Maribel Valdez Gonzalez Hopes for Radical Change in Education System During Biden’s Term

Lead Photo: Art by Stephany Torres for Remezcla
Art by Stephany Torres for Remezcla
Read more

It’s been five years since Xicana educator Maribel Valdez Gonzalez’s image became one of the symbols of American identity and new hope. For his “We the People” series, artist Shepard Fairey designed a protest poster of Gonzalez from a photograph taken by Arlene Mejorado. Almost overnight, Gonzalez’s image became one that represented diversity and humanity in the United States.

Today, Gonzalez is a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) coach in Seattle. With the Trump administration running its course over the last four years, she has hope that a Joe Biden White House, although he is not considered as progressive as most progressives would like, will make changes in policy for the betterment of Latinx kids nationwide. She points to the rejection of Trump’s 1776 Commission, which many critics considered racist, as a great first step.

“I’m looking forward to the administration acknowledging teachers and the anti-racism teaching they are doing as the key to transforming education for black and brown children,” Gonzalez told Remezcla during a recent interview. “We have to acknowledge that there are policies in this country that are harming our communities.”

In December, Biden pledged to make public colleges and universities tuition free. Last month, he added to his diverse cabinet by appointing Miguel Cardona to the role of Education Secretary. Asked what Cardona and the Biden administration should make one of their priorities over the next four years, Gonzalez says it would be to completely eliminate standardized testing.

“We need to dismantle the testing culture and examine grading practices,” she said. “We should be looking at teachers as experts of their content. We want to provide academically rigorous and enriching instruction to all our students, but because of the color of your skin or because of the language you speak or don’t speak or because of your socioeconomic status, that, unfortunately, determines the quality of education you get in this country. What we’re doing now is not culturally responsive.”