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Gabriela E. De Reza

Professor Tarnoff

CTW 1A

23 September 2018

The History We Never Learned About

I remember sitting in my college ethnic studies class my senior year of high school; a

Chicano/a Culture class they had set up as an elective meaning only 20 out of the 100

graduating seniors had the privilege of taking. Learning about the history of my people in the

US, the professor talked about the injustices they faced and how they fought for their rights in a

country where they were and continue to be marginalized. It was my senior year of high school

and it had taken 12 years for anyone to ever talk or even mention this history to me. Coming

from a high school with a predominantly Latino student population it was shocking to me that

we were never taught the history of our people in our regular history classes. Our history

classes were always from a single perspective, curriculums were whitewashed to make

students think there is only one-way history happened and that everyone agrees with it. Rather

than learning about how different ethnic groups saw different aspects of history we were given

only one narrative to see as universal no questions asked. As a person of color living in the US

where we are always so marginalized, it always feels as if we are foreigners in the country we

call home. We learned about history but what is the point of learning about it if the people you

identify with are never part of it?

Coming from predominantly Latino student population I was always very aware and

proud of my culture. My middle school and high school had a population that was predominantly

Latino so I always felt comfortable in that space. What really struck me as odd was that in our

history classes our history was never really discussed, we never learned about the Mexican-
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American civil rights movement or even some of the very important figures that played a role in

fighting for the rights of Mexican Americans in the US we never learned of people like Reies

López Tijerina who fought for land-grant movements in the 60s or Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales

who lead the Crusade for Justice in 1967. I was never really exposed to this history until I took a

Chicano Culture class our senior year of high school. That is when I was finally exposed to this

history that we had always only briefly touched upon on in our regular history classes never

really taking the time to understand how this history played a role in our daily lives and how

important it is for students to learn about history which they can relate to. It was never taken into

consideration how important ethnic classes are for ethnic minorities living in the US and how

they play a very important role in their education when they see they can identify with what they

are learning and see people like themselves being included in the history they are learning

about.

That is why when we watched Precious Knowledge it was interesting to see how these

students of color were being challenged by these classes and what a positive impact MAS

program was having on their overall education. The students felt connected to the curriculum

they were learning about because it was about their culture and it made them feel connected to

the material they were learning because it was something they felt represented their identity.

Especially at such a young age, it is important to build the confidence of students in the

classroom knowing that their opinions are valid and that their stories are represented as well.

On the documentary one of the students talked about “what they teach them in the MAS classes

are really different from their regular classes” allowing them to “learn about where they came

from and who they really are inside” (Precious Knowledge). This shows how important these

classes were for these students allowing them to learn about their culture and who they really

are as human beings. The statistics also proved how these classes really helped these students

succeed in high school as the students who partook in these classes were more likely to

graduate than those who did not. Students were more engaged in class because they were able
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to relate to the curriculum and felt their opinions mattered over these topics and in the process

they were able to learn something about themselves. They were able to see their own history

being valued especially as minorities this is very important. When the needs of students are put

first and the environment is changed to adapt to these needs the students are more likely to

succeed.

Take into consideration the podcast The Problem We All Live With which focuses on

how students environment in school affects how students are able to learn and succeed in the

classroom. The main focus is on students of color and how their success a reflection of the type

of environment they are growing up in. The way “teachers did not seem to care and the way the

classes were dumbed down” (The Problem We All Live With) created a problem for the

students to be able to succeed as students were not being engaged with the material they were

learning. Especially the type of environment these schools are always in are underserved where

there is a lot of violence and poverty. In these same ways being able to create a space where

students feel they are being challenged and their opinions are being taken into consideration

allows for growth especially with students of color. In the podcast Mah’Ria, one of the students

who were able to transfer to a better school that allowed her to be challenged academically talks

about how important this was for her and her education to be in classroom where she felt

challenged.

In the same way being able to change the environment that allows students to think

critically and be academically challenged allows students of color to be able to create an identity

where they feel they are as good as any other student regardless of race. For Mah’Ria in The

Problem We All Live With it was going to a school that was more challenging for the students in

the MAS classes in Precious Knowledge it was being able to take these ethnic studies classes

that allowed them to feel that their interests were being served. Education is a very important

part of someone's identity especially as people of color learning about your culture and your

history you get a sense of belonging.


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Learning about my own history and culture helped me understand more about myself as

a woman of color in the US and how this identity influences and has an impact on my education.

I feel in the same way other schools should provide these classes for their ethnic minorities

because it allows them to be able to understand themselves in a different light that they did not

before and this it is proven to help them succeed academically when they feel they belong.

Especially when most of the history we read is concluded into the narrative of white males that

takes away from the narrative of the peoples who also were part of the creation of history but

are racially excluded because they do not fit the norm. For me, it was really important that my

school was able to provide these classes for high school seniors because it allowed us to learn

about our history in a different way that we were not taught before.

Works Cited

Palos, Ari L, Eren McGinnis, Sally J. Fifer, Jacob Bricca, and Naï m Amor. Precious Knowledge.

, 2011.

“The Problem We All Live With - Part One.” This American Life, 15 Nov. 2018,

www.thisamericanlife.org/562/the-problem-we-all-live-with-part-one.

Mendoza, Valerie. “Chicano! History of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement.” Stable

Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometer (SIRMS) Laboratory - University at Albany-SUNY,

www.albany.edu/jmmh/vol3/chicano/chicano.html.
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