This has been a long, hard day at school. My high school made the New York Times this weekend about our ethnic studies program being in violation of state guidelines, according to our state attorney general. He has been after the high school for what he calls subversive teaching, that the Hispanic studies program encourages students to question the actions of our government, and the program also builds unnecessary ethnic pride.
I am trying to be as unbiased as possible here and just state the facts. This specific action is targeting only our Raza Studies, not Native American programs or African American programs. Well, let’s face it, if any groups should question the actions of our government throughout history, it should be these two groups. With the presence of the national media in Tucson this week, I am sure they will descend on the high school for more information.
Our staff meeting this morning dealt with registration issues, as well as with the moment of silence. I was ready for the moment of silence, but there was so much laughing and snickering about being quiet. I wanted to get so angry, but too often laughter is a response to events that make you uncomfortable. The kids in all my classes had questions, from “what happened this weekend that’s got everyone so upset?” “what’s bigotry?” “who’s Gabrielle Giffords?” and “he should get the death penalty,” just to name a few. Rumors abounded, many from news stations outside of Tucson, as well as off MySpace and Twitter. The adults were somber, but the students pretty much accepted it as just another act of violence from so many they have already witnessed or been exposed to. That’s also a very sad commentary on what our inner city students have to deal with on a daily basis.
I’m still stunned, and last night I just felt I had to do some kind of positive action. I had been sewing a piece during the day to represent all the vitriol I see around us. This has morphed into plans for a website to host artwork that carries a message of peace. I plan to unveil the website on Monday, January 17, the anniversary of the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr. There will be more to follow in the next days.
This involvement with peace goes back to college days, advocating against the Vietnam war, and World Peace Day, an activity sponsored by the high school chapter of the Pacific and Asian Affairs Council of the high school I taught in on Maui. Students wanted to do some type of activity to promote peace in 1972, and that morphed into a student-run day-long look at peace activities. This was an eye-opener for me, as I was followed, called a Communist, and questioned constantly on the purpose of this day-long activity.
What is it about peace that is so controversial? What is it about nonviolence that is so controversial? Through this art website, with Art from the Heart: Healing Hatred in America, I am hoping we can shed some light on these issues through personal stories and artwork.
If you need to express yourself about the tragedy here in Tucson, about the need for rationale discourse in this country, or about the need for peace, start thinking about how you would express yourself in art.