Top Image

You are here: Home / Blog / Sylvia Mendez to Open UC Irvine Framework Conference

Sylvia Mendez to Open UC Irvine Framework Conference

created Aug 22, 2019 10:28 AM

In the summer of 1944, 7-year-old Sylvia Mendez and her two brothers moved with their parents to a farm in Westminster, California. The three Mendez children and their cousins lived near a local public school.  The similarly-aged cousins registered at the Westminster School but Sylvia and her brothers were told that they had to go to the Mexican school ten blocks away.  Sylvia’s cousins had lighter skin color and long reddish hair.  Sylvia and her brothers had darker brown skin with thick black hair and their last name was Mendez.  In 1945, Sylvia’s father filed a lawsuit at the county courthouse to change the law.  At the trial, school district leaders argued for continued school segregation on the basis of language and health stereotypes.  But the biggest revelation was the statement that some school district officials believed “…that white students were superior to Mexicans…” and that was one of the reasons they were being segregated.  Over the next couple of years, the Mendez case wound its way through the California judicial system.  In 1947, then California Governor Earl Warren signed a law that outlawed school segregation on the basis of race, ethnicity, or language.

While the compelling yet under-told narrative of the Mendez case alone merits the attention of all Californians, centering a twentieth-century 4th-grade California history lesson on questions related to Mendez could transform so many tenets of elementary education.  And at our new Framework conference series, educators will be able to work through inquiry at the elementary level by introducing the case of Mendez as an investigation.  Led by Katharine Cortes and Kate Bowen from the History Project at UC Davis, the session will consider the question, How did the Mendez v. Westminster court case help end segregation in California?  Developing an argument about this question involves drawing from evidence from documents like the 14th Amendment that states that due process and equal protection under the law are enshrined rights.  Developing an argument about this question also involves understanding the historical context of race and ethnicity in post-Japanese internment California.  These heavy topics need to be tackled by 4th-grade students if they are to begin to learn about the complexity and significance of the case.  And this is just what this session – and centering inquiry in elementary school – proposes to do.  After all, as the Framework explains, “In the absence of questions that guide study, students may be more inclined to perceive history education as mainly tasks to be completed – information to be covered, readings to be completed, activities to be performed, or homework to be handed in.”  Compelling cases like the Mendez one do much more than tell 4th-graders to memorize certain moments, but instead they teach students to interrogate why segregation and the battle to outlaw it happened so recently and in their home state.

Thanks to our wonderful colleagues at the Orange County Department of Education, we are  excited to announce that Sylvia Mendez will kick off our New Framework Conference series at UC Irvine on September 10.  What better way to begin implementing the ideals behind the California History-Social Science Framework than to learn from this treasured civil-rights activist who highlights how local actions can have far reaching outcomes. 

Don't miss this exciting opportunity to hear her story, network with state and local history-social science leaders, and check out our new line-up of exciting workshops and register today!

Post written by Beth Slutsky, Ph.D., CHSSP Program Coordinator, Katharine Cortes, Ph.D., History Project at UC Davis Associate Director, and Kate Bowen, CHSSP Teacher Consultant. 

Image:  US Department of Agriculture.

 
Categories:
Tags: Framework, Mendez
Recent Blog Posts
Nov 01, 2019
Our Complicated Relationship with Fire
Our Complicated Relationship with Fire
Read more
Oct 31, 2019
Ag and Climate Change
Ag and Climate Change
Read more
Oct 02, 2019
Advisory Board Meeting
Read more
Sep 26, 2019
Mapping California's Air Quality
Mapping California's Air Quality
Read more
Aug 22, 2019
Sylvia Mendez to Open UC Irvine Framework Conference
Sylvia Mendez to Open UC Irvine Framework Conference
Read more
Tag cloud