Thursday, January 26, 2012

Washington State ACLU Achieves Settlement for Bullying Victim

The ACLU of Washington State announced today a settlement for a former student who had been bullied throughout his junior high and high school years. Below is the ACLU's official announcement.  Our blog has been following this serious problem in this state and across the nation.

January 26, 2012

Contact: Doug Honig, ACLU-WA


Former Student Gains Major Settlement after Enduring Years of Harassment

A former student who endured severe and persistent harassment throughout junior high and high school has gained a major settlement from the Aberdeen School District, the ACLU of Washington announced today. The ACLU has represented Russell Dickerson III in a lawsuit saying that school district officials were aware of the harassment but failed to take steps reasonably calculated to end it. Under terms of the settlement, Dickerson will receive $100,000 from the district. Additionally, the ACLU will receive $35,000 in legal fees.

“Public school officials must be held accountable when they fail to meet their responsibility to act decisively when a student is subjected to harassment by his peers. This settlement sends a message to school districts statewide to take strong action as soon as they learn that a student is being bullied,” said Sarah Dunne, ACLU-WA legal director.

“I learned from my parents that you should never give up. You should fight for your rights – you don’t just walk away,” said Dickerson.

Russell Dickerson III, now 20, is an African-American resident of Aberdeen. For six years, from 2003 when he entered junior high until 2009 when he graduated high school, other students harassed Dickerson on the basis of his race, sex, and perceived sexual orientation.

At Miller Junior High, Dickerson was called names by other students and found notes in his backpack and taped to his back calling him “stupid nigger” and “dog.” Students tripped him in the hallways and threw food at him in the cafeteria. In one incident, three students pushed him to the floor in the hallway and smashed a raw egg on his head; only one of the students was disciplined.

At Aberdeen High School, the harassment escalated, with Dickerson subjected to a continuing barrage of viciously derogatory insults about his race, physical appearance, and suspected sexual orientation. Dickerson suffered physical harassment, with other students pinching and fondling his chest, spitting on his head, and throwing objects at him. Although an assistant principal discouraged Dickerson from reporting misconduct by the student’s peers, the student and his parents repeatedly reported incidents of harassment to district administrators, both verbally and in writing. Yet the district failed to take adequate steps to end the harassment.

In 2007 students in the district created a website mocking Dickerson and his perceived sexual orientation, and posted threatening racist comments on it. Students discussed the website at school. Grays Harbor Superior Court issued a no contact order between Dickerson and one of his harassers who had threatened on the website to lynch him, yet Dickerson became the target of retaliatory harassment after reporting the website to school authorities.

The school district’s failure to act created a hostile educational environment for the student. His academic progress was hindered, he was isolated at school, he felt discouraged from using his locker, and he avoided extra-curricular activities that put him in contact with his peers. Further, the student suffered extreme emotional distress, including an inability to concentrate on studies, serious depression, despair, and anxiety.

Filed in December 2010 in U.S. District Court in Tacoma, the lawsuit said that the deliberate indifference to ongoing harassment by the school district, which receives federal funds, violated federal law – Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. The district’s negligent inaction also violated the Washington Law Against Discrimination.

ACLU-WA cooperating attorneys Michael Scott, Joseph Sakay, and Alexander Wu of Hillis Clark Martin & Peterson P.S. and ACLU-WA staff attorneys Sarah Dunne and Rose Spidell represented Dickerson.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

What is Really at Stake in Arizona’s Ban on Mexican American Studies

I have been asked to capture the essence of what is happening in the Tucson Unified School District in a few paragraphs for the newsletter and website of the Washington State Association for Multicultural Education (WSAME). I have served on the Board of Directors of that fine organization for a number of years. Check out their website to see some of the wonderful things they do.

I thought I would reprint my commentary here for our readers.

Arizona’s Ban on Ethnic Studies: The Latest Battleground over Ideology, Power, and Voice

Lorraine Kasprisin
Professor of Educational Philosophy, Western Washington University
Editor, Journal of Educational Controversy
Board of Directors, Washington State Association for Multicultural Education

The recent dismantling of the Mexican American Studies Program in Tucson, Arizona has less to do with facts over a highly successful thirteen year old curriculum taught in the Tucson Unified School District and more to do with ideological dominance and power over whose voices will be heard in a democracy.

In response to the long historical failure of the public schools to raise academic achievement and reduce the dropout rates of students of color, the Tucson Unified School District created a Mexican American studies program that would be more culturally responsive and socially relevant to the needs of the large population of Latino students in the district. By all accounts, the program has been highly successful. Readers can go to the Save Ethnic Studies website for details about audits on the program’s effectiveness. In 2010, in a highly charged political environment, the Arizona State Legislature passed HB 2281 banning any program that “prohibits a school district or charter school from including in its program of instruction any courses or classes that: promote the overthrow of the United States government, promote resentment toward a race or class of people, are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group, advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.” (Arizona Revised Statute § 15-112, 2010)

Despite the state’s own commissioned study that showed the Mexican American Studies Program fully complied with the law and had produced significant results in student achievement, Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal , nevertheless, continued his pressure to suspend the program. In January of this year, faced with a multimillion dollar reduction in state aid as a penalty, the Tucson School Board voted 4-1 to dismantle the program. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is now considering a suit that was brought by students and teachers. The court found, however, that the teachers do not have standing but that the suit by students could continue. Teachers have set up a website, Save Ethnic Studies, where readers can follow the progress of the case, donate to the cause, and sign a petition.

The struggle in Arizona goes to the heart of democracy. As U.S. Rep. Raul M. Grijalva says, “This legislation against diversity might be focused on Tucson, but it has significant ramifications across the country.” (Biggers, 2011) It raises questions about who will have a voice and how that voice will be exercised. It asks whose history should be taught and how it should be portrayed. Ultimately, it raises questions about truth. Do we betray our students by presenting only a sanitized account of our history; do we pretend that this nation has never failed to live up to its ideals; do we continue to suppress voices that have been historically silenced, or more often, co-opted and appropriated by the dominant discourse. Or do we allow and encourage alternative narratives in a more inclusive democratic conversation. Public education is at the heart of these questions.

As teachers were ordered to box the censored books for storage in the Textbook Depository, one cannot help but wonder what messages were being sent by a political authority that was supposedly concerned about not promoting ethnic resentment. For young people whose encounter with these books led to self discovery, positive images of Latino identity, and transformative knowledge and action, the State’s actions must surely have been traumatizing and a lesson in the very oppression and hegemony that often defined the social conditions of their communities.


Biggers, J. (2011). Arizona's Ethnic Studies Ban Has National Ramifications, Warns U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva, HuffPost, Posted: 5/11/11 11:00 PM ET. Retrieved from on January 21, 2012.

Prohibited Courses and Classes; Enforcement. AZ Rev. Stat. §15-112 (2010) Retrieved from
For more insights into this issue, I invite readers to visit the upcoming issue of our electronic journal, the Journal of Educational Controversy (Volume 6 Number 1) and read “The Hypocrisy of Racism: Arizona's Movement towards State-Sanctioned Apartheid” by Augustine F. Romero, Director of Student Equity and Co-Founder of the Social Justice Project, Tucson Unified School District, Arizona.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Tucson Teacher Reveals Ongoing Frustrations after the Dismantling of the Mexican American Studies Program

Editor: There have been numerous articles, editorials, television interviews, etc, in the media since we first started to report on the events unfolding in the Tucson Unified School District after the dismantling of the Mexican American Studies program and the banning of certain books. But none is as revealing as the letters coming from the teachers to their supporters. Below is another letter circulating on listservs. The teacher mentions that some supporters across the nation are talking about a day of solidarity where the censored books are taught in classrooms around the country. February 1st , as the official day that the teachers are to be in compliance, is being suggested. We pass this information on to our readers so they can become aware of events as they are unfolding.


To my friends and all our supporters,

Let me try a few cleansing breaths before all of this.

First, I am deeply moved by the love, commitment and creativity to help, honor our plight and support our fight. Thank you all so much and I apologize to all of my friends who I have not responded to as of yet. We all are overwhelmed here in Tucson and I need a new email system for organizing all the love. Muchismas gracias y Tlazocamatli.

This week has provided more challenges. The teachers have still not received specific guidelines for curriculum and pedagogical changes that need to be made in order to be in compliance of the law. TUSD leadership has asked the site administrators to lead the process which means that my colleagues and I are all separated from each other, and have not yet come together as a group since the destruction of our program. It also is a way to divide and conquer since we are all struggling at our individual sites.

To be more specific, I meet alone with my site administration, with only my union representative as support, but separated from colleagues Maria and Ismael who also work at my school. The district leadership has done this move to wash their hands of us and any accountability to us. However, they continue to send out press releases that claim that books that are now boxed in a warehouse are not banned, and that anyone can teach critical issues like race, ethnicity, oppression, and culture, but do not mention the exception being the censored teachers in the MAS program. The double speak is unseemly and lacks honor. I am so happy that our friends around the nation are holding them accountable since the power structure in Tucson has made sure the local media tows the line. This has been the case for years.

What I can tell you is that TUSD has decreed that anything taught from a Mexican American Studies perspective is illegal and must be eliminated immediately. Of course, they have yet to define what that means, but here's an example of what happened to an essay prompt that I had distributed prior to January 10th.

{Chicano playwright Luis Valdez once stated that his art was meant to inspire the audience to social action. Illuminate specific points about social problems. Satirize the opposition. Show or hint at a solution. Express what people are feeling? The novel So Far From God presents many moments of social and political commentary.} Select an issue that you believe Ana Castillo was attempting to illuminate for her audience and write a literary analysis of how that theme is explored in the novel. Remember to use direct citations from the novel to support your ideas and theories.{Culture can play a significant role within a work of fiction. For generations in this country, the literature studied in English or literature classes rarely represented the lives and history of Mexican-Americans.} In a formal literary analysis, discuss what makes So Far From God, a Chicano novel and how this might influence the experience of the reader. Remember to use direct citations from the novel to support your ideas and theories.

The brackets indicate what I had to edit since the statements were found to be too leading toward a Mexican American Studies perspective. In plainer terms, they are illegal and out of compliance. A quote from a great literary figure, Luis Valdez is now illegal, and a fact about education in our nation's history is also illegal.

You can imagine how we are feeling, especially without any clear guidance to what is now legal and what is not, and what makes matters worse is that TUSD expects us to move forward and redesign our entire curriculum and pedagogy to be in compliance.

I cannot speak for all my colleagues but it has become clear to me that I must abandon nearly everything I used to do in the classroom and become "born again" as a teacher. At least for the foreseeable future, since the list of individuals that are waiting to pounce upon us at our first wrong step is long and filled with powerful figures.

However, we have not lost faith that we will overcome all of these atrocious, absurd, and abusive actions to our students and to learning environment centered upon love and academic excellence. Our students have already learned so much this year and this process is teaching them so much more. They are restless, ready to act and eager for their voices to be heard, and our community is equally supportive to their desires. Our lawsuit moves forward and the unconstitutionality of the law will be debated before Judge A. Wallace Tashima. Three of the four men who voted to disband our program will be accountable on November 6th since their seats on the school board are up this election. We are strong in spirit that a better day is ahead.

Lastly, there has been an idea put forward by my good friend, Keith Catone in Providence, that there should be a national day of solidarity where teachers would teach our curriculum all over the nation. I will be discussing this with my colleagues in MAS this weekend and then to Tara Mack and Keith. They have been amazing and fired-up to help, but I have had to navigate the Tempest in our classrooms and schools before more specifics come your way. The first day we are to be officially in compliance is February 1st, so that may be a wonderful, symbolic day to keep our spirit alive through the nation.


Curtis Acosta

Chicano/Latino Literature Teacher (forever in mind and in spirit)


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Responses from Authors whose Books were Banned in Tucson, Arizona Schools

Many of the books banned from classrooms in the Tucson Unified School District were important books, even classics like Shakespeare's Tempest. One of our favorite blogs, American Indians in Children's Literature, is collecting responses from some of the authors whose books were banned and posting them on the blog.  Unfortunately, Mr. Shakespeare cannot respond for himself.  Debbie Reese, who runs the blog, promises to keep adding to the list as she finds them.

To read, "Authors Banned in Tucson Unified School District Respond," go to the website of American Indians in Children's Literature.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Faced with a Multimillion Dollar penalty, Tucson School Board Dismantles Mexican American Studies

Editor: After being ordered to shut down the Mexican American studies program or face a reduction of almost fifteen million dollars from state aid, the Tucson Unified School Board voted 4-1 to suspend the program. Below our readers will find links to some updated information from several different websites along with two letters from one of the teachers in the affected district that gives you some idea of the confusion and frustration that is being felt by the teachers. The letters are being circulated on listservs and we reproduce them here to bring our readers inside the current state of events. Also check out the list of books that could possibly be removed. Shakespeare’s Tempest????? Della Reese provides the list on her website, American Indians in Children’s Literature. Perhaps, the most telling comments came at the end of the article on the first website below:

The only other time a book of mine was banned was in 1986, when the apartheid government in South Africa banned ‘Strangers in Their Own Country,’ a curriculum I’d written that included a speech by then-imprisoned Nelson Mandela,” said Bigelow, who serves as curriculum editor of Rethinking Schools magazine, and co-directs the online Zinn Education Project. ”We know what the South African regime was afraid of. What is the Tucson school district afraid of?

Who’s afraid of “The Tempest”?

Arizona's ban on ethnic studies proscribes Mexican-American history, local authors, even Shakespeare

As part of the state-mandated termination of its ethnic studies program, the Tucson Unified School District released an initial list of books to be banned from its schools today. According to district spokeperson Cara Rene, the books “will be cleared from all classrooms, boxed up and sent to the Textbook Depository for storage.”

Facing a multimillion-dollar penalty in state funds, the governing board of Tucson’s largest school district officially ended the 13-year-old program on Tuesday in an attempt to come into compliance with the controversial state ban on the teaching of ethnic studies….

To read this article, go to: SALON

Tucson students confront loss of their Chicano studies class

A day after the Tucson Unified School District board votes to suspend Mexican American studies classes to avoid losing state aid, students are angry, sad and confused, a teacher says….

To read this article, go to:,0,5182077.story LA TIMES

Mexican American Studies Reading List

Cambium Learning, Inc. conducted an audit of the Mexican American Studies program in Tucson. The findings were published in May 2, 2011. The audit took place between March 7, 2011 and May 2, 2011.

The following books are listed on Appendix Item Mexican American Studies Department Reading List of the audit of the Mexican American Studies program. I am presenting the lists here, replicating the lists as shown on the audit. News stories indicate that book in the Mexican American Studies classrooms were boxed up and removed from classrooms last week. At this point it is not known if all the books listed below were boxed and removed. They were placed in storage.


Teaching critical thinking in Arizona: NOT ALLOWED

Very early on Saturday, January 15, 2012, I read an article in Salon that said that Rethinking Columbus and the Tempest were being boxed up and removed from classrooms in Tucson, Arizona. They were part of the curriculum of the Mexican American Studies program in the school district. Due to the objection of some people in Arizona, that program has now been shut down.

On January 13, 2012, Bill Bigelow of Rethinking Schools wrote about Rethinking Columbus being removed…….

As the day progressed, I began asking colleagues if anyone had a complete list of the books being removed. As of now (Sunday, January 15, 2012), several people are trying to find out more about the books that are being taken away….



Letter 1: (January 11, 2012)

An update for all our supporters:

Last night the Tucson Unified School District Governing Board voted 4-1 to immediately eliminate the Mexican American Studies program. All other ethnic studies programs are unaffected and I will know more today how this will impact our students and content of our classes. Many rumors are swirling around that the composition of the classes may change which would drastically affect our students through mass schedule changes. However, we are hopeful that they will not be so callous in this regard since it could impact their graduation status by entering a brand new class and teacher mid-year.

This optimism cannot be shared in regard to the content of our classes which we believe will be completely eliminated or altered beyond recognition. Assignment changes are expected for all of our colleagues, including the Director of Mexican American Studies Sean Arce. There is a silver lining. Hours before the vote, Ninth Circuit Court Judge A. Wallace Tashima rejected the state's request to dismiss our lawsuit claiming the law as unconstitutional and it continues to move forward. To be more specific, the students in the lawsuit were acknowledged to have standing, but the teachers at this time do not. This is great news since we are all working together for the best interest of our students and their future. My colleagues and I are more committed than ever to help the student-plaintiffs in every way possible. Thus, Save Ethnic Studies is still moving forward in hopes that we can still overturn this law in federal court and it could be as early as this spring. It is important, now more than ever, to visit our website and spread the knowledge that we will need financial support to win this case.

Last night was a small loss for our community, as well as socially relevant and culturally responsive education, but we are hopeful of victory over the injustice of this law in the months to come.

Please forgive me if I do not respond to emails quickly in the next few days. The drama and tension here is palpable. I do appreciate the words of encouragement and am confident we will win.

La Lucha Sigue!

In Lak Ech,

Curtis Acosta

Letter 2: (January 14, 2012)

First and foremost, thank you for your kind words and the positive energy you have sent our way this past week. We very much need it.

After meeting with our site administrators on Wednesday afternoon, we have been told that our entire curriculum and pedagogy must end immediately. Our students were mortified to hear the news and asked many amazing questions which we have few answers for except that the entire climate and content of our classes must drastically change.

In sum, we have been told that we cannot teach any race, ethnic or oppression themed lessons or units. However, there has been no specific guidance and since our pedagogy is also deemed "illegal" than we are not sure HOW to teach either. I asked if I could start teaching Shakespeare's The Tempest and was told no, due to the themes that are present and the likelihood of avoiding discussions of colonization, enslavement, and racism were remote.

Adding more uneasiness and first amendment chill to our lives, we are still unclear if we will be found out of compliance with the law if our students discuss themes of race, ethnicity or oppression. I will give your more details about the changes in our classrooms as this unfolds.

Lastly, we are to be frequently monitored, student work is to be collected and books were seized from our classrooms on Friday. I have included a link to an article that explores the banning of our books in more detail.

I am in Boston (Sat) and Providence (Sun) this weekend for screenings of Precious Knowledge so if you are in the neighborhood I will see you soon.

In Lak Ech (Tu eres mi otro yo/ You are my other me),

Curtis Acosta

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Democracy Now Interview of December 29th on Arizona's Ban on Ethnic Studies

Editor: In our post below, we mentioned the interview on Democracy Now with Tucson Mexican-American history teacher Lorenzo Lopez and his daughter, Korina, a high school sophomore, who are plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit to stop the ban passed by Arizona from going into effect.  Also interviewed was Dr. Rodolfo Acuña, author of "Occupied America: A History of Chicanos," an important study of Chicano history in the United States.  We have permission to reprint the interview in its entirety for our readers.

Tucson Orders Closure of Mexican-American School Program as Ethnic Studies Faces Nationwide Threat

Democracy Now
A daily independent global news hour
With Amy Goodman & Juan Gonzalez
December 29, 2011

An Arizona administrator has ruled that the public school district in Tucson must end its acclaimed Mexican American Studies program for grades K-12, saying it violates a new state law that bans the teaching of any class designed for a particular ethnic group or that "promote[s] resentment toward a race or class of people." But the program’s supporters say the classes push the district’s largely Latino student body to excel academically while teaching them long-neglected perspectives. We speak to Tucson Mexican-American history teacher Lorenzo Lopez and his daughter, Korina, a high school sophomore. Both are plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit to stop the ban from taking effect. We’re also joined by Dr. Rodolfo Acuña, author of Occupied America: A History of Chicanos, considered the definitive introduction to Chicano history in the United States. Dr. Acuña warns copycat laws are likely to follow in other states as part of a growing campaign against ethnic studies programs, in particular Chicano studies, throughout the country. [includes rush transcript]


Lorenzo Lopez, Mexican American Studies high school teacher in the Tucson Unified School District.

Korina Lopez, Tuscon high school sophomore enrolled in a Mexican-American history class that she may never get to take.

Dr. Rodolfo Acuña, the man often called "the father of Chicano studies." He is the founding chair of Chicano Studies at California State University in Northridge, the largest such department in the United States with 30 tenured professors. Among his best-known books is Occupied America: A History of Chicanos, considered the definitive introduction to Chicano history.

JUAN GONZALEZ: We turn now to Arizona, the home of a growing debate over the future of ethnic studies classes in the public school system. Last year, Arizona passed a controversial law banning the teaching of any class designed for a particular ethnic group or that, quote, "promote[s] resentment toward a race or class of people."

School officials in Tucson defied the ban and continued offering a popular Mexican American Studies program. But on Tuesday, a judge ruled Tucson must end its acclaimed program, saying it violates the state ban. Judge Lewis Kowal wrote, quote, "Teaching in such a manner promotes social or political activism against the white people, promotes racial resentment, and advocates ethnic solidarity, instead of treating pupils as individuals."

Just before the law targeting the program went into effect earlier this year, high school students shut down a Tucson school board meeting considering a plan to cancel the courses.

PROTESTERS: Our education is under attack! What do we do? Fight back! Our education is under attack! What do we do? Fight back! Our education is under attack! What do we do? Fight back! Our education is under attack! What do we do? Fight back! Our education is under attack! What do we do? Fight back!
JUAN GONZALEZ: But as of Tuesday, Arizona’s superintendent of schools has ordered Tucson to cancel the popular Mexican American Studies program or face the loss of 10 percent of its district’s state aid, about $15 million a year. The ruling affirms a prior decision by the state superintendent of public instruction, John Huppenthal.
JOHN HUPPENTHAL: 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. Also think that this entire controversy was really a distraction that should have been handled at the local level, and the fact that it came to the state level is a symptom of more dramatic problems in the Tucson Unified School District.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Meanwhile, the program’s supporters say the classes push the district’s largely Latino student body to excel and teach long-neglected perspectives on Chicano history, literature and social justice. They’ve filed a federal lawsuit to stop the ban from going into effect. If the judge dismisses the case, Tucson’s accredited courses in Mexican-American studies for students in grades K through 12 will no longer be offered for the first time in almost a decade.

AMY GOODMAN: For more on this, we’re going to Tucson. We’re joined by Lorenzo Lopez, a Mexican American Studies high school teacher in the Tucson school district. We’re also joined by his daughter, Korina, a sophomore in high school. Both are plaintiffs in the lawsuit to save the program.

And in Los Angeles, we’re joined by a man many consider the the father of Chicano studies, Dr. Rodolfo Acuña, the founding chair of Chicano Studies at California State University in Northridge, the largest such department in the United States with 30 tenured professors. Among his best-known books is Occupied America: A History of Chicanos, considered the definitive introduction to Chicano history.

Let’s go first to Tucson. Let’s turn to Lorenzo Lopez, with his daughter, who is a Mexican American Studies teacher, Korina a student, sophomore. Talk about why you brought this lawsuit.

LORENZO LOPEZ: Well, we felt strongly that preserving the opportunity for our students to take a culturally relevant curriculum was important. It had a life-changing experience for myself. And we felt, as teachers, that it was important to preserve that opportunity for our students.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And what about this argument of the school—of the superintendent of schools and of the court that this is a divisive and teaching antagonism toward white Americans?

LORENZO LOPEZ: Well, the approach—the pedagogy that we employ is critical pedagogy, so we take an honest look at events that have taken place in the history of this country. And it’s not sugar-coated. So, in many—many people would say, "Oh, this curriculum should be reserved for the college level." But we disagree. We disagree. We feel that—we disagree with the assertion that it creates resentment. It provides a more complete look at the historical events that we cover and the historical contributions of Mexican Americans in this American fabric.

AMY GOODMAN: Korina, why is this class, the Mexican-American history class that you’re taking as a sophomore, important to you?

KORINA LOPEZ: Well, it’s very important to me because I know that it teaches a deeper understanding of history and the things you learn, and it just gives you a whole new appreciation of your community and society.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Lorenzo Lopez, I’d like to ask you, could you tell us what portion of the Tucson schools, public school system, is Chicano or Latino? And what has been the reaction in the general community to this effort by the state to do away with Mexican-American studies?

LORENZO LOPEZ: The majority of the school district, the demographics of the school district are mostly Latino. I believe they’re around 60 percent Latino. Most of the sites that we’re located in, that we teach classes in, are also a minority majority, highly Latino populations. So, one of the claims that was made was that, well, these classes are reserved specifically and only to Latino, Chicano students. And that’s completely false. I mean, a simple look at the rosters will dispel that myth.

The community, to a large extent, has been very supportive—of course, not entirely. There have been some critics locally. However, because of the efforts of a very active segment of our community, students included, as you displayed in the video earlier, we’ve been successful at retaining this opportunity for our students and future students.

AMY GOODMAN: In March, a Tucson Unified School District audit found its Mexican American Studies program gives students a measurable advantage over their peers. The audit was conducted by David Scott, the district’s director of accountability and research. In it, he wrote, quote, "Juniors taking a Mexican American Studies course are more likely than their peers to pass the [state’s standardized] reading and writing ... test if they had previously failed those tests in their sophomore year," and that "Seniors taking a Mexican American Studies course are more likely to persist to graduation than their peers." Can you explain that, Lorenzo?

LORENZO LOPEZ: Sure. Over the past few years, data has been collected from the students taking this class. They have been compared to their colleagues, to their cohorts, their graduating cohort. And this data has basically proven the effectiveness of these courses and of this program. If not for this data, I believe we would have been eliminated long ago. But the highly effective nature of this pedagogy and of this curriculum has allowed us to continue on and has honestly garnered much support in our community. It’s very difficult to argue with a highly successful curriculum and program that improves academic skills and standing for this highly marginalized segment of our community.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, we’re also joined from Los Angeles by the man considered the father of Chicano studies, Dr. Rodolfo Acuña. Dr. Acuña, could you place what’s happening in Tucson in a national perspective? What does it mean in terms of multicultural studies in the United States and the general assault on the Latino community by some sectors of the political establishment?

DR. RODOLFO ACUÑA: Well, first of all, you know, the decision in Arizona was not made by a judge. It was made by a commissioner, commissioner that’s appointed by the governor and the attorney general and is an appointee, is not an elected office. So he’s not a judge. The ruling is a state ruling; it’s not a federal ruling. However, with that said, ethnic studies programs and Chicano studies programs throughout the country are under attack, but in a more subtle way in other states. They are under attack through the budget. They’re just eliminating many of the programs. Our program is, to use a very bad phrase, is too large to fail at our particular university. Right now, the ruling is not really a danger in such. The danger is that there’s going to be an awful lot of copycat laws passed in other states. That means that we’re going to have to expend an awful lot of money defending ethnic studies at the university level.

AMY GOODMAN: Your book, Occupied America, is considered the definitive introduction to Chicano history, Occupied America: A History of Chicanos. The accusations against ethnic studies and Mexican-American studies, why it should be closed down, the quotes we just read, it engenders racial hatred, hostility, resentment towards whites—can you respond to this, Dr. Acuña?

DR. RODOLFO ACUÑA: Well, the state of Arizona, the superintendent of the schools commissioned a study, the Cambium study, that they paid $177,000 for, and it came back with the conclusion that it did not engender hatred, that it didn’t engender separation, it did not engender racism. So, consequently, you have experts, experts that were paid by the state of Arizona, that contradict the conclusions that have been made by the findings of the court.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And in terms of the—of Tucson having these programs in the public schools, in the high schools, as opposed to your programs are in the colleges, how many public school systems around the country have similar programs and could be affected if this movement in Arizona spreads?

DR. RODOLFO ACUÑA: I know of none. However, remember that the program in Tucson is the result of a suit. And they found that the school district was segregating Mexican-American students and that the school district was not complying with a 1970 order to desegregate their schools. So this was supposed to be part of the solution. It is still subject to federal supervision, the federal court supervision. However, the federal court has been derelict, and it has not enforced its own laws.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Acuña, why did you call your book Occupied America?

DR. RODOLFO ACUÑA: I called it Occupied America because it didn’t even refer to the United States. I said, when the Spaniards came and the Europeans came to the Americas, this was an occupation of the Americas. It was also the destruction of many cultures. Remember, the Mayan culture, the Aztec culture and many of the cultures were destroyed at that particular time, and there was an occupation. At that particular point, they lost the power of self-determination.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And also, your program at Cal State Northridge, the largest Chicano studies program in the country, how has it been able to flourish and develop such a national reputation?

DR. RODOLFO ACUÑA: Partly because we have a very good support from the students, we have very good support from the community, and you have some of the professors there that have supported us and some of the administrators that have supported us. Right now, we carry 166 sections of Chicano studies, and we have over 6,000 students a semester. But you have to remember, Chicano studies is a pedagogy. It is there to motivate students. You know, we’ve graduated more students that have gone through our classes of Mexican extraction and Latino extraction that have become doctors, lawyers, teachers, engineers than the University of Arizona during the same time period. It motivates students. And the purpose of Chicano studies is to motivate students to want to learn.

AMY GOODMAN: And the content—we just have less than a minute, Dr. Acuña—of what you would describe as Mexican-American studies, as ethnic studies, and why you feel it’s important?

DR. RODOLFO ACUÑA: It’s an area studies, and you look at the information on Mexican Americans, Mexicans in the United States, through an interdisciplinary method. We have courses in literature, history, the arts, the humanities, education, and it is a multidisciplinary approach to learning.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you very much for being with us, Dr. Rodolfo Acuña, founding chair of Chicano Studies at California State University, Northridge, the largest such department in the United States, with 30 tenured professors, 6,000 students. Among his best-known books, Occupied America: A History of Chicanos. That does it for our show. Thank you so much to Lorenzo Lopez, a Mexican American Studies teacher, and his daughter Korina, high school sophomore, enrolled in the Mexican-American history program in Tucson that’s threatened with ending. And we’ll continue to follow it.

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Sunday, January 1, 2012

Welcoming the New Year with our Fifth Anniversary Edition of the Journal of Educational Controversy

We will soon be welcoming in the new year with the publication of our Fifth Anniversary Edition of the Journal of Educational Controversy.  Our delay was caused by our attempts to experiment with new and innovative approaches in our electronic journal.  For example, one section of our upcoming issue brings the reader inside a model school in the National League of Democratic Schools with a unique combination of print, websites, documents and video.  We have over twenty videos of actual classroom practices that are embedded in the article.  We also tried an experiment with our book review section.  In place of one of the printed reviews, we feature a video with two professors and a school teacher discussing the book with a printed response by the author to the review of his book following the video.  We believe that an electronic journal should not just be a clone of a printed journal, but should take advantage of everything this new medium makes possible. 

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank all our readers for their loyal support of our journal.  Send your ideas to us for future issues.  We are also opening up our pool of reviewers.  If you are interested in becoming a reviewer for the Journal of Educational Controversy, send us your vita at: