The restoration of a Mexican-American studies program in Tucson, Arizona public schools is being hailed as an important step in telling the more complex history of the American West, reports Dennis J Bernstein.
By Dennis J Bernstein
Advocates of Mexican-American studies are celebrating a federal court ruling restoring one of the most successful programs in Arizona public schools as a victory against “state-sponsored racism.”
Nolan Cabrera, associate professor at the Center for the Study of Higher Education at the University of Arizona, has been involved from the beginning in resisting the controversial removal of ethnic studies from the Tucson Unified School District. I spoke to Cabrera on Aug. 26, after a U.S. District Court judge’s decision in favor of the restoration of the program.
Cabrera is a recipient of the prestigious education early-career award the National Academy of Education/Spencer Postdoctoral fellowship and is a fellow for the American Association for Hispanics in Higher Education.
Dennis Bernstein: Nolan Cabrera, you created an ethnic studies program at the University of Arizona that provided the informational background for the students who fought the effort to shut down ethnic studies in Tucson. How did you get involved?
Dr. Nolan Cabrera: I became involved in the struggle around Mexican American studies running statistical analyses on the efficacy of the program. Interestingly, I was doing this for the desegregation case, which was a separate issue from House Bill 2281, that banned ethnic studies. But then that became the basis for the other statistical analyses, which demonstrated the program’s remarkable achievements in terms of student development over the years.
DB: Could you talk about the pressure that is building in Arizona right now? President Trump just made a kind of campaign stop in Phoenix, praising Sheriff Joe [Arpaio] and saying that he plans to pardon him. What does it mean for Trump to be there?
NC: When ethnic studies was banned in 2010, there was also a massive anti-immigrant bill and a move to eliminate affirmative action. We had border militias, there was the…