Journal of Educational Controversy


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


Michael Patterson said...

Ethic Studies courses should not be banned because every ethnicity should be taught their history for traditional purposes,understanding and confidence as well.This course will also play a huge part in identity especially for these high school students.High school is where people search for who thy are and being exposed to their cultural background is very significant in this time.

Anonymous said...

Oh don't fear..."ethnic" studies will's just that the white supremacists in the AZ government mean to only allow one ethnicity.

Marjorie said...

This is a deeply disturbing story. Yes, indeed, what are they afraid of. My thoughts are with all of you, your colleagues and your students at this harrowing time.

Tony said...

Specialized education, if it supplants your standard social studies classes, can be detrimental to a students' education. Texan students, for instance, are notoriously bad at World History because the curriculum is so focused on Texas History.

I'm not sure if Mexican American studies replaces World History classes in Tucson, but if it does, I'm of the opinion that a more generalized history education is more widely applicable and beneficial.

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