Sunday’s Dallas Morning News carried the article “FB schools have different view of immigrants,” relating the story of the Carrollton-Farmers Branch school district that continues to focus on educating its diverse student population despite political shenanigans by local politicians over immigration issues. According to the article:

The Farmers Branch City Council declared English the official language… City Council member Tim O’Hare, the driving force behind the city’s measures, cited declining schools among the reasons to target illegal immigrants. Some of his supporters also talk about increased gang activity, high dropout rates and a general lack of parental involvement in schools.

Targeting illegal immigrants by marginalizing non-English speakers and attempting to ride a political wave of ethnocentrism and fear are ignorant and destructive political tactics. I appreciate the words and attitude of CFB trustee Nancy Strickland, quoted in the article saying:

As I told the city manager years ago, what you do in the city is one thing. We are here to teach children, and that is not a political game for us.

Arthur Schlesinger wrote “The Disuniting of America: Reflections on a Multicultural Society” back in 1991, but sadly many of the same trends he observed then remain today in the United States. Many people (apparently a large number of our politicians) seem uncomfortable with the FACT that ours is a multiculturally diverse society. If politicians are really concerned about illegal immigration, why don’t they crack down on business owners who employ them? The fact is that large numbers of employees in certain economic sectors are not documented, and without their assistance a great deal of work would go undone. Have you paid for a new roof for a Texas home in the last few years? I have. Not many of the workers spoke English as their native language. But you know what? That was just fine with me. Those guys had families and kids just like I do. The fact that some of our politicians are mono-lingual, may have international experiences limited to visits to Mexican or Caribbean beach resorts, and are looking for a fast way to draw public attention and quick votes shouldn’t translate into policies of “English-only” and cracking down on hispanic residents in U.S. towns and cities. The politicians in Farmers Branch who voted for the “English-only” resolution may have not seen or heard “Did You Know” yet. Even if they have or do in the future, I wonder if the message would be able to permeate into their apparently thick, ethnocentric skulls? According to the same article:

The city’s immigration debate has pitted “neighbor against neighbor,” said Tony Muñoz, who has two children at Stark and is a member of the city’s school-community relations board. “We’re sending mixed messages,” he said. “We’re wanting Hispanic parents to be involved. This [ordinance] conflicts with involvement.”

According to, ethnocentrism is:

the feeling that one’s group has a mode of living, values, and patterns of adaptation that are superior to those of other groups. It is coupled with a generalized contempt for members of other groups. Ethnocentrism may manifest itself in attitudes of superiority or sometimes hostility. Violence, discrimination, proselytizing, and verbal aggressiveness are other means whereby ethnocentrism may be expressed.

Sadly, some email messages forwarded along as chain letters also serve to perpetuate ethnocentric attitudes. Racist and fear-laden political schemes like this one advanced by the Farmers Branch City Council may be wrapped in false patriotic trappings, but at their core they represent attempts to strengthen negative stereotypes of one group at the expense of another. This ridiculousness must STOP.

We just celebrated our national holiday for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. again in the United States. I learned recently that a stretch of 17th street, which passes by my old elementary school in Manhattan, Kansas, has been renamed Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Drive. Holidays and renamed streets are nice, but my question is, WHERE ARE THE NATIONAL LEADERS in our country helping cultivate attitudes of love, understanding, cooperation, and the causes of equal treatment and equal opportunities in life? All of these causes start with the family, and rely extensively on education. I, for one, can be counted among those who explicitly OPPOSE ethnocentric attitudes, actions, policies and politics. I love my country and am proud of it, but I’m also proud to speak a second language and blessed to have lived and traveled a bit outside the United States. I know we live in a global village because I’ve seen a glimpse of it face-to-face, and I now work in it daily via the Internet and the edublogosphere.

We live in a global village that is getting smaller every day. In his presentation at the 2005 TED Talks, Ray Kurzweil discussed some of the huge changes in our society we are now experiencing. The SMALL amount of time we have now to adapt to changes is a major shift. Think about how long people had to grow accustomed to new technologies like the telephone and the television. Then think how quickly records morphed into cassette tapes into compact disks and now into portable digital audio players, like iPods. Have you played Second Life? Do you realize how significant it is that SL now has a gross GDP larger than some countries which are members of the United Nations? According to some predictions, “Second Life’s overall GDP for 2007 could be close to $700 million.” The opportunities we have now and will have in the future to communicate, collaborate, and work together to address challenges and generate wealth across the globe are likely beyond the wildest imaginations of any of us.

We have no time for ethnocentrism. There is NO appropriate time or place for racism. International exchange programs like AFS, international videoconferencing initiatives like Global Nomads, and international team blogging projects like Global Voices Online are tangible efforts aimed at (among other things) fostering cross-cultural understanding and respect, and obliterating the specter of ethnocentrism from our planet. These are the types of educational activities, experiences, and projects in which we need to involve more learners of all ages.

My hat is off to those educators in Carrollton-Farmers Branch and elsewhere who carry on with the vital mission of public and private education for diverse learners, despite the ethnocentric political actions of local as well as national leaders. Commit yourself to have nothing to do with the deeds of darkness, which include policies, name-calling, or tolerance of actions which reinforce and perpetuate attitudes of racism and ethnocentrism. We live in a global village, and we have to find ways to help our brothers and sisters all around us understand the similarities which can bind us together, rather than focusing on the minor differences that can be used to splinter us apart.

Look Into My World

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One Response to Opposing ethnocentrism in schools and society

  1. Miss Profe says:

    Great post, Wesley! I, too, grow weary of the intolerance and ignorance in American society. But, each of us has to keep fighting against it. It’s what Dr. King would have wanted. So, thank you.

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