Every quarter, migrant youth from around Whatcom County are invited to Western for a conference through a program called Building Bridges. The program is part of the Woodring College of Education, said Saraswati Noel, Associated Students Social Issues Resource Center coordinator. This quarter, the conference attendees will be shown “Precious Knowledge,” a documentary about students fighting to maintain ethnic studies curriculums in Arizona public-education system.
The AS Social Issues Resource Center and AS Ethnic Student Center club Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano@ de Aztlán, M.E.Ch.A, will host the screening of “Precious Knowledge” twice on April 11; once in the day for migrant students and once in the evening for the public. The evening screening will be shown at 7 p.m. on in Academic West 204 for free.
The day for migrant students will be a small event meant to mimic the larger annual conference, Nadia Saldana-Spiegle said, a student from the co-sponsor group M.E.Ch.A.
“[Most of the migrant] students are Latino and come from a poor background,” Saldana-Spiegle said. “Their culture is often underrepresented, and coming here and watching ‘Precious Knowledge’ will help them connect their lives and education.”
According to the film’s website, “‘Precious Knowledge’ reports from the frontlines of one of the most contentious battles in public education in recent memory, the fight over Mexican-American studies programs in Arizona public schools.” It shows students’ involvement on the issue, and the fight to revive the Mexican-American studies within Tucson High School. Tucson High School recently banned books containing ethnic or racial themes as well.
“‘Precious Knowledge’ isn’t just the film title,” Noel said. “It is connecting our roots and learning about our culture and history. We want people involved in education to show them that their knowledge is precious.”
With showing the film, there will also be a discussion with the filmmaker after.
“I hope the discussion will somewhat revolve around the situation of ethnic studies in the United States and how important it is,” Saldana-Spiegle said. “I want to discuss what we can do as a community [to help Arizona students] even though we are all the way in Bellingham.”
The AS SIRC and M.E.Ch.A aim to show students what is happening in Arizona. Recently, Arizona has passed anti-immigration laws that give people concern, Noel said.
With seeing the problems surrounding Mexican-American ethnic studies and the Arizona high school students’ responses, those viewing “Precious Knowledge” will be able to see how the activists went into law-making bodies to petition for their Mexican-American studies program, Noel said.
“We want to show some activism that is happening,” Noel said.
The book bans are a cause for concern, Saldana-Spiegle said.
“Book bans happened in apartheid in South Africa, and here we are in 2012 with a book ban in our country and we act like it’s normal,” Saldana-Spiegle said.