This week, eleven teachers in Tucson, Arizona sued the state board of education and superintendent for an impending ban on Mexican-American studies.
In a state already embroiled in controversy, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne defended a new law allowing superintendents to stop any ethnic studies classes that “promote the overthrow of the United States government ... promote resentment toward a race or class of people ... (or) advocate ethnic solidarity instead of treatment of pupils as individuals.”
The law, which takes effect December 31st, allows the state to withhold 10 percent of monthly aid ($3 million) for Tucson Unified School District No. 1.
Horne objects to the Mexican-American studies program, formerly known as “raza studies”, because he says its textbook, “Occupied America: A History of Chicanos” negatively emphasizes the world “occupied” when pointing to the fact that the American Southwest once belonged to Mexico. Horne said he doesn’t oppose history lessons about the Southwestern states, but claims the Tucson district was teaching that history in an objectionable manner.
“They teach them that this is occupied territory that should be given back,” Horne said.
When a reporter asked students if they believed any of the Southwestern states should be returned to Mexico, not a single student raised their hand. When asked if they believed the region belonged to the U.S., every student raised their hand.
Instructors likened the Mexican-American program to that of African-American and Middle Eastern studies programs, which are not in jeopardy. They point out that the new law does not take issue with other courses required under federal law for Native American pupils or other genocides or historical oppression against a group of people based on class, ethnicity, or race.
The teachers’ lawsuit says the law ‘was enacted by the legislature of the state of Arizona and signed into law by (Gov. Jan) Brewer as a result of racial bias and anti-Hispanic beliefs and sentiments.’