NAME conference Dismantling Fronteras through Multicultural Education in Tucson this week

The theme for the 24th International Conference of National Association for Multicultural Education (NAME) to be held in Oro Valley,  Arizona on November 5 – 9, is Dismantling Fronteras through Multicultural Education: Con Comunidad, Cariño y Coraje. While the theme is raising some eyebrows, it is the location that has many enraged.

Raza blogger, David Abie Morales, is angry and questions why the “NAME conference on decolonization in education in Tucson,” is being held at El Conquistador, “named after the despised conquistadors.” According to Morales, the local organizer of the conference Augustine Romero, chose the location for the always revolutionary event.

Morales, who also despises the ever self-promoting Romero, takes exception to the fact that the “same man who supervised the white-washing of MAS into “culturally relevant” courses in TUSD to appease white supremacy, decided not to have the conference in downtown Tucson, or at the hotels on the reservations, but rather attendees will get to enjoy the multiculturalism at the diverse location of the aptly named El Conquistador in MAS-banner John Pedicone’s backyard in Oro Valley.”

The Tucson NAME Chapter Planning Committee includes such notables as TUSD’s Board members Cam Juarez, Kristel Foster, and Adelita Grijalva, UofA professors Jeffrey F. Milem, and Julio Cammarota, Pima County Supervisor Richard Elias, and former MAS teachers Maria C. Federico Brummer, Curtis Acosta, Sara Rusk, and Lorenzo Lopez Jr.

“That’s right, the conference about decolonization will take place at The Conqueror in the mountains of mostly white Oro Valley where you can look down on the Tucsonans from your balcony…,” writes Morales, “that is if there weren’t mountains in the way.”

The El Conquistador is nestled at the base of Pusch Ridge, approximately 15 miles away from the University of Arizona and the central office of the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD). TUSD is the home of the now disbanded Mexican American Studies classes.

Morales writes, “Oh, don’t worry, there will be tours of the barrio, but you have to travel down the mountain to get there and after your “cultural experience” is done you get to leave all of Tucson and head back up to Oro Valley. Heck maybe you can write an article for publication about your brave trip to the hood… the pictures you take on your new iPhone can prove you were there.”

“Glitz and glamour in the whitest and richest part of the Tucson metropolitan area is the perfect place for a multicultural conference! Morales continues his rage, “Far far away from Augustine Romero’s Pueblo High School of which he is the principal and doing nothing to stop the current school board from bringing SB1070-enforcing cops full-time on his campus, which is also TUSD board president Adelita Grijalva’s alma mater and the place were Adelita Grijalva, Cam Juarez and Augustine Romero allowed the Cesar Chavez march to be banned from Pueblo HS in 2012 after MAS was banned.”

Romero, who claims to have created the Mexican American Studies classes based on his “Barrio Pedagogy” urged NAME to come to Tucson. According to the group, the Board of Directors heeded Romero’s call to “act in solidarity, and create a presence of NAME as part of their efforts to fight back,” against “the racist and mono-culturalist efforts by Arizona politicians and Tucson school board members.

The Board noted on the website, “Because of these repressive measures, many of us had felt that it was our duty to boycott Arizona and Tucson.” Without regard for the balmy Tucson weather in November, the group says they are coming because there is “urgency in this struggle, because the verdict of the right-wing school board has not been final and important changes are still taking place.” The group refers to the appeal by the Raza teachers to the 2012 ruling by federal Judge Wallace Tashima that the Arizona law which banned the divisive classes was constitutional as a reason for the urgency. That appeal is expected to be heard sometime soon.

According to the group they expect that while “in Tucson we will have an opportunity to explore the struggle of the border, beginning with the US-Mexico border but also the borders that separate and oppress–from continuing Jim Crow voting practices to gender  oppression to the barriers of class and power.”

“We call on all of you, the entire NAME membership, to join us in envisioning the kind of transformative and inspiring gathering that the Tucson conference could be. We are needed now and there as much as ever,” the NAME Board of Directors notes in their promotional webpage.

Romero’s good friend David Omotoso Stovall, Associate Professor of African American Studies & educational Policy Studies, University of Illinois–Chicago will deliver one of the keynote speeches. Stovall is best known for his work with Romero and NAME Immediate Past President Christine Sleeter for their work on TUSD’s new Multicultural curricula.

On the district’s website, Romero cites Sleeter, and Stovall, among others as the inspiration of his multicultural “masterpiece.”

Sleeter and communist professor Peter McLaren are at the core of much of Romero’s work. Their recent book, Multicultural education, critical pedagogy, and the politics of difference, the two highlight the work of many of Romero’s muses including Geneva Gay, and Julio Cammorata.

Cammarota, a professor at the University of Arizona was on hand during the student takeover of the TUSD Governing Board meeting in the Spring of 2011, co-authored numerous articles with Romero. In their piece entitled, “A Critically Compassionate Intellectualism for Latina/o Students: Raising Voices Above the Silencing in Our Schools,” the duo praise the work of Paulo Freire and write that teachers “who follow critically compassionate intellectualism implement the educational trilogy of Critical Pedagogy, authentic caring, and social justice centered curriculum.”

Cammarota, in response to the revelation from TUSD’s statistician that MAS students did not graduate at higher rates or score higher on state tests than other Mexican-American TUSD students, famously said, “They did no worse than other TUSD students.” At the time, Cammarota forgot to mention that MAS classes were far more costly than other TUSD classes because of all the extra administrative overlays the program had, including travel to fancy conferences for “educators.” So, in spite of all the extra money TUSD spent on MAS classes, and all the controversy about the content of the courses, the students in those classes did not outperform their peers who never took a single MAS class.

Sleeter received her Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Sleeter has won the Social Justice in Education Award from Bill Ayer’s Social Justice Committee of the American Educational Research Association. Sleeter has also won Chapman University’s Paulo Freire Education Project Social Justice Award, the American Educational Research Association Division K Legacy Award, and the American Educational Research Association Special Interest Group on Multicultural and Multiethnic Lifetime Achievement Award.

Sleeter writes in Insights into US history from a critical analysis of my own family history, “Many of our ancestors were given privileges by elite powers as of a politics of “divide and conquer….. Many European immigrants and their descendants built wealth on a playing field the U.S. government established for whites only…. European immigrants learned to become white and take on white privileges.”

The group should enjoy many white privileges while they sip margaritas on the veranda and discuss the “many fronteras (borders) that aim to divide us as a human family.”

For those who want to live in the lap of oppression for a moment, the room block made available to NAME members is sold out, however the group recommends the nearby Fairfield Inn for late comers. The registration fee for NAME members is $315 ($345 for late comers) includes two receptions, two luncheons (including the DINE & DIALOGUE Luncheon), the President’s Banquet, conference materials and activities (except those indicating an additional fee). Available only to current NAME members. The Non-member is $545 ($595 for late comers).

Related articles:

Romero to bring educational revolution to Pueblo High School

Where is the social justice in TUSD’s MAS program?