Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Ronald Takaki

In both the Times and the SF Chronicle, I read the obituary of Ronald Takaki, a professor at Cal where he created the first doctoral level program in ethnic studies. Such a Berkeley thing, but also, it seems to me, a way of thinking that is reflected--incarnated, actually--in the election of Barack Obama and the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor. And that's no bad thing.

I love this story about him that is related in both articles:

The Watts Riots in 1965 helped push UCLA to develop the first course in black history a year later, Professor Takaki told The Chronicle. He was asked to teach it.

When Professor Takaki walked into the classroom for the first time, students grew silent until one of them chirped, "Well, Professor Takaki, what revolutionary tools are we going to learn in this course?" Professor Takaki recounted in 2003.

"I said, 'We're going to study the history of the U.S. as it relates to African Americans. We're going to strengthen our critical-thinking skills and our writing skills. These can be revolutionary tools if we make them so.' "

I wish more people understood that.

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