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Controversial Ethnic Studies Courses Return To Tucson

Controversial Mexican American Studies Classes Return to Tucson

 

Two years ago, the state of Arizona found the Mexican-American Studies program in Tucson to be anti-American, and banned it from its public schools.

But since the spring, the classes are back in the form of a college credit course at Tucson's Prescott College, thanks to the effort and persistence of Professors Anita Fernandez and Sean Arce. They argue that when the program was in the Tucson Unified school district, participants had higher graduation and college acceptance rates than students who didn't take the course.

"It was a highly successful program, that had a high graduation rate, a high rate of sending students to college, a high test score rate,” said Fernandez. 

The decision to offer the classes for college credit came after years of fighting to bring them back to the school district. That fight ended here in March, when Circuit Judge Wallace Tashima declared the ban on ethnic studies is in fact constitutional.

Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne pushed to have the program banned in 2010. He cited the curriculum promoted anti-American ideology, and created a division between Mexican-American students and their peers.

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"I believe that the political powers want to maintain unequal economic, political, cultural power relationships, so this is one way to cease the progress of the community," said program co-creator Arce.

Horne issued a statement saying the cancellation of the program was necessary in order to ensure " …that public education is not held captive to radical, political elements, and that students treat each other as individuals — not on the basis of the race they were born into."

Though the highly debated classes won't be returning to Tucson's public schools anytime soon, you might see them popping up in a high school near you.

"We actually have people contacting us all the time saying 'my school district is really interested in this successful program, would you come and train our teachers'," said Fernandez.  

Both sides may not see eye to eye on the topic, but one thing is for certain: this issue is far from resolved.

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Aalia Shaheed is part of the Junior Reporter program at Fox News. Get more information on the program here and follow them on Twitter: @FNCJrReporters