Academic journal article High School Journal

Experience and Context in the Making of a Chicano Activist

Academic journal article High School Journal

Experience and Context in the Making of a Chicano Activist

Article excerpt

This paper examines the experiences and context in the making of a Chicano activist. Utilizing autoethnographic methodology, I discuss my own identity development, as it was mediated by issues of social capital and mentoring, two significant elements related to Chicano educational activism. I discuss dimensions or race, class, self-esteem, and professional development as they relate to transformative educators and activism. (1)

Key Words: identity development, mentoring, transformation process, autoethnography

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Overview

Upon examining the literature on teachers and change, two alarming facts emerge. First, the overwhelming majority of teachers continue to be White or European American and tend to teach in the way that they learn (Romo, Bradfield, & Serrano, 2004). Secondly, we have classrooms with diminishing numbers of students who are European American. A crisis is looming: many teachers misunderstand, marginalize and mis-serve the growing minority-majority population by teaching and interacting with students as if students shared in the teachers' backgrounds. Concurrently, a virtual academic industry has developed related to European American teachers and students understanding their whiteness as it relates to teaching and learning (Delpit, 1995; Howard, 1999; Kohl, 1994; Mcintosh, 1989; Scheurich, 1993, 1997; Sleeter & McLaren, 1995). Despite a growing body of knowledge about teachers who practice educational social justice, much more needs to be understood about the lives of Chicano/ Latino students and teachers (Fredrickson, 1995; Moll, 1993; Romo, Bradfield, & Serrano, 2004). Therefore, it is necessary to consider alternative educational social justice practioners' voices in order to break the following patterns.

The dropout rates across the nation for Latinos, African Americans, and American Indians are particularly high (Kitchen, Velaquez & Myers, 2000) when compared to European American students. In the U.S., dropout rates for Latinos and American Indians hover between 40 and 50%, almost double that for African Americans and triple that for whites. In other words, out of one hundred White students that enter kindergarten, ninety-three earn a high school diploma, sixty-five attend at least one year of college, and thirty-four complete a B.A. degree. Of one hundred Black students that enter kindergarten, eighty-seven earn a high school diploma, fifty-one attend at least one year of college, and seventeen complete a B.A. degree. However, out of one hundred Latino students that enter kindergarten, sixty-three earn a high school diploma, thirty-two attend at least one year of college, and eleven complete a B.A. degree. Among Native Peoples, only fifty-eight percent complete high school and seven percent attend at least one year of college (Haycock, 1997; The Education Trust, 1998).

We know that the quality of teaching is the most important determinant of student success (Darling-Hammond, 1998; Elmore & Burney, 1997) that leads to student success or its antithesis, sharecropper education (Moses, 2001). However, students of color report that white, ethnically encapsulated teachers: did not know them nor did they care to; were biased against students' cultures; and were insensitive to issues they faced at home (Kitchen, Velaquez & Myers, 2000). Schools, in truth, often felt like prisons by students who faced cultural discontinuities and personal and institutional racism on a daily basis (e.g., Chavez Chavez, 1995, 1997; Delpit, 1995; Kitchen, Velaquez & Myers, 2000).

By looking at K-12 educational system as a whole, it is possible to conclude that, as a society, we are all complicit in the miserable learning conditions and outcomes related to Latino students (Darder, 1997; Howard, 1999; Kozol, 1994). For example, how is it that while the proportion of Latinos in the United States increases, the number of Latinos who complete graduate degrees, particularly doctorates decreases (Gonzalez, et. …

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