Friday, August 5, 2016

The Fifth-Graders Who Put Mexican Repatriation Back Into History Books by Lani Cupchoy — YES! Magazine

The Fifth-Graders Who Put Mexican Repatriation Back Into History Books by Lani Cupchoy — YES! Magazine:

The Fifth-Graders Who Put Mexican Repatriation Back Into History Books

When a California history class noticed the U.S. 1930s Mexican Repatriation had been left out of the curriculum, they decided to take it up with the state Legislature.

Mexican repatriation California History.jpg
About 400,000 people were pressured or forced into “repatriation” by the United States. Photo from University of Denver.

Leslie Hiatt’s fifth-graders are no strangers to politics.
Seeking to empower children as agents of change, Hiatt’s U.S. history class encompasses more than the Pilgrims and the Constitution. Through project-based learning, students also study the Trail of Tears, the Chinese Exclusion Act, child labor laws, and Japanese internment camps.
And, just in time for the next school year, the 2016 presidential election.
“Considering the national political climate, my kids are very afraid of what will happen if Donald Trump becomes president, because they are scared to death for the future and security of their families,” said Hiatt, who teaches at Bell Gardens Elementary near southeast Los Angeles.
Until now, the newest addition to her history lessons was in 2014, when Hiatt looked through the history textbooks and saw something missing: Mexican Repatriation, the unconstitutional deportations of more than 1 million U.S. citizens and lawful residents of Mexican descent during the 1930s.
So Hiatt, along with her student teacher, Ana Ramos, designed a Mexican Repatriation unit to teach the class. The issue hit home for their students, which led to letter-writing campaigns, an audience with a state legislator, and, eventually, a change to state law.
“The kids felt a real personal connection to it because we had issues in the classroom with students and their families getting deported,” said Hiatt.
Ethnic studies looms large in education, and, in some cases, remains a subject of controversy.
Student Nicole Sandoval, along with her classmates, noticed right away the disconnect between what they were learning and what was in the state-issued textbooks. And they wondered why Mexican Americans had not received an apology for the injustices of the 1930s.
“My whole class felt that this is wrong,” Sandoval said. “It happened to kids like us who are Mexican Americans, and we do not want history to repeat itself.”
They launched a campaign that ultimately took them to the California State Assembly, where, late last year, a bill was passed to require the teaching of Mexican Repatriation. And as a new class joined this past year, the students’ effort has evolved to a push for a federal apology, just as other marginalized groups have received.

The story of the bill

Students started by writing persuasive letters to President Barack Obama, but his response did not address their specific questions—it only expressed encouragement. So they created PowerPoint presentations, poems, plays, and a movie, aiming to go viral on The Fifth-Graders Who Put Mexican Repatriation Back Into History Books by Lani Cupchoy — YES! Magazine:

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