Mexican-American curriculum in Arizona classrooms declared illegal

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Following up on his earlier promise to hold the Tucson Unified School District accountable and compliant with newly enacted legislation, HB 2281, outgoing state school superintendent Tom Horne declared the district’s Mexican-American studies program illegal.

The law was enacted to prohibit any classes or curriculum that are designed primarily for one ethnicity or race, promote ethnic solidarity and resentment against another class or race, or encourage the overthrow of the U.S. Government. Horne said this week of the classes, “It’s propagandizing and brainwashing that’s going on there.”

The state claims that the curriculum is failing to teach students the basics, while creating a whole generation of activists.

In Arizona, the issue seems to be divided down the lines of ethnicity. Local paper Nogales International, which has a Mexican flag on its masthead, calls the whole matter a politically motivated campaign that undermines the authority of the local school districts. It says that, while state school superintendent, Horne regularly fought with TUSD about the program, and now that he’s been elected state attorney general, it will be up to him to enforce the new law. His ultimate goal, it says, is the office of the governor.

Alfredo Velasquez, county superintendent of schools, says he doesn’t consider any local academic programs violate of the law. “They have to learn about their history and their culture and have an appreciation of their history – whether it’s a history of Mexico or a history of Mexican-American culture here in the United States,” he said.

“Ethnic studies is part of that,” Velasquez said. “It teaches about what the Mexican-American community has gone through.”

The curriculum in the Mexican-American studies program substitutes some of the more tradition textbooks and literature for those such as “The Pedagogy of the Oppressed” and Occupied America” which Horne says inappropriately teach Latino students that they are oppressed and mistreated.

Horne cited class materials in which white people were referred to as “gringos” and described privilege as something being related to the color of one’s eyes and skin. He also said that five teaches reported that classes taught a skewed version of American history and promoted racial discord.

The incoming state superintendent of schools, John Huppenthal, released a statement saying that he supported Horne’s ruling that the curriculum was illegal.

After sitting in on some of the classes in the program, Huppenthal said, “My, firsthand, classroom encounter clearly revealed an unbalanced, politicized and historically inaccurate view of American History being taught.” Huppenthal said that students were taught that Benjamin Franklin was a racist, and a photo of Che Guevara was prominently hanging on a classroom wall.

Huppenthal added that student test scores in TUSD were among the lowest in the state, and teachers needed to focus on the fundamentals.

John Ward, a teacher who briefly taught a class in Latino history said, “On the first day of school, they are no different than students in any other classes. But once they get told day after day that they are being victimized, they become angry and resentful.”

If the 53,500-student school district refuses to end the classes, the law provides a penalty of 10 percent in the reduction of its state aid, which would cost the already cash-strapped district $15 million per year.

more here in The New York Times

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