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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Protests should inspire students

There is a transforming civil rights movement rising in Tucson. It’s rising in a state that created its own reputation of always finding a way to shock the rest of the country with its illogical, xenophobic legislation. This movement is vocalizing itself, and the youth are its leaders. They have become the latest pioneers in the movement to speak up for human rights once again in Arizona.

History was made just blocks south of the UA at Tucson Unified School District’s main headquarters on Tuesday evening. Hundreds gathered in reaction to a proposal by TUSD Governing Board President Mark Stegeman. This resolution would turn the district’s Mexican American studies courses into electives. Out of all the ethnic studies courses offered by TUSD, MAS was the sole subject singled out to no longer serve as an option to fulfill core-curriculum requirements.

Stegeman has said numerous times, including at Save Ethnic Studies’ latest press conference on Monday morning, that this resolution has nothing to do with House Bill 2281, the state-wide ban on ethnic studies that “”advocate ethnic solidarity”” or “”promote overthrow of the U.S. government.”” He even claims to oppose the bill. However, on Tuesday evening, his resolution said the contrary.

The Arizona Daily Star reported that TUSD board members Judy Burns and Adelita Grijalva said they won’t support Stegeman’s resolution and that “”the timing for its introduction is bad considering that the Arizona Department of Education is scrutinizing the program to determine if it complies with state law.””

While private auditors invade ethnic studies classrooms each day, searching for hints of “”ethnic chauvinism,”” Stegeman placed this resolution on Tuesday’s board meeting agenda. What he didn’t expect was so much resistance.

According to Huffington Post blogger Jeff Biggers, ethnic studies supporters at Tuesday’s meeting “”derailed the introduction of a controversial resolution that would have terminated their acclaimed program’s core curriculum accreditation.”” Students chained themselves to board members’ chairs, and forced the postponement of the meeting.

Derailed, shut down, terminated. All verbs to describe the historic moment in which members from a local youth organization called UNIDOS proved how far they were willing to escalate to defend their program against decisions that would slowly dismantle the ethnic studies program.

As quoted in Colorlines Magazine, Sal Baldenegro Jr., a member of the Southern Arizona Unity Coalition, said, “”Just like the people of Wisconsin took a stand and said ‘enough is enough,’ the youth of Tucson are standing up and letting it be known that they are fed up with these attacks on their education and their future.””

It has come down to Wisconsin-style uprisings. In less than a minute, nine individuals, including current ethnic studies students, chained themselves to the seats of those who hold the fate of their education. In Arizona, those seats have never been taken from the decision makers in power. But now, the most dedicated to what education should be allowed has taken over: the students.

When was the last time you heard about youth having consistent input in decisions on education? When schools are failing, adults within the institutions are the first to be blamed. Teachers are always put to the limits, forced to comply with national interruptions in what state standards should look like. All the while, students themselves are never considered.

When students demand education, knowledge becomes invaluable. The empowerment youth feel when they physically defend their education is incomprehensible.

Of course, the courage to defy authority may seem too much for the general audience. It may even seem obtrusive and rude. But when youth come to a meeting dressed in chains and successfully prevent a school board vote from happening, is the slight interruption all you can think of?

The extent to which students will go to defend their education was illustrated this week. In the midst of intensely rising tuition on our own campus, a movement to defend education is happening all around us. Except for on our campus.

This isn’t a debate on whether or not civil disobedience is the most effective path. Effectiveness is the last thing on Arizona legislators’ minds. This is a proposition for you to consider. How far would you be willing to go to defend access to an education? Exercise your right, with or without chains, but always with attentiveness to the movements surrounding you.


— Elisa Meza is a junior studying English. She can be reached at

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