Heated Controversy Over Mexican-American Studies in Tucson Schools
Focus of New Eight, Arizona PBS program Airing May 17
Precious Knowledge documentary produced by Independent Lens
examines local issue Thursday, May 17 at 11 p.m.
Precious Knowledge reports from the frontlines of one of the most contentious battles in public education in recent memory, the fight over Mexican American studies programs in Arizona public schools. The film interweaves the stories of several students enrolled in the Mexican American Studies Program at Tucson High School with interviews with teachers, parents, school officials, and the lawmakers who wish to outlaw the classes. A film by Tucson-based filmmakers Ari Luis Palos and Eren Isabel McGinnis, Precious Knowledge will premiere on the Emmy® Award-winning PBS series Independent Lens, hosted by Mary-Louise Parker. Independent Lens “Precious Knowledge” airs Thursday, May 17, 2012 at 11 p.m. on Eight.
While 48 percent of Mexican American students currently drop out of high school, Tucson High’s Mexican American Studies Program has become a national model of educational success, with 93 percent of enrolled students, on average, graduating from high school, and 85 percent going on to attend college. The filmmakers spent an entire year in the classroom filming this innovative curriculum, documenting the transformative impact on students who became engaged, informed, and active in their communities.
As the nation turns its focus toward a wave of anti-immigration legislation in Arizona, the issue of ethnic chauvinism becomes a double-edged weapon in a simmering battle, making front page news coast to coast. When Arizona lawmakers pass a bill giving unilateral power to the State
Superintendent to abolish ethnic studies classes, teachers and student leaders fight to save the program using texts, Facebook, optimism, and a megaphone.
Lawmakers and politicians respond with a public relations campaign to discredit the students, claiming that a textbook used in the classes, Paulo Freire’s The Pedagogy of the Oppressed teaches victimization and sedition. Officials ask that the classroom’s Che Guevara posters be replaced with portraits of founding father Benjamin Franklin. Meanwhile, the students answer back by fighting for what they believe is the future of public education for the entire nation, especially as the Latino demographic continues to grow.
To learn more about the film, and the issues involved, visit the companion website for at
www.pbs.org/independentlens/precious-knowledge. Get detailed information on the film, watch preview clips, read an interview with the filmmaker, and explore the subject in depth with links and resources. The site also features a Talkback section where viewers can share their ideas and opinions.
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