While fumbling Tucson school officials and their extremist Arizona state counterparts await the fate of the outlawed Mexican American Studies in a federal court desegregation order, the prestigious Prescott College announced it will grant college-level credit for a banned Chicano/a Literature course taught by nationally acclaimed Tucson high school teacher Curtis Acosta.
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Designed by Acosta and Dr. Anita Fernández, a Prescott College faculty member in the Education Program of the Resident Degree Program, the two-credit Chicano/a Literature course will be part of Prescott College's "Early High School Experience" and held in the spring at the John Valenzuela Youth Center in South Tucson.
"Having seen the level of rigor in these classes during extensive visits in the past," said Fernandez, an expert on critical multicultural education and teacher education, "we recognized the importance of continuing on with the content and rigor, and the need to make available this incredibly rich literature that has been eliminated from students' lives. These books and stories are an important part of this community and cultures, and everyone should have a chance to take this course."
Acosta, who lectures across the country and contributed to the recent book, Educational Courage: Resisting the Ambush of Public Education, discussed the Chicano/a literature course in an earlier Huffington Post interview. As I noted last month:
With nearly 20 years of teaching experience, Acosta has always played a critical role in the Mexican American Studies debate. In the wake of the tragic Giffords shooting in 2011, CNN turned first to Acosta and his nationally recognized efforts to reduce tensions in the community. Recipient of the University of Arizona's Kenneth S. Goodman "In Defense of Good Teaching Award," among numerous other national honors, Acosta was featured in the Precious Knowledge film documentary, and provided an illuminating counterpart to the Daily Show's embarrassing expose of TUSD school board member Michael Hicks.
In a press announcement, Prescott College, which was founded by Congregationalists over a half century ago as the "Harvard of the West" and has emerged as one of the leading schools in the nation for environmental and social justice studies, called Arizona's controversial Ethnic Studies law an "inappropriate effort to regulate ethnic studies that drives elimination of highly effective, culturally relevant and nationally recognized approaches to the teaching of U.S. history, politics and culture from Arizona public schools."
The town of Prescott, ironically, shares a long history with Tucson and Mexican American studies. With a limited-residency bachelor's, master's and doctoral programs in Tucson, the College's main campus is in Prescott, which served as Arizona's territorial capital and was named after the celebrated historian William H. Prescott, author of the classic text The Conquest of Mexico. In his 1908 chronicle The White Conquest of Arizona, Orick Jackson dismissed the Mexican influence in Tucson and praised Prescott and Yavapai County as "the cradle of Arizona," laying out a cultural division between southern Arizona and its more conservative central and northern parts embodied today by the state's extremist Tea Party politicians.
Author of State Out of the Union: Arizona and the Final Showdown Over the American Dream, Jeff Biggers can be followed on Twitter @jeffrbiggers