TUSD’s first step with its “Culturally Relevant” curriculum

by David Safier

I'm blogging while traveling, meaning I'm a bit distracted — always a dicey proposition — but I want to chime in on TUSD's vote to implement the literature component of its newly created "culturally relevant" curriculum. This is the district's response to the court-ordered Unitary Plan. It's the program the district is putting in place after dismantling the Mexican American Studies program.

The TUSD Governing Board voted 3-2 to approve the curriculum for the courses Tuesday night. The courses are taught from the African American and Mexican American perspectives. Board Members Mark Stegeman and Michael Hicks dissented.

The classes will be offered for core credit through pilot programs at Cholla, Tucson and Pueblo high schools, and students will still have the option of taking traditional literature courses.

I read over the curriculum when it was first made public, and it looks pretty good, and pretty good is good enough. In the final analysis, the courses will only be as good as the teachers who teach them, so it's a waste of time to try and "perfect" the written course guidelines. The teachers chosen need to have the intelligence, sensitivity and dedication it takes to pull off the courses successfully. Not every teacher is willing to devote the time and energy necessary, nor does every teacher have the needed passion for this particular approach to make the courses vibrant, relevant and honest.

I'm not sure what plans the board has for the books that were taken out of the MAS classrooms and stored away in a dark closet (I'm avoiding the term "banned books" here because I don't want to jump back into that argument). My hope is, the board will look at the texts one by one and, if they seem appropriate, the texts will be approved to be used in the new courses. Even Huppenthal said he didn't object to the texts themselves.

Speaking of Huppenthal and the politically charged atmosphere during the MAS fiasco, I imagine Republicans who want to use race baiting in their upcoming campaigns will see how much mileage they can get out of bashing the new curriculum. I hope TUSD isn't looking over its shoulder, trying to second guess what the politicians are planning to do. When you start second guessing what the haters want from you, you've lost and they've won. TUSD needs to do what it thinks is best for its students and defend its practices against politically and racially charged assaults.

One response to “TUSD’s first step with its “Culturally Relevant” curriculum

  1. Don’t give Huppenthal credit he doesn’t deserve. He had it both ways with the books and needs to be called on it. Yes, he SAID that he doesn’t have a problem with controversial material, so long as it is taught with the correct “view point.” (Not a Mexican American one, that’s for sure.)

    But, totally to the contrary, he relied on virtually no evidence of how the material was presented, other than random and extremely stale accounts. Rather, his entire case against MAS WAS based on the books. He cherry-picked excerpts from texts that were available to MAS teachers, but there was no evidence that they were used and if so, how. Many of the excerpts he pulled out were writings from the founders of the Chicano Movement 40 plus years ago. Sure there was some fiery rhetoric. It was a movement against oppression for god’s sake. But Huppenthal assumes that these historical passages were presented to the students as gospel and he had no evidence of that. He also testified that given the material in the books, there is no way to use them without violating HB 2281.

    Without a doubt, Huppenthal declared ideas illegal. That is a scandal. But, the silence of a large swath of progressives is the cherry on top.