Understanding the Region

Courses on Understanding Regional Issues – the Politics, the Economy, and Lessons from the History of Struggle

CLP sites typically include courses which are designed to give students a strong understanding of the regional contexts in which they will be working. These courses also develop the students’ analytic skills, enabling them to better understand new developments or situations as they face them in the future.

While these courses differ significantly, all are aimed at helping students understand their regions from a social, economic and political point of view while grounding them in the history of efforts by low-income and working class people and people of color to impact the major issues which impact their lives. For example, DeAnza College’s course – which originally was described as “The Political Economy of Silicon Valley” – introduces students to the history of their region, starting with the indigenous peoples, the Mexican colonial period, changing patterns of agriculture, the growth of San Jose and the tech revolution that transformed the region into “Silicon Valley”. CD Tech’s “History of Community Development in Los Angeles” reviews issues which emerged over time – deindustrialization, bank redlining and neighborhood decline, immigration from Latin America and Asia, and, most recently, gentrification and displacement. Like the others, MCTC’s course on Local and State Government and the University of Michigan at Dearborn’s course on Urban and Regional Studies emphasize how people have organized to tackle local and regional issues and the lessons which can be drawn from their experience.

Courses covering these topics come with different labels and are taught by people from different disciplines. The course at San Francisco State is, in fact, taught by a team of four people from different backgrounds – an academic, a major city official, an ethnic leader/community developer, and a leading community organizer. Despite their differences, each provides invaluable insights and analytic skills for students who are preparing to organize for progressive change.

Examples of “Regional Issues” coursework include:

The Political Economy of Silicon Valley: This purpose of this course, taught by professor Claudia Andrade at De Anza College,  is to help those working on social justice in the Silicon Valley deepen. their understanding of the ongoing struggles over social inequality in the valley

Regional Issues Final Project-Community Organization Profiles and Placement: This is the final project for the above course, “The Political Economy of Silicon Valley,” taught at De Anza College. As part of the project, Students identify and research an organization or campaign addressing a Silicon Valley social problem.

History of Community Development in Los Angeles: This course is taught by professors Mary M. Lee and Yuki Kidokoro at Los Angeles Trade Technical College. Students explore ongoing problems that have resulted in Los Angeles as a result of short-sighted development policies, and the impact such policies have had on low income communities and communities of color.

The Politics of San Francisco: This course, offered at San Francisco State University and taught by professor Brian Murphy, offers students an opportunity to study the recent political history of San Francisco, with a particular focus on the economic and social context within which policy debates and political engagement have emerged

Introduction to Urban and Regional Studies: Taught by professor Joshua Akers at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, this course focuses on the recent history of urbanization and various attempts to plan, design, and make cities as well as the current issues we face on a planet that is increasingly urban.