Invisible Limbs: Finding Voice and Community in an Unwelcoming Environment

EDUC 510 | By: Jessica Mencia

The film Precious Knowledge details the struggle of Chicanx students in Arizona attempting to maintain their ethnic studies. Upon watching the film, a lot of aspects of my own experience in education began to click. The way in which Latinx students come to know who they are and where they come from is essential to understanding their place in education and in U.S. society. Even as a college student, I feel that my cultural and ethnic identity is still an invisible limb. I feel that this missing part of my identity stems from lack of knowledge. I know where my family comes from, but in general, I know nothing of Honduran history. I don’t know prominent figures or leaders. More importantly for me, I don’t know the history of women in my own culture. At the beginning of the film, I was excited to see other Latinx students filling this gap and finding that it empowered them to be active members of their communities and cultures.

One crucial element to the documentary was the ways in which lawmakers framed the students. Having a background in policy, framing is a tool that is essential in deciding what policies are passed or rejected. This was shown several times in the film, as none of the lawmakers came in to observe the class or really expressed any genuine interest in learning what the courses were about. Essentially, the lawmakers framed the students as being “deviant” and therefore, invalidated their own histories and narratives as not being valuable to the “American” experience. What I find interesting, is how through this experience of being invalidated, the students discovered more of their own paths and narratives. The students grew into being activists and learning more about their roots, which was the goal of the ethnic studies courses. What lawmakers had tried to prevent, they ended up enhancing.

While in the end, the ethnic studies program became banned, I was still very happy and proud to see the ways in which the students grew into their own identities and stories. Ethnic studies classes may be banned formally, but I am confident that these students are pushing each other to continue to learn about finding their voice and embracing their roots.