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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

TUSD audits threaten culture

Imagine private investigators sitting in the corner of your classroom. They’ve been hired by your school district to see if what you’re discussing is too controversial, thus illegal. They’re taking notes on what you say.

Imagine these investigators seeking hints of ethnic chauvinism. What would that look like? They’re also looking for plans to overthrow the government after learning alternative perspectives of history.

This isn’t a “”1984″” scenario, this is reality in the Tucson Unified School District. Students enrolled in TUSD’s ethnic studies program are faced each day with private auditors in their classrooms, jotting notes. These auditors were hired by the Arizona Department of Education from the Cambium Learning Group of Dallas for $170,000.

The simple notion of youth in Arizona being able to comprehend the complexity of the history of this country, gaining empowerment in an intellectual identity, has become what politicians fear the most.

One week after S.B. 1070 was signed, Arizona showed its xenophobic backbone with a bill to exterminate beautiful and invaluable knowledge of cultures. On May 11, 2010, Gov. Jan Brewer signed House Bill 2281, the state ban on ethnic studies courses being taught in public schools. Since then, Tucson has urged the district to support the program by not complying with the bill and listening to the youth.

H.B. 2281 states classes cannot be taught if they “”promote the overthrow of the U.S. government, promote the resentment toward a race or class of people, are designed to primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group, or advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.””

The ambiguity of how to tell if a classroom of students is plotting to overthrow the government shows in TUSD’s inability to cope with the stupidity. The district makes indirect decisions on education instead of speaking with the youth directly impacted by these decisions.

Without being able to define what it means to promote ethnic chauvinism or solidarity, the district went ahead and hired auditors to find what they don’t  know to look for. Local KGUN9 News couldn’t even get a direct interview with Cambium Learning Group. Instead, they received an email that couldn’t explain how their audit questions would help to determine if the classes are out of compliance.

According to KGUN9, in early March, “”The audit team’s lead investigator, Dr. Steve Gallon, stepped down after the Save Ethnic Studies group learned he was arrested and accused of conspiring to commit theft of educational services in New Jersey where he lives.””

As quickly as the lead auditor took off, TUSD gave into pressure by the state. Without ever defining the bill’s ambiguity, TUSD decided to write up a resolution to comply.

According to the resolution posted by the Tucson Citizen on Tuesday, “”Commencing with the 2011-12 academic year, the MAS courses cannot be used to satisfy the state’s core Social Science requirements. The courses used to satisfy those requirements should be taught by regular high school faculty and expose all students to a common set of diverse viewpoints.””

Of ethnic studies course offered, Mexican American studies was singled out. Without addressing a real issue, they instead propose an even cloudier question: What does a “”common”” and “”diverse”” viewpoint look like?

TUSD runs around in circles by claiming, “”The MAS courses are deliberately founded upon a specific political and educational philosophy … Students who rely on these courses to satisfy core requirements may thus hear … a relatively narrow range of viewpoints.””

If this viewpoint can’t be given a classroom, what is allowed to have one? If a course’s mission is to explore the specific contributions of Mexican-Americans in the US, is that considered ethnic chauvinism?

If we doubt youth’s ability to engage in their country’s history and their culture’s contributions to it, we invalidate their existence as individuals in our society. We cannot allow for knowledge to be suppressed from young minds. The past should never be manipulated or dimmed, only preserved to encourage a critical consciousness.

 

— Elisa Meza is a junior studying English. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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