Thursday, March 24, 2005

Barb's recent posts about subverting power structures coaxed me out of the closet...and not because I have answers on how to build bridges (or bomb them, depending on one's location) but because I agree that we should be concerned enough about the new mandates for a "patriotic education" which translates in the classroom as "standards, standards, standards!" And how are k-12 teachers mandated to meet standards? Teaching to the test -- is the term they use. So you have students graduating from high school who are perfect at test-taking but don't know how to think critically!! You have students who hate poetry and literature (especially the kind that is "inaccessible because it uses too many "foreign" words!) Or students who do not know how to engage abstract ideas (ideology? hegemony? whiteness? -- huh?) nor feel the need to (except when the students are already invested in these topics - like the students in my non-GE classes).I can go on and on.

But wait! There's more (dang, i sound like an infomercial).

There are shining moments, occasionally. Last Monday, a Fil Am student responded to one of Eileen's poems in Reproductions... with a hula dance to the music of Spanish Harlem played Hawaiian style. This student who is so shy and nervous was moved to dance by poetry written by a Filipina. She grew up in a white suburb and is only now learning about Fil Am history. She and another Fil Am mestiza are now asking me about Tagalog programs abroad. And yes, they also loved reading Michelle's kali poetics and Catie Cariaga's E Pluribus Karaoke!

Back to the question at hand: Is there something wrong with an educational curriculum that doesn't include Filipino and Filipino American history and literature when the student population is 40% Filipino? You bet. (I'm thinking of a particular school district in the Bay Area). Because state-wide standardized tests doesn't include questions about FIl Am history, it doesn't have to be part of core content?

It becomes chicken or the egg thing: We need Filipino teachers in the classroom (who will find a way to circumvent the curriculum in K-12, postsecondary) but you can't encourage students to become teachers if they don't have role models, if their history is absent from the curriculum, etc. Plus, it doesn't mean either that just because a Fil Am might get a teaching credential, doesn't mean that teacher will teach from a critical/social constructivist position (which, to my knowledge, is the only position that is subversive and transformative).

So while poets and writers are publishing, teaching, and doing community activism, we need to keep addressing the larger conundrum of our (marginal) locations within educational institutions. We need more of us in the classroom.
(Somehow this always bring me back to my mantra: decolonizethis! and then heal our postcolonial trauma).

Which brings me to shyly talk about my next book project which is tentatively titled, A Book of Ones Own. It is a collage/book of meditations, attempts at poetry, found texts, academic essays, and beautiful artwork by Filipina artists. This is my reply to the question: What do you do after you decolonize? The answer came to me in fragments over a period of 3 years. When I was finally able to gather these fragments together and tried to submit book proposals to pubishers, I was told: "you have too many elements in here, we don't know how to categorize it."

This is the story of my life -- uncategorizeable! So then I thought, I might as well just make a book of my own.

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