Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Bracero Program's 70th Anniversary Highlights Legacy of Migrant Workers

Howard R. Rosenberg, "Snapshots in a Farm Labor Tradition," Labor Management Decisions, Winter-Spring, 1993

The year 2012 marks the 70th anniversary of the start of the Bracero Program, a guest worker program coordinated between the United States and Mexican governments. From 1942 to 1964, the Bracero Program offered an estimated 4.5 million work contracts to almost 2 million Mexican men to offset labor shortages in the United States.

U.S. labor shortages as a result of World War II led the U.S. government to seek out an alternative source of inexpensive labor. In 1942, the United States negotiated a treaty with Mexico providing for a guest worker program, mainly in the area of agriculture, where Mexican workers were allowed to enter the United States on a temporary basis under contract to U.S. farmers. This source of labor provided economic relief to Mexican families, but it was not without incident. Many participants in the program faced abuses and contract violations by their employers, including instances of discrimination as well as substandard wages and living conditions. Hardships were also endured by the families of braceros, who went months and even years without contact from family members. Nevertheless, the program made an enduring impact not only on the U.S. economy but also on Latino history by rooting Mexican communities in the United States.

These many facets of the bracero experience have been documented though various efforts. The Smithsonian Institution, in conjunction with Brown University, George Mason University, and the Institute of Oral History at the University of Texas at El Paso, launched the Bracero History Archive. This collection preserves the testimonies of individuals who participated in the program and of those affected by the absence of family members working in the United States.

Find out more about the Bracero Program by reading the complete Feature Story on the Latino American Experience, which includes a collection of oral histories selected from the Bracero History Archive that offer a close look into the lives of former braceros and their families. Each oral history, which is presented in the original Spanish text with added English translations, is enriched by a corresponding audio interview and supplementary reference materials. If you are not already a subscriber, click here for a free trial.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Interview with Mary Lou Décosterd, Author of Right Brain/Left Brain President

What prompted you to write Right Brain/Left Brain President: Barack Obama's Uncommon Leadership Ability and How We Can Each Develop It? What "message" do you want to communicate? 

I wrote the book to call attention to what a unique leader Barack Obama is – to help readers understand that while he may seem different in many ways, his differences typify the evolution leadership needs to take in order to meet the challenges we face today.

What was the highlight of your research? In the course of your research, what discovery surprised you the most? What surprises readers/others the most about your research? 

When I started the book and the research I knew I would find certain definitive leadership strengths that President Obama has – he is brilliant (literally) and he has a combination of determinism and compassion that is truly rare. His unusual upbringing - his mother’s background as both a traveled anthropologist and human rights activist would certainly color his world view in a favorable way. When I delved deeper and understood the nature of influence his more rooted maternal grandparents served and came to see how his biological father’s proclivities and impediments shaped Obama into the man he both wanted to be and did not want to be, I found it fascinating how Obama took charge of his destiny. This is exceptional for any one and speaks to his potency as a leader.

What readers have told me is how clearly the book maps for them who this man is and why what they previously thought were weaknesses, they could now see as positive leadership traits in him.   

How did your research change your outlook on this subject? 

I no longer see President Obama as simply interesting and complex, I see him as the model for what leaders should aspire toward. I see how he does in fact leverage right and left brain strong suits in consort in the manner our brains were set up for. I realize writing this now, in the midst of the vastly contested political debate for the 2012 elections, what I am writing may be difficult for some to swallow. The book was never intended to be a political testament. It does not refer to his politics. It refers to the state of leadership today, to the complexities of our world and how Obama can advance us at home and abroad.

How have people reacted to your book and/or the ideas you set forth? Is it what you hoped for, or is there more work to be done?

I have been so touched and pleasantly surprised by the reactions. Leadership students have found the tools accessible and the examples taken directly from Obama’s addresses and interviews easy to follow as they chart their own paths. Most surprising has been the reactions from political conservatives who were shocked to use their words by how the book positioned a man that was beforehand troubling to them to say the least. 

Additional work though would be with respect to how in my mind Obama underestimated the ingrained political challenges he faced in Washington. I would very much desire to do additional research, perhaps including interviews close to the source on what he will do differently in the years to come, to move the meter in this regard.

What's next for you?

I am currently writing a book on how women are transforming leadership. As a leader, business owner and coach to executives, I feel that it is time for a candid look at the state of leadership today and to be able to set forth more current research on how women’s voice and perspectives are sorely needed in shaping the future culture of leadership. We are past the days of women fitting into the masculine leadership culture and at the critical juncture where women need to be let in as equal thought partners.

Mary Lou Décosterd, PhD, is founder and managing executive of The Lead Life Institute, LLC, a learning consultancy offering programs and services to help executives, leadership teams, and organizations become their best. She is the author of the Praeger title Right Brain/Left Brain Leadership: Shifting Style for Maximum Impact and a children's book, Magical Max Makes Friends. She has more than 25 years of experience in organizational development, applied psychology, university teaching, and organizational training. Her areas of expertise include leadership and interpersonal development, implementation and execution, women's executive development, cultural and team alignment, anxiety and stress management, attitude and motivation, strategic change and mediation. Décosterd works as an executive coach to leaders and leadership teams and as a facilitator, trainer, and speaker in both the profit and nonprofit sectors.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

New Paradigms Needed for True Representation of Latinos In Higher Education

By: Leonard A. Valverde

The Pew Research Center just issued a report showing a large increase of Latinos in college enrollment (a 24% growth from 2009 to 2010). However, the numbers and percentages reported show that Latinos still lag behind another historically underrepresented group in higher education, African Americans. While many Latino leaders greet the great increase in enrollment with favor, there are many others who have stated that higher education must do more to bring about better representation and participation by Latinos in colleges. Why? Because even though enrollment numbers are now looking good, such improvements have been so slow and long in coming.

As the Pew Research Center report accurately states, most of the growth in college enrollment is due to the ever-increasing numbers of Hispanics in the U.S. general population. If Latinos are going to reach true parity, not to mention success in college as defined by high graduation rates, then educational systems at all levels will have to insert new paradigms. There are some practices still in place that have acted as big barriers to Hispanics and have kept their enrollment in colleges down considerably. For example, K-12 dropout rates are still too high and will likely get greater given the push for higher standards even as teachers receive no assistance to help students achieve. Reading and math scores are far below grade level for too many Latinos. Latino high school graduates who do go on to college enroll in community colleges for many reasons (e.g., cost, proximity to family and work) and have to take remedial courses to compensate for a poor high school education. The consequence is loss of financial aid since remedial courses do not count toward transferability to four year colleges. Compounding the financial assistance factor is the alarming trend that higher education is becoming more and more expensive. For Latinos, this translates into part time attendance and the phenomenon of “stopping-out” a semester to raise funds. 

It is critical that Latinos come to believe that they can go to college, no matter their personal circumstances. Once they have made a commitment to go to college, we must share with them what they need to know and do in order to be successful in college. Additionally, current paradigms must be changed. When studying why students drop out, it is clear that they have negative experiences in school both academically and socially for the following reasons: they do not see the relevance of course material to their life; they sense a disconnect between the amount of education and the type of careers open to their group in the world of work; they have no hope for a better future; their teachers have low expectations of them; and they perceive an incompatibility between their home/community life and school structure and values.

This short essay cannot cover all of the paradigm changes needed to help improve Latino students' experiences in school. However, a good starting point is the traditional practice of college recruitment, which touches so very few Latino students. High schools with majority Latino student bodies rarely have college recruitment nights. And college recruitment events for those that do can be characterized as the “farmer’s market” type—that is, we (college recruiters) are here to pick the best of your crop (seniors). This process results in exclusion, as only a handful will be encouraged to apply and even fewer will be admitted). The new paradigm calls for colleges and universities to start early in the process of helping the farmer (K-12 teachers) plant the seeds (early intervention at least the 8th grade), and advise what minerals (classes) are best for the crop to be abundant. This new paradigm is more than colleges telling K-12 districts which courses students need to take, what grades they have to earn, and how many units they need to have upon graduation. Rather, this means that working partnerships exist, cooperative efforts are taken, and frequent exchanges take place at both the district/school and at the college campus. Community colleges should be part of this triad. Colleges of education are natural linkages, but others need to be involved, such as admission personnel and recruitment staff. There should be many contact points between Latino secondary students and colleges. For example, college faculty and students from various academic disciplines should speak to secondary school students on regular basis, and school districts should schedule routine visits to college athletic or theater events. By the time senior year rolls around, for Latinos college life should not be a mystery or a foreign place that is not attainable. It should be a natural expectation.

In short, the new paradigm of college recruitment requires colleges to change their ways to accommodate a new population; to transform from being exclusive to being inclusive; to  move away from homogeneous groups to heterogeneous groups; and to respect diversity as an added value rather than a deficit. And before anyone thinks that the present day system is good and does not need to be changed because it has worked well for former generations, I offer a reminder about the ever growing concern by college and university administrators, staff, and faculty that college freshmen student retention over the past two decades on average has been about 50%—that is, half do not complete their first year or return for their sophomore year. 

In closing, my observations should not be taken as a condemnation of public education and colleges, but rather as an opinion that our educational systems need to evolve as society changes much more rapidly than in the past. Out of necessity, I stress that more educational systems must initiate new paradigm shifts so that Latinos and other groups of color can gain access and succeed in higher education commensurate with their true numbers. 

The Latino Student's Guide to College Success

Leonard A. Valverde this year became professor emeritus at Arizona State University. His 40+ years in education include him serving as a department chair at the University of Texas at Austin, vice president of academic affairs at UT San Antonio, a college of education dean at ASU. Also, he has been the director of the Office of Advanced Research in Hispanic Education and the executive director Hispanic Border Leadership, a five state consortium (K-12 districts, community colleges and four year universities). He authored and edited a book directed to the above issues entitled: Latino Change Agents in Higher Education: Shaping a System that Works for All

Monday, September 17, 2012

Part ll: Interview with Jan Harold Brunvand, Author of Encyclopedia of Urban Legends, Updated and Expanded Edition

What role does the Internet play in the study and spread of urban legends?

Not to repeat myself too much (see “Internet Resources,” pp. 328-330), the Internet is “both a tool for researching urban legends and a conduit for the dissemination and discussion of rumors and legends.” For the scholar, urban legends archives, indexes, journals, newsletters, etc. are often available online. For the non-academic enthusiast, the Internet, including email and social media, offers a rapid means of swapping stories and resources for checking them out.

Have you heard any new urban legends lately?

“New” is a relative term in this context, since so many of the rumors and stories that go around are variations on older themes. Here’s a “new” example that ties together several things I’ve already mentioned:

A college student in Buenos Aires emailed me to ask about a story she had heard; evidently she had not come across it in the lectures or readings for her folklore class, although she had read some of my books. It seems that an Argentine girl goes with her class on their high school graduation trip to the well-known “party town” (and ski resort) Bariloche, and after meeting a boy in a club she has unprotected sex with him. When the group is ready to leave for home on their tour bus, the boy gives her a box that, he says, contains a surprise. As soon as the bus starts off, the girl opens the box finding inside only a black rose and a note reading “Welcome to the Club of AIDS.” 

I replied to her email explaining that this was a localized version of the “AIDS Harry” (aka “AIDS Mary”) legend (Type 05540 in my index). It is a story told internationally in many variations. The black rose is an unusual touch, and the note more often reads “Welcome to the AIDS club,” or something similar in another language. (She did not give me the presumed Spanish text of the note.) Even the graduation trip and the long bus ride to and from Bariloche fit the local tradition with comfortable long-distance coaches complete with meal service, videos, and restrooms as the norm of such travel in Argentina.

What’s new in urban legend studies?

While I was proofreading my Encyclopedia, the International Society for Contemporary Legend Research (ISCLR) held its annual conference in Göttingen, Germany, from June 5-9, 2012. Abstracts of the papers presented appeared in the newsletter Foaftale News, which I consulted online. Among the topics discussed were these:

            Two papers on Russian legends, one concerning a constitutional crisis set off by an action of President Boris Yeltsin in 1993, and the other about Russian children’s horror legends of the 1970s-‘90’s.

            The so-called “snuff films” and some legendary reactions to them in Germany.

            Legends and legend-tripping involving the ritualistic decorative painting of railway trestle-bridges by adolescents in Canada.

            Protests among Dutch Protestants against supposed “Gay Jesus” films as well as against some real movies about Jesus.

            “New spiritualities” as represented by stories about a supposed “mystery” area of South West France.

            Scam letters and emails similar to the “Double Theft” urban legends.

            A prototype system developed for computerized cataloging of Polish urban legends.

            Emergent legends critical of Barack Obama, circulated mainly as email forwards by far-right detractors of the president.

            Legends about Frank Lloyd Wright.

            Child Abduction legends from Eastern European counries.

            “The Vanishing Hitchhiker” revisited [again!] and also as circulated in Portugal both orally and in a short film shown on YouTube.

            A “friendly ghost” figure in recent Japanese legends that helps people deal with current social problems.

            Legends about the kidnapping of children in Mexico.

And a topic that illustrates the emergence of new legends from current events:

            Post BP-Oil Spill rumors and legends from Costal Louisiana.

This researcher reported stories of outsiders illegally becoming “spillionaires” by falsely claiming losses from the spill or by securing huge clean-up contracts that employed outside workers rather than locals. Other stories claimed that New Orleans restaurant workers and Bourbon Street strippers were supposedly “receiving generous settlements (because their income from tips might be affected if tourism dropped).”

Encyclopedia of Urban Legends, Updated and Expanded Edition is available now at!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Part l: Interview with Jan Harold Brunvand, Author of Encyclopedia of Urban Legends, Updated and Expanded Edition

Why did this 2001 Encyclopedia need to be updated and expanded?

Obviously there was a lot of new material, since the book went from about 500 pages in one volume to 782 pages in two volumes. Already in 2001—too late to be included in the first book—collections of urban legends were published in Denmark and Iceland, followed by new books from Italy (2003, 2004), Japan (2003), Germany (2004), South Africa (2006 and 2010), Belgium, and Holland (both 2008) and a couple of dozen other new titles in English.

In addition to book-length collections and studies, there have been many further articles about urban legends in both academic and popular periodicals as well as numerous papers presented at scholarly meetings, and new research materials are provided online. Besides folklorists, other specialists including sociologists, psychologists, and literary scholars have been studying urban legends, requiring either expansion of some entries or creation of new ones, such as “Medieval Urban Legends” “Storytelling and Urban Legends,” and “Truth Claims in Urban Legends.”

One important advance in urban legend studies was the adoption of the tentative “Brunvand type index” that appeared in my 1993 book. Folklorists from Belgium and Holland had started using these categories in their archives and publications, adding numbers to the story titles I had suggested. So it was time to standardize this index, extend the numbering system throughout the corpus of material, and include the index in this updating.

Another development I wanted to document in the new edition was the growing acceptance of the term “urban legends” and several variations in the popular media, which I did with a set of examples from publications of 2004-2011.

Encyclopedia of Urban Legends, Updated and Expanded Edition

Besides all the new collections and studies, were there new legends to report?

Definitely. The first edition had entries for all the stories we might call “classic urban legends” as documented in my collections and many others from the 1980s on, with references back to scattered collections (mostly in academic journals) from the 1940s and sometimes even earlier. Most of these collections were either American, European, or from a few places where interest in urban legends had developed, such as Australia and South Africa. To expand the range of legends I included many more examples, often rather localized versions, from other traditions. I also added many more actual examples of story texts to the entries, both in English and some foreign languages. Among the prominent topics of recent urban legends worldwide are terrorism, immigration, natural disasters, diseases, government, and globalization of culture and business. New legend titles in this edition include “AIDS Origin Legends,” “The Celebrating Arabs,” “The Curse of 911,” “The Eaten Ticket,” “Mag Wheels,” “National Gang Week,”  “Pharm Parties,” “Photographic Urban Legends,” and . . . well, it goes on and on.

Stay tuned for Part II of this interview to be posted next week!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The 40th Anniversary of the Munich Olympics Massacre

A Dark Day in September

September 5, 2012, marks the 40th anniversary of the darkest chapter in Olympic history—the day when Palestinian members of the Black September Organization attacked the Israeli delegation, killing two athletes and taking another nine hostage. The tense standoff with German police that followed culminated in a firefight that left all the hostages and five of the terrorists dead. In this excerpt from Dr. Peter Chalk's Encyclopedia of Terrorism, the climax of this tragic event is described in detail.

Shortly after 10:00 p.m. the bound-together and blindfolded hostages and their captors emerged from the apartment building and were herded onto a bus. The terrorists conducted this movement in such fashion that the police were unable to make any attempt to shoot them. Munich police chief Manfred Schreiber and two officials joined in the bus ride to the helicopters, which then ferried everyone to the airport. 
Certain that the incident would end in the deaths of the hostages, German officials were determined to prevent the departure. At 3:00 a.m. on September 6, German sharpshooters opened fire on 2 terrorists who had just inspected the plane. In the bloody shootout that followed, a terrorist threw a grenade into one of the helicopters, killing all within. Other terrorists killed the remaining blindfolded hostages in another helicopter. In all, the incident claimed the lives of 11 Israelis, 5 terrorists, and 1 German policeman. Three of the terrorists were captured alive and imprisoned. 
Less than two months later in response to the hijacking of a Lufthansa jet, the German government released the three imprisoned terrorists and allowed them to fly to Libya. Israeli prime minister Golda Meir and her cabinet, meanwhile, approved a top-secret operation by the Mossad (Israeli intelligence service) to track down and kill those responsible for the Munich atrocity. The Mossad’s success in this operation and its moral implications are the subject of the 2005 film Munich.

Peter Chalk, PhD, is senior analyst with the RAND Corporation in Santa Monica, CA, and associate editor of Studies in Conflict and Terrorism. He was formerly professor of international relations at the University of Queensland, Brisbane, and has consulted widely on issues relevant to national and international security. He is the author of numerous books and articles, including The South American Drug Trade: Scope, Dimension, Impact and Response; The Maritime Dimension of International Security: Terrorism, Piracy and Challenges for the United States; and Non-Military Security and Global Disorder: The Impact of Extremism, Violence and Chaos on National and International Security. Chalk holds a doctorate from the University of British Columbia, Canada.