In the battle over Mexican American Studies in Tucson, there are three things people need to know; 1) we have already won (due to the desegregation case), though we will continue to battle on to ensure that TUSD does not misinterpret or dilute our victory; 2) TUSD is a very distrustful institution; 3) so is the state, particularly as represented by former and current state schools’ superintendents, Tom Horne and John Huppenthal.
Horne is the current state attorney general and the intellectual author of the anti-ethnic studies HB 2281. He also just happens to be under several ethical grey clouds, this while continuing to
be a thorn in the side of Raza Studies.
Many people are aware of that epic struggle to defend Ethnic/Raza Studies from 2006-2012. The current desegregation plan submitted by the court-appointed special master calls for both the expansion of Mexican American and African American culturally relevant courses, and it also calls for dual language bilingual education (as opposed to the current model which segregates students wrote to 4 hours per day). Not unexpectedly, TUSD is in opposition to this development. Fortunately, as of this past election, MAS now enjoys the support of the majority of the board, 3-2. However our community, especially MAS, does not enjoy the support of the current TUSD superintendent: John Pedicone. Also, because the district has a long history of noncompliance, our community will remain vigilant (It also has a long history of hostility towards our community).
One of the unseen battles during this same time has been the right wing attack against Raza Studies at the University level (Huppenthal ran for his position on a promise to destroy Raza Studies at the University level also).
The intent of this unseen struggle has been to drive a wedge between youths and adults, between students and teachers, between students and parents and students and professors and between K-12 TUSD Raza Studies and UA-Raza Studies.
In this campaign, the right wing has been applying intense pressure for several years with the intent of ensuring that UA Raza Studies and its professors are not engaged in the battle to defend TUSD Raza Studies, this while permitting other UA professors to participate in its destruction.
This attack against UA Raza Studies has been waged via a stealth campaign, and yet, it has also been waged in public by both right wing groups and some of the TUSD school board members (two of whom are UA professors, as is/was the TUSD school superintendent. One of the recently ousted anti-MAS board members was/is a UA student). The outrageous lies against the department and its professors resulted in an apology by one school board member (Michael Hicks) who had been involved in spreading malicious innuendo. But that didn’t and hasn’t stopped the right wing campaign to silence UA Raza Studies.
While these attacks have in the past been generally directed at individual professors (resulting in threats and harassment), the attacks are now attempting to discredit the entire department. What’s important to know is that the right wing and its most visible group are at best fringe characters with little or no connection to Raza Studies. Yet, despite this, they appear to both have the ear of the media and the ear of the University.
Equally important, we should all be aware that this campaign against Raza Studies resembles the global warming “debate.” Virtually the entire scientific community is united in agreement that global warming indeed is man-made. Those that disagree are primarily non-scientists who appear to be members of the flat-earth society or employed by big oil, etc.
In the same way, scholars from throughout the country – from all disciplines, including Ethnic Studies – have weighed in on Arizona’s anti-Ethnic Studies HB 2281 and TUSD’s subsequent elimination of its Raza Studies department.
At the moment, there are some 5140 signatures (initiated by UA professor Gary Rhoades), primarily from educators and scholars from across the country who have intimate knowledge of Raza/Ethnic Studies and who are in complete support of Tucson’s MAS department. Separate from these signatures, many dozens of major national education and national library organizations, have also weighed in, in support of MAS and against the district’s censorship (book bannings). All of this support is buttressed by data from TUSD, and from the 2011 Cambium, and the 2012 Cabrera, Marx and Miles reports, all of whom demonstrate the undeniable success of the MAS department.
Not to be outdone, the opposition counts on their side, mostly non-educator and non-scholar extremists, without the benefit of any independent studies that support their biases. Rather than thousands, their side simply counts on two handfuls of adults and a few students, most of whom do not live in the district, but who love to write vicious hate letters to the editor, attacking this highly successful program.
In the recently concluded three community forums, which were conducted for the benefit of the courts overseeing the desegregation plan, hundreds of MAS supporters showed up and spoke on behalf of MAS; only a handful of anti-MAS opponents showed up and only one spoke up.
Without question, those extremist voices are few, though loud and most likely cajoled, with little or no connection to TUSD, MAS or the MAS discipline. Their primary function is spreading disinformation and bullying university administrators.
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That is the importance of the petition; so that the world, the state and TUSD know, and that the media and university administrators come to know, that the scholarly community – comprising of scholars and educators from all disciplines, and students and parents with intimate knowledge of MAS – is virtually united in its support of the soon to be revived program.