Congressman Mark Takano (CA-41), Congress’s first non-white openly gay member, came to speak to students this past Friday night about his life and how his 23 years as a teacher have shaped his views on educational policy. The Congressman knew from an early age that he wanted to pursue a career in politics. As the grandson of Japanese-Americans who were interned in War-Relocation camps during World War Two, Takano recognized the importance of minority representation. “Our government failed to uphold the Constitution” when these Americans were interned, the Congressman said, and minority representation in Congress would help ensure that something like the internment would not happen again.
After graduating from Harvard, Takano went back to his home in California to teach, and he realized that equal opportunity in education is the key to the American dream. In terms of educational policy, the Congressman spoke about the unintended consequences of the No Child Left Behind Act, and how teachers should lead the way in education reform. Arguing for accountability but less reliance on standardized testing, the Congressman also advocated for returning some of the responsibility for educational choices back to the states.
Moving on from education, the Congressman spoke about his desire for comprehensive immigration reform. Not only would this be the “right thing to do,” but the Congressman also argued that an immigration overhaul would represent the best of our values and also be a boon to the economy.
After his talk, the Congressman took questions from students and talked about, amongst other things, the government shutdown, and the progress he has seen in his lifetime in gaining equal rights for the LBGT community.