As a teacher, I like to think my job involves preparing the new generations to enter a pre-existing world, and to help students transition from the private sphere of their homes and families, to the public sphere where they acquire voices and political identities, and where they can be politically active in the future.
The Arizona public school system was doing exactly that, with a student population of 41% Hispanic, they included a Mexican American and Ethnic Studies program implemented in high schools to allow a smoother transition between the private and the public. This program was a project with the goal of allowing students to produce social, political, and cultural critique while keeping a sense of their historical, racial, and cultural identity.
Some of the books to be read were: ‘Critical Race Theory’ by Richard Delgado, ’500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures’ edited by Elizabeth Martinez, ‘Message to AZTLAN’ by Rodolfo Corky Gonzales, ‘Chicano! The History of the Mexican Civil Rights Movement’ by Arturo Rosales, ‘Occupied America: A History of Chicanos’ by Rodolfo Acuna, ‘Pedagogy of the Oppressed’ by Paulo Freire, and ‘Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years’ by Bill Bigelow.
This program would have allowed Hispanic students to keep their sense of identity as they include it in their future lives of political citizenship. It would have allowed for productive spaces where history, natality, and identity could be forged. It might have encouraged higher levels of self-esteem in those students who endure racial discrimination, or end up dropping out all together.
The benefits of these programs were explained in a Huff Post article this March:
“The experimental Tucson curriculum was offered to students in different forms in some of the local elementary, middle and high schools. It emphasized critical thinking and focused on Mexican-American literature and perspectives. Supporters lauded the program, pointing to increased graduation rates, high student achievement and a state-commissioned independent audit that recommended expanding the classes.” Roque Planas writes.
But, in 2012, the state of Arizona’s ban against the program limited such learning. Conservative opponents accused the teachers of encouraging students to adopt left-wing ideas and resent white people, a charge the teachers deny. Read More