Wednesday, December 30, 2009

4th Grade California Mission Projects: A Thought Experiment for Parents, Educators, and Students

Sisters at the California Indian Conference, 2007: Rose Miranda, Louise Miranda Ramirez, Deborah Miranda. Wearing the very cool jackets designed for us by Louise.



4TH GRADE CALIFORNIA MISSION PROJECTS: A THOUGHT EXPERIMENT FOR PARENTS, EDUCATORS AND STUDENTS

In California schools, students come up against the "Mission Unit" in fourth grade, although the same children have been breathing in the lies most of their lives. Part of California’s history curriculum, the unit is entrenched in the system, and impossible to avoid.

Because this assignment is typically started over Winter Vacation, I’m posting this note for parents and children who are starting their research now. Please be aware that I have other blog posts about the missions as well; please take a look at them too. Three main posts are http://whenturtlesfly.blogspot.com/2009/01/san-franciscomission-delores.html , http://whenturtlesfly.blogspot.com/2008/06/excerpts-from-my-very-late-mission.html and http://whenturtlesfly.blogspot.com/2009/09/weapons-of-mass-destruction-mastiffs.html .

The Mission Unit is a powerfully authoritative indoctrination in Mission Mythology against which fourth graders have little if any resistance, and intense pressure is put upon students (and their parents) to create a "Mission Project" that glorifies the era and glosses over both Spanish and Mexican exploitation of Indians, as well as American enslavement of those same Indians during American rule. For a 4th grade mother's take on the pressures and competitive aspects of the project, see Jennifer White's column "Fourth Grade Mission" at http://www.havingthreekids.com/onamission.html , where White writes, "Part of what’s making me so grumpy is that I don’t see any point to this project, any more than I saw the point of the shrunken-apple-head witch project, or the Halloween diorama project. Even if the missions are still relevant enough to justify this effort by all of the California fourth-graders and their families (and frankly, I’m not sure that they are), I just don’t see how building a model helps the kids understand the missions any better. I've thought about asking Riley's teacher, but I can't bring myself to question her on this sacred topic. It would be vaguely heretical. None of the other moms I talk to are sure what the point of the project is, either, but we’re all resigned to the idea that the mission model is like death and taxes -- annoying, but unavoidable."  Others are beginning to question the tradition of the "Mission Project," too; see David Templeton's essay about the extraordinarily expenses students typically run up vs. actual educational value.

In other words, the Mission Unit is all too often a lesson in mindless competition, imperialism, racism, and Manifest Destiny than actually educational or a jumping off point for critical thinking or accurate history.

Can you imagine teaching about slavery in the U.S. South while simultaneously requiring each child to lovingly construct a plantation model, complete with happy darkies in the fields, white masters, overseers with whips, and human auctions? Or ask fourth graders to study the Holocaust by carefully designing detailed concentration camps, complete with gas chambers, heroic Nazi guards, crematoriums?



Try this: below is a standard “Mission Project” taken directly from an anonymous 4th grade teacher’s file.

Mission Project
Dear Students and Parents,

Here is a packet that will assist you in completing the California
Missions Project this year. Each student will research one of 21 California
Missions and write a report (see the sample report to learn the format). In
addition to the report, each student will construct one of the three
projects (see the sample project ideas below). The materials used to create
the projects are suggested materials. You may have your own ideas on how to
put together the project that will be selected.

Students are not required to present their reports on any type of
display board. Type written or hand written (double spaced or a line
skipped) on he appropriate paper will be fine.

Fabricated Mission Kits that can be purchased at the local craft store
MAY NOT BE USED. I would like the students to learn the value of problem
solving and being creative when constructing their projects. Cardboard,
wood, sand, clay, dirt, paint, Fabric, pasta noodles, paper tubes, natural
and artificial plants, twigs etc. are all great materials to use. I have
even seen projects built out of Lego blocks, chocolate, and sugar cubes.
Please parents, try to refrain from doing your child's project for them. This
is a valuable time for your child to grow as a learner. It makes it difficult
to grade projects with fairness when they appear to be done by adult hands.
We will be talking at greats lengths in class about how best to go about this
projects but it may be wise to save wrapping paper tubes, boxes and other
scrap material left over from the holiday season.

There our several web sites on the net for you to use in your
research. Simply go to your favorite search engine (Yahoo,
Google , etc.) and search for California Missions. There is a wealth of
information. Books and encyclopedia are big help too. If you should have
questions, please contact me. Okay kids, this will keep you busy!!! Have
fun and I can’t wait to see what you come up with.

Warmly,

Mrs. X


Name _________________________________________

Mission Research Notes


1. What is the name of the mission?



2. When was the mission built?



3. Who founded the mission?



4. In what town or city is the mission located at today?



5. What number in the chain along the El Camino Real
is this mission?


6. Which tribe or tribes of Native Americans lived around the mission?



7. What did the mission grow or manufacture (make)?



8. What special features are seen at the mission?



9. How is the mission used today?



10. Are there any special facts or unusual stories about this mission?


Now, what if we tweak this assignment’s rhetoric just a little bit? Do you see what happens to the idea of California Mission Projects as 4th grade education?


Plantation Project
Dear Students and Parents,

Here is a packet that will assist you in completing the Mississippi
Plantation Project this year. Each student will research one of 21 Mississippi
Plantations and write a report (see the sample report to learn the format). In
addition to the report, each student will construct one of the three
projects (see the sample project ideas below). The materials used to create
the projects are suggested materials. You may have your own ideas on how to
put together the project that will be selected.

Students are not required to present their reports on any type of
display board. Type written or hand written (double spaced or a line
skipped) on he appropriate paper will be fine.

Fabricated Plantation Project Kits that can be purchased at the local craft store
MAY NOT BE USED. I would like the students to learn the value of problem
solving and being creative when constructing their projects. Cardboard,
wood, sand, clay, dirt, paint, Fabric, pasta noodles, paper tubes, natural
and artificial plants, twigs etc. are all great materials to use. I have
even seen projects built out of Lego blocks, chocolate, and sugar cubes.
Please parents, try to refrain from doing your child's project for them. This
is a valuable time for your child to grow as a learner. It makes it difficult
to grade projects with fairness when they appear to be done by adult hands.
We will be talking at greats lengths in class about how best to go about this
projects but it may be wise to save wrapping paper tubes, boxes and other
scrap material left over from the holiday season.

There our several web sites on the net for you to use in your
research. Simply go to your favorite search engine (Yahoo,
Google , etc.) and search for Mississippi Plantations. There is a wealth of
information. Books and encyclopedia are big help too. If you should have
questions, please contact me. Okay kids, this will keep you busy!!! Have
fun and I can’t wait to see what you come up with.

Warmly,

Mrs. X


Name _________________________________________

Mississippi Plantation Research Notes


1. What is the name of the Plantation?



2. When was the Plantation built?



3. Who founded the Plantation?



4. In what town or city is the Plantation located at today?



5. What number in the chain along The Mississippi River
is this Plantation?


6. From which countries or tribes were African slaves taken to live at this Plantation?



7. What did this Plantation grow or manufacture (make)?



8. What special features are seen at the Plantation?



9. How is the Plantation used today?



10. Are there any special facts or unusual stories about this Plantation?

Okay, if you’re still having difficulty seeing the problem, close your eyes and imagine your child coming home to tell you about THIS project:


Concentration Camp Project
Dear Students and Parents,

Here is a packet that will assist you in completing the German
Concentration Camps Project this year. Each student will research one of 21 German
Concentration Camps and write a report (see the sample report to learn the format). In
addition to the report, each student will construct one of the three
projects (see the sample project ideas below). The materials used to create
the projects are suggested materials. You may have your own ideas on how to
put together the project that will be selected.

Students are not required to present their reports on any type of
display board. Type written or hand written (double spaced or a line
skipped) on he appropriate paper will be fine.

Fabricated Concentration Camp Kits that can be purchased at the local craft store
MAY NOT BE USED. I would like the students to learn the value of problem
solving and being creative when constructing their projects. Cardboard,
wood, sand, clay, dirt, paint, Fabric, pasta noodles, paper tubes, natural
and artificial plants, twigs etc. are all great materials to use. I have
even seen projects built out of Lego blocks, chocolate, and sugar cubes.
Please parents, try to refrain from doing your child's project for them. This
is a valuable time for your child to grow as a learner. It makes it difficult
to grade projects with fairness when they appear to be done by adult hands.
We will be talking at greats lengths in class about how best to go about this
projects but it may be wise to save wrapping paper tubes, boxes and other
scrap material left over from the holiday season.

There our several web sites on the net for you to use in your
research. Simply go to your favorite search engine (Yahoo,
Google , etc.) and search for German Concentration Camps. There is a wealth of
information. Books and encyclopedia are big help too. If you should have
questions, please contact me. Okay kids, this will keep you busy!!! Have
fun and I can’t wait to see what you come up with.

Warmly,

Mrs. X

Name _________________________________________

Concentration Camp Research Notes


1. What is the name of the Concentration Camp?



2. When was the Concentration Camp built?



3. Who founded the Concentration Camp?



4. In what town or city is the Concentration Camp located at today?



5. What number in the list of Camps is this Concentration Camp?


6. Which type of Jews lived around the Camp? (Sephardic, Ashkenazim, non-religious, traditional, Hasidic, scholars, villagers?)



7. What did the Concentration Camp grow or manufacture (make)?



8. What special features are seen at the Concentration Camp?



9. How is the Concentration Camp used today?



10. Are there any special facts or unusual stories about this Concentration Camp?



What major problems does this Thought Experiment bring to light?

The first thing you might notice is an almost complete lack of focus on the ACTUAL HUMAN BEINGS whose lived and died in these Missions: California Indians. Over 500 different tribes existed in the lands now forming the State of California at first contact: about one million people. By the time the Missions closed, the Rancho (Mexican) era was over, and the Gold Rush (Americans) led to statehood, only 5-10,000 Indians remained alive. What happened to them? How did the Missions contribute to that devastation? What kind of “lives” did those Indians lead in the Missions that created a life-expectancy of about seven years old?

Secondly, you might notice a complete lack of reference to two crucial Mission actors: Priests, and Soldiers. On whose authority were these Missions ordered constructed? And hey – who constructed them, anyway? And why would Indians give up their freedom to become, essentially, slaves?

Who decided this was a good idea? How, exactly, was it carried out? In other words: let’s talk about VIOLENCE and RACISM.

I’ll stop now. If you don’t get the point by now, I’m wasting my time, and yours.

But if this Thought Experiment has done any good, and I hope it has, you will do the kind of parenting that really matters: direct you children toward the truth, and onto a path of critical thinking that will only make them stronger, more compassionate, better-educated citizens, ready to engage with the real world.

Alternative 4th Grade Projects for your child:

1. Interview a real California Indian. See tribal websites for contact people.


2. Look up California Indian artists and writers on line. How have they interpreted and represented the story of Missionization?


3. Challenge the usage of past tense in Mission histories. Which Missions still have active tribal members living in the area? What languages do they speak? What kind of gatherings do they have? Are there recordings of their current songs?

Feel free to use the California Indian links on the right side of this blog to start your research, especially Edward Castillo's "A Brief History of California Indians."


Remember, this information is going into a child's brain, and heart. How will you choose to nourish your child's education?

California Native flag design © by Louise Miranda Ramirez. Do not use without permission.



32 comments:

  1. Thanks for this post. I am going to have my students read it this coming semester. Good stuff.

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  2. Excellent posting, Deborah. I don't recall learning anything useful about the missions in school.

    P.S. Did you make those "California Native" shirts yourself? Or is someone selling them somewhere?

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  3. Rob, my sister Louise designed the flag, hired an artist to create it, and had a few jackets & T-shirts made for family members. I'll give her your contact info if you like. Thanks for your comment.

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  4. Matt, thanks for your comment, and for using this blog in your class. I really enjoy YOUR blog, too, and have it on my list of Native blogs. It's nice to know you, hope we meet up at a conference sometime!

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  5. I am a parent of a fourth grader in California. I ran across your blog when researching ideas for how to help my son do his Mission project. RIGHT ON!!! Thank you for articulating all that is wrong with this assignment!

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  6. thanks, Anonymous! You made this California Indian's day. Good luck with that project. Deborah

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  7. When my now 16 year old son was in 4th grade, I stressed over his mission project. I spent a lot of money on a model and put it together all by myself. I didn't learn a thing and obviously, neither did he. Guess what? I am now a first year 4th grade teacher. After reading your blog post, all those stressful memories came back and I have decided not to require a mission project. Students will be given a choice!

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  8. Mrs. Diaz, you are a brave and smart woman. Your son is very lucky. please contact me if I can help you with the alternative project; depending on where you live, I have many relatives and contacts in California who might be willing to visit your class. You rock!

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  9. Completely appreciate the perspective on "Missions Projects," and entirely agree!!! My students thought that Spanish was the NATIVE language of Mexico!!! Okay, so, I'm just now researching how I can teach this required material with a large twist of truth. I just now found your web-site, so I may have missed the following info,but can comment on some web resources that have some alternative projects, etc., for teaching this type of unit...THNX :)

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  10. Hi Julie,
    thank you so much for your comment, and for giving me the final push into a new direction for this blog. I am working to generate both a list of basics, and a collection of possible alternatives. It'll be a long journey, but see my latest blog entry for a start. And, if anyone wants to send me information they've gathered themselves on balanced alternatives to the Mission Project, please email me at deborah.a.miranda@gmail.com - Deborah

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  11. Thank you so much for this. It needs to go to the curriculum mongers in California to change their "standards". My daughter is 29 and one of her friend's parents tried to fight this in 4th grade. The teacher was new and too scared to do anything.
    I am hoping this isn't still true.
    Thanks again.

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  12. For a Euro-centric view of the Spanish exploration and colonization of "Alta California", 1774-76 see http://anza.uoregon.edu/ .

    This website, called Web de Anza, produced at the University of Oregon, does include primary sources which are an excellent resource for student/teacher evaluation in appropriate curriculum and instruction. Also, there are some first rate historical maps with Flash components which would compliment any classroom lesson plans. And, there is a Teacher Center with this website in which teachers created lesson plans based on Web De Anza. This web based learning environment was created in 2001.

    The educational suggestions here to research Web de Anza in no way suggest any dampening of the understanding of the many violent experiences of indigenous cultures faced from Europeans while they became the dominant culture in North America. The key is teacher and parent evaluation and resulting interpretation of historical sources as presented to young people. Web de Anza may be helpful.

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  13. Wow...I am speechless! And are you bitter or what? Write your state curriculum and standards representatives! Don't take it out on the teacher who is following the curriculum.
    Signed: Disappointed in today's parents!

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  14. Dear Anonymous: 1) Define 'bitter.' I think someone who lightly dismisses genocide, continued exploitation and racism is more of a doormat than active US Citizen. I am also creatively and proactively working via this blog and my academic scholarship to change things; 2) we have been writing to the state curriculum and standards representatives for, oh, about 20 years non-stop. That has been a dead-end. We will continue to knock on that door for another 20, if that's what it takes, but meanwhile, other actions are clearly called for; 3) "the teacher who is following the curriculum" is following a curriculum without the slightest update or change in about 30 years; he or she CAN make changes to the assignment, but has opted not to do so. Therefore, perhaps s/he needs some incentive, like compassion and an education about inaccurate or just plain wrong information being passed on to their students. 4) I am not sure what "today's parents" means (demanding and unreasonable??) - I am a California Indian with a Ph.D in English, specializing in Native Lit and Studies, a full-time tenured professor. Yes, I am a parent - my two kids went to school in Washington State and had to go through the "Oregon Trail" Unit, which is similiar in purpose and inaccuracy, and I worked to change that, as well. Sorry that an involved, educated, hard-working "parent" like me is such a disappointment to you - and you are ...?? anonymous?

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  15. Thank you so much for this website!!! I am a substitute teacher in LAUSD, so friends often ask for help with their children's projects. They sometimes don't believe me when I tell them the truth, and even if they do, they don't want their child's project to reflect it because, they don't want to "confuse" the child. Sadly, I think many teachers go with the flow because they think it is accurate! So often history isn't the truth, it's what is easy and popular.
    Karen Kirstein

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  16. I found your blog very helpful!! My son is in the middle of working on his Mission Project right now!! His teacher did assign it and she is letting them pick which mission they want to do it on. My sons teacher is different from the majority of the teachers because she teaches them the REAL TRUTH of how the Indians were treated during this period of history, as well as what really happened at the first thanksgiving!! My son is doing his on the San Gabriel Mission-our family has ancestors buried there.

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  17. Hello - Might you be able to tell me when, exactly or approximately, during the 4th grade school year do they begin on the California Mission project? I have a new in box Mervyn's Mission to sell and was thinking it might be a useful classroom tool or some such, and I am trying to figure out when would be the best time of year to offer it on eBay or a similar site. Thank you for any help you might provide. If you didn't mind terribly, perhaps you could e-mail me directly from my Google name /profile? Thank you.

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  18. Good grief, the previous poster is clueless! She didn't even bother to read the text here?! As a great-grandmother, involved in Indian Education programs since the early 70s, I'm always amazed that this is STILL an issue! I felt as if I'd talked myself blue in the face year after year... and still, the fight goes on. Terrific suggestions you have made. I'm interested if you've made any plans to market that flag design? I would love to have a couple of T-shirts, or decals, or an actual flag, or permission to use the design! It is a great idea.

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  19. Ms. Miranda,
    Thanks you for your insightful blog. My daughter attends an independent study program and I will teach 3/4th graders the 4th grade California standards this year. My teaching partner sent me this blog. I read the article and then, found you again on the Web while researching contemporary Indian artist using your links! I would like to use your alternative 4th grade projects with our class this year. "I Am Not A Witness" is a very powerful poem and I was hoping you might be interested in starting a dialogue with me about the best way to interpret your poem and weather you feel it is appropriate for 8-10 year olds. I am also interested in finding another artist from California Indian community with artwork representing the "story of missionization”. Please feel free to email me at momoniki@gmail.com.
    Thank- you,
    Niki I.
    Santa Cruz, CA

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  20. When my oldest was in 4th grade, we had to do this project, as well. However, we went online and read someone's college paper on the mission system, which was extremely informational and obviously far more accurate than the school's teach (I attended 4th grade in California myself). So, while we had to build the model, because it was such a huge part of the grade, my daughter wrote a very truthful report to go along with it. I wanted my daughter to understand the idea that it wasn't just this happy, fun time, or that the mission system had somehow "helped" native americans (because that's what they teach in school). Her teacher was VERY taken aback by the report, I don't think she was happy about it AT ALL. Despite the fact that it was written very well, she gave her a C on it (while giving her an A+ on the actual model). And I am sure we spent MANY more hours researching for that report than any other kid in that class. I put so much time and energy and HEART into teaching her the truth, but other kids who just copied candy-coated info from "suggested resources" got A's on their reports! It is depressing that public school teachers in this state STILL will not reward students for seeking out the truth as opposed to just perpetuating inaccuracies. I mean, isn't the entire POINT of education to be learning for accuracy?!!!

    And don't even get me STARTED on what happened when her class was studying Christopher Columbus!...

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  21. I really enjoyed reading the blog. I am a homeschooling parent of a 4th grader. We just covered the California mission system. My son then wanted to create a mission. So I figured why not, he is a very hands on project learner. However, I also talked to him about how the textbook really downplayed the torture Indians endured at the hands of the priests and soldiers. These people treated the Indians as though they were people who had no brains, and had to be trained to be productive. I am going to have him research the negative effects missions had on Indian tribes. I also want to use this as a lesson to not take one source at face value. It is important to dig further to really understand history. Textbooks tend to justify and support the horrendous actions of people in history.

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  22. As a 4th grade teacher who does not believe in indoctrination of impressionable minds, I really appreciated the report comparisons that you provided. We subscribe to a “Weekly Reader”-type newspaper that supplements our Social Studies program, and I find myself constantly reminding students that these are written with a Eurocentric bias. While I am not an apologist for the atrocities that occurred during our westward expansion, I also do not teach children to be sheep. History has to be taught with facts, not idealism. Love for one’s country cannot be built upon misrepresentations; otherwise, it is easily undermined. Thanks again!

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  23. My son was just given this assignment a week ago. Parents are prohibited from helping with the written report research, editing, etc... they are required to write in class only and use resources from the teacher. Being the involved parent I am, went to library and picked up books to read myself to learn more about missions. I wanted more information so began searching the internet and came across this blog and was mindblown! I did not have a mission project in school so this is so new to me. I sent the following email a few moments ago to my son's teacher, I omitted names for privacy reasons of my son & the teacher.

    Mrs. (teacher's last name),

    I understand and have been respecting the fact that (son's name) is required to write his California Mission report without parental assistance, however after reviewing the outline format and informational worksheet he is being required to use, there appears to be an absence of attention given to the negative impact of missions on Native Indians. Paragraph #3 of the outline specifically states students must write about the speciality of the mission and how Indian tribes were served, yet the Native Indians were the actual servants. They were recruited as laborers to build and sustain missions, seen as candidates for religious conversion, infected with disease that killed many of them and their interpersonal relationships controlled to dictate their ability to reproduce.

    Are these facts being taught in class via other written materials, film and/or teacher lecture? If so, where do they fit within the outline given?

    (my name)

    I plan to break the rules and help my son research and write a portion of the report to include an additional portion stating the negative impact of missions on Native Indian culture and population related to the mission he was assigned. I am not sure how well it will be received but I pray for the best. Thank you for this blog, thank you! I never knew. Like I said, never did a mission report in school. I am African American so really relate when you say one side is being told. I do not even want him to build the mission now because there is no way he would be building a plantation.

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  24. As a fourth grade teacher, I actually really liked your post. Let me tell you a little something from the teacher's point of view. First of all, I HATE assigning mission projects...but the KIDS look forward to for years. I know the parents hate it, so we build ours out of scraps & random art supplies inside our classroom. I actually do try to stress the point of view of the Native Americans. However, I am speaking to nine & ten year olds and the content does need to be appropriate. By the way, as long as parents are polite, most teachers actually welcome feedback.

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    Replies
    1. The content being appropriate does not mean that we need to glorify the missions, though. You as a teacher should be able to recognize this, surely?? As a California student, you cannot lie to me and tell me that that is not what this project does along with other curriculum, that's EXACTLY what it does. There is a way to inform students of what really happened without mindlessly leaving out about the part about mass genocide and torture. The fact that we continually tell kids that these missions helped native americans!! Disgusting.

      Delete
  25. You are making gross assumptions when you state or believe that teachers are such idiots that they can't even think to point out the obvious issues and problems with the mission era. Do you think we should ignore history and just not teach it. Or do you believe that every teacher teaches this subject the same way. You are just as blind and prejudiced as those you accuse then.

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  26. Get a life people, these are 4th graders. It is just a simple school project. Thanks for wasting my time reading this nonsense.

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  27. @ AnonymousFeb 7, 2012 07:46 PM

    "Get a life people, these are 4th graders. It is just a simple school project. Thanks for wasting my time reading this nonsense."

    Sure it's simple if you're okay with it looking like crap. Since nobody forced you to read this, you can thank YOURSELF for wasting your time. Idiot...

    Anyway... I think the model project is pointless because all it does is force the parents to do a bunch of work that, in my opinion, is a bit above a 9 or 10 year old's mechanical capabilities (Junior High maybe...). A poster with a well-written report should suffice. A full-on 3D model with all of the details is simply begging for parents to get stressed more than they already are.

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  28. I enjoyed reading your blog. I am a 4th grade teacher and I teach to the truth (keeping in mind the students are young)... We have lots of conversations about what life was REALY like for all groups. I stray away from our curriculum book a lot because the focus is so narrowed and brief. I teach in Fremont and would love to know if you have contact info for anyone in the area who would be interested in visiting my class or allowing my class to contact them.
    MN

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  29. As teachers, we do well if we can bestow on our students what historians call "historical mindedness," and if we ourselves are not open to confront the complexities of history, we best be no more than proctors.

    The Catholic fathers did not establish the missions so they could become slave masters or to commit genocide. The missions were set up with the intention that the Natives would eventually take control. The missionaries' presumptions may seem offensive today and they were indeed paternalistic (even with their own people), but the fathers were even more severe on themselves, especially the Franciscans (unlike the Jesuits) who turned from European Enlightenment thinking of their time and retained a medieval form of spirituality. Alas, there were no multicultural sensitivity classes offered in Spain in the 1700s.

    As is emblazoned across newspapers, many in our own profession contradict the ideals of our work; so to did many a missionary and to a deplorable degree. Yet as that period was romanticized when I was little, now the sentiment seems to sometimes go to the other pole.

    It is often overlooked (or perhaps some never made the effort to look) how there were priests of that period who tirelessly defended the rights of the Natives against European mistreatment, and historians credit them with laying the groundwork for international law, i.e., how a nation should treat citizens of other nations. Men like Father Antonio de Montesinos, Father Bartolome de las Casas, Father Francisco de Vitoria ("the father of international law") had the boldness to step outside the norms and limitations of their own culture and time period to hold up a mirror to Spain and she looked. Hence the momentous Debates of 1550--apparently the first time in history an imperial power questioned whether its conquests were ethical. Did the Huns, the Empire of Ghenghis Khan, or that of the Aztecs ever debate the morality of their conquests? The dramatic testimony from those priests describing Spanish mistreatment of Natives so impacted King Ferdinand that a moratorium was placed and a set of laws passed (Burgos, Valladolid) and the New Laws; quite a precedent given its time in history. Unfortunately, their application and enforcement were tragically disappointing, due much to the problem of communication across a vast distance in that time.

    So no, I do not downplay that Native people were horrifically mistreated many times (the textbook we use does not ignore this), nor do I demonize or cast as Nazis the Franciscan Order, Spain, or the Catholic Church in my fourth grade classroom. I do my best to cite evidence, and to somehow convey to nine and ten year olds how history is a complex dynamic force that requires close examination on the highest levels of Bloom's taxonomic thinking.

    I believe that as we are all witnesses and players in the making of history, students should hear the voices of the hurt than has lingered from Native Americans and of a response http://vimeo.com/27825441

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  30. To V. Haddad "The Catholic fathers did not establish the missions so they could become slave masters or to commit genocide. The missions were set up with the intention that the Natives would eventually take control."

    you must put the missions in their context of destruction of foreign cultures, religious warfare and a fanatical fear of everything that was unknown. For the friars it was better to let a person die before taking the risk that that persons soul "were lost"

    Just read how the Spanish exterminated third gender people among the native Americans: http://whenturtlesfly.blogspot.se/2009/09/weapons-of-mass-destruction-mastiffs.html

    "Did the Huns, the Empire of Ghenghis Khan, or that of the Aztecs ever debate the morality of their conquests?"

    Irrelevent, one must view every case separately. Ones wrong does not undo anothers.

    ReplyDelete
  31. I am a teacher of 21 years, but this is my first year teaching fourth grade. Our textbook actually DOES discuss the horrid treatment of the Native Indian groups and how their life and culture was destroyed due to the enslavement, confiscation of their land, etc. After learning about the California missions and their effects for the native people and the Spanish perspective, our students are going to write their opinion writing piece on whether they think the invasion by the Spanish should have taken place or not with details from their learning to back up their opinions. Thanks for your blog.

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