broadcast, the police, the prosecutor, the press, and the general public saw them as monsters, unfit to live among the general public. After many unsuccessful attempts to gain an appeal, one of the convicted men began to read about DNA as a new technology for determining whether someone actually committed a crime. This man prevailed upon an attorney who specialized in DNA-related cases to look at the evidence. The attorney was able to prove that none of the young men had committed this crime and that their insistence that the police had forced confessions out of them was true. They were released from prison after having given up 15 years of their lives—15 years of freedom.
In the last segment of the program, the young man who handled most of the legal aspects of their cases while he was incarcerated told the interviewer that while he was in prison he read the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution over and over. At one point he recited a familiar excerpt from the Declaration—“We hold these truths to be selfevident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
The interviewer asked, “How can you cling to this ideal when this system put you in prison?” The man replied:
If you read these documents you understand that we have a system that holds great promise. It's not the system—or at least it's not the democratic ideals—that's the problem. It's the corruption of the people who are running the system. The power of these ideals is the only thing I've had to hold on to these last 15 years.
The challenge of committed educators is to reveal and incite the power of democratic ideals for marginalized students in U.S. schools. Their work is not to recruit students into the current political, economic, and social order. It is not to continue to reproduce hierarchy and social and economic asymmetry. It is to prepare students to work to narrow the distance between what the United States says it stands for (through its founding documents) and what it currently practices. It is to help every student learn what it means to embrace cultural citizenship.
Acuña, R. (1988). Occupied America: The Chicanos struggle toward liberation (3rd ed.). New York: Harper and Row.
Allen, T. (1997). The invention of the White race: Vol. 1. Racial oppression and social control. London: Verso.