I'll be spending Monday co-teaching a workshop called Making a Statement in Song and Poetry at the National Council of Teachers of English conference. The colleagues I am going with love this particular conference (one is a former English teacher and another a former elementary school librarian) and I've learned a lot while attending sessions there. Another perk is being able to get lots of free or very cheap books either at sessions or in the exhibit hall. It makes up for not being able to go to the National Council of Social Studies conference in December (I presented there last year and had a really good time in the LC booth and in many of the sessions). If you can go I encourage you to go to the professional conferences. There are lots of networking opportunities, chances to hear about what other teachers are doing and lots of exhibit hall freebies.
Now back to Takaki. Though American Memory is loaded with material focusing on the lives of the Mexican Farm workers (Look in the America from the Great Depression to World War II: Photographs from the FSA and OWI, ca. 1935-1945 collection and [try searching using the terms Mexican Labor, beets, or Mexican Farms}, the American Life History collection, or the California As I saw it collection) there is not much on the music that they sang and how it helped convince people to come to El Norte, how it helped support the labor movement and how it helped people to celebrate and survive in the United States.
I would play some of the recordings in the California Gold and the Hispano Music & Culture from the Northern Rio Grande collections so that students could hear what some of the music might have sounded like. I would also play some material from the Smithsonian Latino Folkways section and have the students talk about why music was important to the Mexican immigrants and also talk about how music often works better at facilitating communication than flyers or textual materials do. I would want to link the material on Mexican Labor and protest songs to labor and protest songs from other immigrant groups and to the music of today and note what the music of today tells us about us as a people and the issues important to us today.
One of my favorite quotes comes from the "Get Up Stand Up" website from a PBS special that focused on the role of song in protest movements. Joe Hill a protest organizer notes that "A pamphlet, no matter how good, is never read more than once, but a song is learned by heart and repeated over and over." I find that to be so true about music and I would like to have the students think about that and note the importance of music in their lives.
Happy holidays to all of you and I'll see you next week.