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On the Banning of

Mexican-American Studies

in Tucson, Arizona



* "Banning ethnic studies won't end idea" by James E. Garcia, USA Today (January 16, 2012)

* "Killing ethnic studies the wrong move. GOP succeeded in proving what Tucson classes only hinted at

by Linda Valdez, The Republic (January 16, 2012) .

* "Petition to Repeal the Most Recent Arizona State Government Ruling Outlawing the Teaching of Ethnic/Racial Studies" By Donald H. Smith (January 9, 2012)


Banning ethnic studies

won't end idea

by James E. Garcia

USA Today (January 16, 2012)


My cultural heritage has been outlawed.


That is the clear-cut intent of an administrative judge's ruling last week that the Mexican-American-studies program at the Tucson Unified School District violated House Bill 2281.


The law was co-written by then-state Sen. John Huppenthal, now the state public-schools superintendent. The bill was the brainchild of state Attorney General Tom Horne. Horne and Huppenthal crafted HB2281 to kill the 14-year-old TUSD program. It was shepherded through the Legislature by recently ousted Senate President Russell Pearce. Gov. Jan Brewer signed it into law.


Threatened with the loss of $15million in state funding if it did not sack its Mexican-American-studies program, the TUSD governing board voted to end it and immediately transfer hundreds of students to so-called traditional social-studies classes midsemester.


In other words, a program that taught high-school students about the history and culture of Mexican-Americans -- the people with whom I share a distinct part of my heritage -- has been outlawed, some say "criminalized."


How did this happen?


To be blunt: A relatively small contingent of powerful, bigoted public officials have worked relentlessly to make it happen.


Why did it happen?


It happened because the state's Latino population has nearly doubled in the past 20 years and the right wing is angry and afraid that it is helpless to stop it. In one generation, Latinos will be 50 percent of the state's population and, short of declaring martial law and deporting everyone with brown skin, there's nothing anyone can do to prevent that.


I have taught ethnic studies to university students. The courses I taught included lectures about the brutal treatment of America's native populations, the inhumanity of Black slavery, widespread discrimination against Irish, German and Chinese immigrants, and the racist treatment of Mexican-Americans and other Latinos.


In the area of Mexican-American studies, I taught students of all ethnic backgrounds about Latino Arizona miners in the 1950s who were paid a lower wage than their White co-workers even though they did the same work.


I taught students how some Arizonans used to hang signs in front of businesses that read, "No Mexicans or dogs allowed." I taught students how Latino World War II veterans earned medals for bravery in battle only to be told upon their return to the United States that they could not buy homes in White neighborhoods.


My goal as a teacher of ethnic studies was never to foment hatred against Whites or to promote segregation, but to simply educate students about the full breadth of American history and culture, good and bad, so they would know how far as a nation we have come -- and how far we have yet to go.


I had that in common with the teachers in Tucson's Mexican-American-studies program.


I know this because I have listened with pride to the students who took those courses as they've recounted how it made them believe for the first time in their worth and contributions.


The late educator and civil-rights activist Myles Horton, who helped train the likes of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and Congressman John Lewis, once said, "You can't padlock an idea."


Likewise, Mexican-American and ethnic studies are ideas. And you cannot outlaw ideas.


James E. Garcia is a Phoenix-based playwright, university lecturer and media and policy strategist.




Killing ethnic studies

the wrong move

GOP succeeded in proving what Tucson classes only hinted at

by Linda Valdez, columnist

The Republic (January 16, 2012) .


TUCSON - The elephant stomped on the mouse. It pounded its big Republican foot and declared ethnic studies at Tucson Unified School District dead.

What a proud moment.


If the goal was to demonstrate that the dominant culture is out to get Latinos, then the crusade launched by Attorney General Tom Horne when he was state superintendent of public instruction was a rousing success.


Horne and current schools chief John Huppenthal, another rising star in Arizona's Republican firmament, gave Latinos reason to worry about how Republicans use power.


The fight began in 2006, after labor organizer Delores Huerta told an assembly of Tucson High Magnet School students that "Republicans hate Latinos." Horne sent his then-deputy, Margaret Dugan, to set them straight. Students were unspeakably rude to Dugan.


A stern lecture would have been appropriate. Maybe a program of politeness studies. Horne went full-bore after Mexican-American studies.

The ethnic-studies programs were started in response to lawsuits claiming the district did not serve the needs of Black and Latino students. Only programs aimed at Latinos were targeted by Horne.


Did the classes need improving? Probably. Should the history of formerly oppressed people be taught to all students in regular social-studies classes? Undoubtedly.


But it is pure baloney to say that a class designed to discuss how Latinos were oppressed in this country creates dangerous resentment. Should we also ban teaching about Indian Reservations so Native Americans don't get upset?


Should we pretend women always have been able to vote? And slavery? Well, let's don't even go there. It could stir bad feelings.

This nation was founded by White landowners who did not recognize the rights of slaves, Native Americans, women and other minorities. The absolute genius of those men is that they included ideals in this nation's founding documents that have been used to expand human rights ever since.


This country is great because of its proven ability to move beyond a history of discriminating against people on the basis of race, color, gender, national origin or sexual orientation.


Learning about that empowers young people to demand the best from their government.


But when Republican Huppenthal was in the Legislature, he championed Horne's cause, and the GOP-controlled Legislature passed a law aimed right at Mexican-American studies. As schools chief, Huppenthal brought down the big elephant's foot. The district would lose $14 million this fiscal year if it didn't kill the classes.


When the Tucson Unified School District governing board voted last week to end them, Tucson High senior Nicholas Dominguez put things in perspective. He said that the classes helped him understand his Latino culture and that "when my grandmother was at TUSD, she was not allowed to express herself."


This is notable for two reasons. First: His grandmother was likely punished if she spoke Spanish in public school. The ethnic-studies program was clearly a response to past discrimination. Second: This young man is not an immigrant, he's a child of Arizona.


Years of over-the-top anti-immigrant rhetoric from the state's Republican leaders primed the pump to go after Mexican-American studies. The resentment nurtured by the right against illegal immigrants from Mexico made classes designed to instill Latino pride an easy target.


The Horne/Huppenthal bill was signed in 2010, shortly after our Republican governor, Jan Brewer, made herself a cable-news celebrity by signing SB 1070, which was then the toughest anti-immigrant law in the nation.

Ironically, students might have forgotten what Dolores Huerta said five minutes after they left the assembly.


Teenagers are like that.


Horne, Huppenthal, Brewer and the state's other Republicans made sure the lesson stuck. Today's students won't forget seeing the GOP power structure come down on their classrooms.


Congratulations to those who crushed ethnic studies. You won. You also alienated the fastest-growing segment of the population.


Reach Valdez at



Petition to Repeal the Most Recent

Arizona State Government Ruling

Outlawing the Teaching of Ethnic/Racial Studies

By Donald H. Smith (January 9, 2012)


This is a Petition to Repeal the most recent Arizona State Government ruling outlawing the teaching of ethnic/racial Studies. These studies are vital for the emotional and cultural healing of people of color and for enlightening other Americans.


The racist Arizona ruling not only applies to Mexican American Studies, it also implicates Black/African American/Africana Studies, Latino/Hispanic Studies, Native American and Asian Studies within public schools and state and city colleges and universities. Given their records, there is NO presidential candidate--Democratic or Republican--who will support the fight to repeal this ruling. That's why I signed a petition to The Arizona State House, The Arizona State Senate, and 4 others. I hope you will sign this petition, send it on to colleagues and your listservs.


Click here:


Thank you for supporting this vital support for the teaching of ethnic/racial studies.


Donald H. Smith, Ph.D. is a member of the Coordinating Committee of the National Black Education Agenda. He can be contactecd at