Sunday, May 21, 2006

Graduation of new teachers: Sacramento

Spring Graduation. Bilingual/Multicultural Teacher Preparation Program.
Shasta Hall Auditorium. 3 .P.M. May 20,2006.
Speaking. Dr. Duane Campbell. This is a speech, not an essay.

To th graduates and their families.

Buenas tardes.
Agradecemos mucho su presencia.

We come here to celebrate your achievement as graduates. We are very proud of you. You have spent over 4 years getting a B.A., and now one year learning to be a teacher. And, now you are ready.

This is an exciting time to be entering teaching.
California, our state, is changing.

On May 1, we witnessed the largest demonstrations in U.S. history. It was the largest demonstration in Sacramento history.

We may now be witnessing the birth of a new human rights movement. Like the African American movement of the 50’s and 60’s, the Chicano movement of the 60’s and 70’s, the feminist movement of the 70’s.

You and I have a choice:
We can join in and make this happen. To make history. Or, we can watch it go by.

Ten years from now when your children ask, teacher, what did you do in the movement, what will you say? Oh. I was too busy getting a new ring tone on my cell phone.

The demonstrations in Sacramento were fantastic.

What can we do: what can teachers do to build this movement?
We can follow the traditional slogan:

Educate, agitate, organize. Si se puede.

What is happening here? California is changing.

The U.S. is changing.
There is a massive migration of people.
What is the cause of this migration? Economics.

The U.S. ruling class, the corporations, have a policy, they call it “ Free trade.”
Its real name is capitalism.

By now, as a college graduate, you should know and understand capitalism. If you don’t, go back to your liberal studies Dean and tell him that the faculty did not do their job to prepare you.

This is both an exciting time, and a difficult time to enter teaching. You need to understand capitalism in order to understand the problems of school reform.

Next year will be a difficult year for you.

We have packed in almost all the information which we could. Now, it is time for you to practice. We learn to teach by teaching.

It is further a difficult time if you believe in teaching for justice and for democracy.

There are many, including our elected officials, who think that schooling is just about reading, writing, and arithmetic.

These are the people who support the current testing mania.
They are the ones who support the high school exit exam which only measures English and math.

These are the people who have been in charge of our school system for the last twenty years while so many of our brothers and sisters have been failed.

But, schooling is also about democracy.

We need to repair our society.
We need to create a multicultural/multiracial democracy; and we are not there yet.

You can participate in that effort as a teacher. You can teach kids to get along, to value school, to work cooperatively with each other.

At the Single subject level, at the high school, we have to teach kids that school matters; that kids can create and determine their own future, that education can serve to mobilize people.

As some of you know, I worked for a time with the United Farm workers union. Cesar Chavez said it well. He said,

When we are really honest with ourselves, we must admit that our lives are all that really belong to us. So it is how we use our lives that determines what kind of people we are. ..I am convinced that the truest act of to sacrifice ourselves for others in a totally nonviolent struggle for justice.
Cesar Chavez (1927-1993)

This is our task as teachers. Teaching for social justice is a totally non violent struggle for justice.

Please remember, your integrity is a valuable resource.

Be true, be authentic, to what you believe in. Don’t compromise yourself.
Don’t compromise your commitments to justice and democracy.

You may have to use Open Court and Saxon Math, you may have to teach to standards. If you are in high school you may have to teach to the stupid, right wing, ideologically scripted History/Social Science standards which try to make certain that students never study racism, the war, or the economy. But you do not have to abandon your students and the struggle for justice.

Nothing, no dollar amount, no position, is worth compromising your personal integrity.
Yes, we will have to make compromises, but not of our integrity., not of our most basic values.

That is what you have been prepared for, to join in and to continue the struggle for justice in our schools.

We, in BMED, have been engaged for over twenty years now in organizing for social change. We have been organizing for educational justice.
We have introduced you to this project. We invite you to join us in this journey.

You are our change strategy. We prepare teachers and place them in the school. But, you have the hard part. You have to make your classroom a place of dignity, and respect, and justice.

In times of fundamental change, supporting networks are essential.

We also want to support you and to stay in touch with you. Good luck, Please stay in touch.

After a couple of years of practice, we invite you to come back to further develop your skills in our graduate program.

Duane Campbell

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