Arizona's Ethnic Studies Debacle: Why There's No Such Thing as Too Much Truth
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The students want to find solutions for problems in this country. When their program was attacked, students, teachers and members of the community mobilized. These students have protested in a variety of creative ways. They organized a 100-mile community run from from Tucson to Phoenix, staged sit-ins and invited public officials to visit their classes - which Horne, to this day, has not done. Basically, they fought, as American citizens are taught to do, for what they believed in. The students are still fighting because they saw a wrong that needs to be fixed. This comradeship of students, teachers and community was created through a passion for knowledge and a love of community and country.
"Precious Knowledge" demonstrates that the high-school dropout rate among Latinos is over 50 percent. The teachers in the ethnic studies program have managed to significantly reduce that appalling statistic.
The film also profiles la raza studies graduates who become the first members of their families to matriculate to college. These students were spurred to greater academic ambitions because they were inspired by teachers who instilled a sense of pride and belonging among their students. Acosta and Gonzalez tell their students that they, as individuals, are important in a society that has consistently ignored them. Detractors of the ethnic studies program state that teaching students about past oppression is wrong, that it will instill treasonous thoughts in students' minds. This could not be further from the truth.
Learning the histories of the Chicano movement as well as biographies of outstanding individuals such as W.E.B. Du Bois and Malcolm X empowers students. These narratives remind students - regardless of their racial and ethnic backgrounds - that they come from a long line of heroes who have fought to improve an imperfect nation. It lets students know that their ancestors have a history that is deeply embedded in the land of America, and, as such, they are entitled to all of its benefits. "Precious Knowledge" is not just a documentary about protest and lawmakers; it is a film about the human spirit - the eternal strength and beauty of the human spirit.
This is a poem by Luis Valdez, which Curtis Acosta and Jose Gonzalez had their students recite every day before class. It was an integral part of the la raza curriculum, and now it has been banned by the Tuscon Unified School District.
The Other Me
Tu eres mi otro yo
You are my other me
Si te hago daño a ti
If I do harm to you
Me hago daño a mi
I do harm to myself
Si te amo y te respeto
If I love and respect you
Me amo y me respeto yo
I love and respect myself
Genesis Lara is a second-year history major at the University of Florida. This summer, she will be conducting research on the book banning and elimination of the ethnic studies program in the Tuscan Unified School District in Arizona. The interviews collected will become part of oral history collection of the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program at the University of Florida.