Curtis Acosta: “If we are asked to follow a bad law . . .”

by David Safier

Jeff Biggers, who has been invaluable in his coverage of the Mexican-American Studies story, just put up an interview with MAS teacher Curtis Acosta [I should say, teacher in the suspended MAS program]. It gives a more complete and complex view of the confusion felt by teachers and students about how to change what they do, and about the decision to ban the teaching of certain books.

According to Acosta, who was instrumental in designing the MAS curriculum at Tucson High, his school administrators are doing as well as they can with "little insight pertaining to the Board’s intentions."

"[The site administrator] wanted to communicate to the students that changes may happen and walked them through a few possibilities. However, he really could not provide any details since he said he was not sure which direction the Board would choose to proceed. . . . I believe my site administrators are equally confused about the vagueness of the direction and policy, which is why we have received little direction."

Acosta understands why his administrators told him not to teach "The Tempest." Since Acosta would venture into forbidden territory in his discussion of the play, he couldn't be allowed to use it in class. What choice do his administrators have when they must enforce a bad law and a bad ruling?

"I believe our administrators advised me properly when they said to avoid texts, units, or lessons with race and oppression as a central focus. If we are asked to follow a bad law then absurdities such as advising I stay away from teaching “The Tempest” not only seems prudent, but intelligent."

So what happens if the teachers are careful not to bring up these "dangerous" ideas in class, but the students raise them in class or in their written themes? That could be a violation as well.

"We also have not received confirmation that the ideas, dialogue, and class work of our students will be protected. In clearer words, if I avoid discussing such themes in class, yet the students see the themes and decide to write, discuss or ask questions in class, we may also be found to be in violation."

TUSD has entered a bizarro-education, Catch-22 world. Expect greater shame to be visited on Tucson and Arizona as this story gains more national and international attention.

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