MAS dismantling creates growing interest in Ethnic Studies


by David Safier

Unintended consequences can break both ways. In this case, it looks like they're breaking in the right direction.

According to an article in the LA Times (which often covers TUSD's MAS issues better than the Star), the dismantling of TUSD's Mexican American Studies program has actually created more interest in ethnic studies across the country. We owe an ironic vote of thanks to Tom Horne and John Huppenthal for bringing the topic of Ethnic Studies to the nation's attention (which is kind of like thanking Bull Connor for the work he did advancing awareness of the Civil Rights movement).

School districts aren't rushing to create programs, but there are undercurrents indicating ethnic studies issues are getting increased attention. Take Raquel Velasquez at Prescott College:

Raquel Velasquez, a student at Prescott College in Prescott, Ariz., is among the students who say the controversy over the program has drawn them to ethnic studies.

"It was only until it was banned that I really took this seriously and recognized the need," said Velasquez, a 19-year-old originally from Tucson. She is one of 14 students at Prescott College taking a pedagogy class to help train them to become ethnic studies teachers.

Take Tony Diaz who is the scholar/provacateur behind the Librotraficante, a group that "that raises money to buy books and open libraries to keep Mexican American studies alive" and which created a bus caravan that traveled from Texas to Tucson:

"Underground" libraries with Chicano literature are popping up across the Southwest and are set to open soon in unexpected places such as Milwaukee and Louisville.

"I guess the irony is … that we have banded together and created a new civil rights movement, a renaissance in Latino literature. Now there are people in Louisville, Ky., who will be enjoying Chicano literature," said Tony Diaz.

It's worth remembering, TUSD is on the nation's radar because of the MAS fiasco. Whatever happens in the next few months regarding the reinstatement of some kind of ethnic studies program and the blowback it gets from the right wing will be national news. In the post-election world where Republicans say they want to reach out to Latinos and other groups that trounced them at the polls, it will be interesting to see how this all plays out.