by David Safier
PBS's "Need To Know" program devoted a half hour to the history of TUSD's Mexican American Studies program last night. You can watch it online.
If you've been keeping up with the MAS story, you probably won't learn much new and may notice a few inaccuracies, but the overall story is well told for a national audience that doesn't know much about the controversy.
My favorite moment is when a student who went through the MAS program talked about the attitude she picked up from the classes (Sorry, I don't remember her name. Someone can add it in the comments). The very sympathetic interviewer asked her a Devil's Advocate question: "I'm under the assumption the reason they got rid of Mexican American Studies is because they were also teaching you how to hate the government." Here's her response:
"I was never told how to hate America because the government is trying to screw you over. I learned that you have to understand, not everything goes, like, perfectly for me. Now that I know this, it's my duty to find how to make it better."
She got it exactly right. When you internalize the negativity thrown at you, when you believe the people who are criticizing you are right, you're paralyzed. (She said earlier that she had been an F student who skipped school all the time.) But when you realize you haven't been told the whole story, that society has placed you in an inferior position and tried to convince you that's where you belong -- as she learned in the MAS courses -- sure, you'll be angry. You'd better be! But the next step is to say, "OK, now I know I'm not stupid and worthless. Why should I let others determine my future? I understand I'm somebody, so I'm going to make something of myself."
The student, by the way, has graduated and is studying at PCC.
NOTE: A cloud hanging over the episode is that the two adult sides are represented by Tom Horne and Sean Arce. Unfortunately, both of them have been publicly compromised by their actions, though that has nothing to do with what they have to say. (A difference between them is, Arce has owned up to what he did and is now a private citizen who is dealing with his personal issues in his own way. Horne is still the Top Cop in Arizona who refuses to own up to his personal and, possibly, criminal, missteps.)