Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

PLATFORM : UC's Culture Gap

May 19, 1993| DANIEL MAYEDA, an attorney in Los Angeles, is president of the Asian Pacific Alumni of UCLA. He gave The Times his view of the controversy over establishing a Chicano studies department:

Demonstrating students, vandalism and arrests at UCLA, hunger strikes at UC Irvine all make good press. But this is not a case of just a few militant minorities letting off steam. The protests are part of a broad-based student-led movement for curricular reform in university education.

Racial and ethnic "minorities" are now the majority in Los Angeles, and Chicanos/Latinos and Asians/Pacific Islanders are the fastest-growing groups in the state. Yet UCLA has been slow to recognize these changes and loathe to restructure its Eurocentric curriculum.

The lack of financial and institutional support for ethnic studies is what led to the demand for a Chicano studies department at UCLA.

UCLA is not alone in this. UC Irvine does not even have an established Asian-American studies program, even though Asians and Pacific Islanders make up by far the largest group of undergraduates on that campus.

Just as agencies and corporations must do, the university must focus on what is most likely to yield the maximum future benefit.

The need for reform is undeniable. For example, UCLA currently teaches 90 languages, but until this year, only four Asian languages were regularly taught. Knowledge of South and Southeast Asian languages and cultures, such as Tagalog, Thai, Vietnamese and Hindi, is critical if Americans are to overcome what the California-Pacific Year 2000 Task Force called a "cultural literacy deficit" that has impeded the ability of the United States to compete in the growing economic markets of Asia.

To not support strong ethnic studies curricula in this environment is unacceptably shortsighted. And to maintain that there are insufficient resources to teach Hindi, a language spoken by 20% of the world's population, but to continue to offer the "dead" language of Sanskrit and the racist language of Afrikaans reveals misplaced priorities.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|