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INDEPENDENT LENS: Precious Knowledge

Airs Tuesday, May 22, 2012 at 11 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: Crystal leads demonstrations to save the ethnic studies classes in front of Tucson High.

"Precious Knowledge" reports from the frontlines of one of the most contentious battles in public education in recent memory, the fight over Mexican American studies programs in Arizona public schools. The film interweaves the stories of several students enrolled in the Mexican American Studies Program at Tucson High School with interviews with teachers, parents, school officials, and the lawmakers who wish to outlaw the classes.

Students and community members participate in a traditional ceremonial run from Tucson to Phoenix.
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Above: Students and community members participate in a traditional ceremonial run from Tucson to Phoenix.

Mexican American/Raza studies student Mariah at an immigrants rights rally in Phoenix, Arizona.
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Above: Mexican American/Raza studies student Mariah at an immigrants rights rally in Phoenix, Arizona.

A film by Tucson-based filmmakers Ari Luis Palos and Eren Isabel McGinnis, "Precious Knowledge" will premiere on the Emmy® Award-winning PBS series INDEPENDENT LENS, hosted by Mary-Louise Parker.

While 48 percent of Mexican American students currently drop out of high school, Tucson High’s Mexican American Studies Program has become a national model of educational success, with 93 percent of enrolled students, on average, graduating from high school, and 85 percent going on to attend college.

The filmmakers spent an entire year in the classroom filming this innovative curriculum, documenting the transformative impact on students who became engaged, informed, and active in their communities.

As the nation turns its focus toward a wave of anti-immigration legislation in Arizona, the issue of ethnic chauvinism becomes a double-edged weapon in a simmering battle, making front page news coast to coast.

Arizona State Superintendent Tom Horne calls for the banning of ethnic studies classes in Tucson.
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Above: Arizona State Superintendent Tom Horne calls for the banning of ethnic studies classes in Tucson.

Talkback

Do you think that teaching the history of specific ethnicities promotes a sense among students of their own ethnic superiority? Do you think it is important to dedicate class time to the history of minority groups? Share your thoughts

When Arizona lawmakers pass a bill giving unilateral power to the State Superintendent to abolish ethnic studies classes, teachers and student leaders fight to save the program using texts, Facebook, optimism and a megaphone.

Lawmakers and politicians respond with a public relations campaign to discredit the students, claiming that a textbook used in the classes, Paulo Freire’s "The Pedagogy of the Oppressed" teaches victimization and sedition. Officials ask that the classroom’s Che Guevara posters be replaced with portraits of founding father Benjamin Franklin.

Meanwhile, the students answer back by fighting for what they believe is the future of public education for the entire nation, especially as the Latino demographic continues to grow.

Independent Lens is on Facebook, and you can follow @IndependentLens on Twitter.

Video

Trailer: Independent Lens: Precious Knowledge

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Watch Ethnic Chauvinism or Modern Civil Rights Struggle? on PBS. See more from Independent Lens.

Above: When a highly successful Mexican American Studies Program at Tucson High School comes under fire for teaching ethnic chauvinism, teachers and students fight back. This modern civil rights struggle is born at the epicenter of the immigration debate in the age of identity politics.

Video

Video Excerpt: Precious Knowledge

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Watch Planting the Seeds for Precious Knowledge on PBS. See more from Independent Lens.

Video

The Case Against Ethnic Studies

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Watch The Case Against Ethnic Studies on PBS. See more from Independent Lens.

Above: Arizona State Superintendent Tom Horne calls for the banning of ethnic studies classes in Tucson.

Comments

Avatar for user 'SavageFL'

SavageFL | May 20, 2012 at 5:04 a.m. ― 2 years, 6 months ago

Excellent show! What outreach for cultural diversity! It is a shame how Tucson's has failed society by abolishing this gifted man's talents from their children's education curriculum. They have lost a very valuable asset. I urge him to continue in another area where his energies will be met with embrace, and not feeble-minded bigotry. Certainly, his passion will be passed on by those fortunate enough to benefit from his teachings. The world NEEDS this.

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Avatar for user 'dan_factman'

dan_factman | July 16, 2012 at 3:38 p.m. ― 2 years, 4 months ago

This action by the State of Arizona is just the latest in an on-going campaign to ensure the permanency of the underclass. The bigots who control the state government are making sure that there are no boots so that folks can pull themselves up by their bootstraps. In other parts of the nation the effort focuses on African Americans. In Arizona it focuses on Latinos. After all we white folk can't let any of them compete with us on a level playing field. Given a fair chance, we've seen that African Americans and Hispanics can succeed at everything -- but if we can deny them a quality education and constantly demean them, then they can be kept down in the permanent underclass. It's how today's GOP has built itself by keeping other folks down.

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