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As A Teacher At A University Where Students Can Carry Guns, Lectures On Race & Gender Can Become Dangerous

Despite some people’s fears that academia is a place where students are coddled and spoon fed radical ideas, the truth is that the Ivory Tower largely remains an institution dominated by whiteness, from the administration, to the professors to the types of knowledge and material deemed worthy of inclusion. There’s nothing safe nor radical about that, especially for students of color.

When I entered a PhD program in literature at the University of Texas at Austin, my goal was to be a voice of change, to infiltrate the system, so to speak, and shake things up as one of the small number of Latinx women with the ability and privilege of teaching classes at a university. I hoped to become a part of the tradition of activist academics like Gloria Anzaldúa and Audre Lorde, those who demanded that the lives and stories of people of color and queer people of color were heard and valued in spaces that so often silenced them.

This work has always required bravery—a willingness to be outspoken, to make people uncomfortable and to be a vulnerable body in front of a crowd. But with the frequency of school shootings and the palpable hatred of people of color in the Trump era, the danger of spitting truth in front of a classroom is a reality that dominates my day-to-day life as a postdoctoral lecturer at UT.

I was still a graduate student at UT Austin when, amid the growing concern over school shootings, Campus Carry, legislation that gives students with a concealed handgun license the legal right to carry their loaded weapons into classrooms, went into effect in Texas. One idea behind the law was, of course, that in the event of a school shooting, a trained gun holder could theoretically save the day—you know, the “good guy with a gun” argument that is so popular today.

The law also makes it easier for guns to land in the hands of those without a license to carry arms. Last month, UT sent out an email notifying students that there were two “unattended guns” found on campus. Turned out both of them belonged to people who were licensed gun holders, but they could have very easily been found, picked up and used by any student, faculty or community member.

Ironically, the law went into effect on August 1, 2016—the 50th anniversary of the third-deadliest school shooting in the U.S. when, in 1966, Charles Whitman ascended the UT tower in the middle of campus and went on a shooting rampage, firing at students down below and ultimately killing 14 people and wounding another 31.

That’s right: at the very school where one of the biggest claims to fame is a school shooting, guns are not only perfectly legal, they’re practically encouraged.

Although UT has a reputation for being a more liberal school, my years as a teacher here have been anything but smooth when it comes to dealing with racism. For the past seven years, I’ve taught rhetoric and literature classes to undergraduate students, and from the very beginning, I’ve taught from a decolonial feminist viewpoint to empower students, especially students of color, to learn about and envision a world outside of whiteness. This means that I talk about the hard stuff in my classroom, like anti-Blackness, the pervasiveness of toxic masculinity and the importance of acknowledging that systems of oppression exist just about everywhere, including the very university my students attend.

As you can imagine, it’s damn near impossible for someone like me, a Latinx woman who looks younger than I actually am and stands at a mere 5’1”, to garner the same level of respect as my white colleagues, but it’s doubly hard when I refuse to participate in the long legacy of letting racist and sexist narratives go unchecked in my classroom.

Shortly before Campus Carry became law, a white male student in my class gave a presentation in which he vehemently insisted that most Latinx people were drug dealers and gangsters. When others attempted to engage in a healthy debate, albeit with calm and measured frustration, the student took to anger, hurling insults and stereotypes with a ferocity that frightened me and, by the looks of it, his peers. Because of this, I asked the student to leave the classroom. When class ended ten minutes later, he waited to confront me, stepping into my personal space so as to assert his physical dominance and command of the situation.

Despite reporting what happened, I had to continue teaching the student for the rest of the semester, which meant that every class was an exercise in conquering fear and anxiety just so that I could do my job. In the back of my mind, I couldn’t help but think, “What if this kid brings a gun to class?” And this was all before firearms were allowed, by law, in classrooms.

Of course, there are some who say that maybe I should be the person with a gun, that the fears and anxieties of many might be relieved if teachers like me are trained and armed so that if someone did pull out a gun, we’d be there to save the day. Interestingly, many conservatives are worried that people like me are brainwashing students with liberal ideology, and yet they trust me with a gun—a logic I find inherently flawed.

Nevertheless, the only weapon I’m interested in using, the one for which I have undergone extensive training and developed certain expertise, is knowledge. And here’s what I know: with every school shooting that occurs, I grow a little more paranoid, and a little more hesitant, to speak the truth.

Read: Safety For Immigrant Students Means Addressing Gun Violence – But Not Just That

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Despite Obstacles, Latinos And POC Have Been Getting Into College Without Help From SAT Rigging Aunt Becky And Her White Privilege

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Despite Obstacles, Latinos And POC Have Been Getting Into College Without Help From SAT Rigging Aunt Becky And Her White Privilege

According to the Pew Research Center, there are fewer and fewer Latino students are going to college. In fact, despite how rapidly the Latino community is growing in the U.S., a widening education gap lands us at half as likely to hold a college degree as non-Latino white adults according to The Education Trust.

New York City school districts have the largest Black and Latino enrollment rates in the country but offer the fewest programs for gifted and talented children.

Recent surveys show that 10 school districts with 88 percent to 96 percent black and Hispanic enrollment have either one or zero K-5 Gifted and Talented programs.

In a recent interview with  Tai Abrams, a 2005 alumna of the Bronx HS of Science whose alumni list boasts eight Nobel and eight Pulitzer prize winners called the statistic “educational genocide.”

“It’s like killing off a group of people who are not getting the quality of education they deserve, and it’s a crime,” Abrams told the New York Post.

This is the kind of lack of educational nourishment that underlines the need for programs like affirmative actions.

People can whine and rant about it all they’d like but POC have a right to affirmative action. The latest arrest of Academy Award nominee Felicity Huffman and actress Lori Loughlin, best known for her role as Aunt Becky on “Full House” are proof of this fact.

In headline breaking news the two actresses were revealed to be part of a college cheating scam which gave their kids an unfair advantage that garnered them access to some of the country’s top universities, including Yale and Stanford. This is all despite the fact that the children of these two women, as well as those of over 30 other celebrities and CEOs, were already riding on an enormous wave of white privilege that gives so many white students a leg up in the college application process each year.

Never fear fellow Latinos and POC. While most of our parents might not currently be able to fork over a load of cash to pay and have someone else beef up our SAT exam scores, there are ways to beat the system. And that’s purely on smarts and know-how. Just how abuela would want you to do.

If you’ve already completed your college applications and you met all the deadlines, know that there are several things that you can do to improve your application post-submission. There are also cosas que puede hacer that are just for you because this is a time when you also need to practice some self-care and to remember that you are worthy.

1. Get back to taking care of yourself

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Now that your applications are in and you’re not multi-tasking ad nauseam, you should take care of your mental health. Get back to sleeping seven to eight hours a night and cut back on junk food. Get back to making and eating actual meals when hungry rather than snacking on empty calories. Get back to your exercise routine, quit staying up too late, and research some mindful techniques to help you through the stressful waiting period.

2. Start researching scholarships

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There are scholarships for everything and everyone. Scholarships for first-generation college students, Dreamers, musicians, people who wear glasses, and on, and on. This McDonald’s Scholarship is seeking to give money to Latino students. The due date is February 4! Looking for other kinds of scholarships? Check out this directory.

3. Double-check letters of recommendation

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Most colleges are using online tools to collect your application and recommendation letters, and most colleges will not turn you away for a late letter. Go to all sites and confirm that all your letters of recommendation have been turned in. Contact any teachers who haven’t turn in letters by sending a cheerful e-mail letting them know that their letter is not showing in the portal, say something like, “Dear Ms. Lopez, I went to the UC Davis portal and did not see your letter of recommendation. Please let me know if there’s something else you need from me.”

 4. Check your FAFSA

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If you haven’t filled out the FASFA, you need to do it now. If you have filled it out be sure to make sure all information is filled out correctly to minimize annoying delays. You CAN fill out the FAFSA and provide tax information even if your parents are undocumented. Simply enter 000-00-0000 for their Social Security number. Do no enter their TIN or tax identification numbers that they use to file their taxes!

5. Do more research on each college you hope to attend

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In order to make the best decision when you start getting those acceptances that we know you’ll get, you should start researching each college, and the program in the college you intend to major. You should also research student body demographics. It might be very difficult to go to a school that has very few Latinx students.

6. Research your intended major

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It’s important to have some kind of idea how much you’ll be able to make with a four-year degree if you plan to go to graduate school, and how much that might cost, and weigh that information with how much money, if any, you’re willing to borrow.

7. Be realistic about what you can afford

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Sure there’s financial aid and scholarships, but student aid doesn’t always cover all costs. Do you really want to go into debt? We now know that loan companies have been targeting people of color and veterans, hyping the promise of education and taking advantage of people who have very little money to spare.

8. Have a real discussion with your parents about how much they can pay

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I had a student who got into more than one four-year colleges straight out of high school. She was all set to study medicine when her parents told her that they couldn’t afford the tuition. Before she applied and got in, they hadn’t quite understood how expensive college would be, even with the aid that she got. She was, needless to say, devastated and she didn’t quite know what to do.

 9. If you’re concerned about funding, consider community college for the first two years.

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That student that I was telling you about, well, she wound up staying with her parents and going to the local community college from which she’s about to graduate and transfer to a UC. As a result, she saved thousands and thousands of dollars doing her general education and preparing for her major at a two-year. While I’m on the subject of community college, you should know that students who go to community college have better persistent rates and get better grades than students who go straight to a four-year. Most California community colleges have Puente programs which provide extra support for Latinx students.

10. Don’t sabotage everything because you’re afraid

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You’ve heard of those students who dropped out of high school during the last month or two of senior year or the student who didn’t turn in that last assignment and didn’t graduate? Human nature is a funny thing, and sometimes we’re afraid of success. Gente, we’re about to take over this place, echale ganas!

11. Spend some time reflecting on whether you’re sure you’re ready to leave home.

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Many students drop out of school during the first year because they weren’t ready to leave home in the first place. It’s a lot to expect for every single young person in America to be ready to move to a new city and go to college on their own at just eighteen. As a nation, we need to get better at realizing that. Some students feel they have failed when this happened, but there are many different paths to getting an education. If you decide to stay home and attend a community college, remember that authors, Oscar Hijuelos, and Amy Tan went to community college, and so did musician Alice Bag, that one director of Star Wars, George Lucas, and Tom Hanks.

12. Keep in mind that you might not be ready today, but that you may well be in three months.

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As you reflect on your readiness to move out of your house and into a dorm, remember that young people grow and change very fast. Maybe you feel mostly ready but your feeling reticent too. Keep in mind that feeling a bit afraid doesn’t mean you aren’t ready now, and how you feel today might change a lot in few months.

13. Try not to be mean to your parents

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If you’re pretty sure that you’ll be going off to a four-year away from home, you’re at that age and maturity level where your parents are making you crazy. Being impatient with them or mean won’t make you feel better. Take it from me (mi híjo is on his way to college tambíen), your parents are probably profoundly sad that you’ll be leaving home. Spend some time trying to understand how they feel and compórtate bíen.

14. Start donating things you’ve outgrown

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When you do move out of your parents house and into a dorm, you can’t take everything with you. Do your parents a favor and start getting rid of things piled up in your room and closet that you’ve outgrown or don’t need. Pass down things to your hermanx that they could use and donate the rest.

15. Help your hermanx be successful in school

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Now that you have what it takes to be successful in school and apply for four-year colleges, help your sibs. Encourage them to stay focused, to manage their time wisely. Talk to them about the importance of learning and having a strong GPA. Give them study tips, tutor them in subjects they may need improvement.

16. Write thank you notes

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Studies show that practicing gratitude is good for you. It’s also good for the teachers, mentors, family members, and friends who have helped you through the college application process. Take some time writing anyone who helped a genuine, heartfelt thank you note.

17. If you work, save money.

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This one seems obvious, but it might be one of the hardest things to do, BUT if you’re not supporting yourself or anyone else like your parents probably are, you need to start saving money. Set aside a little money each month that you can take with you to college. You’ll need it! Here are some apps that could help you get started.

18. Read

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I’ve noticed that one skill that students struggle with in my college English classes is reading — reading material that is at a college level and so much of it. You will be assigned an astounding amount of reading in college. The best way to prepare for that is to keep reading — read anything and look up any words you don’t know that seem important to understanding. Looking up words will increase your vocabulary, and I’ve taught many students frustrated by their vocabulary.

19. Plan your summer

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If you have to work all summer, you should plan your summer carefully. Be sure to plan a trip or two with friends, especially those who are also going off to college or those you won’t see when you’re away. Plan out time you’ll spend with your familia. You’ll feel better leaving for school, if you spent quality time with everyone before hand.

20. Try not to stress out

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Stressing out won’t help you. Try not to check your e-mail for acceptance info too obsessively. Go on a walk in the fresh air, cuddle your favorite pet, tell your mamá, or favorite tía, what’s on your mind, and remember that getting accepted, or not, to the college of your choice does not determine your self-worth.

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Preschool Students Are Doing Active Shooter Drills And I Guess This Is The New Normal Now

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Preschool Students Are Doing Active Shooter Drills And I Guess This Is The New Normal Now

Active shooter drills at schools are the new normal for today’s youngest generation.

Yesterday, reports of teachers at an Indiana school being mock executed with pellet guns during a school-shooter drill sparked dismay when details of the event came out. During a drill, teachers were lined up and shot execution-style with airsoft rifles and told: “This is what happens if you just cower and do nothing.” The incident has sparked debate concerning the necessity of these drills that have become a grim routine in class schedules.

At Casa De Niños in Yuma, Arizona, teachers have had to consider the effects of mandatory active shooter drills on their preschoolers.

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A year after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shootings, which took place last February, schools have ramped up their efforts to train students on how to defend themselves against gunmen. Police officers, sometimes even teachers, play the role of a shooter banging on classroom windows and shooting at teachers or students while children are prompted to apply previous lessons on such events. They barricade doors, dodge fake bullets by running in zigzagged lines, and use “self-defense tools” like lunchboxes and backpacks.

The preschool, which includes children as young as one year old, requires its educators to take part in training once a month.

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Last year, CBS profiled the preschool’s active shooter drill practices shedding light onto the harrowing lessons our nation’s students are being faced with.

Footage from the report shows teachers as they defend themselves and students from a pseudo-active shooter.

The video shows two drills. The first sees the teachers as they barricade classrooms, and instruct other teachers (standing in the place of their students) to “get down” and hide from windows and doors. At one point a shooter walks through and shoots at students with a gun that charges off a realistic gunshot and smoke. The last drill shows the students. Preschool-aged children shove tables and chairs in front of doorways and draw curtains close. During this segment of training, they are taught that the gunman is called a “stranger” and that they are taking part in a game. The lights are turned off, and much like a game of hide-and-seek, they are told to stay quiet and keep out of sight.

While many of the kids appear amused by the presence of the camera at the mark of the filmed drill, some of their sly smiles quickly fade to alarm as the drill takes place.

In the CBS report, Jessica Alcantara, a teacher at Casa De Niños, attempted to make sense of the need for active shooter drills. “Back in the days when I grew (and) I was in school, that’s the safest place ever. It’s like am I really safe in school?”

According to the CBS report, since 1999 sixteen percent of school shootings took place at institutions where preschoolers and or kindergarteners were present.

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In 1999, soon after the Columbine massacre, the practice of active shooter drills began to crop up at schools around the country. The National Center for Education Statistics reports that during the 2015-2016 school year, more than 90 percent of public schools across the country took part in lockdown drills. According to the CBS report, two-thirds of public schools implement the drills.

The effectiveness of active-shooter drills can’t totally be measured, but studies have begun to reveal that they do have downsides.

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In fact, the month before the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting, the school had taken part in an active-shooter drill. Reports suggest that shooter was able to use the drills to his advantage when he carried out his attack.

Moreover, there’s the matter of time and resources. At Casa De Niños, the school spends one thousand dollars a month on training– that’s a budget that could otherwise be spent on upgrades to school facilities such as textbooks, science and art programs, and hot lunch programs for low-income students.

Downsides also include childhood trauma.

Decades ago, millions of schoolchildren in the 1950s were subject to civil defense drills like “duck and cover.” The drills required students to crouch under their desks in preparation for potential nuclear attacks. According to Timeline, teachers at the time reported an uptick in the depiction of mushroom clouds and death in their students artwork and research studies revealed that at the close of the 1950s, 60 percent of U.S. children reported having nightmares related to nuclear war.

The schoolchildren of today’s school shooter generation are subjected to similar fear-based realities.

In 2018, a Pew Research survey revealed that 57 percent of U.S. high school-aged students live in fear of a shooting taking place at their school. This information coincides with the National Institute of Mental Health study that reported 32 percent of 13-to-18-year-olds live with anxiety disorders with the median age of origin being age six.

Videos like the one of the students at Casa de Niños beg the question of what harm active shooter drills can cause younger generations. Yes, their intended efforts may keep children safe, but very well could be harming their childhood.


Read:Fox News Host Mocks Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Spanish Pronunciation Of Her Name As “Latina Thing”

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