yesterday, two of my students asked to film a statement from me for a project they’re doing in american lit.
1. how do you identify yourself?
2. what do you think of america?
loaded questions, though they might not seems so with a cursory read. it becomes a lot more problematic when they added the stipulations that their teacher gave them: the comments cannot be negative, and they cannot offend anyone.
how can you give that assignment and coupled with those stipulations? why would you give those stipulations? no wait, i already know how and why.
i really had to think about my answers. in fact, even though i gave them my comments yesterday, they had asked me monday, but i told them i needed to think it over. i even told them they might not want to include what i had to say in the film, but they insisted. lord only knows why.
i edited what i would have actually like to have said. i didn’t want them to fail. off camera, we had a really long talk about not only why my comment wasn’t lavish with praise and honor, but about why the caveats were given. i told them that the way you view america is really dependent upon the story of your people. and for me and mine, the story has not been a fairy tale. i told them about the horrors that asian immigrants had to face in this country, if the struggles of my people didn’t drive it home enough, since they’re asian.
it was amazing…they didn’t know much of anything about the japanese internment camps, or the chinese labor on the trans continental railroads. the look on their faces was…it’s hard to describe. it was disappointment, confusion, rage, all mixed with some kind of disgust.
"why don’t we learn about this stuff in school?"
a question that comes up all too often.
"history is written by the victors" the answer that needs to be given. me and my office mate gave them a couple books to read to solidify some things.
i’ve had these kinds of conversations a lot over the past year with students. looking at their homework assignments and the way questions are phrased, or how they are understanding history and social issues….it disturbs me. and it makes me sit back and reflect.
this is definitely outside of my job description, but it’s so so important that kids are getting the whole story. or at least being pointed in the right direction for where to look for answers
that teacher is gonna be mad at meee……