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Noted Scholar Discusses Transformative Potential of Ethnic Studies

By Juan Gamboa, SJCC Ethnic Studies Professor

Over 150 students, faculty and staff, gathered to hear Dr. Curtis Acosta speak on the Transformative Potential and Academic Power of Humanizing Education and Ethnic Studies in the SJCC Theater.

The event was part of a series of events in honor of Latinx Heritage Month and Co-sponsored by Chicana/o Studies, LEA, President’s Arts and Lecture Series, and MEChA.

Dr. Curtis Acosta was a high school teacher for nearly 20 years, where he developed and taught Chican@/Latin@ Literature classes for the renowned Mexican-American Studies program in the Tucson Unified School District.

The program gained national attention and was widely acclaimed for its successful transformation of a 50-percent push-out rate into a 94-percent graduation rate for students enrolled in the Mexican American Studies program.

Dr. Acosta stressed the importance of centering and reclaiming indigenous knowledge into the curriculum such as the “In Lak’ Ech” poem by Luiz Valdez which calls upon all of us to see each other as “I am the other you, If I do harm to you, I do harm to myself, I love and respect you, I love and respect myself.”

The program centered indigenous teaching and lessons to humanize students, deepen their critical thinking, and create space for students to become democratically involved in schools and communities.

Dr. Acosta’s work was featured in the documentary Precious Knowledge, and his teaching also received profiles on The Daily Show with John Stewart, CNN, PBS, The New York Times, and The Los Angeles Times amongst many other media outlets.

Dr. Acosta’s passion is assisting educators in the application of community and culturally sustaining pedagogy, in combination with humanizing teaching practices, in order for youth of color and all students to reach their academic potential.