Straight from the “people still do this?” department, the Governing Board of the Tucson Unified School District responded to pressure from creepy Arizona Tea Party officials by dismantling the district’s Mexican-American Studies program, and last week they announced they were preventing many of the books from being used in school curricula. Among the authors banned are Leslie Marmon Silko, Paolo Freire, Rodolfo Acuña and William Shakespeare. The state’s war on ethnic studies speaks to a larger battle that seeks to silence the voices and histories of the large Chicano population in Arizona.
State superintendent and noted Tea Party-er John Huppenthal staked one leg of his 2010 election platform on stopping la Raza, which symbolically translates to people who identify with the Chicano movement. He famously declared the Mexican-American Studies program to indoctrinate youth in the same way that Hitler’s Jugend program “victimized” and “racismized” students, even though an inquiry he himself commissioned blew up in his face, finding “no observable evidence” of racial intolerance or hatred of any sort in the program.
Speaking of evidence, the Tucson Unified School District’s Mexican-American Studies program has plenty of evidence to support its inclusion in the curriculum. 60% of the school district’s population comes from a Chicano background, and since the 1998 inclusion of the Mexican-American Studies program, the district sees 93% of college-bound students graduating through the ethnic studies program. Students in the Mexican-American Studies program perform better in classes outside of the program than students not in the program. “Juniors taking a MAS course are more likely than their peers to pass the reading and writing AIMS subject test if they had previously failed those tests in their sophomore year,” remarked one faculty member to Dr. John Pedicone, head of the TUSD. See, teaching someone about things that actually pertains to them gets people more excited about school, and maybe even makes history fun!
The banning of the Mexican-American Studies is racist and fearmongering, plain and simple. As far as the books go, the Tucson Unfied School District addressed the accusations of an outright book ban by noting that the “books may be considered for future use as new curriculums are created going forward.” If the books are taken out of the curriculum permanently (which they very well may be), at least students can still check out the same books from TUSD school libraries.
The politicians involved in this whole awful mess are trying to sway voters by taking away good education programs, but don’t let their racist tactics cloud your judgement. Check out this excellent Tucson Weekly piece about the use of fear against people of Mexican background, and then go see how you can support the Mexican-American Studies program in the Tucson Unified School District here.