Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Save Ethnic Studies

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Teacher Activist Groups
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In 2010, Arizona made history by passing Arizona Senate Bill 1070, one of the most restrictive laws in the US criminalizing undocumented immigrants. People from all over the country have stood in solidarity with the immigrant populations and people of Color being targeted. A less well- known detail of Arizona’s attack on people of Color, and Mexican Americans in particular, is Arizona’s House Bill 2281, also signed into law in 2010, which was designed to ban ethnic studies programs in public schools.

This law represents former state superintendent of public instruction and current state attorney general Tom Horne’s crusade to end the Tucson Unified School District’s Mexican American Studies Program (MAS).

In January 2011, Tucson’s MAS program was declared in violation of HB 2281. The New York Times ran an article about Horne’s attack and students’ and educators’ struggle to maintain a program of study that focuses on Chican@ history, literature, and culture, and includes examining the history of oppression Chican@ populations have faced in the US. The struggle over Tucson’s ethnic studies program has continued for the past year. On January 10, 2012, the TUSD’s school board voted 4-1 to cease all Mexican American (but not other) ethnic studies classes for fear of losing state funding.

Support “Save Ethnic Studies”:

In the meantime, under the banner of Save Ethnic Studies, students and teachers have pursued a federal court case to declare the law criminalizing TUSD’s MAS classes unconstitutional. While the teachers’ lawsuit was dismissed in January, the students’ case is still standing. Thus, Save Ethnic Studies is moving forward in hopes that they can still overturn this law. It is important, now more than ever, to visit their website to donate to their legal fund. It is more important than ever to support our sisters and brothers in Tucson. It is ever more urgent that we all express our solidarity in recognition that “we are all Arizona.”

Do classes in ethnic studies teach divisiveness or tolerance?

PBS: A 9-minute video that seeks to present opposing sides of MAS, and

includes interviews with teachers and students as well as classroom footage.

Program: Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly

Episode: Ethnic Studies in Arizona

A new state law could shut down the city of Tucson's high school ethnic studies program. The state superintendent says ethnic studies divides students by race. Supporters say it teaches mutual respect and fosters a commitment to democracy.

Let’s take a look for ourselves...

Here is an actual assignment of Curtis Acosta’s based on Ana Castillo’s novel, So Far From God.

Use the questions that follow to see if you believe the assignment lives up to the concerns the authorities put forth.

Do you think you can figure out how Mr. Acosta had to change it now that the MAS program is considered illegal?

Actual MAS Assignment

• Writers often use the narrative voice to frame the reader’s perspective of the novel. This can be done through ethnicity, age, gender, or other specific details that the narrator reveals about themselves. In a well-conceived formal essay, analyze the narrative voice that is presented in So Far From God and the impact the voice has upon the reader’s experiences with the story. Remember to use direct citations from the novel to support your ideas and theories.

• {Chicano playwright Luis Valdez once stated that his art was meant to “inspire the audience to social action. Illuminate specific points about social problems. Satirize the opposition. Show or hint at a solution. Express what people are feeling.” The novel So Far From God presents many moments of social and political commentary.}

Select an issue that you believe Ana Castillo was attempting to illuminate for her audience, and write a literary analysis of how that theme is explored in the novel. Remember to use direct citations from the novel to support your ideas and theories.

• {Culture can play a significant role within a work of fiction. For generations in this country, the literature studied in English or literature classes rarely represented the lives and history of Mexican-Americans.} In a formal literary analysis, discuss what makes So Far From God a Chican@ novel and how this might influence the experience of the reader. Remember to use direct citations from the novel to support your ideas and theories.

• Magical realism is a literary movement that combines fantastic or dreamlike elements with realism. In a formal literary analysis, select a few magical scenes from the novel So Far From God and discuss why the author chose those moments in the plot to insert magical moments.

• So Far From God is a novel centered on the Xikana experience through the five female characters. In a well- conceived essay, discuss how this can be categorized as a Xikana novel.

Here is what authorities say is the problem:

• Arizona's Superintendent of Public Instruction, John Huppenthal, has said that the MAS program "promot(s) resentment toward a race or class of people." • He has said that the curriculum is "indoctrination." • The previous superintendent, Tom Horne, said that "They teach kids that they are oppressed, that the United States is dominated by a white, racist, imperialist power structure that wants to oppress them."

• The law that both Huppenthal and Horne support, known as House Bill 2281, has four provisions: Classes in Arizona may not be“designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group”; teach political views that encourage “overthrow of the U.S. government”; or “promote resentment toward a race or class of people”; and advocate “ethnic solidarity.”