Guest lecturer discusses issues of Mexican-American studies

Nolan Cabrera, a professor from the University of Arizona, discusses students’ struggles to be heard and maintain Mexican-American studies in the Tucson Unified School District on March 14 in Ice Auditorium.
Joel Ray/Senior photographer
Nolan Cabrera, a professor from the University of Arizona, discusses students’ struggles to be heard and maintain Mexican-American studies in the Tucson Unified School District on March 14 in Ice Auditorium. Joel Ray/Senior photographer

Nolan Cabrera, a professor from the University of Arizona, discusses students’ struggles to be heard and maintain Mexican-American studies in the Tucson Unified School District on March 14 in Ice Auditorium.
Joel Ray/Senior photographer

Problems revolving around Mexican-American Studies (MAS) in the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) are growing, and one McMinnville native is working to help the students be heard.

Nolan Cabrera, an assistant professor of educational policy studies and practice at the Center for the Study of Higher Education at the University of Arizona, spoke out against the banning of the MAS program in the TUSD on March 14 in Riley Hall, 201.

“In terms of context, Arizona is insane,” Cabrera said. “And, I don’t mean that in a flippant way. I mean, I wake up everyday and read the Arizona Star, and I think that I woke up in Superman’s Bizzaro world, where up is down and black is white. It just doesn’t make sense.”

Cabrera said the problems surroundings the MAS started in 1968, when the University of Arizona adopted the program.

After the University of Arizona established the MAS  program, TUSD integrated the idea into the K-12 program.

In 2002, the MAS program became mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act.

In more recent years, the program has fallen under attack. Members of the school board decided that the program did not meet the  standards of the educational act, HB2281, in 2010. One of the board members was Michael Hicks, who is now known for his interview on The Daily Show.

Cabrera attended the school board meetings where they were discussing banning the program.

To Cabrera’s surprise, before the meeting started, several students stormed the table where the board members were supposed to sit. The students took the seats and chained themselves to the chairs causing the meeting to be postponed.

“The amount of planning that went into [the student protest], whether you agree or disagree with it, was impressive,” Cabrera said.

Cabrera also talked about how the superintendent, John Pedicone, believed that the students were being “brainwashed” by adults into performing the protest.

“I know students do stupid things. I’m not immune from it, I did stupid things as a  student,” Cabrera said. “But these students weren’t even at the table for their voices to be heard in conversations about their education.”

Cabrera and other MAS supporters decided to bring the question of how they felt about the program being banned from the school curriculum.

Their response displayed the extent of what they were willing to go through to see this program live, including arrest.

“If we didn’t stand up for what we believe in, then who would?” Cabrera read a quote from one of the student protesters.

“Our jobs as citizens are to stop unjust laws, and not to be pushed around and treated unjustly. We will take a stand no matter what the consequences.”

Kaylyn Peterson

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Kaylyn Peterson can be reached at

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