Book Club Featuring Eliminated Mexican American Studies Texts Draws Fire in Tucson

Tonight is premiere night for Precious Knowledge, a film about the last years of the successful but controversial Mexican American Studies program in Tucson, Arizona’s public schools. (Check your local listings here for when it airs on your local PBS station).

Coincidentally, the controversy developed a new wrinkle this week when the local library hosted a new book club featuring the titles that were removed from classrooms in Tucson upon the state-mandated elimination of the MAS program. News4 Tucson attended Wednesday’s meeting of the new club and reports, “Some community members are upset by the book club’s presence.” (Report below; please excuse the commercial, we can’t control that.)

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  • Mujerlatina

    We live in America – we’re free to read what we wish!

  • Mcnelle

    Please tell us again what is the poem the students recite before class- I would like to look it up…

  • Teacherddd

    “deliaruhe” wrote this (or somehow posted mistakenly) on the wrong film’s {“Hell and Back”) commentary a week ago:

    What we’re seeing in the reactionary response to ethnic studies is a phenomenon I would call “whiteness in crisis.” White identity has always been fragile, built as it is upon such things as imperialism, militarism, and technological — if not cultural or social — superiority. This is happening all over the Western world, in every country that has been dominated by whites over the last 300-500 years. We’ve seen it in the violent reactions against Muslims and other immigrants in Europe, for example. It has been rife in Israel since its beginnings.

    The phenomenon is bound to be more intense in the US, for added to the other measures by which whites have dominated are those other fragile components: belief in American exceptionalism, superior morals and ethics, superior economic system — in short, the myth of America as the greatest country on earth and thus with the divine right to rule the planet. All of the components of this myth have taken a severe beating since the US lost its all-consuming enemy, the USSR, and through the hubris that eventually brings empires down, through excessive militarism and political and economic corruption.

    Moreover, the US has never adjusted as well as several other white-dominated cultures to movements for equality, whether the Civil Rights movement, the Feminist movement, or the gay rights movement. Indeed, no Western country has fought the kind of culture wars that the US has fought. Like all the movements before it, now it’s the Latino community that’s on the move and no longer wants to accept the white man as the yardstick by which to measure its own worth. And for many whites in Arizona, this appears to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

    That these legislators and their supporters can openly accuse the ethnic studies program of teaching hate and division without so much as visiting a classroom to LISTEN (not argue and pile on more accusations, as is shown in this film) before it passes legislation to kill the program should not be surprising. Women’s studies and aboriginal studies are traditionally the most impoverished departments in our universities and the first programs to be cut in hard times because it is simply accepted that white male administrators can pass judgement on these programs without so much as studying their curricula. Indeed, curricular decisions have been a white male prerogative since time immemorial in the history of Western education.

    Arizona will of course succeed in erasing ethnic studies from its schools because what we’re seeing is white patriarchy’s last-ditch stand — and whites cannot bear the thought that these non-white students may surpass them intellectually. Since our universities began enroling more women than men at the undergraduate level, women’s studies has taken deeply disporportionate hits to its budgets — some programs have been eliminated altogether. It’s the only way whites — especially white men — know how to combat this threat: besides, it has worked for centuries. Whites can argue that they don’t want their taxes spent on ethnic studies, but it never occurs to them that perhaps ethnic communities don’t want their taxes spend on the “dead white guys” type curriculum that prevails in schools across the nation.

    But it won’t last. Western culture has been undergoing a change as profound as the Renaissance, and when it’s finished, whites will no longer be in a position to force its will on non-white groups. We’re seeing that on the international level; we’ll soon be experiencing it in our own communities.