Wednesday, September 21, 2011

"The Learning" and the teaching: Episodes of education

Class is in session at UC Berkeley
Filipino students become indoctrinated

Yesterday was a day packed with education.

I had the privilege and honor to appear via video chat for Professor Griff Rollefson's music class "Planet Rap: Global Hip Hop and Postcolonial Perspectives" at the University of California, Berkeley.  The students were assigned my article "Hip hop over homework: Filipino Americans 'failing'?" and my documentary Lyrical Empire: Hip Hop in Metro Manila.   

In a bizarre performance of pedagogy through technology (I'm picturing my 20 ft. talking head lighting up an auditorium), I had the opportunity to answer student questions about the article and the film. The questions were a great exercise in thinking through the value of studying the topic of Filipino Americans and hip hop culture, and the urgency (if any) with which to approach political projects involving hip hop. Some of the questions were quite provocative, including the following:

-"What is the usefulness of postcolonial studies when studying hip hop?" In other words, why should we study hip hop using the same lens that we use to view the contexts of formerly colonized nations?

-"How can one make sense of hip hop if it is both an expression of radical politics globally, but it is also an object of global commodity capitalism?"

-"Are there possibilities of Asian American and African American collaborations with which hip hop plays a role?"

-"Do you see Filipino Americans seeking 'stability' as the goal of 'success'? And why should Filipino Americans gain consciousness about the Philippines?"

Thanks for the opportunity to "appear" for yall's class. Hopefully I gave sufficient responses to some tough questions. I hope to do something like this again in the future.

Angel, a Filipina teacher recruited by Baltimore's school district, performs Pandango sa Ilaw with her students.
Later on that evening, I was able to catch the PBS premiere of Ramona Diaz's documentary The Learning, which documents one year in the lives of four Filipina contracted teachers recruited by the Baltimore school district.

So while I am teaching U.S. college students to critically study the historical formation of the Philippines and criticizing the Asian Journal article's definition of "success" (see my article "Hip hop over homework"), Filipina teachers make a geographical trek to the U.S. in order to teach fundamentals of survival and life skills. They are facilitators of "success", and I pray students and school districts value their contributions.

Dorothea teaches a science lab to her high schoolers.
At a time when many school districts around the nation are in crisis because of a dearth of math, science, and special education teachers, Filipina sojourners have taken up the calling to fill the gaps. Leaving their family and students behind in order to enter a version of America they do not know from TV or books, these women enter the battlefield of education in black and brown communities across the U.S.

The Learning gives an intimate portrait of the bravery, sacrifice, and love of these four teachers, who represent a small slice of the thousands of Filipino/a teachers imported to provide low-cost labor in neglected school districts. The documentary points out that the "tides have turned" on U.S. colonial programs in the Philippines--which inaugurated U.S.-style instruction to Filipino students beginning in the early 1900s--with Filipino teachers fluent in American English coming to the U.S. to teach American students.  In Baltimore alone, 10% of teachers (or 600 total) are recruited from the Philippines.

One Filipina student in the UC Berkeley music class asked me what I thought about Filipino Americans becoming conscious of the Philippines.  I think The Learning is a testament to the importance of critically analyzing the historical condition in the Philippines, where the "tides have turned" in a way, where First World nations are seeking Filipino/a workers--who are fluent in English and other valued skill sets--to compensate for First World labor voids. As Filipino Americans, having a critical look at the Philippines means understanding that "we are here" because "they were there."  

As Filipino Americans, the battlefield is not only in geographic districts where many of us attend crumbling schools.  The battlefield is also in our minds; of reclaiming our own histories and debunking the myths that continue to disparage our lives and bodies.  

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1 comment:

Unknown said...

Thanks for coming Mark!
-Griff