This week, we watched Laura Simon’s Fear and Learning at Hoover Elementary, which focuses on a Los Angeles elementary school with a large illegal immigrant student population and the passing of Proposition 187, a law which prohibits illegal immigrants from gaining access to public education and healthcare. After watching this documentary, I felt disheartened by the lack of care and respect for those who have immigrated to the United States for more opportunities and a better life. I was especially appalled by many of the Hoover teachers’ lack of empathy for their students, the majority of whom were undocumented and were forced to live their daily lives in fear of being deported, harassed, or even killed in their own neighborhoods. Furthermore, the teachers refused to reach out to the parents in the hopes of improving the educational environment for their students. It was sad to see the students’ reactions to Proposition 187 and its effects on their life in the United States because it was clear that they felt helpless—all they wanted was to get an education and be successful, yet they were denied many of the rights that natural-born Americans were granted.
Although this documentary touched on serious, distressing issues, it also helped me consider the ways in which I will celebrate cultural diversity within my classroom and school. As a future educator, I plan to reach all of my students by encouraging students to share the different aspects of their identity and how they intersect to make them who they are. I will do so by sharing my cultural background and making the classroom a safe and respectful environment for students. I will also introduce my students to cultures with which they are unfamiliar in order to help them be more empathetic towards others. As far as bridging socio-economic divides in the classroom, I think arts integration can play a role because it would allow students to express themselves in a way in which they feel comfortable.
The most shocking part of this documentary was learning that many of the teachers at Hoover Elementary, including those who were immigrants themselves, voted in favor of Proposition 187. Although I can understand that teachers were concerned about overcrowded schools and crime rates in these poverty-stricken communities, I cannot understand why they would want to fail their students. Teachers are meant to guide and support students, especially those who have immigrated from other countries to gain more opportunities. They are not meant to restrict and disrespect their students, which in my opinion, is what some of the Hoover teachers were doing by voting for the passing of Proposition 187.
This illustration by Michael Korfhage of TIME Magazine focuses on how the immigrant’s fate is everyone’s because the success of immigrants relates to the success of America and vice versa. I chose this image to connect what I learned from Fear and Learning at Hoover Elementary because I like its simple, yet powerful message. The Statue of Liberty’s torch represents the freedom of living in America and the hands represent the different races/ethnicities, backgrounds, beliefs, etc. of those living in America. Regardless of cultural background, all people should be able to live in the United States and have the same rights, such as public education, healthcare, and other basic services.
This illustration is from an article in TIME Magazine by Viet Thanh Nguyen entitled The Immigrant’s Fate is Everyone’s, which I also enjoyed reading.