Letters from Arizona Students

The following letters have been submitted to us from Arizona students around why they believe ethnic studies is important to teach in schools. They each received a FREE copy of our book, 500 Years of Chicano History.

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“[Ethnic studies] has given me a new reason to read and be excited about my culture. I know more about where I come from because of these classes. I was once ashamed of my skin color, I thought I was dirty, now I know what it means to be brown. I am now brown and proud!!!”

– Student from Tucson High School

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Ethnic studies is important because it’s important for students to have self worth and find an identity within this hectic society. We are moving away from consciousness and indigenous knowledge and getting more assimilated and internalizing stereotypes that makes our youth more likely to drop out and walk on this earth bind and unaware of the problems facing our communities.”

– Jesus, Tucson High School Alumni

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Ethnic studies is important, because America, this world, is made up of many different ethnic groups. It is also important to learn about who we share this world with. In diversity we find strength. But in isolation we regress. Naive Americans and Chicanos were original inhabitants of this region. To deny this is being untrue about history. I refuse to believe that the history of my people is inferior to a history that doesn’t involve ethnic students.”

  – Desiree, San Miguel High School

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“I am a nine-year old who thinks teaching Chicano and Native American history is important so people learn about the cultures of our state. There’s already too many people who don’t speak Spanish and that’s sad considering how close we are to Mexico. There are even Mexicans who are scared and ashamed to speak their language. I am only a little Mexican and I am learning Spanish because it’s important. I want to learn every thing I can about my culture and this book will help me and my family to do that.”

-Scarlett, elementary school student

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“I believe ethnic studies is important because to me it is important to learn about your own ethnicity and different perspectives in history. I believe that learning different history will give you an open mind in how you see the world. Ethnic Studies is important to everyone and just being able to learn about different histories not just about one. History goes more in depth than just a couple of pages in the American history text book.”

Selene, Tucson High School

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“Everyone has the right to learn about every bit of AMERICAN history–flaws and all. I believe shining a light on every ethnicity’s contribution to America teaches everyone about collaboration and other perspectives. I believe EVERYONE’S HISTORY IS AMERICAN HISTORY!”

Crystal, Tucson High Magnet School

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“[Ethnic Studies] is important because it shows people about their history and other people it gives them a different perspective of a different culture. Without knowing your history, I think you also really don’t know who you are. So with knowing who you are, you can be confident in yourself. It also shows what Chican@s have contributed and what they have gone through. Ethnic Studies is also important because when I first entered I thought I knew everything about my history. But in the end, you end up knowing way more than you thought was possible. You even start realizing there’s more to history than you think!”

-Arulina, Tucson High Magnet School

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“Education is so valuable, on any aspect. I believe history is history, no matter what it is based on or on what specific race. Students need to learn the whole picture so they can grow into adults that know how to address the problems of today correctly. Ethnic Studies provides college level education and why would you deny someone that? Ever? It is important to learn, and to learn about other cultures. To take away such classes because they supposedly teach oppression is oppression itself. I will not let Chicano and Native American cultures be erased because they’ve inspired so many and created successful people in our community. And I love them.”

-Ariana, Tucson Magnet School

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“I didn’t have the classes the beginning of my high school years, and I got very behind. Once I got the classes I decided to have 9 classes my senior year to stay at Tucson High School. Now my second semester of my senior year, I have 5 classes. My ethnic studies teachers supported me greatly along with my classmates. These classes changed my life and my viewpoint on education.”

Julianna, Tucson High School

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“These studies give so many people a sense of who they are and that if you try hard you can accomplish anything no matter your skin color, or race background. These studies keep our history alive so that we will never fall again. All ethnic studies are important from African-American studies to Pan-Asian studies. I love Ethnic Studies.”

Mireya, Tucson High School

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“I get to learn about my own ethnic background and it helps me understand and identify myself as a Mexican-American/Chican@ student and youth. Learning who I am helps me grow in my right place and encourages me to be who I am meant to be.”

-Juan, Tucson High Magnet School

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“Xicano studies is important to me because it saved my life and opened my mind and my heart in order to find my identity as a young Chicana being pushed through out school system and failing in it. Xicano studeis classes changed me as soon as I started to take them, school seemed more interesting to me and I looked forard to coming every day. But once these classes were taken away, my life turned upside down, my grades are slipping and I feel lost. But with all this support from our teachers and community, I will continue to fight for these classes and make sure they will be around for the next generation to take them and be saved like I was.”

-Guadalupe, Tucson High School

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“Chicano Studies was my life. Coming into these classes, I knew little to none about my history and culture. I thought I knew who I was until my eyes were opened. In these classes, we are taught to view the world as it is, with all the flaws and beauties. I learned how powerful and important I am; how one person can change the world. I have learned to critically think for myself and to love one another. In order to get anywhere in life, you need to love and respect yourself and everyone around you.”

-MariaTeresa, Tucson High School

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“[Ethnic Studies] gives you information about where you came from and gives you history of your ancestors. Many people don’t know where they came from and what religion you are, but this book, “500 Anos del Pueblo Chicano” will give you answers. This book should not be banned.”

-Jorge, Rincon Vista High School

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“Ethnic Studies provides children of all backgrounds the privilege to learn about other cultures. Banning ethnic studies is a restriction of learning. We learn about US History in school because we live in a country that is very proud, but in order to have a World Vision, we must learn about all ethnic backgrounds and studies.”

-Delfina, Salpoint Catholic School

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“Ethnic studies are important because they allow students to view history from multiple perspectives. To me, this is important because when you are able to see things from more than one way, you allow yourself to apply things that are beneficial to all. These classes are important because they teach you to get involved in the community you live in. They teach you to develop a voice and an opinion to what we face in the community.”

-Cassandra, Tucson High School

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“I am a Chicano, so I think this is good because we don’t get any education on my history. I would like to learn, so this book helps so I can read something I am interested in, an not just get bored. We need books like 500 Years of Chicano History so we know where we come from.”

-Adrianna, Pepptec School

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“We are a nation of immigrants. We all need to learn about our history. We are a classroom of students with sever and profound disabilities. We are another culture that needs recognition. We will read your book in our classroom.”

-Fran, Tucson Teacher of disabled students who cannot read on their own, Cholla Magnet High School

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“I have been teaching Chicano Studies for 9 years. Several racist schools I have worked at have dismissed me for teaching extensive truth that’s not in the textbook. I am an Anglo, when I came to Arizona in 1996, I was amazed at how blatantly racist this Repugnican government is. It is quite sickening the way 35% of Hispanic people in this state have virtually no political power due to the democracy-crushing gerrymandered system we have in this state.”

-Lee, Tucson Chicano Studies Teacher

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“I think that teaching Chicano and Native American history to young people is important because everyone has a right to know who they are. Chicano and Native American history is just as important as all other history. To me it’s even more important because it’s who I am. Before coming to THS, I didn’t understand that Chicanos and Native Americans have done so much for this country and still do so much. I didn’t know many of the traditions that Native Americans have are very much like my Chicano family. I know now that they are similar because even though there are different titles, we are very much the same. It hurts that I haven’t been able to take MAS classes yet because I am only a sophomore and I hope we get them back by next year so that I get to learn more.

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to get a book that was banned. It makes me want to read all the banned books and spread what I learn to everyone and my parents because they don’t know a lot of the history that I will know.”

-Stephanie, Sophomore at Tucson High School

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“Ethnic Studies is important in order for us to know where we came from.  To teach and understand life in the past and present, to know the struggles, fights, and discrimination that our people are still struggling with today.  It is important to know what has been done and if it is any different today.  We need to know what our grandparents dealt with, was it easier or harder in the past.  To take a trip and return home without a hassle, (visa), to go see the ocean and have fun.  The past life seemed easier to live. But I don”t really know too much. Just what in on TV news, still learning.”

-Westwood Elementary School 4th Grader

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(Translated from Spanish)

“To whom it may concern at the Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP):

 I am Maria. I live in Phoenix, AZ.  I go to English classes at Unlimited Potential.  We have been reading the book 500 Years of Chicano History.

Personally I have become very interested in this history because I have remembered history that I learned as a little girl in Mexico, especially the invasion of our continent by the Spanish.  Now that I am a young adult I understand it a lot better and I would like to continue learning much more so that I can share this with my family and friends.  I realized that this book has been censored and I would like to obtain a copy and the coloring book version of 500 Years of Chicano History.

 Thank you for your attention to this matter.”

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“My dad has taught me that you must learn where you came from so that you can know where you are going.  The government in Arizona does not want me to learn about the true history of Mexican-American people in the United States. Why??? They say ethnic studies is anti-American or it teaches young people to hate Anglos. This is nonsense of course. Ethnic studies in our schools is important because it teaches students a very important part of our nation’s past. We cannot choose to ignore parts of history that are uncomfortable.  That is not real education if you ask me.”

-Gabriel, 6th grader, Desert Heights Prep

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“I’m very surprised by the fact that in a state as Arizona, which is so rich in cultural diversity, a regulation as this one is taking place. If we think about it, one of the aspects that make this country so beautiful, is the integration of many cultures. As a Mexican, I feel very proud when I see people of other ethnicities interested in knowing more about our history. Studying about different cultures creates a greater consciousness about the impact of our respective heritage, as well as to find our identity regarding our ancestors.”

-Andrea, University of Arizona

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“Teaching Ethnic Studies in school is important, because it gives students the opportunity to widen their view of the world, society, and the human race. I was introduced to these courses by upperclassmen who had once never held interest in school, which later became engaged and raved to me about these classes. There is a sense of mutual respect in these classes, and knowing about issues that are never spoken of, and being able to critically analyze our world, literature, and ourselves gives a sense of dignity to the student. Author, Matt De La Pena visited our school, March of 2012, and mentioned that a fellow author had once brought to his attention that in most comic books, the villain cannot see their own reflection; how would society continue if students, and minority students especially, did not see themselves in curriculum and in literature. These courses engage students, and bring a wider understanding of respect and humanity, while embracing the act of being involved in your community. These classes need to continue.”

-Rikki, Tucson High Magnet School

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“There are many reasons as to why ethnic studies are extremely important and need to be taught in schools. Many people do not realize the importance of knowing who you are and where you came from. Take my aunts ex boyfriend as an example, he claimed that he was Spaniard and had nothing to do with being Mexican or Chicano. Later, after speaking to his mother, we later found out that he was indeed from Mexican descent and was a Chicano. Sadly, he is not the only person that I have met that denies his ancestry. It is important for schools to teach ethnic studies and teach students that it is okay to be different from everyone else. Most of all, I think that students need to embrace where they came from and realize that it is because of our ancestors and their struggles, that we are now free to go to school and attain jobs that in the past we could only dream of having. Although we have all of these freedoms, racial profiling still exists and I think that by banning ethnic studies, we would only be reinforcing that it is ok to hate someone because of their ethnicity. My only hope for our future is that students will continue to fight for their right to learn and for everyone to embrace their culture as well as others. If we can not embrace and respect ourselves how will we respect others.”

-Vanessa, Estrella Mountain Community College Student

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(Translated from Spanish)

“Dear Southwest Organizing Project,

 My name is Noemi. I am Mexican.  I would like to obtain a copy of the book 500 Years of Chicano History and the coloring book version for children.  I have read a little in this book and it has helped me a lot.  It makes me feel secure, it makes me dream, and it inspires me, teaches me and informs me.  I want to show it to teach my grandson about his roots because he was born in the United States.  I feel sad about some laws that seem unjust to me because as human beings we are separating from each other. We are all equal and we must forge a world of equality, not separation.  I want to know about my roots and learn how to prepare a world for our youth.”

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(Translated from Spanish)

“To whom it may concern at Southwest Organizing Project:

By and through this letter, it is my pleasure to introduce myself.  My name is Nelida.  I am of Mexican nationality. I live in Phoenix.  With this letter, my goal is to request the following books:    

500 Years of Chicano History and 500 Years of Chicano History Coloring Book for Children.

This book was censured in Tucson and I have a personal interest in reading it to learn more about our history.  I want my daughter to read the coloring book so that she learns about our culture’s importance.”

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(Translated from Spanish)

“Dear Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP),

 My name is Myrna and I am a student and promotora in the city of Phoenix, Arizona.  My interest in your books has grown through the knowledge shared in the history they contain.  When I read about Chicano history, I remember events that shaped my identity and this inspires me to continue reading.  My reading is enriched with this information and the detailed accounts of the characters.  I have had the good fortune to enjoy part of the book 500 Years of Chicano History in my classes with the teacher.  I want to own this book and the coloring book for children.  I think it is an excellent book on many levels.  Before we used to say, “You’re worth however much you have ($),” but a teacher in Mexico taught me that you’re worth as much as you know. All of the knowledge in this book tells me where I’m from and where I’m headed.  I want to share this book with future generations.  Hopefully there won’t be anymore tragedies like the one in Tuscon when they censured the books.”

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(Translated from Spanish)

“Dear Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP),

My name is Rosalina.  I am from Guatemala and I have lived in Arizone for twelve years.  I am a student in Pheonix.  My teacher talked to us about the book 500 Years of Chicano History and I would like to obtain a copy so that I can continue learning about history.  I like it a lot and I want to have more information to be able to teach my children as well.  I live in the south of Phoenix and there are many racist laws. By having a little knowledge of the laws, one can express her opinion or protest, as the saying goes, “united we stand.”

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(Translated from Spanish)

“Dear Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP),

My name is Jeydin.  I am studying English in Phoenix, Arizona.  This school helps mothers like me.  I had my children when I was very young.  I am from Honduras.  I came to the United States when I was still small. I didn’t finish elementary school but I’m interested in learning, especially about history.  That’s why I want to ask you to please give me the book 500 Years of Chicano History.  I have three children and I also want you to give me the book 500 Years of Chicano History Coloring Book for Children. I like to learn a lot about these books.  They are very special because they are censured. They address themes that impact our lives and if we don’t inform ourselves, we are jeopardizing our future.” 

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(Translated from Spanish)

“I am a member of the organization Unlimited Potential.  Unlimited Potential is a school that helps Latina mothers, where they can take English classes, where we can receive limited financial assistance, but our access to books is very restricted.  That’s why we are making this call to ask you for your support so that we can share with our organization the book 500 Years of Chicano History.  This book can help our children to better understand the roots of our history and at the same time develop and grown our knowledge.  I have three children and I would love to be able to share this book, and the coloring book, with my family.  Thank you in advance for your attention to this matter.”

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(Translated from Spanish)

“Dear Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP),

My name is Mireya and I study English as a second language.  I have heard about the books being censured in Tucson.  I live in Phoenix, Arizona, and I would like to know a little more about our history.  I don’t want my children to forget about their roots. I would like to own the book 500 Years of Chicano History and the 500 Years of Chicano History Coloring Book for Children because these books address the true history of our fore fathers.  That way my children will learn about traditions and celebrations, etc. It would also help me a lot to learn know things that I didn’t know before.  I feel very sad knowing that in Tucson they don’t allow children to be proud of who they are and the importance of preserving their traditions. 

I hope the authorities change their minds and include these kinds of books in education again.” 

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(Translated from Spanish)

“Dear Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP),

My name is Gloria and I am a student in the second year of English as a second language.  I have lived in Phoenix, Arizona for more than sixteen years.  Currently, we have lived through the racism that exists here against our Latina Community.  I am very interested in reading the book 500 Years of Chicano History to gain more knowledge and have more information about our history.  We can teach our children better if we start first by educating ourselves.  I live in South Phoenix and most of us who live there are Latinos.  I would also like to receive a copy of the 500 Years of Chicano History Coloring Book for Children.

Thank you in advance for reading my letter.”

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(Translated from Spanish)

“Dear Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP),

Hello.  My name is Maria.  I am a second language student.  I study English in Phoenix, Arizona. Our center doesn’t have the resources to buy books so that we can further our education.  We want to learn and be able to educate our children about history.  We can’t obtain the censured books and these books help me feel more secure about myself.  These books help me teach my children.  I am asking for your help, please, by sending us these books: 500 Years of Chicano History and 500 Years of Chicano History Coloring Book for Children.

Thank you for your support.”

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(Translated from Spanish)

“Dear Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP),

My name is Irene.  I am Mexican and now I am a student in Arizona.  We were learning about history in the book 500 Years of Chicano History.  It seemed very interesting to me and I wanted to include my family in reading the book so that they see the importance of learning about their Mexican-American roots.  It would be very important for me if you could give us the books because we don’t have the funds to buy them.  This subject inspires me a lot. I want to read the books to my children so that they will develop their minds.”

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(Translated from Spanish)

“My name is Oralia. I am a student at Unlimited Potential.  I am learning English as a second language but I am also interested in learning more about history because I am a mother with two children who I want to provide with the best education about their roots.  Their history is the foundation of their lives, it’s part of their identity.  A person without identity doesn’t have direction and can’t be functional in life.

For this reason I would like to have the opportunity to read 500 Years of Chicano History and the coloring book version for my children.  It is very important for me as a mother to educate myself and my children.  Ignorance has no excuse.

“Because a dream without action is just an illusion.”

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“I am requesting that you please send me the book 500 Years of Chicano History because it is a very interesting book and I would like to learn more about history.  This book has been censured in Arizona. It is very important to me to learn about its contents. We are studying at Unlimited Potential and we will be reading that book.  I also want my son to have a copy of the 500 Years of Chicano History Coloring Book for Children.  I hope that you are able to send me these books so I can learn from them.  It’s a shame that so many interesting books for adults and children were censured.”

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“My name is Neria and I am someone who wants to advance my education. I am in school to learn English in Phoenix, Arizona. I have two children.  One is in first grade and the other goes to kindergarten. I am interested in the book 500 Years of Chicano History and the 500 Years of Chicano History Coloring Book for Children.  I am interested in learning about history so that I can teach my family. I want my children to learn and be interested in history. I want them to imagine and dream.  My son loves to read and I would love for him to read your book.”

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“My name is Laura.  I am a student and I am a resident of Phoenix, Arizona. I am very interested in reading the book 500 Years of Chicano History and here in Arizona this book has been censured.  I heard that your organization had the book and I was wondering if it would be possible for you to send me a copy. The reason for my request is that I am interested in learning about our history as Mexicans in this country and I want to share that with my children.  I want them to learn more about their culture and the events that have shaped this country, changes that we Hispanics have contributed to, and also how we have been affected.  I want my children to learn about their roots and I want this knowledge to motivate them to rise to the occasion and one day triumph. I wish that all parents were interested in teaching their children about their origins and motivate them to achieve whatever they set out to achieve. That way we will create a better country.”

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“I am a student at Phoenix College and I wanted to let you know why I hope to get a copy of the book.  Firstly, let me say that I do not agree with the TUSD’s decision not to teach any chicano/native american studies in it’s curriculum and I hope that there is a consciousness within the education system to reverse this travesty. As a new citizen to this country and state, 3 years and counting, I was appalled by this act of totalitarianism to decide which history takes precedence in education in the Americas; a nation of more than one culture and ethnicity by which the majority decide that the indigenous peoples do not deserve to be recognized in their own states whether or not those boundaries still exist today or not, those familial and cultural ties do!  This in my view is tantamount to cultural genocide, so if no one explains/outlines where people’s heritage evolved from – does this mean that soon, these people do not count and become an underclass and marginalized unless government statistics require it for funding or god-forbid a census?  

Statehood and academia should beg the question – where do we come from?  The real answers and histories should be revealed so that indigenous heritage, symbols and icons are incorporated in history and not subsumed into homogeneity and in one fell swoop of the pen, relegated to the domain of an archaic, uncivilized or worse unknown existence.  What makes sense is a true statement of fact…caucasian peoples were not here first, native peoples (chicano or native america) were living in the environs successfully with vibrant evolving cultures – that is the truth and deserves to be recognized!”

-Geraldine, Phoenix College

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“Teaching the history of Chicano and Native American history to young people is very important because students are more informed, become more understanding, and appreciate more who they are and where they come from. The understanding of our own history led us to know the reasons why. By learning their history, students become open-minded and they appreciate their culture and the culture of others, as well as their celebrations, religions, and traditions. It is also beneficial to learn about the history in America of the people that have lived here, their migration, their struggles, and their progress. I think learning a little more about history makes students more diverse and richer in culture and knowledge.

As a young Mexican immigrant, I have experienced what is it like to come to a new country and see the lack of culture among students. I think leaning about culture has more benefits than many people think.”

-Sandra, Arizona State University

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“Teaching in ethnic studies in schools is important because students need to learn diversity and multi-culturalism. Many students that are of African American or Latino Descent don’t know where to go to find out about their heritage. It is Enriching to students and they stand to benefit from such courses.”

-Jeanette, Estrella Mountain Community College

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“Teaching ethnic studies is essential, especially in a country like the USA, where people from so many different ethnic groups live side-by-side, often without much interaction between them, and almost always without much awareness on the part of the dominant culture about the lives, histories, and challenges of their “minority” neighbors.

 Along with being a graduate student, I teach ESL to Mexican parents of Title-1 K-12 schools in Tucson Unified School District. If I am fortunate enough to receive a free copy of this book, I will use it with my students!”

-Leslie, ESL Teacher and U of Arizona student

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