Romancing Caesar Chavez: Houghton Mifflin’s Common Core Journeys 4th Grade Reader:
Apparently Delta Junction’s text book cycle came up right as the state passed the new standards and they adopted text books that meet the new Alaska Standards. Please note below, the boxes that show the curriculum, publisher, and grade level. While I can’t prove all the materials and books, below is proof of at least the 4th grade reader. It is called Journeys and is published by Houghton Mifflin.
These are the books that fulfill the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Waiver that mandates Common Core be taught in this state. The wonderful waiver that Mark Begich brags that he obtained for Alaska. The Common Core standards that Education Commissioner Mike Hanley claims are Alaska Owned and were written by Alaskans; these are the books that were recommended to give Alaskan children a more “rigorous” understanding of literature.
So, what is in these books?
Apparently the writers of children’s curriculum at Houghton Mifflin think that Caesar Chavez was a great hero, or have a very romantic view of him. One of the stories in the Journeys, the 4th grade English Language Arts reading book, paints a very romantic notion of Chavez as a long suffering activist for worker rights and champion of Hispanics. It is amazing that critics who decried stories of George Washington chopping down cherry trees as false would then tolerate a blatant romanticized propaganda piece as children’s literature worthy of inclusion. For those with a copy of the book, the story appears on pages 562-565 of that reader.
I’m certain the good folks in Delta Junction, Alaska will be quite interested in this story in their 4th grade reader. I wonder how those who own farms in Alaska’s breadbasket will regard the romantic tale of a man who sued every farmer and food processor he could. According to the story as it is related in the reader, Chavez’s family was so poor they ate dandelion roots, yet the family had a car and a house. Interestingly, Houghton Mifflin mentions the ownership of a car and a house in the description of the family’s impoverished state. The story also states that Chavez worked long hours yet he was ridiculed in school for speaking Spanish. If he was working the number of hours the stories claimed, how did he even attend school? Aren’t the authors of the story attempting to redefine poverty? Are they trying to claim it is wrong to work and go to school?
Anyway, the story then goes on to heroically describe how Chavez took on the 40 land owners of the San Joaquin Valley and forced them to meet his demands. The story is followed by writing prompts that are shown below, displaying “Workers Rights.” I’m sure that will be welcomed by the farmers in that community! I wonder if the lesson will be followed with a student re-enactment of the food workers strike?
Of course, Caesar Chavez is someone that Barack Obama admires. This is part of the “institutionalization” of Obamaism in our schools. For those who think the common core is something other than that, then they have not given these stories a careful reading and measured the reading against the historical record. Caesar Chavez’s life had a profound influence on US President Barack Obama. Biographer Randy Shaw noted that the Chavez organizing and fundraising tactics were “an integral part of the Obama campaign.” This is hardly surprising given Caesar Chavez’s close association with Saul Alinsky. The very slogan that Barack Obama used in his 2008 campaign “Yes we can” was the same one used by Chavez when he started the United Food Workers, “Sí, se puede”
The inclusion and romantic portrayal of Chavez speaks to the degree of influence of the Obama Administration on the content of these curricula materials in the Common Core. It is one of many examples of “informational” texts as what they are: government propaganda by a private purveyor of curriculum.
So, let’s take a moment to get “into the weeds” and consider Caesar Chavez and equip teachers and parents with some details about Chavez to counter this propaganda.
There are many people who think Chavez was not a hero and would challenge the description of Chavez as “non-violent.” Indeed, many people who were more than casually acquainted with Chavez have said he was actually a mean person. He was certainly no hero to the Hispanic community. Marty Manley, former US Assistant Secretary of Labor, wrote that Caesar Chavez did not say nice things about farm workers. Actually, Chavez actually had contempt for the farm workers. In a meeting in 1977, he referred to them as “pigs.”
Manley knew Chavez well and wrote in his book that Chavez mistreated workers in his compound at least as bad, if not worse, than the people who owned the farms and food processing factories that he had protested. While he protested land owners, he acquired a his own acreage and started cooperative that featured working conditions every bit as bad as those of the land owners. This prompts one to wonder if he was actually fighting for human rights, or was he using that issue as a basis to bully assets from other land owners. Manley wrote.
“Those of us who worked boycott operations worked 14-16 hour days, often 7 days a week. We were paid $5/week and had to beg for donated food to eat. Once we were burned out, the UFW happily replaced us in a process Chavez once compared with pumping water. “
Besides treating his own employees in a very inhuman way, his organization would attack immigrants. The organization that Chavez held start, the United Farm Workers (UFW) actively carried out raids against immigrants. As a CNN report notes of Chavez’s past that the UFW even carried out violence against illegals:
“Under the supervision of Chavez’s cousin, Manuel, UFW members tried at first to persuade Mexicans not to cross the border. One time when that didn’t work, they physically attacked and beat them up to scare them off…”
When intimidation tactics did not work, he called immigration authorities. Miriam Pawel’s The Union of Their Dreams, as noted in Caitlin Flanagan’s review states
With this Christ-like and infinitely suffering approach to some worldly matters, Chavez also practiced the take-no-prisoners, balls-out tactics of a Chicago organizer. One of his strategies during the lettuce strike was causing deportations: he would alert the immigration authorities to the presence of undocumented (and therefore scab) workers and get them sent back to Mexico.
This is someone that Hispanics would not regard as their champion.
Chavez ran a compound called La Paz in Keene, California that Barack Obama later named as a National Monument. La Paz was a commune. Everyone was paid $10.00 a week, but expected to work long hours for the good of the commune. Chavez was good friends with Charles Dederich who operated a shelter for drug addicts known as Synanon. Chavez formed a partnership with Dederich and used the techniques that Dederich used at Synanon to manage La Paz. The technique was called “the game.” As Breitbart reports,
“…Chavez and the UFW used Synanon’s “Game” as a regular activity. “The Game” was created by Dederich and was a form of what’s come to be known as attack therapy: the subject is literally insulted, screamed at, and abused by a group of people. It’s a means of collective control designed to break down a person’s sense of individuality. The nightmarish technique caught the imagination of Chavez after he saw a demonstration of the cult that Synanon had become.
In the 1970s, Dederich’s Synanon had changed from a place to which junkies went to get clean to a “lifelong therapy” alternative lifestyle group that used violence and mind control to keep members in line. Women shaved their heads to show obedience; men got vasectomies en masse, and Dederich arranged marriages and forced abortions at will.”
This is how La Paz was managed; it was an absolute cult. This is not “right wing” propaganda. Michael Yates further notes Chavez’s involvement with psychological conditioning
“At the time of Chávez’s fascination with Synanon and the “Game,” Dederich was a megalomaniacal cult leader, abusing his clientele. …César took to the “game” like Stalin to the secret police, and he used it for the same purpose—to consolidate his power in the union. He took some trusted members of his inner circle to Synanon for training and began immediately to force the game upon the staff. On April 4, 1977, he incited a screaming mob of “Game” initiates to purge the union of “troublemakers.” All sorts of ridiculous charges were made against “enemies of the union”…
Caitlin Flanagan’s piece in the Atlantic Journal summarizes Chavez quite well.
Even worse, Chavez seemed to have gone around the bend. He decided to start a new religious order. He flew to Manila during martial law in 1977 and was officially hosted by Ferdinand Marcos, whose regime he praised, to the horror and loud indignation of human-rights advocates around the world.
So, while Chavez claimed he was working for the rights of workers, he seems also embraced dictators and regarded himself as a religious figure. He forced abortions and attacked immigrants. Is this someone that Alaskan’s would like their children to emulate?
So, while Houghton Mifflin’s Common Core Journeys paints a romantic picture of Chavez in their 4th grade reader, the truth is far uglier. Chavez was not a great hero to, Hispanics, farm workers or those who owned farms. Hopefully, the people of Delta Junction will present this information to counter the propaganda in the 4th grade reader.
How did a book that features an cult leader and organizer of farm workers get adopted in Alaska’s Food Basket? Why would the Alaska Department of Education recommend a text that teaches 4th graders about organizing farm workers? Do Alaskans regard this man who forced abortions on Hispanic populations and declared himself to be god, as a hero? Or was this curriculum poorly researched?
Was this a sloppy adoption process to get the Race To The Top money? Yes, Alaska DOES get Race To The Top Money. Simply go to the web page on Race To The Top and look at the Consortia membership.
I’m sure someone will be asking questions. Below are screen shots of the writing and discussion prompt from the story for 4th graders. I wonder how these will be regarded by Delta Junction’s families?
Screen Shot of Lessons in the 4th grade reader