Mexican American Studies teachers speak out in op ed about saving program

by David Safier

A couple of questions to TUSD Supe John Pedicone, Board President Mark Stegeman and the rest of the Board:

1. Do you think removing Mexican American Studies courses from core requirements will make MAS a better program?

2. If not, do those of you who are advocating the change think it will pacify John Huppenthal so he'll call off the dogs and let the modified MAS program live?

If you think the move to make MAS courses "electives" (I'm putting the word in quotes for reasons you'll see in the op ed below) will improve education for students who take the program, I think you're flat out wrong, but at least you're pushing the change for what you believe are educational reasons.

If you think making the change will save the program, then you're absolutely wrong. This is another version of the old Vietnam War strategy, "We had to destroy the village in order to save it." Compromising away the program won't save it. If the program is diluted and students taking MAS courses are forced to take twice as many history and English courses, it will die of attrition in a few years. And unless you've already cut a deal with Huppenthal — if you have, you should be deeply ashamed (and you should make the deal public) — it's unlikely he'll be satisfied with changing the program.

This brings me to an excellent op ed in today's Star by two MAS teachers. These people who have invested heart and soul into the program — people who are deeply invested in the program — say, Don't Compromise.

. . . MAS students have shown significant increases in AIMS reading and writing scores, and are graduating at higher rates than their district counterparts.

They are closing the achievement gap that has plagued Latino students for years. Moreover TUSD's ethnic studies program is the only one in the district geared toward closing that gap.

There has been talk about making MAS courses electives. They already are electives. No one forces students to take these courses for their English, history and government graduation requirements. What is really being suggested is making them non-accredited electives, and that is just wrong. Why should our students have to double their course load for their graduation requirements, especially when our program is demonstrably helping these students do better and increasing graduation rates? [boldface added]

Making these courses unaccredited electives sends the message to Latino students and parents that MAS courses, which highlight the historical and cultural contributions that Latinos have made to the United States (while simultaneously covering the traditional state standards), are not worthy of study as social studies and English classes sufficient to count as core credit.

To roll back this program from accredited status is a giant step back from the tremendous gains that the Mexican American/Latino community and MAS have made to counter the Latino student population as being traditionally underserved.

Pedicone and the Board need to stand behind MAS, unless they think it's a flawed program that needs to be changed. If that's what they think, they need to say so, right now, and hold a public forum or two or three to discuss the fate of a program so widely supported by the Hispanic community and educators in the community and around the country. This whole fight should be played out in the open, not behind closed doors.

UPDATE: Mark Stegeman is a friend and a very smart guy. He and I sit down semi-regularly to discuss education, sometimes heatedly, sometimes harmoniously. When it comes to MAS, things tend to get heated, but that's because of disagreement, not disrepect on either side.

In a comment, Stegeman answered my first question: whether modifying the MAS program would improve it. Here is his comment:

Answer to question (1): Yes, most obviously for the Social Studies courses. Given the highly demanding state requirements for social studies, it is better to put some of the MAS content into the core courses that everybody takes but still leave most of the time for the traditional core topics. That improves those courses for the 95% [corrected number, based on a second Stegeman comment] of our high school students who currently take the traditional core courses. Then for the approx. 5% of our high school students who take any MAS course during any given year, the MAS history course (for example) can drop topics like the Articles of Confederation and the War of 1812 to provide a deeper focus on the Southwest and the Mexican-American experience and can moreover cover related topics in regional history (e.g. Latin America and the Caribbean).

Though I disagree with Stegeman's point, I'll let his statement stand without argument (for now, anyway).

0 responses to “Mexican American Studies teachers speak out in op ed about saving program

  1. I agree with you on the big picture stuff, but we differ on details. It’s good to hear I’m not the only person who disagrees with you about Stegeman. I think your view of him is both wrong and counterproductive.

  2. azchicanodemocrataztlan/ocelotl

    Mr. Stegeman,
    Sir you shuold be ashamed as an educator and economist for such a proposal, compromise make the classes spend time in regiona latin carribean history. Sir formost the hisotry of the Mexican American /chicano is connected with the history of the war of 1812, recall spain, Espana and portugal were embroiled with the Crazy Coriscan, Napoleon and aided by the Duke Sir Arthur Wellsley, Wellington, 1809, Spain became allies of the British, Portuguese in tejas y coahuila newspapers carried news of battles and campaigns to smash le gran armee de epsna and some communities contributed funds to the war effort. Secondly the war of Napoleon resulted in la lucha por Independencia
    Thirdly, Chicanos participated aided in the revolution even tucson raised fondos funds for supporting the defeat of the Bloody British.
    regarding your proposal remember
    John Huppenthal is a staunce republican who will ban any use of those books occupied america in public schools and even the university, second Tom Horne acts like a cosomographer and has stated his draconian ideals of Pedagogy of the Oppressed being marxist during the open end session of the debate,in which HUPPENTHAL promised to Stop La Raza, and even Tom Horne stated that he believed that these courses should be non existent as electives.
    YES Dr STEGMAN, Im going to now smash your proposal for integration further, youll have to battle with publishers and even most come from Texas, a state this summer erased thomas Jefferson created a new term fro slavery, erased Dolores Huerta, but kept Chavez, really Dr Stegeman what type of fool do you take the community of Tucson, especially the Chicano community for… In addition, in 2005 I OBSERVED within an ELL class, before the ridiculous four hour english block, in the face of this tomfoolerery reconcocted
    Americanization program, did and does seperate I even heard a first year teacher, a former close friend of mine from Sunnyside at mission manor wanted to cut the cut lil Indian boys pony tail, and make him a proper gentleman,” I let her have it with that comment on how what shes said was an idea that wreaks of pure idioticness, racism engrained in our society, which is what MAS classes seeks to awaken students and community
    Returning to the ELL classes, its been proven bu several studies that dual language literacy and bilingual education works wonders with a fifty five to 70 percent rate of learning english rather than sticking kids in a class for four hours going over words and skills until its drilled into them, that is banking education, which is very violent for it treats the students like they know nothing disregards thier precious knowledge, and mostly the students in ELL classes are refugee and Latino, and Asian minorities, the effects of four hour classes are horrofic in comparision to dual language literacy and bilingual education which im a product of muchisimas Gracias. Four hurs of english composition, then tutoring which by then the students brain is nearing overload and students are tired from being bombarded four four hours straight with english language writing skills, giving them less time to finish social studies, american Government, science, math, all pushed to spoon feed them as proposed by Pres. Bush and now Gov. Brewer,Despite the facts based researched by acclaimed Universities, schools that ELL classes are detrimental and some ELL teachers are staunce conservatives, who oppose MAS Chicano Ethnic Studies, ReALLY, of all things we must save the ethnic studies program expand it save the teachers and bring back dual languagel literacy and Bilingual education, it works, continue with critical pedagogy.
    AS for a politician, Pima DEMS have said No Compromise on hb2281,why havent you followed through with thier decision even after seeing several marches demonstration of UNIDOS and supporters do you push this crazy idea of electives yes further integrate MAS Materials as well as others but Save and expand the program as is by: JOINING THE LAWSUIT PUSHING FOR THE TUSD BD TO DO SO, hb2281 if struck down as unconstitutional, then you dont have to worry about complying w the law which you and th bd resolved the program was in compliance with the most racial discrminatory tRIPE OF a law created. JOIN THE LAWSUIT PUSH TUSD to do so,

  3. It’s because of the money we are in this situation.

    Jan 3rd TUSD was found in violation. This kicked off a 60 day period to March 4th.

    Judge Roll was assassinated, and he was the one assigned to the Tucson 11 case, so 45 more days were added. That is up April 18!

    So this board meeting tonight was to be the last one… but I have heard that another extension was given. The main reason I understand is because April 18th is still in the semester, so what do you do with the 2,000 students in the ES courses? Better to wait until summer…

    … and also so there are less kids to protest and have walkouts.

    So the money issue (10% across the board penalty) is STILL ON THE TABLE after two extensions…

    If it WASN’T about money but about justice, then TUSD would say “just try to withhold 10% of our budget… we will sue you!” Instead we have all this money being spend on audits and what not…

    HB2281 will be thrown out just like parts of SB1070 are. TUSD will win. If the Dems were smart they would rally behind this issue because it will be a victory in a red state. And it is simple too. Whenever CNN covers this issue they seem to be sympathetic to TUSD and let Tom Horne sound ridiculous on his own…

    There is so much more wrong with the district… ELL classes are a major one… the firing of teachers, which Mark Stegeman voted for.

    But Stegeman has a history of this, and I argue with other of his friends over this, but look at his record.

    He was the sole vote against the Post-Unitary Plan because in his words it expanded MAS classes… this was before HB2281.

    He also voted to get rid of Sean Arce, one of the founders of the program, as the director of the program.

    This is a racist attack on innocent children, and what is more evil, IMHO, are Democrats who justify it in the name of economics and numbers… this is about justice! Even Dr. Cornell West said that Tucson is the epicenter of the new civil rights battle… and that’s a reference to Ethnic Studies… the Dems should be 100% on the side of civil rights, not compromising in ANY way… this is historic, and Mark Stegeman is playing games with us…

    Yeah… get rid of MAS so that the AZ Dept of Ed can change all the textbooks to have more MAS stuff in it… you know who appoints the ADE? Huppenthal and Brewer! Mark Stegeman must think we are dumb…

    NO COMPROMISE!

  4. ThreeSonorans, I agree with you on your main point. Absolutely, standard American History classes need to be far more inclusive than they are. But this isn’t an either or: either we have MAS or we have more inclusive American History classes. Let’s improve how American History is taught, possibly with the help of MAS teachers who have the dual backgrounds to help make real changes. But that has very little to do with the MAS program itself. I also agree, to make substantive curricular changes in this state would be an uphill battle, seeing as how Huppenthal believes, if you have a choice between teaching the myth and teaching reality, teach the myth.

    But I part company with you on the last statement about Stegeman and money. I assume you mean the fact that TUSD will be fined if Huppenthal finds against MAS and the district continues to offer it. If it’s all about money, all TUSD would have to do is simply end the classes if Huppenthal decides they violate the law. You’re demonizing the wrong guy. Disagree with Stegeman all you want and as passionately as you want, but ad hominem attacks against him are unwarranted.

  5. This is a ridiculous compromise for Ethnic Studies teachers to make.

    Have your classes not available for credit anymore, but we MIGHT put some of the material in the other classes? How about you do that FIRST, then we can talk.

    Keep in mind that you would have to incorporate some of the material and books that Tom Horne hates, and they could just ban those classes also.

    Also, you would have to have a huge revolution in American History classes. You would have to get publishers to incorporate more MAS material into the books. How is easy this, how long would it take, and what steps has Mark Stegeman taken in this direction so far?

    I only speak for myself, but you’ll excuse the Tucson 11 for not trusting Tom Horne, John Huppenthal, and Mark Stegeman for promising to put more MAS into American history classes… first of all Huppenthal promised to Stop La Raza, Tom Horne says that not even as an elective are these courses allowed and Stegeman is trying to compromise with this racist attack.

    How about this? If you are really interested in something that affects minorities and segregates them, how about Stegeman focus on ELL courses, which Tom Horne mandated that students be segregated from other students for 4 hours a day, leaving only about an hour or two to learn everything else, math, science, history, etc.

    THOSE classes segregate, THOSE classes hurt minorities by hindering their progress towards graduation…

    … oh but wait, it’s not really about helping minorities or “segregating” them. This is about a right-wing racist attack, and shame on Mark Stegeman for giving in even a little on this racist attack. Even the Pima Dems said no compromise, but it seems when it comes to money, Mark Stegeman is quick to compromise his values…

  6. Mark Stegeman

    Sorry, I just realized that 96% and 5% add up to 101%! That was due to using different sets of rounded numbers. The point is that, in any given year, about 1/20 of our high school students take at least one MAS course and the remaining 19/20 see none of that curriculum.

  7. Mark Stegeman

    Answer to question (1): Yes, most obviously for the Social Studies courses. Given the highly demanding state requirements for social studies, it is better to put some of the MAS content into the core courses that everybody takes but still leave most of the time for the traditional core topics. That improves those courses for the 96% of our high school students who currently take the traditional core courses. Then for the approx. 5% of our high school students who take any MAS course during any given year, the MAS history course (for example) can drop topics like the Articles of Confederation and the War of 1812 to provide a deeper focus on the Southwest and the Mexican-American experience and can moreover cover related topics in regional history (e.g. Latin America and the Caribbean).