Precious Knowledge: Arizona’s Battle Over Ethnic Studies

$28.00 each


Illustrates what motivates Tucson High School students and teachers to the front line of an epic civil rights battle.

Precious Knowledge illustrates what motivates Tucson High School students and teachers to the front line of an epic civil rights battle. While 48% of Mexican-American students currently drop out of high school, Tucson High’s Mexican American Studies Program has become a national model of educational success, with 93% of enrolled students graduating from high school. However, Arizona lawmakers are trying to shut the program down because they believe the students are being indoctrinated with dangerous ideology and embracing destructive ethnic chauvinism.
In one segment of the documentary, then-state senator John Huppenthal pays a visit to Tucson High’s Mexican American Studies Program and we learn one of his objections to the program is that it relies on texts like Pedagogy of the Oppressed, which he describes as espousing “breaking away from traditions that resulted in freedom and prosperity,” and that this makes people fearful of the La Raza program.  A student points out to him that people were afraid of the Civil Rights Movement too and only when pushed does Mr. Huppenthal admit that some people “had concerns” about the Civil Rights Movement. In 2011 John Huppenthal became Arizona State Superintendent of Public Instruction and in recalling his visit to Tucson High’s Mexican American Studies Program one of the things that stood out for him was that there was a picture of Che Guevara on the wall and not a picture of Benjamin Franklin. Curious that although both men were leaders of armed revolutions, Franklin is lifted up by Mr. Huppenthal and Guevara is demonized. Even in the 21st century with communism no longer a threat to US security (if indeed it ever was) public officials continue to use it as an excuse to violate civil rights.
While the courage and compassion of the teachers and administrators portrayed in this documentary are the stuff of legend, it is the voices of the students that are most compelling. On graduation day, describing what the Mexican American Studies Program has meant to him, one student says “For someone who has felt so out of place the majority of my life, it feels good to have a home. You are the people who inspire me to be better.”

English and Spanish subtitles



Director: Ari Palos

Format: DVD, color, 70 minutes.

Published: 2011

Tribes/Ethnic Groups: Various tribes


(Posted April 12, 2012)

Oyate was recently invited to facilitate a workshop for an American Indian Education Alliance in Tuscan, Arizona exploring American Indian culturally appropriate educational resources and strategies. The enrollment for the workshop has been severely curtailed by Arizona’s heavy-handed treatment of Tucson’s Mexican American Studies Program and ethnic studies in general. Educators are afraid to attend our workshop, a workshop that will help them be better educators of Indian children and to provide better education about Indians to all children.
As I finish writing this, a news release reports that Sean Arce, director of the Mexican American Studies Program in Tucson has been fired. Fired. In spite of being an award winning educator heading up a program that stands out for it’s students’ achievement and should be a model throughout this country. Fired.
We encourage you to purchase and view Precious Knowledge, to spread the word and stand against Arizona’s civil and human rights violations.
For more information and to view video clips online, visit the film makers website: