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Ethnic studies pioneer suggests a possible tradeoff

Ethnic Studies pioneer Dr. Rodolfo Acuna

Ethnic studies pioneer suggests a possible tradeoff

CREATED Feb 26, 2012

Reporter: Valerie Cavazos

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) -- It started with a TUSD program outlawed. Then came a flurry of protests, marches and eventually -- Mexican American studies books removed from classrooms. We've heard from educators, students, teachers filing petitions and now -- the author of one of the books. KGUN9 OYS wanted to know what can be done about this controversial situation that is still ongoing.

For Dr. Rodolfo Acuna, he sees all issues and decisions as either black or white --- right or wrong -- a result of his Jesuit upbringing. When some TUSD students walked out of class last month to protest the end of Mexican American Studies -- they shouted no compromise -- they wanted the classes to return -- not as TUSD has proposed with a more multicultural focus.

So it wasn't surprising that Acuna said he cheered on the students from his college campus. What was suprising was his answer to this: "Is there any grey in how this program can change?" KGUN9 Valerie Cavazos asked.  Acuna reponded, "I think if you have in Arizona a reasonable debate, then probably you could."

But Acuna says the discussion has to shift -- from the racial issues of the 1970's. "There was more racism there so there were fewer of us who could get through (school)," he said.

To the financial inequalities that he says are contributing to the nation's drop out rate today. "In California, tuition is going up to $10,000 a year. Whether you're white, asian, black or hispanic, pray tell me, how many poor people are able to afford that?" he said.

In Arizona, tuition at the state universities exceeds $10,000 a year. Acuna believes a statewide effort to focus on providing students with a better and affordable education could be a trade-off for getting rid of the Mexican American Studies program. "Most Mexicans from the state here would be delighted if Arizona said we're going to be the top 10 in funding our schools. We're going to right now guarantee you that you're going to have a 10 percent drop out rate no more. I think everyone would agree -- that would be a good tradeoff."