Tuesday, February 7, 2012

the City College, to be Gay and Colonial (Puerto Rican)

After spending over thirty years participating in the creation and development of the Bilingual Education/ESL/Spanish in Secondary Schools Program at the City College of NY, the day I retired all I got from my Program Head was a short email wishing me lots of luck in my future plans. Was I such an incompetent or unpleasant peer that my colleagues could not even stop by my office to say good bye? I don’t think so. My record and excellent evaluations demonstrate the opposite.

The integration process and the opening of spaces need to go a long way in certain multi culti institutions. Some of those colleagues had already sabotaged my work at the Program: from not supporting my intentions of blending active education ideas and methods with bilingual education goals to asking students invited to a conference given by indigenous educators from Mexico and Canada to instead attend a conference given by a European linguist. Had I been a heterosexual man without traces of a foreign accent the situation most probably would have been a different one, but I was not. And I was out of the closet since the late sixties and was not planning to go back simply because some of my very progressive colleagues (really!) would have wanted me to do so.

When I first informed an administrator of the not so nice experiences I had to face at that very progressive NYC teacher education program, her patronizing answer was “I am terribly sorry.” I did not believe my listener to be sincere but it was the typical answer of the “let’s be political and choose sides” style of modern academic discourse.

“C’mon”, I thought, but did not say, “You did not notice the refusal to let me use a particular teacher education center or never knew of the very nice and sympathetic church going Catholic professor who would sneak into my office to tell me that I should not speak about y sexuality at the School of Education meetings?’

And then there were the not so subtle comments about Puerto Ricans. As I was for quite a few years (until it was convenient for them to hire another one) the only PR at the School of Education it seems as if there was an agenda to “keep us in place”. There was the very passive-aggressive colleague who once asked if it was true what Cubans say about Puerto Ricans,“you people are very docile”. Given the simplistic categorization of over four million people with 500 years of history as a community, all that can be said about the questioner was that he was a very stupid man with a petite “cajoncito” for a brain. How could he be teaching students that he saw in such reductive and offensive manner?

Sour grapes? Maybe, but sour grapes help expose the false pretenses of searching for the truth that intellectual or artistic institutions must follow. Obviously at CCNY this was hardly the guiding principle, particularly at a program created to explore issues of multilingual and multicultural educational experiences.

Sour grapes? Pues claro, me tengo que desahogar.

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