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LA Social Science interviewed Dr. Pedro Noguera, Distinguished Professor of Education in the Graduate School of Education and Information Students and Founder of the Center for the Transformation of Schools at UCLA. Dr. Noguera discusses the center’s work on shining a spotlight on students experiencing homelessness in California. To learn more about this important issue, check out his center’s interactive map “We See You: Shining a Spotlight on Students Experiencing Homelessness in California” HERE.

 

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By Betty Hung, Staff Director, and Kent Wong, Director, UCLA Labor Center

Thirty-four thousand Los Angeles teachers launched a six-day strike from January 14 to 22, 2019, impacting five hundred thousand students and their families. On February 22, the UCLA Labor Center hosted a public educational forum with United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) President Alex Caputo-Pearl and Secretary/Chief Negotiator Arlene Inouye to examine key lessons from the strike and the implications for the future of the labor movement and public education. Some of the critical takeaways include the importance of collective teacher organizing and action to build power; building long-term authentic partnerships with parents, students, and community organizations; and increasing the capacity of the union at every stage to utilize a strike as a powerful nonviolent tool for change.

UTLA approached negotiations with the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) from a framework focused on “bargaining for the common good,” which resulted in contract provisions that expand green space at schools, limit random searches of students that have a racially disparate impact, and support immigrant students and families. In addition, the teachers won a 6 percent wage increase, class size reduction, and increased staffing with more on-site nurses, librarians, and counselors.

Moreover, UTLA’s strategic organizing approach led to a thousand new union members—this, after the US Supreme Court Janus decision, which forces public employee unions to negotiate on behalf of all bargaining unit members but prohibits unions from collecting “fair-share” fees from those who do not choose to be union members. UTLA’s organizing victory highlights the potential of the labor movement to organize and build power even in a post-Janus world.

The focus of the first teachers’ strike in Los Angeles in thirty years was not on wages and benefits but on quality public education. Teachers were protesting the defunding of public schools, class sizes of forty to forty-five students per teacher, and the critical lack of essential school personnel, including nurses, librarians, and counselors. Forty years ago, California ranked number one in the nation in per pupil funding; today, California is forty-third in per pupil funding and forty-eighth in classroom size, even though the state has the fifth largest economy in the world. The decline in public schools has a disproportionate impact on people of color and the poor; ninety percent of LA public school students are racial minorities, and 72 percent qualify for reduced-cost lunch programs.

The defunding of our schools is no accident. Since the passage of Proposition 13 in 1978, which limited taxes on real estate, billions of dollars have been transferred from public coffers to the largest corporate landowners in California. In addition, billions have been siphoned away from public schools to the growing number of private charter schools. National corporations supporting the charter school movement invested millions to elect a pro-charter majority to the LAUSD board, who in turn hired Austin Beutner as LA superintendent, a hedge fund multimillionaire with no experience in public education.

The impact of UTLA’s successful strike continues to resonate. Inspired by Los Angeles, teachers in Oakland and Denver have since gone on strike. The LAUSD school board voted to support a moratorium on future charter schools. And next year, a ballot initiative scheduled for the November election that if passed would curtail the impact of Proposition 13 and restore funds to California public schools.

Betty Hung is the staff director for the UCLA Labor Center. She previously directed the employment law unit at the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles and, as the policy director at Asian Americans Advancing Justice-LA, cofounded the multiracial College for All Coalition. She is the co-chair of Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice and also serves on the boards of the Economic Roundtable and CLEAN Car Wash Worker Center.

Kent Wong is the director of the UCLA Labor Center, where he teaches courses in labor studies and Asian American studies. He previously served as staff attorney for the Service Employees International Union. He was the founding president of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance and of the United Association for Labor Education and currently is vice president of the California Federation of Teachers.

 

By Rhonda Hammer, Lecturer, UCLA Department of Gender Studies

We are in the midst of a Digital Revolution that many scholars find comparable in scope to the Industrial Revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries, which transformed the Western world.

Indeed, it was not so long ago that the Internet and social media were heralded as revolutionary social justice resources for new dimensions of participatory democracy, which allowed for marginalized and oft-suppressed voices to be heard in a public forum.

Yet, as revelations of large scale manipulation emerge post-2016 US presidential election including disinformation, surveillance, data collection and microtargeting by marketers, data resource corporations, political organizations and foreign governments, it becomes increasingly evident that there is an urgent need for courses which teach or incorporate critical media/digital studies.

Loosely defined, critical media literacy involves teaching students to think critically about “the ways media texts are produced, constructed and consumed” as well as to provide skills that help them recognize messages encoded in media/digital texts, many of which are not consciously perceived. (source).

For example: many scholars clearly demonstrate that certain media representations of different groups of people can reinforce negative stereotypical values.  These images can be communicated or enhanced in film or television not only by the script and casting but also through production techniques such as lighting, shot framing, music and sound effects (to name a few).

With that in mind, it seems evident that critical media literacy should be essential to contemporary education, including K-12 college and university curricula. And it is this need which best describes the perspective of a newly-revised Gender Studies undergraduate course I teach on “Media: Gender, Race, Class & Sexuality.”

Although I have taught this course for many years, it was only last year that a media production component was implemented largely due to newly available resources through UCLA’s innovative College Library Instructional Computing Commons (CLICC). Not only were camcorder kits made available for check-out by the students, but they also now have access to the extraordinary services of Vince Mitchell, the primary producer and director of UCLA’s on-campus media production center, Studio 22.

During the 2018 winter quarter, Vince and members of his capable student staff conducted weekly workshops as part of the class, teaching the students basic production and post production skills to empower them to plan and construct their own short group media projects.

Given that most of the students had no previous production experience (save for some DIY or high school projects) the final short video programs – which were screened during exam week – were remarkable. Students were broken up into nine group based on their topic interests and asked to produce a 5-10 minute long documentary-style video, critically examining some dimension of media culture and the politics of representation (how marginalized and dominant groups of people are represented in media).

The documentary themes were topical, relevant and reflected student interests in a variety of topics including Representations of Black Masculinity in Hip Hop Music Videos and Social Media and Feminist Voices and Representations of Latina Women and Stereotypes of Asian Portrayals. Here is a link to the media projects produced in this class, which are described and can be publicly viewed online.*

The enthusiasm and pride the students take in these productions was evident during the final screening of their media projects at the end of the course and proved to be an empowering experience for all involved. I hope that other faculty will consider including critical media literacy and/or media/digital instruction and  productions in their classes and take advantage of the resources and facilities of CLICC and Vince Mitchell of Studio 22, whose services can be scheduled through Jessica Mentesoglu, Head of Digital Initiatives & Information Technologies Operations Services at UCLA Library. They can both assist in designing highly relevant media-related resources or assignments for your courses.

 

*Caroline Kong, Instructional Technology Coordinator for Social Science Computing (SSC) set up and designed this accessible, user-friendly website as well as the course’s Moodle page.  For assistance with Moodle pages you can contact her.

Dr. Rhonda Hammer is a Lecturer in Cinema & Media Studies; the Graduate School of Education, Social Science & Comparative Education; and Gender Studies at UCLA. Her research is in the areas of critical theory; media/cultural studies; critical media literacy; and the politics of representation in film, television, new media, feminisms and engaged pedagogy. She has published numerous articles, chapters and books on these subjects, including her co-edited 2009 anthology, Media/Cultural Studies: Critical Approaches, which describe and analyzes dimensions of contemporary media, consumer, and digital culture.