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Separatism 101 By: Aaron Hanscom
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, June 26, 2006


These are dark days for American education. In schools across the country, an alliance of politically correct educators and radical separatists is waging a divisive battle against the very idea of assimilation. 

The public school system in Seattle is a case in point. The Seattle Public Schools recently made headlines after bloggers and columnists noticed some interesting definitions on the district’s official Equity and Race Relations website. The website defined assimilation as “the wholesale adoption of the dominant culture at the expense of the original culture.” Translation: Assimilation is inherently oppressive, so minority students should think of themselves as victims.

Because whites play the role of oppressor in this politically correct storyline, a website designed to combat racism was actually saturated with it. According to the Seattle Public Schools, some aspects of society that contribute to what the district calls "cultural racism" are those that “overtly and covertly attribute value and normality to white people and Whiteness.” Thus, “defining white skin tones as nude or flesh colored” is considered a form of racism.

Other examples of cultural racism appearing on the website gave the impression that the Seattle Public School is intent on dashing any chance its students have of achieving the American dream.  Browsers of the website were informed that “having a future time orientation, emphasizing individualism as opposed to a more collective ideology [and] defining one form of English as standard” were all forms of racism. How eliminating such key ingredients of America's melting-pot society would help immigrant children went unexplained. Evidently, Seattle’s educators view students who speak standard English, plan for the future and favor capitalism over collectivism as victims. 

Instead of encouraging assimilation, the educationalists offer a prescription for cultural separatism. Speaking Nahuatl, an ancient language indigenous to Mexico and Central America, and planning on the Aztec calendar is what will lead to truly successful lives in America. At least that’s the opinion of Marcos Aguilar, the founder and principal of La Academia Semillas del Pueblo. The Los Angeles charter school offers the children of some 150 “immigrant native families” instruction in Nahuatl as well as the Aztec base-20 math system.

This emphasis on a dead culture, not to mention a culture of death, might not be so detrimental to students if they were simultaneously learning about their common American culture. But Aguilar believes that the “white way, the American way, the neo liberal, capitalist way of life will eventually lead to our own destruction.” The former student activist has declared that his school represents “resistance,” and it is his sincere hope that it can influence “future struggle.”

All the evidence makes it clear that this struggle is to be with America. Aguilar does not support “the general policy of the Los Angeles Unified School District…to Americanize Mexican and African-American children in Los Angeles.”  He explained his opposition to the assimilation of minority students in an interview on National Public Radio: “Nowhere in the Constitution of the United States or in the Declaration of Independence does it say that, because you come here, you have to now become an American. The United States is who is the immigrant here, not us.” 

Such rhetoric sounds very similar to the popular chant by the Chicano Student Movement of Aztlan (MEChA): "We didn't cross the border. The border crossed us." That's hardly surprising: The Pasadena City College chapter of MEChA and the National Council of La Raza Charter School Development Initiative are active supporters of La Academia Semillas del Pueblo. These groups also endorse the radical principal’s dream of forced segregation. About Brown vs. Board of Education, the Supreme Court case which outlawed segregation in public schools, Aguilar has said:

We don’t necessarily want to go to White schools. What we want to do is teach ourselves, teach our children the way we have of teaching. We don’t want to drink from a White water fountain, we have our own wells and our natural reservoirs and our way of collecting rain in our aqueducts. We don’t need a White water fountain. So the whole issue of segregation and the whole issue of the Civil Rights Movement is all within the box of White culture and White supremacy.

Aguilar’s relentless demonization of all things white recently landed him in legal trouble. The Los Angeles district recently cleared his low-performing school after allegations of discrimination against non-Latino students. Kevin Reed, chief legal counsel for the district, boasted: "What we care about is that the curriculum is inclusive and not exclusive."

One would think that such an inclusive school would have nothing to hide. But Sandy Wells, a local radio reporter, learned the hard way that what happens at La Academia Semillas del Pueblo stays there.  After being denied an interview with Marcos Aguilar at the front desk of the school, Wells was able to record an announcement made on the PA system.  As Wells left the campus, he was nearly run over by a vehicle whose driver got out and wrestled his tape recorder from him. That same day, as the anti-integration agenda of the school was making national headlines, the school website was mysteriously shut down. 

The Equity and Race Relations site of the Seattle Public Schools was also pulled following a flurry of complaints. The apology issued by Caprice D. Hollins, Director of Equity and Race Relations, revealed much about the mindset of the multiculturalists. She explained that, “Our intention is not to put up additional barriers or develop an 'us against them' mindset, nor is it to continue to hold onto unsuccessful concepts such as a melting pot or colorblind mentality.” 

This anti-assimilation agenda is not confined to Seattle and Los Angeles.  The National Association for Multicultural Education (NAME) is the leading organization of multicultural educators across the country.  The organization has held annual conventions since 1990, at which speakers regularly deride the very idea of a common American culture.  At the 14th annual conference in Kansas City, for example, multicultural advocates gathered to refocus their efforts to convert school systems into instruments of social justice. Presenters Uzziel Pecina and Catherine Frazier said, “The silent but deadly oppressor of the ethnic minority child's spirit is a state of injustice that is imbedded in a systemic society of a one-sided truth espoused through the Eurocentric lens of American education."  The only remedy, according to these women, “lies in the embrace of an educational system that can transform and restructure the political imbalance of curriculum practices in the American schools. ... Teachers must get educational training that empowers them with knowledge about their ethnic minority students so that they can feel committed and confident in unleashing the voices for social justice." 

Teaching children math and science isn’t nearly as exciting. Aztec culture, on the other hand, seems to be included in many lesson plans.  The Chicago Public School’s Office of Language and Cultural Education not only instructs teachers in the Aztec method of weaving and pottery making but it also explains how to teach children the way to make an Aztec mask used in religious rituals.  

At the same time, American history is increasingly being left out of the classroom. Recent national test scores reveal that only 10 percent of high school seniors have a proficient understanding of American history.  Minority students are the least knowledgeable.  According to the Boston Globe, 80 percent of African-Americans and 74 percent of Hispanics do not meet basic competency standards in the 12th grade.  Last year, historian David McCullough warned a Senate education subcommittee that American students aren’t informed enough to become knowledgeable voters.  He also explained that students aren’t aware of the reasons why they have such rights as free speech and freedom of religion.   

Fortunately for the future of American education, McCullough is not alone. There are others who understand just how important it is to assimilate the next generation. And, as the outpouring of criticism over the separatist agenda in Los Angeles and Seattle schools reveals, one group is usually overlooked in the relentless pursuit of a multicultural utopia: Americans.

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Aaron Hanscom is a freelance writer in Los Angeles.


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