This is the second in a multi-part series about the struggle to preserve ethnic studies in Arizona. Here, CultureStrike’s Jeff Biggers speaks with Andrés Domínguez about the role of ethnic studies in his community.
Majoring in journalism and political science at the University of Arizona, Ethnic Studies alumni Andrés Domínguez discusses the impact of Tucson’s Mexican American Studies (MAS) program on his life, post-secondary education and community engagement. Domínguez recently moved to Phoenix for the semester, where he will carry out an internship in the Arizona state legislature.
Jeff Biggers: What Ethnic Studies/MAS courses did you take in Tucson?
Andrés Domínguez: I studied in MAS classes in my senior year at Tucson Magnet High School. While they did not so much shape my beliefs (rather reaffirming them), the program expanded my worldview in such a way that I now analyze politics, which is my current study, more critically than I may have had I not been in the program.
JB: Can you describe some of the MAS curriculum and its impact on your study?
AD: A lot of the literature I read in Ethnic Studies courses broadened my worldview in terms of how people are influenced by society, and therefore the decisions they make. Whether these people are out of The Devil’s Highway by Luis Alberto Urrea or The Tempest from William Shakespeare, analyzing these texts allows you to see into what these people were thinking and what led to their actions. Now I apply that to my life. I don’t base a person solely on their actions–rather, I first ask, “Why did this person make the decision that they did?” and after that, “What factors influenced them to make that decision?”
JB: Did the MAS course work influence your decision to pursue a college education in journalism and political science?
AD: Taking the MAS classes made me more confident in my decision to pursue a career in journalism. Two standards that are often applied to journalism are to seek the truth as well as to be critical, which is what the MAS classes also taught. I find myself looking at politics and news from more than two sides–be it politics, war, or the economy–because there is often something missing, and that is the humanitarian perspective.
JB: What about outside the classroom, and in the wider Tucson community?
AD: Ethnic Studies courses allowed me to engage in the community more direct manner than I had before. We went out and interviewed members of the community of all backgrounds, and learned the value of a public voice. This further spurred me to pursue journalism as a profession, in order to make the unheard voices of the community more projected in the future.
JB: What would Tucson–and the nation–lose if the school district accepted the state’s mandate and abolished the Mexican American Studies program?
AD: Were Tucson’s MAS program to be dismantled, there would be a great loss in the community, especially by those who need it most–the youth. Young people today are often disenchanted with their role in society, because there is often this sentiment that one person can’t make a difference. These classes present an opportunity for optimism and positivity, and through that viewpoint students have broken that barrier of “I can’t make a difference.” Without this program, many students will again be apathetic to a system that does not recognize their value to society, and does not give them the right to the education that they desire.
Read the first piece in the series by Jeff Biggers, “Ethnic Studies Movement Rolls On.”