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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Apathy toward politics threatens education

On Jan. 1, Tucson Unified School District’s ethnic studies department was deemed “”out of compliance”” with H.B.2281, a legislative promise from Tom Horne, Arizona’s former Superintendent of Public Instruction, to end ethnic studies; specifically the Mexican/American Studies Department. The only way he believes he can deem this program in compliance is to either eliminate it or to personally retract $15 million from TUSD’s entire budget within 60 days. It’s Horne’s commitment to boycott his own state from Arizona’s education  that has made the district notorious as the most poorly funded system in the entire nation.

H.B.2281 has been the cause for community activism since May 2009, when Gov. Jan Brewer signed the legislation. As she rolled the pen on a line to divide the community, hundreds of students from all over Tucson gathered —arms linked around the TUSD building—less than a mile away from the UA campus. They chanted through megaphones: “”Our education is under attack! What do we do? Fight back!””

Horne and lobbyists for H.B.2281 claim that the Mexican American Studies Department encourages ethnic chauvinism and is designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group. How can one possibly claim that of a district that is 75 percent minority, and when students in the program have a 97.5 percent graduation rate, according to the department’s 10-year-long data collection? The curriculum is based on what works for this community. Looks to me like educators in this program found a loophole in filling the achievement gap of minorities nationwide that have been under the 50/50 shot of graduating.

Campus apathy for what happens in Arizona must end here. I hope we can look beyond our campus borders and realize this community needs us. Now that Arizona politics have fought to rid of youth’s education, it seems that we’re next on the list.  

Superintendent John Huppenthal has become the newest elected threat to ethnic studies at both the K-12 and UA levels. When asked where the issues were coming from, Huppenthal told the Arizona Capital Times on Oct. 29, 2010, “”That’s really the problem, this stuff is coming out of our universities and the ethnic studies here. Just dealing with it in the Tucson Unified, I think you also have to deal with it over there at the University of Arizona.””

This “”stuff”” he’s talking about is our education; our human right to equitable, accessible, successful education. This “”stuff'””is knowledge of a culture that should not be left out of the dominant narrative in our country’s history books.

Huppenthal plans to utilize the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR) as his platform for furthering his investigation of the UA ethnic-related departments. Even though ABOR is meant to serve communities, it has done nothing to stand up against H.B.2281. That’s what happens when politics control education.  

After 11 TUSD ethnic studies teachers and staff filed a lawsuit against Arizona on the unconstitutionality of H.B.2281 (backed by the United Nations), our Tucson community has only grown stronger. The heat is rising, but so are the voices. Where are ours? We can be student leaders. We can pressure our student government to pass resolutions that say more than just a strong opposition.

Students all over Arizona could be future Wildcats. Diminishing opportunities for them will further the decrease in what we are able to study here. This will result in fewer majors, minors and courses in areas deemed illegal to the community of Tucson. What are we to defend, if not our community?

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

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