The manufactured MAS crisis


by David Safier

Tim Steller has a strong column in this morning's Star discussing the TUSD deseg decision that came down from Judge Bury. But I want to reconfigure his emphasis a bit.

[NOTE: Steller is proving to be a serious columnist. He knows his stuff and digs into his subjects laboriously like the investigative reporter he is. I'm not always going to agree with him, but I'm going to read his columns carefully because they deserve serious consideration, something that hasn't always been the case with past columnists — and I'm likely to learn something, which also hasn't always been the case with Star columnists. I should also mention, Steller and I email back and forth on occasion and talk now and then. That doesn't mean he reaches the same conclusions I do, but he listens like a good journalist should, and he brings his own informed opinions to the discussion.]

Steller's column is about the difficulty TUSD faces enacting the revised Unitary Plan, especially the part that calls for culturally relevant core courses in Mexican-American and African-American studies. He's right, it's going to be a major battle, with the pro-MAS people on one side, the Horne/Huppenthal/Republican juggernaut on the other and infinite gradations of opinions in between.

But Steller doesn't mention that this whole fight is a manufactured crisis created by Arizona's anti-Hispanic right wing, not something that sprung naturally from the MAS program or previous deseg orders.

TUSD's Mexican-American Studies was a program few people knew much about — myself included — until a few years ago. Teaching evolution in biology classes and mentioning contraception in health classes were more controversial issues than what went on in MAS classes. Then, during a talk at Tucson High, Delores Huerta uttered those three words, "Republicans hate Latinos," the right saw an opportunity, and they seized the moment. Huerta's words became part of the calculated state and national crusade to further inflame anti-Brown fever among the right wing base and win elections. It led to the demonization of the MAS program and a state law whose sole purpose was to wipe out the program. This previously uncontroversial group of courses which was a small part of the District's curriculum, which probably would have continued to serve students in the District without causing much of a fuss, turned into a major issue manufactured for political gain.

Ironically, the 2012 elections showed, among other things, that the majority of Hispanics agree with Huerta's statement that "Republicans hate Latinos." Even more ironically, a number of Republicans have come to agree with her as well, at least in part, and are pleading with the Hispanic community to give the party another chance. "Really, we don't hate you! Marco Rubio! Look, Marco Rubio!"

While I'm at it, let me mention one more issue Steller didn't discuss in his column (There's only so much you can do in the words allotted). There's another shoe yet to drop that could alter the ethnic studies issue still further. A case is in federal court, Acosta et al. v. Huppenthal et al., that questions the constitutionality of the law that ended MAS. I've been hearing since last September that Judge A. Wallace Tashima is
going to rule any day now, but we're still waiting to hear from him. If Tashima rules the state law must be struck down, everything changes. TUSD's reason for dismantling the MAS curriculum is gone, and a new deseg order reaffirms the need for courses similar to those offered by MAS. No telling what happens next.