Saturday, April 07, 2012

Tucson Stories

As readers of this blog may know, we lived in Tucson for during the first four years of my doctoral studies at the University of Arizona, from 1990 to 1994. Pam completed her library degree during the first two years we were there. Like many of our friends in graduate school, we both worked as substitute teachers. Because I was still in school, I took relatively few assignments, all of them at the Amphitheater School District. Pam did a lot more subbing, throughout the vast Tuscon Unified School District.

My Tucson Teach-in post in February described the censorship activities of TUSD in the wake of changes to state law banning the teaching of Mexican-American Studies. At the time, I was critical of the district's willingness not only to comply with the state-mandated changes to its curriculum, but actually to embrace the limitations ... and of course to deny that it amounted to censorship.

I continue to follow developments, in part with the help of Cuéntame (Tell Me), from which I recently learned about Al Madrigal's report on the use hearsay evidence in the effort to eradicate the program. Because this appeared on The Daily Show, I was initially convinced that it was a spoof. Rather, it is mockery -- school-board officials mock reason and their responsibilities as educators, and the show's producers mock them simply by asking them to reflect on their choices.

The new documentary film Precious Knowledge tells the story in much more detail, and from the point of view of the students and teachers involved. It begins in the classrooms, showing what it really means to look at history and culture from a critical perspective. In times of increasing conformity to very narrow ideas of what education should be, it is actually radical to look at what really happens. It is also necessary.

The reality-based teaching is what seems to bother the officials who went after these programs. They complain, for example, about lessons about Benjamin Franklin's racism, without disputing the racist writings of Franklin himself. What really bothers them, though, is that the teaching fosters a shift in thinking that could erode their power. Arizona officials are using the rhetoric of inclusivity, but its immigration and education laws increasingly resemble an attempt to create an American form of Apartheid.

The BSU screening of Precious Knowledge will be at 3:30 on Monday, April 9 in the Heritage Room at Maxwell Library.

Click to Expand
Cuéntame graphics are based on the traditional
Mexican Lotería 

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