The Fight for Equality in Education for Chicanas(os) in the United States

TITLE:

The Fight for Equality in Education for Chicanas(os) in the United States

STANDARDS:

In this class, students will enhance their literacy in history through reading and writing. In particular, students will meet five of the California Common Core Standards.

In this lesson, students will be engaging with primary and secondary sources as a class and individually. By the end of this lesson, students will be able to comprehend, analyze, evaluate, and summarize main and supporting ideas from various sources. Additionally, students will be able to make logical inferences and conclusions based on the information from the text. In the same way, students will also be able to integrate information from other sources in order to expand their knowledge of a historical event. On another note, students will be able to read and comprehend complex texts independently and proficiently. Students will also be given the opportunity to produce clear, coherent, and concise writing in order to expand their writing skills. Finally, students will be able to conduct independent research projects by integrating their prior and collected knowledge from various sources. These core standards are matched with the activities of this lesson. Below in the Activities section.

Ultimately, at the end of this lesson, students will also meet the standards of History 25: All Power to the People taught by Professor Tomás Summers-Sandoval. Students will be able to demonstrate historical knowledge of a 20th century justice movement led by community of color: Chicanas(os). Specifically, they will be able to explain causes, forms, and effects of movements for educational justice. Additionally, students will critically evaluate the ways a community of color has analyzed educational equality in the United States by evaluating variety of primary and secondary sources. In the same way, students will examine the meaning and significance of a justice movement led by a community of color.

OVERVIEW:

In this lesson, 11-12 graders will have a better understanding of history and the fight for educational equality in Los Angeles, specifically among Chicanas(os) during the 1960s. This history lesson will provide students with a unique opportunity to learn about a narrative from a community of color and their struggle for educational justice. In order to help students sharpen their comprehension, analytical, and evaluation skills, students will engage with both primary and secondary sources and have a meaningful discussion, reflection, debate, and creative project that will stress the importance of the Chicana(o) student walkouts (blowouts) of 1968.

FRAMEWORK:

This lesson is unique because it allows students to have fun while expanding their historical understanding of the fight for educational equality for Chicanas(os) in Los Angeles during the 1960s. Students will be engaging with both primary and secondary sources to solidify their understanding of the Chicana(o) student walkouts and its importance. In particular, this lesson plan begins with an article that gives context to how Chicanas(os) were treated in school prior and leading up to the walkouts. Following this article, students will watch a movie that focuses on how the student walkouts began and were carried out into action, in which students will engage in a class discussion, answer comprehension and reflective questions, and use other sources to support their answers. The lesson will close with students reading a newspaper article that reveals how the California Board of Education responded to Chicana(o) student demands, which is highlighted in the film Walkout! Following this article, students will engage in a healthy debate regarding the validity of the Boards’ responses. In this way, students will be able to engage and incorporate various sources and material to support their claims. Throughout all activities, students will comprehend, evaluate, and apply knowledge gathered from the sources.

ESSENTIAL UNDERSTANDING:

In this lesson, 11-12 grade students will engage with primary and secondary sources to understand how Chicana(o) students fought for educational equality through their strategic use of walking out of their schools in East Los Angeles in the 1960s.

ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS:

  1. What were the issues that were affecting the Chicana(o) student learning in East L.A. schools during the 1960s? Why are these issues important to understanding the broader Chicana(o) movement?
  2. Why did students want to protest against their various schools?
  3. What were the initial goals of the student walkout movement? How did these goals change?
  4. Who were some essential leaders that lead the walkouts? How did these leaders become involved in the walkouts? What was their involvement in the movement?
  5. What were Chicana(o) leaders’ tactics and methods during the walkouts? Were these tactics successful to the walkouts?
  6. If the students who participated in the walkouts went to different schools, how did students know to walk out of schools?
  7. What were the outcomes of the student walkouts? What do these outcomes suggest about the movement?
  8. Did the outcomes meet the standards of Chicana(o) students? What was its effect on the Chicana(o) community?

GLOSSARY:

Chicana(o): For the sake of this class, we will use Chicana(o) to reference a U.S. resident of Mexican descent. This includes but is not limited to Mexican Americans.

Latina(o): A person of Latin American origin.

INTRODUCTION:

The United States education system has always enacted discriminatory practices among Mexican, Mexican American, and later Chicana(o) students. In fact by the 1900s, Mexican parents, students, and activists became fed up with the American education system, resulting in Supreme Court action. In 1946, Mendez vs. Westminster became the landmark Supreme Court case regarding segregation for Mexican students in schools. Ultimately, it determined that the segregation of Mexican children was unconstitutional; thus, schools were to be desegregated. However, this was not the reality for Mexican students. By the mid 1900s, the school system in East Los Angeles provided its Mexican students with the barest education: over crowded schools, outdated text books, unconditional buildings, lack of resources, etc. It was clear that these schools were still segregated, where students of Mexican decent did not receive a quality education. With the help of a teacher, student organizations, like UMAS and the Brown Berets developed thirty-six demands to bring to the Board of Education. Ultimately, these organizers believed that these demands would help improve the education and conditions of Chicana(o) students because they were more relatable to the Chicana(o) and Latina(o) community. With rising tension between students and their inadequate education, all it took was the cancelation of a school play to mobilize students into actions. On 5 March 1968, Chicana(o) students at Wilson High School protested the unfair conditions at their local high schools by walking out of their school. Everyday that the students walked out, it gathered more participants from other predominately Chicana(o) high schools as well as media attention. These consecutive walkouts became known as the East L.A. Blowouts. The protest and demands resulted in many indictments and arrests of teachers, students, and community members that joined the student protests. On March 31, thirteen of the walkout organizers, also known as the East L.A. Thirteen, defended by Oscar Acosta, were arrested and later charged for conspiracy to disturb the peace.

MATERIALS:

ACTIVITIES:

Day One:

Inform your classroom that the activities in the next couple classes will focus on historically introducing the Chicana(o) walkouts (also known as Chicana(o) Blowouts) and understanding its importance. Today’s class will begin by giving students a general sense of what schooling was like for Mexican American students in L.A. public schools in the 1900s, leading up to the walkouts. The second part of the class will focus on giving students a visual representation of Mexican American schooling conditions leading up to the student walkouts. Students will be able to see how Chicana(o) students organized in order to lead student walkouts. The third part of class is focused on reflection. Students will reflect on the movement and also relate it to contemporary society.

First, students will rearrange their desks/tables into a circle formation. This is aimed to change the classroom atmosphere. Rather than standing at the front of the class, teachers will join their students in the circle. This allows students to make eye-to-eye contact with their peers as well as the teacher and it also allows students to be equal to their teacher. Allow 5 minutes to set up.

Activity #1

To give context to the Chicana(o) student walkouts, students will read parts “The Roots of Mexican American School Segregation and the Legal struggles for Desegregation Prior to Mendez” and “The Roots of Mexican American School Segregation” of the article (pages 394-396) “The Mexican American Struggle” by Richard R. Valencia. Make the reading fun by allowing students to read the article popcorn style – where students volunteer to read verses you calling on them. This gives all students a chance to practice their oral skills and it gives all students a chance to have their voices heard in class. In this way, students will be less nervous to present their future work in front of the class.

After the article is read, you and your students will engage in a discussion. You will pose a series of questions in response to the article. These questions will be mixtures of comprehension and reflection questions. Allow (25-30 minutes to read and have a discussion)

  • What are your reactions to the article?
  • Was this history included in your other history classes? Why do you think it was/wasn’t included?
  • Why were Mexican American students segregated in school?
  • What are the historical traces of Mexican American segregation?
  • How were students segregated?
  • How did schools treat students of Mexican decent?
  • If you were going to school during this era, how do you think you would have reacted to segregation?
  • How do you think segregation affected Mexican American students?
  • Did the school conditions changed leading into the 1960s?
  • Do you think that this type of treatment occurs today? Why?

This activity will allow students to meet the following Core standards, verbatim:

Key Ideas and Details

  • Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
  • Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.

Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity

  • Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.

Day 2

Activity #2 

Introduce the movie Walkout! The movie was produced by Moctesuma Esparza, who was one of the main leaders in the school walkout movement. The movie is based on true events from the Chicana(o) student walkouts. It takes students through the Chicana(o) student journey for fighting for educational equality. It is focused on Sal Castro, who influenced his students at Lincoln High School to protest the injustices of the education system on Chicanas(os). Ultimately, it is a visual representation of the fight for educational justice in Los Angeles. You will play the whole movie; however, it will be separated into two days. Students will watch approximately 60 min today and the rest the next class. It has commentary from the actual historical figures portrayed in the film at the end so be sure that students are able to watch this as well.

 Allow enough lighting so that it’s dark enough to see the screen but light enough so that students can see their notebooks. Announce to students that taking notes throughout the film will be useful for the remaining activities.

Mid movie, briefly discuss the main events from the part of the movie that thus far. During this time, allow students to also reflect on what they were watching: What feelings did you have when watching the movie? Why do you think you had those feelings? Allow approximately 20 minutes of discussion and reflection.

After the discussion is finished, continue watching the movie. Remind students to continue taking notes. It is only for their best interest in order to help with the following assignment.

This activity will allow students to meet the following Core standards, verbatim:

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas

  • Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.

Key Ideas and Details

  • Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.

Day 3

Finish watching the movie. Students will have the opportunity again to discuss the main events and reflect on the film. Students will ultimately reflect on the student walkouts and its importance in U.S. history.

Activity #3 

After this discussion, students will use the same popcorn technique to read “Frivolous to Fundamental: Demands Made by East Side High School Students Listed” by Jack McCurdy. It is a newspaper article from 1968 that shows how the school board responded to Chicana(o) student demands for a better education. These demands range from the implementation of a bilingual program to including a school pool. Allow students to have a mini debate about whether the students’ demands were either “frivolous” or “fundamental” to improving their education.  Before the debate begins, allow students to write their responses down on paper. Then, allow them to choose a side and let the debate begin! Allow students to take turns developing their arguments or counter-arguments. Allow ample time for this activity because it can get rowdy. Perhaps 60 minutes will suffice.

This activity will allow students to meet the following Core standards, verbatim:

Key Ideas and Details

  • Evaluate various explanations for actions or events and determine which explanation best accords with textual evidence, acknowledging where the text leaves matters uncertain
  • Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole
  • Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas

  • Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.
  • Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, including the validity of the reasoning as well as the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence in order to address a question or solve a problem
  • Evaluate an author’s premises, claims, and evidence by corroborating or challenging them with other information

For homework, students will have a choice between three assignments. The first assignment is similar to students and activists’ draft of the 36 demands for a better education, students will work in a group of two to three where they will write a petition to their school board, demanding a better education. The second assignment will be a reflection piece that involves students placing themselves inside one of the classrooms in East LA during the 1960s. Students will write to a friend that is abroad and express how their schooling is affecting their education and ultimately their dreams. The third assignment requires students to locate a person, possibly a teacher, family members, neighbor, etc, and ask them about their experience navigating the education system in the 1960s. Students will write a brief report of their findings. For all three assignments, students will then present their work the following week.

This activity will allow students to meet the following Core standards, verbatim:

Key Ideas and Details

  • Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole

Production and Distribution of Writing

  • Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

Research to Build and Present Knowledge

  • Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a selfgenerated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.

ADDITIONAL SOURCES:

Avila, Margarita, Julie Figueroa, and Anita Tijerina-Revilla. “Genealogies of the Student “Blowouts” of 1968.” In Marching       Students : Chicana and Chicano Activism in Education. Reno, Nevada: University of Nevada Press, 2011

García, Mario, and Sal Castro. Blowout! Sal Castro and the Chicano Struggle for Educational Justice. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011.

López, Ian. Racism on Trial: The Chicano Fight for Justice. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2003.

McCurdy, Jack. “FRIVOLOUS TO FUNDAMENTAL: Demands Made by East Side High School Students Listed.” Accessed April 30, 2015.

Muñoz, Carlos. Youth, Identity, Power: The Chicano Movement. London: Verso, 1989.

NLCC Educational Media. “Taking Back the Schools.” Chicano! History of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement. PBS. 1996. Television.

Saldana-Portillo, Maria J. “How Many Mexicans [is] a Horse Worth?” The League of United Latin American Citizens, Desegregation Cases, and Chicano Historiography.” South Atlantic Quarterly 107.4 (2008): 809-28. America: History and Life on the Web. Web. 8 Mar. 2011.

Walkout!. Dir. Edward James Olmos. Perf. Alex Vega, Michael Peña, and Efren Ramirez. Home Box Office, 2006. Film.

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