Skip to Content

Mexican American/Raza Studies uses controversy for change

Attention: open in a new window. PDFPrintE-mail

 

At Mansfeld Middle School, an elective course in indigenous Mexican culture is teaching students a different way to look at history and society.

"A People's Culture," taught by Norma Gonzalez, a TUSD Mexican American/Raza Studies Project Specialist, focuses on educating students about on-going conflict between Mexico and the United States, the impact on Mexican-Americans and the hope of creating change.

"We look at the anti-Latino sentiment, here in Arizona specifically, and look at why it exists," Gonzalez said.

Curriculum for the course involves analyzing certain laws, regulations and advertisements that are viewed as discriminatory towards Mexican Americans. This includes the Official English law that requires all official government actions and documents in Arizona to be conducted in English.

Lessons also educate students about Mexican American viewpoints on historical events, such as the wipeout of the Wampanoag Indians by European contact - a variation of the Thanksgiving story - and involvement in world wars.

"From the perspective of a Chicano elder, World War I started in 1492 and hasn't ended," said Gonzalez. "We see how it has transpired over the years. Initially when Columbus came, people were killed in mass genocide, what it looks like today is the anti-Latino sentiment."

Gonzalez said the course appears very radical to people in the mainstream. On a superficial layer, society defines culture as language, dress, communities and customs, but Mexican Americans define culture as the resources they use to describe their life experiences, she said.

While the course utilizes controversial lesson plans, Gonzalez said the main goal of "A People's Culture" is to promote a positive change throughout society, and construct a more prosperous future through the respect and love of other people.

"For the first few weeks, all we talk about is being able to humanize ourselves," she said. "I want them to be able to learn to humanize other people, even though as students of color they have been dehumanized."

Passing the course with a critical conscious, or the capability to recognize anti-latino sentiment, is also an important lesson, Gonzalez said.

TUSD is the nation's only school district with a Raza Studies department, causing a variety of reactions across the country, including from Arizona state school Superintendent Tom Horne. Although the program is scrutinized by conservative groups, it has received positive support from former Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, now the United States Homeland Security Secretary.

The class is aligned with the Arizona state standards and TUSD's core curriculum. "The program is research sound, and effective," Gonzalez said.



































Written by Garrett Rubis You are reading Mexican American/Raza Studies uses controversy for change articles

Stalk us at:

Border Beat on Facebook


Border Beat Blogs

Educación en la Frontera

By: Shannon Maule

A look at higher education in regard to those who have and have not been able to travel from various countries to the United States. Stories from people in the higher education world relating to the border.

A Mosaic America

By: Rachel Kolinski

"Exploring Diversity one Face at a Time"

Dancing in the Desert

By: Hope Jamieson

Explore dance throughout the borderlands.

A City of Musical Diversity

By: Maria Teracena

Tucson musicians influence and are influenced by the sounds of the world.

Culture Crossing

By: Chelsey Barthel

American borders are crossed every day by cultures of all kind. These stories tell the personal experiences of people from different lands, offering further insight into the difference of cultures.

Borderfilmbeat

By: Lauren Inouye

A look at Mexican and Latin films that reflect culture, politics, and society --  reviews, research and analysis.

CaPOWera

By: Charles Misra

Stories about martial arts and combat sports with a cultural twist, all finding a home in America's southwestern borderlands.

Border People

By: Jamie Turow

Profiles of English language learners.

Tear Down Borders

By: Jessica Hoerth

Meet some of the people in Tucson who have made the journey across the border as they share what they came in search of and what struggles they may have encountered along the way.

Border Couture

By: Lauren Urratio

Fashion and how it is impacted by the border and international cultures.

Crossing the Line

By: Lucy Valencia

News from along the border with Mexico

The Border Project

By: Melissa Guz

"The Border Project" is an art showcase located in the University of Arizona's Museum of Art. It has over 40+ art pieces related to border issues.

Athletics and the Border

By: Preston Fawcett

Get to know high school coachs and athletes from Arizona border towns or from Mexico and their struggles to get to where they are.

Border Personalities

By: Audrey A. Fitzsimmons

The Southwest boasts of diverse ethnic backgrounds and a wealth of interesting personalities. Border Personalities is dedicated to the people of the Southwest and their stories.

Border Beats

By: Jeff Kessler

U.S. - Mexico border issues, current events, and interesting local stories

Music of the Border

By: Steven Schiraldi

Music reviews of musical works by Mexican or other ethnic artists.

The Border Wall

By: Brett Haupt

A visual exploration of America’s last frontier -- pictures and videos from different areas of the wall and fence that separate two different worlds and insight into what really stands between the United States and Mexico, ramifications of wall building and what it means for the average citizen.

Border Athletes

By: Lauren Sokol

Meet international student athletes at the University of Arizona, a look at the recruiting process that helped them find a temporary home in the desert, and culture changes that the athletes might have endured.

Journey Across the Border

By: Emily Kjesbo

Spotlighting Mexico’s top travel destinations, as well as a few of its hidden gems.

Border Shots

By: Keith Perfetti

A photojournalist looks at how other photographers have viewed the border and shoots lesser known spots of the southwest.


MLS Soccer comes to the Desert

By: Jeff Kessler

All about the 2012 Desert Diamond Cup,  a 10 day exhibition soccer tournament featuring four Major League Soccor teams coming to Tucson.