Thursday, June 5, 2008

LA Teacher's Teaching Was "Too Afro-Centric"

LA Public School teacher Karen Salazar's contract was not renewed because her teaching was too Afro-centric:
As a second year teacher, Ms. Karen Salazar has had a dynamic impact on the Jordan High School campus by connecting readings to the real lives and struggles that students go through. Her English Class has become a favorite among students on campus, where they regularly read and analyzed books and selected readings from people of color to whom the students can relate. Students, who typically skip some of their classes, show up religiously in Salazar’s English class. administrator criticized her for having students read The Autobiography of Malcolm X : As Told to Alex Haley, a Los Angeles Unified School District-approved text. When she objected to this criticism, she was told that her teachings where too “Afro-centric.” She was then told that the school would not renew her teaching contract for the upcoming school year.
A student says:
“The school knows that Ms. Salazar is a very passionate and good teacher, and yet they want to fire her. It is not fair because there are many other teachers who don’t teach anything, and they never get fired.”
Another says, "she teaches us how to be strong and how to not let nobody oppress us." Youth from the school have planned to protest. Here's a video of their meeting:

Are we afraid that students will actually learn to think critically?

Funny that we don't see too many teachers being fired because their teaching is to "white-centric." 



A press conference was held at Jordan High on June 11. Some highlights:

LA Times: School rallies around dismissed Watts teacher deemed too 'Afro-centric.'
About 60 students rallied Wednesday at the Watts campus, while a colleague of the fired teacher said he and 15 other instructors planned to resign or transfer to other schools to protest the dismissal of Karen Salazar, a second-year English teacher.
"You embody what it means to be a warrior-scholar, a freedom-fighting intellectual," she told students through a bullhorn in one video. "You are part of the long legacy, the strong history, of fighting back."

In another instance, Salazar rips the Los Angeles Unified School District, saying, "This school system for too long has been not only denying them human rights, basic human rights, but doing it on purpose in order to keep them subservient, to subjugate them in society."
Association of Raza Educators video and call for community support:

89.3 KPCC Radio Coverage

What you can do:

Send a letter or make a phone call in support of Salazar and her teaching.
"Ray" Cortines, Senior Deputy Superintendent (213) 241-0800
Richard Vladovic, Dist. 7 Board Rep. (213) 241-6385

Stephen Strachan , Principal (MAIN OFFICE) (323) 568-4100


Doris said...

I went to Manual Arts HS in south central. Of thousands of students entering as freshmen only about 400 graduated my class 4 years later. Some of my worst school experiences are: being told to memorize all of the white male american presidents, being taught in a traumatic and dismissive manner about the slave trade, and teachers spending time trying to 'brainwash' me to separate Jefferson's "presidental greatness" from his slave owning and black woman warehousing for sexual purposes. As a black woman, why should I be told repeatedly to identify with Jefferson and to shun the experiences of non-white people in America? That IS ideology. That WAS brain washing. And it was hurtful to all of us. I even recall two white male teachers talking to each other and referring to us as "animals". Whenever students had legitimate complaints, the staff would respond almost sadistically seeking to destroy our character and self-esteem and shame us into silence.

This is ABSOLUTELY PERFECT! I hope there are petitions to sign and measures to vote on. I SINCERELY hope that this causes LAUSD to take a serious look at itself.

The sad part is that even if students boycotted classes from now until she returns...they probably wouldn't be missing much anyways. I remember those empty lessons. Teachers taking naps during class and showing movies every day. Teachers don't give a hell. It was by the skin on my teeth that I went to college.

OK! that was long...Great post!!

LH said...

Hi Doris,

Thanks so much for your thoughts.

The white-centric curriculum that we find in our public schools is troubling, sad, and hurtful.

I've updated my post with a number of links highlighting a recent press conference held on this situation.