August 21, 2007

Schoolhouse had "Americanization Room"

Not-so-proud historyToday, the Little Red School House in Cathedral City is colorfully painted with playful images of Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Dumbo. But 75 years ago in Palm Springs, color was used more insidiously.

Known as the "Americanization Room," it was used to segregate Mexican, Indian and black children from the adjacent Frances Stevens Elementary School in Palm Springs.

Every morning, their teacher, Miss Sharp, had about 36 children in first through third grades line up outside to check them for lice, food in their teeth, or smudges of dirt on their palms, said another former student, Vera Prieto Wall, 74, of Palm Springs.

If Miss Sharp found lice, she would cut the child's hair short. If there was food or dirt on one child, she'd have them all brush their teeth or wash their hands.


writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
writerfella wishes to report that, back in the 1990s, there was another kind of 'Americanization room' both in the Middle School and the High School here in Anadarko, OK. The computer teacher for both schools separated out Native students who had enrolled in computer classes and left them to their own devices in an empty classroom while he taught both white and Black students computer operations in the computer lab. His reasoning: Native students would have no use at all for the skills he was teaching and so it would be a waste of time for them to participate in his classes. writerfella's nieces, Krystal and Amy Caesar, one in Middle School and one in High School, told their mother Arlene Caesar (writerfella's sister) what was happening. writerfella practically exploded and immediately put those schools and the teacher under threat of lawsuits and loss of Federal funding for such blatant discrimination. The policy quickly was withdrawn, the teacher was reprimanded and given other duties, and Native students found themselves being taught computer skills under a new teacher exactly the same as any other interested student. 'The Digital Divide' just was becoming an issue nationally but it was removed as an issue in Anadarko schools by writerfella before it ever even had a name...
All Best
Russ Bates

Rob said...

What a shame that your nieces were victims of the stereotype that Indians are ignorant and uncivilized savages who can't function in the modern world. I'm glad you set the school officials straight.