Teaching to Change LA > Youth Voices > Vol. 5, Issue 1 > Electoral Politics
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On Being a Critical Researcher

Daniel Cendejaz is a senior at San Fernando High School.

Being a critical researcher is being able to read both the world and the word. You have to see what is around you and your environment. In order to be a good critical researcher you have to go beyond the obvious reading between the lines and dig under the dirt. There are many times where you look for something and you can’t find it, so being a good critical researcher means you have to be able to find that research and you have to do whatever it takes, even if it means getting escorted by police. When you read something, you have to question the text. Only because it is written doesn’t mean that it’s a fact. A lot of the things that are written are false and sometimes are the total opposite. For example, the whole idea of Christopher Columbus discovering America and being friendly with the indigenous people. That didn’t happen; it was the total opposite and he, like most Europeans, came to the Americas and slaughtered the indigenous people. In order to be a critical researcher, you need to understand the world and be able to identify the good and bad in your environment, but especially the bad. You should be able to both understand the world from your eyes and somebody else’s eyes. You should be able to read any kind of text and question it when it is wrong. That, to me, is what a critical researcher should be able to do and what a critical researcher is.

Being a critical researcher has changed the way I look at things in many ways. For one I have realized that I could question any time I want if I feel there is anything wrong or when I disagree with anything. My opinion does count and should be heard because it could make a difference.

Being a critical researcher has changed the way I look at things in many ways. For one I have realized that I could question any time I want if I feel there is anything wrong or when I disagree with anything. My opinion does count and should be heard because it could make a difference. I no longer read text without questioning it. Being a critical researcher also makes me feel kind of invincible. Like they say, knowledge is power and now with this brand new power there are many things that I could do to make a change where there needs to be a change. I don’t know how I am going to go back to San Fernando and not do anything with this power. I no longer feel powerless like I used to in school. Every time the school did something I didn’t agree with and didn’t like, I just took it without saying anything like most kids do. That isn’t going to happen anymore because now I know that my voice counts and that every person’s voice should be heard. The thing is that I always wanted to do something like this, but I felt powerless. Now with this brand new power that I have acquired, I’m unstoppable. The knowledge that I have will be spread to other people and that will make the difference. That is how I have changed now that I’m a critical researcher. Now I have ambitions on how I will change things that are messing up the whole community.

Becoming a critical researcher has also made me more open-minded. Before becoming a critical researcher I couldn’t really see or even want to hear other people’s points of view. I was really closed-minded and that caused many problems when I would argue with someone. People would get angry at me and sometimes would even stop talking to me. I’m not saying that I have changed completely, but I have changed somewhat. Being open-minded is one of the most important things to becoming a great critical researcher. It is very important when it comes to trying to change something. If something is affecting your house you’re going to want to get it fixed. If you’re closed-minded and the same thing is happening to somebody else’s house you’re not going to care. That is going to affect your community and the problem will still be there and nothing will have changed. It is also important because sometimes people may be going through the same struggle as you and it’s very important when it comes to trying to change something you don’t like. If you listen to that person you will have a better chance of accomplishing your goal and the more people you have on your side, the better it is for you. It is also important because some of the things that you are doing may be affecting somebody else in a bad way. For example, all the LAUSD standards they have. These guys don’t even ask the kids what would be best for them. They just make up all these things without taking any suggestions from students seriously. That is an example of how being closed-minded can affect someone else. So being open-minded is definitely what you need to be a great critical researcher.

Being a critical researcher should be something that everyone should be. Becoming a critical researcher not only helps you but also helps out the people around you. I recommend that everyone should become a critical researcher and everyone that becomes a critical researcher should influence others to do the same. I would have continued taking the problems that face young people without doing anything about them. If everyone out there would become a critical researcher, there would be less people that can’t go to college because of a bad education. There would be less people that struggle to get good jobs because they aren’t prepared to work. These gang wars that are pointless would finally end. No more Brown on Brown crime. These gang members that have no idea what they are fighting for would finally stop. These people would finally make something of themselves just by becoming critical researchers. So, if everyone is willing to influence other people they know, and these people are willing to become critical researchers, we will all be living in a better society.

Becoming a critical researcher could either be easy or it could be hard. It all depends on you. If you are a more closed-minded person, you are going to have a little trouble if no one influences you to do it. If you are more of an open-minded person you probably won’t run into trouble in being a critical researcher. Becoming a critical researcher requires different skills, strategies, tools, etc. You just don’t say, ‘I’m a critical researcher’ because you feel like it. In order to become a critical researcher your tools must consist of being able to read both the world and the word and asking questions when you need to, and if you don’t agree with something don’t be afraid to comment on it. Being a critical researcher also consists of being able to both organize walk-outs and actually doing them for a good purpose, and not just walking out of class for the hell of it. A critical researcher should be able to ask questions and demand answers because they want to know the truth. A critical researcher should be able to take risks and know that these risk could lead to trouble, but they are doing it because they believe it’s the right thing. These are the main things that make up a critical researcher.

The thing about being a critical researcher is that it’s not always going to be fun and games. You aren’t going to get what you are asking for all the time. Things aren’t going to go your way all the time, so you have to be aware of that. Like I said, being a critical researcher has its risks and if you are going to be a critical researcher you are going to face a lot of heat. Our group has already faced some heat when we went to a school where we were escorted out by the police just for questioning kids about how they acted politically. Some people aren’t going to want you to find the truth. Some people aren’t going to allow you to go dig deep and will do anything possible to stop you. When you become a critical researcher, you are risking getting into deep trouble. Sometimes it could lead to losing your job, getting arrested, or even beat by police or getting hurt in some other way. As you become a critical researcher, people will try to buy you out as soon as they see you making a change and that should not get in the way because a good critical researcher should continue doing what they have to do in order to make a change. Those are some of the risks you will face as a critical researcher and you should be aware that they should not get in the way and that these obstacles are only a challenge. If you are strong enough you will make a change.

Everyone is capable of becoming a critical researcher, but sometimes it takes a little motivation to become one. The people that have had a big influence on me are my teacher Mr. Gutierrez, my Uncle Arturo, and my father and my Jefe, Leonardo. I wouldn’t be the person I am now without these three people. If it weren’t for them I wouldn’t be in the seminar. If it weren’t for them I wouldn’t be able to explain to you what a critical researcher is and what it takes to be a critical researcher.

The things that these three men have said to me and the experiences that they have is the reason why I joined the seminar to become a critical researcher. My Uncle Arturo has done and said a couple of things to me that made me think critically. He said to me that, “Everyone is here in the world for a specific reason, you just need to find it.” This is one of the reasons why I joined the seminar, because he made me realize that being a critical researcher is my duty in life. Helping my people is my job and that is what I was born for. “A wise man learns from his mistakes, but a wiser man learns from another man's mistakes.” This quote made me realize that I can’t do the same thing everyone is doing because if I do, nothing will change and I have seen people mess up. I could use them as an example and not mess up like they did. Another amazing thing that my uncle Arturo did was going from nothing to something. When my uncle was in school he did not graduate and was bouncing around from job to job. Then one day he got this job and he started making a lot of money for a non high school graduate. Then he realized he needed his diploma and did both his job and went to night school. Now he works in a real estate job and he is making money. That is amazing because not everyone can go from nothing to something.

In closing, I would like to thank my dad, Uncle Arturo, and Mr. Gutierrez. All of you have influenced me in becoming a critical researcher. The things that you have said and done have made me the person that I am now, and even more with this program. All three of you have made such an impact on me that I see the world with new eyes now. It would not be possible for me to be attending this seminar without some of the things that you have told me. So I would like to say thanks to you all for everything you have done and for the influence you have had on me in becoming a critical researcher. By you influencing me you made me realize what it takes to be a great critical researcher, the way it has changed me, and how important it is to keep an open mind. You have motivated me in spreading the new information that I have acquired from all of you and the seminar. All of you have made me open my eyes a little wider and helped me find the true definition of a critical researcher. My mind is more open because of you. I realize that being a critical researcher has its risks but it's important to do it anyway. The best thing that I have gotten from becoming a critical researcher is that now I can explain things that I couldn’t before.


Teaching to Change LA is an online journal of IDEA, UCLA's Institute for Democracy, Education, & Access