|For prints, see WildNatureImages|
We have been very distressed, therefore, to learn that the always severe politics of the state had become downright vicious, with many measures echoing the kinds of social control that have constrained Palestinians or South Africans. I have written about my distress in a series of posts, beginning a couple of years ago with Just Like Arlo and Human Sieve, which focus on the ways in which border "security" measures attempt to disembody cheap labor.
Instead of getting awards, though, the teachers and students were attacked for introducing race into what many outsiders asserted had been a race-free setting. Of course, race had been a factor all along, and the work of these teachers actually allowed for some important and constructive discussions that freed students to do some real learning. The film documents the pressure on this and similar programs, at both the state and district level, and the eventual success of the curriculum's opponents. It was clear that just as one arm of a radical political movement worked to strip away civil rights for many Arizonans, another arm was determined to shut down any critical thinking about such measures. In the view of some activists on the right, schools were to be used to indoctrinate students that they were not experiencing discrimination.
The film ends grimly, but the story did not end with the film. When I was in Tucson, I was part of winning a few civil-rights battles, and apparently the ability to work together on matters of justice is still alive and well in Tucson. The work I did had very little to do with trying to elect particular candidates, because my preferred candidates never had a chance of winning. So in those days we got a lot done by working with whatever officeholders were in place. In this case, however, it was clear that more attention needed to be paid to the composition of the school board. Three individuals were undoing a major, successful initiative of an earlier board, and undermining the education of thousands of students in the process.
|Juarez, Foster, and Grijalva, TUSD|
School board elections really matter!
All of this is by way of background for some very positive recent developments, reported by David Safier on Blog for Arizona. As a result of litigation that predates the above-mentioned drama -- and has been going on since before we arrived in Tucson in 1990 -- a court-mandated desegregation plan is near final approval. It includes a lot components that one would expect in such a plan, related to the location of attendance boundaries and the relationships among feeder schools.
It also mandates that "culturally relevant courses of instruction designed to reflect the history, experiences and culture of African American and Latino communities" be included as core courses at the high school level. In fact, implementation of this requirement will include similar components at the middle and elementary levels, as explained in Safier's overview of the plan. The plan does not necessarily require the return of the specific program described in Precious Knowledge, but in extended comments submitted to the blog, teacher Curtis Acosta expresses genuine optimism.
|Wade Davis, quoted by Trying God's Patience/FB|