Latino Studies & Supports
I would like to first provide a historical anecdote to serve as a bedrock to this vision of a culturally responsive education. The field of education has been unfolding the relevance of what Dewey's (1938) and Vygotsky’s (1978) work affirmed in the conceptual importance of socio-cultural learning. Through language, social exchanges with peers and teachers, and through connecting lived experience to new knowledge, learning is made relevant to the student. Every culture has similar, yet unique ways of learning. Also, every culture has contributed in one form or another, has passed down ways of being that have added to our understanding of the human experience. From one end of the spectrum, it is important to know how to teach your students based on an in-depth understanding of their socio-cultural background. On the other end is the practice of teaching in ways that respective groups who are historically not represented are being included in authentic and meaningful ways in the curriculum. Teaching according to our student demographics would reveal accomplishments and contributions to more fully understand who these groups were and are as partakers within a larger cultural context in the United States. This has been a point of contention for centuries among ethnic groups. Today, some groups are more celebrated, although classrooms are filled with diverse students. These students are coming from a rich history of contributions from the past and present, yet they remain invisible in classroom content. Why has this been the norm in our democratic classrooms for decades after the civil rights movement? And what are the effects on the countless individuals in the classroom who are continually examining the world and where they fit into it"?
Tatian the Assyrian had a very similar conversation with the Greeks almost 2000 years ago in his well-known "Address to the Greeks". It is intriguing to quote here what Tatian the Assyrian from A.D. 110-172 pointed out about being culturally responsive and honest concerning the widely understood fact of particular contributions made by other diverse cultures of the past and during his time. And here we are now, discussing the same topic in modern America. If we were to ask ourselves honestly: what is the complete narrative of cultural, scientific, social, and philosophical contributions to society, what content would arise? This was the point Tatian was making to the Greeks, that many of their own accomplishments and contributions were not all their own. He reminded them of their disingenuous view of self and their disdain of those outside their own culture, of not having a long history or ability to discover and conjure matters from the world around them solely independently on their own. Discoveries and contributions can be exclusively accomplished by individuals from a particular ethnic group and at other times it is about individuals contributing and others taking such contributions to the next level. We need each other, we are stronger together than apart and we inspire one another to be better than past generations.
BE not, O Greeks, so very hostilely disposed towards the "Barbarians", nor look with ill will on their opinions. For which of your institutions has not been derived from the "Barbarians"? The most eminent of the Telmessians invented the art of divining by dreams; the Carians, that of prognosticating by the stars;... the Cyprians, the art of inspecting victims. To the Babylonians you owe astronomy; to the Egyptians, geometry; to the Phoenicians, instruction by alphabetic writing. Cease, then, to miscall these imitations inventions of your own. Orpheus, again, taught you poetry and song; from him, too, you learned the mysteries. The Tuscans taught you the plastic art; from the annals of the Egyptians you learned to write history; you acquired the art of playing the flute from Marsyas and Olympus,--these two rustic Phrygians constructed the harmony of the shepherd's pipe. The Tyrrhenians invented the trumpet; and a woman who was formerly a queen of the Persians, as Hellanicus tells us, the method of joining together epistolary tablets: her name was Atossa. Wherefore lay aside this conceit, and be not ever boasting of your elegance of diction; for, while you applaud yourselves, your own people will of course side with you... (Tatian the Assyrian from A.D. 110-172).
Dear: Parents, students, teachers, school administrators, and Rochester community.
I am writing to let you know how pleased I am to introduce to you the latest resources the Department of Multilingual Education has to offer through the Latino Studies & Supports Service. Helping students achieve is the cornerstone of our work as educators, parents, school support staff, and community members. The theme of this introduction of Latino Studies and Supports is "Legacies. Inspiring. Tomorrow." Part of this informational letter is intended to remind people that teaching and learning is a home, classroom, and district team effort. I would like to pose the questions, "What is Latino Studies? and What purpose does it have in K-12 education?" Latino Studies in the content areas is intended to guide our District community's understanding of the importance of a culturally responsive education and its impact on the education of our students. Latino Studies in the content-areas intends to promote quality instruction district-wide with a deeper, more contextualized awareness of Latino productions in the fabric of American society.
Furthermore, Latino Studies is comprehensive coverage of cultural competency, language proficiency, and awareness of Latino experiences and contributions in K-12 education. The mission of Latino Studies in RCSD is to provide the infrastructure for the creation and implementation of quality curriculum in K-12 classes, covering relevant issues concerning Latino populations in the region, state, and nation. We serve as a resource for teachers, students, parents, and other stakeholders.
In a similar light to Dr. Ruiz's invocation on Jose Martí's landmark 1891 essay, "Nuestra América" begs to call for a more comprehensive, transhemispheric vision of the U.S. past, one that understands "Latino history as United States history." The Latino voice has been present, however, it needs to be more prevalent and focused more today than ever. There is a gap in our curricula regarding our student demographics’ experience in the United States and also not being aware of a more contextualized understanding of the Latino experience. It is not only individual experiences, but also the issue of unspoken histories that have the ability to expound on these individual experiences with the larger narratives learned in our classes. Thus, more than ever, the histories of the Caribbean, Latin America, Latinos in the US, and the stories of our students and their families need to be a part of our classroom. There needs to be a moment of pause and intentional discussions in a safe space that will provide purposeful redirection in our community.
It is important to note that our intentions are not to only focus on history but to also look closer at Latinos in literature, science, mathematics, music, art, and the social sciences. This will yield a more holistic context of Latino Studies in the K-12 content areas.
I am looking forward to meeting all of you and hope to answer any questions you may have in the near future.
Latino Studies Support Coach