Only days after college-bound Ethnic Studies graduates collected their diplomas and a widely praised Tucson forum allowed the community to discuss the city’s acclaimed Ethnic Studies/Mexican American Studies Program, the increasingly isolated state superintendent of education plans to release the results of his delayed and costly audit for compliance with Arizona’s controversial Ethnic Studies ban.
In essence: With the city just now recovering from its own Tucson Unified School District’s (TUSD) notorious bungling of two school board meetings last month, the Ethnic Studies/Mexican American Studies (MAS) teachers, students and Save Ethnic Studies supporters are bringing together diverse communities to effectively serve the district’s students, while Arizona state superintendent John Huppenthal appears ready to revamp the state’s radical descent into extremism and escalate this manufactured crisis.
With his widely discredited audit in hand, if Huppenthal, who served as a featured speaker at an extremist Tea Party rally that conjured despicable images of President Obama as a "Nazi," declares the Ethnic Studies/MAS Program to be out of compliance, the state superintendent can call on TUSD to terminate the program or punish the district with a $15 million withholding of state funds.
At last week’s heartfelt forum at the Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Tucson, four members of the TUSD school board — including critics of the Ethnic Studies Program — and intergenerational citizens from across the district heard from a panel of distinguished education experts on the program’s long-time mandate and documented success in alleviating the achievement gap among area students.
Soundly debunking the state’s charges that the program teaches children to "overthrow the government" and promote ethnic chauvinism, university scholars and administrators explained the widely accepted approach of teaching culturally relevant curriculum. One Ethnic Studies/MAS student and UNIDOS activist, a Tucson native of Pakistani-American origin, spoke on how the culturally relevant courses transcended ethnic barriers and improved her and fellow students’ academic performance and assisted their intellectual and emotional growth and achievement. Independent assessments have confirmed the program’s unprecedented success over the past decade.
Huppenthal’s absence was no less noticeable than that of TUSD Superintendent John Pedicone, whose use of excessive police force and conflicting communication with various community interests have been widely denounced as a disgrace and public relations nightmare for the city and school district. In his "State of the District" last week, Pedicone dismissed the Ethnic Studies crisis as a "distraction," and in a breath-taking revision of events, claimed "that threats made against our students and the audience at the next board meeting resulted in the Tucson Police Department having to make several arrests." In truth, Pedicone had 69-year-old Tucson educator Lupe Castillo, among others, arrested at a May 3 board meeting for attempting to read Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s "Letter from the Birmingham Jail."