A Brief, Post-Trial Reflection on the TUSD Mexican American Studies Court Case
Angela Valenzuela, Ph.D.
University of Texas at Austin
July 23, 2017
It feels like a long time since I've posted to this blog. I was quite busy last week with the Mexican American Studies (MAS) court case in the state of Arizona's District Court, either preparing for, or actually serving as an expert witness on, the benefits of Mexican American, and Ethnic Studies, generally, in Acosta et al. v. Huppenthal et al.
|Me, Luna Barrington, Nolan Cabrera,|
Curtis Acosta, and Bob Chang
It was a course for masters and doctoral students and a substantial portion of it involved the court case itself, giving my students a fairly intimate, inside look into what has been going on with Mexican American Studies in the Tucson Unified School District in Arizona since it was dismantled on January 1, 2012. This happened a month after the law took effect that you can read about here. Just Google it. There's lots of pertinent stories—on this blog, included.
It was a great experience for my UCB students, I feel, and important do do before the trial. As a college student once myself, I certainly would have appreciated a course like this one that gave students a veritable "front-row seat" to a precedent-setting, historic case.
|Trial notice (top line) from the Arizona|
Federal Court House where
the trial was heard.
I am still processing the whole thing so I'm not sure what to say at the moment other than that we shall know in a few weeks, whether the side of justice, due process, and Constitutional rights and protections were won by what truly turned out to be an extraordinary effort by the expert witnesses, witnesses, legal team, and community.
I'll write more on this later, but for now, kudos to Attorneys Richard Martinez and Luna Barrington from Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP in Manhattan, NY, with whom I most closely worked in preparing for this trial. They are exceptional attorneys and great human beings.
The entire team was, of course, truly outstanding!
I was in great company as an expert witness with Yale History Professor Stephen Pitti and University of Arizona Professor Nolan Cabrera. It was interesting to fully grasp the fact that all three of us are not only Mexican American, but also Stanford University Ph.D.s and college professors who only came to know each other as a result of the case. Stephen and I even over-lapped at Stanford but we somehow didn't get to know each other at the time. There are just so few of us Mexican Americans in academia to begin with, that the universe surely conspired to make this happen.
I was in Tucson Sunday through Thursday of last week. It was all very intense, as you might imagine. This is the culmination of a protracted 6-year, or longer, struggle. So the trial's ending is a much-awaited-for respite for all, at the very least.
There were so many moving, powerful moments throughout such that as grueling as the experience of testifying was, it was all worth it. I feel even more confident than I ever have, that the work that we do in Ethnic Studies is not only life saving, but it is also just as potentially powerful and transformative for whites as it is for people of color. And for our youth, it promotes college-going, to boot!
Some day, I hope that what we teach will simply be regarded as "good education," la buena educación. Regardless of the outcome, I am convinced, we are in the dawning of a new age, a new consciousness that has heretofore existed, unfortunately, only as subjugated forms of knowledge located at the margins of state curriculum, policies, and practice. This historic, legal challenge illuminates the vital importance of educator, student, parent, grandparent, and community advocacy for curricular inclusion like this noble and well-conceived attempt.
Regardless, I will live the rest of my professional career and life with Arizona in my heart and mind. And I could not be more thankful or blessed.