Friday, April 27, 2012

Jacqueline Joseph Pata, Exec Dir of National Congress of American Indians, on Curriculum/American Indian Students

[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.]
Jacqueline Joseph Pata (Tlingit)
Jacqueline Johnson Pata, Executive Director of the National Congress of American Indians, was on the lunchtime plenary panel yesterday at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation's America Healing conference. Among her remarks was one that stood out to me.

We (American Indians) don't need, Pata said, state departments of education telling us what is, or is not, acceptable curriculum for our children. 
Pata is absolutely on-target with that remark.
Too many of the books our children are asked to read give them stereotypical portrayals of monolithic American Indians as savages who terrorized pioneers, or, tragic heroic figures of the past who fought the good fight but are now all dead and gone.
Too many of the assignments our children are asked to complete ask them to answer questions where the right answer is one in which they must agree with that point of view. 

It is no wonder American Indian students disengage from school. Wouldn't you?! It is no surprise that our children drop out at such high rates, and, that so many of them choose to end their own lives. 

We can all do a lot to interrupt that way of teaching, but we've got to have the courage to do it. 
Do you have the courage to stop teaching Little House on the Prairie? Though it is much beloved in the United States, it is full of stereotypes, bias, and errors. In it, you see savage Indians scaring Ma, and you see heroic ones who choose to protect Laura and her family from the savage ones. The thing is, both portrayals are incorrect. Embracing them, however, lets Americans feel good about what they have today. In teaching Little House, teachers are miseducating the students in their care.

Native children in those classrooms are not only miseducated, they are--in effect--assaulted. State departments of education are populated by people who love Little House. In that light, it is easy to see why Pata is calling for state departments of education to revisit their actions. 

If you're interested in critical writing about Little House on the Prairie, you're in the right place. I've written a lot about it. You can read my blog posts (there's a list of them on the right side of the page), or you can read my full text article, "Indigenizing Children's Literature."

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation has video of some of Pata's remarks here:

Thursday, April 26, 2012

"Primitive" Indians?

[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.]

Based on what you see in most children's books, you likely think Alaska Natives have a primitive existence, living in igloos... Maybe you think their life is exotic and exciting, or beautiful, too. But! Let's set aside those stereotypes. Alaska Natives have some outstanding programs... 

A highlight of yesterday's events at the W.R. Kellogg Foundation's Healing for Democracy conference in New Orleans was listening to Valerie Davidson talk about an innovative program to provide dental care to Alaska Native communities.

The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium established a "mid-level" program by which Alaska Natives were trained to provide dental care to communities that were not receiving dental care. Sounds good, right?

It is, but they were sued by the American Dental Association who objected to the program. Obviously, the ADA saw the program as a threat, particularly if similar programs developed in other, less-isolated places.

Along with the lawsuit, there was an effort to cast Alaska Natives in a bad light. Members of the ADA in Alaska made outrageous statements, saying that Alaska Native parents were unfit parents for letting their kids get cavities, and that their kids should be taken from them.

Davidson said the ADA lost the lawsuit and the program is doing well. And, she pointed out, their program is innovative and successful enough such that 15 other states are seeking to replicate it.

Davidson concluded her remarks by talking about bias and how it can prevent people from stepping up to interrupt the care that all children should receive. To do that, we have to see the bias. Next time you pick up a children's book about Alaska Natives, give some thought to how they are being portrayed.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

April 25: Liveblog of America Healing

[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.]

This will be my first attempt at liveblogging an event... Hoping the internet connection doesn't give me problems.

8:45 AM

Beautiful slide show of people who have gone on... started with a Navajo Code Talker. I hope the slide show is put online...  It include Eloise Cobell, too.

8:48 AM

Plenary session: "Unconscious Bias and Race" moderated by Maria Hinojosa of Latino USA. Panelists include Rachel Godsil, Director of Research at the American Values Institute; Phillip Goff, Assistant Professor, Dept of Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles; john powell, Director of the Haas Center for Diversity and Inclusion and Robert D. Haas Chancellor's Chair in Equity and Inclusion, University of California, Berkeley; David Williams, Professor African and African American Studies, Harvard.

8:50 AM

MH: Not ready to heal right now, trying to understand all my anger, fear, and sadness. Conversation in Supreme Court today...  State of AZ saying it is ok to racially profile people with a law that says we can call a race and class "illegal." Dehumanizes a population.

Latino teens highest rate of suicide in the country. They are our future.

Introducing David Williams of Harvard.

8:53 AM

David Williams sharing research on differences in treatment of people of color in emergency rooms. "Hispanic ethnicity was the strongest predictor of no analgesia." Similar results found in research across the country. Explanation? Unconscious discrmination. Stereotypes undergird our behavior.
(Note: readers of AICL are familiar with these ideas. They are what I write about.)

8:58 AM

David Williams: Where do stereotypes come from? American culture. People aren't being mean, they're just reflecting what they learn from stereotypes in American culture. This guides behavior. References research studies that show that white person with criminal background will get a call-back for a job than a black person with criminal background.

Experiencing discrimination leads to health problems.

Internalized racism...  African Americans believe the stereotypes. Cites Jerome Taylor's research.

9:05 AM

Rachel Godsil is talking about murder of Trayvon and polling on whether or not Zimmerman should be arrested. First poll, 77% of whites said yes. Most recent poll, 58% whites say yes, while 85% of Blacks say yes.  Why the discrepancy? Polls of white indicate they think it is fine to marry someone who is not white... Godsil asks if Whites are hiding their real attitudes? The desire to believe they are fair means that we can stop seeing race. That we're to be a colorblind society. Godsil points out that idea is an illusion to people of color. Research shows NOT talking about race allows negative stereotypes to grow and affect behavior.

9:21 AM

Just learned that the power point presentations may be available on a thumb drive in the registration packet. I hope so! There's so much information on the slides that I'd like to share.

9:23: Phillip Goff. Presentation is "Identity Traps: The Shape of Contemporary Discrimination Through the Lens of Law Enforcement."

Powell starts out with slide of stereotypes that Whites hold about Blacks. Some change in the stereotypes people hold, but the quality of life getting worse.

Bigotry is not the whole story. Attitudes only predict 10% of behavior. What about the 90%? Introduces phrase "identity traps" which are tendencies of the human mind to take shortcuts.

Fast traps are automatic, uncontrolled, hard to prevent. "Not thinking" brings out implicit bias.

Slow traps are conscious, self-directed, ruminative, negotiated over time.

9:34 AM


9:46 AM

john powell walking the audience through several tests of perception, what we tune into, what we are primed to tune into...

"Queen Chief Warhorse, Tchufuncta Nation, Chahta Tribe"

[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.]

I registered for the Healing for Democracy conference yesterday, found a place to sit, and pulled out the conference program. Among the speakers for the Welcome was "Queen Chief Warhorse, Tchefuncta Nation, Chahta Tribe."

"Queen" gave me pause right away and its use cast doubt on the rest of the information provided. "Tchefuncta" and "Chahta" are not nations or tribes I have heard of before, but there are over 500 federally recognized tribal nations and I don't pretend to know about all, or even most, of them. Still, "Queen" made me uneasy.

That unease was confirmed when "Queen Chief Warhorse" took the stage and began delivering her remarks. She was wearing a necklace that was supposed to suggest Pueblo Indian or Navajo turquoise and silver. To most, it probably looked like the real thing. To me, it screamed imitation. I wondered where she got it.

Right away, she had most of the audience eating out of her hand. Working with the theme of "healing," her opening remarks began with calling out the limits of a black/white paradigm. That was fine, but then--for me--her train went off a cliff.

She started using "we" in ways that demonstrate she doesn't know much about tribal nations and our reservations. One statement after another was problematic. It was a "poor Indians" narrative, living on our "prison camp" and "the projects" reservations.

Her remarks were, in short, a mess for lot of reasons.

Her use of "we" was wrong. Using "we" as a keynote speaker to an audience who, I hazard to say, is fairly lacking in knowledge of American Indians, only added to the already-too-big body of misinformation about American Indians.

I did a quick bit of research and found photos of her in a Plains style headdress. Why was she wearing that?! When I have more time, I'll do some research on her and the "Tchunfuncta Nation, Chahta Tribe." Will I learn that the "Chahta Tribe" or the "Tchunfuncta Nation" are Plains people?

For now, I'll say this:

Healing requires accurate information, not sensational remarks that generate a righteous anger and create or affirm a body of misinformation.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Healing for Democracy 2012, New Orleans

[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.]

Yesterday, I wrote that I'll be in New Orleans this week at the W. K. Kellogg Foundation's Healing for Democracy 2012.  I spent some time on their website. The foundation is doing a lot for a lot of communities, including American Indians. Here's an excerpt from the press release for the event:
The Kellogg Foundation is based in Battle Creek, Mich., and works throughout the United States and internationally, as well as with sovereign tribes. Special emphasis is paid to priority places where there are high concentrations of poverty and where children face significant barriers to success. WKKF priority places in the U.S. are in Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and New Orleans; and internationally, are in Mexico and Haiti.
Two things in that excerpt stand out to me: "sovereign tribes" and "New Mexico." Recently, there was a gathering of Kellogg grantees at Santa Ana Pueblo. Watch the video and read about the work being done in my homelands.

This morning, I walked around the French Quarter. If you pay attention to racism and bias, you see it everywhere. Some of it is blatant, and some of the racism isn't obvious. In a bookstore, I flipped through a board book meant to introduce toddlers to the city of New Orleans:

In Hello, New Orleans! there's a page about plantations where "old fashioned" folks used to live.  I read the page several times. Is "old fashioned" code for racist?!

The book isn't meant for all children.... I think its audience is families who prefer not to talk about America's racist history with their children. Those of us who have children who must contend with racism every day... well, that book isn't meant for us. 

I wonder what Harry Bellafonte would say about it? Or, Lisa Delpit? Or Peggy Macintosh? They're three of the many people who will be speaking at Healing for Democracy 2012. I look forward to the next few days. Being amongst people committed to social justice and racial equity is very affirming and empowering.

More later.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Healing for Democracy 2012, and, Images that Heal and those that Hurt

[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.]

This week, I'll be in New Orleans at the Healing for Democracy 2012 meetings, sponsored by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation's America Healing initiative. Here's the opening paragraph from their webpage:
In 2010, we launched the America Healing initiative, to support programs that promote racial healing and address racial inequity, with the goal to ensure that all children in America have an equitable and promising future.
As I read those words earlier today, my thoughts turned to news and images that have been in my mind the last couple of weeks. I'm disappointed (again), that people continue to defend playing Indian as harmless fun. When I wrote about Ladybug Girl dressed like an Indian, several people objected to my critique. And when I heard about Swamplandia! being on the short list for the Pulitzer, I shook my head in dismay. I did an in-depth study of it here on AICL in January (see Day One with Russell's Swamplandia! and Day Two with Russell's Swamplania! and Day Three with Karen Russell's Swamplandia!). 

Society seems determined to inflict hurt through illustrations in picture books (like Ladybug Girl) and through images generated when you read about the playing-Indian family at the heart of a young adult novel (Swamplandia!). When Native children are inundated with this imagery, they are denied the promising future the America Healing initiative is committed to.

This morning, I read Betsy Bird's post at School Library Journal. There, she short lists Cradle Me, a beautiful board book that features American Indian babies. The book and Betsy's decision to promote it...  Therein lies the promise of racial healing and an equitable and promising future.

Here's the images, side by side. On the left is the healing image, one of a Native baby just starting out in the world. On the right is what that Native baby will have to contend with... People who insist on "playing Indian" and defend it as "harmless fun" or "honoring" American Indians...

What will your choice be? Heal? or Hurt?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Dear Parents of LADYBUG GIRL

Dear Parents of Ladybug Girl (Jacky Davis and David Soman),

This is a heads-up from the mom and aunt of Pueblo Indian children. What's up with that "Indian" costume your daughter wears?

Part of me wants to yell at you.

Part of me wants to yell at your editors at Viking.

Part of me says "they don't mean any harm, they don't know it is inappropriate."

But you know what?

Your intent doesn't really matter to me.

I'm thinking about Native children who will pick up that best selling book and see their spirituality and identity turned into a playtime costume.

So here's what you should do.

Get rid of it.

Debbie Reese
American Indians in Children's Literature

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.

Friday, March 30, 2012

TUSD Announces New English/Language Arts Curriculum

 [Editor's Note: Are you looking for information about the shut-down of the Mexican American Studies classes at Tucson Unified School District? A chronological list of links to AICL's coverage of the shut-down is here.]

On its homepage, Tucson Unified School District posts 'Announcements' on the lower right side of the page. Yesterday, I saw "TUSD Adopts New Curriculum" and clicked on the link. I wonder if TUSD admin realizes that the new curriculum includes "I Am Offering this Poem to You" by Jimmy Santiago Baca? The poem is in his Immigrants in Our Own Land & Selected Early Poems.

The announcement itself doesn't have a date. The only date for the page is a "last updated" notice at the bottom indicating the page was last updated on March 28th, 2012 at 11:53 AM. Here's the introductory paragraph:
The TUSD Governing Board has adopted new mathematics and English language arts curriculum for the district. The new curriculum is based on the Arizona Common Core State Standards and is designed to assist teachers in teaching those standards. The curriculum is in a rollout phase and will be fully implemented in the 2013-2014 school year. 
Beneath it are links to the curriculum at each grade level.  I downloaded "Grade 11-12 English Language Arts Curriculum" and started reading. On page five:
Competent readers recognize that:
  • Effective authors make specific language choices (emotive, evocative, formal, impersonal) and use specific organizational strategies to position readers to accept representations of people, events, ideas and information in particular ways.
  • An author's perspective and global cultural experiences impact choices made about the text, such as what to include or not include as well as considering the point of view from which the narrative is told.
  • Reflection on the nuanced meanings of words and phrases in texts is a tool by which readers discover the meaning, tone and theme of a text.
That is precisely what the Mexican American Studies program was doing! The MAS teachers designed a curriculum that taught readers to recognize that an author's perspective impacts choices made. And, they taught students to recognize point of view!

According to Horne (he wrote the bill to ban ethnic studies) and Huppenthal (he enforced the bill) and Stegeman (he is the president of the governing board and voted to shut down the classes), however, there are limits on point of view. To them, thinking critically about the Founding Fathers is not ok.

On the first page of the document, there are pdfs teachers can go to for further information. Among them is "Appendix B: Text Exemplars and Sample Performance Tasks."  Exemplary texts. Ok... what constitutes exemplary? I clicked on the link and started reading Appendix B. I learned that the list of items (books, essays, speeches) are guideposts and "expressly do not represent a partial or complete reading list" (p. 2).

There's a lot to say about the Common Core Standards and the idea of a "Common Core" list of books, but for now, I wonder if TUSD administrators are aware that Appendix B has books on it by Latino/a authors? Several of them wrote books or stories that are on the list of over 50 books that can no longer be taught by teachers who taught courses in the Mexican American Studies department, and some of them were purchased by the MAS department and are in resource rooms in TUSD.

Here's books from Appendix B:

Family Pictures by Carmen Lomas Garza
Tomas and the Library Lady by Pat Mora

Grades 2-3
Eating While Reading by Gary Soto

Grades 4-5
Words Free as Confetti by Pat Mora

Grades 6-8
"Eleven" by Sandra Cisneros

Grades 9-10
"I am Offering this Poem to You" by Jimmy Santiago Baca

Grade 11
"The Latin Dell: An Ars Poetica" by Judith Ortiz Cofer
"Take the Tortillas Out of Your Poetry" by Rudolfo Anaya

Curtis Acosta taught "Eleven" in his Social Justice/Latino Literature course. But, because he was a Mexican American Studies teacher, that course doesn't exist anymore, and he's not supposed to teach the way he used to. What will he do? What can he do?

Note: I don't think this "new curriculum" is related to the district's claims that they're going to rewrite their core curriculum so that it is more inclusive. According to Stegeman, that work won't begin until summer 2012.

Friday, March 16, 2012


Donna Jo Napoli's book, The Crossing, is subtitled "Lewis & Clark's historic journey seen through a brand-new pair of eyes".  That "brand-new pair of eyes" belongs to Sacagawea's baby, Jean Baptist.

On the first page, we see a tiny baby in a cradleboard on his mother's back. His mother and two men (and a grizzly bear) all look to the right (west). The accompanying text is:
Rolled in rabbit hide,
I am tucked snug
in a cradle pack
in the whipping cold
of new spring
Cradle pack? In the author's note on the last page, Napoli tells us that Jean Baptiste was in a cradle board (commonly written as one word). Why did Napoli use "cradle pack" in the text? It is likely that other Native readers (like me) and readers who know "cradleboard" is the right word, will ask that question, and those without that knowledge will "learn" something inaccurate about what that item is called.

On the next page, she writes:
Wind catches the sail,
swing and woop!
Over we go, Bia' and Ape' and me--
Mother and Father and Babe--
splash, shiver.
There are five men shown on that page. Presumably, one of them is the baby's father, Toussaint Charbonneau, a French-Canadian trader and trapper. "Bia'" is Shoshone for mother, and "Ape'" is Shoshone for father. We see Bia' and Ape' a couple of times. It suggests a lovely nuclear family. On most pages however, Madsen (the illustrator) shows us mother and child and two men. Those two men are likely meant to be Lewis and Clark.

Alongside the author's note is the Acknowledgement section, where the author notes that she consulted two different websites of English/Shoshone language. That is where I learned that Bia' means mother and Ape' means father. I also entered "cradleboard" and found that "gohno" is the Shoshone word. I wonder how the author decided when to (and when not to) use Shoshone words.

Did the baby learn Shoshone? Did he call his parents Bia' and Ape'?

It is nice that Napoli introduces her readers to two Shoshone words, but she could have given us more of that language.

I have many questions. On one page, Napoli writes:
The old chief speaks Chinook
to the prisoner, who speaks Shoshoni
to Bia', who speaks Hidatsa
to Ape', who speaks French
to his friend, who speaks English.
There was need, during that journey, for communication to occur in a chain like that, but I'm caught up wondering about that prisoner. Who is that? The previous pages in the book provide no context for having a prisoner.

Later, we read that:
Summer heat tires us.
Horses get stolen overnight and no one saw a thing.
The illustration shows Indian men walking away from a camp. Did Indians steal horses from Lewis and Clark's expedition? If yes, why? And, what was taken from them and all the other Native Nations at that time and in years prior to that?

Chronologically, events are out of order.

Overall, The Crossing is disappointing. In the acknowledgements, Napoli thanks Brenda Bowen for suggesting that Napoli write about the child on Sacagawea's back. The Crossing is not about that child. The child is a vehicle for telling the same glorified and romantic Lewis and Clark story.   

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Librotraficante Caravan on its way to Tucson

 [Editor's Note:  A chronological list of links to AICL's coverage of the shut-down of the Mexican American Studies classes is here.]


In a few hours, Tony Diaz's Librotraficante Caravan will be on its way to Tucson. The caravan consists of carloads of banned books Diaz calls "wetbooks" that his caravan is "smuggling" into Tucson for use by students who were in the Mexican American Studies courses that were shut down in January. Authors of the banned books are supporting the caravan by donating money and books.

In January when Diaz learned of the shut-down of the classes, he created the video below, describing the caravan. Since then, it has picked up steam and media attention. He was on Democracy Now! last week and the New York Times featured the caravan on its page of "interesting things to do this week" in Texas.

The Caravan will end in Tucson with a celebration. Along the way, there are terrific events planned where authors will participate in Teach-Ins. Below is a map of the journey. You can see the detailed schedule here.

Source: Librotraficante website

Sandra Cisneros will be at several events, and so will Benjamin Alire Saenz, author of the outstanding A Gift From Papa Diego that Jean Mendoza and I wrote about in Examining Multicultural Picture Books for the Early Childhood Classroom: Possibilities and Pitfalls.

Follow the caravan on Twitter using #Librotraficante.

Note (added on March 12, 10:20 AM):
You can support the teachers, students, and their on-going efforts to get the program reinstated by donating to Save Ethnic Studies.  
You can donate to Librotraficante's work. Though the caravan itself will end on the 17th, Librotraficante will continue its work at providing books to "Underground Libraries". 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Former Student in TUSD's Mexican American Studies classes: "Everything has been taken away..."

 [Editor's Note: Are you looking for information about the shut-down of the Mexican American Studies classes at Tucson Unified School District? A chronological list of links to AICL's coverage of the shut-down is here.]

Last month, students from California State University, Northridge (CSUN) traveled to Tucson in support of students and teachers in the now-banned Mexican American Studies classes that were shut down in January, 2012 by the Tucson Unified School District's (TUSD) board. For background on their visit, see the article in the CSUN student newspaper.
David Morales, who blogs at Three Sonorans, filmed students talking about how things have changed. Their day-to-day lives are ones in which they are followed and their assignments are collected by administrators:
Curtis Acosta is a teacher in TUSD. He taught in the now-banned classes and has been providing updates:
You can support the teachers, students, and their on-going efforts to get the program reinstated by donating to Save Ethnic Studies

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Curtis Acosta, March 7 2012 Update from Tucson Unified School District

 [Editor's Note: Are you looking for information about the shut-down of the Mexican American Studies classes at Tucson Unified School District? A chronological list of links to AICL's coverage of the shut-down is here.]


Below is Curtis Acosta's March 7th update regarding the now-banned Mexican American Studies program in Tucson Unified School District.

March 8, 2012
To the nation and network of love and support,

From all of the students and teachers of Mexican American Studies and Save Ethnic Studies in Tucson, Arizona, we are humbled and moved by the Teacher Activist Groups, the Education for Liberation Network, and each one of you that participated in "No History Is Illegal." It is difficult to fully express how important your words, actions, and hard work have meant to us. As I sit in my classroom each day I am faced with an overwhelming feeling of loss. Regardless of the resiliency of our students and my own resolve not to let the dismantling of our curriculum, classes and pedagogy alter my own commitment to serving the youth of my community, it is impossible not to be affected. That is why all your testimonies and actions have been so important. Each time we have a fleeting moment of defeat, we are able to be embraced by your words and stories from the "No History Is Illegal" campaign. Stories from Rhode Island, Colorado, Minnesota, California, and Oregon amongst many others have brought smiles, pride, and even tears of joy to my students and fellow colleagues.

When I asked my students to contribute to this email, one of our student leaders, Nico Dominguez, wanted to express his appreciation and his words follow: 

After all that has happened in regards to the loss of Mexican American Studies, there are many moments in time that are able to lift my spirits back up. I will definitely say that seeing/experiencing out of Tucson, support for our movement (classes) is a great way of lifting up my spirit. I remember the first time I experienced out of Tucson support for our classes. Seeing different people speak and perform passionately about our classes was a great experience the day of the teach-in at the Casino Ballroom on January 24th. I had not experienced any of that previous to the teach-in.  It was definitely an experience that I will carry with myself from here on.

Since that day, there has been a massive amount of support which is overwhelming. Students from all over the country have done something for M.A.S., including Oakland, Chicago, Northridge, New York, and on. All of these experiences I take to my heart. The feelings that  I get when I remember all of these people who have in some way involved us into their lives is overwhelming and just a true sign of the humanity that exists. As these experiences continue, I am reminded of the vastness of the world that I live in and that I must learn to live in harmony with it.
--Nicolas Dominguez
Nico's words help me stay strong and remind me why we continue to fight for our students' rights to study their own history, literature and culture and we will never give up!

In that spirit, I would ask you all to send more love our way as our lawsuit moves forward to repeal this hateful law. There are big court dates ahead and you can stay apprised of the latest news through Save Ethnic Studies where you can also donate to our legal effort.

Next week the Librotraficante Caravan will depart from Houston for Tucson with "Banned Books" to be distributed in San Antonio, Albuquerque and Tucson. Chican@ writers and supporters will be hosting workshops, performances, and readings. Please checkout their website for more details.

In the next few weeks I will have a major announcement about a television appearance about our issue, but I'm still sworn to secrecy. Stay tuned for that one.

Lastly, a 50 minute version of Precious Knowledge will be shown on the national PBS show Independent Lens on May 17th. We are hoping to coordinate a national event for that night so I will write more as those details become clearer.

Again, thank you to everyone and we are hopeful of better news and better days ahead. You all have helped our optimism and belief that justice will prevail.

In Lak Ech,
Curtis Acosta

Modern Language Association: Statement on Tucson Mexican American Studies

[Editor's Note: Are you looking for information about the shut-down of the Mexican American Studies classes at Tucson Unified School District? A chronological list of links to AICL's coverage of the shut-down is here.]


Modern Language Association's Statement on Tucson Mexican American Studies Program

Recent legislative and policy initiatives in the Tucson Unified School District concern us deeply as teachers and scholars of language and literature.

In 2010, the Arizona state legislature passed HB 2281, which was signed by Governor Jan Brewer. The bill forbade any school district to include in “its program of instruction any courses or classes . . . that promote resentment toward a race or class of people[,] . . . are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group[,] . . . [or] advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.” State Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal declared in January 2011 that Tucson’s widely admired Mexican American studies program was in violation of HB 2281. The board of the Tucson Unified School District appealed that ruling in June 2011. In December 2011, Judge Lewis Kowal affirmed Huppenthal’s decision, saying that the Mexican American studies program had “one or more classes designed primarily for one ethnic group, promoting racial resentment, and advocating ethnic solidarity” and was thus in violation of state law. Penalties for noncompliance established in HB 2281 would have cost the Tucson Unified School District millions of dollars in state aid.

As a result, the district’s school board voted 4-1 to shut down the Mexican American studies program. The school board president, Mark Stegeman, took several measures to bring that termination about, the most publicized of which involved the removal of several books from ethnic studies classrooms in Tucson and their sequestration in a storage facility.

That removal, in addition to being objectionable, followed from a series of discriminatory acts by Arizona officials, all of which run against principles that the MLA considers vital. Although Arizona HB 2281 was ostensibly passed to ensure that students would be taught as individuals, we see the law as part of an attack on Mexican American citizens and cultures—including, but not limited to, undocumented immigrants. We are unaware of any similar argument or policy initiative aimed at, for instance, Americans of Irish or Polish descent; no one argues that Irish American or Polish American children who learn about their ethnic heritages in school are promoting racial resentment or ethnic solidarity, even though the history of Irish and Polish immigration in the United States is not free of instances of ethnic discrimination. Furthermore, we contend that the law has been discriminatory in effect, insofar as the superintendent’s ruling, the judge’s decision, and the school board president’s order applied it to target and shut down only Mexican American studies programs. We note that programs in Native American and African American studies seem not to have triggered fears and anxieties among the supporters and enforcers of HB 2281.

We believe that teaching Mexican American children about Mexican American history and heritage is teaching them as individuals—indeed, precisely as the individuals they are. But more important, we believe in teaching all American children about Mexican American history and heritage. We therefore reject the reasoning behind HB 2281 and behind the decisions made by Superintendent Huppenthal, Judge Kowal, and President Stegeman, on two counts. First, we reject the idea that Mexican American studies is a subject “designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group.” Throughout the United States, and especially in the Southwest, Mexican American studies is an integral part of the study of American identity and history; ideally, every schoolchild should be acquainted with that fact. Second, we reject the idea that Mexican American studies promotes “resentment toward a race or class of people” or advocates “ethnic solidarity.” Mexican American studies is a field of inquiry, not a form of propaganda. It is designed to lead to a greater understanding of the histories and cultures of the peoples of the United States, not to any partisan political outcome.

Our beliefs about ethnic studies and about curricular reform generally have been formed by forty years of scholarly research, informed debate, and open-ended discussion. As an organization devoted to the study of language and literature, the MLA is allied with primary and secondary school educators who teach in this field and who participate in the long project of questioning and undoing the biases of the traditional curriculum, which for many years ignored or demeaned the histories and cultures of people deemed “ethnic.” We see that project as central to the mission of American education at all levels. As former MLA President Sidonie Smith wrote in her 2010 letter to Governor Brewer, “ethnic studies curricula have provided important gateways for students to learn about the diversity of heritages in the United States, a key educational goal of the liberal arts education that is the bedrock of American higher education. . . . Policies that curtail this vision will weaken the quality of education.”

Finally, we see in these actions a threat to academic freedom and intellectual inquiry. To pursue scholarly inquiries into the histories and cultures of the United States, teachers must be free from legislative and judicial interference. Allowing state officials to declare legitimate branches of history and culture out of bounds—to the point of seizing and sequestering books—is inimical to the principles on which the United States was founded. And to students in the Tucson Unified School District, such actions send a far more chilling message than anything they might find in the books that have been removed from their classrooms.

We urge all relevant Arizona officials—Governor Brewer, Superintendent Huppenthal, Judge Kowal, and President Stegeman—to reconsider these rulings, reverse these decisions, and reaffirm the freedom of inquiry on which an open society must depend.


(AICL Editor's Note: Though not dated on their website, the statement was posted to the MLA website on March 6, 2012).

REFORMA Resolution in Support of the Students of the Outlawed Mexican American Studies Program in the Tucson Unified School District

[Editor's Note: Are you looking for information about the shut-down of the Mexican American Studies classes at Tucson Unified School District? A chronological list of links to AICL's coverage of the shut-down is here.]

February 29, 2012

REFORMA, the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-speaking, an affiliate of the American Library Association, with nineteen local and regional chapters and at-large members from all parts of the United States, views the dismantling of the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) Mexican American Studies (MAS) program as a violation of the core principles of intellectual freedom and equity of access, and a violation of the Library Bill of Rights.1

REFORMA advocates for and affirms students’ right to have access to accurate and meaningful information that will enhance their critical inquiry skills and understanding of an inclusionary society that honors and respects all of its component members. We support student access to diverse literature that lends to inquiry, conversation, and critical thinking – all strengths that we value in the continued building of our democracy.

WHEREAS the 2010 Census found that Arizona’s Hispanic/Latino population accounted for 29.6% of the state’s total population,2 and Tucson’s Hispanic/Latino population accounted for 41.6% of the city’s total population3, with both the state and the city having larger Hispanic/Latino populations than the national average; and

WHEREAS Dr. Arnulfo Trejo, educated in TUSD schools and the University of Arizona and later serving on the faculty of the University of Arizona’s Graduate Library School, in 1971 founded REFORMA and provided its driving force; and  
WHEREAS reading list titles associated with the MAS program consist of works written by nationally and internationally renowned, award-winning authors, including but not limited to Sherman Alexie, James Baldwin, Ana Castillo, Sandra Cisneros, Francisco Jimenez, Matt de la Peña, Carmen Tafolla, and Luis Alberto Urrea, whose stories reflect this country’s rich and diverse heritage; and

WHEREAS these books have been removed from classrooms related to the MAS program, and the TUSD school libraries do not contain all of the removed titles, making this literature inaccessible to all TUSD students;4 and
WHEREAS REFORMA views teachers as brothers and sisters in the same mission of fostering the love of reading and education by promoting books, literacy, and critical thinking; and
WHEREAS REFORMA is outraged by the confiscation and removal of these materials from classrooms and asserts that their lack of availability in all school libraries creates de facto censorship;
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that REFORMA, the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-speaking:
  1. Condemns the dismantling of the MAS program at TUSD and the removal of textbooks from the classrooms;
  2. Affirms that exclusion of and/or restriction of access to the multiple viewpoints, experiences, and histories expressed in books fosters antagonism, isolation, and withdrawal from a pluralistic and inclusive society,
  3. Encourages all REFORMA members and member libraries to take local action by creating book displays of the confiscated materials, creating educational programs about the value and meaning of intellectual freedom and censorship, and creating resources in support of the students of the MAS program to further their pursuit of learning; and
  4. Commits to developing resource tools and action kits in support of the MAS students’ right to pursue their intellectual, informational, and recreational needs; and be it further
RESOLVED that REFORMA (The National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-speaking):
  1. Unanimously supports the excellent service delivery and specific actions taken by our REFORMA-Tucson Chapter, such as the planning of a 2012 Latino Literacy Roundtable, and their compilation and dissemination of the Outlawed and Threatened Book List entitled “THE CHILLING EFFECTS: A Mexican-American Studies Challenged and Outlawed Reading List;” 
  2. Unanimously affirms the January 2012 American Library Association, Office of Intellectual Freedom Resolution OPPOSING RESTRICTION OF ACCESS TO MATERIALS AND OPEN INQUIRY IN ARIZONA ETHNIC AND CULTURAL STUDIES PROGRAM,5 the January 2012 American Indian Library Association STATEMENT ON ETHNIC STUDIES PROGRAMS IN ARIZONA,6 and the January 20012 Progressive Librarians Guild STATEMENT ON CENSORSHIP AND THE TUCSON UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT; 7  and
  3. Unanimously applauds the TUSD students who protested the dismantling of the MAS program and affirmed the changes the MAS program made in their lives, and the teachers and parents who spoke out against the program’s dissolution: MAS Students Speak Out About Their Classes and Books Being Banned in Tucson and TUSD-MAS Historical Trauma and Sadness
1American Library Association. Library Bill of Rights. Accessed from on February 11, 2012.
2United States Census Bureau, 2010 Census Interactive Population Search: Arizona. Accessed from on February 11, 2012.
3United States Census Bureau, State and County Quick Facts: Arizona, January 17, 2012. Accessed from on February 11, 2012.
4Alexis Huicochea, “TUSD Rejects Reports of Book Ban,” Arizona Daily Star, January 18, 2012. Accessed from on February 12, 2012.
5OIF Blog, “Resolution Opposing Restriction of Access to Materials and Open Inquiry in Ethnic and Cultural Studies Programs in Arizona,” January 24, 2012. Accessed from on February 12, 2012.
6American Indian Library Association, Statement on Ethnic Studies Programs in Arizona, February 2, 2012. Accessed from on February 12, 2012.
7Progressive Librarians Guild, PLG Statement on Censorship and the Tucson Unified School District, January 21, 2012. Accessed from on February 12, 2012.