual, emotional, and activist journey you’ve been on this semester in our class. I look forward to reading your final reflective papers about your service learning experience, but let’s also talk about what else you’re taking away from this course.
Take a few moments and jot down an answer to each of the following questions:
- What reading, discussion, or film impacted your thinking the most in this class? Why?
- What was the most challenging moment, discussion, or topic for you in the class?
- What do you feel is the most important thing you learned from this course?
- How will your new awareness change the way you study, act, speak, etc. in the world?
- If you could change one thing about the course, what would it be?
As some of you know, Monday morning, a group of almost 200 people, including mainly students as well as faculty, marched through campus and up the steps of Hovde Hall to the Office of the President to demand that administration effectively address, publicly and in a real way, the racism that pervades Purdue’s campus.
Students stand on the steps of Purdue’s Hovde Hall on Monday, demanding that administration act to combat racism prevalent in the campus community.
The march was a moving event, but it has also stirred the fires of those made nervous by the students’ activism. One of the march signs, left in front of Hovde Monday afternoon along with candles, was defaced with racist hate speech and was accompanied by the image of a body hanging from a tree, evoking America’s dark history of lynchings.
HOW TO JOIN IN
In response – and to maintain the productive energy rallied by Monday’s march, PARC (Purdue Anti-Racism Coalition) will be holding a meeting TONIGHT, in BRNG B323, at 5:30pm, right after our class. I would strongly encourage those of you who wish to help make our campus a hate-free, accountable environment to attend. People of any race, gender, etc. are welcome at the meeting. For more information, check out the “The Fire This Time” Facebook page.
Salt of the Earth (1954) is based on the real-life 1951 strike that Mexican-American mine workers in Grant County, New Mexico held against Empire Zinc (called “Delaware Zinc” in the film), the company that owned the mine where they worked. The filmmakers cast many real local miners and their families (only five in the cast were professional actors) who had been involved in the actual strike to cast the film. The miners were striking for fair wages (i.e., equal to those of their fellow Anglo, or white, workers) and better health and safety.
Filmed in the heart of the Red Scare and the McCarthy Era, the film was denounced by the United States House of Representatives for its Communist sympathies, and the FBI investigated the film’s financing. The American Legion called for a nation-wide boycott of the film: film-processing labs were told not to work on it and unionized projectionists were instructed not to show it. After its opening night in New York City, all but 12 theaters in the country refused to screen it. During filming, anti-Communist vigilantes fired rifle shots at the set and Rosaura Revueltas was deported to Mexico in an attempt to disrupt filming. Many years later, the film found a new life and an appreciative audience in the 1960s and gradually reached wider viewership through screenings held at union halls, women’s centers, and film schools. It is still often shown today.
Homework: Watch the film for Monday’s class and consider the discussion questions on your handout.
SALT OF THE EARTH
There are any number of extra credit opportunities out there this month, given the ridiculous number of events happening on campus in the next two weeks. These include, of course, this week’s LGBTQIA film festival. While I passed the flyer around in class, below you’ll find the link to the site, which includes trailers for every film being shown this week so you can take your pick. The films represent a wide range of genres and include a few international films as well.
I will count attendance at any of the films for extra credit (excepting the 5-minute short titled “Flyers,” unless seen in addition to another film or short).
Check out the trailers for the LGBTQIA Film Festival.
Last year, Arizona’s public school system received a great deal of attention after Superintendent Huppenthal shut down the state’s acclaimed Mexican American Studies program (called Raza Studies), claiming that it fostered resentment toward white people and promoted ethnic solidarity and disrespect toward American (i.e., white western European) history, or “anti-Americanism,” and that it inculcated leftist ideas.
Students and teachers from the Raza Studies program protest to protect ethnic studies programs in Arizona’s public schools.
To put this whole issue in perspective, let’s first remember that parts of Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas used to be Mexico.
The following quote is pulled from the documentary Precious Knowledge (2012), about Arizona students’ and educators’ battle to keep the program:
- “The [Raza] program was a national model of educational success — 93 percent of its enrolled students graduating from high school and 85 percent going on to attend college, bucking a statewide trend that saw only 48 percent of Latino students graduating at all. The program taught Mexican and American history, as well as Central and South American literature and culture. But the political tide shifted in Arizona in the 2000s. The state passed extremely controversial immigration laws…”
So why would state officials shut down such a successful program? Huppenthal cited Arizona House Bill 2281 to make his arguments that what the teachers in the Raza Studies program were teaching was illegal. Read an HB 2281 excerpt below:
“A school district o charter school in this state shall not include in its program of instruction any courses or classes that include any of the following:
- Promote the overthrow of the United States Government.
- Promote resentment toward a race or class of people.
- Are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group.
- Advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.”
As of March this year, an Arizona judge upheld certain provisions of a state law that bans ethnic studies in Tucson’s schools;however, the judge ruled that the section of the law prohibiting courses tailored to serve students of a particular ethnicity was unconstitutional, a small win. The teachers of the Raza Studies program – some of whom have been volunteering their time to continue teaching ethnic studies to interested students in the community – are continuing to fight the decision.
- What connections can you make between Kozol’s “Preparing Minds for Markets” and recent attacks on ethnic studies programs?
- How do race and ethnicity make students vulnerable in educational institutions?
- How do you see recent public debates about immigration reflected in Arizona’s reactionary education policies?
We’re often told that education is the great equalizer, that access to public education is what levels the playing field for anyone willing to study, work hard, and get good grades. Rich calls this into question in her essay from the early 1970s. In short, she argues that even though women are now allowed to enter into higher education – in fact, during the second wave, women were flocking to universities in unprecedented numbers – their education was anything but equal.
Ultimately, what Rich asks us to consider is whether mere access to dominant institutions is enough to create equality. And whether the particular values and power promised (to some) by such institutions is, indeed, what we were really looking for.
Think back, too, to this argument about “pretended choices” made by Audre Lorde in “Age, Race, Class, and Sex: Women Redefining Difference”:
“[We] face the pitfall of being seduced into joining the oppressor under the pretense of sharing power” (118).
Institutions like the academy (and the military and even much of government) were designed to accommodate the needs, ideas, and values of upper and middle-class white men – certainly not women or minorities, and most definitely not the poor or immigrants. Given this knowledge, is simply adding such groups and stirring enough to change such institutions and make them more equal – or make them more equalizing? Or, as Rich worries, will they continue to breed masculine privilege as they were designed to do?
First, let’s think about the big picture. The follow short video is by Nayyar Javed, a Canadian therapist and social activist.
After reading “Preparing Minds for Markets” (and looking forward to watching Precious Knowledge next week), some of you may be interested in some of the public school reform currently being spearheaded by teachers’ unions as well as students and teachers collaborating together.
First, check out Occupy Education, “a collection of adults and children’s messages that challenge public school to become something more than it is – messages that dare public school to serve students’ passions instead of politicians and vendors’ coffers.” (In fact, your own instructor has appeared on this blog!)
Second, read up on the successful, woman-led Chicago Teachers’ Union strike from just last September. The strike was a major win for public school teachers, who have already been under siege; over the past year, teachers unions have been under attack and many have had their collective bargaining rights stripped by conservative state governments, like Wisconsin and Indiana. Our own Mitch Daniels’s record on education, which included deep budget cuts to all public education, including higher ed, as well as attacks on teachers’ unions, was one of the reasons why so many called his recent appointment as Purdue’s newest president into question.
Not long ago, Purdue allowed its HTM majors to vote on the artwork that would appear on the ground floor of the new Marriot Building on campus, which houses the Lavazza cafe. Here are two of the main pieces of art that were chosen.
What sort of educational environment do such images create for women students? For male students?
Purdue is already a predominantly male campus. How do such images reinforce male privilege in such an environment?
For Friday, your homework is to play a game. That’s right, a computer game. Ayiti means Haiti. You’ll be asekd to choose a governing value or philosophy to navigate your family through their lives in the game: health, happiness, education, or money. Based on your choice, you’ll have to make decisions for your Haitian family along the way.
Click on the link to play Ayiti: The Cost of Life.
Try playing the game according to different philosophies to see if you get different results. After you play the game, consider the following questions, which we’ll discuss on Friday.
- What connections did you make bewteen the game and the two chapters you read from Enloe?
- In what ways do you see intersections of gender, race, class, and ethnicity at work in the game?
- Which goals or philosophies worked better for your family? Which one created the most obstacles?
- Which decision was the hardest for you to make in the game? Why?
- Do you think the game is an effective learning tool? Why or why not?
This is truly an amazing opportunity to hear one of the greatest intellectuals of our time. Don’t miss it…and conveninetly, because this is the day of the symposium, we don’t have class during that time!
DR. CORNEL WEST COME TO PURDUE
Friday, April 12th, 4:00-5:30pm, Elliott Hall of Music