Mailbag: History of Mexico must stay at OCC

A popular class at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa might be on the fringe of extinction. The "History of Mexico" course may not be available in the upcoming semester.

Some might call it a ploy against Mexican American students. I see it more as a matter of survival inside a campus feeling the onslaught of the economic recession. Latin American Studies is the weakest link in a department dominated by Western History tenured professors.

The cost of closing the "History of Mexico" class greatly outweighs the cost of hiring a part-time professor assigned to teach it.

For those who are unfamiliar with this subject, this course isn't just about finding out how the Aztecs dominated Mesoamerica during the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries, or how a few thousand Spanish "conquerors" and a local indigenous alliance defeated a powerful Aztec empire, or how a miniature dog has evolved from a favorite Aztec meal to an iconic figure in Hollywood.

There is more to it. History of Mexico is an introductory course, in which students are asked to learn academic material beyond Mexico's own boundaries. How do open-market policies fit in this country? Has the North American Free Trade Agreement brought wealth or devastation to Mexico's economy and society? What are the repercussions of this agreement in the United States? And what role, if any, does NAFTA play in the immigration debate?

Many Americans do not realize that Mexico is our second trade partner.

Mexico President Felipe Calderon's strong stand against organized crime has triggered a major war between drug cartels, and Mexican law enforcement authorities.

This war has resonated along American border towns, and has raised concerns about the danger of these dreadful criminal organizations reaching into American territory.

All of us want our political leaders to stay focused on the drug war and other issues related to Mexico.

If our local leaders have ample knowledge of Mexican history, culture and economics, they are in a better position to make coherent decisions.

In this context, history courses on a particular region or a country are intended to facilitate information to students, as well as provide them a forum to engage in class discussions and analysis.

Having these courses in colleges and universities pays off in the long run, whereas cutting them might imperil our future leaders' ability to understand deep-seated social and economic issues that, ultimately, are closely related to us.

Orange Coast College officials, especially the dean of the Social Science Department, must find a way to keep this course open for the next generation of students.

Humberto Caspa

Irvine

Reader's proselytizing is offensive to others

It is extremely upsetting and offensive that you give so much space to Russ Niewiarowski every time he writes ("Mailbag: Don't burn Koran; spread the truth of Jesus," Sept. 10). His view that everyone should believe in Jesus belongs in a church pulpit and not in The Pilot.

The Muslims just observed Ramadan and the Jews are observing Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur at this time of the year. There are other religions out there and those of us who observe them deserve a little respect.

Rhoda Friedman

Newport Beach

The decision of the Newport-Mesa school board to allow a "second chance" to play athletics is truly a sign that the apocalypse must be coming soon ("2 strikes for 'below average,'" Sept. 16). A 2.0 grade-point average and passing four — yes, four whole classes — seems enough for this school board to help ensure that they can "compete more equally" with other Orange County schools.

What a joke. Athletic participation is a privilege to be earned not a right. "Sitting out" a season for failed academic performance seems like a reasonable price to pay for a student not tending to their first and most important job: academics.

Why does this school board create such a ridiculous policy that seems to tell students that athletics, not academics, is the most important thing? So their logic seems to go ... we don't want to impede a student from "going pro" by letting such a little thing as academic performance get in the way. The number of students who will become professional athletes is way less than one half of 1%.

Please do our students a favor for once — demand more, not less, from them in the classroom. High school athletics is just a part of high school. What these students really need is much more aggressive academic goals, not more contrived self-esteem based on athletic "second changes'. As a former high school educator and athlete, let's get real and raise the academic bar for athletes, not lower that bar so athletes can simply get by. A little academic perspective seems to be missing here. Come on, school board, do your job as adults and rethink this ridiculous policy.

Jon Wampler

Newport Beach

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