by David Safier
We have an early sign that new TUSD Supe H.T. Sanchez might be willing to stand up to Huppenthal and do what's best for TUSD. It's just an early sign, mind you, but it's a positive one.
We're in the first stages of The Battle over Mexican American Studies, Part 2. Huppenthal and his conservative cronies won a clear victory in Part 1, getting TUSD to cave and completely dismantle the MAS program, including going into a classroom when class was in session and packing up a set of "Banned Books," then hiding them away in a storage closet. That's an ultimate humiliation for the students and the program they loved, and the fact that TUSD did it on its own was truly shameful.
Now, because of the Unitary Plan imposed on TUSD by court order, the district has to create a new Culturally Relevant Curriculum. It's not going to be a duplicate of the MAS program — I can say with reasonable assurance, MAS is never coming back in its original form — but the new curriculum has to have some multicultural substance to satisfy the court. Huppenthal, et al, are not going to like anything TUSD comes up with. Hupp's DOE is going to do whatever it can to water down the proposed CRC beyond recognition. If that doesn't work, Hupp will try to dismantle the new CRC programs just like he did MAS.
Hupp has already said the CRC curriculum that's been presented to him doesn't get his blessing, not because of the content per se, but because the curriculum isn't rigorous enough and, more important, it's not completely aligned to state and common core standards. This is just a first shot across the bow, of course. If this ploy doesn't work, Huppenthal is perfectly willing to go after the curriculum with his HB 2881 cudgel, the law written to give him the power to shut down any mulitcultural program that's too strong for his liking.
H.T. Sanchez's response to Huppenthal was pretty damn good. The curriculum isn't good enough for you? Sanchez asked. Fine, please show us how it's done.
"One of the key challenges that remain is the lack of model curricula in literature, government or social studies that incorporates the rigor of the common core standards," Sanchez said. "Without model curricula in these areas, there is no standard by which to judge our CRC (culturally relevant) curricula. …"
My guess is, Huppenthal doesn't have a good model for TUSD to follow. He just wants to look at draft after revised draft presented to him by a cowed TUSD and say, "Nope, not good enough." "Sorry, this one isn't rigorous enough either." "Aw gee, you didn't really cover all the standards like you were supposed to." "Oh, I'm sorry, this one doesn't work either. I guess you'll have to give it another try." That puts him in the driver's seat and puts TUSD in the position of trying to please an abusive father who is never satisfied and enjoys slapping his kids around "for your own good." But Sanchez called Hupp on his ploy and batted the ball back to him in a polite, thoughtful, non-belligerent way.The ball is in Hupp's court now. It'll be interesting to see what Hupp does with it.
Sanchez went even further and said, You know, I like the work TUSD has done on this curriculum. It's not perfect, but it's a good start, and we can work out the kinks as we go along.
"You can't kill it before it even starts," Sanchez said. "I acknowledge that it's not perfect – no curriculum is – but I'm confident we will come out with a good product for students. It will just take time and likely some revision once we know what works and what doesn't."
That statement gets a A+ from this retired teacher. A written curriculum is only a set of guidelines to be used by the individual teacher who is responsible for presenting the material. It's not a series of "lesson plans in a can" to be followed to the letter. If the district wants to take another look at the curriculum at a later date and do some fine tuning, great, but it's really not necessary.
This is just a preliminary skirmish, but I like what I see from Sanchez. We'll soon find out more about what he and the newly reconstituted, more progressive board plans to do in this newest episode of The Battle over Mexican Studies.