I’m married to a very intelligent and aware woman who alerts me to many of the injustices in our society. She prevents me from sliding into apathy. Last night I went with her to see a film that will be shown on PBS early next year called Precious Knowledge. Prior to the film there was a panel of Latino academics and activists discussing the current state of being in their community. I was saddened to hear about the alarming rate of poverty and high school drop-outs. These men and women discussed what can be done to make their communities stronger.
Then we saw the film. It is about a legal fight that is currently taking place in the State of Arizona over whether or not classes should be offered on the history and culture of particular minority groups. Those in Arizona who oppose these classes say they foster racial divides and that it prevents people from gaining an identity as an American.
This is the official blurb:
Arizonalawmakers believe TucsonHigh Schoolteachers are teaching victimization, racism, and revolution in their Ethnic Studies classes. Meanwhile Tucson Unified School District’s Mexican American Studies Department have data showing that almost 93% of their students, on average, graduate from high school and 82% attend college.
Why is studying Mexican culture and history controversial? What is Ethnic Studies? Why is the national dropout rate so high for Mexican American youth 50%?
The Dos Vatos Productions team filmed a year in the classroom to find out why the Mexican American Studies program is so popular with students, so misunderstood by the public, and discover what actually happens in the classroom.
Precious Knowledge illustrates an epic civil rights battle as brave students and teachers battle with lawmakers and public opinion in an effort to keep their classes alive.
One of the teachers that is participating in the legal fight is Curtis Acosta. He was present after the film along with the Producer, Eren Isabel McGinnis. I was very impressed with his presentation, his argument, and his passion for teaching young adults. One thing that smacked me in the face was how quickly the graduation rate rose in minority communities when they had a class that explored their heritage, history, and values.
Often I have heard people say that it doesn’t make sense to have months dedicated to Black or Latino history and culture or classes on these subjects. They’ve said, “We don’t have classes on white history.”
Actually, yes, you do. To be frank, almost every damn class taught is on white history. We know this. Our history classes in high school assume that almost nothing happened anywhere in the world save what happened in western civilization. It is as if the Aztecs and Incas didn’t exist or have thriving civilizations. It is American for people who came here (or were already here!!!) from other places to know about how their history brought them to where they are now. We like to know our story. Why would other people groups be different?
Enough of what I have to say on the matter though. If you have a chance to purchase the video about forty percent goes to the current legal cause. Otherwise, check your TV listings for Precious Knowledge sometime early next year.
You can learn more about the film here.
You can sign the petition showing your support for this civil rights issue here.