Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Tucson Citizen Shuts Down Three Sonorans

Photo from Tucson Citizen
Since January, my key source of on-the-ground information about the shut-down of the Mexican American Studies classes was David Abie Morales and his blog, Three Sonorans.

Morales is in Tucson. He's an advocate for the Mexican American community, the Mexican American Studies courses, and the Mexican American Studies teachers.

He covered many other stories in Tucson, but my primary interest was Mexican American Studies.

His blog was hosted by Tucson Citizen.

Earlier today, Tucson Citizen deleted Three Sonorans. This is what I saw when I went to the site:

Right away, I wrote to Mark Evans, the manager of Tucson Citizen, asking if this was an accidental or deliberate deletion. He replied with a one word answer. "Deliberate."

Tucson Sentinel posted a story about it: "Citizen pulls plug on Three Sonorans blog." In it, Dylan Smith says that Evans found Morales to have a "reckless disregard for the truth." He also said that he received complaints from:
Lori Hunnicutt (who also briefly had a Citizen blog), TUSD Board President Mark Stegeman, TUSD Assistant Superintendent Lupita Garcia, and the Senate campaign of Rodney Glassman, among others, Evans said.
Hunnicutt is a member of Tucsonons United 4 Sound Districts, an organization that was determined to get rid of the Mexican American Studies classes. Stegeman presided over the board on the night the program was shut down. Garcia said students should go to Mexico if they want to learn about Mexican American culture and history. Their complaints were a factor in Evans' decision to delete Three Sonorans. There, you could read about and see the things Stegeman and Garcia said and did. It is no surprise that they complained to Evans.

What is surprising, however, is that Evans decided to delete Three Sonorans.

Tucson.... Your public image is going from bad to worse.

Mr. Evans, I suggest you revisit your banner:

With your decision to delete Three Sonorans, I don't think you can claim to be the Voice of Tucson.

Dear Board Members of the Tucson Unified School District:

[Editor's Note: A chronological list of AICL's coverage of the shut-down of the Mexican American Studies classes at Tucson Unified School District is here.]

Dear Board Members of the Tucson Unified School District:

What happened to last night's board meeting? In the last few days, reports from people in Tucson indicated you planned to vote on an initiative to set up a multicultural program to replace the Mexican American Studies classes that you shut down based on a racist and politically driven anti-Indigenous agenda.

This morning, I read that you had a very short meeting. One of those 60 second kind of meetings that allow you to conform to your own bylaws about holding regularly scheduled meetings. Why did you do that?

Was it because of Michael Hicks' appearance on The Daily Show? Are you in some intense behind-the-scenes damage control?

This morning I ran a search on Twitter using "Tucson" as the search term, and guess what? The top twitter story on Tucson is about the Daily Show episode. I grabbed this image around 6:30 AM, Central Time, on April 4th, 2012:

For the sake of the citizens of Tucson, I hope you're figuring out how to get rid of Hicks, and, I hope you're also trying to figure out how you're going to withdraw your letter to Sean Arce telling him his contract is not being renewed. Sean Arce, the man who directed the Mexican American Studies Department for the last several years...  You know Arce just received a national award from a highly regarded organization, right?

Come on, TUSD board members! All of this attention can not be good for anyone in Tucson. How many people are choosing not to move to Tucson based on what they're learning about TUSD?

And I've got a question for Mark Stegeman, too. Are you defending Hicks? I've been following your defense of him on Facebook, on Curtis Dutiel's wall (note: the thread below started on Monday, April 2nd, after the Daily Show episode aired):

It looks to me like you (Stegeman) are trying to defend Hicks. In the Facebook comments, Hicks tell us he went to Rusk's class. When he was on the Daily Show, did Hicks forget he'd been to Rusk's class? Why are you talking about THAT?! Is it because you---like the rest of America---are shocked at the rest of what Hicks said and prefer not to address Hicks' ignorance?

When will you just admit that Hicks is not qualified to be on the board and ask him to step down? Is that what is going on right now, behind the scenes? I hope so.

For information about Sean Arce's award, see Zinn Education Project Honors Sean Arce at the Zinn Education Project website.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

CNN: "Security checks anger Arizona Latinos"

[Editor's Note: A chronological list of AICL's coverage of the shut-down of the Mexican American Studies classes at Tucson Unified School District is here.]
The Daily Show's segment on the shut-down of the Mexican American Studies program gave some cause to laugh and exclaim over the ignorance and racism of Michael Hicks, one of Tucson Unified School District's school board members, but it is imperative we remember what is happening in Tucson. This CNN story captures some of it:

In related news, Education Week has a story out about the Common Core Standards, and how students ought to be reading more demanding texts. In the now-shut-down Mexican American Studies classes at TUSD, students were reading texts that some felt were too complex for high school students. Moreover, they felt that the classes and study of those texts promoted resentment of a race or class of people (with race and class referring to affluent white people). So, they voted to shut down the classes. In the middle of the week. In the middle of the academic year.

Ironically, TUSD announced recently they were adopting the Common Core Standards!

Seems to me they ought to reinstate the entire MAS program and its teachers!

School districts across the country ought to call Sean Arce and invite him to help them revamp their classes in light of the Common Core Standards. He just received national recognition for his work, but it looks like TUSD's governing board is not going to renew his contract.

How much shame will TUSD endure before it stops its attacks on the Mexican American Studies teachers and students???

Michael Hicks and Curtis Acosta on the Daily Show with John Stewart

[Editor's Note: A chronological list of AICL's coverage of the shut-down of the Mexican American Studies classes at Tucson Unified School District is here.]

Last night, The Daily Show with John Stewart aired a segment on the shut down of Mexican American Studies classes in the Tucson Unified School District. Most of it was an interview of TUSD school board member, Michael Hicks.

I wonder if Arizona's Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal or Arizona's Attorney General, Tom Horne watched it? Or Mark Stegeman, the president of TUSD's governing board?

Thanks to The Daily Show, millions of people saw Michael Hicks embarrass the district and the state, too.

Citizens of Tucson: It is not in your best interest to have Hicks on the school board. I think you should sign the petitions to have him recalled. Learn more about Hicks from TUSD's Hicks Recall Effort Begins Sunday. and from David Safier's blog post, Michael Hicks' letter to UA Dean of Social and Behavioral Sciences.

Below is my transcript of the Daily Show segment. Beneath it is a response from Michael Hicks. Beneath his response is a post to Mark Stegeman's Facebook wall. As more responses appear, I'll add them.

Stewart introduces segment on Mexican American Studies:

John Stewart (Daily Show): Your children’s education…  Nothing is more important! You want them to learn enough to do well in the world, but not so much that they can win arguments with you.

But, what are they really learning in school? Al Madrigal followed this eye-opening story.

Madrigal introduces the law:

Al Madrigal (Daily Show): Across the country public education is failing, but in Arizona, lawmakers have found a solution to the biggest problem facing their schools.

CNN TV news: Arizona’s governor Jan Brewer just approved a bill banning ethnic studies classes in public schools.

Al Madrigal (Daily Show): And using this new law, the Tucson School Board banned the K-12 Mexican American Studies program. School board member, Michael Hicks:

Madrigal’s interview of Michael Hicks:

Michael Hicks (TUSD school board member): My concern was a lot of the radical ideas they were teaching in these classes, telling these kids, that this is their land, the whites took it over and the only way to get out from beneath the gringo, which is the white man, is by blood shed.

Al Madrigal (Daily Show): When you sat in on these classes, what types of...

Michael Hicks (TUSD school board member): I chose not to go to any of their classes. Why even go? Why even go? I based my thoughts on hearsay from others so I based it off of those.

Madrigal's set up for interview of Curtis Acosta:

Al Madrigal (Daily Show): With powerful evidence like hearsay, the Tucson School Board ended the program, protecting kids from dangerous teachers like Curtis Acosta. 

Cut to Madrigal’s interview of Curtis Acosta:

Curtis Acosta (TUSD teacher): Our students are much more likely to graduate, to go to college… Their test scores have improved, and most of all, they’re excited about education so they can pursue it in their future lives.

Al Madrigal (Daily Show): And you do that by teaching them to hate white people?

Curtis Acosta (TUSD Teacher): We don’t teach them to hate white people. What we’re trying to do is provide a more complex version of what has happened in our past so that our students are engaged and they can ask themselves critical questions and build their own understanding.

Madrigal's set up for interview of Michael Hicks:

Al Madrigal (Daily Show): Critical thinking? More like critical brainwashing, and it gets worse.

Cut to Madrigal’s interview of Michael Hicks:

Michael Hicks (TUSD school board member): They would, every week, go out and buy burritos and feed these kids.

Al Madrigal (Daily Show): What?!

Michael Hicks (TUSD school board member): Yeah! What that does is that it builds a, more of a bond, between the teacher and students.

Al Madrigal (Daily Show): Sure… “I’m loyal to this guy because he bought me a burrito.”

Michael Hicks (TUSD school board member): Right. Right. Right.

Cut to Madrigal’s interview of Curtis Acosta:

Al Madrigal (Daily Show): You slip your burritos to kids, don’t you?

Curtis Acosta (TUSD teacher): Why would giving food to our youths be frowned upon?

Al Madrigal (Daily Show): When the program goes away, the burritos go away. That’s why these kids are upset. No mas burritos.

Curtis Acosta (TUSD teacher): That’s pretty offensive.

Madrigal's set up for interview of Michael Hicks:

Al Madrigal (Daily Show): And now that they’ve eradicated Mexican American Studies from the schools, they can focus on other ethnicities.

Cut to Madrigal’s interview of Michael Hicks:
Michael Hicks (TUSD school board member): Honestly, this law won’t be applied to any other of our courses. It was strictly written for one course, which is the Mexican American Studies program, and nobody has complained about any of the other, pan Asian, or any of the other courses that are being taught.

Al Madrigal (Daily Show): What about African American Studies?

Michael Hicks (TUSD school board member): The African American Studies program is still there. It’s not teaching the resentment of a race or class of people.

Al Madrigal (Daily Show): I’m a black kid. Try to teach me about slavery without me feeling resentment towards white people.

Michael Hicks (TUSD school board member): How am I going to teach you about slavery… Slavery was…

Al Madrigal (Daily Show): How did I end up here?

Michael Hicks (TUSD school board member): Slavery was… I gotta think on that… Ok. The white man did bring over the, uh, Africans...

Al Madrigal (Daily Show): What kind of jobs did we do?

Michael Hicks (TUSD school board member): The jobs that you guys did was basically slavery jobs.

Al Madrigal (Daily Show): So after we were freed we got to vote?

Michael Hicks (TUSD school board member): Yes! Well, you didn’t get to vote until later.

Al Madrigal (Daily Show): And we were equal?

Michael Hicks (TUSD school board member): Almost equal.

Al Madrigal (Daily Show): What? We were sort of like half? Or three-fifths?

Michael Hicks (TUSD school board member): My personal perception of it? I would say you were probably a quarter.

Al Madrigal (Daily Show): The more he taught me about Black history, the more I realized that Arizona has figured out the right way to teach it.

Michael Hicks (TUSD school board member): We now have a Black man as a president. You know, Rosa Clark did not take out a gun and go onto a bus and hold up everybody…

Madrigal's set up for interview of Curtis Acosta:

Al Madrigal (Daily Show): Sadly, the peaceful lessons of Rosa Clark are lost on the radical reactionaries teaching Mexican American Studies.

Cut to Madrigal’s interview of Curtis Acosta:

Curtis Acosta (TUSD teacher): I think this is a great country. In some countries, I might actually be locked up for teaching the way I have, and, well, in this country, I’m just banned from doing it.

Al Madrigal (Daily Show): You’re very close to getting locked up…

Madrigal's set up for interview of Michael Hicks:

Al Madrigal (Daily Show): Until then, Arizona’s children can count on professional educators like Michael Hicks to protect them.  

Cut to Madrigal’s interview of Michael Hicks

Al Madrigal (Daily Show): Do you think it will be ok for the school district to have a Mexican American Studies program when the district is 100% Latino?

Michael Hicks (TUSD school board member): No.

Al Madrigal (Daily Show): But at that point, there would be no white people left.

Michael Hicks (TUSD school board member): Well, if there’s no more white people in the world, then, ok, you can do what you want.

Cut away from interview, closing comment from Madrigal:

Al Madrigal (The Daily Show): Oh, don’t worry, Mr. Hicks. We will. We will. 

-----------------END OF TRANSCRIPT-----------------

Michael Hicks responded to the segment, saying (the quote appears on Wenona Benally Baldenegro's page on Facebook. She is running for Congress, and if elected, will be the first American Indian woman in Congress. She is Navajo. For background, read the Navajo Times story on her.):

As you know (and I know now) the Daily Show is a satirical news show and thus does not always represent the true remarks their guest make. I went on this show to talk about the Mexican American Studies (MAS) classes. What I believed to be would be a true interview ended up being nothing of the sort. It is unfortunate that the Daily show opted to amuse rather then inform.

On his Facebook page, Mark Stegeman, president of the school district's governing board, is getting criticism about his support of Hicks. Curtis Dutiel (I don't know who he is) wrote:
Wow, Hicks made an even bigger ass of himself. Didn't think it possible.

Based on the reasoning that Hicks presented on The Daily Show tonight, I have no friggin clue why you voted with him Mark and Miguel, but you two have got to seriously re-think your support for Hicks and his actions.
I'll add more responses as I see them. 

Updates, 9:25 PM CST, April 3rd, 2012:
Latino Rebels reports on a response from TUSD Spokesperson, Cara Rene:
Michael Hicks is a publicly-elected official and was speaking as an individual. His comments do not represent the TUSD governing board or the school district.
If you want further comments, you will need to seek them from Mr. Hicks.
The Three Sonorans reports that earlier today, Sean Arce received notice that his contract with TUSD will not be renewed.  Yesterday, the Zinn Education Project named Arce as the recipient of one of its 2012 Myles Horton Education Award.

Sean Arce, Director of Mexican American Studies Department in Tucson Unified School District, receives prestigious award

[Editor's Note: A chronological list of AICL's coverage of the shut-down of the Mexican American Studies classes at Tucson Unified School District is here.]

The Zinn Education Project Honors 

Sean Arce

Identifying Sean Arce as the co-founder of "one of the most significant and successful public school initatives on the teaching of history in the United States," the Zinn Education Project released a statement yesterday, naming Sean Arce as the recipient of the 2012 Myles Horton Education Award for Teaching People's History. Here's the announcement:

Washington, D.C. (April 2, 2012) – The Zinn Education Project announced the recipient of the 2012 Myles Horton Education Award for Teaching People’s History. The award is named for Myles Horton, one of the most influential educators in the 20th century. Myles Horton was co-founder of Highlander Folk School in Tennessee, famous for its pivotal role in desegregation efforts, and a tireless advocate for education and civil rights. In 1961, segregationists attempted to close Highlander on trumped-up charges, to which Horton replied: “A school is an idea, and you can’t padlock an idea.”

This award honors those who promote democracy through education by ensuring that students have the knowledge and skills to be informed and active participants in their communities, country, and the world.

The 2012 Myles Horton Award for Teaching People’s History honoree is Sean Arce, co-founder and director of the Mexican American Studies program in Tucson, Ariz. The Zinn Education Project is delighted to honor Sean Arce for his instrumental role in nurturing one of the most significant and successful public school initiatives on the teaching of history in the United States.

“Tucson’s Mexican American Studies program gets it absolutely right: Ground the curriculum in students’ lives, teach about what matters in the world, respect students as intellectuals, and help students imagine themselves as promoters of justice,” explains Zinn Education Project co-director Bill Bigelow. “I’m thrilled that the Zinn Education Project is able to honor the work of Sean Arce by recognizing him with the first Myles Horton Award for Teaching People’s History. Mr. Arce has begun work that we hope will be emulated by school districts throughout the United States.”

The Zinn Education Project is joined by many educators, writers, and policy makers in our respect for the invaluable achievements of Sean Arce.

 “At a time when students, particularly students of color, are accused of being apathetic about education, Sean Arce, a teacher and director of the Ethnic Studies program of the Tucson Unified School District, refutes this claim loudly and beautifully. Given the widespread mean-spirited and false attacks on the program from right-wing politicians who have resisted even visiting the program, Sean Arce stands out as an educator who speaks truth to power. He has inspired young people to love, to pursue their dreams, and to work for the betterment and uplift of their communities. As one young man in the film Precious Knowledge so beautifully said, ‘This space saved me.’ Sean Arce’s work is a welcome antidote to the cynicism about young people and a testament to the power of education.” —Sonia Nieto, Professor Emerita, Language, Literacy, and Culture, School of Education, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

“Sean Arce has been a steadfast pillar of an outstanding program that was unlike what he had access to as a student. Under his co-leadership, more than 6,000 students, the majority being Latino, have been served by a program producing a consistent graduation rate of more than 90 percent, at a time and in a state in which Latino students complete school at a much lower rate. His work and accomplishments on behalf of social justice for Arizona’s youth merit the highest tribute.” —Christine Sleeter, President, National Association for Multicultural Education

“The Mexican American Studies program in TUSD has been a resounding academic success and affirmation of the diversity of our nation and our community. Sean Arce, as a teacher and as director of MAS, has been key to the success of the program and to the very necessary ongoing effort to save it. He has helped lead the program to a standard of excellence that we all continue to admire, and he will help lead it back to that same standard when these politically motivated attacks on students and education are just a bad memory.” —U.S. Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva  (AZ-07)

“As co-founder and director of the MAS program, Sean Arce developed a culturally relevant program that speaks to students who have felt unseen and marginalized and inspired and motivated them in their education, to know their own history, engage actively in their own learning, and connect in meaningful ways to the larger community. I applaud the Zinn Education Project for honoring this dedicated educator committed to promoting the study and understanding of issues of social justice.” —Myla Kabat-Zinn, daughter of Howard Zinn

“Over the past decade, Sean Arce, the esteemed director and co-founder of the district’s Mexican American Studies program, has created and instituted a nationally acclaimed curriculum with a host of other scholars that has reversed troubling dropout rates among Latino students, and overseen one of the most successful academic programs in the state. When the White House Hispanic Community Action Summit came to Tucson two weeks ago, in fact, Arce emerged as one of the most esteemed voices—as a respected parent, beloved educator, and trusted community member—at the gathering. In a family that traces its roots back to the city’s 18th-century founders, Arce’s longtime involvement and commitment have not gone unnoticed by thousands of students, parents, and community leaders.” —Jeff Biggers, author/journalist

“Sean Arce is a hero and a viral educator.” —Luis Alberto Urrea, 2005 finalist for the nonfiction Pulitzer Prize.

The Myles Horton Education Award will be presented at a special ceremony at Busboys and Poets in Washington, D.C., at the beginning of the 2012–13 school year. Busboys and Poets owner Andy Shallal explained, “In these days when so few education reform efforts demonstrate real impact, the Ethnic Studies program that was headed by Mr. Sean Arce hit a bull’s-eye with a 93 percent success rate. We are delighted to honor the founder and host the award ceremony.”

Background on Sean Arce

Sean Arce’s father was a glazier and ironworker whose union struggles gave Sean his first taste for social justice. His mother worked as a translator, giving voice to those unable to speak English as they navigated the U.S. legal and financial worlds. Both instilled in him a sense of service to others.

After playing football at San Jose State, Arce came to the University of Arizona. At his wife’s suggestion he began to take Mexican American studies classes, and his world changed. “It was highly engaging for me,” he says. “I began to make connections and to establish a greater understanding of my history. It really inspired me.”

Arce worked with others to create the Ethnic Studies program at the Tucson USD at the K-12 levels. “The actual planning took place with university students and community folks,” he notes. “We created this understanding of why it’s so important to have culturally and historically relevant education in Tucson. We understood the dropout rate, and the abysmal history of Mexican American education. I heard stories from my parents about their Americanization. Students’ names were Anglicized, they were hit for speaking Spanish, and there was a tracking system [a practice where children of color are put in classes that are not college bound, such as industrial arts], so they didn’t have the same educational opportunities I had.”

At its essence it was a grassroots effort accompanied by a solid academic plan. Arce and the framers of the program did the research as to how to make the material age appropriate and meaningful for the students. Since Arce started in 1999, the program grew from a single American History Mexican American Perspective class to some 44 high school-level classes throughout TUSD, and more at the elementary level.

The Mexican American Studies program, documented in the film Precious Knowledge, has been under attack from the state legislature and from the state superintendent of schools. Arce has played a central role in the public, legal, and political campaigns to reinstitute this invaluable program.

About the Zinn Education Project

The Zinn Education Project promotes and supports the use of Howard Zinn’s best-selling book A People’s History of the United States and other materials for teaching a people’s history in middle and high school classrooms across the country. Founded with the support of Howard Zinn, the project is coordinated by two nonprofit organizations, Rethinking Schools and Teaching for Change. Close to 20,000 teachers from every state are registered for the project, 25,000 teachers visit the website each month, and more than 75,000 teachers receive the project news.

The project’s goal is to introduce students to a more accurate, complex, and engaging understanding of U.S. history than is found in traditional textbooks and curricula. Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States and Voices of a People’s History of the United States emphasize the role of working people, women, people of color, and organized social movements in shaping history. Students learn that history is made not by a few heroic individuals, but instead by people’s choices and actions, thereby also learning that their own choices and actions matter.

We believe that through taking a more engaging and more honest look at the past, we can help equip students with the analytical tools to make sense of—and improve—the world today.