For the Love of Learning

On Monday, Anita Fernandez reported on the first day of the federal trial on the 2012 banning of the Mexican-American Studies program in Tucson, Arizona. She noted, “The court room was packed and we have folks here from across the country.”  The judge is charged with deciding if the state of Arizona discriminated against Latinx students by banning classes that focused on Latinx culture.

The state argues that the Mexican-American Program courses “politicized students and made them resent white people.” (HuffPost, 6/27/17).

Teachers in the program note that the courses began as a way “to try to close the wide achievement gap between the district’s Hispanic and white students.” They worked on building the students’ self-esteem and note that those students earned higher test scores and increased their interest in school.

Take a look at the following clips from the Precious Knowledge film series about the Mexican-American Studies Program and the controversy around it. Start with clip 2  and then watch the rest of the clips on the playlist.

English teacher, Curtis Acosta, who’s speaking at the WLU Institute in July and is featured in the video at the top of this blog,  was first to testify on Monday. You can listen to him talk about the The Banning of the Mexican American Studies Program in Tucson, AZ in an interview on Education talk radio earlier this month. He explained:

“We wanted our educational experiences to revolve around love of learning, love of learning from one another, love for each other…From the root we were applying our own history, and the stories and speeches and poems reflected that type of action and advocacy through a socio-political lens. The students came to understand it was important to give back and be involved. … it’s an integral part of education.”

Here’s what happened In 2012. The Superintendent of Public Instruction ruled that the Mexican American Studies Program “contained content promoting resentment toward a race or class of people,” and dismantled the program according to Arizona state legislation, HB2281. This legislation made illegal any courses that: “(1) promote the overthrow of the U.S. government, (2) promote resentment toward a race or class of people, (3) are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group, and (4) advocate ethnic solidarity instead of treating pupils as individuals.”  The state threatened to withhold millions of dollars of state funding if Tucson didn’t close down the program, so the Mexican American Studies program was closed. Read “The Dismantling of Mexican-American Studies in Tucson Schools,” CNN, January 22, 2012 for more details on what happened in 2012 and WATCH the video.

NCTE joined over 30 other organizations  to protest the initial banning of seven books that were taught in the program. In the end, 84 books were banned, as reported by Elaine Romero, who provides “the list.”

The Council supports ethnic studies programs in its NCTE Position Statement in Support of Ethnic Studies Initiatives in K-12 Curricula. 

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About Millie Davis

Millie Davis is Senior Developer for Affiliates, and Director of the Intellectual Freedom Center at the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). In addition she works on NCTE’s communications efforts, particularly on social media. Millie's passion is working with literacy teachers across the country and beyond whose passion for their students and their students' learning is their reason for going to work each day.

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