Douchebag Decree: Tucson Public School Officials Ban Ethnic Studies Program and Shelve Books


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.

Previously: ’60s Movie Star Kim Novak Dislikes a Movie, Is a Complete Douche About It, Sara “Human Barbie” Burge, Mother and Plastic Surgery Voucher-Giver

by Mac Pogue
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8 Comments Have Been Posted

This is so infuriating.

<p>This is so infuriating. Combine this with a Tea Party demand in Tennessee that references to slavery and genocide should be stricken from the history textbooks because they frame the Founding Fathers in a bad light (exact words: “No portrayal of minority experience in the history <strong>which actually occurred </strong>shall obscure the experience or contributions of the Founding Fathers, or the majority of citizens, including those who reached positions of leadership.” sometimes there's nothing you can do but beat your head against the wall and despair.</p>

This makes me so angry. Not

This makes me so angry. Not only are they taking this curriculum from Chicano students (letting them read Chicano literature and ideas), but they are taking from non-Chicano students the opportunity to be less ignorant about different cultural groups in and outside of the US. I can't believe Paolo Freire is banned! He is one of the most important intellectuals from the 20th century who has bettered education systems worldwide. His insistence on an anti-oppressive education system helps students learn better in a safe and engaging atmosphere. Huppenthal is only promoting the culture of silence.

As a native Tucsonan and a

As a native Tucsonan and a participant of Mexican-American Studies throughout my academic career, this act of censorship and blatant racism is truly saddening for me. I have to defend my hometown, though, and say that an extremely small portion of Tucson itself supports this measure. Tucson (or Pima County) has always been progressive and open-minded despite its presence in an overwhelmingly "red" state. I don't think it's a stretch to say that very, very few teachers of TUSD support or agree with Huppenthal (in fact, most hate him). The current events in Arizona that are currently giving the state a bad name are out of the control of Tucson and the many people there that vehemently oppose the racism and fear-mongering that Jan Brewer has brought as governor. It's not the people that are fucked, but our politicians.

I love your comment and

I love your comment and couldn't agree more; the majority of Tucsonans that I know are vehemently against this measure and were also against SB 1070. Out of staters: please don't judge Tucson by what you hear in the news about the rest of Arizona. It's actually an oasis of tolerance and diversity in a very red state.

I got my teaching degree in Tucson, did my student teaching at Wakefield Middle School and got my first teaching gig at Hohokam Middle School. Both are TUSD schools in which the majority of students were Latino or Native American. Many of my students came from underprivileged backgrounds and faced challenges in life. In order to get them excited about school, I had to present content that they could relate to, so I can definitely see how the MAS program got students more interested in learning about history. I remember when I got my first teaching job I tried to teach the kids a lesson on poetry found in their textbook, and they just were not interested. I was a frustrated, inexperienced novice teacher, so I got some advice from the assistant principal, who suggested that I find some school-appropriate Tupac Shakur poems to use as examples of poetry, since many of my students love hip-hop and could relate to Shaku'rs life circumstances. I took her advice and guess what, the kids loved it! They were finally able to relate to what I was trying to teach.

One of my best students, a thoughtful and intelligent young man, was deported mid-semester. It broke my heart, because I knew that he could have gone on and contributed great things to our country. I'm only glad it happened about a year before the surge in public xenophobia due to SB 1070 occurred.

I was amazed, although in

I was amazed, although in retrospect probably not that surprised, to hear about this recently via our national Canadian radio CBC. We have nothing to brag about up here, what with Prime Minister Steven Harper doing his best to mimic the ugliest aspects of right wing American politicians. Perhaps you've heard of some of the shameful conditions our First Nations are expected to endure...and endure...and endure, as temperatures on their reserves dive to 40 below. As for the Arizona situation, I am perplexed by the banning of William Shakespeare, especially in regards to his involvement in 'the history of the Chicano population in Arizona'. Did I miss something in one of his plays?

The Tempest

Apparently it's because the Tempest brings up topics like race and colonization.

I wish there was a way to help...

Almost nothing makes me angrier than this. The only silver lining is that these people are on the wrong side of history; they will lose this battle eventually.

I wish I could do something too ...

I'm another Tucsonan and coincidentally, a former Spanish major at my first college (switched for reasons entirely unrelated to Hispanic culture). Every time I hear a news update on this blatant racist situation, I want to demand of the powers that be, "Then why haven't you banned the teaching of world languages? Why does the University still have departments for any non-English languages and literature? Did you not notice that learning a world language means also learning about cultures? Why not just ban everything that's not white or American?" As for claims of political indoctrination through these cultural studies classes, my sarcastic question is: "My father has a degree in German. Does that mean that he must have learned some pro-Nazi ideas?" (Of course not!) Of course, nowadays, asking such sarcastic questions is risky because it would probably inspire the state government to actually go ahead and ban the study of everything that isn't American. As the other Tucson commenters have mentioned, thankfully Tucson is a politically moderate city and most residents don't agree with this, so I hope that we can come to a solution and restore the Chicano studies curriculum to the public schools.

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