Ethnic Studies forum brings opposing views together

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Ethnic Studies forum brings opposing views together

CREATED Mar 22, 2012

Reporter:  Jessica Chapin

TUCSON (KGUN9- TV) - Ethnic Studies is taking center stage at the University of Arizona, after an ASUA forum brought together people from both sides to argue the controversial topic.

Professors, students and the Tucson Unified School District Board were all represented.  Speakers were passionate about HB2281, a law the resulted in dismantling TUSD's Mexican-American studies program, and spurred several student protests.

"This is an attack on the very idea of education," said UA professor Roberto Rodriguez during the forum.  His material was part of the program's original curriculum that his future students will not learn prior to college.  Rodriguez says the recent events are a continuation of discrimination that's lasted centuries.

"In the 1500s when Europeans came here they thought our knowledges were demonic, they thought it was Pagan, godless," he said, "and I believe they continue to think that."

During the forum, TUSD board member Mark Stegeman defended the the board's decision to stop the program.

"It wasn't the illegitimacy of the one view point," he said, "it was the lack of balance."

The event attracted dozens of students and bystanders but remained civil.  It didn't stop participants from expressing passion.  It's the kind of communication Stegeman says he'd like to see as the board continues to try and find a resolution.

Stegeman told 9 On Your Side that they plan to incorporate more of the history previously taught in the program into required history courses.  He says they hope to have changes in the curriculum after next school year.

"I think that ethnic tension is alleviated when people get to know each other and understand why the other side feels the way it does.  And the way that we're going to make that happen and get people to know each other is if people are doing it in a classroom where every body's in the room," he said, "So I think that's my goal."

Many ethnic studies supporters say the proposal won't fill the void left by Mexican-American studies classes. 

The issue is also the subject surrounding several legal challenges.  Most recently, supporters made their case in front of a Federal judge to determine whether or not the law itself is constitutional.  They are still waiting for a decision.