The Return of Mexican American Studies to Tucson

Arizona state law dismantled the Mexican American Studies program offered by the Tucson Unified School District with a ban on ethnic studies courses passed three years ago. But due to a judge’s desegregation order, the program appears to be headed for a resurrection.

The course was removed due to the ban– but a judge’s order for “culturally relevant” classes appears to be enough to revive it. According to an NPR report, the Mexican American Studies courses were originally created due to a desegregation order.

Classes haven’t resumed and apparently district officials are working to ensure that they offer a program that is acceptable to the state. The program had been criticized by critics who said it fostered anger toward Anglos.

Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal has also commented on the difficulty of bringing back classes that he would deem acceptable.

“Do you cover those injustices in a way in which we say these are profound things that we should be aware of and we have to work in this country to make this country a better place? Or do you use those injustices to create racial division, and do you use those injustices to create hatred?” asked Huppenthal, according to NPR.

Related Links:

– “Tucson Revives Mexican-American Studies Program,” NPR. 

– Mexican American Studies May Return to Tucson, Arizona, Kind Of. The Huffington Post. 

– “Rift in Arizona as Latino Class is Found Illegal,” The New York Times. 

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Will Tucson’s Desegregation Plan Bring Ethnic Studies Back?

Plaintiffs in a decades-long federal desegregation case against the Tucson Unified School District have filed a plan with the court calling for a culturally relevant curriculum for Latino and black students, among other requests. While it does not mention it in name, the proposal could mean a push to resurrect the district’s controversial Mexican American Studies program, which was dismantled last school year. The plaintiffs want to see courses that reflect the history and culture of Mexican Americans.

“The restoration and expansion of literature and social studies courses that focus on Mexican American experiences recognizes the important role these courses play in engaging students and improving their academic achievement and graduation rates and is a critical strategy for closing the achievement gap for Latino students,” said the plaintiffs’ attorney Nancy Ramirez, with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, in a news release.

The school district has been overseen for more than 30 years under the desegregation case.

The “Unitary Status Plan” proposal also calls for integrating magnet programs and schools, increasing diversity among administrators, and setting goals for increasing Latino and black student enrollment in gifted programs, reports the Arizona Daily Star.

Further bolstering the plan, a new study by the University of Arizona concludes that the MAS courses positively affected student achievement.

The Daily Star reported that school board members had a mixed reaction to the proposal, but overall called it an improvement over previous plans.

Board member Adelita Grijalva expressed hopes that the plan would give “specific direction” for the return of the MAS program. Board member Michael Hicks took the opposing view and disagreed with the proposal calling for culturally relevant courses. He thought such courses could segregate students. But he didn’t entirely reject it.

“Although the board had reservations with some of the requests, it’s a good plan,” he told the newspaper. “Let’s see what the judge does.”

Related Links:

– “Latinos support latest plan for TUSD balance.” Arizona Daily Star. 

– Mexican American Studies: Tucson Courses Improved Achievement, New Report Says.” The Huffington Post. 

“MALDEF joins in filing draft plan to desegregate and improve educational achievement for Latino students in Tucson Unified School District.” MALDEF.

– “Ethnic Studies Could Return to Tucson in Desegregation Plan.” Learning the Language Blog. Education Week.