By Tina Tsai
Last year on The Daily Show, Aasif Mandvi did a short satire piece on the Confucius Classroom controversy in the Hacienda La Puente Unified School District. Hacienda Heights, CA is a heavily Asian Pacific Islander American community, and it is my hometown. After watching the national news on it all over TV, I had to go see what was going on with my own eyes.
I started to attend district school board meetings regularly, and I was horrified at what I witnessed first-hand. I had no idea there was that much anti-Chinese antagonism in our community. The general meeting environment is just downright abusive — people, some from our neighborhood and some not, are publicly attacking our elected district board members, accusing them of being Chinese Communists, insulting their intelligence, disrespecting them as individuals and as citizens of this country, and making groundless accusations that they are improperly using district funds. At the first meeting I went to, these accusations were all based on “rumors.”
To make matters worse, when students got up to speak of their own free will and present very well organized and intelligent arguments, they were being called “Red Guard” and told to be ashamed of themselves and accused of being “brainwashed.” Not only that, a very rude individual named Kai Chen – often quoted in the news on this issue and was even interviewed on Fox News — interrupted student speaker Alan Lin by yelling the very racist remark “Tainted with lead!” If these people are there to protect American youth from Communist brainwashing, why are they being so very abusive to the very students they claim to protect?
I spoke up at some of the meetings. Here is the first speech I made at the second meeting I attended, after the jump.
Good evening everyone. My name is Tina Tsai. I graduated from Los Altos High School, and I taught for four years as a teacher in this school district at Cedarlane Middle School and at Los Molinos Elementary School. I was present at the last meeting in June, and I wanted to speak today in response to what I heard at that meeting.
First of all, I was very impressed by the students who spoke at the last meeting. I commend their interest and involvement in their community and their own education. They embody courage, intelligence, and the spirit of American democracy. I’m happy to see them back here to speak again tonight, and I feel privileged to have been able to help Mr. Jeffrey Tso and Mr. Alan Lin by giving them constructive criticism and feedback on their arguments in preparation for their speeches tonight. As an American citizen and a California Credentialed Teacher, I think I have a right to “coach” our American youth.
This room, this building, and this meeting would not even exist if the students were not in the schools of this district learning and growing. It is wonderful to have student representation at a District Board Meeting. Unfortunately, many adult speakers at the previous meeting exhibited some poor examples of American democracy for our youth.
At the last meeting, I witnessed an adult man interrupting one of the student speakers with an extremely rude and racist remark, encroaching upon that student’s time to speak. In America, we believe in freedom of speech and the importance of giving everyone a chance to talk. In America, we embrace diversity and we do not tolerate racism.
At the last meeting, I witnessed adults making groundless accusations and poorly constructed arguments with little or no factual proof. Many spoke out in anger based on “rumors”. In America, everyone has the right to speak and share their opinion, but wasting the time of public officials with childish tantrums based on rumors is being an irresponsible citizen. In America, we value diligence, responsibility, and doing your homework. We are the hardest working country in the world.
At the last meeting, I witnessed adults showing a gross lack of knowledge and understanding of our world. Understanding China and its history, culture, religion, and language is a California state standard based of the History-Social Science Framework published by the California Department of Education. Learning about Confucius and Confucianism is required in standards 6.6 and 7.3. If you don’t know who Confucius is or the basic concepts of Confucianism, then you have failed to meet the California standards for 6th and 7th grade.
Further, if you know anything about communism in China, you would know that the rise of communism in the last half of the 20th century served at one point to destroy and reject much of traditional Chinese culture, especially Confucianism. Teaching students about Chinese culture and history is inherently an anti-communist act. Thank you for your time.
After being criticized for not having any substantial evidence, some of opposition eventually brought some sort of paperwork records, but if those were actually verifiable, there would be no need to come yelling about it at the district meetings. A simple call to the Teacher’s Union or the local sheriff would have been enough to settle matters, right? They still persist is making such accusations today. Stealing from taxpayers is against the law last I checked, so if they’ve got hard evidence, the sheriff is just down the street!
Last Thursday February 10, 2011, they submitted a petition to recall four of the five district board members, which includes all three of the API heritage district board members. The community of students, residents, parents, and teachers has started a counter-petition to reject the recall.
Note that the petition states that several of the opponents that are trying to recall our elected representatives do not live in our district and most do not even have students that go to our district schools. This means anyone can sign OUR petition for OUR school district, so spread the word!
Bio: Tina Tsai, Ph.D. is a writer, teacher, and founder of The Literacy Guild LLC. She and her students write and publish their work. Her debut teen kung fu romance novel The Legend of Phoenix Mountain is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
(Image credit: Jay Chen)