I am a professional teacher, an unknown white teacher in Los Angeles, toiling away in a grey, run-down government high school hidden from the eyes of the public behind a nine-foot, spike-topped, chain link fence. There are no locks on the front gate; they were broken long ago. The official sign that notes our location has been scratched over with the number 187, a reference to Section 187 of the California Penal Code, which defines the crime of murder.
My school is typical of Southern California: majority Hispanic, a small handful of blacks, a stray white or Asian. Blacks are not welcome in the neighborhoods where I work; the students themselves tell me Hispanic gangs drive them from the projects through intimidation and violence. This is never reported by the local media; they are too busy looking for the Great White Bigot and institutional racism, neither of which can ever be found in the Los Angeles Basin.
My classroom was old and worn when I arrived. It had been dragged over, rats included, from a bleak, failing inner-city school. Yes, literally dragged over. I teach in a “portable classroom” that can be broken into two pieces and shipped across town on a flat-bed truck. It came to my school because some bureaucrat—there are many who make well over $100,000 a year and work in plush, secure, downtown offices with private bathrooms, far away from the schools—decreed that upgrading the infrastructure of “failing” schools would close the gap. As a result, several mostly-black schools were rebuilt from the inside out and ground up. We got the leftovers.
I have not had a raise in 10 years. In fact, my pay has decreased, mostly through district-imposed “furloughs,” which is a school-district code word for pay cut. Yesterday, I learned that school will end four days early this year. That is better than last year, when seven days were whacked off the 180 days of mandated instructional time—and from my paycheck, too. The Los Angeles Unified School District got a special directive from the California state legislature to “shorten the school year” in order to curb payroll.
However, according to local talk-radio jocks and know-it-all opinion writers in the papers, we teachers are paid far too much for what we produce: a drop-out rate of approximately 60 percent, and unemployable graduates who cannot read, write or compute. Oh, what they don’t know! I’d like to tell them about lazy, low-IQ students who enter high school reading at a 2nd or 3rd grade level, who speak little or fractured English, are disrespectful to adults, and are hostile to the very idea of education. I’d like to tell the public about the students who arrive late every day unprepared, surly, and without textbooks, pens, pencils or paper, let alone homework. Yet these same students always have bags of fast food, and never seem to be without the latest 4G cell phone, iPad, iPod or any other i gadget, all of which are strictly forbidden. This is more because they could be stolen than because they distract from learning.
I’m told repeatedly at compulsory, professional development sessions held every other week, that it is my fault that Hispanic and black students score at the bottom on NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) tests. I’m told that I am the reason students who barely speak English and cannot multiply or divide can’t pass the required 4th-grade-level exit exam they need to finish high school. It is because of me that English learners aren’t getting past a rudimentary level even after years of intensive English-language instruction.
And what is needed? More teacher oversight, more professional development, better, newer methods of teaching, and textbooks loaded with photos that reflect “changing demographics” so “students of color” can see “others who look like them.” These changes will surely raise state test scores and staunch high drop-out rates. Rarely is there enough money to cover teachers’ salaries yet there always seem to be funds to pay for one lavish, hundred-million-dollar theoretical program after another that, we are told, will finally close the achievement gap.
In all my years of being talked down to and patronized by know-nothing, professional educational theorists who have never set foot in a classroom, I have never seen a single one of these expensive mandates succeed: not plush new buildings, nor brand new textbooks filled with “people of color,” nor the latest fad teaching hypothesis, nor all-day teacher professional development sessions. Not one has raised student scores or stopped students from dropping out. All have failed spectacularly.
Do you think the educational system will ever admit that maybe, just maybe, the problem could be the students? That perhaps the reasons for black and brown failure and high dropout rates are low IQ and lack of interest—and not institutional racism, bad teachers or run-down buildings? Of course, to suggest this would cost me my job, my pension, and my reputation.
From time to time, I will try to keep you updated on how Los Angeles tries to educate students, but first, a note about the esthetic environment we have created for students.
Inspiring Students Through “Art”
In 1932, Nelson Rockefeller commissioned Mexican artist and socialist, Diego Rivera, to paint a mural in the lobby of the almost-complete Rockefeller Center in New York City. Rivera was given a theme: “Man at the Crossroads Looking for Hope and High Vision to the Choosing of a New and Better Future.” Rockefeller wanted a mural that would make people stop and think.
The resulting painting included a depiction of a Moscow May Day demonstration showing workers marching with red flags, and with a portrait of Lenin at the head of the parade. Rockefeller was annoyed, and asked Rivera to change Lenin’s face to that of an unknown laborer’s, but the painter refused. The mural was paid for on May 22, 1933, and draped until 1934, when it was chiseled off the wall and hauled away in wheelbarrows.
We should be so lucky today.
Today, in the Hispanic-dominated, taxpayer-funded public schools of Los Angeles, colorful anti-white, Hispanic-grievance murals depict murderous communist heroes such as Che Guevara and Fidel Castro on walls where children view them every day. Other murals, including some on the walls of elementary schools, call for the removal of “illegal white people” and “European colonial squatters” who have “caused the destruction of our land and people.”
Outside Roosevelt High School in East Los Angeles there is a 400-foot mural called Anahuac, which is a Nahuatl (Aztec) word that is supposed to mean Mexico and Central America. Students entering the school walk by panels depicting Europeans hanging and burning Mexicans, smashing their babies’ heads against rocks, and feeding the flesh of Mexicans to their “war dogs.”
At one point on the mural, a Spanish conquistador stands on top of a mountain of skulls, wielding a torch in one hand and a sword run through three indigenous heads in the other. A plaque over the conquistador says:
23 million of our people (95% of our population was savagely killed from 1519-1580). The destruction of our history of over 4300 years of civilization along with the racial rape and cultural castration of our population left, and to this day, continue to leave our people hopelessly chained to the interest that enrich Europeans.
These ongoing tragedies have served Europeans well in the exploitation of our people and their enrichment from the wealth of our land. This has happened everywhere in our “Western Hemisphere.”
The mural also includes a note to Europeans proclaiming: “Your people are . . . inferior to us in your morals, ethics, and humanity—by your collective actions of the last 500 years.”
Another blood-stained note says, in full capitals:
In the midst of the genocide our people were raped!!! Laws were implemented to keep us ignorant of our language, past, our great accomplishments and who we really are!!
A third message, also in full caps, proclaims:
1492 – marks the beginning of the destruction of more than 100 million human lives in this Wesern Hemisphere alone. 23 million of those were destroyed in Anahuac what is now Mexico and Central America by European invaders.
Another section of the mural addresses Roosevelt high students as “Mexicans” and urges them to “wake up” and “find out what’s been kept from us.” The way to do that is to read a list of books that includes American Holocaust which, according to its publisher, chronicles “the most massive act of genocide in the history of the world,” and argues that Christians just naturally do that sort of thing.
After the mural was completed in 2007, the Los Angeles Times correctly reported that it “presents a colorful depiction of the rape, slaughter and enslavement of North America’s indigenous people by genocidal Europeans.” When the board of trustees of the Los Angeles Unified School District was asked whether this was an appropriate sentiment for high school students, its official response was that the mural “merely presents a different perspective” and that there was “no intent to remove it.”
The group responsible for creating this outrage calls itself the Mexica Movement and claims on its website, stolencontinent.com, that it will “take back the continent and all its natural resources” because the continent “belongs to them.”
Visitors to stolencontinent.com’s homepage are greeted by the movement’s manifesto which offers posters for download or purchase:
And what about Diego Rivera, the scorned artist whose mural was scraped from the walls of the Rockefeller Center in New York on orders from an indignant Nelson Rockefeller? His face is now dead center in a portrait of Mexican muralists Clemente Orozco (on left), Rivera, and David Siqueiros, which graces a wall of another LAUSD school in East LA, Woodrow Wilson High School. One can only imagine what Presidents Wilson and Roosevelt would think of the Mexican faces that now appear on their namesake schools.
This is the system in which I teach.