Jeff Suzuki of Los Gatos leads curriculum reform in his hometown

LOS GATOS, CA – A successful local school district is now the chief architect of its transformation.

Amid the Black Lives Matter protests this summer, Jeff Suzuki has started a grassroots movement that aims to tackle systemic racism in his hometown of Los Gatos.

Suzuki’s group, the Los Gatos Anti-Racism Coalition, recognized the importance of the history curriculum and began working with schools soon after its inception.

The Los Gatos Union School District, with input from Suzuki and other LGARC members, drafted the resolution on equity and inclusion, and the district passed the landmark measure on February 25.

The irony that a former Raymond J. Fisher college history student of the year became the leader behind an effort to reform a program he mastered is not lost on the recent UC Berkeley graduate.

“The universe has a sense of humor here,” Suzuki told Patch.

Suzuki launched the LGARC after an unauthorized protest in July at Los Gatos High School in support of the Black Lives Matter movement that drew a modest crowd of around 60 people.

The LGARC in about a week had well over a hundred members on its Facebook page. It has since grown to over 350.

The resolution emphasizes an active approach to promote a more equitable society through education.

Suzuki is one of many social justice activists who believe that the anti-racist movement in the United States has taken a passive approach and that such half-measures have gone nowhere. He hopes other districts will adopt measures similar to LGUSD’s most recent resolution, promising more proactivity in tackling injustice.

“Racism is complex and embedded in civil society. It is systemic.” Suzuki said.

“The whitewashed version of the civil rights movement is often described as a nonviolent movement where people just marched peacefully through the streets, MLK gave a speech about having a dream, and then the States- United have resolved their racism. “

“This leaves aside the decades of vicious struggle and violence; civil rights supporters have been lynched, shot in their homes, murdered and terrorized. And it’s easy to point out the KKK to be the bad guy, but what about the vast majority of white people who witnessed these atrocities and did nothing? Doing nothing allows systemic racism to continue on its bloody path relentlessly; it was true then, it is true now, and it will continue to be true for decades and centuries.

And according to him, complex problems do not lend themselves to easy answers.

“The average white liberal,” Suzuki said, “could be polite to people of color and do their best not to be racist; they might even post a post or two on Instagram expressing their attachment to Martin Luther King, Jr.

“But, materially, that person is not an agent of change; to be one, that person has to be proactive about the issues of their time. In other words, they have to be ‘anti-racist’.”

Suzuki wrote an anti-racist teaching philosophy that served as an important basis for the resolution passed by the district.

The resolution strives to create an academic framework that teaches the mechanisms behind systemic racism and fosters an environment where students of all racial, ethnic, cultural and economic backgrounds feel a sense of belonging.

“This is all easier said than done,” Suzuki said.

“There is no specific reform that a council can adopt that can solve any of these problems; it will be a long and difficult process to reassess the curriculum, the philosophy of teaching in schools and the protection of victims to do so. The elements that we have adopted are just the start of this effort. “

District Director of Programs, Education and Assessment Arcia Dorosti, who worked with Suzuki to draft the resolution, said the fierce determination of the district’s former star pupil was a deciding factor in l adoption of the measure.

“Incredibly important. He was the catalyst in so many ways,” said Dorosti.

“He insisted. He was relentless in the way he pushed me, the way he pushed the city of Los Gatos in general, the way he organized the community around these issues and raised awareness in our community. and beyond to these issues. “

Suzuki has said he expects a step back but remains committed to the cause.

“I certainly anticipate obstacles,” he said, noting that he had specifically called for language to be included in the resolution calling for a commitment to persevere through obstacles, including unexpected ones.

“The change will be awkward, and passing this resolution is just the beginning, not the finish line,” Suzuki said.

Suzuki estimates that he and other members of the coalition spent hundreds of hours researching and drafting documents, working with the history department, and organizing to pass the resolution.

He expected council to approve him, but with much more resistance.

“The biggest challenge was to prepare a strong case for curriculum reform by writing detailed arguments and communicating those arguments with the history department.”

Suzuki spoke at the July rally to advocate for the adoption of an agenda that better illustrates the role of systemic racism in American history.

He has made specific requests for programs that promote fairness in speech that have been posted on Youtube.

Suzuki noted historical events conspicuously absent from the LGHS program and in high schools across the country, such as the Tulsa Massacre of 1921 and the Rosewood Massacre of 1923, events in which hundreds of people were killed and self-sufficient and prosperous black communities destroyed.

He cited teaching about the role of the FBI’s counterintelligence programs in infiltrating, undermining and criminalizing left-wing black activist groups such as the Black Panthers as integral to understanding systemic racism in our country.

Suzuki also argued for the inclusion of black authors in the literature to describe the black experience, noting that their stories are told almost exclusively through the prism of white authors such as Mark Twain (“The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn “), Joseph Conrad (” Heart of Darkness “) and Harper Lee (” To Kill a Mockingbird “).

Suzuki said he and his colleagues at LGARC had deliberated and worked on the challenges of the district’s program and mobilized people to pledge their support for more than a year and a half, long before the grassroots movement, which he said he said, had formed. , helped him articulate his views to the board. The result of this preparation was the relatively easy adoption of the resolution and the reassessment of the history curriculum.

It probably didn’t hurt that he was a known amount.

“I think he was a big influence on our history department because he came through our schools and was the history student of the year at Fisher Middle School,” Dorosti said.

It was clear that Suzuki knew what he was talking about.

“I have a doctorate in educational leadership with a focus on equity and social justice, and I still learned from it,” Dorosti said.

“Los Gatos are fortunate to have citizens like Jeff Suzuki. He is an amazing human being and I am honored to call him my friend.”

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