Thursday night's HRC meeting Schools & Kids, posted by Editor, Palo Alto Online, on Jul 11, 2007 at 12:53 pm
The Palo Alto Human Relations Commission meeting in July is not to be missed and you are invited, indeed implored, to attend. We will be engaging two hyper-sensitive local issues: leftover feelings about Mandarin immersion and allegations of anti-Semitism at the Peninsula Peace and Justice Center.
Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 11, 2007 at 12:53 pm
Mr. Blum, you said above "This issue (MI) was resolved with the school board's decision to proceed with a pilot Mandarin language program."
As a jumping off point for your mediation you should probably understand that this issue was not RESOLVED with the board vote to proceed, the issue was EXACERBATED by it. The board has just barely cracked open this can of worms.
Healing comes from justice (fairness?). No justice has occured here. Are you suggesting that you are prepared to negotiate a different more appropriate outcome to the MI issue? Such as an equitable language education program for all students? Now THAT would actually create some healing. Because when an appropriate decision making process is used, with appropriate above the board inputs, (such as district wide strategic plans as a basis for decision making, and sound unbiased data based decision making tools for the board) that is when healing will occur.
You said you have invited the parties... Who have you invited exactly? A long list of MI proponents with personal email invitations. But who from the opposition was notified? Just out of curiosity because you should have invited probably about 1000 or more people on the opposition side, something only possible through a public announcement such as through the paper, or through the school district newsletters. This editorial seems to be the first public announcement of such a meeting. 1 day notice, in the middle of summer?! Surely you must understand that this is inadequate notice if you plan to actually get a fair representation from both sides.
By the way, the agenda on the HRC Website says 'Discussion regarding Civic Discourse and Community Conflicts'. No mention of MI or the Peninsula Peace and Justice Center - how would anyone not contacted directly know the intent of this item (let alone found this item).
And by contacting only MI proponents directly, (and as far as I know, no MI opponents were contacted directly, based on the grapevine email traffic I've seen only since yesterday), I'm not sure what sort of healing you had hoped to accomplish.
My goodness, are the MI proponents supposed to heal themselves - from the charter threat they drafted? Or do they need to heal from winning their proposed customized language academy program using PAUSD's community and tax payer resources without any linkage to district wide strategic priorities? Or do they need to heal from lobbing unfounded claims of racism they hoped would disparage the opposition, and derail the conversation from the actual issues?
(which you yourself lob in to the conversation above)
Mr Blum, I would suggest you postpone your meeting in order to give appropriate public notice, probably advertised through school district communication channels (during the school year when people will actually be around to participate). To ensure you have both sides at the table. This seems like common sense, and common courtesy. Otherwise you will be perpetuating more of the same frustration, lack of sound process, one sided inputs, that have plagued this debate from the beginning.
Lastly, I wonder if we might find another mediator for this task? Mr. Blum, your bio line says you are on the board of directors of the Y where Grace Mah is also on the board of directors? I think a mediator should be quite free from any possibility of or potential for bias or undue influence from one of the parties. Doesn't that seem like a reasonable expectation?
Posted by citizen, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 11, 2007 at 1:14 pm
Might I ask why the HRC feels it is the proper forum for objective debate on "sensitive local issues"? I never paid too much attention to it. It was formed, initially, to promote the homosexual agenda (e.g. punish the Boy Scouts). There was a Black woman who was part of the HRC, and she was pressured to quit, when she did not agree with homosexual marriage (for religious reasons).
What gives the HRC any legitimacy? Its main function seems to be take the heat off the City Council on contoversial issues.
I would suggest that this very forum is a MUCH better way to "discuss" the issues, and real feelings in Palo Alto.
Posted by Stan Weitzman, a resident of another community, on Jul 11, 2007 at 7:37 pm
I find it preposterous that we are teaching Mandarin in Santa Clara County. In Brooklyn New York a PUBLIC School will open teaching all subjects in Arabic this fall! Do you think they are going to give a fair and balanced American style education there?
I am Jewish. Why not open a Palo Alto High School with Hebrew Immersion? There may even be more of a demand for it. Then we could have one for Japanese, Spanish,German, Swedish and on and on. Our country will become completely Balkanized. Do we really want to leave this mess for our children to clean up? Didn't we just figure out that teaching kids with Spanish immersion handicapped them?
The strength of the United States has been in our common language and common culture.
People who want their children to have a more ethnic education should send their children to private schools if they can afford it.
I send my daughter to Gideon Hausner Jewish Day School, although I really can't afford it. However, it is important to me.
I do not expect the public schools to provide such an education. Neither should people who want their children to learn Chinese. There is a very good international school in Palo Alto that teaches Chinese Immersion.
Posted by Wow!, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Jul 11, 2007 at 8:35 pm
I was very surprised to read of the proposed meeting tomorrow night. Of course it's too soon for me to rearrange my family schedule and attend but I do wonder how such a meeting might bring about a change? As a parent opposed to the MI program and to the attitudes and values of its proponents, I can't imagine a mediator skilled enough to improve my feelings about the way things have turned out. Also, I agree that the council vote exacerbated the problem rather than having resolved it. With all due respect, has Mr. Blum been on vacation? To suspect that some resentment remains is such an understatement that I wondered whether he was being sarcastic. I hope he isn't planning to try and get the hundreds of us who are opposed to MI all into one room (better be a big one) and try to change our feelings so that we become milder, more bland and easier to manipulate.
Posted by Sad, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jul 11, 2007 at 8:41 pm
Stan, I appreciate your weighing in on this subject but I wanted to say how sad I find it when people send their children to a school for just their group. It may be wonderful for your children to have this cultural grounding but what a loss to the community to not have these children among us and what a loss (we hope) to your children not to be with all of us. Sign me, Sad about separatism.
Posted by dott31, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Jul 11, 2007 at 9:51 pm
I want to believe that you are sincere, however naive, rather than totally presumptuous or even mockingly facetious. If you are sincere, please understand that your pompous invitation appears a parody and is issued far too late to enable citizens to join you as you "mediate."
Posted by ethnoblab, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jul 11, 2007 at 10:30 pm
As a Spanish surname American of immigrant parents, I revel in the fact that I can speak, and occasionally punctuate correctly, English. My father had an extensive but archaic English vocabulary. He was painfully self-conscious about his limited command of American idioms.
I am grateful that I was educated at a time in California when schools pushed an ESL student without endless hand-wringing over how they felt about failure to fit in. Kids have a genius for adapting to the local norms.
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 12, 2007 at 7:26 am
Good grief. Though I would like to believe that this is something proposed in good faith and could be useful, I suspect that all it does is simply pull scabs off of healing wounds and let the blood flow again.
The decision has been made, and like many political or legal decisions that shove unpalatable decisions down one side's or the other's throats, we have to accept the current decision, move on, be civilized to each other, work within the confines of our legal system, vote as we believe and move on. Re-hashing it will do nothing useful.
Posted by steve levy, a resident of the University South neighborhood, on Jul 12, 2007 at 7:55 am
I think the questions Jeff posed are good questions. Trying to eliminate the personal attacks and finding out what are the core areas of disagreement is, in theory, a good approach. Face to face contact, rather than trading attacks through blogs, is probably also helpful if the goal is to solve difficult problems together as a community.
I have no idea whether what Jeff suggests could work. Perhaps this is just an angry time in the world without much inclination to try and sort out common ground and actual disagreement.
In this case I agree that the notice time seems a bit short but perhaps Jeff has ideas for pursuing what he wants with other chances for residents to participate.
Posted by no thanks, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Jul 12, 2007 at 8:13 am
Let me see if I’ve got this right...
The meeting is today, the invitation went out yesterday, the public notice had no mention of Mandarin Immersion in the title or the first few lines of the description so it’s unlikely to get the attention of the intended audience, and we (the people who were opposed to MI) are supposed to drop everything at a moment’s notice to....what, exactly? Get our attitudes neutered?
No, thanks. I won’t feel right about this until the new superintendent whole-heartedly backs up MI as a high-priority direction worth pursuing ahead of tackling other critical issues like overcrowding. And his decision should come after being armed with research that is biased against the program and in favor of charter schools, to balance all the past research that was biased in the other direction.
The first reply by Parent says it all.
Oh, and why lump Mandarin Immersion and anti-Semitism accusations together? One has to do with school district PRIORITIES and the other, well, I haven’t been following it so I don’t have a clue.
Posted by natasha, a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, on Jul 12, 2007 at 9:04 am
Maybe the reason he lumped them together is that everybody knows the insidious, unspoken reason for opposing MI is racism, remember? Maybe Jeff actually believes that and thought he could have all the victims address all their racist oppressors at one meeting.
All the "dialogue" on MI so far has been MI ramming their program down the throats of the majority of the community with little thought for the community at large, and then turning around after the re-vote and saying everyone else should get over it already. Since I have "never" heard the MI proponents take a compromise position or even recognize that people had legitimate concerns about instituting the program (and were not simply attacking the wonderful effects of the program for its participants), why would I completely rearrange my schedule on a dime to go and be told again that I need to get over it because of how wonderful this will be for the children. Theirs, not mine, and not most.
Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 12, 2007 at 10:10 am
Natasha, you posted on another thread a comment about the phenomenon of victims being required to apologize to bullies because of some twisted version of 'just talk it out' methods. This sounds alot like that - doesn't it?
For a professional mediator - Blum's statements in that editorial are bizarre. He wants to begin a mediation/healing session by inviting everyone together to talk about the underlying racism in the MI debate.... Its sort of like mediating a divorce by inviting the divorcing husband and wife over to talk about the wife's extra 50 pounds.
Posted by natasha, a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, on Jul 12, 2007 at 10:44 am
You nailed it, parent. Since the Board reversed its January vote, I have seen many emails from MI proponents that seemed to make what I consider an unreasonable demand. Not only are opponents supposed to move forward in harmony and full support of the program, and let go of any bad feelings, but they are supposed to embrace MI as a wonderful thing to impose -- oh, I'm sorry -- *bestow* upon Palo Alto now, and in this way. Oh, and they have also misrepresented the vote as one of full and complete endorsement by four Board members, when two of the four were dragged kicking and screaming down the road to approval beacuse of their fear -- right or wrong -- that the threatened charter would do more damage. Choosing hemlock over arsenic is hardly an enthusiastic endorsement.
I felt pushed by the proponents in the first place, by the "me me me now now now" and charges of racism and refusal to see another side or to wait a little longer. But when they continued to bash opponents publicly for racism and tried to push for admission of error, well, that just made me twice as angry. It's dishonest, it's bad sportsmanship, and it shows arrognace beyond any I had previously attributed to them.
As an attorney I have been in a fair number of mediations. and a parent I have conducted countless ones ;0). Never, ever, ever have I been asked or asked participants to come in and, as a starting point, admit they are bad people because they disagree with the other side. What a strange and unworkable mediation technique.
And finally, this "invitation" actually got me all fired up all over again about how unfair and unpleasant the whole thing was just when I was trying to stop thinking about it and move forward with optimism to resolution of some of the other huge issues facing our district (one of which is the pandemic ofbullying from the top down to the playground).
Posted by yet another parent, a member of the Escondido School community, on Jul 12, 2007 at 10:57 am
"Its sort of like mediating a divorce by inviting the divorcing husband and wife over to talk about the wife's extra 50 pounds."
Not even. In the divorce case the extra pounds are irrelevant but indisputable; in MI's case the racism charge is largely fabricated to distract from the real, solid, factual arguments against having the proposed program at this time.
Like countless others, my opposition to MI was based on a desire to follow the district's strategic plans and keep priorities in order. Although I agree that the community spirit has been greatly damaged by MI proponents and will continue to be endangered in the foreseeable future, I don't think the solution can be driven by the MI folks, too. If Jeff Blum were to spend time with a variety of people who oppose MI, he might find that getting over racial tensions is the least of their worries.
Posted by Weighing in, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jul 12, 2007 at 12:07 pm
I've watched the MI debate from afar as my only daughter is about to graduate from high school and so we are not directly affected. But really, mandarin immersion in a public school system -- supported by taxes -- is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard of. And at a time when PAUSD is scrabbling for money to educate the influx of new children in the district?
There is a quality of "persistence" which is held in very high regard by some. "Persist and you will succeed" is given as explicit advice. The point seems to be to win not by logic or correct values, but simply by exhausting the opposition. My advice to the MI opponents is to apply some of the same medicine as has been used on you. i.e., Don't give up.
Posted by Confused, a resident of Los Altos Hills, on Jul 12, 2007 at 12:11 pm
When did a school district issue become a concern for the City of Palo Alto? Only about 20% of Palo Alto residents have children in school, and PAUSD includes families from Stanford, East Palo Alto, Los Altos Hills and Portola Vally. Does the CIty of Palo Alto represent those families? No.
If Mr. Blum is so concerned, I would suggest that he offer his services to the school district and the new Superintendent. The disagreement is not about race--it is about district priorities and spending money that will have the greatest impact on the most kids. If Mr. Blum had been at the latest meetings on MI, he would have heard that loud and clear. Parents are asking for Language education for all. Implementation of FLES at all elementary schools will impact 10,000 kids in 12 years (assuming enrollment doesn't increase, but we know it is). MI will impact roughly 500 kids in 12 years. 10,000 versus 500--seems like a no-brainer to me. MI will divert district resources from starting FLES for all kids--that is the real issue.
It seems to me that Mr. Blum is looking to create a problem that he can then solve. Everyone's time would be better spent helping PAUSD set future priorites and making sure they stay on track.
Posted by let it go, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Jul 12, 2007 at 12:17 pm
This entire problem - including this presumptuous meeting - has been caused by two things:
1) The pompous ignorance - including back-and-forth flipflopping - of a group of people (excluding one) who have managed to politicize, and thus reduce the effectiveneess of education - not to mention the weighing down of teaching professionals and site administrators who deliver education, every day.
Who is that group? The PAUSD BOE (helped along by an ineffective (as concerns personnel issues), recently-deposed PAUSD Superintendent, who is now no doubt on vacation, and putting the mess she left behind out of her consciousness).
MI proponents didn't cause this. the _environment_ that permits any group to intrude on education in the way MI proponents have, is at fault. The buck stops at who manages that environment.
2) Those who put this item on the HRC agenda. What in god's name were you thinking? A further politicization of this conflict is what will come out of this. I would urge residents NOT to show up at this meeting.
There is an old saying: "Time heals all wounds" Leave it alone! We have more pressing things to worry about than reapplying psychological sutures to the mess that was the MI effort.
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 12, 2007 at 12:35 pm
Confused - well said.
If the City of PA really wants to help the school district, then transportation is one of the issues it can help with. It seems apparent that they don't understand the MI issue. What they may be able to understand is the traffic problems that the present schools create just by getting their students to school. To revamp the shuttle, accommodating school times and school boundaries with extra vehicles and introducing a small charge plus working with VTA to keep rte 88 as a minimum if not improving it, would be a way in which the whole city would benefit. Leave the school board and management to iron out the many problems without their interference is what the city shouldn't do.
Posted by Herb Borock, a resident of the Professorville neighborhood, on Jul 12, 2007 at 4:49 pm
Blum misrepresents the Human Relations Commission agenda item description by writing that the HRC "will be engaging two hyper-sensitive local issues: leftover feelings about Mandarin immersion and allegations of anti-Semitism at the Peninsula Peace and Justice Center."
The truth is the relevent item on the HRC agenda is "Discussion Regarding Civic Discourse and Community Conflicts" which is followed on the agenda by "Presentation from (PAGE) Palo Altans for Government Effectiveness".
The HRC and the public are being badly served by Blum's commentary in the Weekly that invites people to come to a meeting to talk about two topics that are not on the meeting's agenda.
In effect, Blum has created a "Community Conflict" on a subject of "Civic Discourse", namely, the HRC agenda item "regarding civic discourse and community conflict" by attempting to change the agenda item into a discussion of "leftover feelings about Mandarin immersion and allegations of anti-Semitism at the Peninsula Peace and Justice Center."
Perhaps Blum's fellow Commissioners could use the agenda iten on civic discourse and community conflict to discuss Blum's misleading commentary and its effect on civic discourse and communty conflict.
Posted by not there, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 12, 2007 at 7:10 pm
I'm not so sure Blum mis-represented the content he intends to pursue with this agenda item, as much as he misrepresented the agenda item to the committee. He is the one who got this placed on the agenda. and he is the one that invited a "Who's Who" of MI proponents. So perhaps he mispresented the item on the agenda, to disguise the intent of the conversation (why? to make it less controversial sounding - to win the approval of the committee for putting in on the first place?) But why? I don't really buy the idea that he's a controversy thrill seeker. Could it be at the behest of some big hitters of the MI debate? Grace or Camille?
Why do they want it there - to salvage their reputations, by quelling the community outcry (that by the way isn't going away).
This mysterious discussion, morphing from a non-descript agenda item, to be held by a committee with virtually unkown authorities and powers, with personal invitations to one side of the debate, sounds a little more like a witch hunt than a community healing meeting. I don't trust it.
Posted by Not a TV Wrestling Fan, a resident of another community, on Jul 12, 2007 at 7:31 pm
Yeah, Blazing Saddles is an old movie. In the end, the whole movie set breaks out in fist fights. It spreads to other movie sets. A cowboy goes to punch Dom Deluise in the face. He says, "Please, not in the face." The cowboy punches him in the stomach and Dom painfully says, "Thank.. ..you."
I saw the movie, so I don't need to go to the meeting.
Posted by Confused, a resident of Los Altos Hills, on Jul 12, 2007 at 7:48 pm
I think if he wants to "counsel" someone, he should start with the MI proponents. Most of us learned somewhere between the ages of 3-5 that if you want to play in the sandbox, you better cooperate. I don't think the MI proponents got this straight. You cannot use strong arm tactics (threatening a charter) to get your own way and expect everyone to just roll over and say "fine, we're with you". The MI proponents should have expected a backlash, but maybe they had no idea how large it would be.
But in any case, we need to put this behind--it is done. Let's move on, but at the same time, make sure this doesn't happen again. The board needs to be smarter about possible ramifications to their decisions and not let it get to this point. And we need to make sure they see the quicksand before they step in it.
Posted by yet another parent, a member of the Escondido School community, on Jul 12, 2007 at 8:37 pm
“MI proponents didn't cause this. the _environment_ that permits any group to intrude on education in the way MI proponents have, is at fault. The buck stops at who manages that environment.”
let it go, I agree with you to a certain extent. I spoke with a few MI proponents who felt the same way. It wasn’t their fault that the environment allowed them to manipulate it. Where I disagree is that although they seemed to understand at least some of the harmful consequences of pushing their agenda the way they did, they continued to pursue it simply because they could.
I have a neighbor whose cat sprayed all over my house – I mean EVERYWHERE – while we were gone on vacation. We had a cat flap for our own cat, and the neighbor’s cat found it. When I brought this to the neighbor’s attention they claimed it was legally acceptable for cats to do that – she knew because she recently made partner at the big law firm in town. In other words, tough *^. No apologies and no attempt to pay for carpet cleaning the entire house and disinfecting the walls, furniture, dining table, etc. It’s a mindset: neighborly vs. lawful. “I will because I can.”
The moral? Some people conduct themselves only to the extent required by law – if there’s a loophole or an environment where they can get away with something, they’ll take advantage of it; others conduct themselves with consideration of the impact their actions cause to others. I didn’t observe this courtesy in the behavior of MI proponents.
The fact that the current “_environment_ permits any group to intrude on education in the way MI proponents have” doesn’t get the people who take advantage of that dysfunctional system off the hook.
Posted by Kevin, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Jul 13, 2007 at 10:46 am
The HRC meeting was on channel 26 last night. I watched it, because of this thread. It was a waste of time. The never-ending police debates took up most ot the time. The P&J anti-semitism issues seemed to be quickly disposed of (I think), because a Jewish representative said she preferred to fight out in the trenches of free debate, and thought the HRC was overreaching. Sure enough Jeff Blum tried to lift every leaf to make sure that the pro-MI people did not feel that racism was an issue. A couple of them reported "feelings" of racism and/or pressure. Blum and his cohorts then went into a discussion about utilizing professional mediators and weekly meetings to resolve the issues. The HRC members kept saying they were not there to address the MI issue, per se, just the underlying racism. Yet, when they began to discuss the mediation meetings with paid mediators, it seemed that it would be more about the specific MI issues, than racism.
There were some generic platitudes about "let's all just get along".
Bottom line: It was a waste of time. Why does this HRC turkey still exist?
Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 13, 2007 at 11:01 am
Wow, paid mediators... And do they have any evidence of racism? And who would be mediated?
And just a thought - I think most rational and reasonable people would agree that racism is irrational, and anything but reasonable. Do they think the actual 'racists' from each side are going to show up to be reasoned with? And are they going to listen to logic and reason and give up their misguided ways?
No. What you would have is the actual racists staying home and persisting in their irrational belief systems (and probably throwing flames in to future discussions still), and people who aren't racist but who want to have a rational discussion on the actual issues (non-racist) show up to be 'mediated' against racism. Its just such a flawed concept.
What a waste of money. If City of Palo Alto agrees to spend money on this, I will be astounded. MORE money and MORE resources that could be put to good use, wasted on MI. What a travesty. What a monumental waste.
Posted by natasha, a resident of the Meadow Park neighborhood, on Jul 13, 2007 at 11:28 am
If some pro-MI people had "feelings" of racism and "feelings" of pressure, well, they are entitled to their feelings. Indeed, they SHOULD have feelings of pressure. Most of the community was against their relentless, elitist and ill-advised campaign to push this through this way, now. I have "feelings" of pressure too, based on the fact that they exerted pressure. What exactly are we supposed to mediate? They cared more about their program than the good of the entire community, which seems to be the case (and the fact that this was damaging is supported by Gail's comments and Dana's and Mandy's too). Frankly, I resent Mr. Blum's intrusion and validation of the whole racist aspersions that have been flung nationwide against those who care about the whole community. No, they wanted their program and they got it. As I tell my kids, live with the consequences of your actions. There really isn't anything more to talk about with them; the more productive conversation would be where we go from here in minimizing the damage this does to the district.
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 13, 2007 at 11:51 am
What I think we have here is not racism as such, a belief that one race is better than another. What we may have is a set of ideals which one culture (not race) takes differently from another culture' ideals. Some value one thing and some another. It is to do with what people value, nothing else. If these values and ideals are typical to one race and not another, it is not racism. It is just a different set of priorities. Please stop calling something racist when it clearly is not.
Posted by Kevin, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Jul 13, 2007 at 11:57 am
"the more productive conversation would be where we go from here in minimizing the damage this does to the district."
natasha, good question. My view is that more and more programs will come down the pike, similar to MI, and force their way in. The precedent was set a decade or more ago with various choice programs, then SI. Now MI. There is no logicial reason to think that it will stop, unless we demand that it stop.
The only way the school board will get the message is to defeat bond measures. In other words, use $$ as leverage. Yes, I know, it is hardball, but that is the way the pro-choice gangs work. If the next bond issue (2008?) is defeated, it will send a message that we want our neighborhood schools back, and that special programs for a very few are not the way to go. Also, if any of you are old enough to get a waiver for your parcel tax, you should do it, and tell them why.
Once we get things back to a rational approach, we can start passing bond measures again.
Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 13, 2007 at 12:46 pm
Kevin - agreed!
Resident - couldn't disagree with you more. Maybe you have some sort of gross typo in your statement "What I think we have here is not racism as such, a belief that one race is better than another" My dear, that is the very definition of racism. I disagree completely that has anything to do with what is going on here.
We have a disagreement on the priorities and goals of the school district.
We may have a disconnect on basic values and expectations, and historial perspective.
One example. I was researching English and Mandarin language education in China. I found several articles that discuss how the drastic rise in English language education in China is considered by some in China to be an affront on Chinese culture. The articles I saw literally called it an imperilistic assault from the west - even though the supply and demand for english language education there is intrinsic - not an imposition or concerted effort from the west, but from the chinese government itself. (For global competitiveness in the 21st century, increasng more rapidly recently due to the 2008 Olympics). So the protection of cultural heritgage comes from the protection of home language - And a decline in home language = an assault on culture. In essence assimilation = bad. And so in this way of thinking assimiliation would equate to racism - a destruction of a heritage culture in favor of a 'westernized' culture.
But in the US, a foundational value of the USA is 'melting pot'. Everyone welcome, but when you get here you need to join the crew. Freedom to practice your own religion, you own language and customs but assimilate into the whole for purposes of public life (separation of church and state, etc.) Assimiliation is valued. Desegregate equal schools values. No one culture is better, all are equal. Normalize the playing field using the English language in schools (a practical matter of providing equal access to education). Teach everyone about Martin Luther King, and teach everyone about Chinese New Year, (but don't teach anyone about Christmas - its religious.) We strive for equality - level playing field. Separate but Equal isn't even good enough.
A cultural difference in the 'value' placed on assimiliation. That's a difference in values and a difference in perspective. Not racism.
So with MI you have a position which is legitimately viewed as the antithises of racism by one half of the argument, and through cultural norms, the exact same position may be viewed as racist.
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 13, 2007 at 12:52 pm
I think my post may not have been clear. What we have here is not racism. Racism is a belief that one race is better than another. The comma in my original sentence, when reading it, is one of those occasions when if this was read aloud by the person making the statement would have shown exactly the intent.
My apologies if this was not clear.
We (not you and I, but we in Palo Alto) have a difference of opinions in this MI debate. It is nothing to do with race. Just two different groups of people who have different opinions.
Posted by let it go, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Jul 13, 2007 at 1:49 pm
Racism and bias based on difference is a universal phenomenon - even Jeff Blum suffers from this malady. I, the author of this post, suffer from this malady - we all do.
If you disagree, go take the Project Implicit test set up by Harvard - more than one million people have taken this test, most of them surprised at the level of bias and racism implicit in their thinking.
This is clearly not to say that racism should not be contained - it should, for the good of our society, and world.
Racism is evil, but it will probably always exist, unless we find a way to wash out the propensity for tribalism from our genetic heritage (fodder for another post, pehaps)
What bothers me about the recent meddling of an appointed city commission into these matters is that the commission is dealing with only a teeny part of the conflict, one not at all essental to its resoluton.
Yes, there probably was some implicit racism exhibited by some _few_ of those for, and against, the MI proposal. However, severe, overt racism was certainly NOT a primary driving component of the MI question. Why try to make that the case, and create a problem where none exists? This is what happens when we have appointed political commissions looking for ways to fill their respective agendas. There is a weird kind of Parkinson's Law at work in this case. The HRC seems to be looking for things to do.
The MI "problem" is NOT about race. Anyone trying to make it about race is going to CREATE ANOTHER PROBLEM in Palo Alto. Why add a variable that doesn't exist, to an already almost-intractable problem? This is mediational dysfunction at its worst. Those in the HRC who are operating with the assumption that racism is THE problem in MI, are operating with "naive realism".
If the HRC wants to improve that part of the spectrum of human relations that leads to the problem that was (and is) MI, perhaps it should look to the _structural_ problems inherent in PAUSD management and administraton that led to the possibility that the MI fiasco could even happen. But then again, that's not the purview of the HRC.
This latest faux pas by the HRC is a perfect example of how incomplete information - no matter how well-meaning - can contribute to mucking up city-school relations.
Certainly, there are bad feelings existant between the pro- and anti-MI camps, but butting in with one's own incomplete agenda, with an assumtion that that agenda will lead to healing, is wrong-headed.
Our city and school system need to work MUCH better TOGETHER, if this city is going to fire on all cylinders in the future. Currently, that is not happening.
That this meddling - and the WAY that it happened - has come from a group that is supposed to know something about mediation, is surprising.
Frankly, the HRC is one city commission that should probably be disbanded, wth special, temporary commissions appointed ad hoc, as problems occur.
Posted by Watched the HRC, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 13, 2007 at 3:03 pm
I watched the HRC following the interest generated here. The most interesting thing I saw was the one that followed this item.
The PAGE organization made a presentation that sounded like they were trying to co-opt the HRC. Seemingly they want to help us all get along, but since they are dominated by the Chamber of Commerce, and present and former Stanford development people, you have to wonder what they really want to accomplish.
I hope the HRC will look beyond the touchy feely rhetoric and see what is behind it.
Posted by Think before you speak, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 13, 2007 at 4:50 pm
Resident writes: "We (not you and I, but we in Palo Alto) have a difference of opinions in this MI debate. It is nothing to do with race. Just two different groups of people who have different opinions."
I agree with this, but as we all know, the debate went far beyond people holding and stating different opinions. If only it stayed that civil! What I saw over and over was the characterization (or mischaracterization) of people's opponents and their motives. Even on this thread, people have been described as: "me me me now now now" and "arrognace beyond any I had previously attributed to them" and "ramming their program down the throats of the majority of the community with little thought for the community at large."
This kind of language only serves to turn people -- people who disagree with you -- into stereotypes. They become either black or white, rather than "just a ... group of people who have different opinions."
In the interests of strengthening our community, I'm all for difference of opinion, vigorous debate and freedom of speech, but characterizing the opposing side (whichever opposing side that may be) as devious, arrogant or what-have-you goes beyond any of that and is far from helpful to any of us.
Posted by let it go, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Jul 13, 2007 at 5:44 pm
Think before you speak,
Can an oppostion be devious, or arrogant - on multiple levels? Think Bush; think Clinton; think many small-time politicians. Sometimes, one has to call a spade, a spade, and then move the negotiation and compromise from there. Nothing has been more toxic to the art of negotiaion and mediation in American culture than the apparant refusal to believe that people and groups sometimes exhibt onerous qualities, _as perceived by others_. You _have_ to start there, instead of guilt-tripping either party.
Posted by Kevin, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Jul 13, 2007 at 5:58 pm
Debate should allow opionions about other peoples' tacticts and motives. However, they should be backed up with evidence. We don't need something like the HRC to filter our debates.
If somebody says that a movement is arrogant for pushing an issue that is not even on the radar screen of PAUSD, then if the shoe fits.... Having said this, I have to say that I admire Grace Mah's steel spine. She is the Maggie Thatcher of Palo Alto. Only one person on the PAUSD board had the steel to stand up to her. I am willing to give her her due, and respect it, even though I disagree with the issue.
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 13, 2007 at 6:03 pm
I would have thought a better analogy would have been Gail Price as the Maggie Thatcher of Palo Alto. She stood her ground as the "Iron Lady" only unfortunately she did not win, as Maggie herself ultimately discovered.
Posted by Kevin, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Jul 13, 2007 at 6:26 pm
Yes, I understand that Gail Price held her ground. However, Grace Mah and Maggie Thatcher had to swim upstream to achieve their goals. Thatcher eventually had her come down, as will Mah. Nevertheless, I admire their steel spines.
I completely disagree with yet anohter choice program in PAUSD, but I can still respect the chutzpah that makes it happens.
We don't need a nutty thing like HRC to mediate chutzpah.
Posted by dott31, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Jul 13, 2007 at 7:10 pm
Becky, you are cryptic and tantalizing. What is your role? Are you perhaps a reporter? Please clarify whether or not you actually were at this meeting last night and what you've observed in Mr. Blum's stirring of the pot.
Posted by nancy, a resident of Los Altos Hills, on Jul 13, 2007 at 9:52 pm
A pro-MI woman who spoke at the HRC meeting last night complained that she felt attacked because the anti-MI people 1) referred to the MI-Charter proposal as a "threat" and 2) anti-MI people were not voicing similar complaints about the Spanish Immersion school.
I think that the BOE's reaction to the MI-Charter proposal shows that they regarded it as a threat. (My opinion is that it was a sincere proposal and a better idea because charter schools are not allowed to have ethnicity-based quotas, like "X% native Mandarin speakers," where X% is greater than the percentage of native Mandarin-speaking kids in the district as a whole.) So regardless of their intent, the charter proposal was perceived as a threat.
I assume that SI was intended to improve the performance (read "test scores") of Spanish-speaking kids if, on average, their test scores were below the average of other ethnic groups in the district. (I hope that isn't considered a racist statement.) If so, then it was intended to be a remedy, not a luxury. I don't think that this woman felt that she was comparing apples and oranges, but I do.
Most importantly, the woman did not acknowledge that the MI proposal seeks to extract an ethnicity-based subgroup (native Mandarin-speaking kids) from a group (all PAUSD kids) and create a small, separate school for them and that such a proposal might be perceived as a huge insult by PAUSD parents, in fact a kind of attack. Criticizing the extraction proposal could be perceived as complimentary ("Hey! Hoover is already extracting a disproportionate number of Asian kids from our neighborhood schools and an MI school will do this even more! We thought that we all valued the rich ethnic diversity in our schools, but now a cherished sub-group is trying to extract themselves!"). But apparently it was regarded as racism by some.
I wish that some pro-MI representative would acknowledge the above. (BTW, I am not anti, but there are many troubling aspects to the MI proposal, which makes it hard to be pro.)
Posted by interested, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jul 13, 2007 at 9:55 pm
I'd like to respond to "Kathy" and "Parent" who asked for information from people who had attended the HRC meeting. I did attend. It was a full house - standing room only! I arrived late and people accommodated me by setting up chairs in the front. I attended this meeting because of the agenda item- Civic Discourse and Community Conflicts. I was not, nor am an I currently interested in the sub-set focus that Jeff Blum set up for this discussion. I am an advocate for free speech and for promoting the avenues for free speech in the public area.
I frankly was impressed with civility in the conversation. Perhaps we need the HRC to be involved to keep up friendly.
Posted by Sid, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jul 14, 2007 at 12:00 am
"We (not you and I, but we in Palo Alto) have a difference of opinions in this MI debate. It is nothing to do with race. Just two different groups of people who have different opinions."
Sadly, it did not just boil down to differing opinions.
Some of those opposed to MI put out a variety of overtly racist arguments throughout the debate. It is not obvious to what extent others (not overtly racist) were motivated by covert racism, but the overt racism certainly made me wonder and led me to reevaluate my community.
I've come to believe that many in Palo Alto do not welcome the influx of Asians (American or otherwise) and that racism lies behind this.
Before you touch the keyboard, please note I am not saying that all opponents to MI are racist or that all arguments were motivated by racism. I am saying--with sadness--that PA has a problem with racism. Pretending otherwise will not resolve it.
Posted by let it go, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Jul 14, 2007 at 12:20 am
EVERY community has a problem with racism; that doesn't mean that racism is behind every nook and corner of community debate and misunderstanding.
Notice how what the HRC has done, and said, has now begun to shift perceptions ever-so-slightly to a place where some people are beginning to wonder whether racism WAS a major operative in the debate.
Frankly, I find this disturbing, because although there was a tiny racist component to the MI debate, the latter was NOT (and is not) driven by racist participants, or ideology.
To suggest otherwise, and create a meme that claims to be the overriding element of conflict between opponents in the MI debate is condescending, and just plain wrong.
If the HRC wants to deal with racism here, fine - but trying to impose it's seemingly hair-trigger "racism" rationale into things where it doesn't belong is a waste of time, and a cause for further community dissention.
This is, more than anything, annoyingly ironic - because the HRC is supposed to help resolve problems of human relations - racism among them, instead of fomenting even MORE community dissension.
Some members of this HRC have chosen to let their predisposed inclinations seep into the MI problem, unchecked. The irony lies in the fact that they may have opened wounds that were beginning to heal, and caused a peripheral inflammation about questions of race that might have legitmacy in the larger scope of things, but not in this specific case.
So, one can very well say that the HRC has been insensitive to the partcipants in the MI issue, and in doing so has painted the isisue with a qualityt that it mostly doesn't deserve.
Posted by Sid, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jul 14, 2007 at 1:10 am
"EVERY community has a problem with racism"
Of course, but that misses the point. I'm not talking about some kind of background racist hum deep in the skull of us all. I'm talking about a specific problem that raised its head during this MI debate.
You say racism did not play a major role in this and I hope you're right. But you don't know this, so one has to ask why you so make such a vehement claim. As a community, we should not be so quick to dismiss the possibility.
Posted by Pot Meet Kettle, a resident of Stanford, on Jul 14, 2007 at 8:28 am
Prime Minister Ehud Barak of Israel was among 50 world leaders who attended the January 2000 Holocaust education conference, where it was declared that the international community had a “solemn responsibility” to oppose genocide, ethnic cleansing, racism, and xenophobia. A reporter afterward asked Barak about the Palestinian refugees. Barak replied he was against even one refugee coming to Israel: "We cannot accept moral, legal, or other responsibility for refugees".
Conversely, the Anti-Defamation League published the following comments in 1999: The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today lauded the passage of sweeping changes in Germany’s immigration law, saying the easing of the nation’s once rigorous naturalization requirements “will provide a climate for diversity and acceptance. It is encouraging to see pluralism taking root in a society that, despite its strong democracy, had for decades maintained an unyielding policy of citizenship by blood or descent only,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. “The easing of immigration requirements is especially significant in light of Germany’s history of the Holocaust and persecution of Jews and other minority groups. The new law will provide a climate for diversity and acceptance in a nation with an onerous legacy of xenophobia, where the concept of ‘us versus them’ will be replaced by a principle of citizenship for all.”
One wonders what is Jeff Blum's opinion of the towering hypocrisy of Jewish ethnocentrism coinciding as it does with Jewish activism against the ethnocentrism of non-Jewish Europeans.
Whatever the answer to that question may be, Blum needs to find a way to talk about people who oppose policies he endorses without tarring them as “anti-Semites” or "racists".
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jul 14, 2007 at 4:13 pm
You know the problem with the racism accusations? After all this time, no one seems to come up with anything more specific than "feeling pressure". Where are the specifics to back up the accusations? Lots of people have said lots of things about Mandarin Immersion, but how coming up with a couple of clearly racist arguments put forth by MI opponents?
The racism accusations were used, in my opinion, over and over and over again to avoid the addressing of very real concerns of the MI opponents.
As far the admirability of Grace Mah's spine--I suppose it can be called determination, it can also be called self-absorbed. Also, if you have to do anything to win, it's not worth it.
I don't expect the next bond issue to pass--even in the best of times, it's hard to get that 67 percent. Now, people who support the schools are angry. Some will vote against the bond. Some will vote yes, but they won't push other people to vote yes for it.
So, was MI worth the hundreds of millions this could potentially cost the district?
Posted by Emperor has no clothes, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jul 14, 2007 at 6:27 pm
"You know the problem with the racism accusations? After all this time, no one seems to come up with anything more specific than "feeling pressure". Where are the specifics to back up the accusations?"
Actually, if you look back at the threads going back a year or more, you will find people pointing to the specifics again and again and again. Go look. You will also find people defending the racist statements again and again and again. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
I think you can see the problem with all these denials: they set the bar for racism very high. On this view, there is no racism unless crosses are burning on lawns. It is a naive and unworldly approach, but it does allow one to claim that "racism accusations were used" for political ends.
Posted by Taxed out, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jul 14, 2007 at 10:20 pm
OhlonePar predicts the next bond measure will fail because people are angry about district affairs. I predict the next bond measure will fail because we are already paying parcel taxes from two previous elections, and I think there must be others like my family who are not as rich as Palo Altans are purported to be. Parcel taxes, checks to PiE, checks to PTA, and fundraising for booster groups makes for a high price to pay for public schooling. Not to mention being hit up over and over for fees for photocopied class materials at the secondaries and field trips in the elementaries. It's not any one expense that's the killer, but the aggregate of so many demands for cash makes the thought of one more hefty tax hike more than I'm willing to contemplate, no matter how good the cause. My family isn't starving, but our savings account isn't growing either.
Posted by let it go, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Jul 14, 2007 at 10:34 pm
Sid said: "You say racism did not play a major role in this and I hope you're right. But you don't know this, so one has to ask why you so make such a vehement claim."
I followed the entire thing VERY closely, and will stand on my analysis. The HRC's action is self-serving, and problem-CREATING, instead of problem-resolving. Racism was not a driving force on eiether side of the MI debate. To claim otherwise serves only those who make the claim - think about it.
What's even more irksome is that there is a pasty tone to those who are always looking to "mediate" problems that they consciously or unconsciously project into everything. The HRC projects the propensities of certain of its more high profile members into our community - in this case, racism. What a waste of community time, especially when energy funneled into the self-invented 'pathology' that has been 'identified' by Mr. Blum in this case could be put to more valuable use.
My hope is that the HRC's current snafu doesn't bear fruit, instead of ripening into the prickly-pear kind of regret that will waste good community energy, for naught.
I can find racism in a lot of places; that doesn't mean it's the driving force in those places. I can find poverty in a lot of places; selfishness, etc. etc. So?
The HRC needs a lesson in System's Theory, instead of allopathic piecemeal attempts to use itself to satisfy the whims of certain of its members.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jul 15, 2007 at 12:08 am
Sorry, I don't buy it--surely, something a little more solid than allegations about anonymous postings can be found? Again, there's a lack of specificity. I asked for clearly racism-based arguments. Not just posts, but arguments.
Because given how loaded the term is, I think, frankly, there should be something pretty damn clear and definitive.
What you mention makes a bond issue a big challenge, my point is that MI will be a last straw. In part, because of what you say--after all, we passed that last bond issue and all we got is a specialty program wanted by few, benefitting few.
Posted by David Taylor, a resident of the Ventura neighborhood, on Jul 15, 2007 at 5:12 am
I guess it's true that misery loves company, because I'm loving this chorous of misery resulting from the absurd bluster of the Human Relations Commissioner who seems completely incapable of relating to humans.
In another PA Weekly guest editorial two years ago (Web Link), the Blum "fair and balanced" approach to community members' call for greater police accountability suffered from some of the same flaws demonstrated here:
1. To Blum, the real problem was "the flood of emails...from what appears to be a few unhappy residents". As in the MI case, his "mediation" began with the assumption that one side lacked legitimacy. Worse, in this case, the side he casually dismissed was precisely the group the HRC is charged to hear:
"The Human Relations Commission is charged with the discretion to act with respect to any human relations matter when the Commission finds that any person or group does not benefit fully from public or private opportunities or resources in the community, or is unfairly or differently treated due to factors of concern to the Commission..."
Note that this states "any person or group", yet Blum seemed to be imposing his own (unstated) threshold requirement: a blatant absurdity, since discriminatory police practices, by definition, affect only marginalized populations.
2. The bulk of the article is gushing praise for the police chief: "a breath of fresh air", "reacting in positive ways to problems". Blum made it clear that he felt that issues would be resolved by getting reports from the police chief - not by listening to unhappy residents.
Then who needs an HRC so firmly bonded with the public resource of concern? Similarly, when Blum discovered the MI debate (crediting his discovery to "faithful perusal of the Weekly", though it was the talk of the town everywhere I went - maybe he needs to get his head OUT of the paper), he astutely assessed that a group may be feeling they are not fully benefitting from a public resource (schools). He then immediately sided with the school board, by declaring the issue resolved, and invited those benefiting from the decision - but not the group he suspected felt resentment (they lacked legitimacy).
3. Around the time of the police article, he invited "a few unhappy residents" (via private e-mail) to meet with the HRC Police Subcommittee - during business hours, at a restaurant. He brushed aside protests that the time, venue, and lack of public notice restricted public participation - until it was pointed out to him that it also violated Brown Act requirements on venue and notice. So it comes as no surprise when I read him implore attendance to the MI meeting, on the day before the meeting, in a guest editorial that's easily missed if you don't do a "faithful perusal of the Weekly".
The posts above capture the essence of the Blum approach: "bizarre", "strange and unworkable", "pompous", "full of himself" (in the first paragraph of the section titled "Some Background", look at how all the sentences begin: "I am, I am, I am, I read, Reading is also MY WAY". And then there's the plug for his family law practice...) - yup, yup, yup, yup. Let me add one more: self-serving.
Are you getting the message, Blum? Don't quit your day job just yet. Wait - mediating IS your day job! Maybe that's why you have so much time to peruse the Weekly, drum up business for the HRC, and write inane editorials. Business a little slow, maybe?
Posted by Taxed out, a member of the Gunn High School community, on Jul 15, 2007 at 10:23 am
OhlonePar, I voted for the last bond measure, and I disagree with your assessment that "all we got" was MI. We got MI, all right, but not with parcel tax money. Here's what the bond is supposed to fund (from Web Link):
• Restore some of the programs and replace some of the funds lost or reduced due to
• Sustain achievement in reading, writing, and mathematics for all students at all grade
levels by preserving smaller class sizes, while maintaining the ability to attract and retain
• Maintain essential academic programs, including science, reading, math, music, and art
Teachers have gotten raises instead of pink slips, and class size reduction has been not only continued but expanded. Many programs hit by past budget cuts have been restored or at least maintained. Has the parcel tax fixed all our problems? Hardly. But we're getting what we voted for, and I'm satisfied that the parcel tax monies are spent for good causes. MI money came from MI proponents, not the parcel tax.
Do we need more money? Sure. Always. Can all Palo Alto families afford higher taxes? Not mine. I'm not voting for any new parcel tax until I win the lottery.
Posted by 4clarity, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jul 15, 2007 at 12:28 pm
Becky Trout is a reporter for the Palo Alto Weekly. She attended the HRC meeting Thursday night.
"Actually, I decided to do more of a look at why and how than just a quirk story on what happened Thursday night.
So it might be a bit."
Posted by Becky Trout, a resident of another community, on Jul 13, 2007 at 6:35 pm
"Becky, you are cryptic and tantalizing. What is your role? Are you perhaps a reporter? Please clarify whether or not you actually were at this meeting last night and what you've observed in Mr. Blum's stirring of the pot."
Posted by dott31, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Jul 13, 2007 at 7:10 pm
Posted by Emperor has no clothes, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jul 15, 2007 at 6:49 pm
Well, golly, OP, it'd sure be nice if we could get photocopies of the signed "Bigot and Racist Yearbook" so you could have your documentary proof. Huh??? Talk about out of touch! I'm afraid racism doesn't work this way.
Look at these threads, review tapes of the board meetings (more than one outright racist comment): the comments and arguments are all there.
Posted by dott31, a resident of the Fairmeadow neighborhood, on Jul 15, 2007 at 8:02 pm
Becky, Are you a reporter or a columnist or editorial writer? I am a former journalist and know that what the readers need to know first and foremost is a factual and objective account of events and comments on that night. If you were there, you should give us the facts of the matter in as detailed a manner as possible. If you are now contemplating it all while preparing to give us an analysis, I fear your analysis is not something we can trust. Just to fill us in, what are your journalistic credentials?
Posted by 4clarity, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jul 15, 2007 at 8:13 pm
Becky Trout is a reporter. Her byline is on a number of articles in the Palo Alto Weekly as well as some of the articles posted on paloaltoonline. I too would like an objective accounting of the HRC meeting and look forward to Becky's article....SOON.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jul 15, 2007 at 8:36 pm
Actually, racism does work that way. Or any derogatory accusation. IF you can't back it up with something solid and specific, it's just a convenient slur.
In contrast, think about George Allen, the former Virginia senator. The allegations of racism were very specific. The first one, of course, was on tape. It was then investigated and supported by a long history of racist comments and incidents on Allen's part.
What we seem to have hear are convenient and vague allegations of racism by some in the pro-MI camp against those opposed to MI. They came up as a way of dodging an honest examination of the issues involved in MI--i.e. to oppose MI meant getting smeared as a racist--an accusation that is somewhat hard to defend against--how do you prove a negative?--and upsetting.
Do you acknowledge that there were non-racists opposed to MI?
Posted by media center junkie, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jul 16, 2007 at 1:08 pm
FYI, if you're interested in knowing what happened at the HRC meeting Thursday night, why not watch it on the media center webcast. All Palo Alto City Council and Commission meetings are archived on the media center's website. Follow the link below to archived meetings.
Posted by resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 16, 2007 at 4:18 pm
actually, as far as racism goes, it can cut both ways. I heard shades of it from a couple opponents, ( "I don't want to attract more of those people" ) and from a couple proponents also. I can be specific - "if MI is not implemented, the IQ of PA will go down"..."what do you call someone who speaks one language? American"..."anyone against this is a typical short-sighted American". ..all sound horribly racist to me, ie stereotyping about a certain group of people. Of course, this was just a couple idiots who said such silly stuff, so i brushed it off.
so, let's all just quit with the racist bs and move on, ok? how many times are we going to rehash this? Let's acknowledge there were a few idiots on both sides, no shock in a city of 65,000, and get over ourselves!
and we wonder why the Sunnis and Shias can't get along in Iraq!!
Posted by Think before you speak, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 17, 2007 at 3:50 pm
let it go writes: "Can an oppostion be devious, or arrogant - on multiple levels? Think Bush; think Clinton; think many small-time politicians. Sometimes, one has to call a spade, a spade, and then move the negotiation and compromise from there. Nothing has been more toxic to the art of negotiaion and mediation in American culture than the apparant refusal to believe that people and groups sometimes exhibt onerous qualities, _as perceived by others_. You _have_ to start there, instead of guilt-tripping either party."
I see your point. We mustn't ignore what is motivating someone's actions, but I'd be careful as to the effect of calling people out -- rather than approaching them first (and perhaps repeatedly) in a way that shows you're trying to understand and work with them. I mean, how many of us, after being called arrogant or racist by someone, are really going to feel inclined to talk with that person?
I'd say it's one thing to *know* that a spade is a spade. The problem I have is that my *calling* someone a spade comes awfully close to guilt-tripping them. (I am of course speaking about situations, local ones, in which you *can* talk with someone.)
Kevin says, "Debate should allow opionions about other peoples' tacticts and motives. However, they should be backed up with evidence."
Well, that makes sense. If it's clear evidence and someone's on tape saying, "I don't think (fill in the blank) people should live here" -- or "Macaca, or whatever his name is. Welcome to America." -- then sure.
But for the sake of discussion, there are so many shades of gray to these qualities that I have to wonder if most people are really proving anything when they give 'evidence.' Take, for example, a person who is persistent in trying to achieve his goal: Is that a show of dedication? Selfishness? Stubbornness? Desperation? Ignorance? Manipulativeness? Idealism?
Without having sat down with the person and discussed the issue, can I REALLY know what is motivating him or her? Am I giving the benefit of the doubt? Sometimes I think we do better accepting the differing cultures and values of people who live in other countries than we do accepting the differing values that motivate the people who live next door.
As these issues go on, the pitfall to the community is that each side gives the impression (intentionally?) that the other side is fatally flawed. I'd feel better if I knew people on both sides (of whatever issue) are willing to say, "Yeah, I disagree with them and I *do* think their tactics are disingenuous. But I'm willing to say my motives/tactics may not be clear either."
Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 18, 2007 at 12:26 pm
What ever happened to Becky? Becky are you doing some investigating to find out some answers for us? Or did someone tell you to drop it and move on to something else? Why haven't we heard or seen anything more on this from the paper, even though you said you were looking in to it?
Why did the HRC take this up in the first place? Were there actual allegations they were hoping to investigate? Or are they investigating 'feelings' and monitoring speech?
What is Blum's connection to some of the main MI Proponents (ie: Mah, Townsend)
What was the final outcome of that meeting from the perspective of the HRC committee memebers? Is the HRC taking any further action? What action? When? Based on what information?
What does Blum have to say for himself in reponse to the complaints leveled against the HRC and/or Blum in this forum and via the complaint letter that was mentioned in another article?
What are the comments from City Council and other community leaders in response to questions about what the HRC's true charter and authority really is, and whether they actually have charter to investigate anything and everything they please, and whether the city council plans to take any action that would safeguard this community's civil rights (freedom of speech for one) in the future.
Becky, hope you haven't just fizzled out on us here...
Posted by Emperor, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jul 18, 2007 at 4:20 pm
Thanks, your post shows, I think, that you don't really understand racism in America today. Those who are affected are, for the most part, not quaking in their boots because of George Allen's comments. The more common problem is closer to home and can be anonymous. If you need something specific, go to the threads. Many specific, racist arguments were mounted against MI there.
Your argument (we should not call out racists because that would stymie the debate) actually feeds racism. Wow. Guess what that would be called.
Posted by Quotes, please., a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 18, 2007 at 6:19 pm
For example, I agree with OP that racism works precisely the way that you are doing..state an opinion as a fact without backing it up with facts, and others take it as a fact and apply it to whichever group you have stated is great at basketball, or math, or whatever.
If there is a data point, or a personal data point " I have known 10 white people, and 9 of them had PhDs in Chemistry, therefore I conclude that white people are inclined toward chemistry", it wouldn't be a "fact" per se, but at least it would bolster why you believe what you believe. But if you simply make you statement without back-up, and nobody else can back it up, then it is something else.
so, you have heard acknowledgement that there are a few idiots on both sides of any issue, including this one, including a racist or two on both side...what more do you want? Very few, if any, will accept that the flavor of the entire debate was racist, on either side.
Posted by Emperor, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jul 18, 2007 at 9:31 pm
You've come late to the discussion; racist arguments were mounted by anti-MI people a number of times (look at the threads, this has come up before).
Your PhD analogy doesn't hold. No one claimed that the anti-MI gang are inclined toward racism. The claim was that particular arguments were racist (individuals have PhDs). Now, people like OP say this is the same as saying all anti-MI arguments are racist--that way OP tries to deny that the particular arguments are racist. It doesn't make sense, I know, but that is their position.
In any case, OP and others have defended the racist arguments.
Yes, there were a couple slurs by pro-MI people, but it never rose to the level of repeated argument. And no one from the pro-MI side defended those remarks to my knowledge.
It seems to me that when someone says they find something you say to be racist, you ought to examine that seriously. Sadly, there was no self-reflection, just a knee-jerk defense, a fallback to the position that no, racism could not have been a motivator in enlightened PA except for "a few idiots." In fact, people put those racist arguments out again and again under different names. I don't know if 100% of those opposed are racist or if there is just one lonely person posting under many different names. Perhaps anti-MI forces who were uncomfortable with the racism kept quiet in hopes it would go away.
I found it troubling to see racist arguments come up again and again, and to see those arguments defended when labeled for what they were--no matter how many posters were behind them. I would hope this would trouble you, too.
Posted by Emperor Penguin, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 18, 2007 at 9:44 pm
Emp, sorry that you can't be troubled to dig up the nasty racism in our midst. To call others racist without something specific ("search the threads") seems like race baiting to me. Esp when you say that anyone who doesn't already agree must be, what, a racist too?
I am sure some nut jobs said idiot stuff about the heathen chinese. Cringe and move on; that's what I did. "I don't know if 100% of those opposed are racist..." Please - give me a break.
Go ahead and spend your time navel gazing about anti-Chinese "racism," and wondering if the people who disagree with you cried "racism!" just because they disagreed or actually felt the heavy burden of race-based prejudice. The rest of us can turn our attention to actually trying to make good policy and get things done.
Posted by yet another parent, a member of the Escondido School community, on Jul 18, 2007 at 11:50 pm
"It seems to me that when someone says they find something you say to be racist, you ought to examine that seriously. Sadly, there was no self-reflection"
Agreed. And likewise, when a community and a voting school board says that they find your proposed (MI) agenda not to be a priority at this time and vote against it, you ought to examine that seriously. Sadly, there was no self-reflection or acknowledgement that maybe others don't share your vision of what's best for the district at this time.
Posted by yet another parent, a member of the Escondido School community, on Jul 19, 2007 at 1:20 am
BTW, if you really are interested in having the other party hear your accusations, it'd help if you phrased it in a way that doesn't come across as a hostile attack, and that you don't miscommunicate it to the media as something bigger than it is, or something that represents the entire - or majority - of the opposing view.
There were a few isolated incidences of racist remarks from both sides of the MI debate. From following the conversations here and elsewhere, I don't believe the racist part of those individuals' views are representative of the majority of people on their respective sides.
Further, a racist remark (if indeed it is racist) doesn't necessarily negate the rest of what a person says. The remark itself and the underlying causes are reason for concern, but can we keep them in perspective? The remark is bad, the underlying cause of the remark is bad, other remarks from the same person are not necessarily invalid, and remarks made by other people on the same side of the debate should be judged independently.
Finally, "racist" is a loaded insult, different from mundane insults like "dumb", "naive", "short-sighted", etc. When "racist" is hurled at someone - legitimately or not - it tends to stick. Casually calling someone "racist" is playing dirty. You ought to seriously examine your accusation before making it. Is it possible that the person you're about to accuse of being racist is simply not expressing him/herself well? Is it possible that you’re intentionally misinterpreting their comment because it was poorly phrased? It can be tempting in an emotionally-charged debate.
Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 19, 2007 at 8:04 am
Emporer said: "No one claimed that the anti-MI gang are inclined toward racism. The claim was that particular arguments were racist (individuals have PhDs). Now, people like OP say this is the same as saying all anti-MI arguments are racist"
Actually, that was exactly what was going on. Opposition to MI was raising MANY real issues with the MI proposal - and the Pro MI camp was not only failing to answer those issues, but instead using the 'race card' to try to disparage the opposition wholesale, and to attempt to divert attention away from the fact that there were no reasonable answers for those issues.
Pro MI spokesmen along with MANY of the papers that talked about this issue in print continually persisted in pubilicly throwing in claims or musings of racism behind the opposition in general, not about a particular individual or particular comment, but when talking about the opposition as a whole.
In other words - 'yes we're creating a huge problem here with this illconcieved MI idea, but let me call your entire side of the debate ugly names, and maybe that will embarrass you, and make you go away.' This was an intentional political tactic used by the pro-MI camp to scare off the opposition. This is akin to a defense attorney calling an assault victim a hussy.
By the way, to see similar tactics on display NOW in a current event close to home, go take a look at coverage on San Francisco Supervisor Ed Jew. Same tactic.
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 19, 2007 at 9:54 am
It is a well known strategy that if you are not doing well in an argument (intellectual debate) that you start looking for something in the opposition's argument that can be criticised. If someone is looking for a way out, then they will find something that could be misconstrued as a racist comment, take it out of context, and lo and behold, it comes out as something that the original speaker had no intention to make.
I agree with YAP above that there is intentional misinterpretation of poorly phrased comments.
Posted by Emperor, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jul 19, 2007 at 11:33 am
"Actually, that was exactly what was going on. Opposition to MI was raising MANY real issues with the MI proposal - and the Pro MI camp was ... using the 'race card' to try to disparage the opposition wholesale"
No, that was a fiction invented by the anti-MI group. Some people merely objected to the racism. Now you want those who object to racism to keep their mouths shut about the racism. Wow, how much of their speech do you feel it's your right to control?
"Pro MI spokesmen along with MANY of the papers that talked about this issue in print continually persisted in pubilicly throwing in claims or musings of racism behind the opposition in general, not about a particular individual or particular comment, but when talking about the opposition as a whole."
Propaganda. No, never when talking about the opposition as a whole. Read more carefully. You raise a good point, though, in pointing out that many outside observers--including newspapers--saw racism at work among the anti-MI crowd. It wasn't just a couple of people who saw the racism--it was a widely shared perception.
You object to the term "racism" because it is an "ugly name" and someone else complains that it is a loaded insult. The name fits the actions. And if by loaded you mean it contains a value judgement, yes, that is right. I'm not interested in merely labeling a deplorable action with a neutral term; I want to deplore it.
"I agree with YAP above that there is intentional misinterpretation of poorly phrased comments."
Naw, too cheap and easy. It was what it seemed. There was never a reason to bring in race, but it was raised repeatedly by anti-MI agitators. Now they are unhappy to be called out. We can add this (misinterpretation) to the other classics used to excuse racist talk: I didn't mean it that way, you're too touchy, it was a joke, you're playing the race card, no one else is complaining, you're just saying that because you're losing the argument, my best friend is an x-American, etc.
Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 19, 2007 at 11:56 am
"Merely objected to "the" racism"....
What racism? You are doing it again. You invented racism, call it fact, and applied it to the whole no on MI side of the debate, then objected vehemently to it, as if by inventing it, it exists.
And no, no one ever saw racism at work, there were never any quotes or specifics, there were vague suggestions planted by the proponents (such as: the proponents said they felt that racism was underlying the debate) and so the reporters fed on the suggestion of racism to make the story more volatile and interesting. That doesn't mean it exists. It means the reporters siezed on an opportunity to create brighter more interesting flames - to attract more moths.
After all, its not very interesting to debate such things as district strategic priorities. Is it.
That certainly wouldn't have made national news. I wonder what the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal, (or the SJ Merc for that matter) would have said if Mah would have contacted them to inform them of our PAUSD MI debate and told them it boils down to a question of district and community priorities and district resource constraints?
Posted by parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 19, 2007 at 2:12 pm
A nice demonstration of how the 'race card' works in the ploy to divert the discussion from actual issues. Just keep using the R word and you should be able to avoid answering for the program or debating the issue of importance to the community... pretty much forever. Nifty how that works.
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 19, 2007 at 3:10 pm
I loved the reference to the Ed Jew issue in SF. I had been waiting for the "r" card to be thrown down to divert attention from the real issue of not being able to show in any way that he was actually living where he said he was living.
I was waiting for it because of our experiences here with the MI thing.
If Ed Jew were white, the papers and supporters of Ed would have to stick to the actual story.
I think our country, or at least our area, has sunk very, very low, exploiting race at every turn. It is a given, pay attention to the stories. If it involves a person who isn't white, the "r" word will come up.
Frankly, I am waiting for it to come up to anyone who opposes Obama.
We all just have to have the strenght to stick to our opinions and why we believe what we believe, and be willing to endure the inevitable slur if we are opposing an issue proposed by someone not-white. That is the only way to stop the new racism.
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 19, 2007 at 3:15 pm
And, as a reminder of something I have seen in our other threads..because people don't want some aspects of the culture of another country overtaking our "culture", it doesn't mean they are racist. It means they want to keep their culture the same.
I heard "hissing" several times at comments that were expressing fear of losing English as primary in our schools or our society, or fear of increasing academic pressure on our kids, or fear of teaching the joys of communism to our kids, ...and I know those comments were taken as "racist"..I heard them as "culturalist", and take them in the same light as I take the French protesting another McDs or the Chinese protesting a Starbucks. Nobody here takes that as racist, we understand it is a people defending their culture.
I think we need to stop being so rigid,sensitive and "chip on the shoulder-ish" on this subject.
Posted by yet another parent, a member of the Escondido School community, on Jul 19, 2007 at 3:58 pm
"There was never a reason to bring in race, but it was raised repeatedly by anti-MI agitators."
Emperor, if you could be more careful in the way you phrase these accusations, you might even have a point. For example, try saying "but it was raised several times by a small handful of anti-MI agitators" and there might be some truth to your statement. I'm opposed to MI -- I wouldn't label myself an "agitator" -- yet I have not repeatedly brought in race as a significant argument. Therefore I feel offended when your words could be interpreted by readers to mean “all anti-MI” which would include me.
The questionable comments from the few individuals who have made racist-like arguments against MI are harmful to the rest of us who oppose MI for more grounded reasons. The comments make me cringe since they can now be picked up by the pro-MI side and flung at all of us or paraded in the media. There is no single voice of opposition: everyone is speaking for themselves.
Since we're on the topic, why IS race such a taboo subject? Why is it that “There was never a reason to bring in race”? I think it's a safe assumption that MI attracts a disproportionate number of Chinese parents. So what? I also think it's a fact that having unique programs such as MI, SI, Hoover and Ohlone attracts parents from other districts who would like their children to benefit from these programs that they can’t find elsewhere. So they move here for the program when they might not otherwise. That's a safe assumption, and a conclusion that Marilyn Cook has made on record, as well. Some of these programs are more attractive to certain ethnic groups, drawing them to the district. Likewise, some of these programs attract a disproportionate number of students from certain ethnic groups from PAUSD's neighborhood schools. Again, these are simple facts. So what? There's no "racism" involved by stating facts. It is the way it is. How people internalize these facts and pass judgments on the effects is where racism *might* enter.
Some people opposing MI expressed regret that the families they value in their local neighborhood school – Chinese families among others – would leave their neighborhood school community in favor of MI. What is so racist about that?
There ARE racial aspects to MI; that doesn’t imply racism. Racial does not equal Racist.
Posted by yet another resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 19, 2007 at 4:07 pm
Now I think we are hitting the nail on the head. If I disagree with my neighbor and he is the same race as me, that is alright. If I disagree with my neighbor who is of a different race, then my disagreement is because I am racist.
OK so now the only people who we can disagree with are those who of the same race.
Posted by Emperor, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jul 19, 2007 at 5:28 pm
"Emperor, if you could be more careful in the way you phrase these accusations, you might even have a point. For example, try saying "but it was raised several times by a small handful of anti-MI agitators" and there might be some truth to your statement."
No, you are misreading my statement. It does not state or imply that ALL those opposed to MI raised race or are agitators. I do not know how widespread the underlying sentiment is, but like you I hope it is limited. I cringed when I read the statements, not because the statements could be flung about but because they crossed the line.
Race is not taboo, it has its place. You say, "I think it's a safe assumption that MI attracts a disproportionate number of Chinese parents. So what?" I don't think it's a safe assumption, but even if it were, why would you state it? What relevance does skin color have to discussing, say, district priorities? One might think district priorities cut against MI (or don't), but they do so independently of the skin color of those you (or I) guess will enroll their kids.
"Some of these programs are more attractive to certain ethnic groups, drawing them to the district." You don't know this, but again even if it were true, what is the relevance to this debate? Why raise race? Statements of "fact" like yours are already racist. When you raise race in this irrelevant context, knowing the use such statements can be put to, one can only (reasonably) assume you are trying to scare white people with the specter of an influx of Asians/Asian-Americans. You hope to drum up antagonism for MI by implying that PA will be swamped by a different race.
Think about it this way. Suppose you told me about a Paly kid who was violent, and I asked you if he was black. Same thing. When you raise race in this way, you betray your own race mindset. This is why newspapers stopped reporting the race of individuals involved in crime (unless it is relevant, say, you want to alert a neighborhood to a white male approx 32 who burgled several homes).
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 19, 2007 at 6:15 pm
This is beginning to get silly.
If German was being offered, I think it would be relevant to say that people of German descent were more attracted to it than other races. If Hebrew were being offered, I feel more Jewish people would be attracted. If Hula were offered, I feel more Hawaiian people would be attracted. These are not racial remarks. These are facts if this indeed is what is happening. In fact, it would be much more noteworthy if this was not the case. If more non-Asians rather than Asians were attracted to this MI program, I would really like to know out of interest and not because it was a racial remark.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jul 19, 2007 at 6:48 pm
And your expertise on racism in America today is the result of?
Sorry, dude, won't wash. Your arguments, such as they are, are ones I first heard about thirty years ago. It's funny to see how things get recycled.
And where did I defend a racist argument? That's an ugly charge, so I'd like a specific example of where I did this.
Oh, that's right, you can't be bothered with anything like evidence, because that's not how racism works in America today. Let me guess, you embrace truthiness.
How convenient for you. But a lovely example of how the racism charge is used to slime MI opponents.
I will say that I think it's the job of the American public schools to help create Americans, not to promote any kind of cultural isolationism. I think we've got a problem with cultural fragmentation as it is.
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 19, 2007 at 7:33 pm
I think you have that completely wrong. I would like my children to learn the Bible. I don't expect many people would condone American public schools teaching that. I would also like my children to learn Irish since we have strong connections there and I had to learn it at school. Once again, I don't think there would be many who want it and therefore my thoughts wouldn't be taken too seriously by the BoE.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jul 19, 2007 at 8:30 pm
Once again, where did I defend a racist argument? Be specific.
And, no, it's not the job of public schools to deliver the education parents want. Many parents want religious education--that has no place in public schools. This is why we have private schools. Many parents don't want their children associating with kids who don't look like theirs. This is why we have antidiscrimination laws.
You need to read up a bit on the history of American public schools and their role. And, yes, those government/civics requirements aren't an accident. "American" is not an ethnicity--it's a deliberately created nationality.
Public education is not a simple giveaway--the nation, as a whole, expects to get an educated populace in return able to govern itself effectively. There's a basic social contract here about which you seem not to have not thought about much.
Posted by emperor, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Jul 19, 2007 at 9:24 pm
"I think you have that completely wrong. I would like my children to learn the Bible."
Well, obviously within constraints. No religion (separation of church and state); no bomb-making (dangerous), etc. Irish, sure, depending on demand and other issues.
Racism: see the threads.
Since you're so keen on civics, you should brush up on civil rights, which do give minorities the same privileges despite your fond memories of a time when no one brought up racism. (Seems kinda odd that you would argue against providing the kind of education parents want given that you claim to have a kid in OHLONE!)
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jul 19, 2007 at 11:16 pm
Rights, not privileges. Public education is a right, specialized language instruction for a few is a privilege. Thus, the 1965 Civil Rights Act. There's nothing discriminatory about not offering a perk to a select few.
So is this, what, the eighth time you've been asked to back up your accusation and bailed on it?
But now you're bringing up Ohlone--thank you--one of my longstanding objections to Mandarin Immersion is that it would effectively bumps Ohlone's own large waiting list. I think the choice programs should be more widely available. This situation where many families cannot get into Ohlone while a small choice program with a more limited appeal takes space on the campus is outlandish.
Our choice programs need to be real choice programs--not something limited to siblings and a lucky handful. A small MI program is too big for Ohlone, but too small to a real choice program.
No wonder you can't back up your accusations--you're not even familiar with my perspective on Ohlone.
So, just a reminder about racism. Racism's ugly legacy includes genocide, slavery, apartheid, internment camps and denial of basic human rights. It's a loaded term--and one, I think, if you had any interest in doing more than avoiding real discussion, you'd be less casual about flinging it.
Posted by yet another parent, a member of the Escondido School community, on Jul 19, 2007 at 11:50 pm
Emperor, that was a pretty funny response! I do believe I’ve been called a racist. My friends (from both sides of the debate – I’m not as hostile as you’d like to make me out to be) would get a kick out of reading this exchange, especially the motives you’ve so self-assuredly provided me with. You obviously don’t know me very well or you’d have an embarrassed little laugh over your response, too.
I think you missed my point: with a mature audience it ought to be acceptable to speak about all aspects of an issue, including racial impacts. Where we run into trouble is how people react to those probable truths*.
(*Please don’t try to convince me that the Mandarin language is going to attract more people from, say, South America or Europe or Africa than from China. I won’t buy it. If you need convincing, visit Jordan Middle School’s summer sessions and see for yourself what the students’ ethnic make-up of the Spanish, French and Mandarin classes look like. Check the district reports for the ethnicities of students at Hoover, Ohlone, SI, and the various neighborhood schools. These are facts.)
The person who observes a fact, trend or probable outcome is not the racist; it’s the person who over-reacts with fear, hatred or pre-judgments who is corrosive to the discussion and to our community.
Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Jul 20, 2007 at 2:29 pm
Checked out your first link. It's an excellent example of the race-baiting that's gone on. One poster's comment about the pro-MI crowd was construed to be racist, but it didn't hold water.
I remember being attacked (the comment's been cut) because I didn't attack the poster. In other words, if *I* didn't agree a comment was racist--in fact if I said nothing about it (which was the case)--I was a racist.
It's all so transparently self-serving--just like that steady stream of comments about feeling "racial pressure" and how racism today is so nebulous that it doesn't lend itself to specifics.
All the pleasures of victimhood without any of the inconveniences.
Posted by Looked at a thread, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 20, 2007 at 10:12 pm
Looking at just that first thread we:
Amid all the claims from the anti-MI camp that it would be a Chinese-race-only program, one anti-poster said that Chinese are "all-for-us, we don't need to volunteer, our kids don't need to/can't play because they have violin, swimming, Chinese 9(guess that would go away) tennis, non-team, non-group activities." The same poster also said that she would "love the MI group to be in MV."
She was saying Chinese are selfish, uncooperative, and insular, and she was saying they should go to MV.
OhlonePar saw nothing objectionable here but did offer a weak justification ("PA Mom was using a confusing shorthand").
In these threads and in public comments, MI foes displayed a boggling ignorance of Chinese, Chinese-Americans, Asians, and Asian-Americans, often conflating them. Not really racism.
Additionally, racial stereotypes (of Chinese and Chinese-Americans) were raised many times in arguing against MI (Chinese are rich and should pay; clever Chinese are chiseling us; Chinese will not assimilate; Chinese are smart and should not be given an advantage; Chinese do not share American values). Some also argued that SI was acceptable for Hispanics but MI was not for Chinese.
Seems pretty clear why some people saw racism at work.
Posted by Placida, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Jul 21, 2007 at 9:25 am
Historian, I read one of your examples, #1214, which I selected at random. I saw discussions/debate, not evil racism. I read about the use of the word "minority" and how it may have been misread, misused, or misinterpreted. I saw discussions about culture and to me the postings seemed more like efforts towards describing perceptions and misperceptions which may lead to biases, attempts at understanding and being understood. Thank you for directing me back to that thread. I read comments from people who, on the whole, were making efforts to understand and be understood. Emperor and Historian are trying very hard to keep the racism claims alive. Are these two also the ones who speak publicly about the need for "healing"?
Posted by to emporer, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 21, 2007 at 10:06 am
Emporer: I reviewed to make sure I remembered right. Thanks for your threads review. The vast majority, literally all but one poster, that I saw said " MI proponents" not "Chinese" are rich/selfish/should try MV blah blah..YOU are the one assuming the program was only of interest to the Chinese ( albeit the MANDARIN speaking Chinese) community by conflating "proponents" with "Chinese".
Sorry, just like with most accusations, the louder the accuser, the more likely the accuser is projecting.
"I don't there is a general dislike of the increase in Asian American in Palo Alto, but I do think there is resentment in schools that have a tradition of high parental volunteerism being negatively impacted by parents who don't feel the need to volunteer and who do not value the sense of community in our schools."
Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Apr 22, 2007 at 3:03 pm
Say for instance that a group of jews, or muslims, or christians, or tree huggers, decided that they wanted more of their religious outlook presented in their education and got together and found that there were enough kindergartners who wanted this to approach the district and ask for it. They could say that it would be open to any who were interested of whatever religion and it could be done as a lottery. What about a group of people who wanted their children geared up for British GCSE exams, or Australian exams, or Canadian exams, but they didn't have to be of that nationality, just interested in that form of education. What would be the feeling here. I feel sure that the answer would be to go private, or to go back to Britain, or Australia, or Canada. The point being, is that we can take choice to extremes and we have to draw the line somewhere. We cannot all realistically expect PAUSD to meet all our desires, no matter how earnest we are and would it be right for PAUSD ethically to try?
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Apr 23, 2007 at 2:28 pm
Person, when the MI wars began, there were quite a few MI-opposers at the board meetings speaking against providing a "heritage" language program. In this case, "heritage" related to ethnic Chinese, i.e., a racial minority. There were assumptions that "rich" parents didn't want to pay for weekend Chinese classes and were trying to foist "their responsibility" to teach "their children" "their heritage language" on the public school system. There was also an assumption that classes would be overrun with children of Chinese heritage because Chinese was of little interest or value to anyone else, and particularly to other ethnic minorities.
Then there was the statement of Palo alto mom: "I don't there is a general dislike of the increase in Asian American in Palo Alto, but I do think there is resentment in schools that have a tradition of high parental volunteerism being negatively impacted by parents who don't feel the need to volunteer and who do not value the sense of community in our schools."
I don't think this comment was intended to be racist, but I think it shows ignorance and insensitivity. How welcoming is our community to people who are not highly-educated, highly articulate, and assertive?
How many parents can feel comfortable as a member of equal standing in our (over)confident, outspoken community if the newcomers are still struggling to understand and make themselves understood in English or if they have come from cultures where parents would never dream of asserting themselves in school affairs? Whether people have money or not, whether they come from Asia, Latin America, or EPA, if they have not or CANnot assimilate to the Palo Alto way. How often do those of us who are comfortable hanging around on campus, volunteering, and proclaiming our views here on this message board--how often do we go out of our way to greet new faces on campus, faces that do not look like ours? And if we do happen to greet them once, do we engage them in conversation again? Do we encourage our children to invite their children home for playdates?
If we want people to become like us, it is our job to invite them into our world, make them feel comfortable, not override or dismiss their "different" ideas, etc. That is not always easy to do, and it is very hard for outsiders to insert themselves into a group. Joining the mainstream is a slow process, usually done one small step at a time. If we act like Palo Alto Parents toward newcomers, we'll intimidate them to stay away.
Posted by Another perspective, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Apr 24, 2007 at 12:21 pm
Well that's funny because creating "separate but equal" programming in the schools doesn't seem like a great way to improve bringing all the cultures and peoples together.
I read the initial paperwork on the MI proposal, and I believe the specific focus on ethnic heritage stuff came directly from the very unfortunate first paragraph of the proposal: "CI would provide students with fluency in Mandarin and Asian Cultural Proficiency". What? Why would we target an entire school full of students, across their entire 6 year K-5 career, to 'cultural proficiency' of a single culture. Any culture?
I don't think its racist to object to using public school system for teaching a cultural 'proficiency'. In fact, I think its racist to suggest such a thing. Racism is generally a term reserved for someone who believes one culture is 'better' than another or one deserves special treatment over another.
What if we suggest that Duveneck be dedicated to teaching US Culutural Proficiency? Would there be an outcry? Sure would. I assume people across this district expect our schools to be devoted to cross cultural awareness, education and understanding not 'proficiency' in one culture. We certainly have a diversity of many cultures represented in this community, and our children deserve to gain exposure and understanding, appreciation and caring for all of them. We need to learn how to get along, I don't see how that happens when you pull out and create boundary walls.
Now if the schools want to educate on a variety of cultural heritage topics (ie: history, geography, social studies, for many cultures), then I think that's appropriate for the public school system and will further diversity and cross cultural awareness.
Please don't assign racism to the opposition who is in fact opposing racism.
Posted by person, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Apr 24, 2007 at 1:01 pm
Racism played a role from the beginning. It wasn't a motivating factor for most or even many opponents, but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist.
Many opponents told us that only Chinese (or Asians) would sign up their kids for MI. In the same breath, they'd say that those who really wanted MI could afford after-school programs (most of which are exclusively for native speakers): the message was Chinese people are economically dominant and their educational desires can therefore be ignored. Then, we were told that this minority was pushy. Finally, many people said publicly that Chinese people should not expect the district to teach their children Chinese.
The subtext was: rich, pushy Chinese are unfairly trying to change our (caucasian) community and we don't like it.
So, the merc gets it dead right when it notes the racism in the complaints about the "wealthy minority." (To the list of those who agree, we can add board members, community members and the New York Times.)
Of course, there were other motivations, but it is cowardly to try to shout down those who point out the racist subtext to part of the debate. In fact, it is racist to try to rob the victims of the right to complain.
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Apr 24, 2007 at 4:48 pm
Posted by John, a resident of the College Terrace neighborhood, on Jul 21, 2007 at 10:37 am
Choice programs were a mistake from the beginning (DI, CI, SI, now MI). They set a precedent. There is no logical reason to believe that more "immersion" programs, of one stripe or the other, will not be demanded (and approved, or at least charter schools).
Opponents of such programs will be labelled "racists" or "culturally arrogant"
The term "racism" has about as much value as the term "facist", which used be thrown around all the time.
Just assume that racism was at work in the MI deal (both ways), then argue the facts. The one fact that is indesputable was that the BoE felt pressured by Grace Mah's group to approve MI. There will be more such groups down the road...you can bet the ranch on it.
Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 21, 2007 at 10:46 am
I am the parent who wrote one of the excerpts above(Apr. 23). I am not sure why my post (let alone the others) could be called anything other than entering a debate. Yes, it could be insensitive if you want it to, but so can some of the postings on the thread about the closure of University Avenue yesterday.
I am insensitive to those who are selfish enough to want something for themselves which no one else gets. I don't think that is wrong, it is human nature.
I was polite and used some examples from all walks of life. I take offence that my point of view was ignored. I call you insensitive to my point of view which is just as valid as yours.
Posted by News to Me, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Jul 21, 2007 at 11:41 am
Interesting that MI supporters (don't know who they are or their race) say that to oppose the MI program is somehow now being construed as racist, when the proponents are the first to tell you the program is not a chinese program for chinese people - but its supposed to attract a broad diversity of students.
I am not clear how opposition to a non-race based program can be racist. And calling MI proponents (we don't know who they are except for the 'nine' who signed the letter), is somehow racist, even though we don't know who they are but we are being led to believe that they are a vast and diverse representation of our community.
Or is the program actually going to be predominantly chinese afterall? are the proponents now telling us this is a chinese program supported primarilyl by Chinese community? Hence its racist for us to oppose it? That's news to me.