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Race-Based Rallies


In an attempt to motivate students for standardized testing, administrators at Laguna Creek High School in Sacramento, Calif. held racially segregated pep rallies, reports the Sacramento Bee.

The "Heritage Assemblies" were designed to aid teachers in talking about test scores, which are measured in racial subsets, without making any one group feel singled out. Students could attend any of the five rallies but the rooms were allocated by race: African Americans in the gym, Latinos in the multipurpose room, Pacific Islanders in the theater, and so on.

"Is it racist? I don't believe it is," said Laguna Creek principal Doug Craig.

However, the school-wide segregation was troubling for many parents and students. Tracy and Herbert Houston, a mixed-race couple, were angry that their child was asked to choose. "My son texted me and asked me which one to go to. He didn't know where to go because I've never raised him to be black or white. …I tell my children they are part of the human race."

Laguna Creek 9th grader Kevion Claiborne said, "We should all go together. It doesn't matter if you are black, white, or any race."

Race-based assemblies are becoming more common in California schools, according to Sharroky Hollie, a professor of teacher education at California State University, Dominguez Hills. "I think schools are trying really hard, but not having success," Hollie said. "...they are not addressing the students' culture instructionally, instead waiting until two weeks before the test and doing heritage rallies."

Update 4/28/09: California educator Anthony Cody, in reaction to this story, warns of "stereotype threat."


What is this about? What happened to the melting pot? Replaced by the salad bowl? I think this is racist.

This is utterly ridiculous! I understand the demands and stress that our students and ourselves are under, but come on! Is this REALLY the best way to get the message to all of our students?????? Unfortunately, it discloses the ugly truth that lies beneath the surface.

Wow. This is wrong in every way. Stating the obvious here, what does a heritage assembly have to do with standardized assessment preparation? I hope the adults who sanctioned this are brought to task by an outraged community.

What is the real aim behind these pep rallies? Surely, it is not to allow educators to address test-performance issues that are particular to individual ethnic subsets of students. And most definitely not to satisfy NCLB requirements. I am curious how many of these have already been implemented and what has been the outcome?

While I applaud any efforts to boost test scores, without teaching to the test approaches, these pep rallies seem to liken another raced-based waste of time away from the real issues. Take for example, in California, the passage of Proposition 227 was a direct consequence of the exponential increase in the Latino population in California (Schaefer, 2006) and while the literature point to the experience and exposure to different cultures and languages, rather than a single culture and language, is hypothesized to contribute to students educational success, “Proposition 227, as with other race-based political propositions passed in California and other states,…exercised the majority rule to assert their will on educational and public policy issues” (Cline, Necochea & Rios, 2004, p. 68). Where was the concern for learning in the passing of Proposition 227?

Similarly, race-based rallies, in my perspective are yet another move away from addressing issues of educational equity. These pep rallies seem to liken the continued challenge of accounting for different cultures in schooling while avoiding stereotypes or support society’s one master identity concept as articulated by Wallace (2004). In the same vein, Wallace cautions us that “competing cultural frames, therefore, may require that students from nondominant backgrounds undertake intricate acts of identity negotiation to achieve academic success” (p. 198). Carter (2006) identified these students as cultural straddlers who “understand the functions of both dominant and nondominant cultural capital and value and embrace skills to participate in multiple cultural environments” (p. 306). Is this perhaps the REAL aim of the pep rallies? Are educators in California providing students with the necessary tools to be cultural straddlers?

These are interesting times!


Carter, P. (2006). Straddling boundaries: Identity, culture, and school. Sociology of
Education, 79(4), 304-328.

Cline, Z., Necochea, J., & Rios, F. (2004, April). The tyranny of democracy:
Deconstructing the passage of racist propositions. Journal of Latinos & Education, 3(2), 67-85.

Schaefer, R. T. (2006). Racial and ethnic groups (10th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ:
Pearson Education, Inc.

Wallace, K. (2004). Situating multiethnic identity: Contributions of discourse theory to
the study of mixed heritage students. Journal of Language, Identity & Education, 3(3), 195-213.

Secretary Duncan, to reduce the chance of a flu pandemic during the long winter flu season, to reduce the amount of carbon emissions during the long winter heating season and to reduce the amount of energy used by each school district, I would suggest that each school system in the United States adopt a long winter vacation instead of a long summer vacation. Saving lives, saving the environment and saving energy seem more important to me than saving the "status quo". There are no advantages to a long summer vacation. Why do we have it? Kenneth Berwick, a 74 year old retired teacher.

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Recent Comments

  • Kenneth Berwick: Secretary Duncan, to reduce the chance of a flu pandemic read more
  • Dianala: What is the real aim behind these pep rallies? Surely, read more
  • Laura: Wow. This is wrong in every way. Stating the obvious read more
  • Sue: This is utterly ridiculous! I understand the demands and stress read more
  • John: What is this about? What happened to the melting pot? read more




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