Journal of Educational Controversy


Friday, April 27, 2012

Journal’s Authors to Speak at our 14th Annual Educational Law and Social Justice Forum on May 2nd

Our 14th Annual Educational Law and Social Justice Forum this year will feature authors from our current issue of the journal on the theme, “The Education and Schools our Children Deserve.”


■Francisco Rios, Dean of Woodring College of Education

■Susan Donnelly, Head of Whatcom Day Academy and Co-editor

■David Carroll, Woodring Elementary Education Faculty

■Annie Parker, 3rd Grade Teacher, Seattle

■Vale Hartley, Teacher, Whatcom Day Academy

■Paul Shaker, Professor Emeritus and former Dean at Simon Fraser University

The Controversy Addressed:
The politicizing of education at the national level has centered on issues of standards, accountability, global competitiveness, national economic growth, low student achievement on worldwide norms, and federally mandated uniformity. 
Without conversation at this deeper level about the fundamental purposes of education, we cannot develop a comprehensive vision of the kinds of schools our children deserve. We invite authors to contribute their conceptions of the kind of education our children deserve and/or the kinds of schools that serve the needs of individuals and of a democratic society.
There has been little discussion of the public purposes of our schools or what kind of education is necessary for an individual’s development and search for a meaningful life. There is a paucity of ideas being discussed at the national level around topics such as: how school practices can be aligned with democratic principles of equity and justice; how school practices can promote the flourishing of individual development as well as academic achievement; what skills and understandings are needed for citizens to play a transformative role in their society.
Date: May 2, 2012

Time: 5:00 - 7:00pm

Location: Western Washington University
               Center for Education, Equity and Diversity (CEED)
               Miller Hall 005

Contact: CEED Phone: (360) 650-3827

Sponsored by the Journal of Educational Controversy and the Center for Education, Equity and Diversity.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Claiming our Education: In Memory of Adrienne Rich

Editor: Below is a post in memory of Adrienne Rich who died on March 27th. The author, Lee Karlovic, is a former faculty member at Western Washington University and a long time Adult Educator whose life was influenced by the ideas of Adrienne Rich. Lee is an adult educator in the historical tradition of political and personal empowerment that stands in stark contrast to many contemporary views of adult education as human resource development.  Lee Karlovic is also the author of "A Mindful Commitment to Connecting Women toward Intellectual Community", a chapter in the 2009 book, Challenging the Professionalization of Adult Education: John Ohliger and Contradictions in Modern Practice. (Jossey-Bass: San Francisco). “Ohliger,” Lee reminds us, “was another American public intellectual who experienced life as if words and freedom mattered.”

A Personal Reflection: In Memory of Adrienne Rich


Lee Karlovic

Adrienne Rich, one of America's premier public intellectuals, died March 27 in California. According to her obituary in The Independent, she described herself as a "white woman, a Jew, a lesbian, and a United States citizen".

Coming across Driving into the Wreck on the new books library shelf was a life-changing event for me, a high school English teacher-in-training in the 1970s. Adrienne's artful and masterful writing breathed life into the phrase "the personal is political" in a way that I could immediately translate into my own life and work choices. Her life also spoke volumes to me. That she with her Radcliffe education had left a "charmed" East coast life that included marriage to a Harvard economist and three sons before she was 30 gave me the insight that a woman and freedom's choices, or at least the quest for freedom's choices, could be more than just an empty phrase. I began to take my own education, in and out of school, seriously. No small feat for the child of an immigrant steelworker with a fourth grade education in the dominator's language in his own war-torn homeland, a man whose broken English reflected his broken dreams of a life not to be lived.

So what, you ask? What does this have to do with me? All of you who have been, are, or will be, schooled could lean a bit more into learning instead by reading one or both of Adrienne's writings/talks - Claiming an Education and Taking Women Students Seriously.

Here's an excerpt from "Claiming an Education", a speech delivered at the 1977 convocation at Douglass College: Responsibility to yourself means refusing to let others do your thinking, talking and naming for you.... Responsibility to yourself means that you do not fall for shallow and easy solutions - predigested books and ideas....

I "snuck" Adrienne's quotes and ideas like these into as many courses as I could while I was a former university education teacher. When I could figure out a direct connection with course objectives and content, I would include portions or the entire text if possible.

Although geared toward women audiences, her work goes beyond gender and other filters. And since both were presented and written decades ago, some of the content on a first reading seems dated to readers today. Great possibilities for discussion: How does this relate to you, even though you're not a woman? Even though you're a ....... (fill in the words here)? And what has and hasn't changed since she wrote this?

The final word here goes to Adrienne in an excerpt from her 1994 poem "And Now":

....I tried to listen to
the public voice of our time
tried to survey our public space
as best I could
-tried to remember and stay
faithful to details, note
precisely how the air moved
and where the clock's hands stood
and who was in charge of definitions
and who stood by receiving them
when the name of compassion
was changed to the name of guilt
when to feel with a human stranger
was declared obsolete.
         from Dark Fields of the Republic

Her reason for writing — and, by loud unspoken implication, her reason for being — were found in a 1984 speech, according to her New York Times obituary:

What she and her sisters-in-arms were fighting to achieve, she said, was simply this: “the creation of a society without domination.”


Claiming an Education

Taking Women Students Seriously (1978)
First page only: F

Rich, A. (1979). Taking women students seriously (1978). In On lies, secrets, and silence: Selected prose 1966-1978 (p. 237-245). New York: W. W. Norton.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Beth Reis and the Safe Schools Coalition Provide Recommendations for Viewing the Film “Bully” and a Few Cautions

Editor: The film, Bully, has been in the news lately over its rating. Now that the issue has been resolved, many young people are likely to go and see it. Beth Reis and the Safe Schools Coalition have put out a set of recommendations for viewing the film with some words of caution. We thank them for giving us permission to reprint the recommendations for our readers.

Important: Using BULLY (the film) as a Tool for Change


Beth Reis

Safe Schools Coalition

Last night I had a chance to preview the film BULLY which opens in theaters today. I would describe it as a must-see film that should NEVER stand alone. In fact, its standing alone scares me.

It is a must-see film because it makes agonizingly real the world of the child who is targeted. It demonstrates the potential consequences of this kind of abuse in ways almost nothing else does.

It should never stand alone, however, because it is almost too real in its leaving the viewer with very little hope and few actual strategies for change (whether the viewer is a student, a parent or an educator).

It begs, I think, for a number of things:

A. Faculty meetings and continuing education for administrators and teachers and all school employees are essential in order to use BULLY productively. The problem is that it mostly shows educators’ awkward, probably-well-intentioned attempts at responding to bullying that, in the end, revictimize children and serve to perpetuate the problem. It doesn’t provide the kind of role models for successful intervention that educators desperately need.

B. Parent/community workshops are vital as well. Again, it shows parents experiencing heartbreak and trying their level best, but mostly not giving their bullied children what they need … or not in time. It can succeed at waking parents up … the ones who need that. But with it mostly doesn’t offer modeling of how to communicate to your child that you don’t blame them or to help your child make friends or stand up for themselves. And it offers just a glimpse into asserting yourself at school, but far too few tools for actually succeeding at getting what you need.

C. Family conversations absolutely have to follow your family’s viewing the film. What parts of the film resonate for your children? Have they ever done something they aren’t proud of doing to another kid? How could they make that situation right now? Have they witnessed stuff and felt powerless to do anything? Have they ever tried to help? How? What might they try? Have they been on the receiving end? How have they tried to survive so far? What else might they try … without feeling like they are the one who has to solve it? Have they tried talking with you about it before and do they want to give you feedback about what they most need from you? What can you offer to do for or with them?

D. School-wide conversations in the moment will be essential in order to avoid the film generating increases in bullying and copy-cat suicides and on-going anti-bullying projects will be the ONLY way for the film to have any real impact.

Find lots of excellent tools on-line to accompany the film:

1. Find out where it is playing and enter the site itself here :

2. Find handouts with concrete ideas for parents, students, educators and advocates here:

3. Download a comprehensive viewing guide here: (scroll down)

Thursday, April 19, 2012


Editor: More news coming out of Tucson, Arizona.




Brianda Bustamante
(520) 260-2048 cell
Curtis Acosta
(520) 891-7327

Tucson, Ariz. - Renowned Chicana poet, essayist, novelist and author of So Far From God, Ana Castillo will be giving a reading from books banned by TUSD to Mexican American Studies students and the general public on Friday May 4th at 6:30pm at the John Valenzuela Youth Center in South Tucson. A question and answer segment will follow the reading.

Ms. Castillo offered to visit the actual classrooms in TUSD and meet the students of the dismantled MAS classes. Unfortunately, TUSD administration continued their discriminatory behavior toward MAS students by banning the media from recording Ms. Castillo's visit, although media had been allowed access for similar author visits earlier in the year.

Ms. Castillo who was saddened by TUSD's response said today that, "they can keep me out of the schools but as a U.S. law abiding citizen they cannot keep me out of Tucson." In reaction, a community venue became the obvious choice for the Tucson community for all to attend. Before the actual reading Ms. Castillo will meet separately with students who were enrolled in MAS classes at 5:30pm, and discuss her writing which was a pivotal part of the program.

What: Ana Castillo Public Reading

When: Friday, May 4th, 6:30 pm

Where: John Valenzuela Youth Center, 1550 S 6th Avenue, South Tucson, AZ 85713

Saturday, April 14, 2012

"Arizona Teacher Sean Arce Fired in Latest Crackdown on Acclaimed Mexican American Studies Program" -- An Interview from Democracy Now

Editor: After posting the press release yesterday by the Tucson high school students who were fighting for their teacher, we just learned that teacher Sean Arce has been fired by the Tucson Unified School District. Sean appeared in the film "Precious Knowledge" that depicts the civil rights battle to save the Mexican American Studies Program in Tucson, Arizona with vivid portrayals of the students and their teachers.  I was able to view the film the other night and will write more about it later.  Film director, Eren Isabel McGinnis, has agreed to an interview that we will print on the blog in the future.

Below is a transcript reprinted from Democracy Now. The original content is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

Sean Arce, the head of the Tucson school district’s banned Mexican American Studies program, was dismissed Tuesday night amid vocal protests from dozens of supporters. Tucson’s Mexican American Studies program has been under attack following the passage of a bill which prohibits schools from offering ethnic studies courses. Arce maintains he was fired because he spoke out against what he saw as a discriminatory law targeting Mexican Americans and Latinos. "I, along with many others, stood up and [saw] this law as unconstitutional," Arce says. "And because we stood up, the district has retaliated."


Sean Arce, head of the Tucson school district’s Mexican American Studies program. He was dismissed from his job earlier this week. He is the recipient of the 2012 Myles Horton Education Award for Teaching People’s History from the Zinn Education Project.


AMY GOODMAN: ....We are—we are going now to Tucson, Arizona. Tucson, Arizona is a place where another teacher has been fired....

In Arizona, we’re going to the head of the Tucson school district’s embattled, acclaimed Mexican American Studies program who has been fired from his job. Sean Arce was dismissed at the school district members’ board meeting Tuesday night amidst vocal protest from dozens of supporters. Earlier this month, Arce was awarded the 2012 Myles Horton Education Award for Teaching People’s History from the [Zinn Education Project]. Tucson’s Mexican American Studies program has been under attack following the passage of a bill which prohibits schools from offering ethnic studies courses. Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal ruled the Mexican American Studies program violated the new state law.

JOHN HUPPENTHAL: In our determination, we found that these classes were promoting ethnic resentment. They were promoting ethnic solidarity in ways that are really intolerable in an educational environment.
AMY GOODMAN: Under the ruling, the district would have lost up to $14 million in funding this fiscal year had it allowed the program to carry on.School officials released a list of seven banned books that can no longer be used in classrooms after the suspension of the program. Officials told teachers to stay away from any books where, quote, "race, ethnicity and oppression are central themes." The banned books include Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years, Shakespeare’s play The Tempest, Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire, and Chicano!: The History of the Mexican Civil Rights Movement — The Mexican American Civil Rights Movement.

Speaking to Democracy Now! earlier this year, Superintendent Huppenthal denied that any books had been banned.

JOHN HUPPENTHAL: In no way, shape or form are we banning any kind of books or any kind of viewpoint from the classroom. But we are saying that if all you’re teaching these students is one viewpoint, one dimension, we can readily see that it’s not an accurate history, it’s not an education at all. It’s not teaching these kids to think critically, but instead it’s an indoctrination.

AMY GOODMAN: To discuss the controversy Arizona, we go to Tucson to speak to Sean Arce, dismissed on Tuesday night. He was the head of Tucson school district’s Mexican American Studies program.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Sean. Talk about what happened this week and what’s happened to the program and what’s happening to you.

SEAN ARCE: Thank you for having me.

Yes, this law, HB 2281, coming from our state legislature, put a lot of political pressure on our local school district. And unfortunately, our school district, Tucson Unified, under the leadership of John Pedicone, cowered to this racist legislation and essentially eliminated a very effective course of instruction, a course of instruction wherein Latino students became highly engaged, had higher graduation rates, and had a closing of the achievement gap, something that urban school districts throughout the country are seeking aggressively in ways in which to close the achievement gap for Latino students.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Sean Arce, it’s bad enough that they’ve decided to end the program, but what excuse did they use for telling you you no longer have a job starting in September?

SEAN ARCE: The thinly veiled attempt to explain my release from the district is that they were going in a different direction, but when in fact we know this was an act of retaliation, in that I, along with many others, stood up and see this law as unconstitutional. This law is discriminatory. It really focuses on a disparate treatment, points out one group of students, which being Mexican American, Latino. And because we stood up, the district has retaliated.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And what’s been the response in the Tucson community to both the abolition of the program and then now to your firing?

SEAN ARCE: The response has been overwhelming in favor of actually restoring Mexican American Studies. Mexican-American and Latino students within TUSD have experienced for years a disparate and discriminatory treatment. Currently, Tucson Unified School District, under the current leadership of John Pedicone, has been put back under a 30-plus-year desegregation plan, desegregation suit, because the district has not acted in good faith with the Mexican-American and Latino community. So, something that was very organic, something that the community demanded to be—for the district to be responsive to the academic, the social needs of our students, our community created this Mexican American Studies program. And now the district, again, in currying to the racists and being accomplices to that racism, particularly John Pedicone, has—in essence, has abolished a very effective, a very engaging—something that was very cherished, a program, an effective educational model for Latino students.

AMY GOODMAN: Sean Arce, I wanted to ask you about another issue going on in Arizona, a headline we read yesterday: two people trying to cross into the United States from Mexico having been killed in an apparent attack by an armed militia. According to Pima County Sheriff’s Department, the victims were killed when a pickup truck carrying up to 30 undocumented immigrants near the Arizona town of Eloy was ambushed by "subjects in camouflage clothing armed with rifles," the attack coming as Arizona lawmakers are considering a measure that would create a state-backed armed militia to work with Border Patrol agents along the U.S.-Mexico border to capture undocumented immigrants. Do you know anything about this?

SEAN ARCE: Yes, unfortunately, I did hear of this occurrence. And this is very telling of the anti-Mexican, anti-immigrant sentiment here in the state of Arizona. It is very pervasive, and, unfortunately, it has seeped into our public institutions, particularly our public schools, wherein Mexican-American and Latino students are actually dehumanized. So this is this—our instance of the elimination of an effective educational program is really a reflection and is something within the context of this greater anti-Mexican, anti-Latino sentiment within the state of Arizona. And unfortunately, our school district is actually perpetuating such a sentiment within our schools.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Sean Arce, we want to thank you very much for being with us.

The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to

Friday, April 13, 2012

High School Students Defend their Teacher and Director of the Mexican American Studies Program in Arizona’s Tucson Unified School District

Editor: Tucson High School students and members of the Tucson High School M.E.Ch.A. have put out a press release about their support for a Tucson, Arizona teacher whose job is in jeopardy.  Below is the Press Release.
Tucson High Magnet School M.E.Ch.A.
For Immediate Release: April 10, 2012
      As Tucson High M.E.Ch.A., we would like to declare our unending support for Mr. Sean Arce, director of Mexican American Studies. We have witnessed countless malicious attacks on our teachers and the removal of the highly efficient Chicano Studies program. Now Mr. Arce's job stands on the line in the hands of the TUSD School board and Superintendent John Pedicone.
     Mr. Arce is our maestro, advocate, and above all, our friend and we stand behind him. Not many teachers and even fewer directors of programs hold this title among students and alumni. Some of us have had the pleasure of experiencing Mr. Arce as a substitute teacher during a chaotic time last year when TUSD was slow to hire a new, qualified Chicano Literature teacher. We have never known any administrative personnel to take on substitute teaching during their busy schedules. Indeed, we know of no other administrator who would take the time to develop relationships with their students just as he has.
     In the short time we had him as a substitute teacher, we enjoyed interactive and personal learning from someone who we know cares about us. Mr. Arce is one of the many faculty members that represents the rights that were taken away from us as students---the ability to learn in a safe and loving environment. For this we are grateful and hold Mr. Arce with the utmost respect. As students we demand that Sean Arce remain secure in his position.
Contact: Tucson High Magnet School M.E.Ch.A.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

"Precious Knowledge" Film Screening with filmmaker Eren Isabel McGinnis to be Shown at Western Washington University

Precious Knowledge is a film about the Mexican American Studies Program in Tucson, Arizona that was banned by the Arizona State Legislature.  There will be a free public screening of the film on the campus of Western Washington University.  For those who are in the area, come and join us.  For everyone who is concerned with the issue, share your thoughts on this blog.

Date/Time: April 11, 2012 7:00pm -- 9:00pm

Location: AW 204
Free Screening!

From Description:
Precious Knowledge interweaves the transformative stories of seniors in the Mexican American Studies Program at Tucson High School. Inequalities in education continue to affect people of color. The ticking time bomb story of our time is that fewer than six in ten Latino adults in the United States have a high school diploma. These alarming dropout rates will continue to have a serious impact on our nation. The documentary goes further, however, by illustrating forms of critical pedagogy that can empower Latino youth and other youth of color and change this state of affairs. Precious Knowledge will illustrate to a nationwide audience a Mexican American Studies program that inspires 82% of its students to enroll in college. The themes of Precious Knowledge are embedded in the journey of each student as they: self reflect, seek out precious knowledge, begin to act, and ultimately transform, while nurturing positive images of Latino identity and embracing the dignity of all cultures and histories. A discussion with the filmmaker will be held following the movie.

For more information, contact Saraswati Noel at