Voices in Urban Education » Empowering Young People to Be Critical Thinkers: The Mexican American Studies Program in Tucson

The memories overwhelm me as the question is posed, “What does education for liberation look like in Tucson?” I see the marches, the vigils, the teatro. I feel the music and voices of youth expressing their own view of the world through their art. A collection of powerful and poised faces of former students quickly flip through my mind, as they assertively and respectfully challenged the misconceptions and agendas of powerful political figures in Tucson and Phoenix. Along with them, I see the uncomfortable expressions of those políticos as they were held accountable to their constituency, to the voices, passion, and dreams of our youth. For those of us who have struggled to save ethnic studies and Mexican American Studies (MAS) in Tucson, these occurrences have become a part of a beautiful tradition of education for liberation that is handed from one cohort of students to another and will change our community forever.

MAS was born from generations of systemic failure in educating Chican@/Latin@ students in the Tucson Unified School District and the dogged determination of our elders and the rest of our community to ensure an equal educational experience for our youth.1 Our classes were products of the Chican@ Movement in the 1960s and a further grassroots effort in the 1990s to build an educational experience for our youth founded on the premise that the experiences, history, literature, and art of Chican@s/Latin@s were a necessary and valid area for rigorous academic exploration.2

Many people throughout the nation have dedicated their time, energy, brilliance, imagination, and love to our cause after witnessing the action of our students on YouTube or following our story through media reports and blogs.3 The sidebar at the end of this article provides more information about the events leading up to and following the banning of MAS in January 2012. But what many people have never seen or been able to witness is the process of our classrooms and the cultivation of liberated and empowered youth from the inside. This was the challenge student-activist Asiya Mir and I received for how we should approach this article, and in the wake of the destruction of our MAS program in Tucson, it is a blessing and our pleasure to be able to recall such beautiful moments and experiences in our classrooms.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE: Voices in Urban Education » Empowering Young People to Be Critical Thinkers: The Mexican American Studies Program in Tucson.

About Kurly Tlapoyawa (1010 Articles)

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