The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

75° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Film follows students’ fight for ethnic studies

    Precious Knowledge
    Precious Knowledge

    The students of Tucson High Magnet School recently made their voices heard on the topic of Mexican American studies. Soon, they’ll be seen and heard.

    Producer Eren McGinnis and Director Ari Luis Palos are premiering their documentary “”Precious Knowledge”” at the Fox Tucson Theatre on Thursday at 7 p.m. The film follows the lives of several high school students fighting to keep the Mexican American studies program alive amidst political controversy.

    Commonly known as Raza studies, the program has dramatically increased student retention rates for Mexican American students at Tucson High. With a current dropout rate of 48 percent for Mexican Americans, this program was nationally acclaimed. But ex-superintendent Tom Horne pushed legislation at the state capitol to outlaw such a program, saying it was racially discriminatory.

    But McGinnis wanted to document the students, not the politics, she said.

    “”It’s really a movie about the students,”” McGinnis said. “”It’s not about Tom Horne. We wanted people to know what the students were up against.””

    McGinnis and Palos followed students for a year, filming their struggle to keep the program alive, and their protests along the way.

    McGinnis said one of the most powerful moments during filming was when students ran from Tucson to Phoenix as part of a symbolic journey to the state capitol to protest. The run was also a reminder of their heritage. But filming also provided McGinnis with some startling data.

    “”People who build prisons look at second grade demographic data,”” McGinnis said. “”They see how many kids are in second grade, and they project how many prisons to build. Just as a concerned citizen, those kind of things bother me.””

    Filming the documentary was a powerful bonding experience with the students, McGinnis said, who watched students transform academically when they entered the program.

    “”You’re getting kids who have a lot of obstacles,”” McGinnis said. “”What the program does is they get them to start thinking about education in a different way.””

    And for the students, McGinnis said, it’s not about being political — it’s about getting an education in an antagonistic environment.

    “”This film should not be controversial. It should not. But it is, and that says something about the climate,”” McGinnis said. “”The thing I want  people to reflect on the most is student achievement. This is something that goes beyond the controversy.””

    “”Precious Knowledge”” is free and open to the public, with doors opening at 6 p.m. Before the film, the Tucson High Mariachi group Rayos del Sol, Los Tucsonenses Folklorico dancers and the Tucson High drumline will perform. There will also be an art gallery showcasing the work of photographer Jeff Smith, who created portraits inspired by the documentary. After the film, the director, students and teachers will be available for a Q&A.

    More to Discover
    Activate Search