All parents want to see their children succeed in life. The vast majority of every race and culture
realizes that education is the key to that path. Certainly a mastery of the formal, government
education is essential to enter the upper echelons of society. For many working class parents,
higher education is not a goal they set for their children because other factors play a role in
discrediting its value.
Many educators, teachers and counselors grapple with this quandary at James A. Garfield High
School in East Los Angeles. Garfield is my alma mater and all five of my children have graduated
from there in good standing. But the question remains – why is the idea of going to college not a top
priority for Latino parents, indigenous natives and many working class parents? In general, the
mistrust originates from the false presentation of history to generation after generation about the
lack of valuable contributions made by the working class to the success of the living standards in
America. Parents, grandparents and great grandparents have been lied to and given false promises
by state and federal governments, resulting in broken backs and singed hearts. California Governor
Arnold Schwarzenegger recently and proudly announced a broken promise by cutting $2.2 billion
from K-12 grades, knowing these are not the schools his rich campaign contributors’ children will
The very concept of who are the educated in society is at question. When writing for the LA Times a
few years ago an editor was concerned that I had included a contradiction in a story about
education. The story was about the smartest man I ever knew. He dropped out of school in the 6th or
7th grade, but success touched him everyday. He shared everything he had with his family and
friends. I recanted how college was important in today’s society, but I believed his intellect to
understand and apply everything he learned each day superceded a college degree.
The editor informed me that this was a huge contradiction and it might confuse some of the readers,
so she made some changes. How little the white lady, with a college degree in her Costa Mesa office,
understood about our lives in the barrios and ghettos of America.
Parents live that contradiction, that paradox, every single day. We live outside of this condescending
innuendo of inferiority. We are not stupid because our labor is manual. We are not ignorant fools
because we question America’s educational system. I never named the man in the story because
most working class people, the majority of the readership in that section of the Times, would
understand that it was an elder in the family. In fact, it was about my parents who are great, wise,
and compassionate people. In reality, it was about my father Joseph, my grandfather Anise, my great
grandfather Francisco and all of my Juaneno Mission Indian Acjachemen Nation ancestors that today
remain unrecognized by the federal government. The story was about my mother Sally, my
grandmother Virginia, my great grandmother Lupe and my great, great grandmother Juanita who
stabbed to death two different men who tried to rape her during the Mexican Revolution. The story
was about all of us that are left out, not mentioned in the reflective glorious version of history our
children hear over and over again in high school and again in college. The reflective credit that
America gives to it’s self only takes away our dignity. We have contributed an unbelievable amount of
talent and intellect to endure the struggle and torture of living a life excluded from the mainstream
society. The history and creation of a system, a social construct that resulted out of the “sea to
shinning sea” experience that almost eliminated my very existence and the existence of all of our
children, should never be forgotten.
Even as I use these words of a language that belongs to those that came, the abusive degradation,
insults and humiliations continue. Putiidhem, Mother Village of the Juaneno, Acjachemen, in San
Juan Capistrano is being transformed for modern use and sacred bones are being removed. George
Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and John F Kennedy lay peacefully, quietly, while their ancestors will
never have to worry about the horror we live today.
Today, here in this room and across the nation where parents like us meet, there is still pressure
upon us. There exists the pressure of having our history and culture eliminated from the lives of our
children. I am not speaking merely to the formalities of assimilation, but rather to the social injustice
that carry on today, through means of this kind of white apartheid supremacy ideology, study white
and you’ll be alright and go to college.
It was only last week that the closet of blatant racism was opened for me to see and hear them
speak with such confidence.
Nobody had seen me enter the room, I sat quietly for a while and then three white voices enter the
locker area just outside the closed door. It was in the city of Gardena, a racially diverse community.
Proudly the older voice said, “Hey, I’m a third generation KKK. How about you?” The next voice was
very young, I knew it was the twelve or thirteen year old boy I had seen riding a scooter in the storage
area. He answered in a strong and happy tone, “I am only second generation Klu Klux Klan.” It was
that harsh dose of educational reality that our children in East Los Angeles do not hear too much
about in school because they are made to think that racism does not exist.
So, if our children succeed in high school and they go to college and they succeed there, it means
that they have mastered white history, white laws and the nuances of the white ruling class. But as
parents we must help balance that contradiction, that paradox of the formal elite education and the
education of reality we live everyday.
My own children have all gone to college and I am glad, happy and proud. Julie, my youngest is a
senior at Garfield and received news that she was accepted to one university, so I can pass on
knowing that in general terms the dominant society must accept her.
But that is not good enough for her, for all my children, for all of our children.
So far, my children have proven that they were capable of getting a formal education. What they do
with that is up to them now, but what they learned from the education of reality will measure their
character, their true compassion for humanity, their worth as a human being. They must never forget
the greatest women and men that ever lived never went to school, they went to work.
A parent’s view on public schools that teach our children to forget the
realities faced by parents in everyday life and accept the monolithic
dogma presented by the educational system created for white middle