Crashes into the silences we carry: an essay review of Otto Santa Ana's (editor), Tongue-Tied: The Lives of Multilingual Children in Public Education.
About a decade ago a cadre of students, along with Professor Otto Santa Ana, read the common, neo-fascistic graffiti that would bring to a close the 20th Century: nativism, racism, linguicism, immigrant bashing, and the neo-liberal-pabulum-chewing retorts to inequitable social and economic issues. Californians decisively rejected bilingual education and accepted the monotonous but most effective jingoistic myth of "Proposition 227: English for the Children," 61% for the proposition, 39% against (Crawford, 1997). Tongue-Tied: The Lives of Multilingual Children in Public Education, edited by Otto Santa Ana and very capable students, is the antipodal result. What was characterized then and has come to pass as "A new wave of anti-bilingual activism ... spreading to other states, school districts, and the U.S. Congress" (Crawford, 1997, retrieved February 21, 2006, 11:17 AM, http://brj.asu.edu/ archives/1v21/articles/Issue1Crawford.html [2 of 36]) would be the call for resistance by its editors. Tongue-Tied ... is indeed a play on words and much more. The word play captures a cacophony of cultural experiences and imaginings, annotated disparate storied voices that come together to narrate the everyday. Many of us may have been witness to this living cacophony. Many of us have been cultural warriors who have withstood the onslaughts of bigotry, ethnocentric prejudice, out-right racism, sexism, heterosexism, among some. Notwithstanding, at one time or other we have been or continue to be (knowingly or not) disenfranchised, marginalized, and compliant to oppression with its ever-present lackey and iconic stooge, White supremacy. Once supremacy is ontologically uncovered, as the authors within this most readable anthology achieve, and epistemically dismantle invisible subtext, "knowing" becomes a collectivity of struggle and opportunity for acts of transformation and democratic praxis in the everyday. The narrated everyday complexity of stories told and lives lived are orchestrated within the titled constellation of "lives of multilingual children in public schools." The "whole" of this book reveals its many interweaving, yet many times, heart wrenching totalities.
Ms. Erika Villegas, speaking for herself and on behalf of the student editors in the "Student Preface," writes: "[The passage of Prop 227] prompted a group of students from the University of California, Los Angeles, to respond to ... [Professor Santa Ana's] call to take action in the face of the discourage[ing] events" (p. xv). To the student editors' credit, their vision was not one of " ... slogans, and half-truths that had been noisily recited for front-page headlines and television sound bites" (p. xv). There was more however: the subtext of support was one of half-hearted lament that would, in the end, prove useless. I include the entirety of the neo-liberal rebuttal to Proposition 227 written (or at least approved) by the elected officials and supposed supporters of bilingual education in California at the time: John D'Amelio, President, California School Boards Association, Mary Bergan, President, California Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO, and Jennifer J. Looney, President, Association of California School Administrators. Their analysis, because of its briefness and what is left unsaid, is worth documenting. To wit:
Several years ago, the 1970's law mandating bilingual education in California expired. Since then local school districts--principals, parents and teachers--have been developing and using different programs to teach children English. Many of the older bilingual education programs continue to have great success. In other communities some schools are succeeding with English immersion and others with dual language immersion programs. Teaching children English is the primary goal, no matter what teaching method they're using. Proposition 227 outlaws all of these programs--even the best ones--and mandates a program that has never been tested anywhere in California! And if it doesn't work, we're stuck with it anyway.
Proposition 227 proposes
* A 180-day English only program with no second chance after that school year.
* Mixed-age classrooms with first through sixth graders all together, all day, for one year.
Proposition 227 funding comes from three wealthy men ... one from New York, one from Florida, and one from California. The New York man has given Newt Gingrich $310,000! The Florida man who put up $45,000 for Proposition 227 is part of a fringe group which believes "government has no role in financing, operating, or defining schooling, or even compelling attendance." These are not people who should dictate a single teaching method for California's schools.
If the law allows different methods, we can use what works. Vote NO on Proposition 227. (Rebuttal to Argument in Favor of Proposition 227, retrieved February 21, 2006, http://primary98.ss.ca.gov/VoterGuide/Propositions/227yesrbt.htm)
In stark contrast, the spokespeople in favor of Proposition 227, Alice Callaghan, Director, Las Familias del Pueblo, Ron Unz, Chairman, English for the Children, and Fernando Vega, Past Redwood City School Board Member, provided convincing (although ill conceived) reasons for why California's Bilingual Education must be dismantled based on seemingly "common sense reasons":
* Learning a new language is easier the younger the age of the child.
* Learning a language is much easier if the child is immersed in that language.
* Immigrant children already know their native language; they need the public schools to teach them English.
* Children who leave school without knowing how to speak, read, and write English are injured for life economically and socially. (Argument in Favor of Proposition 227, retrieved February 21, 2006, http://primary98.ss.ca.gov/VoterGuide/Propositions/ 227yesarg.htm)
Moreover, the supporters of 227 meandered into the fears of the voting citizens of California by how they proposed to carry out "English for the Children":
* Require children to be taught English as soon as they start school.
* Provide "sheltered English immersion" classes to help non-English speaking students learn English; research shows this is the most effective method.
* Allow parents to request a special waiver for children with individual educational needs who would benefit from another method. (Argument in Favor of Proposition 227, retrieved February 21, 2006, http://primary98.ss.ca.gov/VoterGuide/Propositions/ 227yesarg.htm)
Ms. Villegas points out that they (Tongue-Tied's ... student editors) simply "hoped to support the children and the teachers most affected by this ill-conceived referendum" (p. xvi). They would do this by
Compil[ing] an attractive anthology that speaks personally and authoritatively about the experiences of language minority students. We acted because most public school educators, and the general public, know next to nothing about these children--even if they see their red, yellow, brown, and black faces in classrooms each day. (p. xvi)
A bit more context to the beginnings of Tongue-Tied ... is needed. This can be found in when documenting Proposition 227 and its impact on English language learners (ELLs) (Crawford, 1997). When Tongue-Tied ... was conceived, ELLs represented one-quarter of California's population, actually doubling to 1.4 million by the mid-nineties. Between 1990 and 1996, nine out of ten new Californian's were Latinos or Asians expanding to 29% and 11%, respectively, of the state residents whilst African Americans held steady at 7% and non-Hispanic Whites slipped to 53%. Crawford's (1997) analysis [based on Schrag (1998) and a Los Angeles Times-CNN Poll (1998)] revealed the nativists' underbelly:
Approaching minority status for the first time since the Gold Rush, many White Californians feel threatened by the impending shift in political power and resentful about paying taxes to benefit "other" people's children. Still, in the June 1998 election, they accounted for 69% of the voters statewide, African Americans 14%, Latinos 1%, and Asians 3%. (Crawford, 1997, retrieved http://brj.asu.edu/archives/1v21/articles/ Issue1Crawford.html (3 of 36) 2/21/2006 11:17:26 AM)
Never consciously wanting their nativist and bigoted underbelly to show, the 227 supporters provided an altruistic shaman-like nationalistic 'call to action' against the so-called failures of bilingual education:
* Teachers worried by the undeniable failure of bilingual education and who have long wanted to implement a successful alternative--sheltered English immersion.
* Most Latino parents, according to public polls [sic]. They know that Spanish-only bilingual education is preventing their children from learning English by segregating them into an educational dead-end.
* Most Californians. They know that bilingual education has created an educational ghetto by isolating non-English speaking students and preventing them from becoming successful members of society. (Argument in Favor of Proposition 227, retrieved February 21, 2006, http://primary98.ss.ca.gov/VoterGuide/Propositions/ 227yesarg.htm)
Popularly sloganed as the "Unz Initiative--English for the Children," the propagators of Proposition 227 would practice, if not invent, the 2005 word of the year, "truthiness." Their classic arguments concretized its present-day definition: "the quality by which a person purports to know something emotionally or instinctively, without regard to evidence or to what the person might conclude from intellectual examination" (Retrieved February 25, 2006, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Truthiness). This jingoistic 'truthy' facade is how the appropriating of history by the "right" occurs in the everyday. Germane to this discussion is the historical work of Galeano (1997). He informs us that the "right" appropriates history so when history is studied in present time it seems like the reader is visiting a museum where "the collection of mummies is a swindle" (p. 266). Galeano writes:
They lie to us about the past as they lie to us about the present: they mask the face of reality. They force the oppressed victims to absorb an alien, desiccated, sterile memory fabricated by the oppressor, so that they will resign themselves to a life that isn't theirs as if it were the only one possible. (p. 266)
Telling words for what Prop 227 has wrought. The editors of Tongue-Tied ... responded to the "truthy" reactionary politics and misguided legislation by bringing back civility, well-grounded reason, and hope to the many cultural workers (teachers and other cultural workers) who day-in and day-out serve the many underserved and marginalized learners. Notably, by introducing readers to a "historical, cultural, and linguistic character of minority education in the United States," the goal for Tongue-Tied ... is straightforward:
... to inform the electorate [California and national] about limited-English-proficient and non-Standard-English-speaking students--immigrant, Latino, American Indian, Asian American, or African American. Narrating these children's educational experience will also empower their teachers with knowledge about cultural and linguistic issues that are key to the success of the educational process. (p. xvi)
A little over two decades prior to Tongue-Tied ... Rodolfo Acuna's (circa 1972) prefatory insights in his book Occupied America: The Chicano's Struggle Toward Liberation would cast historical clarity to Tongue-Tied's ... permeating premise. Acuna's foretold penetrating analysis provides historical material from whence many of the present anthology's authors reflect upon their realities. In many ways, Acuna (1972), encompasses the many diverse voices within Tongue-Tied ... indicative of and relational to what the anthology's authors brilliantly uncover. "I became convinced" Acuna writes
... that the experience of Chicanos in the United States parallels that of other Third World peoples who have suffered under the colonialism of technologically superior nations. Thus, the thesis ... is that Chicanos in the United States are a colonized people. The conquest of the Mexican, the occupation of their land and the continued oppression they have faced documents this thesis. The story that emerges is of a group of people who collectively have been [constructed as] losers in a society that loves only winners. (p. iii)
Otto Santa Ana's introduction, "The Unspoken Issue That Silences Americans," is a comprehensive brief that provides a historical critique demonstrating an ideological war over who controls history, who is silenced, who is empowered, and who are the "winners." Santa Ana reveals, as did Bakhtin (1981), that words themselves even when written without intention have intention. Such conceptualizations threaded throughout the anthology illustrate the empowering presence of authorship. That is, we can make and unmake supremacy by how it may be perceived, how it may be practiced because it is embedded within each of us. This anthology provides connective living words, i.e., relational narratives to the false consciousness white supremacy reproduces. Stingingly, many of the authors address white supremacy's coveted nature within us--an alien that must be exorcised and disboweled from within, and institutionally dismantled from without. The entirety of this anthology crashes into the silences we carry; many times provoked by what many of us may have learned as we suckled from our mother's breasts.
Here, too, lays the challenge in Tongue-Tied.... The book's six parts and its interrelated writings uncover and help us to understand the silences within us; those we automatically comply with and perform in the societal everyday and, most devastating; and, more importantly, those acts we reenact in classrooms nationwide under the guise of a "good" education. Consider the relatively recent words of Rodolfo Acuna, an outstanding historian, an academic skeptic, and an "Activist Scholar" in the struggle for all peoples, in his book Sometimes There is No Other Side: Chicanos and the Myth of Equality (1998); he writes ...
The notion that the United States is (or strives to be) a "color-blind" society must be demythicized. The message must change; it must show how the American paradigm mythicizes history and works as a form of social control, consequently creating the glass-ceiling that keeps the "other" in their places. (p. ix)
Now connect Acuna's concept of demythicizing to Tongue-Tied's ... six parts; each represents a point of departure into demythicizing supremacy in the everyday. The first part, "The Child's Struggle against Silencing" provides short literary briefs of authors' recollections and their experiences within the so called language minority paradigm. The second part "The History of Silencing Children" tells all by its subtitle: "Chronology of Events, Court Decisions, and Legislation Affecting Language Minority Children in American Public Education." The abridgement is comprehensive and instructive. The writings in part three titled "The Potential and Vulnerability of Multilingual Children" are only a few examples of the almost infinite array of well-researched findings along with first-person narratives that should thoughtfully assists reluctant readers in their quest to at least entertain the richness of linguistic and cultural experiences and the impact of such essences onto teaching and learning for equity and social justice. The fourth part, "Mother Tongue" gets to the core and the power of story that may serve as readers' ontological cathartic tools for liberation and transformation. The research writings in Part V, "Excellence and Neglect in the Schooling of Multilingual Children," provide an ecumenicity of wisdom and forethought when in the thick of teaching and learning with all children. Notwithstanding, the sixth and final part with its bravisimo title "Rage, Regret, and Resistance" ciera el libro con un broche de oro finalizes the book with a golden brooch. This part embraces writings that create a contextual and experiential montage of resistance and transformation in the everyday. These pieces are examples of how each of us can author our world and thus must make it; that is, a reality drenched in respect for the self and the Other and always with the practice of equity coupled with the ethical qualities of social and economic justice.
The entirety of Tongue Tied ... is to my mind an envisioning of virtues that can only be propelled by the selected authors' relentless reflexive powers. They are informed by their conscious and unconscious contextual epistemic and aesthetic understandings of culture, of language, of historicity and, most importantly of their history in person (Holland, 2001). This anthology is one more avenue to the infinite worlds formed through the transformative involvement of ourselves in the everyday. (1) As the selected authors within Tongue Tied ... carefully, respectfully depict, many with strident first-person exemplification, they dis/un-cover dark narratives that lurk within and outside ourselves and that many times can and do coerce and dominate; narratives that would want us to believe that our everyday living is normal, that it is simply natural to be oppressed, to feel "less"--that People of Color may even be complacent enough to believe that we are not very special, in turn meaning making is taken for granted by freely giving our power to define ourselves to him/ her/it perceived as having a dominant voice, a master narrative worth repeating and living "up" to, since we are not special (see Kosik, 1976, especially Chapter 2).
Indicative of how White supremacy works from within, two poems that serve as book ends for Part I of Tongue-Tied ... speak to the terror that can be found in finding for oneself that one's special-ness is being terrorized. In the poem "Cut into Me" Carole Yazzie-Shaw's (Santa Ana, 2004) final stanzas depicts how special-ness can be and often is dismantled:
... Fear holds me in place for you Your vice has anger words with hard edges that cut They cut into my heart into my spirit I feel my insides ripping and shredding You kill my spirit slowly tearing away my people making me feel dirty making me feel shame Tears of pain flow from my eyes Turning into ice crystals as I am left alone and I don't know who I am (pp. 11-12)
Another brief poem along a similar theme "From "voz en una carcel," Juanita M. Sanchez's (Santa Ana, 2004) voice yells with the simple eloquence of movement from imposed non-special-ness to eventual, but not quite, awakening oneself to struggle for its opposite:
my voice is in the prison of my own history i never know am I being too spanish or not enough english? you laugh at my accent maybe maybe just one too many times [sic] (p. 77)
The anthology's whole, with its many experiential totalities, serves as abeacon of hope meshed in the struggle for ontological clarity and epistemic action. Yet, what I find most troubling is that the writers seem to forget or fail to concretize and explicate (some more than others) the mass naivete we as an entire people share about the well-honed invisible structures of global capitalism and its interplay with the central issues of the "isms" and their impact on economic and social exclusion. How we "language" these all-consuming issues will encourage us to remap the topography of our disembarrassed realties and counter the devastating grip capitalism (and its "isms") holds when we are in the throes of authoring our world (Kosik, 1976; McLaren & Farahmandpur, 2005). Holland (1998) underscores this idea, "In the making of meaning, we "author" the world. But the "I" is by no means a freewheeling agent, authoring worlds from creative springs within" (p. 170). To the contrary, when we author our worlds, when we make meaning, it is more like a bricolage; where we build from preexisting materials from the multiple Other--in this particular case from the many author-agents within Tongue-Tied ... (See Holland, 1998, pp. 169-171).
The making of my meaning-making bricolage can be explained by my analysis of Part III of Tongue-Tied ... where my curricular and pedagogical knowledge is procured and strengthened by garnering preexisting materials (i.e., chapter articles) within Part III, which in turn inform my critical multicultural education knowledge base. Part III, "The Potential and Vulnerability of Multilingual Children" is a well-grounded counter-narrative of research findings that should assist readers to struggle in authoring their pedagogical understandings as cultural workers. To my mind, Part III is an artful yet scientific collection of inquiry about how best children learn and what in fact makes children so special, what we must know about their learning, and why cognitive, linguistic, and socio-cultural learning inquiry of how learners must naturally engage their immediate environment is so necessary to their eventual educational success. The selected scientist and organic intellectuals decode reality with laser-like precision. Realizing the naive and false consciousness that muddy the terrain of bilingual education, the education of ELLs, and learners in general, the selected authors provide ethical clarity to many of the educational issues that are mostly understood on the periphery. These writer/researchers go deep into essential findings that demystify common sense vulgarities about learning in general and ELLs in particular while simultaneously situating their inquiry within a historical presence that reflects both contexts of history and reality (see Kosik, 1976).
Imagine a metaphorical holograph of a child learning/interacting within her world; for sake of explication, her contextual and cultural history is seemingly secondary. What is important is for the reader to study each piece in Part III, hence, the holograph of the child is epistemically operationalized. Readers begin studying the holograph with the language acquisition inquiry tools Guadalupe Valdes provides in her piece "The Failure to Educate Immigrant Children." Quickly, one comprehends that children must be placed in locations where self-expression though discovery of ideas and experiences is the rule rather than the exception. Herbert R. Kohl's first-person inquiry into the complexity of learning and the necessity of high expectations in the captivating abridgement of 36 Children magnifies the pedagogical theory teacher's must evoke based on the contextual complexities learners have and that eventually emerge. The holograph should be richer, with a grounded bricolage of theory and practice. Next, shine a blue light of despair on that same holograph and learn how the historical, research, and legislative facts in Richard R. Valencia's and Daniel G. Solorazano's sobering piece "Today's Deficit Thinking about the Education of Minority Students" unveils the many hidden "scientific" myths that have institutionalized "low expectations," have promoted "blaming the victim," and created the euphemism "at risk" to falsely perpetuate the "master's" narrative that the dominant "us" are better and brighter than the minority "them." The remaining pieces in Part III, are a must: Labov's linguistic research/acumen gained over decades carefully show the cultural and linguistic ignorance many of us hold and that undermine African American children's learning; Moll's and Gonzalez's longitudinal findings about Latino children entrance into classrooms with their idiosyncratic "funds-of-knowledge" that, in fact, propel their meaning-making capabilities and their educational success; and, Alvaro Rios's insights into the philippics of translation when in the thick of meaningful dialog. All these pieces historically materialize transformative pedagogies and theories of learning for the many "Other" children. The scientific myths, i.e., false realities these writer/researchers have uncovered through their respective disciplines show how supremacy has concretized itself in the process of forming its whole by the selective content it has made real to perpetuate a false consciousness which now is accepted as common sense (Kosik, 1976). This anthology rightly informs the propagators of "English for the Children" who are the benefactors of this falsely made common sense.
Roberto Bahruth (in press) quoting Sally Kempton in his chapter "Schooling" writes "It is hard to fight an enemy who has outposts in your head." Schooling, which should imply enhancing the mind with a disciplined freedom to make ethical choices (see Freire, 1970; 1998) then is what seems to resonate within this anthology. We would think that liberation and transformation a la thinking for oneself and acting upon the world with ethical reasoning would further the schooling intent. Bahruth (in press) eloquently argues that this is not the case. Schooling--as the many poets, essayists, and researchers in Tongue-Tied ... implicitly know--anesthetizes, if not, kills the spirit and creates one-size-fits-all servants to the empire of capital. Bahruth's well-grounded analysis follows:
The term schooling best describes what usually passes for education even though much of what goes on in schools, informed by a behaviorist paradigm, is fundamentally oppressive, antipedagogical and manipulative. It produces what White (2003) has described as "the middle mind," what Chomsky [and Macedo] (2000) stated as "the social construction of not seeing," and Lea (2003) expanded to "the social construction of not feeling," all of this relating easily to Dewey's notion of the "anaesthetic" opposition to aesthetic education as Maxine Greene (2001) emphasizes throughout her work.... Schooling serves the purpose of "cooling out" (Schmidt 2000) certain members of the population who eventually settle for strenuous, boring, and/or tedious jobs over self-actualization. (in press)
It is this living contradiction firmly embedded within Tongue-Tied's ... selections that are continuously problematized. A cliche is appropriate now: that is, the denial of the elephant within our metaphoric room must cease, named, and ideologically transformed into the pesky gnat that it is--nothing more. Hence Tongue-Tied: The Lives of Multilingual Children in Public Education serves as a literary matrix of possibility organically pregnant with contradictions that reveal our own shortcomings--where contradictions themselves, when realized and acted upon, can be transformative (Freire, 1970; 1998; Kosik, 1976). Some of the anthology's authors assume that contradictions should be resolved. I do not agree. Contradictions have a rightful place. Contradictions have an innate tension to catapult us into rethinking and recreating our shortcomings anew. Enmeshed with our contexts, our experiences, and our histories (be they conscious, unconscious, and non-conscious), we create tensions where the opportunity for transformation happens (Freire, 1998; Kosik, 1976). "Thus persons and, to a lesser extent, groups" writes Holland (1998),
... are caught in the tensions between past histories that have settled in them and the present discourses and images that attract them or somehow impinge upon them. In this continuous self-fashioning, identities are hard-won standpoints that, however dependent upon social support and however vulnerable to change, make at least a modicum of self-direction possible. They are possibilities for mediating agency. (p. 4)
It is the nexus of this agency authored throughout Tongue-Tied ... where our contradictions must be confronted, normal as they appear, contradictions resulting from living within the supremacy of whiteness and the avariciousness of capital, where we live within a state that would rather cage human beings rather than educate them (O'Donnell, Chavez Chavez, & Pruyn, 2004) is the space this anthology desires to mediate and it does so but indirectly. Directly, Tongue-Tied ... asks us to practice the discipline of remembering. Eduardo Galeano (1989/1991) clarifies how we can and must "remember" as the authors in this anthology seem to effortlessly do. He reminds us that the root of "to remember" signifies, the word "recorder" from the Latin "recordis" "volver a pasar por el corazon" [to pass back through the heart]. To situate and "see" ourselves equitably and act accordingly is indeed a courageous act. One of the authors in Tongue-Tied ..., Benjamin Alire Saenz's in "I Want to Write an American Poem II" remembers his experiences and is willing to journey through his heart and capture the magnificence of "from whence I came" and, unapologetically connects his transformative history with the infinite Other. In a writing workshop Alire Saenz was participating in, the poet Joseph Brodsky read Alire Saenz's poetry. Brodsky declared it "regrettable." His advice was clear, keep "foreign languages out of my poems since I [Benjamin] was working in the "English tradition"" (p. 253). Alire Saenz's counter narrative irradiates with a cultural chutzpah we must always remember and organically practice ...
Brodsky assumes that an American poet is necessarily and by definition working in the Anglo-American tradition. It never occurred to Brodsky that there are many literary and cultural traditions that coexist in America, and not every poet who writes "in English" is necessarily enamored of the Anglo-American tradition.... Brodsky asks the impossible. I cling to my culture because it is my memory--and what is a poet without memory? I cling to my culture because it is my skin, because it is my heart, because it is my voice, because I breathe my mother's mother's mother into me. My culture is the genesis and the center of the lenses of my culture.... (Alire Saenz in Santa Ana, 2004, p. 253)
In many of the selections, Tongue-Tied ... concretizes remembering and operationalizes courage. Make no mistake, to remember for ourselves takes courage, many times a painful courage that serves as a cathartic tool into one's transformative soul-path. In Part IV, "Mother Tongue" Jimmy Santiago Baca's poem "From Healing Earthquakes" faces the omnipresent face of supremacy and capitalism. An ironic twist to reality, Baca's moving poem speaks to the paradox of always showing respect and being courteous even when in the face of supremacy:
... that day Grandpa and I walked into the farm office for a loan and this man didn't give my grandpa an application because he was stupid, he said, because he was ignorant and inferior, and that moment cut me in two torturous pieces screaming my grandpa was a lovely man that this government farm office clerk was a rude beast-- and I say my grandpa's eyes go dark with wound-hurts, regret, remorse that his grandchild would witness him humiliated and the apricot tree in this soul was buried ... ... his heart died that day, ... ... because it was the first time I had witnessed racism, how it killed people's dreams, and during all of it my grandfather said, Portate bien, mijo, behave yourself, my son, Portate bien. [sic] (Santa Ana, 2004, pp. 166-168)
The literary capital this anthology conceptualizes is what Freire and Macedo (1987) so aptly named as "reading the world" and "reading the word." Conjoined with Bakhtin's (1981) notion in The Dialogic Imagination, the "word" is a living extremity that comes from our deeply embedded intentions about the world. Bakhtin's emphasis is central to why this anthology is crucial to our meaning-making today; he writes "There are no "neutral" words and forms--words and forms that belong to "no one"; language has been completely taken over, shot through with intentions and accents" (p. 293). This anthology and its varied authors speak to the splatterings of what oppression, resistance, and liberation many times can be or are. Triangulating Bakhtin's insights with the author's in this anthology, I offer Karel Kosik's gems of wisdom digested from his book Dialectics of the Concrete: A Study on Problems of Man and World. Kosik's (1976) carefully crafted words cut through false consciousness with the precision of a brain surgeon's scalpel. Kosik almost harshly but lovingly demands that we empower ourselves; he demands that we interrogate the constancy of false realities that are fetishisized, reified, and torn out of history. Kosik asks that we dialog with others about how our histories have been severed from our cultural, historical, and contextual pasts; he begs us to interrogate the flaccid and myopic views of our histories which now seem twice removed, alien to us, lacking the capacity to provide the whole story, consequently our meaning making is left shallow and rancid (Kosik, 1976).
Sadly, many times knowingly or not, we engineer our oppression as agents in the making of our reality by living out and accepting imposed false consciousness; we do this by letting others remember for us rather than us remembering for ourselves. The anthology's interweaving parts boldly speak to this phenomenon, but several pieces within Part VI "Rage, Regret, and Resistance" allow the readers, the listeners of the stories/poems, to imagine and dream one's transformation as a disciplined art into knowing oneself and discarding that which has been imposed upon one either through visible complicity or invisible force. Such acts create a space that frees one's spirit--a space that is non-negotiable, a transformative act of remembering--and, by this simplest of acts, we make meaning; Tongue-Tied ... creates for the reader a space to imagine how to make history in person (Holland & Lave, 2001).
The authors within Tongue-Tied ... aptly illustrate with literary ease, reality is by no means a free wheeling phenomenon that simply by going "poof" we remember, analyze, recreate, and can transform ourselves into freedom-singing zombies. The anthology's authors all too well comprehend the subtlety of how false hegemony crashes upon our cultural and linguistic psyches and how, in turn, false realities, many times, become real. Kosik (1976) would be the first one to tell us that reality can be built entirely on false consciousness on a false hegemony, of which the diverse authors in Tongue Tied ... show time and again how they confronted the false consciousness of supremacy within themselves and without.
This anthology and its many essays, poems, abridged findings, eloquently impinge upon our cultural psyches by cajoling us to remember and to make meaning of that which makes us so very special and helps us to remember when in the struggle, whence "[i]n the making of meaning, we 'author' the world" (Holland, 1998, p. 170). This anthology serves as testament to the virtue that authoring of our world(s) comes in a pandect of forms, a matrix of experiences as this anthology exemplifies. Authoring the world--making meaning upon the world--can appear as literary agency this anthology exemplifies, or it can appear as the discipline of dance, as an actor when acting in theater, or as a "Chicano Park" mural located in the underpasses of the San Diego freeway. To the Pueblo peoples of the Southwest authoring the world is exemplified by beautiful clay pots of a woman (sometimes a man) pregnant with children (2). The children are sitting on her lap, on her shoulders, climbing around her legs or around her back; all with an intense almost insatiable curiosity to find the best place to relax, listen, and be transformed. "With these clay figures the Pueblo [Peoples] of New Mexico depict the story teller: the one who relates the collective memory ..." (Galeano, 1989/1991, p. 20 [emphasis mine]).
The metaphor holds when one imagines the innate power and calling Tongue Tied ... emanates by the "remembered words" syntactically rich with the collective memory that should serve readers to image transformative acts for democratic action. Whence the selected pieces are studied, the authors chosen will ask the reader to find a spot, to relax, listen, and be ever-present, ready to commit to and struggle for transformation. Take heed, Tongue-Tied: The Lives of Multilingual Children in Public Education will require moral courage. The many excellent selections of Tongue-Tied's ... diverse authors require the reader to rethink and maybe even excavate and open the many or few radio-active supremacist's tailings unconsciously concealed within leaded sarcophagi of our cultural minds, yet radiate into the unconsciously-conscious manifest of everyday agency. Humbly, without righteous assumptions, the Tongue-Tied's ... editors through its selected authors ask that the reader listen with her or his entire being; they challenge the reader's internal voice with eloquence of conscious and ask the reader to never accept silence.
Lastly, throughout this anthology, the various poets, essayists, and researchers were willing and able to expose the impudence white supremacy foments and the severity capitalism plays in creating mono-cultural and monolingual lives that only serve to perpetuate a false hegemony. The varied authors' eloquence is only matched by their courage ... yet, in the end, it was Professor Otto Santa Ana and the very capable student editors that matched wits with neo-fascists, the propagators of Proposition 227.
Because Tongue-Tied: The Lives of Lives of Multilingual Children in Public Education now exists and can be read, it would serve these propagators to determine for themselves whether there is a relationship between their conscience and the world the readings within Tongue-Tied ... so eloquently reveal. It is to the benefit of all of us including the propagators of Prop 227 that we are "programmed for learning" (Freire, 1998, p. 24). However, to learn requires critical ownership of our voices and "formation of ourselves requires active and conscious speaking, reading, and writing, ... which are both inherently and socially constructed" (Freire, 1998, p. 24). In the end, each reader will have her disciplined wits to go about this humanizing endeavor this anthology calls for. Tongue-Tied's ... poems, essays, research pieces, and connective vignettes help us to recreate our selves as historical and social beings. The practice, I believe, of this praxis will be concrete, real to the touch, fragrant with smell, and will caress the heart. Tongue-Tied ... leaves us with a moral duty to uncover false realities that hold supremacists ideologies and assists us to create counter narratives that liberate us from them. The book-covers of Tongue-Tied ... open into cultural and linguistic panoramas that may inform how we go about transforming ourselves by the practices we choose to act upon for equity and social justice in the everyday when in the throes of teaching and learning. Tongue-Tied ... trumpets our right as human beings to shout onto the five directions and humbly demands that we discipline ourselves to be seekers of non-oppressive knowledges and to critically and ethically understand the difference. Tongue-Tied ... provides readers with avenues to rethink their paths of struggle as cultural workers in the everyday. References
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(1) The sparking of this notion came form Kosik's Chapter two "Economics and Philosophy." Kosik explains in the section 'Metaphysic of Everyday Life" the quality of care (pp. 37-42).
(2) See Galeano (1989/1991) short description of a storyteller, page 20.
Rudolfo Chavez Chavez is Regents Professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction in the College of Education at New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, New Mexico.
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|Author:||Chavez, Rudolfo Chavez|
|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2006|
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