Botanitas: July 18, 2008

Vexing: Female Voices from East LA Punk, Claremont Museum through Aug 31.

Botanitas is an ongoing feature bringing you stories and news from various sources, upcoming events and other bits of ephemera that might be of interest to LA Eastside readers. Suggestions welcome!

Bridging the grade divide in Lincoln Heights

Residential Food Scrap Pilot Program

Old Los Angeles

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Bridging the grade divide in Lincoln Heights

Los Angeles Times staff writer Hector Becerra talks to students and educators at Lincoln High to uncover the reasons behind the educational achievement gap between Asians and Latinos. The students discuss the issue with humor:

The students talked not just about parental expectations, but also about those of peers. Karen drew laughter when she said of other students, “They expect me to be smart. Even if, like, I do everything wrong on purpose, they still copy off of me — as if I’m right just because I’m Asian.”

She said expectations came into play in an even odder way in Lincoln High’s hallways.

“In our school we have tardy sweeps, and normally the staff members let the Asians go,” Karen said. “They don’t really care if we’re late.”

The group, nodding, erupted into laughter. “They don’t even ask them for a pass sometimes,” George added.

“Generally speaking — like it’s stereotypical that Asians all do better — I also think there’s a stereotypical view that Asians are usually late,” Julie said. “They’ll come to school late, but they’ll get to class and do their work.”

This drew more laughter.

The piece provokes a heated discussion in the comments section. Lots of lovely things being said having to do with genetics and IQ.

Los Angeles Times article here.

Residential Food Scrap Pilot Program

“Good News!” proclaims the letter I received from the City of Los Angeles. “The City is launching a Residential Food Scrap Collection Program in your neighborhood.”

Lincoln Heights residents will now be able to throw their “greasy pizza boxes” into the green bins! In addition, we’ll be given a “free new 2-gallon kitchen food scrap pail!” [Gee, what’s with all the exclamation points, they sound like me!] We are being asked to keep our food scraps in these nifty new pails and throw them out with our yard-trimmings into the green bins.

As a long time composter, I’ve already been composting my kitchen scraps. I collect them in a one gallon plastic container with a fitted lid (it’s important to have a tight lid to keep out ants and other critters) from the 99 cent store. I’m looking forward to receiving my new scrap pail – it’s the small joys in life that keep me going.

Reduced priced compost bins can be bought through the LA County sponsored Smart Gardening Workshops, more info here. Or just dig a hole in the dirt, throw in your scraps and let them rot.

For more info on the kitchen scrap program, call the Bureau of Sanitation (800) 773-2489.

Old Los Angeles

View from a Loft discovers a 1937 travelogue of Olvera St that is “as cheesy as an enchilada and fun to watch.” I concur! The history of Olvera Street and Old Los Angeles is also chronicled in Images of America’s Los Angeles’s Olvera Street. A recommended read. Did you know the Avila Adobe is the oldest residence in Los Angeles?

I wonder if adobe structures can be legally built in Los Angeles?

Bits n Pieces

Los Angeles Public Library users, an overdue book will now cost you .30 cents a day in late fines. The loan period for books has been reduced to two weeks. Thanks to Kim Cooper, you don’t have to pay a dollar for inter-library loans.

And finally, Happy Birthday to LA Eastside contributor, Julio!

9 thoughts on “Botanitas: July 18, 2008

  1. Thanks for the great info Chimatli,
    Regarding Asian kids exceling more in school then Hispanic it can be a heated issue but for ex it was harder for me when I was in school being my parents did not know English and could not help me even if they wanted to, they tried only to encourage me the best they could but sometimes it was not enough.I had to push my self most of the time.
    As for Libary issue
    I used to love going to the libary, and still do.
    As a kid I was in book club and used to read up to 5 books a week but there where times I took way longer to return them or never returned them, I got a new libary card now so gotta keep a clean record!

    Happy Birthday Julio!

  2. My sister’s an elementary school teacher and gets top scores from her kids who are a mixed bag of middle class white and working class brown kids (immigrant and born here). She said her situation was that Latinos were, de facto, excluded from the school because the establishment didn’t succeed in building relationships with the community, and also had a lack of understanding of, and low expectations for Latinos and poor people. Her technique was to get to know the Latino parents, to get them to trust her, and then get the parents to volunteer in the classroom as aides (all parents are asked to volunteer). She also has eliminated “unstructured” time from the school day. The result is similar results, all high, for all the students, on standardized tests. What’s strange is, the administration don’t support these techniques, despite their quantitative success.

    My personal belief is that educational performance is mostly an issue of work. If your parents don’t speak English, you end up having to work harder on it, by putting in more hours, perhaps by spending time at the library. If they don’t “get” math, you’re on your own trying to find additional education to shore that up. The baseline education that’s offered is structured to work, mainly, for kids coming from English speaking (and reading and writing) middle-class families. So, the quantity of material is inadequate to bring an immigrant or working-class community test scores up to the average. The only way to catch up is to work outside of school.

    The “Asian” issue is, I think, more of a class issue than a race issue. Immigration laws prohibit laborers from entering this country, but allow the well-educated with technical jobs wating here for them. That creates the statistical skew…

    But in Lincoln Heights, there’s probably another effect. The cost of coming to the USA is higher for Asians, so it weeds out more working-class Asians, especially those lacking skills relevant to working in the USA. Conversely, it’s a pretty low cost (and risk) for Mexicans, so, there’s going to be more economic diversity in their community.

    Personally, I didn’t experience the parental pressure described in the article. They expected me to go to college, but, they would have been fine with Cal State LA (and even encouraged us to consider it).

    Also, that bit about tardiness was true in my experience. I was tardy a lot, and never got busted. It got recorded, but they were kind of gentle about it and never sent me to detention. I assumed it was because I got good grades, and it was an AP class I was tardy for. Maybe they sympathized that I went to school by bicycle if I missed the bus.

    I’m still tardy, a lot. I own a car, now, though.

  3. “Bridging the grade divide in Lincoln Heights” I agree with Alienation and has said all that needs to be said on that topic, it’s class (The class of your grandmother and grandfather, not of you currently. I’m half Nigerian. I have an uncle who was a doctor, when he came here he had to work two jobs at the bottom of the health-care field, now on paper he looks like an African-American, but both of his daughters, my cousins are doctors now, and while the Nigerian side of my family would smack me for saying this, it’s got nothing to do with just working harder. Getting to the US by plane is way different than getting here by chains on a boat or on your feet, your historical experience allows you to help your kids more in academia, even if you are broke on paper.)

    It’s obvious. Why people try to make it something else is insane. I think people just want to be right, so they can say things like, “I’m not prejudice, the facts point to, blah, blah, blah.”

    Ok, moving on to critiquing the media. That’s just sad, just fucking sad that LA Times can’t cover ethnic communities without going to some stupid stereotype. Like there is nothing of interest to write about, but cementing the thinking of lazy thinking individuals.

    The other PoC interest story was how a Latino basketball team was well received by the black basketball team, like that’s fucking rare, as if to some how imply that there is always infighting.

    And there is nothing wrong with discussing either of these issues if there was a balance of other stuff.

    A well-rounded portrayal of people of color would be nice.

    And now with the new round of firing there is going to be less and less thinking and more and more of this sensational piece of shit stories.

    Great, that is just freakin’ fabulous and notice the “intelligent” level of conversation going on over there.

    The LA Times needs to have some reporters or people with sense at least participating in the discussion so it doesn’t become some free for all for assholes, but that’s probably what they want. That’s the easiest way to get traffic, appealing to the lowest common denominator.


  4. I thought Beccera did a good job of trying to explore some of the issues around the stereotypes rather than play into them. It’s kinda tough because I imagine both Asians and Latinos believe a lot of the stereotypes themselves.

  5. Nothing wrong with Beccera reporting, something wrong with the fact that there needs to be a more variety of stories about Latinos and Asians. That story is fine by itself. That story with that paper with no other portrayals, then it becomes something else.

    You have that, then you have the homicide report were post after post about Latino and black kids getting shot.

    I just don’t think it’s fair. I think that PoC deserve to be an entire human beings, all people deserve to have a their whole story told. You have stories about white people and their challenges in school, but then you have random story about white person remodeling their house. Can’t their be a story about PoC without them being PoC?

    This in no way is me insulting the reporter. I’m insulting the paper. I’m just saying I think there needs to be more. You do what you can and Beccera did a good job.

    I wish people didn’t believe the stereotypes told about them. I know lots of people of color do. I can tell. I can tell when I meet them and they give me their resume and their college within 20 minutes of a first meeting.

    My freshman year in college every black person I met was a genius and every Asian was a moron, this is of course according to the person’s description of themselves.

    I was feeling a bit inferior until sophomore year all of these geniuses had been thrown out.

    You can’t live your life believing these things. Basing your behavior on lies people tell about you is really draining. It destroys your confidence and makes you try to hide things you really have no reason to hide or be ashamed of.

    I always think about the abysmal graduation (hs and college) rates for Latinos and black students and I think half of the reason is they are ashamed to ask for help, because they don’t want to be thought of in a stereotypical manner (especially in college), so they just go away rather than seek the help they should ask for.

  6. I should clarify about my “working hard” comment. I think that the school system undereducates. You’ll do fine if you have a lot of support at home, and education at home supplements the education at school.

    If you lack this support, lack parents who have high school degrees, come from a very rural background, etc. you’re going to be at a disadvantage.

    If you follow the rules, and study the required amount, you’re not going to do very well and may have a hard time. That’s just my opinion, and I’m sure teachers would disagree, but, it just seems to be how it works. Maybe it’s supposed to work this way – it would cost more money to bring everyone up to the same level, so they let a lot of people slip.

    The disadvantages can be reduced or erased with additional study. This means, if you’re one grade level behind in a subject, then, you need to take an extra class for a year. In some situations, you can add a period or do some independent study and catch up.

    If you’re slipping in a subject, you need to either get help, or if that’s not available, find some books to study.

    This stuff needs to be built into the system, through something like a 7th period class. It can’t really be “extra curricular” – many staff need to be present.

    Looking back, I did this a few different ways. In hs, I wasn’t that great at math, but I wanted to get ahead, so one year, I took two math classes and caught up. They had a computer class, and I had some experience, so I did a lot of self-study to get ahead in there, and then did homework for other classes during that period. My friend suggested we go to Cal State LA for summer school, so we did that, and it was good because it helped my grades to know the material before the year started. I did well, but it’s not something that came effortlessly – effort was all there was most of the time. That and some friends with a clue told me what to do.

    I know all this extra work sounds like a grind, and it is. The thing is, there’s no 13th grade or 7th period to let people catch up. That’s what junior college is for, but I didn’t know about junior college transfers at the time. I just felt like I was “behind” all the time, and did work outside the normal day to catch up.

    I ended up going to UC Berkeley, a good school. The funny thing was, not a single teacher or counselor suggested it. A fellow student told me about the school and how elite it was. Another one had come back to teach the SAT prep course. The school sounded good to me, and it showed up in the US News rankings, so I focused on it. Later on, I read about the city via some zines at Pooh Bah’s records, and it seemed like a cool place full of culture.

    When I got to college, my writing was poor. So, I found ways to practice online. That worked out, eventually, and my grades improved. I didn’t know about free tutoring at the school, and out of my ignorance (or was it obstinance (or fear)), didn’t take advantage of it. Had I done so, it would have helped with the grades. Duh.

    Reading back over this, it’s pretty obvious to me that I was generally clueless about many things. On the other hand, to compensate, I’d over-study, or over-learn things sometimes. At times, I’d overwork. Whatever it was, it was in addition to the prescribed study or work, and typically outside of the school.

    I still am clueless, to a great extent. I just got onto a “career track” in my late 20s, and slipped off several years. “Mentors” and “internships” have only started to make sense to me this millenium, and I’m almost 40.

    Not saying I didn’t know a thing about a career. I just didn’t have the stomach for it and took jobs based on interest. The progression of a career hadn’t really ever been unfolded to me in a way that made sense. (Maybe the fact I never saw my parents get promotions made the idea of “advancement” seem impossible.)

    What really bothers me is, I’ve met so many adults who know even less about these things. They don’t know there’s a whole constellation of people willing to help, but at the same time, it’s like these potential helpers are in a totally different reality.

  7. @browne – I agree about the difference between your immigrant experience and the African American experience for people who descended from slaves. There was a serious cultural genocide that created the AA reality.

    I think the same thing is happening (and happened) with Indigenous people. And among the Indigenous are many we call “Latino”.

  8. alienation: I was talking with a friend this weekend who is Chicano and he was telling me how he had to learn to stop being afraid to demand help and attention in school, and how now, he’s like, fuck that, here’s what I want/need, and how do I get it.

    and it made me realize that as old as I am, and how much school and stuff I’ve been through, I still operate in a similar way. we were talking about that thing of, don’t bug the teacher, don’t bother the administration, sort of keep your head down and mouth shut and slip under the radar. and how that is instilled in poc as a mechanism of training both from the system, so that we don’t demand the services and treatment we deserve, but also, from our own side, internally, as a necessary survival strategy, to avoid detection and reprisal. don’t challenge anything, don’t rock the boat, just do your thing and don’t stand out too much.

    and sometimes we train one another by delivering swift and harsh punishments against those who challenge or question anything within our own social structures of family, friends, neighborhood.

    and that can really suck. that is a form of internal colonization. within our own groups, our own social structures, there has to be a way to help people learn these survival skills, but also, to create safe situations where it’s okay to voice our concerns, needs, desires, without getting our heads chopped off, or getting ostracized.

    if we don’t develop this kind of more nuanced and sophisticated internal technology of interrelation, then we will just keep replicating the external colonizing strucures on an internal level.

    when I was talking about this with my friend, I was tripping out, realizing that even as a grown adult, who has been generally pretty successful in school, I still fall into this stuff a lot–not wanting to bother people, not wanting to rock the boat too much, sometimes hesitant to get what I need, and then when I DO say something that makes me stand out, freaking out if I think that I’ve bothered or upset others by expressing myself and brought punishment on myself for it.

    that is bullshit. that is some deep conditioning and training right there, and it starts in school. and we help to perpetuate it with how we treat one another.

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