Tag Archives: 3rd centavo

3rd Centavo: Acuña ~ Identity: Mexican or American First?

by Rodolfo F. Acuña

uglyWhat are you, a Mexican or an American? This was a question asked frequently when I was a growing – much more than it is today. This is perhaps because at that time we were clearly a minority and racism was more transparent and acceptable. It was a time when people believed that Jews killed Christ and Mexicans massacred Davey Crockett at the Alamo. The result was that this forced me to think in terms of “them and us.”

I was probably eight or so when my school mates first asked me and my cousin whether we would fight for Mexico or the United States. The question tore me up. I could not imagine shooting my father. The teachers did not help always referring to Mexico as a backward country.

A large map of North America donned the classroom wall. Canada, the U.S.’s friend, was on top, and Mexico was on the bottom. There were frequent jokes and put downs such as “If you don’t like it go back to Tijuana.”

The question of what are you first is not surprising, Americans are obsessed with policing loyalty. During the 1920s the American Firsters changed the pledge of allegiance from “I pledge allegiance to my flag” to “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America” – they wanted to make sure that someone was not pledging allegiance to some foreign flag.

Early visitors to the U.S. noted American racial xenophobia that forged a national inferiority complex. America through the eyes of European visitors such as Alexis de Tocqueville gives us a window into the past. While many admired the opportunities for land in the new nation, they also made biting observations about American attitudes. Nothing in the United States was authentic, for example, not even American English, which was a wannabe version of British English.

De Tocqueville noted the obsession of Americans for material objects: “…I know of no other country where love of money has such a grip on men’s hearts or where stronger scorn is expressed for the theory of permanent equality of property.”

Although it was a love-hate relationship, the standard for Americans was Europe. Europe had a history, the United States did not. Europe had traditions, the United States did not. An abundance of western land kept alive myths of opportunity for some, but for the African slave whose labor built not only the south but the nation the inequality was rationalized.

To justify inequality whites formed opinions on the moral and intellectual inferiority of their former slaves. When immigrants entered Pleasantville, equality was based not only on on the hue of their skin but on property that increasingly took the form of capital.

So naturally the Mexicans’ equality was measured by the hue of their skin and the amount of wealth they possessed. In order to justify the inequality of Mexicans they manufactured myths that the United States did not invade Mexico, but re-annexed it. Social and biological explanations were also manufactured such as the Mexican’s moral and intellectual inferiority.

White Americans of my generation questioned, why would anyone want to be anything but American? Everyone wanted to come to America didn’t they? They believed that the U.S. was different from other nation states. It did not make war – the U.S. was forced to defend democracy.

Even in the 1950s when I was in the army a dichotomy existed. Even though you wore an American uniform, you weren’t really an American. At the time, there were the spics (Mexicans and Puerto Ricans), the Italians, the Polacks, the Jews and the Negros in the army. The Americans were white.

The army changed my worldview. I had some opportunities because my area scores were higher than others. But I was often asked how come I was a company clerk and then a supply sergeant. There weren’t too many of us in these positions. The army was the first place where I encountered a vicious form of racism. I remember that outside the base in Augsburg, Germany, the night clubs were segregated, and there were mini-race riots.

After my discharge I returned to school. I worked sixty hours a week and carried 18 units. Los Angeles State was the best thing that ever happened to me. I got my BA and then my MA in history there.

My first teaching job was at the West Coast Talmudical Seminary — taught grades K-12, I was its only goy teacher. Orthodox Jews at the time were shunned by the other Jewish sects.

In 1958 I began teaching at San Fernando Junior High. I was introduced by the principal as her “Mexican teacher.” At the time most of the Mexican American students were born in the USA yet they were referred to as Mexicans — the blacks as Negros and the whites as Americans. The contradiction was that they expected us to be grateful for being American.

Once the other teachers became comfortable with me, they began asking me questions like why a Mexican student got into a fight or why he didn’t do his homework? How the hell should I know? It was like me asking them why Charles Manson did what he did?

When a Mexican parent filed a rare complaint, the teachers in the smoking room asked me, “Are you a Mexican or a teacher first?” Frankly, at first I was taken aback. What was the contradiction? I was not as brazen as I later became and tried to reason with them. I was on probation and did not have tenure. The first time I applied for a teacher position with the LA City Schools I was rejected because, they said, I had gone to parochial schools.

Throughout my three years at the junior high school the question kept coming up, “Are you a Mexican or a teacher first?” It was not only me but also the lone Black teacher who everyone liked because he pandered to them. He advised me to play the game.

When I transferred to a high school things were different. I had tenure, and I had job offers from the private sector. About a year into the job, again in the smoking room, I was asked, “Are you a Mexican or a teacher first?” I responded that my birth certificate says “Mexican” so I guess I am a Mexican first. The question was also asked when I began my opposition to the Vietnam War and the invasion of Santo Domingo – Are you a Mexican or an American first?

I had entered the doctoral program in Latin American Studies at the University of Southern California and was studying about U.S.-Latin American relations. This led to my questioning, why would anyone want to be an American? When I traveled in Mexico and other countries I was ashamed of the “ugly Americans” who demanded service by waving dollars at the Volkswagen Service Manager.

To make a long story short, the question, “Are you a Mexican or an American or a teacher first? has today taken on a new meaning. I am a teacher and that means teaching all students. Being Mexican means advocating for the interests of Mexican, Latino and working class students.

Being a Mexican first makes me a member of an oppressed minority. In so many instances I have witnessed Albert Memmi’s prophesy in The Colonizer and the Colonized come true with the colonized becoming the colonizer. Being an American is nothing exceptional and should not negate other identities such as Mexican, Latino, African, Native American, Asian or human being. It should not delude us into believing that we equally benefit from our corporate state that has no nationality.

Meanwhile, it is somewhat pathetic that people still ask, am I your first love?

Rodolfo Acuña, Ph.D., is an historian, professor emeritus, and one of various scholars of Chicano studies, which he teaches at California State University, Northridge. He is the author of Occupied America: A History of ChicanosDr. Acuña writes various opinions and essays on his Facebook page and allows sites to share his thoughts.

Advertisements

3rd Centavo: Acuña ~ He Went to Harvard, He Must Be Smart

To Serve The People
by Rodolfo F. Acuña
 

During a brief conversation with the candidate for the Mexican presidency Manuel Andrés López Obrador, the topic came up as to why so much of the Mexican leadership was getting degrees from American universities particularly Harvard University. He expressed a preference that Mexican politicians and leaders attend Mexican universities because an alienation occurs when a student is removed from his community.

It hit a chord — I am also ambivalent about the mainstreaming Mexican American and Latino students. Education does not bond us to our communities; it gives us the tools to individually succeed. But ultimately universities are creatures of the state that socialize us and equip us to socially engineer others.

Schooling stratifies society, tracks students into groups with the nerds occupying the highest rung. Students learn their place and teachers pine for top groups. High school teachers’ prize their AP (Advanced Placement) classes deluding themselves that this is real teaching.

Alienation takes place with students knowing who is special. Teachers treat these “good” students like peers — preferring the geeks to the freaks. Yet, both groups occupy the same space and are part of the same community. Off campus they live in areas with similar institutions and cultural symbols. Parental attitudes and food reinforce an intangible bonding.

Leaders such as AMLO are aware of the fact that Mexican barrio boys or girls do not attend Harvard. Few poor kids get the opportunity to travel abroad, and most don’t even know that Harvard exists. The ones that do attend are Americanized.

Where students go to school is not as important today as where they grow up. In my day there was clear distinction existed between public and parochial schools. Today the latter are too expensive and havens for students fleeing the public schools. A growing percentage of my Latino students come from magnet schools and less from parochial.

Traditionally, civil rights organizations have followed the rule that it is necessary to produce educated elite. The great African American leader W. E. B. Du Bois insisted that this talented tenth would bring about civil rights reform and political representation. Du Bois greatly influenced later generations of Black and minority leadership.

While I would not take the position that education is bad, going to Harvard or an Ivy League university does not necessarily mean that a person is more educated, smarter or entitled. In my opinion, there are many ways to produce a vanguard.

American foundations have pursued this hierarchical strategy. The Ford Foundation, for example, supported ethnic studies programs at more prestigious institutions believing that the institutions would legitimatize ethnic studies by making them academically competitive and earning them the respect of mainstream disciplines. Ford Foundation socially engineered black studies, women studies and to lesser degree Chicana/o studies.

F. Champion Ward, a Ford vice-president and former dean of graduate studies at the University of Chicago said, “we believe that Afro-American studies should not be fenced off. We do not believe that only white Americans can understand Carl Sandburg or only blacks can understand Leopold Senghor…We are persuaded that these subjects will not achieve the place in the college curriculum that they deserve unless they are designed and taught with regular standards of learning and scholarship. To accomplish this, trained faculty and new course materials must be developed vigorously in the years ahead.” According to Ward, separatism was not the way; however, Ford never dealt with the question of power.

In a 1973 report Ford stated “Possession of the Ph.D. is not essential to begin college teaching, but it is important in being hired by stronger colleges and universities, in promotion, and in obtaining tenure.” The report further stated fewer than 3,000 Blacks and probably no more than 200 Chicanos, Puerto Ricans, and Native had doctorates.

A Ford program officer paid me a visit in the early 70s and asked me about Ford’s PhD initiative. He was visibly annoyed when I replied that I did not like it. The Mexican American and Mexican population was exploding because the median age of Mexican American women was ten years lower than white women while the white and black American population was in decline.

Probably no more than two hundred Chicana/o and Puerto Rican scholars had doctorates in the early 1970s. The Mexican American PhD pool was about one hundred, and doubling or even tripling that number would have little impact on the Chicana/o community.

The black situation differed. They had about three thousand PhDs and would benefit from doubling or tripling that number. Just as important was that African Americans lived in communities near Ivy League schools. Sending Chicanas/os to Ivy League Schools would be good for individuals but hardly transformative for the Chicana/o community.

I proposed that Ford focus on community colleges where Master of Arts not PhD degrees is required. Sending doctoral students away from home would alienate them; if they wanted to implement the fellows program, Ford should require fellows to work summers as interns in labor unions, community organizations, prisons and Equal Opportunity Programs.

How many Chicana/o scholars were produced? An Advanced Study Fellows Award, 1967-1973 Fact Sheet listed the number of awards: 691 Black candidates, eighty-five Chicanos, sixty-two Puerto Ricans, and thirty-seven Native Americans.

While it is not an either or proposition, what would the community have benefited most from?

Today more Latino students are enrolling in California in higher education than white students. However, two-thirds of them go to community colleges. According to a recent University of Southern California study: “Among graduates of public high schools that ranked in the top 10 percent statewide, 46 percent of Latinos enrolled at a community college, as compared to 27 percent of whites, 23 percent of African-Americans, and 19 percent of Asians.” In California, Latino students have become a separate and unequal majority in higher education.

Research on Latino community college is limited. Current diversity data is almost impossible to obtain. Luis Ponjuan (2012), however, underscores the value of faculty diversity. He and others have found that a “critical mass” of Latino faculty increases Latino student retention. Despite this the raw number of Latino faculty members is difficult to come by. More Latinos tend to be sequestered in the ranks of part time and temporary faculty.

It is not too much of a stretch to suggest that few community college professors attended Ivy League universities. This does not suggest that acquiring or not acquiring a doctorate makes you a better fit. The point I am trying to make is that going to Harvard is not based on your intelligence but on luck and circumstances. I have met my share of idiots with Ivy League degrees at California State University at Northridge. I know Latino and Latina Ivy League professors who could not organize a tea party let alone an ethnic studies program. Some cannot communicate with students of their own kind.

In the case of Mexicans and Mexican Americans who go to universities away from their home environment they must keep in mind a danger of alienation. When I returned from the army, it took me time to reorient myself. The problem is that many do not realize that going to college does not make one smart.

Rodolfo Acuña, Ph.D., is an historian, professor emeritus, and one of various scholars of Chicano studies, which he teaches at California State University, Northridge. He is the author of Occupied America: A History of ChicanosDr. Acuña writes various opinions and essays on his Facebook page and allows sites to share his thoughts.

3rd Centavo: Acuña ~ Our Politicos Have Sold Us Out

Selling Public Space
The Chickens Will Come Home to Roost
By Rodolfo F. Acuña

On the one side is neoliberalism, with all its repressive power and its machinery of death; on the other side is the human being. There are those who resign themselves to being one more number in the huge exchange of power … But there are those who do not resign themselves … In any place in the world, anytime, any man or woman rebels to the point of tearing off the clothes resignation has woven for them and cynicism has died grey. Any man or woman, of whatever colour, in whatever tongue, speaks and says to himself or to herself: Enough is enough! Ya basta! — Subcomandante Marcos

acunaThe lambs have a problem hearing the sounds of the clarion because of a lack of long term memory. Because of this memory lapse, the Zapatistas January 1, 1994 revolt protesting the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) never sunk in. Perhaps the word neoliberal was too foreign to the lambs that had a difficult time comprehending that the word takes different forms.

News that University of California President Janet Napolitano began two days of meetings to Mexico about expanding academic and research cooperation with Mexican universities and scientific and cultural organizations has raised fears among many of us.

The U.S. War on Drugs has ravaged Mexico to the point that few U.S. students want to study there. As a consequence, about 40 out of 233,000 UC students study in Mexico each year, while about 1,900 Mexicans attended UC schools in 2013.

Ironically, Napolitano, the former secretary of Homeland Security, was involved in making U.S. drug policy; her visit coincides with that of Secretary of State John Kerry. According to the UC president this is part of the “UC’s many and varied partnerships, exchanges and collaborations with Mexico are integral to bettering lives on both sides of our national border … I’m here to ensure we grow that relationship by establishing our new project to enhance the mutual exchange of students, faculty and ideas across the border.”

For over 50 years, the Mexican American community has always encouraged exchange programs lobbying for programs with Mexico. However, many of us have come to realize that just studying in Mexico, or studying in the United States does not always have positive outcomes.

A Facebook friend, Vicente Ramírez says about these exchanges, “They’re [the UC and CSU] not going to recruit the working class–it’s a class war… They’re recruiting Mexico’s elite students so that they can then go back and apply neoliberal policies. All of Mexico’s secretaries of Economy (Secretario de Economía) and Finance (Secretario de Hacienda y Crédito Público) have gotten their Ph.D.’s from American universities since the mid-1980s. Mexico’s current Secretario de Hacienda, Luis Videgarray who successfully pushed for the privatization of PEMEX got his Ph.D. from MIT.” Ex-Mexican president Carlos Salinas de Gortari, arguably the intellectual godfather of Mexican neoliberalism, received his MA and PhD in economics from Harvard.

Upon hearing about Napolitano’s Mexican junket UC Irvine Professor Rodolfo Torres wrote. “I read this morning that Janet Napolitano is in Mexico exploring academic and research cooperation with Mexican universities. Do you think there is a proactive role UC Chicano Studies and progressive Latin American Studies faculty can play to prevent this initiative from becoming a total market-driven and neoliberal project? My Dean (Social Ecology) also announced at a school-wide faculty meeting that she will be meeting with selected faculty to discuss this US-Mexico initiative.”

UC Professor Jorge Mariscal wrote on FB, “UC is recruiting the Mexican ruling class and a token number of working-class mexicanos/as who identify with the ruling class. This process will intensify in coming years as Napolitano struggles to erase her record as DHS/Deportation Czar. One (un)intended consequence will be the slow-motion strangulation of Chicano/a programs in the UC system that refuse to subordinate the local (albeit transnational) to the ‘global’.”

It should be made clear that this initiative is not about diversity or cultural enrichment. The recruitment is global and it is about profit. When the UC or CSU turns away students the for-profit university sector in both countries thrive.

Neoliberalism at its worse will recruit wealthy Mexican students to displace U.S. minority students charging them out of state and foreign student fees. Not too many if any working class Mexican students will be able to afford the tuition and dorm costs.

The current exchanges have had little scrutiny from progressives in this country. Mexico has set a goal of sending 100,000 Mexican students a year to the U.S. by 2018. In addition, the UC and CSU system have recruiters in China, the Middle East, Asia and the U.S.. Let’s be clear, large numbers of international students impact minorities and working class students many of whom have already been priced out of the market.

Today first year students from outside California comprise almost 30 percent of freshmen at UC Berkeley and UCLA, a growth of just over 10 percent in four years. The Mercury News reports, UC Berkley’s “revenue from out-of-state and international students has grown to about $160 million, about 7 percent of its annual operating budget and more than half of its state subsidy.”

Meanwhile, at UCLA just under 28 percent of the incoming freshmen are out of state students while just over 3 percent are African American. Inside Higher Ed writes that “The number of foreign and out-of-state students admitted to the University of California’s 10 campuses soared by 43 percent this year, while the overall number of would-be freshmen admitted from within the state’s borders grew by just 3.6 percent, the university system … Out-of-state and foreign students made up nearly one in five students admitted for next fall, 18,846 of a total of 80,289.”

In the meantime, the Cal State Universities are following the same neoliberal model. Pathetically desperate the CSU has embarked on a policy of growth. The problem is that it is shifting the cost of this growth almost exclusively to students who pay over three-quarters of instructional costs and almost a hundred percent of new construction.

This leads to an insidious policy that limits space for low income students and justifies higher fees and tuition. It gives students who are turned away no alternative but to go to for-profit universities. Recently, a scheme by the community colleges to enter into a contract with the University of Kaplan to offer classes online to community college students (at a substantial fee) was derailed because of public outcry. (Until recently Kaplan was a tutorial center mainly for foreign students).

Meanwhile, California politicos are encouraging an insidious policy of divide and conquer, pitting the Asian community against the Latino and other minority communities. This has led to some Asian American leaders thinking affirmative action will discriminate against them.

I use the phrase “The Chickens are Coming Home to Roost” because the commodification of public spaces has been occurring for some time. The Zapatista revolt should have been a wake up call; however, our elected officials have sold us out. They seem more concerned with photo ops and getting elected than they are in preserving public spaces.

I cannot remember a Latino elected official since the late Marco Firebaugh who was concerned with the state of Latinos in higher education. However, the lambs have to bear responsibility for not keeping the politicos in check and allowing themselves and their public spaces to be sold on the open market.

GIVE US YOUR RICH, SEND BACK THE POOR

Rodolfo Acuña, Ph.D., is an historian, professor emeritus, and one of various scholars of Chicano studies, which he teaches at California State University, Northridge. He is the author of Occupied America: A History of ChicanosDr. Acuña writes various opinions and essays on his Facebook page and allows sites to share his thoughts.

3rd Centavo ~ Acuña: Academe as a Plantation ~ A False Consciousness

by Rodolfo F. Acuña

The Webster’s dictionary defines a plantation as “a large area of land especially in a hot part of the world where crops (such as cotton) are grown.” However, like every other definition it has many lives. The popular meaning today includes large farms growing a commercial crop such as cotton, bananas or other single crop such as sugar. It needs a large labor pool comprised of slaves or near-like slave labor such as peonage.

Like prisons the slaves develop a mental and emotional dependency on the institutional life. I have friends who actually enjoy going back to prison, although acknowledging their loss of freedom. The plantation preys on this dependency and gives the inmates (slaves and peons) housing and other functions. They are often controlled through privileges that they are grateful for.

The university is organized in a similar fashion: the bosses, the overseers, the disparate crew bosses and the peons (the students). They are distinguished by titles: doctor, professor, mister and the peons by first name. Recently I referred to a colleague as Ms. So and so, she corrected me, Dr. So and so.

I responded that I did not use the title, any title, and that my father upon learning that I had one asked me, “¿si eres doctor que curas?” (“if you are a doctor what do you cure?”).

Everyone down the vertical scale has a title: full professor, associate professor and assistant professor. When I began at my present institution, the entry was often an instructor who was at the bottom of the overseer class but was in line to move up.

Originally the lecturers were paid better than the instructors or the part timers. However, the lecturers and the part timers were vulnerable because they were not in line to become “partners.”

Today the part timers enjoy some permanency thanks to a union contract. In lieu of equality they have been upgraded in name to “lecturers.” It sounds better, and a title almost always makes the guard feel like he is in line for a promotion to become a tenured professor.

This plantation mentality has been used very effectively by academe that has converted the institution into profit centers. The process is neoliberalism that “makes it harder for poor children to attend college and forces debt-ridden students into an intellectual and moral dead zone devoid of imagination.”

In an interview Henry A. Giroux defined neoliberalism as an ideology that interprets profit making as the essence of democracy and concludes that only the market can solve our problems. “As a mode of governance, it produces identities, subjects, and ways of life driven by a survival of the fittest ethic, grounded in the idea of the free, possessive individual, and committed to the right of ruling groups and institutions to accrue wealth removed from matters of ethics and social costs.”

This hit home the other day when I received an email from a part-timer who now considers herself a “lecturer.” She objected to my criticizing California State University Northridge for converting itself from a public university into a private university – privatizing the blue collar working labor pool into contract labor.

At CSUN and most state universities, the academy increasingly relies on part timers to process its classes. CSUN has not gone as far as some American universities and outsourced online teaching to foreign vendors via profit making centers such as the Tseng College. However, CSUN is headed the way.

Using part time or lecturers is cheaper than employing full time professors. The academy saves not only in salaries but costs for sabbaticals, release time, tenure, office space and other perks. In lieu of higher salaries many of the part timers (AKA lecturers) are forced to moonlight. In Chicana/o studies departments some teach at two and three other campuses to eke out a living. The result is they parachute in and out of the university, and students in most cases do not get the benefit of office hours.

Many of the so-called lecturers develop what Marxists called a false consciousness that is caused by the systematic misrepresentation of dominant class of reality. Thus the subordinate classes form a false consciousness. The ruling elites systematically conceal or obscure the realities of subordination, exploitation, and domination. Examples of this false consciousness abound; most obvious are workers identifying with the Republican Party or corporate thieves.

Critics of neoliberalism blame the lack of critical thinking skills. It is no accident that the teaching of critical thinking has been under heavy attack by neoliberals. Max Rafferty, a California Superintendent of Public Instruction in the 1960s, called the schools of education subversive for teaching critical thinking. The outcome is that it pays to be ignorant and ignorance like greed is good.

The notion of a false consciousness hit me the other day when I received an email from a part timer (AKA lecturer) who told me that I was “biting the hand” that fed me because I was criticizing the university and the administration for the abuses of neoliberalism and the privatizing of what was once a public institution.

The email began like all messages of this type; she demanded that I take her off my mailing list accusing me of sending unsolicited “missives” (she is on the humanities list server, not mine). She continued “I find your recent remark towards Dr. Harry Hillenbrand intolerable…I have been a lecturer in the Department of English for sixteen years… I have found Dr. Hillenbrand to be a valuable champion of my efforts, always with an open ear and open mind.” In the next breath she complains about “the interminable and convoluted confines of University Policy to improve teaching conditions for Lecturers at CSUN.” The writer then says that she is “only entitled to teach four classes per academic year, per my three-year contract, [thus] I earned $19,000 last year.” She then questions how much I have been paid, “Has the University really been that bad to you?” This is another way of telling me that if I don’t like it to go back to Mexico.

She concludes, “But I must say that, in the process, you bite the hand that feeds them. Please stop pissing on my CSUN. This place means too much to me to take your irresponsible jab at Harry Hillenbrand.”

Not once does she examine the issues of the lack of faculty diversity, out of control tuition, student debts, and the university as a profit center, the particulars of the UNAM/CSUN accord or other grievances that I have laid out. She admits that she only earns $19,000 annually which to me constitutes exploitation.

If she loves the university so much why does she tolerate these conditions? Why doesn’t she fight to convert part time positions into full time tenured faculty? And why doesn’t she fight for effective faculty governance through the California Faculty Association?

I am also concerned about CSUN. I am concerned about its ability to educate Latino, black and other working class students. I am concerned as their teacher not their doctor that they have the proper food, shelter and clothing. I am concerned that the universities are using them to pay for administrators, professors and “lecturers” salaries and perks. They are my students not my slaves.

Lastly, I am concerned about the growing academic-military-industrial complex in U.S. and Mexican universities. Higher education should be about teaching students how to think for themselves in a democracy, and not feed the false consciousness of my part time friend who works the same hours as a tenure track professor at, if I am to believe her, a third of the wages of an entry level assistant professor.

Perhaps she should be angry instead of taking it. But the truth is that academe like the prison and the plantation institutionalizes us not to piss on it. She should try it, pissing is often a pause of refreshment.

Rodolfo Acuña, Ph.D., is an historian, professor emeritus, and one of various scholars of Chicano studies, which he teaches at California State University, Northridge. He is the author of Occupied America: A History of ChicanosDr. Acuña writes various opinions and essays on his Facebook page and allows sites to share his thoughts.

3rd Centavo: Horatio Alger: The Myth of Public Higher Education

by Rodolfo F. Acuña

The United States is the land of illusions. Like Disneyland, it is more fiction than reality. The American Dream is part of surreal world, constructed as a form of social control that distorts the memory  blinding Americans to the injustices, inequalities and imperfections of American society. Like old Shirley Temple movies, Americans are princes and princesses who pass through bad times believing that they will be saved because they are Americans.

These illusions are built around myths such as that of Horatio Alger that has persisted for over 150 years. For Americans Horatio Alger is as real as Superman.

Horatio Alger Jr in 1867 published the first of over 120 books that told the tale of rags to riches to young working class boys. The moral of the stories was that if the boys led exemplary lives, struggled against poverty and adversity that they could make it. Someday they would be rich and heirs to the American Dream.

The stairway to the American Dream was meritocracy and education. America was the land of opportunity, every American if he worked hard enough could get an education; it was free and more accessible in the United States than any place in world. Opportunity was knocking, and it was your fault if you did not take advantage of it.

The Horatio Alger Myth resembles fantasy tales such as Superman, Captain America, Spiderman and Batman. The truth be told, Horatio Alger just like education has never been equal or free in America.

Even during the Post-World War II era when the illusion was more plausible, accessibility depended on the hue of one’s skin and his or her social class.

In this context, Los Angeles has been called La La Land because Angelinos were said to be in their own world. However, this self-absorbed frame of mind is true of all Americans; they are not a benevolent, kind or generous people.

In 1960 Democratic Governor Pat Brown and University of California President Clark Kerr helped develop the California Master Plan for Higher Education. It neatly defined the roles of the University of California (UC), the California State College (CSC), and the California Community Colleges systems (CCC).

The master plan was the perfect pyramid: the UC was at the top, the state colleges in the middle and the junior colleges were at the bottom. The two-year college perpetuated the illusion that Californians were living the American Dream. Despite this wrongheaded logic, the college systems were important because they were tuition-free essentially guaranteeing free higher education to everyone.

But, the world was changing. American captains of industry had in the 1950s committed itself to deindustrialization and the globalization of its capital, lessening the need for an educated workforce. Just as the U.S. had imported German rocket scientists, the ruling elites’ worldview became more global; they felt they could import brainpower without paying for the education of the children of factory workers

In 1966 the illusion of equal opportunity suffered a fatal blow with the election of Governor Ronald Reagan who led the assault on the University of California. Reagan vowed to “clean up that mess in Berkeley” that, according to him, was led by “outside agitators” and left-wing subversives. Reagan laid the foundations for a shift to a tuition-based funding model. The goal was to eliminate taxes and privatize public institutions.

Moneyed interests nationwide set out to destroy public two-year schools, which served almost one-half of the nation’s first-year college students. By the 21st century, as tuition soared at the four year universities, students were pushed down to the community colleges.

The Great Recession of 2008 ended all illusions of public education. By 2011, the UC officially switched from a system of fees to an explicitly tuition-centric model. Moreover, since 2007, the UC has promoted the admission out-of-state and foreign students as a way of raising revenues. Incentives were built into the admission process to admit fewer California students.

California has stopped building new colleges and universities; new buildings are built in great part from student funds. Programs such as the UNAM/CSUN accord are vested in student funds. According to many critics the process is irreversible.

From 2005 to 2010, over 75 percent of newly accredited colleges and universities were for-profits funded in global capital markets. For-profits now make up over 25 percent of all post-secondary institutions in the United States. Without saying so, they are more expensive than the former public universities. The outcome is that students leave college with higher student debts.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Education is projected to make $127 billion in profit over the next decade from lending to college students and their families. These loans are packaged and sold to financial institutions and hedge funds. The truth be told, grants to low income students subsidize the growing for profit and so-called non-profit universities.

In a 2010 exposé Peter Byrne reported that the UC’s $53 billion portfolio invested in two for-profits institutions completing Ronald Reagan vision of destroying “the creeping communism of master-planned and state-funded public education.”

In 2011, California public colleges and universities received 13 percent less in state funding; this was not by accident. By this this time “nearly half of all graduates of public and private four-year schools in California were saddled with an average debt load of $18,000”; the national average was $26,682.

It is also not an accident that funding for community colleges remained static although demand had increased. Reduced class offerings, fewer sections of the classes, and the laying off of faculty and staff forced many students into for profit schools. These overbooked classes took the two year colleges to the breaking point.

One proposed solution was to charge students an added fee to get priority registration for impacted classes. In 2010, because of a student uproar, a contract was cancelled with the for-profit Kaplan University to offer discounted online classes to community college students for community college credit.

Globally, education is important. When asked what was the key challenge facing Latin America over the next decade, the top answer among students was education. Students saw it as the key to jobs. However, increasingly through the intervention of American institutions such as the International Monetary Fund its leaders are adopting the American neo-liberal model, and for-profit colleges are flourishing in Brazil, Mexico and Chile.

Reading this material only makes the silence of the lambs more deafening.

The Daily Caller published an article titled “Why are the Clintons hawking a seedy, Soros-backed for-profit college corporation?” George Soros supposedly one of the good billionaires hired Bill Clinton as a pitchman for Laureate Education Inc., a for-profit higher education powerhouse. Laureate owns 75 schools in 30 countries. And it boasts of 800,000 students worldwide. Also promoting this venture is Henry Cisneros and other Clinton stalwarts.

How different are we today from the Gilded Age when railroad lobbyists would go on the floor of Congress and pass out railroad stock before a vote on railroad subsidies? This is not the Land of Oz, and if we are being had, we should at least be aware of it, and not adopt failed neo-liberal policies. What is happening to American public education should serve as a warning to Mexico and the rest of the world that “Made in America” does not mean quality.

I was just talking to one of my grandsons who boasted that he had just bought an annual pass to Disneyland for $359. According to him, it was a deal. I shrugged my shoulders, but really how different is this than believing in Horatio Alger and the American Dream?

Rodolfo Acuña, Ph.D., is an historian, professor emeritus, and one of various scholars of Chicano studies, which he teaches at California State University, Northridge. He is the author of Occupied America: A History of ChicanosDr. Acuña writes various opinions and essays on his Facebook page and allows sites to share his thoughts.

3rd Centavo~ Acuña: The Tyranny of Words

by Rodolfo F. Acuña

People keep telling me about the need for an ideology as if it alone will correct the imperfections of society. But what they don’t understand is that disparate ideologies often confuse the problem of communications. The lowest common denominator in communication is the word. With ideology different meanings for the same word create a tower of babble where people speak the same words but they have different meanings.

When thinking about words, I think about Stuart Chase’s The Tyranny of Words (1938). It is one of those books that never lose its message. Stuart was a semanticist. His book is full of gems like “Language is apparently a sword which cuts both ways. With its help man can conquer the unknown; with it he can grievously wound himself.”

Growing up the meaning of words were important. In my case, it was probably because I did not learn English until I was six. Because I did not know many words, I was classified as mentally retarded.

Armed with a chip on my shoulder, I was very conscious that the sword “cuts both ways”, so I sought to learn how to wield the sword most effectively. I could hear Chase whisper, “I find it difficult to believe that words have no meaning in themselves, hard as I try. Habits of a lifetime are not lightly thrown aside.”

This reliance on words can be very dangerous especially in the world of economists who seem obsessed with the currency of their theory. I keep going back to Chase’s reasoning: “Attitude is your acceptance of the natural laws, or your rejection of the natural laws.”

Words mean something different to different folks. I am old school and words matter. I am more attuned with epistemology than pretentions of “the science of knowledge.” I am a skeptic and I am concerned with what kinds of things are known, how that knowledge is acquired and what the attitude of speaker is.

Words have meaning – what they mean and why they are said is essential. To repeat a cliché “the devil is in the detail” — words are distorted.

Take the words that are presently in currency: reform, privatization, globalization, and marketization. They are intentionally comingled to bring about controlled consent. Unless the words are deconstructed and contextualized their false definitions overtime become the accepted truth.

The word reform has been corrupted to fit the occasion. It once meant the improvement or amendment of what is wrong, corrupt, and unsatisfactory. A reformer was to the right of the radical and the far left of a conservative. It was taken for granted that reformers wanted to improve the system. As of late, the word has been appropriated by the right.

For example, in today’s mainstream media the tea partyers are reformers. As of late those trying to change the Mexican Constitution and get rid of constitutional guarantees are not greedy capitalists but reformers who are trying to improve the economy. This change has not so subtly changed the outcome.

The right has adroitly changed the conversation. They have associated corruption with government and reform with interests of the ruling elite. Without context words induce a historical amnesia that absolves capitalists of being corrupt. Like Gordon Gekko said in the movie Wall Street, “Greed is good.”

What is left is what Americans call common sense. Chase opined is that “Common sense is that which tells us the world is flat.” Following this thread” government has to be reformed because it is basically corrupt whereas corporate crime is a “boys will be boys” lapse.

The fad is the word privatization. Its meaning has been so corrupted and so overused that it is difficult to know its meaning. When I first got the sense of the word was during the 1950s. The rage then was urban renewal which was supposed to be good because government confiscated property for public use. Rarely discussed was the huge profits made by the contractors and suppliers who benefited from it all. But at least we knew that it was basically wrong to take one person’s property to profit another.

It became outrageous when property was taken for the public good. Here government took one person’s property to give it to private individuals so they could make a killing. It was known as reform.

At a more advanced level this is happening today. Developers in places like Los Angeles, Chicago and Tucson have reaped trillions of dollars by buying city and county properties through “inside trading” that is good in this instance but is supposed to be bad on the stock market. Both are falsely labeled good business.

It was reform that shifted the cost of higher education from the ruling elite to the student. The logic was that the student was getting the benefits of education, and if government taxed business then the economy would falter.

In public higher education privatization is a mixed bag. The privatization of public higher ed follows a different path than the privatization of other state-controlled enterprises, but the logic is the same.

In higher education they use words like marketization that refers “to a set of transformations in which the underlying purpose is to ensure that market relations determine the orientation of development policies, institutions, university programs, and research projects.” Again, it is not that the educators are privatizing education; the devil makes them do it.

The privatizers say that to understand these diverse strategies that have driven privatization of higher education, you have to place the strategies into a global context. It is merely the logic of the market. It is the invisible hand of Adam Smith, “the father of modern economics”.

The marketization of higher education “refers to a set of transformations in which the underlying purpose is to ensure that market relations determine the orientation of development policies, institutions, university programs, and research projects.”

Like one administrator explained his illogical actions, they resulted from previous bad policies. In other words, the reconfiguration of the higher education to privilege the private sector is due to human errors not bad intentions.

This process has accelerated from 1970 to the present day. The world view is okay because it is happening globally, and in order to compete business and higher education must change (reform). The error of this logic is not that the product has to be improved, just that it has to become more like the private sector (which after all is not corrupt).

The invisible hand pops up once more in the logic: higher education is only meeting the increased demand for enrollment that was unmet by the public sector. Like in corporations this transformation is driven by a growing top heavy bureaucracy whose healthy salaries are paid by the consumer.

Higher education is not unique. I marvel at how the consolidation and bureaucracy has grown in the college book publishing sector. The logic is more profit so they outsource the editing and all phases of production so they can afford to hire more bureaucrats that drive up the price of textbooks allowing them to gobble up other publishers.

I could go on redefining the tyranny of words. For example, I get angry when I hear the words standards and quality. They are mostly used by the privatizers to turn education into a gas meter.

Epistemology is fundamental to how we think. In order to understand this we have to know the meaning words and why and how they are used. A basic question is who drives privatization. In the case of Mexico and other second and third world countries it is the World Bank. Domestically in the United States it is driven by the ruling elite and organizations such as ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Words are distorted and their meaning changed for a reason.

Like Gordon Gekko said, “Greed is good.”

Rodolfo F. Acuña, Ph.D., is an historian, professor emeritus, and one of various scholars of Chicano studies, which he teaches at California State University, Northridge. He is the author of Occupied America: A History of ChicanosDr. Acuña writes various opinions and essays on his Facebook page and allows sites to share his thoughts.

 

3rd Centavo ~ Guerra: S.744 Will Worsen Immigrant Situation, Part III

by Dr. Rey Guerra

This is Part III in a multi-part series discussing the United States Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) bill (Officially: S.744 Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act).

Part I, introducing the series and discussing the Border Trigger, can be found here.

Part II, discussing the E-Verify Trigger, can be found here.

Part I highlighted the onerous Border Security and Border Fencing triggers.  The triggers, and the bill, are structured such that it is possible that they may never be met and “the entire legalization program may be rendered moot.”

Part II highlighted the fact that S.744 would supercharge E-Verify, at the expense of Latinos, African-Americans, anybody drawing social security, and/or anybody with name issues.

Here in Part III, S744’s insurmountable income and employment requirements are presented.

Income and Employment Requirements

During the initial 6-year provisional status period, if immigrants can’t show regular employment, the bill requires that they then “demonstrate average income or resources that are not less than 100 percent of the Federal poverty level throughout the period of admission as a registered provisional immigrant or their status will be revoked.

Let’s talk about the regular employment part first.  The bill allows for periods of unemployment “lasting no more than 60 days.”  Let me re-state that.  Immigrants cannot be unemployed for more than 60 days during the years (as long as 13 years or longer) that their status is being considered.

To put this in perspective, I have an advanced engineering degree from the 2nd ranked university in the world.  In a city (Houston) that handled the recession better than almost any other city in the world, I was unemployed for significantly longer than 60 days during a very tough stretch in 2011.  I am now doing very well working for a prominent international green/renewable engineering firm.  I pay my share of taxes and give to the community whenever I can.  I like to think that I am a fairly productive citizen.  Were I an immigrant subject to S744, however, I would have been deported.

Wage-theft and work-place discrimination are pervasive and prominent issues here in Houston and across the country.   For those that are able to stay continuously employed, the regular employment stipulation in S744 will perpetuate (and by perpetuate I mean worsen) these issues here in Houston and across the country.

Undocumented immigrants tend to work low-income jobs.  Researchers at the Migration Policy Institute estimate that the number of unauthorized adults over 19 with family incomes below the federal poverty level is 3 million [1].  Peter Schey’s (Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law) analysis suggests that 40% or more of all undocumented immigrants may be disqualified from legalization provisions by S744’s harsh employment and income requirements. [1]

Under the 1986 IRCA, as long as immigrants could show that they were “not likely to become a public charge,” they were eligible for status change, public charge  in this case meaning an individual who is likely to become primarily dependent on the government for subsistence [1].

By now I hope it’s becoming obvious that although S744 purportedly creates a path to citizenship, it places so many impassable obstacles in the way of that path that the whole of undocumented immigrants will be significantly worse off than if such a bill were never passed.

[1] http://www.migrationpolicy.org/pubs/CIRbrief-Profile-Unauthorized.pdf

[2] http://www.centerforhumanrights.org/6-18-13 CHRCL-Peter Schey Analysis Senate Bill Legalization Program.pdf

Dr. Rey Guerra is an engineer in the renewable energy field and is the Chair of the Greater Houston Civic Coalition, a group dedicated to resolving social, economic, and civic issues through education, training, and advocacy.

3rd Centavo is an opportunity for guest bloggers to sound-off (with a progressive bent) on various issues.

3rd Centavo ~ Acuña – The Illusion That Education is a Stairway to Whiteness

Waiting for the Next Sputnik Moment

by Rodolfo F. Acuña

From the beginning, there has been the illusion that America was exceptional; it was not like Europe — America was the land of opportunity. Generally, the right to read was limited to the exceptional that were taught to read by their parents or a minister or later in private schools.

Access to education was limited to a chosen few who deserved the right to read the bible. Africans, Indians and poor women were considered unfit to study it.

It was not until the 1840s that an organized system came about through the leadership of education reformers such as Horace Mann and Henry Barnard, who operated in Massachusetts and Connecticut respectively. They helped create statewide common-school systems accessible to everyone and financed by public funds. These reformers believed that all children had the right to learn. They argued that education would improve society and prevent crime and poverty.

These progressives met resistance. The landowners and many of the elite and the wannabes did not want to pay for educating other people’s children especially if undeserving.

The flame of universal accessibility flickered until it was almost suffocated by the arrival of waves of new immigrants. Industrialists did not want thinkers but human robots. Moreover, child labor was an important pool of labor.

Nevertheless, reformers took up the cause of compulsory school attendance for the children of the new immigrants. The concept of compulsory education dates back to Plato in western civilization, and it was common to most early civilizations including Mesoamerica.

The motives varied, ranging from humanitarian and communitarian, to those who wanted to evangelize and Americanize the new immigrants who they correctly surmised were not going away.

The battle for compulsory school attendance lasted into the 1920s; however, urban and rural employers avoided compliance. Child labor was an important source of cheap labor, and it cost too much to educate children with lower intelligence.

Even so, the myth that everyone in the United States had an equal opportunity persisted – it was part of the myth of American exceptionalism.

By the 1920s, African Americans lived in an apartheid society, and the immigrants contained in ethnic ghettoes. During the decade, Congress passed strict immigration laws based on a policy of National origins that gave preference to Northern Europeans and drastically limited immigration from eastern and southern Europe. Through this form of genetic engineering over time Nordic and Germanic types would overwhelm the swarthy newcomers. The Mexican was considered a temporary nuisance while Puerto Ricans were citizens and thus endured.

During the 1930s, organized labor fought back and gained concessions. However, for the most part minorities were cheated. More opportunities opened for them during World War II, but at a price; many Mexican Americans and the poor paid with their lives. Mexicans numbered about a million and a half, and some say that close to a third served in the armed forces.

The war also brought the realization that Americans were under educated, and that if America was to remain a world power, it had to have a better educated work force. The median years of school completed for Americans, 25 years old and over, had only risen from 8.1 to 8.6 years from 1910 to 1940. By the forties, a bare 24 percent of Americans had completed high school. Because of federal aid to education, by 1970 53 percent had a high school diploma (by 2012, 86 percent).

What brought about this transformation was the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, known as the GI Bill of Rights. It was controversial and many legislators objected that paying veterans to go to school lessened their incentive to look for work while others believed that only for the privileged deserved a higher education.

The GI Bill proved a boon to education, and in the end it subsidized corporate America, supplying an educated workforce. By 1947, veterans were 49 percent of college admissions, and when the WW II GI Bill ended on July 25, 1956, 7.8 million of 16 million World War II veterans had attended school or training program.

According to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy, “More than half of the young adults of the 1940s and 1950s completed high school, and the median educational attainment of 25- to 29-years-olds rose to 12 years.” Then as now a high school diploma was the gateway to a higher education.

There is no denying that the GI Bill helped some Mexican Americans; however, the overwhelming number in 1960 did not meet college entrance requirements. In the Southwest where Mexican Americans were concentrated, the median years completed by whites was 11.2 in 1950, ten years later it was 12.1 years. For Mexican Americans, it was 5.4 in 1950 and 7.1 in 1960. In Texas the median for Mexican Americans was 3.5 and 4.8 years.

It must be noted that success in college depends on the family pocketbook, and the quality of K-12 schools. As a general rule Mexican American schools were markedly inferior to white schools. Moreover, the quality of the high school determined admittance to Tier 1 universities.

The next boon to higher education was the so-called Sputnik crisis of 1957. Educators had already been mobilized in 1955 by Russian detonation of the hydrogen bomb that shook feelings of American exceptionalism. In 1958 a reform minded Congress passed the National Defense Education Act, which increased funding for education at all levels. This included low-interest student loans to college students. It focused on scientific and technical education. The NDEA poured billions into the U.S. education system.

California got into the act and passed The California Master Plan for Higher Education of 1960, which was supposed to reform California public higher education, coordinating the University of California (UC), the California State College (CSC), and the California Community Colleges system (CCC). It was supposed to make higher education “available to all regardless of their economic means.”

To set the record straight educational reform for Mexican Americans did not take place in earnest until they took to the streets. In California and Texas as elsewhere the Sputnik moment came with school walkouts and campus turmoil of the late 1960. However, as in the case of the GI Bill and federal aid to education, the boom years of reform were over, and there were dark clouds in the horizon.

The ruling elite by the 1960s as in the case of the 1920s came back with renewed vigor.

Americans were getting older, more conservative electing mouthpieces such as California Governor Ronald Reagan, who launched a campaign to dismantle educational reform, privatizing the cost of higher education, increasing tuition, and lowering taxes for the elite. The public good was replaced with the corporate good.

By the 1980s, the stairway to the American middle-class heaven was dismantled, and the illusion of equality was dead for all but the dreamers.

Coasting light on this is a recent article in Mother Jones Magazine. From 2000-2012, Public spending on public education has dropped 30 percent even as enrollment at public colleges increased 34 percent. “[The] Consumer Price Index increased 33 percent; the median household income (adjusted for inflation) dropped 9 percent; the average four-year college tuition increased 44 percent…; [and] public college tuition increased 71 percent.”*

My reading of history tells me that American exceptionalism does not respond to reason; it does not respond to facts or appeals to the common good. So I am resigned to wait for the next Sputnik or for an implosion.

*Not a direct but configured quote.

Rodolfo Acuña, Ph.D., is an historian, professor emeritus, and one of various scholars of Chicano studies, which he teaches at California State University, Northridge. He is the author of Occupied America: A History of ChicanosDr. Acuña writes various opinions and essays on his Facebook page and allows sites to share his thoughts.

3rd Centavo ~ Acuña: Sometimes You Have to Shout

by Rodolfo F. Acuña

Why should Latinos support Justice for Trayvon Martin? It is not the first time that I have been asked that question about another group. Take care of the family first.

Through the years, people have questioned why I was against capital punishment and supported cases such as that of Mumia Abu-Jamal, a black journalist originally sentenced to death in 1981 for the murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner.

I got involved in the case through my friend attorney Elliot Grossman who enlisted me during his appeal of the conviction of Manuel Salazar, a young Chicano artist on death row in Illinois, who had been sentenced for the 1984 murder of a white Joliet police officer. Salazar was freed after Republican Governor of Illinois George Ryan declared a moratorium on executions in January 2000. Ryan’s action led to the exoneration of 13 death-row inmates — the most prominent was Rolando Cruz, whom the state freed after 12 years on the Illinois death row for the 1983 murder and rape of a 10-year-old girl. A repeated sex offender and murderer named Brian Dugan confessed to the crime. It was collaborated by DNA testing that linked Dugan to the crime. Elliot for a time was Mumia’s attorney.

When people asked me why we were supporting a black instead of concentrating on Chicanas/os, my first reaction was flippant (porque me da la chingada gana) but after thinking my response changed and ir was similar to that that I have toward the Trayvan Martin case: “It is not only Trayvon Martin who was wronged, it was society. The law is bad and encourages this behavior toward people who look different. Look at the attacks and murders of undocumented immigrants.” In supporting Mumia or Trayvon Martin, we are insuring that this injustice will not spread.

I also reject the argument that George Zimmerman should be supported because he is Latino. Incidentally, he never identified as a Latino, and he obviously identified as white. The Huffington Post’s Gene Demby dug into his past and came up with an old MySpace page belonging to Zimmerman. In it, he made disparaging comments about Mexicans, and he bragged about a 2005 criminal case against him.

The prosecution was so afraid of the issue of race that to my knowledge it was not brought up.

In Myspace Zimmerman discussed his hatred toward Mexicans, saying why he did not miss his former home in Manassas, Virginia:

I dont miss driving around scared to hit mexicans walkin on the side of the street, soft ass wanna be thugs messin with peoples cars when they aint around (what are you provin, that you can dent a car when no ones watchin) dont make you a man in my book. Workin 96 hours to get a decent pay check, gettin knifes pulled on you by every mexican you run into!”

In that same year, he was arrested and charged after an altercation with a police officer and his fiancé at the time got a restraining order against him.

It doesn’t take a genius to recognize that Mexicans and other Latinos are also profiled by police agencies. Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” gun laws encourage rampant racial profiling. The postings take on many levels. Even so Zimmerman’s supporters try portray him as the victim and a peace loving citizen who was trying to protect his neighborhood, forgetting that Trayvon’s father was also a neighbor.

I feel almost certain if Trayvon did not look difference he would be alive today.

Now the jurors will write their books and Zimmerman will turn whiter, and appear as a guest of honor at right wing functions. His claim to fame is that he murdered a 17-year old kid who looked different.

The facts say that Zimmerman was a racist before he killed and when he killed Trayvon Martin.

So why are people taking to the streets? It is too hot to be walking around in the sun. The simple answer is “Sometimes You Have to Shout To be Heard!”

Henry David Thoreau in Civil Disobedience and Other Essays wrote:

Unjust laws exist; shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once? Men generally, under such a government as this, think that they ought to wait until they have persuaded the majority to alter them. They think that, if they should resist, the remedy would be worse than the evil. But it is the fault of the government itself that the remedy is worse than the evil. It makes it worse. Why is it not more apt to anticipate and provide for reform? Why does it not cherish its wise minority? Why does it cry and resist before it is hurt? Why does it not encourage its citizens to be on the alert to point out its faults, and do better than it would have them?

Because of civil disobedience injustice such as slavery was kept in the public view and consciousness.

Just in my lifetime I have seen countless examples of inter-racial solidarity and the effectiveness of civil disobedience: the civil rights movement, the anti-war movements, stopping the U.S. from the use of nuclear weapons, the movements for Chicana/o studies, the middle-eastern wars, the LBGT movements just to name a few. People were not quiet in those instances and we are a better society because people shouted.

Unfortunately, I think many of us are forgetting history. Nothing comes without struggle. As Henry Thoreau wrote:

Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislator? Why has every man a conscience then? I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward. It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right.

Trayvon Martin was a 17-year old kid who is no more because Zimmerman saw him as different.

Rodolfo Acuña, Ph.D., is an historian, professor emeritus, and one of various scholars of Chicano studies, which he teaches at California State University, Northridge. He is the author of Occupied America: A History of ChicanosDr. Acuña writes various opinions and essays on his Facebook page and allows sites to share his thoughts.

Peanuts and Oranges: Support Scholarship Fund

For those who have an extra $5 a month for scholarship, the For Chicana/o Studies Foundation was started with money awarded to Rudy Acuña as a result of his successful lawsuit against the University of California at Santa Barbara. The Foundation has given over $60,000 to plaintiffs filing discrimination suits against other universities. However, in the last half dozen years it has shifted its focus, and it has awarded 7-10 scholarships for $750 per award on an annual basis to Chicana/o and Latina/o students at California State University-Northridge (CSUN). The For Chicana/o Studies Foundation is a 501(c) (3) Foundation and all donations are deductible.

Although many of its board members are associated with Chicana/o Studies, it is not part of the department. All monies generated go to fund these scholarships.We know that times are hard. Lump sum donations can be sent to For Chicana Chicano Studies Foundation, 11222 Canby Ave., Northridge, Ca. 91326 or through PayPal below. You can reach us at forchs@earthlink.net. Click and make a donation. You may also elect to send $5.00, $10.00 or $25.00 monthly. For your convenience and privacy you may donate via PayPal. The important thing is not the donation, but your continued involvement.

3rd Centavo: Acuña ~ When You’re Stupid, You’re Stupid

by Rodolfo F. Acuña

My mother use to say, “Cuando eres pendejo, eres pendejo;” and there was not much you could do about it – you were just born that way. Although I always enjoy my mother’s sayings, I do not believe that stupidity is genetic. With Americans I would blame their educational system, for as my mother used to say, there is a difference between being schooled and being educated.

What can you expect of an educational system where, according to a 2012 Gallup Poll, 46 percent, of Americans believe in creationism? It follows that creationists are more likely to be Republican than Democrat or Independent. I am not saying that believing in god or religion is stupid, but a lack of critical thinking qualifies as stupid.

Our educational system has been gutted, and our students taught to pass tests rather than to think critically. Because of the incessant assault on schools by corporate and property interests, school programs have been devastated – and art and physical education classes eliminated.

The result is an increased warehousing of students who are cooped up without much physical activity. Class sizes have shot up, and many educators blame parents and the students, who must, according to their stupid logic, be the problem. As a consequence, to control hyperactive kids more students are drugged with Ritalin – ADHD. Just keep them quiet and controlled.

Old myths such as Horatio Alger are repackaged to justify a mass transfer of the cost of education from corporations and the upper echelons of society to middle and working class students and their families.

The stupidity is that we accept stupidity. Class mobility in this country is based on education – and like it or not Horatio Alger like Santa Claus is a myth.

There is no shortage of examples of stupidity. Take costly propaganda against Obamacare,

Health care in the United States is more expensive than in any other industrialized nation. We rationalize that Americans are getting the world’s best health care. Actually, the United States spent $7,960 per capita on health care in 2009, almost three times the amount spent in Japan. We pay more for physician visits, hospital treatments and prescription drugs. And, still Americans are obese.

The problem is clear. It is not Obamacare, it has not even gone into effect. The problem is insurance companies, HMOs, pharmaceutical companies, and all the middlemen that all take their cut. And this does not include the members of Congress who keep the system oiled.

We are stupid because we take it. Like my mother used to say, we should just lower our brows so everyone can see the big “P” (Pendejo) on our foreheads.

Every time I see the basset hound (Sen. Mitch McConnell), the drunk (Speaker John Boehner), and the mini-me (Cong. Eric Cantor) meet the press to talk about austerity, the “P” on their foreheads light up. How anyone can accept the logic that if we eliminate school teachers and allow our roads to go to pot, that this will bring about prosperity?

It does not dawn on Americans that running of two major wars on the credit card has contributed to the economic collapse. In 2011, fifty of the largest lobbying spenders spent $176.1 million from July through September. Could this be one of the reasons why deregulation led to the present recession? Could this be the reason that not a single banker or Wall Street CEO has gone to jail?

Americans are stupid because they ignore this. During the Second Industrial Revolution when we built the transcontinental railroads, railroad lobbyists would go on the floor of Congress and pass out railroad stock. Mark Twain dubbed the period The Gilded Age in 1873.

Today the scandal and corruption of the Gilded Age is dwarfed, so instead of putting a Big P on our foreheads we should substitute a “C” for cuckold or its counterpart in Spanish – cabrón. We know that our elected officials, our government and our Supreme Court are bought off, and we do nothing about it.

The truth be told, we don’t want to accept that they are cheating us because if we did, we would have to do something about it. You want to lose a friend, just tell them that their partner is fooling around on them.

Part of the debate around immigration centers on whom we should give preferences to. The P’s say that we should be attracting those with technical skills. To them it is logical to drain the brain power of poorer countries. No matter that the poor nations spent millions of dollars training these technicians. Of course, it does not dawn on them that the answer is to improve our own schools.

Why do people hate us? No one wants to know that they have bad breath. Could it be that many people consider us terrorists? In El Salvador, the United States funded and trained the death squads. In Guatemala the CIA ran a covert action called Operation Success that allowed military dictators to rule the country from the 1960s to the 90s. The United States provided the weapons and trained their officers who killed over 250,000 Guatemalan peasants.

Some people find it hypocritical for us to label others terrorists.

I don’t take pleasure in putting a “P” or a “C” on people’s foreheads. When you think about it, it is not funny, it is tragic.

But you know that was part of the reason for the assault on the Tucson Unified School District’s Mexican American Studies program. It had to do with history: Attorney General Tom Horne said the district was using my book, and that I lied because I said that the United States invaded Mexico. Horne said that Mexican Americans were using history as a springboard to invading the U.S. The level of his discourse earned him more than a Big P on his forehead.

But where the Arizona jingoists went berserk was that the Tucson curriculum was designed to teach students to think critically. This, according to them, was subversive, un-American and led to racism. It was better to educate students not to question, to wear Big Ps on their foreheads and graduate them to wearing Big Cs. It is better for them to ignore that they are being cheated on and that they are being robbed.

 

Rodolfo Acuña, Ph.D., is an historian, professor emeritus, and one of various scholars of Chicano studies, which he teaches at California State University, Northridge. He is the author of Occupied America: A History of ChicanosDr. Acuña writes various opinions and essays on his Facebook page and allows sites to share his thoughts.