The debate of reincorporating Mexican American Studies to the Tucson Unified School District has been silenced, as of now, because culturally relevant courses has filled the void of ethnic studies within the curriculum.
MAS classes were the original ethnic studies in TUSD, but the state banned it in December of 2010. Because of this ban, culturally relevant courses were built-into the classrooms three years later.
The courses were created in 2013 and are still integrated to the curriculum within TUSD. CRC is designed to connect students’ social identity to their learning, much like the previous MAS classes.
Augostine Romero, Pueblo High School principal, worked on the curricula for both CRC and MAS classes.
“There’s a whole bunch of commonality in both because the both are intended to meet the needs of students and meet the needs of the students, for me, a more holistic way,” Romero said.
These courses are not just for meeting academic standards, according to Dr. Romero. It is about effectively building social and personal relations.
Adriel Mendoza, a junior at Pueblo High School, feels that his CRC English class is already more effective than his previous classes.
“I’m happy that this class isn’t like some other classes where you just do the work, you get an A, they give you a good grade,” Mendoza said. “I think with [my teacher], there’s something inside that stays with you.”
CRC gives students a chance to connect to their social identity. It also encourages students to go beyond just classroom walls.
The CRC curriculum requires students to conduct a community research project outside of class. A unique part of CRC is “encuentros,” which urges conversations with the students’ families about what they have learned.
“One of my favorite comments that I’ve heard is that these classes have taught [students] to be a human being, how to talk to people and how to be a representation of their community,” Tiffanie Mendibles-Munoz, a teacher, said.
For the past three years, Medibles-Munoz, has seen first-hand the connection of students to her teachings.
“We get to read literature that our kids’ lives are reflected in,” she said. “…when I did my student teaching I taught Eurocentric literature and the buy in I got from kids at that point as nothing compared to what I’m getting now.”
Nolan Cabrera, a program auditor for MAS, believes the CRC are similar in the way students respond positively.
It’s affirming to the students when they see the report, according to Cabrera.
“In these courses someone demonstrated that they cared about me,” Cabrera explained in the eyes of a student. “I was able to become an engaged citizen in my community. I knew that my grades went up. I knew that I was more likely to succeed. But on the aggregate no one really knew.”
Students are understanding and engaging more in the ethnic courses and for Mendoza, he knows these classes will help him in the future.
TUSD had to decide whether or not to reincorporate MAS into the curriculum after Federal Judge A. Wallace Tashima determined the ban was unconstitutional in December of 2017.
During a special school board meeting in January, members argued on how incorporating MAS back into the curriculum was just a political statement. In the end, the decision was split and the board concluded to halt the resumption of MAS since CRC is already meeting the needs of students.
Liz O’Connell and Ciara Encinas are reporters for Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact them at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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