Stumbling further into the quagmire of a national public relations disaster, drastic new measures by Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) officials have turned the “manufactured crisis” over the Ethnic Studies/Mexican American Studies Program into a troubling moral crisis for the city—and the country.
As Tucson school officials appear to unravel with increasing controversy, Mexican American Studies (MAS) students and UNIDOS activists are now emerging as the calmest standard-bearers of civil discourse for the community.
In an op-ed today, two MAS students made a simple request: If the TUSD officials are truly interested in dialogue, they should table a controversial resolution that has divided the community.
Instead, in an alarming crackdown on the non-violent UNIDOS student campaign last week that attracted national praise for its celebratory actions and demands for basic democratic involvement in education, the backpedaling TUSD superintendent John Pedicone has shocked the community by hiring costly armed guards to monitor this Tuesday’s rescheduled governing school board vote over a controversial school board resolution to strip the accreditation of the Ethnic Studies Program.
Only months ago, the Chicago-transplanted Pedicone declared the draconian state ban on Ethnic Studies was unconstitutional and a challenge to the law would be “the first hurdle.” In a candidate’s forum last fall, Pedicone even admitted: “If you look at the data, it is hard to argue with the success this program has with a historically under served population.” In fact, a recent TUSD analysis demonstrated the achievements of the MAS program.
In a disturbing provocation this Sunday, Pedicone, who reportedly lives out of the district in the affluent suburb of Oro Valley, published an incendiary oped in the Arizona Daily Star that offensively denigrated student efforts “as pawns,” blamed adults for “abhorrent” behavior and falsely categorized last week’s widely denounced resolution vote as only a “discussion.”
As Tucson attorney Richard Martinez noted last week in a debate with TUSD board president Mark Stegmen, the divisive resolution prematurely subverts an unfinished state audit in disarray, as well as a federal suit challenging the constitutionality of the new state law banning ethnic studies. In a quiet but stunning smackdown of Stegemen’s misguided efforts, Martinez framed the TUSD effort as part of a “manufactured crisis.”