FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Mexican American Studies: a Pedagogy Not Sociology

by RODOLFO ACUÑA

We have allowed the uninformed and ignorant to define what Mexican American Studies is. Every time I discuss the subject I feel as frustrated as a scientist trying to explain science to a creationist. No matter how well you know the field those who do not want to believe will distort your words to fit their preconceptions and belief system.

As I have explained, MAS or Chicana/o Studies is not sociology. MAS has courses in sociology that examine the MAS corpus of knowledge but MAS does not belong to the field of sociology.  If it were just sociology, it could be reduced to one or two courses on race.

MAS is a strategy that incorporates multi-disciplines. The truth be told, if the academy had cared about Latinos, which are the second largest Spanish-speaking nation in the world, it would have hired specialists to explore the role of Mexican Americans and other Latinos in the United States.

If this had happened Latino courses would be integrated organically within departments. But consequent to the racism in higher education this field of study has been ignored. Even today, most academic departments do not offer a single MAS or Latino course or employ a single Latino faculty member.

Incredible but most schools of education have not developed courses on how to teach or counsel Latino students. This is criminal since I would not expect, no matter how good she is, an optometrist to perform open heart surgery.

How to teach Mexican American students was the motive for establishing CHS.

The record of its accomplishments speaks to its importance:

In 1968 only about fifty Mexican Americans nationally had doctorates; today there are thousands. Truth be told, MAS developed despite the academy.

The dramatic surge in the study of Mexicans in the United States and Mexico surged because of Chicana.o studies.

Before December 31, 1970, not a single dissertation had been written under the category “Chicano.” By 2010 870 dissertations were recorded under this heading. Under “Mexican American” 82 dissertations had been written before 1971, and 2,824 after that date. For “Latinos” the record shows 6 before 1971 and 2,887 after.

Mexican scholarship also benefitted from Chicana/o studies. I found 660 in the Proquest data bank before 1971; after 9,078. The number of books and journal articles on Chicano and Latinos also exploded.

It is improbable that this would have happened without Chicana/o student militancy.

Despite this impressive growth, there is still confusion as to why MAS was developed and why it is necessary. Repeating myself, MAS was an outgrowth of the education reform movement that wanted to stem the horrendous dropout rate among Mexican American children.

Reformers advocated a course of study designed to train more teachers on how to teach Latino children as well as encouraging research on their contributions to the United States. The best available research concludes that a student who has a poor self-image has difficulty learning. The dominate research also shows that Mexican Americans have a negative self-image due in part to the American education system.

Today this research has been almost totally erased; however, the hypothesis has not been disproved.

MAS took these studies into account and designed courses on how to motivate students to acquire skills for success in school and life.

An additional component, which has been as of late ignored, is these courses prepare educators to teach Mexican American children. It teaches methods and the content courses on how to teach Mexican Americans as well as all students to appreciate the importance of Latinos to our society.

How others look at students is very important to the students’ educational success.

With time the pedagogical function of Chicana/o studies has been obfuscated and today most professors want to forget it. Even at California State University Northridge, the largest Chicana/o Studies departments in the country, most professors know their discipline but few know the department’s course of study or its pedagogical mission.

There has been a failure to communicate this message although the curriculum has defined the department’s growth.

The Tucson Unified School District’s MAS program has yielded important lessons. Its primary strength is that it molded a team of teachers committed to how to teach all students and found the key on how to motivate high risk Latino youth.

While the course of study remains important, the hub around which the Tucson program revolves is its team of teachers.

TUSD’s MAS program began in 1997 in response to a court mandate. The recently fired Sean Arce was one of the co-founders of the program and he molded the group into a team. While the teachers specialize in different disciplines, they have almost daily interaction with each other and discuss how to more effectively teach students. Lessons in the Mexican historical and cultural experience are then applied to the American experience.

As of 2010, MAS co-sponsored twelve “Annual Institutes for Transformative Education Conferences” in which prominent educators made presentations for four days to MAS and other teachers. Sean and his team kept the mission to teach focused and they built upon this new knowledge.

I attended two conferences at which I met educators such as Pedro Noguera of New York University, Sherry Marx of Utah State University, Angela Valenzuela of the University of Texas Austin and David Stovall of the University of Illinois at Chicago – College of Education. It was instructive to learn about different theories and pedagogies that are currently being used.

I spoke to various MAS teachers that included white Americans.  Their enthusiasm was contagious.

It was all the more impressive because it was on the advent of HB 2281 that was proposing the elimination of the program making claims that were simply mendacious. Since then the program and the teachers have gone through a living hell.

They have been libeled as un-American, subversive and the livelihood of their families attacked. Without any funds and limited national exposure, the team, the students and the community have fought back.

Struggle destroys lesser beings, but it also helps create legends. The best in the Mexican American community surfaced in this struggle in the persona of Sean Arce. He did not take a deal, he did not sell out, and he fought back, jeopardizing his home and family.

But much more than Sean is at stake. Some have say, “Well if we win in court at least we will still have the program.” My response is that then it won’t be MAS but just another program to teach Mexicans and others to learn how to dance the jarabe tapatio.

Removing a person like Sean is like taking the heart out of the program. It is reducing the program to the Tin Woodman of the “Wizard of Oz” who asked: “Do you suppose Oz could give me a heart?”

If wishes could come true I would send Superintendent John Pedicone and his gaggle of thugs to the Oz; like the Strawman, the Oz could give them brain: “It must be inconvenient to be made of flesh, for you must sleep, and eat and drink. However, you have brains, and it is worth a lot of bother to be able to think properly.”

Apparently the Arizona cabal has neither brains nor a heart.

What Tucson had will be very difficult to replicate. The Pedicones and the Huppenthals will be condemned by history, but this means little because we cannot travel back to the future.

The whole affair leaves me feeling how I felt the first time I read the Chicano poet, Abelardo who wrote:

“Stupid America, remember that chicanito

flunking math and English

he is the Picasso

of your western states but he will die

with one thousand masterpieces

hanging only from his mind.”

Tucson has lost its heart, we are left with the Tin Woodman who has no heart, and there is no rainbow in the horizon.

RODOLFO ACUÑA, a professor emeritus at California State University Northridge, has published 20 books and over 200 public and scholarly articles. He is the founding chair of the first Chicano Studies Dept which today offers 166 sections per semester in Chicano Studies. His history book Occupied America has been banned in Arizona. In solidarity with Mexican Americans in Tucson, he has organized fundraisers and support groups to ground zero and written over two dozen articles exposing efforts there to nullify the U.S. Constitution. 

RODOLFO ACUÑA, a professor emeritus at California State University Northridge, has published 20 books and over 200 public and scholarly articles. He is the founding chair of the first Chicano Studies Dept which today offers 166 sections per semester in Chicano Studies. His history book Occupied America has been banned in Arizona. In solidarity with Mexican Americans in Tucson, he has organized fundraisers and support groups to ground zero and written over two dozen articles exposing efforts there to nullify the U.S. Constitution.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

January 23, 2017
John Wight
Trump’s Inauguration: Hail Caesar!
Patrick Cockburn
The Rise of Trump and Isis Have More in Common Than You Might Think
Binoy Kampmark
Ignored Ironies: Women, Protest and Donald Trump
Gregory Barrett
Flag, Cap and Screen: Hollywood’s Propaganda Machine
Gareth Porter
US Intervention in Syria? Not Under Trump
L. Ali Khan
Trump’s Holy War against Islam
Gary Leupp
An Al-Qaeda Attack in Mali:  Just Another Ripple of the Endless, Bogus “War on Terror”
Norman Pollack
America: Banana Republic? Far Worse
Bob Fitrakis - Harvey Wasserman
We Mourn, But We March!
Kim Nicolini
Trump Dump: One Woman March and Personal Shit as Political
William Hawes
We Are on Our Own Now
Martin Billheimer
Last Tango in Moscow
Colin Todhunter
Development and India: Why GM Mustard Really Matters
Mel Gurtov
Trump’s America—and Ours
David Mattson
Fog of Science II: Apples, Oranges and Grizzly Bear Numbers
Clancy Sigal
Who’s Up for This Long War?
Weekend Edition
January 20, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Divide and Rule: Class, Hate, and the 2016 Election
Andrew Levine
When Was America Great?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: This Ain’t a Dream No More, It’s the Real Thing
Yoav Litvin
Making Israel Greater Again: Justice for Palestinians in the Age of Trump
Linda Pentz Gunter
Nuclear Fiddling While the Planet Burns
Ruth Fowler
Standing With Standing Rock: Of Pipelines and Protests
David Green
Why Trump Won: the 50 Percenters Have Spoken
Dave Lindorff
Imagining a Sanders Presidency Beginning on Jan. 20
Pete Dolack
Eight People Own as Much as Half the World
Roger Harris
Too Many People in the World: Names Named
Steve Horn
Under Tillerson, Exxon Maintained Ties with Saudi Arabia, Despite Dismal Human Rights Record
John Berger
The Nature of Mass Demonstrations
Stephen Zielinski
It’s the End of the World as We Know It
David Swanson
Six Things We Should Do Better As Everything Gets Worse
Alci Rengifo
Trump Rex: Ancient Rome’s Shadow Over the Oval Office
Brian Cloughley
What Money Can Buy: the Quiet British-Israeli Scandal
Mel Gurtov
Donald Trump’s Lies And Team Trump’s Headaches
Kent Paterson
Mexico’s Great Winter of Discontent
Norman Solomon
Trump, the Democrats and the Logan Act
David Macaray
Attention, Feminists
Yves Engler
Demanding More From Our Media
James A Haught
Religious Madness in Ulster
Dean Baker
The Economics of the Affordable Care Act
Patrick Bond
Tripping Up Trumpism Through Global Boycott Divestment Sanctions
Robert Fisk
How a Trump Presidency Could Have Been Avoided
Robert Fantina
Trump: What Changes and What Remains the Same
David Rosen
Globalization vs. Empire: Can Trump Contain the Growing Split?
Elliot Sperber
Dystopia
Dan Bacher
New CA Carbon Trading Legislation Answers Big Oil’s Call to Continue Business As Usual
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail