Frank Navarro: Back in the Classroom

Dec 2, 2016 by


An Interview with Frank Navarro: Back in the Classroom

Michael F. Shaughnessy –

  1. Frank, can you first tell us about yourself?

I was raised in Oakland, California, of Mexican working class parents. My father was a plumber, my mother worked in a factory, Colgate Palmolive in Emeryville. I graduated in 1969, attended Merritte Junior College and San Francisco State where I took a BA in history, and picked up 2 teaching credentials, Standard Secondary credential and a Special Education Credential.

I have 18 credits toward a masters in creative writing from USF, studied at Yad Vashem, International Center for the Holocaust in Israel, and became a Mandel Fellow for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC. For 12 years I taught Facing History at Mountain View High School, where I currently teach.

2) I understand that you were teaching some current events in your social studies classes. What happened?

For sometime, beginning at the start of the school year, August 15th, I have periodically examined the words, and positions of the Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. I then, which is a common exercise, compared their words and policies to people in history. We looked at Mary Wallonstonecraft, Shirley Chishlom, and Hillary. And we compared Donald Trump to Hitler.

I focused the descriptions on the period 1930-1933 when Hitler was running for office. Hitler said he would make Germany great again, Trump said he would make America great again, Hitler focused on Jews as the great and evil peril of the German people, trump has focused on Muslims and the great threat to America, Hitler wanted foreigners out of Germany, especially Polish people, Trump wants to build a “wall”, and called Mexicans “rapists and  criminals”, and said a judge could not be partial presiding over a law case he is involved in because he is Mexican.

3) I guess comparisons can be problematic. What were some student or parent concerns?

I was simply told the parent didn’t like the comparison, and while I offered to go over the lesson with the principal and parent, it never happened and I was never told who the parent was.  I was not even allowed to read the e-mail the parent supposedly sent. No discussion was allowed. Two days after the election I was put on leave for comments made about Trump.  The principal and associate superintendent read from an e-mail filled with remarks I supposedly made about Trump.

The leave was to last 3 days, it lasted 1 hour when the administration heard from the community, the Bay Area, and in some cases the nation. An on line petition was stared which currently has 40,000 signatures. The administration backed off but made up another story that I was some how a danger to students, but they didn’t want to do anything about it.

4) I have actually co-edited a book on the Presidents- why do we study the Presidents and why do we seem to take Presidential elections so seriously?

Because the president is the leader and symbol of the country. And the president may turn around the country through policy, I give you FDR, for example. And there are other numerous examples of the president moving the country along in a specific direction.

5) Obviously teachers now are “walking on egg shells” in that anything a teacher says may be misconstrued, misunderstood, misinterpreted. Is this the current state of affairs?

It is the current state of affairs and teachers must fight the situation by teaching the truth. Yes, Trump is a leader with clear fascist characteristics, a real threat to the country. Yes, there is really something called climate change, and yes, there is great economic inequality, racism, and misogyny. making a comeback in America.

6) What have I neglected to ask?

Do I have plans to change my teaching style and strategy?

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