Precious Knowledge Documentary Discussion Questions

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

The following questions are designed to help you guide your high school students as they work through their reactions to the 2011 documentary 'Precious Knowledge.'

Precious Knowledge

Precious Knowledge is a 2011 documentary directed by Ari Luis Palos and produced by Eren Isabel McGinnis. The film follows a Mexican-American studies program in Arizona that fights for its survival among new state policies seeking to ban ethnic studies courses. The documentary is a great primer for getting students interested in national and state policies affecting how we talk and teach about ethnicity in the United States. This discussion is intended for high school but can be adapted to other ages if desired.

Questions about Content

  • In one sentence, how would you describe Precious Knowledge? What is this documentary about?
  • Does Precious Knowledge have a thesis or central argument? What is it? How is this argument introduced? Where do you think it is most clearly articulated in the film?
  • How does Precious Knowledge begin? Why do you think the filmmakers started their documentary this way? What impact did this have on you as a viewer?
  • How do we get to know the MAS/Raza program at Tucson Magnet High School? What were your initial impressions? How do you think the filmmakers wanted you to react? What do we learn about the MAS/Raza program, its methods, and its goals?
  • How does this film present the attempts to ban ethnic studies programs? How is this topic introduced?
  • Who are some of the main figures that the film interviews and focuses on? Why do you think the filmmakers chose these specific people? What do they represent? How do they frame this issue and its various sides?
  • What sort of evidence does this film use to support its argument? What forms of quantitative evidence do we see? What forms of qualitative evidence do we see? What kinds of evidence did you find to be most effective? Why?
  • What does the MAS/Raza program represent to the students and the community involved in it? What does it represent to people who oppose it? How is each side presented? What evidence is used to demonstrate its success?
  • What does the issue of Ben Franklin's portrait represent in this film? How does that strike at the heart of what's being debated by the community in Tucson?
  • What sort of tactics do the students and teachers trying to save the MAS/Raza program rely on? What did you think about these tactics?
  • How does this film end? What has happened? Is this an optimistic or pessimistic ending? What do you think the filmmakers wanted us to take away from this film?

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