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Opinion | Cultural education is necessary for everyone

Published: Thursday, September 20, 2012

Updated: Thursday, September 20, 2012 23:09

Miami University hosted a screening of the documentary Precious Knowledge Sept. 13, which shares the stories of four students enrolled in the Mexican American Studies program at Tucson High School in Arizona.

The documentary was filmed when House Bill 2281 (HB2281) was passed by the state of Arizona. HB2281 imposed a ban on ethnic studies classes including the Mexican American Studies program at Tucson High School, claiming that the classes promote anti-American ideals. Part of the purpose of the Mexican American Studies program at Tucson High School was to give an ‘at-risk’ group of students a chance to gain a sense of self-confidence.

The editorial board of The Miami Student believes that this cultural education program was a necessary and important part of the education and should continue to be available for students.

This issue comes from how we define the term ‘American’ and forces us to ask what it really means. In the larger picture, all Americans have come from somewhere else at some point in their ancestry. America has often been described as a melting pot, or better yet a salad – different ingredients coming together to form one culture.

The point of ethnic studies is not to serve only an ethnicity or minority but to show us how cultures connect and define the collective U.S. history and identity.

Cultural studies are just as important for all groups and are just as enriching for everyone. It is unfortunate that a program such as this would be taken away only because a few people believe it is not beneficial to the majority ethnicity.

The loss of this class represents the loss of a wonderful opportunity for a traditionally marginalized group to succeed, gain confidence and learn about its history.

Psychological research has demonstrated that knowledge of one’s heritage and culture encourages more confidence and higher success rates in individuals. Cultural education – knowing where you came from – is a necessary part the human experience. We cannot move into our future without knowing our past.

Students, especially those who are deemed ‘at-risk’ youth, need this confidence in order to do well. These students will go on to succeed.

The fact that people are qualifying education in this way goes against what we have been taught all along: that we have freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom to express. The fact that we have these freedoms and that we have the opportunity to learn about ethnicities and cultures from around the world that help to make us who we are today is what can make us a great nation.

Especially here at Miami, many people may have misconceptions about Latino/a culture and immigrants. We too need this education and understanding of different cultures.

So we thank Miami for offering screenings such like this one that allow us to understand the world around us as part of a well-rounded liberal arts education.

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