Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show” featured a comedic report this week about the Tucson Unified School District’s controversial dismantling of its Mexican American Studies program. Critics of the district were highly amused and eagerly shared the video on social media. But in Tucson, not everybody was laughing.
In the segment, “fake news” correspondent Al Madrigal interviews Tucson school board member Michael Hicks. Hicks ends up coming off as inarticulate and bumbling in his criticism of the MAS program. His comments include misidentifying Rosa Parks as Rosa “Clark” and suggesting that class instructors bribed students with burritos.
“My concern was a lot of the radical ideas that they were teaching in these classes, telling these kids that this is their land, the whites took it over, and the only way to get out from beneath the gringo–which is the white man–is by bloodshed,” he told Madrigal.
Hicks also is mocked for his response to being asked about whether he’d actually attended any of the classes. “I base my thoughts on hearsay from others,” he said to laughter in the background.
Former MAS teacher Curtis Acosta is also interviewed in defense of the classes, saying the students felt more engaged in school after taking the courses. “We don’t teach them to hate white people,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is provide a more complex version of what has happened in our past so that our students are engaged and can ask themselves critical questions and build their own understanding.”
In an editorial, The Arizona Republic called the segment “a cringe-inducing humiliation” of Hicks and a “hit job.” The newspaper suggests that the school board president would have been a more articulate representative of the district and also defends the decision to dismantle the program. “Honest education expands horizons and creates context,” the editorial noted. “It doesn’t restrict knowledge to narrow points of view designed to lead students to a preordained conclusion that their country is a hateful place offering no future for them.”
Meanwhile, the Arizona Daily Star editorial board weighed in to say that Hicks’ comments embarrassed himself and Tucson. “Hicks demonstrates, with cringe-worthy perfection, that he has no real clue about the MAS courses, and a wide array of other topics a reasonable person might expect a school board member to understand,” the paper notes.
As for Hicks, he released a statement saying that his comments were taken out on context.
The segments show that the Tucson showdown continues to be highly emotional. What can you take away from the comments by Hicks and Acosta? Does your school district have any ethnic studies courses and have they been controversial? If Latino history is included in instruction, how is it taught? Or is Hispanic history simply not addressed at all?