Thursday, February 9, 2012

Walk-outs and Teach-ins: How Students are Taking a Stand in AZ

This is really amazing to see.  Students walking out of schools and staging Teach-ins to show the Tuscon Independent School District that not only were they irresponsible for getting rid of the Ethnic Studies program, but also that the students actually want to learn.  Let me say that again, because sometimes it's hard to believe: These students want to learn!  Check out this news footage:

Here's a great quote from the video (cited from the official transcript of the newscast posted on The Real News), if you don't have time to actually watch the clip:
NOLAN CABRERA, PH. D., COMMUNITY ACTIVIST: When students do walk out its frequently framed in the media as these students just don’t want to be in school, they’re cutting class it’s like senior skip day, and so really what the students did was they went and they created their own school, the school of ethnic studies, the teaching of the forbidden curriculum, and so it was on Jan 24 it was their big act of both educational activism and civil disobedience they had well over 100 students from across the district show up at that event and having personally attended it it was absolutely beautiful seeing students who were so engaged and willing to fight for their own education because educational apathy is something endemic in this country, these students were fighting for it.
This is so important.  In this case it's not only academics, scholars, teachers, and politicians who are making a stand against the stupidity of this whole situation.  The students are fighting for something important: their right to learn, and not only to learn, but to learn about what is relevant and necessary in a multicultural nation!

Of course the most infuriating part of this whole scandal, to me at least, is the reaction of Superintendent John Pedicone of the TUSD stated that he thinks the outcry against the decision to remove the program is just a distraction, according to AlterNet.  He also refuses to comment on why the books have been removed from display and library shelves as well as from classrooms.  According to the AlterNet article, "the violation-ridden Tucson school district under [Pedicone's] leadership will apparently celebrate next week’s centennial without any textbooks or special recognition of Mexican American history and heritage or the Mexican American founder of Tucson public schools, Estevan Ochoa."

Pedicone even went so far as to write a letter to University Faculty members who helped the students with their Teach-in, basically scolding them and blaming them for the students skipping classes in protest.  He then proceeded to make sure that students were punished, by first attempting to assign them janitorial work.  After realizing what a terrible move that was, he changed the punishment to detentions, stating that suspension would be the next step for students who continue to skip classes in protest.  The fact that he actually scolded university faculty members for helping students to learn what should be in the school curriculum is laughable!  But if you want to read the whole letter, you can get to it here.

Many well-known authors, scholars, and activists have been out in force trying to get the program reinstated, or at least get the books out of the warehouse where they are sitting uselessly, gathering dust, instead of being used to teach.  As Norma Gonzalez stated, the program is needed so that "Tucson children can learn their state’s full history and rich heritage."  Noam Chomsky even chimed in.  While in Tucson this week, Chomsky "referred to Tucson’s removal of Mexican American Studies books and curriculum materials as an 'international disgrace.'"

Henry Giroux, noted education scholar, had a few things to say in an article posted this week on Truth Out.  He concluded the piece with a very stern warning:
The Arizona censorship of ethnic studies, the destruction of associated knowledges and the silencing of dissent is one of those events that flash before us in ways that might at first suggest nothing more than a silly, irrational or anomalous happening. But that is far from the actual case. Placed within a long view of history, it clearly signals the formation of those antidemocratic forces waiting in the shadows for an opportune moment to enshroud the entirety of the United States in what the philosopher Hannah Arendt once called, “dark times.”
It is truly unfortunate that these events are taking place to begin with, and every time I start reading the news about Tuscon specifically, and Arizona generally, I find my insides beginning to boil.  I want so badly for the school district, especially the superintendent, to see reason and figure out a way to bring the program back.  I want to see those protesting students see a resolution for their efforts!  At least there are people out there, like Henry Giroux, Christ Crutcher, Norma Gonzalez, Debbie Reese, and so many others, who are working their asses off to make change, and I can't thank them enough for doing what I can't do from outside of the country!

And now, before my blood starts to boil and I get overwhelmed with the craziness, I will sign off for the night.  Thanks, as ever, for reading and for caring.

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