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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    UA workshop informs educators

    The UA College of Education is paving the way for social diversity with more than just their current academic curriculum.

    The college is currently holding the 10th annual Institute for Transformative Education, a four-day workshop sponsored by TUSD’s Mexican American/Raza Studies Department.

    The workshop started Tuesday and will be running through July 18, featuring lectures by a wide breadth of keynote speakers in the morning, and various breakout discussions with researching experts in the afternoon.

    The institute had been held at Pima Community College in previous years, but a former graduate and now director of the Raza Studies, Augustine Romero, recently sparked interest in Jeffrey Milem, associate dean for academic affairs.

    “”He came to me five or six months ago and asked if we were interested in getting involved,”” Milem said. “”Whenever we can, we like to partner with local school groups.””

    Milem said he had initially decided to spearhead sponsorship because of the surprise reaction he received from students in a class he taught, titled, “”Readings in Critical Race Theory.”” He also said he acknowledged a broader importance for housing such an event.

    “”We’re trying to figure out ways for the curriculum and teachers to more appropriately meet a diverse and expanding society,”” Milem said. “”It’s also a chance to see the things going on at particular institutions that don’t serve particular populations.””

    The material discussed will focus on topics related to the vision of Raza Studies. Teachers will gain the tools to give students “”an understanding and appreciation of historic and contemporary Mexican American contributions”” and the knowledge to empower them, according to the effort’s overall mission.

    “”The point of this is to try and help students gain a sense of identity and a new sense of purpose within themselves and can, through those two pieces, nurture purpose and a new sense of hope throughout their community,”” Romero said.

    Over the years, Raza Studies has come under some fire by local Tucson educators and Tom Horne, the Arizona State Superintendent for Public Instruction. Staff described the controversy as being based on their program having “”anti-American”” sentiments.

    “”In some ways, it has been very frustrating and at some point in time, it becomes hurtful,”” Romero said. “”Sometimes people paint us with these ugly brushes without really knowing what we’re about.””

    Romero said that most recently, the state Legislature passed SB1108, a bill that “”tried to articulate the idea the department was a threat to national security.””

    The Interim Director for Raza Studies and a morning speaker, Sean Aree, said that despite differing opinions, there are moments in history where Mexican Americans were treated unfairly that should not be ignored.

    “”It’s difficult for me still to come to terms with this history, sometimes because it’s an ugly history, but I think we as educators have to have the courage to look at that history for what it is,”” said Aree.

    In addition to hosting lecturing professors in related race theory and ethnic studies research from more than 10 universities across the country, a local group of musicians dedicated to social art practices called Los Cuatro Vientos, and other district employees and community activists are among the invited guest speakers.

    Larry Haynes, the director of African American studies for TUSD, said he appreciated the workshop for what it could potentially provide educators.

    “”This gives us a chance to have a one-on-one opportunity and not only enhances my understanding in terms of what I might be able to do as an educator,”” Haynes said, “”but to inspire other educators as to how they can employ some of the practices so they can implement them with the instructional practices that they’ve acquired.””

    Despite any past controversy, Haynes sees the workshop as a positive step in opening dialogue.

    “”In my opinion, it is a lot of misunderstanding, but if you stop and take a listen, what’s really needed is conversation,”” Haynes said. “”If you listen to both sides, both sides have their points, but I think there needs to be a deeper dialogue and a consensus that both sides have their point.””

    Since 2002, Romero said, Raza Studies and the instruction of ethnic relations largely grew from two classes of 42 students to a curriculum that serves more than 512 students in the Mexican American program, many of whom are not of Latino origin.

    “”This is a well-established institution, and I think the recent college participation will just strengthen the institution,”” Romero said. “”The idea that the College of Education is willing to be partners speaks volumes in terms of the significance of the institution.””

    Milem said that once the workshop has finished completion, the university will discuss plans for continued partnership with the institute.

    “”I think it’s a great opportunity for us and for TUSD,”” Milem said. “”In the end, we’ll both sit down and talk and see what happened.””

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