genlara

This weeks’ readings were focused on the promise of Third World Liberation movements and water-downed promise of that movement reflected through university implementation of ethnic studies programs. More centrally, the readings centered on the question posed in the Okazawa-Ray reading: is it possible to teach and combat systems of oppression when we teach in universities that uphold those tenets.

The readings echoed scholars and themes that have already been addressed in our readings. For example, Audre Lorde’s quote “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” Words like these push us to question the real impact of our work and our role within academia. This is a common conversation, particularly among scholars of color and/or scholars of ethnic studies education. Are we truly practicing the practices that we preach?

As I read these works I couldn’t help but think about the ongoing battle to save ethnic studies education in the Tucson Unified School District in Tucson, Arizona. The Mexican American Studies program among other success, tremendously aided in reducing the high school dropout rate among Mexican American youth in TUSD. The program was eliminated by the Arizona government in 2012. Last week, the teachers and students that filed a complaint against the illegality of the state’s removal of the program received their court date.

I was reminded about this court case because the readings we read offered a necessary critique of ethnic studies education. The programs that universities implemented were not the programs that activist in the sixties and seventies were demanding. What we teach in the university obviously has its limits. But I think programs like those in Tucson, our my own experiences as a student and educator in ethnic studies, and I cannot the transformative power of education that I have witnessed. This dichotomy, I believe begs for a restructuring or definition of the question of what we are fighting for. Are we fighting for radical and liberatory education and if we are, how should we fight this struggle? This type of education and ethnic studies education are not necessarily the same thing.

In many regards, what we read this week focused on how ethnic studies educators dealt with the contradictions of teaching ethnic studies within the university. But I think a larger question and focus should be how do we take this type of education outside of the walls of academia. How can we push this into the larger community, as well as in the university?