The film Precious Knowledge airs on PBS's Independent Lens on May 17. I've seen the movie, and it is a knock-out. Don't miss this show on Thursday at 10 pm (check local listings). Set your DVR if you can't watch it live. Here's why:
The film documents the contentious battle in Tuscon, Arizona over their public high school's highly successful Mexican American Studies Program. Students and teachers fought to rescue this innovative curriculum from state officials who legislated the deletion of ethnic studies programs and the local school board who colluded with the decision.
Filmmakers Ari Luis Palos and Eren Isabel McGinniss spent a complete year in the classroom, documenting the transformation of Latino students who became engaged learners, active citizens and self-actualized persons as they participated in classes they found to be relevant.
|Photo credits: PBS|
Equally important, the film shows us the bigoted political process that led to the ultimate demise of the MAS (Mexican American Studies) program. You may draw your own conclusions from the testimony of the decision-makers who pulled the plug...and openly told the film-makers why they did.
I was fortunate to preview the film this spring at a private showing in El Paso, Tuscon's border neighbor. I choose the word "fortunate" pointedly because the emotional impact of the movie literally disturbed my sleep for days afterward. Always one to immerse myself in a film, in the wake of the Precious Knowledge I felt angry and beaten down by ignorance and blind power. I felt defeated, and it hurt.
To cope with my emotional aftermath, I recalled the screening room on that sunny April afternoon. An empty chair separated me from a woman in my row who didn't know me. As giant figures of white men spewing ignorant, prejudiced statements towered over us on the screen above, I saw her literally bend forward from the waist, lean into her lap and cradle her face in her hands. I felt her pain. I shared it in that moment. It somehow comforted me to know that I was not alone. She understood.
The memory of her reaction still comforts me. It was a full-bodied lament...a grieving.
Those who are on the side of Arizona lawmakers will not likely benefit from this movie because no movie will ever change their racist mindsets. But there are many in the United States who will be moved by this production. They have not yet heard about this recent attack in the ongoing war against humanity that we name "racism."
Here's the movie trailer:
After viewing Precious Knowledge, you may wish to sign this petition for TUSD to reinstate the MAS program and or join the Precious Knowledge Facebook page.