Arizona Orders Tucson to End Mexican-American Studies Program
TUCSON — The class began with a Mayan-inspired chant and a vigorous round of coordinated hand clapping. The classroom walls featured protest signs, including one that said “United Together in La Lucha!” — the struggle. Although open to any student at Tucson High Magnet School, nearly all of those attending Curtis Acosta’s Latino literature class on a recent morning were Mexican-American.
For all of that and more, Mr. Acosta’s class and others in the Tucson Unified School District’s Mexican-American program have been declared illegal by the State of Arizona — even while similar programs for black, Asian and American Indian students have been left untouched.
For the state, the issue is not so much “The Tempest” as some of the other texts used in the classes, among them, “The Pedagogy of the Oppressed” and “Occupied America,” which Mr. Horne said inappropriately teach Latino youths that they are being mistreated.
Teaching methods in the classes are sometimes unconventional, with instructors scrutinizing hip-hop lyrics and sprinkling their lessons with Spanish words.
A discrimination suit against Tucson’s schools in the 1970s prompted a settlement in which an African-American studies program was created. Later, other ethnic-studies programs were added.
To buttress his critique of the Tucson program, Mr. Horne read from texts used in various classes, which in one instance referred to white people as “gringos” and described privilege as being related to the color of a person’s skin, hair and eyes. He also cited the testimony of five teachers who described the program as giving a skewed view of history and promoting racial discord.
“On the first day of school, they are no different than students in any other classes,” said John Ward, who briefly taught a Latino history class in Tucson. “But once they get told day after day that they are being victimized, they become angry and resentful.”
Reminds me of a parent with a crying child saying, “I’ll give you something to cry about!”
Travis Turner and Anissa Soto in their Latino literature class at Tucson High Magnet School. Jill Torrance for The New York Times