That is why I am so perturbed by what is happening in the Tucson Unified School District, where they are talking about replacing the highly successful Mexican Studies program with a Multicultural program as if a change in names matters. This misdeed distorts the meaning of words.
This is especially true because the district is crassly changing word meanings to adjust its actions to the racism of Tea Party types in the state. The school district leaders are yielding to the xenophobia fanned by Arizona Superintendent of Instruction John Huppenthal and Attorney General Tom Horne who claim that the word Mexican-American is un-American. Horne on occasion has gone on record as saying that the Tucson MAS program is part of a Chicano conspiracy to re-take the Southwest.
Because the TUSD and a timorous school board are afraid to challenge state’s right wing zealots led by Tea Party “intellectuals” they capitulated and dismantled MAS. They agreed to forget about the truth, and used the pretext that they were doing it because HB 2281 would take away funds if they did not comply. It did not seem to matter that the funds to operate the ethnic studies programs came from the federal government as part of a desegregation plan.
Underlying the paranoia of Horne and, for that matter, Mark Stegeman, Alex Sugiyama and Tea Party member Michael Hicks is fear of the growing Mexican American population that makes up 43 percent of the state’s public school students and a majority of the TUSD. This has led them to the same idiocy expressed by Horne. They actually believe that Mexican American Studies is part of an international conspiracy to overthrow the government.
For those of us who want definitions, this belief smacks of an irrationality similar to that of Sen. Joseph McCarthy in the aftermath of World War II. All that is missing are loyalty oaths and the hearings.
The role of people such as myself in surviving in this quagmire of meaningless words is to straighten out the impreciseness. For communication to take place words have to communicate a common sense or meaning, which in the case of Arizona is almost impossible.
What concerns me about the capitulation of the TUSD Board of Education is that it allows right-wing ideologues to erase the Truth to the point that we cannot imagine what is perfect or imperfect – obfuscating reality.
What is more tragic is that some educators are going along with it. They rationalize that they can play the system and allow the district to change the program’s name from MAS to multicultural studies. They fail to consider the history of the formation of multicultural education and Mexican American Studies, which is inherently different. Just by changing the color of a program to look like the rainbow does not make it so.
Multiculturalism is broader than Mexican American or ethnic studies programs that include Black, Asian American and Native American Studies. Multicultural education covers educational strategies and materials aimed at assisting teachers to respond to issues created by changing student demographics. It believes in pluralism: teaching about the histories, cultures, and contributions of diverse groups.