Original opinion appears in: TUSD board should appeal the dismantling of Mexican American Studies.
As University of Arizona faculty, professionals and alumni, we are deeply concerned about the dismantling of Tucson Unified School District’s Mexican American Studies program. We argue that it is imperative that this decision be reconsidered.
The polarization that we currently see between majority and minority communities, the damage that we already see done to the TUSD MAS students, and the lack of understanding of the implications that the dismantling of MAS has on ethnic relations for Tucson is what compels us to speak out.
Some have argued that the MAS program served only a small number of low socioeconomic status children who should receive cultural education at home.
As used to be the case with women and African-Americans, Latinos and Native Americans are not aware of their role in, and contributions to, U.S. history because until recently there has not been a critical mass of scholars able to conduct serious research in these areas.
The accomplishments of the students who took MAS courses speak for themselves: They passed the AIMS test, graduated and attended college at the same or higher rate than their TUSD peers who did not take these courses.
According to TUSD institutional data, those who participated in the curriculum brought up all their grades (even math, which was not taught by the program), graduating with grades slightly higher than their peers even though their grades had been sub-par prior to taking MAS.
The independent audit from Cambium Learning Inc. commissioned by the office of the state superintendent of schools to review the TUSD MAS curriculum after A.R.S. § 15-112 was passed by the Arizona Legislature, speaks clearly. The 120-page report found that MAS did not violate state law. Yet, while ignoring the Cambium audit’s findings, the super-intendent of schools ordered TUSD to close down the MAS program, threatening to penalize TUSD with the loss of $15 million in state funding.
The TUSD board elected to close down the MAS program mainly for fear of losing 10 percent of TUSD’s budget in a district already struggling economically, and for fear of falling into “receivership” where the state would take over local control of the district, instead of legally appealing the validity of the state’s ruling in light of the findings of the Cambium audit.
TUSD has now made unavailable history books and novels written by prestigious Mexican-American authors. Most of the signatories of this op-ed have read these books and can attest to the fact that they are not “subversive,” “communist,” or promote “anti-traditional American values.”
We claim that traditional American values enshrine the rights of all citizens to study and express views that do not necessarily agree with those of the majority. This is particularly important when programs like MAS have a proven track record of improving student success.
Finally, while some allege that ethnic studies fuel racial divides, the dismantling of MAS has brought even more strife to an ethnically divided community. There are many in the Latino community who feel that this is a direct affront to their culture, that their voices are not important, that they are not valued, and that they are not equals. If our end goal is to put away racial and ethnic boundaries, the ban on MAS is having the opposite effect.
We ask the TUSD board to appeal the MAS decision in light of the Cambium Report, and to reinstate or expand the program per the report’s recommendations.
Maria Teresa Velez is a psychologist and research scientist, UA School of Family and Consumer Sciences.; Francisco A. Garcia is a UA professor of public health; and Diane Castro is a UA alumna and former student affairs administrator. Email the authors at email@example.com This column is signed by more than 50 others.
The following people signed this opinion:
Alberto Arenas, PhD, Education
Damian Baca, PhD, English
Paloma Beamer, PhD, Public Health
Nolan Cabrera, PhD, Education
Socorro Carrizosa, MA, Student Services
Scott Carvajal, PhD, Public Health
Christopher Castro, PhD, Atmospheric Science
Javier Duran, Spanish & Portuguese
Richard Eribes, PhD, Dean Emeritus, Architecture, Landscape Architecture & Planning
Antonio Estrada, MSPH, PhD, Mexican American Studies
Celestino Fernandez, PhD, Sociology
J.D. Garcia, PhD, Physics
Francisco Garcia, MD, MPH, Public Health,
Raquel Goldsmith, J.D., Mexican American Studies
Patricia Gonzáles, PhD., Mexican American Studies & American Indian Studies
Norma Gonzalez, PhD., Education
Marie Griego Jones, PhD., Education
Laura Gutierrez-Escarpita, PhD., Spanish & Portuguese
Roberto Guzman, PhD., Chemical and Environmental Engineering
Andrew Huerta, PhD. Candidate, Graduate College
Adela Licona, PhD. , English
Andrew Huerta, PhD. Candidate
Oscar Lujan, Alumni Office
Francisco Marmolejo, MBA
Luis Moll, PhD., Education
Anna Ochoa O’Leary, PhD., Mexican American Studies
Lydia Otero, PhD., Mexican American Studies
Alfred J. Quiroz, MFA, Fine Arts
Juan M. Restrepo, PhD., Mathematics & Physics
Iliana Reyes, PhD., Education
Gary Rhodes, PhD., Education
Roberto Rodriquez, PhD., Mexican American Studies
Andrea Romero, PhD., Family Studies
Cecilia B. Rosales, M.D., MPH, Public Health
Elaine Rubenstein-Avila, PhD., Education
Richard Ruiz, PhD., Education
Reyes Sierra, PhD., Chemical and Environmental Engineering
Sandra Soto, PhD., Gender and Women’s Studies
Charles Tatum, PhD. Former Dean of Humanities, Spanish & Portuguese
Maria Tellez, PhD., Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry
Maria Teresa Velez, PhD., Graduate College
William Yslas Velez, PhD., Mathematics
Gloria Alvillar, UA alumna
Diane Castro, MA
Marty Cortez, M.A
Janis Gallego, J.D.
Rick Gonzalez, J.D.
John Huerta, UA alumnus
Sofia Martinez Ramos, MBA, PhD.
Oscar R. Miranda, UA almuna
JJ Rico, J.D.
Alex Rodriquez, M.A., former TUSD Board President
Sandy Soto, MA
Juan Soto, MA
Mercy Valencia, PhD.
L. René Corrales, Ph.D., Chemistry & Biochemistry and Material Science & Engineering
Valerina Quintana, M.Ed. (alum)
Maria Telles, Ph.D.
Liz Rangel, Ph.D. (alum)
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