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Monday, December 24, 2012

Cultural studies teach concept of humanity

Cultural studies teach concept of humanity

 by Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez

Arizona Republic Dec. 24, 2012

"It is a persistent rule of governance that the more remote government officials are from the people governed, the more clueless they are about governing."

Thus begins Doug MacEachern's anti-Mexican-American studies screed in The Arizona Republic ("Insidious Latino studies being revived at Tucson schools," Viewpoints, Dec. 16). His insight should apply not simply to government officials but to anyone who is both geographically removed from Tucson and who is also unfamiliar with the subject at hand. This also applies to MAS critics, most of whom are non-scholars, and especially non-MAS educators, most of whom do not have children in Tucson Unified School District schools and who have never set foot in an MAS classroom.

Part of his assertion is that support for MAS comes primarily from a few Marxist, wild-eyed University of Arizona professors. Not quite. To see a petition in support of MAS by more than 5,300 wild-eyed scholars/educators nationwide, go to

In this case, in the process of decrying the return of Tucson's MAS via the federal courts, the Republic columnist essentially advocates for "states' rights." Historically, this is code for anti-civil rights. His thesis is that the federal courts have a "remote" -- and thereby illegitimate -- relationship to Arizona. In a state that has produced the likes of Gov. Jan Brewer and Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who advance similar arguments, it is easy to see why MacEachern embraces that same philosophy.

The attack against MAS is actually based on personal disdain by then-state schools Superintendent Tom Horne, triggered by labor leader Dolores Huerta's 2006 observation that "Republicans hate Latinos," rather than any sound basis. After nearly 40 years of existence of the discipline, Horne unilaterally declared raza studies outside of Western civilization and was the intellectual author of the 2010 anti-ethnic studies House Bill 2281, which, in effect, made MAS/Raza studies illegal.

Proof that there is no sound basis for eliminating MAS comes to us from Jon Stewart's show, featuring TUSD school-board member Michael Hicks. In it, he denigrates the discipline and accuses MAS teachers of indoctrinating students via burritos. It is this tragicomic lunacy that culminated in shutting down MAS and the banning of its books earlier this year. And yet, it backfired.

Now, sensing a major defeat, these MAS critics are resorting to demonizing the federal courts ... 40 years too late. As a result of a 1974 desegregation lawsuit, TUSD was found guilty in 1978 of segregation and to this day remains out of compliance.

Earlier this year, U.S. District Judge David Bury appointed Willis Hawley of the University of Maryland to create a plan to bring the district into compliance. Hawley brought the four parties together, including the Fisher (African-American) and Mendoza (Mexican-American) plaintiffs, plus Justice Department and TUSD attorneys. It is they who agreed to a desegregation plan that is now before Bury. Part of the plan, to which the state and TUSD object, includes the expansion of Mexican-American and African-American culturally relevant classes, as core curriculum, into every high school in the district and also into the lower grades. A ruling is expected in early 2013. 
Contrary to what MacEachern asserts, funding would come from annual $62 million federal desegregation monies, not locally generated funds.

Bury will make the decision on the plan, not the MAS community. At the judge's disposal are transcripts from court and community hearings and academic studies that MAS critics, without foundation, like to thrash, primarily because they consistently affirm the success of MAS. Thrashing the legitimacy of the studies is at best subterfuge for their disdain of MAS.

If indeed it were up to the Tucson MAS community, it would include the creation of Mexican-American indigenous studies, along with African-American, American Indian, Asian-American, Middle Eastern, female and LGBT studies.

The primary feature of these different disciplines is not the teaching of history per se, but rather rehumanization or the study of what it means to be human. In the times in which we are living, it is difficult to see how that can be construed as negative.

Roberto Rodriguez is an assistant professor in Mexican-American Studies at the University of Arizona and can be reached at: -


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