Monday, May 07, 2012

Jim Blasingame: "Ethnic Studies Ban Hits Tucson Hard: YA and Canon Alike Take a Hit"

[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.]

With permission of Jim Blasingame, I'm republishing his article from the Assembly on Literature for Adolescent's April 2012 online newsletter.  Jim and Simon Ortiz have done some excellent work together with high school students in Arizona. 
I wrote about their work two years ago in "I come to school for this class. I deal with the other ones." Here's Jim's article from the ALAN newsletter:
Things in Tucson continue to go south (pun intended). Just when it seems nothing worse could happen, someone gets fired or the truth is once again held hostage, or some representative of the Arizona Department of Education or the Tucson Unified School Board makes an even more outrageous and racist claim. The recent announcement that the contract of Sean Arce, Director of the now defunct Mexican American Studies program for the Tucson Unified School District, was not renewed comes on the heels of another announcement: Arce was named winner of the 2012 Myles Horton Education Award for Teaching People's History.

The Horton award is given by the Zinn Education Project, an organization that believes "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" (Zinn). The award is named for Myles Horton, who founded the Highlander Folk School in 1932. According to the Civil Rights Digital Library: Between 1932 and 1962, the Highlander Folk School in Monteagle, Tennessee, provided a valuable training ground for two generations of southern labor organizers and Civil Rights activists. During the 1930s and 1940s, the school was instrumental in unionizing textile, timber, and mine workers throughout the region, often working in concert with national organizations such as the Congress of Industrial Organizations. In the 1950s, Highlander became a seedbed of Civil Rights activism, holding regular educational workshops to promote nonviolent protest and encourage black voter registration.

Myles Horton's students at Highlander included Martin Luther King, Ralph Abernathy, and Rosa Parks, all of whom would become emblematic of the Civil Rights Movement. "We Shall Overcome," often recognized as the anthem of the Movement, was adapted from a gospel song by Horton's wife, Zilphia.

After southern newspaper ran frequent attacks on the school for allegedly generating racial unrest and promoting communism, the state of Tennessee revoked the Highlander Folk School's charter in 1961. Which are almost exactly the charges against the Mexican American Studies Program filed by the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) against the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD).

For those who have not been following this series of events, a quick recap in chronological order may be helpful.

1998: TUSD initiated the La Raza Studies Department in an effort to improve the retention and graduation rates among Latino students. The program yielded some pretty impressive results. More than 97% of students in the program graduated from high school, compared to 44% nationally, and 70% entered college compared to 24% nationally. Students scored higher on the AIMS test compared to other Hispanic students who did not take the classes.

2006: Dolores Huerta, cofounder of the United Farm Workers, speaks to students at Tucson Magnet High School that "Republicans hate Latinos" (Sagara), after which ADE Superintendent of Schools Tom Horne sends Assistant Superintendent and fellow Republican Margaret Garcia Dugan to Tucson to give a speech on recognizing stereotyping of the nature allegedly committed by Huerta. Dugan's own ethnic loyalty was challenged by students attending her presentation. (Page) Horne attacks the Mexican American Studies program in the media, asking for TUSD to examine and eliminate it. A new school board votes 4-1 to retain the program despite Horne's diatribes.

2008, 2009: Superintendent Horne enlists AZ Representative Steve Montenegro to draft legislation to ban "Ethnic Studies," which Montenegro introduces in the House Education committee, failing to cite any statistics on the educational impact of the bill but, rather, descrying it as "anti-American, racist . . . [and] otherwise unfit for teaching in public schools" (Lundholm, 1047). AS Senator Russell Pearce, author of Arizona's SB 1070 sponsors a bill to ban any sort of campus activities or classes that promote ethnic solidarity in Arizona's public schools. This legislation fails to get traction two years in a row in the Arizona Legislature.

2010 (May ): Three weeks after the enactment of Arizona's SB 1070, legislation requiring people stopped by police on suspicion of having committed a crime to present documents proving their citizenship, the bill banning Ethnic Studies HB 2281 also passes. As reported in the Los Angeles Times on May 12, 2010: A bill that aims to ban ethnic studies in Arizona schools was signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Jan Brewer, cheering critics who called such classes divisive and alarming others who said it's yet another law targeting Latinos in the state. (Santa Cruz)

According to the bill: Section 15-112. "Prohibited courses and classes; enforcement" states

A. A school district or charter school in this state shall not include in
its program of instruction any courses or classes that include any of the following:
1) Promote the overthrow of the United States government.
2) Promote resentment toward a race or class of people.
3) Are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group.
4) Advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as
(HB 2281)

2010 (October 18): Anticipating the law's passage, [Curtis Acosta] and 10 other Tucson high school teachers filed a lawsuit Oct. 18, 2010, against the superintendent of public instruction (Horne has since moved up to attorney general of Arizona) and the Board of Education, maintaining House Bill 2281 violates the First and 14th Amendments (Fleming).

2010 (December 30): The Tucson Unified School District Governing Board, in agreement with TUSD Superintendent of Schools, John Pedicone, unanimously passes the "Resolution to Implement Ethnic Studies in Tucson Unified School District in Accordance with All Applicable Laws."

2010 (December 30): Just days before leaving office, Tom Horne declares the TUSD Mexican Studies program to be in violation of the law. He does not observe any of the classes but, rather, bases his judgment on his own perusal of the textbooks and his conversation with five former teachers of the class (Lundholm, 1043). Horne says the only way TUSD can be in compliance with state statute is to completely discontinue the program (1043).

2011: Newly elected ADE Superintendent, John Hupenthal, hires an educational consulting firm to complete a study of the program at the cost of $110,000. Consultants evaluate the textbooks, observe classes, conduct interviews and focus groups with people connected with the program and conclude that it in no way violates the state law. Hupenthal vacates the firm's findings and issues his own findings in June that conclude the program violates three of the four tests in 15-112 based on his "independent research" (1044). It is interesting to note that Hupenthal was a member of the Arizona Senate who had added amendments to the bill while in office.

2011 (December 27): Administrative Law Judge Lewis Kowal rules that Mexican American Studies as taught in TUSD violates H.B. 2281 (now A.R.S. 15-111 and 112), as written, validating ADE's power to withhold 10 percent of Tucson Unified School District's funding.

2012 (January 10): The TUSD votes 4-1 to discontinue the Mexican American Studies program.

2012 (January 17): The following books are boxed and relocated to the TUSD storage facility: Critical Race Theory, by Richard Delgado; 500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures, edited by Elizabeth Martinez; Message to AZTLAN, by Rodolfo Corky Gonzales; Chicano! The History of the Mexican Civil Rights Movement, by Arturo Rosales; Occupied America: A History of Chicanos, by Rodolfo Acuña; Pedagogy of the Oppressed, by Paulo Freire; and Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years, by Bill Bigelow. District spokesperson Cara Rene says the books are not banned from school libraries but will not be used in classes (Gersema). For a complete list of additional books from courses in the now defunct Mexican American Studies Program, see Debbie Reese's excellent blog, American Indians in Children's Literature. According to Tucson officials, these books remain available in school libraries.

2012 (April): School Board member Michael Hicks and TUSD teacher Curtis Acosta are interviewed on The Daily Show.

2012 (April): Constitutionality of the law, as challenged by 10 TUSD teachers will be examined at the federal level by Judge Wallace Tashima of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

The elimination of the courses which used these books amounts to 10 giant steps backwards to all the teachers, librarians, parents, authors, and scholars who have tried to provide quality, engaging literature that represents as many ways to be a human being as we know of after so many years of the elitist (and boring) DOWM curriculum, as Ted Hipple referred to it (dead, old, white men).

Among these books are many we have been promoting heavily for their power to help young people make sense of the world and understand the valuable part they have to play in it. The loss of these classes means the quieting of the voices of Sherman Alexie, James Baldwin, Jane Yolen, Jimmy Santiago Baca, Sandra Cisneros, Isabella Allende, Matt de la Peña, bell hooks, Malcom X, Francisco Jimenez, Luis Rodriguez, Rudolfo Anaya, Martin Luther King, and even our own local treasures, Ofelia Zepeda and Stella Pope Duarte. Lori Carlson's collections of Latino/a and Native American pieces are boxed and stored, too. The voice of Cesar Chavez, for whom the center square in
downtown Phoenix is named, has been removed, as well as the voice of our own United
States President, Barack Obama.

Which brings us to now, April 16, 2012, a few days after the TUSD school board voted 3-2 not to renew the contract of Mexican American Studies Director Sean Arce in a heavily protested school board meeting. This is also a few days after Arce won the Horton Award for his efforts to teach the truth about history and politics in the Southwest. Perhaps no one said it better than Myle's Horton himself when the state of Tennessee attempted to bring an end to the efforts of the Highlander Folk School: "A school is an idea, and you can't padlock an idea" (Zinn).

And you can't keep books in boxes forever.

James Blasingame
Past president of the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of
Past co-editor of The ALAN Review.
Resident of Chandler, Arizona

Works Cited

Fleming, Susan Domagalski. "A Teacher Put to the Test." Willamette University The Scene. Winter 2012. Web. 16 4 2012.
Gersema, Emily. "Tucson District Denies Ban of Mexican-American Books." Arizona Republic. 17 1 2012. Web. 16 4 2012. district-denies-ban-mexican-american-books.html

"Highlander Folk School 25th Anniversary." Civil Rights Digital Library. 11 7 2012. Web. 16 4 2012.

Huicochea, Alexis. "TUSD Board Shuts Down Mexican American Studies." Arizona Daily Star. 11 1 2012. Web. 16 4 2012.

Lundholm, Nicholas B. "Cutting Class: Why Arizona's Ethnic Studies Ban Won't Ban Ethnic Studies." Arizona Law Review 53.1041: 1041-1088.

Menkart, Deborah. April 2, 2012. "Zinn Education Project Honors Sean Arce." Teaching a People's History: Zinn Education Project. 2 4 2012. Retrieved 16 4 2012 from

Page, Clarence. "Ethnic Studies Can Unite Us." Chicago Tribune. 16 5 2010. Web. 16 4 2012. column,0,6783724.column

Reese, Debbie. "Mexican American Studies Reading List." American Indians in Children's Literature. 15 1 2012. Web. 16 4 2012.

Sagara, Eric. "'Hate-Speak' at School Draws Scrutiny." Tucson Citizen. 13 4 2006. Web. 16 4 2012.

Santa Cruz, Nicole. "Arizona Bill Targeting Ethnic Studies Signed into Law." Los Angeles Times. 12 5 2010. Web. 16 4 2012.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Is "Queen Chief Warhorse" Native? And who gets to decide?

Yesterday (May 2nd, 2012), Latoya Paterson of Racialicious published my post about "Queen Chief Warhorse" at her site. In it I questioned the use of "Queen." Latoya also posted an essay by Gyasi Ross, and one of her own. The three generated many comments. Some people question the import of federal recognition. Some people see the discussion as racist. This is my response to that conversation.

In Part One (below), I return to the remarks made by "Queen Chief Warhorse" that night in New Orleans. Here's the video, and beneath it are her remarks, followed by my thoughts (then and now) about what she said. In Part Two, I address some of the Latoya's questions.


"All glory go to the Creator. It's an honor to be here today, but I love the theme: America Healing. But first, let's think about something. Where did America come from? Have it always been America? Or was it just created to be America? Who are the real Americans? America keep changing and changing and changing."

Debbie's response: 
With her "let's think about something," she asked the audience to hit the pause button and be critical thinkers. That's a good thing for any speaker to do.

I invite you (and her) to think critically about her question "Who are the real Americans?" It is factually incorrect for her to call the Indigenous peoples of this land Americans. When Europeans arrived here, they entered into diplomatic negotiations with leaders of Indigenous nations. The outcome of those negotiations were treaties, just like the treaties the US makes today with nations around the world. They didn't make treaties with "First Americans." They made treaties with hundreds of Indigenous nations. None of them were called "America" and their citizens didn't call themselves "Americans." (If you're interested in treaties, you can read some of them online, but I urge you to get the two-volume set, Documents of American Indian Diplomacy, edited by Vine Deloria, Jr. and Raymond J. DeMallie. It is more comprehensive and it provides context for reading the treaties.)

We were, and are, sovereign nations. Categorizing us beneath the multicultural umbrella obscures our status as sovereign nations and leads people to think that we want to be Americans, just like everybody else. In some ways we do, and some ways we don't. For the most part, that multicultural umbrella is about people of color. We (Indigenous peoples) might be people of color, but we are first-and-foremost, citizens of sovereign nations. Some of us look the way people think Indians should look, but some of us don't. Some of us look like we ought to be called "African American" instead, and some of us look White. What we look like doesn't matter.

Some might think that the "we are not people of color" statement is racist, I hope you see it isn't about race. It is about sovereignty.

Any nation---the U.S., or Canada, or Spain---has the power to decide who its citizens are and what criteria they will use to made such determinations. We might not like the criteria, and we can work to change that criteria, but until it is changed, it is pretty much what we abide by. Indigenous nations in the United States also have that power. Most people in the United States don't know that, because most people in the United States think we vanished, that we came to the end of the trail. We're still here, however, and when we see errors, some of us point them out. If you were in France and someone said something incorrect about the United States, you might speak up and correct that error.

By the way, "Queen Chief Warhorse" isn't the only person to make that error. President Obama made it, too, in his children's book wherein he writes about "thirteen groundbreaking Americans." Among those thirteen is Sitting Bull. One of Sitting Bull's grandson's said emphatically that Sitting Bull did not consider himself "American."  That error is made a lot because people don't know enough about who we were, and who we are. Given Racialicious's audience, I'm glad to see the conversation because having it creates the opportunity for knowledge to be gained, and spread.

"Let's go back in time when the American Indians look like I look..."

Debbie's response:
Does she really think that all Indigenous peoples were phenotypically Black? Or did she misspeak?

Later on (her remarks went far longer than the minute-long video), she said that reservations are "prison camps" and like the "projects". There is a kernel of truth in that statement. There was a time when one had to have permission from a federal agent to leave the reservation, but that isn't the case today. Does her audience know that? Does she? There is poverty and substandard housing on reservations but for some of us, they are far more than that. We (at Nambe) are on a reservation, but we were never moved. We are on the land we've been on for hundreds of years. (Through carbon dating, our current village is dated to 1300, and ones we were in before are far older than that.) Our traditions are strong. 

"...and roamed the southeast part of the United States, freely."

Debbie's response:
Her use of "roam" is another indicator (to me) that she is steeped in stereotypes of American Indians.

Think critically about that word, who uses it, and when it is used. Basically, what she is describing is the movement of a people. That movement may be due to seasonal changes, or to follow herds, or, to go where water or resources are more plentiful at a given time of the year. That movement is different than what the word "roam" means. You can look it up if you wish. It means to move about without purpose or plan, or to wander over or through. See why it doesn't work when applied to the movement of a people?

In 2009, I did some research on the use of the word roam. It is often used to describe the movement of Indigenous peoples. Here's what I found:

On the web---

  • Search phrase: "Pioneers roamed": 129 hits
  • Search phrase: "Cowboys roamed": 938 hits
  • Search phrase: "Indians roamed": 9,910 hits

I repeated the search in Google books---
  • Pioneers roamed: 23 hits
  • Cowboys roamed: 135
  • Indians roamed: 688 hits
Obviously, pioneers and cowboys were doing the same thing Indians were doing (moving from one place to another) but I think the discrepancy in use of the word is worth noting. The Indigenous peoples in the southeast part of the United States weren't roaming. Using that word takes away from their intellect, their agency, and their humanity. It lets us think of them as "primitive" or animal-like.

"I love what the Mayor said...  We have to tell the truth. We cannot heal America till we fix the foundation. Can we start right there?"

Debbie's response:
I agree. We do have to tell the truth and fix the foundation, but given her lack of substantive knowledge about Indigenous peoples, we can't start with her.


Latoya poses the question: Who gets to say if "Queen Chief Warhorse" is Native? She, like anyone in the world, can say anything they want to. My guess is that she (like Elizabeth Warren) learned about a Native ancestor from stories handed down from family members. And with that story, she built a way of "being" Indian that is based on stereotypes. That's too bad. It undermines the work she is trying to do to get recognition.

"Queen Chief Warhorse" has organized a group of people who share that story. They're trying to get recognized but they've got a long way to go. As Gyasi pointed out, it is a difficult process, but an important one. Among other things, it protects all of you (Americans) from being ripped off by someone who claims they're a tribe and then charges you for performances or products that aren't, in fact, accurate or authentic.

Do you know about the Indian Arts and Crafts Act? It is a federal law that says that items marketed as being American Indian must be supported by documentation that the maker is a citizen of a federally recognized tribe. There's a lot of push-back on that law, because a lot of people who are Native can't get enrolled due to the way that a tribe's criteria is laid out. It isn't fair, as many point out, but changes can be made to those criterion, and many tribes are making those changes, and many have other ways of recognizing individuals who don't fit the criteria for enrollment.

The thing is, there's a lot of hucksters out there, claiming American Indian identity. 

Do you remember when that Sacajawea coin came out? There was a group in the midwest who said they were a tribe, and, they marketed a small bag in which you could store your coin. When they were called out as fake, they had to return the money to people who bought those bags (I didn't bookmark the page. I'll look for it, but in the meantime, if anyone finds it, please let me know).

And do you remember that group that said it was a tribe, and was selling "citizenship" to people in other countries (particularly Mexico)? Those individuals bought that citizenship and came to the U.S., only to find out they'd been the victims of a fraud.

Latoya points to the idea of sovereignty, and how a group decides. "Queen Chief Warhorse" has a group, and, she's Queen and Chief of that group. Apparently, they think that's fine. Therein is the key. Who is "the group" and what are they doing to become recognized? If Latoya has Native ancestry in her family line and she starts researching it, I don't think she would create a tribe and start wearing a headdress at various functions. I don't think "Queen Chief Warhorse" is like the two fraudulent tribes I noted above, but I do think her speech and adoption of stereotypes is undermining her claim and chance of recognition. "Queen Chief Warhorse" says she is Chahta, which is Choctaw. Does she have any contact with the Choctaw Nation in Mississippi? Or the one in Oklahoma ? If she and her group want to learn what Chahta's culture was/is, they could go to either one of those nations and learn from them. Have they done that? If you're trying to recover something you lost, where do you start looking?

Latoya also says that the conversation leaves us "not much further than before" but I think she's wrong about that. She knows a lot more, as do her readers. Prior to this, I think the conversations at her site (regarding identity) were grounded in pop culture, and Gyasi and I are trying to ground them in the politics of Indigenous nations.

If you want to learn more, the Cherokee Nation has an excellent video:

As David Cornsilk (citizen of the Cherokee Nation) said to me, Mayor Landreau's recommendation of her as a speaker isn't without context, too. If she's successful in convincing people of her group's status as a Native nation, the city stands to gain money from those who would give her group funding, based on its claim as a Native nation.

If you read Gyasi's piece and you've read this far on mine, I hope you feel that you know a lot more now than you did before. Carry that information with you, and share it with others. And the next time you could across someone who says she's the queen of an Indian tribe, I think you'll hear that claim in a different way than you did before.  

Part of why you accepted the idea of an Indian "Queen" is due in large part to what you learned in school. Most children's books you read were full of errors. The stories might have been page-turners or award-winning, and they might have felt accurate, but they weren't. American Indians in Children's Literature, in publication since 2005, has been providing readers with critical analysis of those books, and, tools to help you spot the problems yourself. If you're reading this essay at another site, please visit American Indians in Children's Literature, and let parents and teachers know about the site, too. In the top right are lists of books that accurately represent American Indians. For your convenience, they are grouped by grade level.

Update: Sunday, May 6, 2012, 4:38 PM

Over the last couple of days, I've watched several videos in which "Queen Chief Warhorse" talks about her group. To view them, search Youtube and Google videos using "Chief Warhorse" as your search term. In watching them, I found some answers to questions I posed above:

When she said "Let's go back in time when the American Indians look like I look" she means it. By watching the videos, I understand that she means it just as she said it. She believes that this continent was first populated by Africans who came here on entrepreneur ships. The people of federally recognized sovereign Native nations today, she says, are descendents of her people who came here from Africa and mixed with people who weren't from Africa. The real Indigenous people, she says, look like her. To use her words, real Indigenous people would look "cocoa brown" like her and not "vanilla." We (federally recognized sovereign nations), she says, are not legitimate and the federal government is being ripped off by us.

She says she is from a long line of royal chiefs. Hence, she believes it is correct for her to use "Queen" as her title. 

Above, I wondered if she has made efforts to visit the Mississippi Choctaw or Oklahoma Choctaw Nations to reestablish connections with them. By watching the videos, I understand that she doesn't feel the need to do so. She says that the Oklahoma Choctaws use of "Choctaw" is incorrect. She says that the people who moved to Oklahoma started using "Choctaw" and then went down to Louisiana to observe her people and how they did things. Then, they went back to Oklahoma and mimicked the ways of her people.

My thoughts on that? I find it interesting and when I have time, will look into it. In some ways she seems to be determined to discredit and even usurp the federally recognized tribes, putting her people in place as the "First Americans" who have rightful claim to this continent. On one hand she seems to dismiss us, and on the other, she adopts stereotypical Plains Indian ways of being, but it is possible she addresses that in one of the videos and I didn't see it. (Several people have written to me privately about horses, and how they weren't in the swampland.)

Why do I bother, some of you might wonder, with any of this?!

Here's why... In the 1950s, the federal government instituted the "Termination" program through which it hoped to be rid of federally recognized tribes. In American Indian Politics and the American Political System, David Wilkins writes that over 100 tribes were, in fact, terminated. Carrying out the policy proved disastrous and it ended in the 1960s. Some tribes have been successful in having their sovereign status restored. In comments at Racialicious, someone pointed to a news article that reports that U.S. Department of Interior officials met with her in Louisiana, and that it is the first time the government has met with a group that doesn't have federal recognition. I also found an article about her success in getting a three-digit code from the U.S. Census by which to count the members of her group. It seems she is making in-roads with the federal government, but to what end, and what does the federal government stand to gain by meeting with her? 

Update, Monday, May 7, 6:13 PM

Indian Country Today ran a story today about Elizabeth Warren. Here's an excerpt:

“The mainstream media definitely has added to this controversy due to their well-known ignorance about tribal citizenship and other tribal issues,” says Julia Good Fox, a professor at Haskell Indian Nations University. Good Fox notes that the media has largely failed to explain tribal citizenry and blood quantum issues to give context to the situation because these aren’t easy stories to tell. It’s easier to label the case “convoluted,” blame Warren, and move on to the next political gotcha story.

“Unfortunately, for the most part, their coverage is just adding to the confusion and threatens to feed racism or anti-Indianism,” Good Fox says. To do better, she says the media should start by noting that tribal nations have a right to determine who their citizens are, rather than focusing on the misunderstood notion that tribal citizens can only be determined by U.S.-imposed mathematical fractions.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

American Indians in Common Core, Appendix B, K-1 Text Exemplars

Dear K-1 Teachers,

I am writing to let you know about the ways that American Indians are presented in Appendix B of the Common Core Standards for English Language Arts.

There are 54 items listed on Appendix B. Some of them are terrific. I vividly remember, for example, my daughter giggling when we read "Strange Bumps" in Arnold Lobel's Owl at Home.

Though the Common Core booklets say that the items on the list are only meant to serve as "useful guideposts in helping educators select texts of similar complexity, quality, and range" for your own classroom, I know many of you will use the items on the lists. With the Common Core bearing down on you like a freight train, some of you will find it easier to teach the items on the list. Some of you are very busy, working far harder than most Americans realize. As a former elementary school teacher, I know how hard teaching can be. 

I'm writing to ask that---if you choose to teach the items on the list---that you not read Little House in the Big Woods. It is listed on the "Read-Aloud Stories" section of Appendix B. Here's an excerpt that I find troubling. It is on page 53 of Little House in the Big Woods. The first two paragraphs are context. It is the third paragraph that I want you to pay attention to:

When I was a little boy, not much bigger than Mary, I had to go every afternoon to find the cows in the woods and drive them home. My father told me never to play by the way, but to hurry and bring the cows home before dark, because there were bears and wolves and panthers in the woods.    

One day I started earlier than usual, so I thought I did not need to hurry. There were so many things to see in the woods that I forgot that dark was coming. There were red squirrels in the trees, chipmunks scurrying through the leaves, and little rabbits playing games together  in the open places. Little rabbits, you know, always have games together before they go to bed.    

I began to play I was a mighty hunter, stalking the wild animals and the Indians. I played I was fighting the Indians, until all woods seemed full of wild men, and then all at once I heard the birds twittering 'good night.'

Now, I want you to imagine reading that passage aloud (remember---this is a book the Common Core folks want you to read aloud) to children in your K-1 classroom, and, imagine that one or more of those children are Native children for whom their identity as Native is a day-to-day lived experience (as opposed to a family story of an ancestor, or, someone who is enrolled at their nation but not growing up in a way with that nation's ways of being Native).

Seems a bit cruel, doesn't it? To imagine what that Native child might feel like hearing that dear old Pa was stalking Indians or, as he says "wild men"? How can we possibly describe Little House in the Big Woods  as an exemplary text?!

As far as I can tell, other than the Indians/wild men that Pa stalks/fights, there aren't any other Native people in the other 52 books on the Common Core lists for K-1. So, if you were only going to use that set of items, Native children in your classroom would not see themselves reflected in the materials you're using.

I'm pretty sure, though, that most of you will use other items. I hope that some of them are children's books that portray American Indians in tribally specific ways (naming a specific tribal nation, and, providing accurate information about that tribe). I can recommend some wonderful books. They may be in your school library, or the local public library.

The ones that I want you to use are books written by Native authors. Each of them feature Native girls. I'm sharing those three today for a specific reason. Most people, when they think of American Indians, think of "chiefs" or "braves" or "warriors" --- males, in other words. This is, I think, in large part due to history books and historical fiction that focuses on wars, and "hostile Indians" who attack those poor innocent settlers. What gets lost in that narrow depiction is that those men (not "chiefs" or "braves" etc.) have mothers and sisters. They may have daughters, too! And as for "hostile" ---- they were fighting, not because they were "bloodthirsty savages" but because they were protecting their homelands! And, they were protecting their grandparents, mothers, wives, children...

Here's the three books I recommend you read aloud.

If you want to show children that Native children are part of today's society, and that our lives reflect modern American society and our Native societies, you could read them Jingle Dancer by Cynthia Leitich Smith. In it, Jenna is getting ready to dance at a pow wow for the first time. She lives in a pretty typical American house in a neighborhood with tree-lined streets and sidewalks. Her family helps her get ready. Using Jingle Dancer you can say "this book is by Cynthia Leitich Smith, a writer who is Muscogee Creek." Introducing Jenna and her identity, and Cynthia and her identity, can go a long way towards situating Native people in the present, not that long-ago past where you usually find us.

From there, you could read Joy Harjo's The Good Luck Cat to your students. In it, Harjo works with the idea that cats have nine lives. In The Good Luck Cat, a Native girl's cat--named Woogie--goes missing. As you turn the pages of the book, you'll learn about other times when Woogie's life was in danger. And, as you turn those pages, you see the girl's Native identity in visual markers throughout the book. Harjo is also Muscogee Creek.  You could pull out a map and show your students where the Muscogee Creek Nation is located. Head over to their website and learn all you can about them, and share it with your students. In my visit to their site today, I learned that as of May 2012, they have 72,740 enrolled citizens. What a cool bit of info to share! Smith and Harjo are two of 72,740 citizens. That could even be a math problem. (Subtract two from 72,740, and what do you get?)

My third recommendation is Jan Bourdeau Waboose's SkySisters. In it, two Ojibway sisters walk, in the night, to see the SkySpirits (Northern Lights).  As the girls are out, they view the things around them, not from a mainstream American perspective, but from their Ojibway perspective where a rabbit or deer or coyote is more than just an animal in the world. Waboose is Ojibway.

For the record, I think the Common Core is a bad idea. 

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.