As uncomfortable as this incident and those that followed were, I can say with certainty that I have never disliked anyone as much as I have the political and educational establishment in Arizona.
But you know what, we as a community should accept some of the blame. We in California have not done a very good job of working with Tucson and other smaller communities that are extremely vulnerable to xenophobia. As I have mentioned the pace there is slower, and there is not the kind of veteran leadership needed to fend off irrational assaults on the civil and human rights. Places like Los Angeles move at faster pace, and gutter politics are taken for granted, and you learn over time not to get too cynical.
In establishing Chicana/o Studies I encountered racists such as the jerk that made the comment about the flies. However, I found support from unlikely sources. One top ranking administrator told me bluntly that he did not believe in Chicano Studies but it was his job to help me, which he did. As much as anyone he deserves credit for our success. The administrator was ultraconservative and a Republican at that. But he was a professional.
In Arizona, I not found many professional educators on the other side. They always seem to be parroting political biases rather than weighing what is good pedagogy and what benefits students.
In this environment I have become very cynical – much too much so. I did not consider that professional pride often trumps bad politics, and for as bad as things are, Arizona is not the belly button of the earth.
When the court appointed a Special Master I was wary. I assumed that Dr. Willis Hawley would do what was expedient and come up with a plan that would placate Superintendent John Pedicone and the Tucson School District Governing Board. It is obvious from the record that the chair Mark Stegeman ran the board and that he had an intense dislike of the Mexican American program. I did not distinguish between the two – – the truth be told, Hawley is a professional and Stegeman is a political hack.
I should have known better. Hawley’s professional career is lit up with achievements. Hawley is a professional, and just because he knew little about Mexican American students, it did not mean he would not act professionally. I apologize for these assumptions, they were not fair. I should have known better. Moreover, Hawley is not from Arizona and he does not share its colonial or provincial mentality. More so I should have been alerted that there were exceptions by the Cambium Report (2011).
The Arizona Superintendent of Instruction John Huppenthal ordered the Cambium study that cost the taxpayers at least $112,000 (initial reports say $170,000). According to Huppenthal, the report was supposed to prove that the TUSD Mexican American Studies program was un-American, racist, promoted the overthrow of the government and was ineffective. Most of us feared the worse because the study was commissioned by Huppenthal and his obsessed predecessor Attorney General Tom Horne.
When the report finally came back in May 2011, a columnist for the Phoenix Times wrote, “I’ve just finished reading the Cambium report on Tucson Unified School District’s much-maligned Mexican American Studies Department. It’s a shocker.”
There was no evidence that “any classroom within Tucson Unified School District is in direct violation of the law [Arizona Revised Statutes] 15-112(A).” Cambiun contradicted Huppenthal’s claim that it violated HB 2281. The classes did not promote resentment toward “a certain race or class.” The reading materials were also appropriate.
According to the Cambium Report students taking MAS classes were more likely to pass reading and writing portions of the standardized tests. “Consequently, high school seniors enrolled in a MASD course are more likely to graduate than their peers.” The study praised the program.
It recommended keeping the MAS classes as “core courses.” In all it was a 120 pages. But the media Cambium almost totally ignored the findings. Instead, it relied on the spins of Huppenthal and other elected officials. In short, the media was too lazy to read the report. Huppenthal with no evidence whatsoever said that he believed the courses caused “unhealthy segregation” – this is the height of mendacity. The truth be told, Arizona and Tucson have been under a court order to desegregate for almost 40 years, and as a matter of record it is promoting charter schools as a means of circumventing the law.