Designed To Disturb – Engageny Grade 7: The Chavez Address.

Part 1 of a multipage guide for parents.

phrygian-capBefore you proceed, it is helpful to understand that the Common Core standards require English (ELA) classes to repeatedly study a text – sentence by sentence until the student understands a predetermined conclusion. The content of the lessons exist in a vacuum where students may not interpret anything from the text to form an opinion without citing proof from other portions of the source document.  This Common Core concept is generally psychologically benign when applied to works of fiction such as Romeo and Juliet. When alleged non-fiction is involved, Common Core is a system that is ripe for ideological manipulation as this particular lesson plan proves beyond a doubt.



The Engageny Chavez Lesson

What is it?

It is a multi-week, 7th grade ELA study of a 1984 racially charged political speech by  U.F.W. founder Ceasar Chavez. The speech itself is what you would expect at a political or union rally where ethnic-racial politics are not seen for what they are or overlooked. The lesson plan asks 7th grade students to find rhetoric and evidence within the text to support the main claims of the speech. Within the lesson, students are compelled to conclude or select answers that are completely false when compared to reality. Nothing of what you are about to read here is provided to 11 year old NY students.


 What is wrong with it?

What happens when Richard Jensen a very accomplished professor of rhetoric, persuasion, and political communication has the luxury of analyzing this speech in context? He makes the following statements in his highly detailed public memory paper:


      • “The troubling images Chavez presented were designed to disturb rather than comfort his listeners.”


      • “Many of the ideas and much of the language in the speech appeared in two previous speeches that Chavez delivered: A speech to the Comstock Club in Sacramento in June of 1984 and a report to the UFW’s Seventh Constitutional Convention in Bakersfield in  September of 1984. The speech to the Comstock Club was adapted and published in the Los Angeles Times on June 24, 1984 under the title, “Cesar Chavez Warns Rural Democrats Against Siding With Big Business” (Chavez, 1984b, p. 2). Those two speeches discuss the increased power of Latinos in California and ways that enemies of the union would be punished for actions against the union.”


      •  “(Chavez’s) personal information is not included in either the speech to the UFW convention or the Comstock Club, so it is even more striking that he added it to the Commonwealth Club Speech. Perhaps he felt that the Commonwealth Club’s members would be moved more by his personal tale because of the club’s past history as an agent of change. “


      • “The speech was carefully written by Chavez and Marc Grossman with the goal of achieving the maximum effect”

Obviously this speech was written with multiple purposes and adult audiences. When you read the speech within the above context, you”ll find it’s a mixture of an ethnicity based 80’s diatribe intended to inflame/unite Mexican Americans (Hispanics), a rallying call to union members and minorities, an ethnic political threat to Democrats, an ethno-guilt trip to Republicans and liberal whites. It is many things to many different people in 1984.


Scapegoating, a nightmare or lame infomercial?

To a 7th grade NY student, it is a real horror story with claims of starving children, early death,  a tale of flesh eating rats, pesticide poisoning, claims of sexual harassment, an over-riding threat of Hispanics are taking over and alleged racism. The villains (scapegoats) are every white person (who isn’t Hispanic or a former hippy), Republicans,  modernization, hybrid plants and farmers. However, when you act now…  the horror show can be stopped if you join Mr. Chavez, his union or support his latest grape boycott, otherwise malnourished babies will begin to appear.   Not once does the Engageny lesson plan ask the very basic question, “is it true”? Instead, the truth for children is to be found inside of the audio and text of the Chavez propaganda speech that is “designed to disturb”.


A mile wide and an inch deep “Education”
would prevent this nonsense.


desiluRequired Engageny Student Conclusion:

“The success of the UFW has empowered all Latinos”

Distorted Reality: Desi Arnaz, a Cuban born American was empowered by a union that didn’t exist when I Love Lucy first aired in 1951. The show however,  was likely being rerun in dozens of countries during the 1984 Chavez speech.   (photo source Wikipedia)


Placing this speech within the context of the 1984 world of Mr. Chavez is key to understanding what he is really talking about. When that is done, the speech falls apart as blatant political posturing, hypocrisy, distortion and factual omission… all wrapped around the race baiting – ethnic politics of California in the 80’s. The Engageny lesson is background deficient and for students…  ALL Hispanics owe Chavez and all farmers, white people (except white Hispanics), Republicans are guilty of deliberately causing enormous alleged harm.   Keeping students historically and selectively ignorant appears to be a mantra of Common Core and Engageny.


Helping your child recover.

If your child has been exposed to this speech, it is important to spend a little time deprograming them by pointing out how absurd the speech actually is. (If you haven’t done so, please read the speech, while accepting everything as fact).  With that in mind, here is some background information for key portions of the speech. As a parent, you may find much of what Chavez says is at best an illusion and not worthy of your child’s or the teachers time. When you share the details with your child, you may find that they become confused and then annoyed. In the end, they will have learned the basics of critical thinking.



The Chavez speech has one bright spot.

In 5th grade, students across NYS spend an abnormal amount of time on the UN declaration of human rights while reading Esperanza Rising. In this lesson,  Mr. Chavez accomplishes what billions in NYS education taxes for grades K-6 could not do. He references the “Bill of Rights” as something that might be useful in providing US citizens protection. It’s a very tiny mention that must have slipped through NY education censors.

It would be interesting to see the face of the teacher who is presented with the question “Why is he mentioning the Bill of Rights,  didn’t they exclude everyone?”. In Grade 5: Module 1: Unit 1: Lesson 2  UN Human rights – students are taught: The U.S. Bill of Rights came into effect in 1791 but excluded (did not apply to) women, people of color, and members of certain social, religious, economic, and political groups.  – According to Engageny, the history of the Bill of Rights ended in 1791.


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