[lg policy] Letter to the Editor: Controversial Arizona Law Deserves Scholars' Attention

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at GMAIL.COM
Wed Jun 29 15:08:37 UTC 2011

Controversial Arizona Law Deserves Scholars' Attention

To the Editor:

The Chronicle of Higher Education has not fully covered what is
happening in Arizona, where state legislators passed a measure, HB
2281, that prohibits schools from offering classes that promote ethnic
solidarity or advocate the overthrow of the government. Arizona's
state superintendent of public instruction, John Huppenthal, ran on a
promise to eliminate the Tucson Unified School District's Mexican
American Studies program. He charged that the program was subversive
and promoted racism. Despite an investigation of the Arizona office of
the Anti-Defamation League that cleared the program, Mr. Huppenthal
commissioned Cambium Learning Group Inc. to conduct a $170,000 study
to support his allegations. After months of harassment, a report came
back this month invalidating the allegations, saying that the program
was not racist or unpatriotic and praising the program.

The Mexican American Studies program at the middle- and high-school
levels offer 45 sections per semester. The Tucson Unified School
District is 70 percent Latino; the Mexican American Studies classes
are attended by students of all races. The dropout rate in the
district has been above 50 percent, but students in the Mexican
American Studies program have done much better, with a graduation rate
in the 90th percentile.

The program legally is protected, because only two years ago the
Tucson Unified School District was released from federal oversight
imposed as a result of a desegregation order in the 1970s. A condition
set by the court was that the school district file, and comply with, a
unitary plan. The district filed a plan that assured the status of
Mexican American Studies. But Mr. Huppenthal hopes has conspired—along
with John Pedicone, the Tucson superintendent of schools, and two
school-board members, Mark Stegeman and Michael Hicks,—to break the
district's agreement with the federal courts.

The community is fighting back. It has filed a suit challenging HB
2281 and attempts to eliminate Mexican American Studies. But students,
teachers, and community members have been attacked, arrested, and
threatened with job loss. In over 50 years as an educator, I have
rarely seen this type of repression. Arizona is a state without laws.
It comes down on those expressing their free-speech rights while
allowing and condoning Tea Partyers and so-called Minutemen to run
around with holstered guns.

I urge educators to go to http://saveethnicstudies.org/ and learn what
is happening.

Rodolfo F. Acuñ
Professor Emeritus
Chicana/o Studies Department
California State University at Northridge
Northridge, Calif.



 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com


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