Rose Lyn Castro is the Project Director for S.P.E.A.R. (Samahang Pilipino Education and Retention) at the University of California, Los Angeles. After attending four years at UCLA as an undergraduate and doing two years of Teach for America, she got hired back to the same organization where she started doing campus organizing. Samahang Pilipino is the main Filipino student group at UCLA and S.P.E.A.R. is the retention part of that organization.
Filipinos are notoriously underrepresented in higher education, constantly getting lumped into “Asian and Pacific Islander” statistics, therefore minimizing the specific struggles our community faces. S.P.E.A.R. seeks to solve that by offering free, peer counseling services for all Filipino students on campus along with a variety of other academic services. A student-run, student-initiated organization, S.P.E.A.R. works to empower students in a Paolo Freire-inspired method of mutual growth.
It was a pleasure sitting down with Rose Lyn at our alma mater (go Bruins!) to discuss the state of education today, why her mom wears theoretical hoops and hear the best desert island response thus far!
And now, without further ado, the Feministing Five, with Rose Lyn Castro.
(P.S. Next week stay tuned for the special edition interview series with Ina May Gaskin!)
Anna Sterling: What’s one of the biggest challenges you see with education today?
Rose Lyn Castro: If the purpose of education is to create world citizens who can function and succeed and be happy as they live their lives, then what’s happening is not education. Having taught in early childhood education for 2 years, it’s interesting that the philosophy there is all about making sure students have a sense of self worth and that they see themselves in all the books and toys. With everything in the classroom, they should see their culture and background. If their families have a different makeup than the norm, then you’re supposed to have books that reflect that. If students are interested in cars, then you have a whole unit on transportation. The same goes for ideas of gender; after they get past that pre-K and kindergarten age, that’s when schools stop reflecting students’ changing needs. It stops after kindergarten and that doesn’t make any sense to me. Students on the UCLA campus get to graduation day and oftentimes, myself including, graduate unprepared to even vote, or pay our bills and essentially, learn basic life skills. They don’t learn within the context of their own lives.
AS: Who is your favorite fictional heroine, and who are your heroines in real life?
RLC: I’m in a Christmas mood right now so Cindy Lou Who. She was the one who understood the meaning of Christmas and forgave the Grinch. She tried to dig deep to the actual issue and didn’t judge the Grinch. When its not Christmas, I like Belle because she read and put the beast in his place.
For my real life heroine, it would be my mom. She’s legit. At my brother’s high school graduation, he tried to wear a Filipino stole. When he was about to walk up, he put them on and they confiscated them. The assistant principal said, “Find me after the ceremony. We’ll hold it for you.” My brother ended up spending the whole time after the ceremony looking for the assistant principal instead of taking pictures. Mama Castro got way fired up after that. There are times where I’m not sure if I could be forceful with what I believe in, but in this instance my mom was like, “No!” She talked to every teacher and said “I’m trying to find this assistant principal!” She had theoretical hoops on and walked into the Principal’s office and said, “You ruined our day! These stoles represent our culture, they were his sister’s stoles for her college graduation which he couldn’t even attend and you can’t respect that? And you let other people wear leis who are not even Hawaiian?!” That’s just one example of where Mama Castro showed me what it is to stand up for your beliefs.
AS: What recent news story made you want to scream?
The pepper spraying incident at UC Davis. If you see the video, it’s shocking. It’s like taking a hose and unleashing it on people who are just sitting. It was really drastic and there should have been more public outcry.
AS: What, in your opinion, is the greatest challenge facing feminism today?
It’s not talked about enough or it’s talked about as something that’s past. Whenever they want to have a gender and sexuality discussion on campus here, students don’t even know there’s a gender aspect to this discussion. They talk about sexuality and not even that deep. People think feminism is done or we’re past all that when reality is, a lot of decisions you make on a daily basis are made off of what you were taught your gender is supposed to be. Also, a lot of these issues with sexuality are gender based because its based off of expectations of masculinity and femininity. But these conversations don’t happen in your typical classroom or at home and people don’t know there can be a better world if they’re not shown it. A lot of folks today are being taught to accept the world the way it is and that’s really dangerous because you’re surely bound to continue it with that mindset.
AS: You’re going to a desert island, and you’re allowed to take one food, one drink and one feminist. What do you pick?
Water, pizza and you! We could drink water, eat pizza and be like ninja turtles!