Monday, January 16, 2012

The Purge of Mexican Americans in Tucson schools

by Salomón Baldenegro 
Estimadas/os: First, let’s get the media-driven nonsense out of the way: “Ethnic Studies” was not dismantled in the Tucson UnifiedSchool District. Mexican American Studies was dismantled. It is the Mexican American community whose legitimacy in this country is being challenged. It is the history and contributions of the Mexican American community that are being de-valued by the concerted attack on our community by the Mexican haters and their enablers. All the other “ethnic studies” curricula in TUSD are intact and functioning—and “legal.”
The other bit of nonsense we need to get out of the way is the fiction—purveyed most recently in the Arizona Daily Star’s editorial of Sunday, January 15—that TUSD did what it had to do, that it really had no choice but to dismantle Mexican American Studies.
The indisputable fact of the matter is that TUSD had a choice: to go along with the Mexican haters Horne and Huppenthal or appeal Huppenthal’s decision, which would have put a hold on the threatened financial penalties on TUSD until the issue was resolved in court. TUSD made the conscious and deliberate choice to support Huppenthal.
Now to the matter of TUSD’s Mexican Purge:
The Purging of the Mexicans has begun in earnest in TUSD, one day after the pusillanimous TUSD school board, led by its chief Mexican hater Mark Stegeman, voted 4-1 to join hands withTom Horne and John Huppenthal and dismantle the Mexican American Studies curriculum.
Students forced to witness the Purge
The very next day after its nefarious vote, while classes were in session, TUSD conducted a purge of any and all books and teaching materials having to do with Mexican Americans and/or that deal with topics that are banned (e.g., civil rights) from MAS classrooms. Award-winning journalist Jeff Biggers reports that,
“According to district spokeperson Cara Rene, the books ‘will be cleared from all classrooms, boxed up and sent to the Textbook Depository for storage.’ ”
(The link below takes you to Biggers’ article in Salon.)
TUSD teachers and students who witnessed the purging of the books corroborate what Biggers reports. (Below is a link to a Three Sonorans article that contains relevant video about this.)

The depth of TUSD Superintendent John Pedicone’s hate for our students is evident in his ordering that the classrooms be purged of the books and teaching materials during class, forcing students to witness the purge. This was an act of pure, unadulterated meanness, vindictiveness, and hate.
Rudy Acuna’s, Arturo Rosales’, and Memo Shakespeare’s works not fit for Meskin eyes
Rudy Acuna (tilde on the “n”) and Arturo Rosales are outstanding Chicano historians—both of whom, coincidentally, have Tucsonroots. For obvious reasons their books are among the forbidden and purged texts in TUSD: they provide a scholarly, thorough, and documented history of the Mexican American community.
Shakespeare’s play “The Tempest” is also banned. Maybe he was too close to the Mexican stuff on the bookshelf and is suspected of being one a `em there Meskin lovers. Or, The Tempest’s characters’ names—Alonso, Ferdinand, Sebastian, Antonio, Gonzalo, Stephano, Trinculo, Claribel, Miranda, Prospero, and Ariel—sound too much like Mexican names (after all, most of them end in vowels!!!) to Stegeman, Pedicone and the other Mexican haters.
As you may remember, in “The Tempest” Prospero comes to an island and enslaves the indigenous people (Caliban, Ariel) and takes over—i.e., colonizes—the island, raising the issues of morality, fairness, and oppression. Discussing these topics, and specifically oppression, in the context of Mexican Americans is “illegal” according to Huppenthal, Pedicone, Stegeman, et al. and is banned. Therefore, Mexican American students are not allowed to read this subversive play.
The above and the following examples are just that—examples. ALL books and teaching materials (there are too many to detail here) used in the MAS curriculum are banned and were seized by TUSD in the Great Mexican Book Purge.
“Bless me Ultima” banned only if read by Mexican American Students
But the book ban is racially-ethnically selective. Rodolfo Anaya’s award-winning novel Bless Me Ultima (accent on the “U”) is also banned but ONLY if read by Mexican American students in “Mexican” schools. Anaya’s book is still “legal” and continues to be used in (virtually all-white) University High School, TUSD’s quasi-private and exclusive high school for “gifted” students.
So, according to Pedicone and Stegeman, the nature and quality of “Bless Me Ultima” are different, depending on the color of the eyes reading it?
Mexican Americans banned from reading Thoreau also…
Thoreau's “Civil Disobedience (Resistance to Civil Government)” essay is used extensively at (virtually all-white) University High School, BUT that same essay is banned from Mexican American Studies (Literature and History) classes at predominantly Latino Pueblo and Tucson High Schools.
As I’m sure you remember, in his classic essay (published in 1849) Thoreau argues that (1) individuals should not permit governmentsto overrule or chip away at their consciences, and (2) it is the civic duty of citizens to fight against the government’s attempts to make them the agents of injustice. Thoreau was motivated in part by his disgust with slavery and the Mexican–American War.
So, according to Pedicone and Stegeman, Thoreau’s essay is intellectually stimulating when read by white students but subversive and “un-American” if read by Mexican American students?
At the risk of being repetitious, it needs to be emphasized that what is going on in TUSD is a concerted and targeted attack on Mexican Americans, as evidenced by the fact that “The Tempest,” “Bless me Ultima,” “Civil Disobedience,” etc., are “legal” in non-MAS classes. The Mexican Purge applies only to MAS classes and classrooms.
That TUSD board members Mark Stegeman and Alexandre Sugiyama, and Superintendent John Pedicone, all of whom teach at the University of Arizona, a scholarly space dedicated to the free exchange of ideas, willingly and with gusto participate in the banning of books and ideas is mind boggling. If the concept of malpractice applied to educators as it does to attorneys and physicians, the banning of books would be a textbook case of such malpractice. Yet, University of Arizona professors ordered the purge. Incredible!
The Arizona Daily Star ignores the banning of books and ideas…as will the university community
The only daily newspaper in Tucson is the Arizona Daily Star, which is heavily invested in Mark Stegeman and John Pedicone. The Star talks a big game, re: freedom of speech, etc., and it even hires fancy-pants lawyers to sue public bodies and make lofty speeches about the First Amendment when it wants to obtain documents from public bodies.
But since covering the Mexican Book Purge might be perceived as a criticism of Stegeman and Pedicone, the Star ignores it and, predictably, instead runs an editorial in defense of Stegeman and Pedicone, arguing (mimicking Stegeman’s and Pedicone’s talking points) that TUSD did what it had to do, that it really had no choice. And it says that with a straight face, as if it were true.
Except that it isn’t.
TUSD had a choice: to go along with the Mexican haters Horne and Huppenthal or appeal Huppenthal’s decision, which would have put a hold on the threatened financial penalties on TUSD until the issue was resolved in court. TUSD made the conscious and deliberate choice to support Huppenthal.
I’ll go out on a limb here and assert as an absolute fact that if books were banned in white schools (such as University High) and classes and school officials marched into classrooms, while class was in session, in those schools to seize all the books used in those classes, the harrumphing and howls of protest emanating from the Arizona Daily Star editorial offices could and would be heard all over town.
But since TUSD’s Great Mexican Purge only affects Mexican American Studies students, classes, teachers, and books…
Likewise, if Huppenthal, Horne or anyone else declared award-winning books used in university classes to be “illegal” because they might stimulate forbidden discussions and banned them and sent officials to go into classrooms to seize the offending books, the Faculty Senate and every other university official would, after recovering from their apoplectic shock, scream loud and incessantly about academic freedom, etc.
But since the architects of TUSD’s Great Mexican Purge are U of A professors and the Purge only affects Mexican American Studies students, classes, teachers, and books…I’m betting the university folks will ignore the banning of books and ideas.
The depth of the hate and the hypocrisy involved here is almost too profound to ponder and comprehend.
A public e-mail is not the forum to divulge our strategies of how to beat back the haters and their enablers. But this I can and will say: We are going to win this fight. As our history clearly details—we always do. Which is precisely why the haters and their allies do not want our children, or anyone else, to study our history.
Here are the links to Jeff Biggers’ and The Three Sonorans’ articles.

No comments: