Tucson Progressive

Pamela Powers, a progressive voice for Arizona

Connecting the dots on Ethnic Studies

[tnivideo caption=”Precious Knowledge trailer” credit=”LPBMedia”]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W8CXCH99fNQ[/tnivideo]

Not a week goes by without at least one story on the Tucson Citizen.com about the Mexican American Studied Program (MAS) at Tucson High School.

Unless you have been sleeping for the past year, you know the basic facts of this saga. Dolores Huerta— life-long labor activist and  Cesar Chavez’s comrade in the farm workers’ struggles in the 1960s — gave a guest lecture in an MAS class at Tucson High and said that Republicans hate Latinos.  (Given the wealth of evidence on this point, Huerta probably thought that this was a well-known fact and not a controversial statement.)

All Hell broke lose in Phoenix when then Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne heard about Huerta’s comments, and in 2010, he spearheaded the passage of discriminatory legislation that targets ethnic studies for elimination.  Long before Huerta’s statement, there had been several stories about revolutionary leanings of Raza Studies (another name for MAS) and the charges by a former MAS teacher that the program was teaching Chicano nationalism. (For some basic background that pre-dates the Three Sonorans– check out these stories from Arizona Republic and elsewhere– 1, 2, 3.)

MAS is just one part of the Ethnic Studies Program at Tucson High. Until recently, all of these ethnic studies programs in Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) were under the Office of Student Equity, headed by Augustine Romero, Ph.D. but now Romero’s office and MAS both report to Lupita Cavazos-Garcia, Ph. D., Assistant Superintendent of Government Programs and Community Outreach. (I don’t know about you, but with all of dozens of articles published about ethnic studies on the TucsonCitizen.com, I never heard of Cavazos-Garcia– who supervises the program!)

Anyway, you’re probably wondering where I am going with all of this…. but hang in there.

I have always been a supporter of the rights to teach and learn ethnic studies. Looking at this analytically, teaching skills– like writing, critical thinking, and even math– by engaging students in subject matter that is interesting and relevant to them is a tried and true teaching method. I don’t know much about the conflicting effectiveness data that has been touted, but as one who has taught at the college level and who has guest-lectured at the high school level, I do know that using engaging subject matter to teach skills is an effective teaching practice. I also believe that students who grow up in the southwest would be interested in learning the “Precious Knowledge” about the history and culture of their region and their ancestors. And, as a feminist, I also agree that the history taught in the schools is the white man’s history. (An interesting question would be: Is MAS teaching the brown man’s history? Hopefully not.)

Even with all of this background, there were parts of ethnic studies controversy that I didn’t understand– particularly the “no compromise” stance (since it seems unwinnable, given Horne’s jackboot stance). Looking at Chicano struggle from the early 1970s, the local heroes of that struggle, and the relationships over time, the cover story in this week’s Tucson Weekly– Being Baldenegro— connected a lot of dots for me. Check it out.



6 comments on “Connecting the dots on Ethnic Studies

  1. Plain ol'BO
    April 4, 2011

    ” by engaging students in subject matter that is interesting and relevant to them is a tried and true teaching method”

    Would you also look at the drop out rate and perhaps suggest sock puppets- Like a Principal Kukla, for instance? 


    • Ernie McCray
      April 4, 2011

      Sock puppets work for many.


  2. Plain ol'BO
    April 4, 2011

    For others,  a  “sock puppet” in the mouth & some self help manuals



  3. Ernie McCray
    April 4, 2011

    Ah, I’ve appreciated the Baldenegros from afar for years. Freedom fighters are my people. The story about them in the Tucson Weekly was refreshing to read. Hope remains alive when there are people who will step up and take on the evils that attempt to keep some people down. Thanks for sharing it, Pamela.


  4. Three Sonorans
    April 6, 2011

    Work week is 5 days long… a proposal comes up to make it 7 days long. Do you automatically compromise or fight to keep things the way they are… and not by default either, but after a struggle… the weekends weren’t just free and you don’t want to compromise backwards, giving up something you won.
    Or with child labor… somethings one should always say NO COMPROMISE.
    Torture… war…


  5. Pingback: In Mexican American Studies debate, Tucsonans need less spin and more truth - Tucson Progressive

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The Tucson Progressive: Pamela J. Powers

I stand on the side of Love. I believe in kindness to all creatures on Earth and the inherent self-worth of all individuals–not just people who agree with me or look like me.

Widespread economic and social injustice prompted me to become a candidate for the Arizona House, representing Legislative District 9 in the 2016 election.

My platform focused on economic reforms to grow Arizona’s economy, establish a state-based public bank, fix our infrastructure, fully fund public education, grow local small businesses and community banks, and put people back to work at good-paying jobs.

In the Arizona House, I was a strong voice for fiscal responsibility a moratorium on corporate tax breaks until the schools were fully funded, increased cash assistance to the poor, expansion of maternal healthcare benefits, equal rights, choice, unions, education at all levels and protecting our water supply.

After three terms, I retired from the Arizona Legislature in January 2023 but will continue to blog and produce my podcast “A View from the Left Side.”

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