Court told of mistreatment by TUSD MAS staff

The Arizona Attorney General’s Office filed its objections to the proposed Unitary Status Plan for TUSD by Special Master Willis Hawley in which he proposes resurrecting TUSD’s Mexican American Studies classes. According to experts, there is no other desegregation plan in the country that prescribes curriculum.

Last year, after a finding by Administrative Law Judge Lewis Kowal and Superintendent of Education John Huppenthal that the classes violate state law, the locally elected TUSD Governing Board voted to end the classes. By the time the vote was taken, the enrollment in the classes had dropped to little over 250 students from a district high of about 1300 students. The dramatic decrease in enrollment stemmed from an awareness by parents of the previously unknown content of the classes and the District’s decision to make the classes electives rather than substitutes for rigor core curriculum classes.

Now, the federal court appointed Special Master Willis Hawley, through the District’s Unitary Status Plan, is trying to reassert federal control of curriculum.

In response, the Arizona Attorney General’s Office filed its objections with the Court in which the AG outlines the finding of Kowal and testimony of former TUSD teachers.

The AG’s Office reminded the Court that “an objective Administrative Law Judge” found that TUSD previously implemented a program that resulted in a racially divisive program that fomented hatred against other races contrary to state law. The teachers and administrators in the former MAS program were radical socialist activists who promoted an anti-capitalist and anti-Western Civilization ideology. They used ethnic solidarity as their vehicle of delivery. The program’s founder, Augustine F. Romero, and the program administrator, Sean Arce, believed that the founders of the nation created a structure that is racist and oppressive in nature.”

The classes, according to the AG, established a modified pedagogy based on Paolo Freire’s theories that deliberately attempted to“racismize” education. Racismization, according to for MAS Director Sean Arce, was the process of looking at issues with a racial lens. The AG says that Arce and Romero saw themselves as “emancipatory educators” who grounded their pedagogy in racismized education.

Arce and Romero believed that if they failed to “look at issues with a racial lens would place MAS educators “in the role as agents of injustice.” As a result, MAS staff promoted racial and ethnic solidarity among students and fostered an “us versus them” mentality.”

The AG’s office offered the example of the first half of an MAS American History course, “which was all about the Aztecs, because the teachers wanted the students to identify themselves as being in the tradition of the Aztecs, as native to North America. They taught students it was a “White racist myth” that the Native Americans crossed over the Bering Straits from Asia, and that they really originated in the Americas,” according to the Attorney General based on testimony and students’ who related their experiences. “They also taught them that it was a White racist myth that the Aztecs engaged in human sacrifice.”

The Arizona Attorney General’s objections include:

•According to the MAS staff, this misinformation was an attempt by whites to dehumanize Mexican American students and their ancestors in order to justify oppressing them.

•Anger permeated the MAS program. The MAS teachers aggressively promoted an ideological agenda that taught students that the United States was and still is a fundamentally racist country to those of Mexican-American descent.

•MAS teachers repeatedly told their students that the white power structure was designed to oppress them and relegate them to a second-class existence. They taught students that they were victims who were oppressed by a white, racist, capitalist system.

•Teachers told MAS students things such as: “[y]our Anglo teachers don’t want you in AP (advanced placement) classes because they do not want you to succeed. This is how Anglos keep us on the bottom.” These statements illustrated their skewed view of society’s constant victimization of minorities to the MAS students.

•The MAS teachers literally reprogrammed the students to believe that a white power structure conspired to suppress them and relegate them to a second-class existence. This fomented resentment and resulted in visible contempt for all authority outside of their ethnic community and their total lack of identification with a political heritage of this country.

•As a result, students who enrolled in the classes changed. They became angry, distrustful of teachers, and disrespectful of authority due to the curriculum of the MAS Program classes.

•The MAS program required intellectual conformity based on the ideology held by MAS staff. The teachers did not allow for any balance on the controversial issues, but advocated only views and ideas that were consistent with their ideology and demeaned opposing viewpoints.

•They actively suppressed intellectual diversity and celebrated conformity when it aligned with their partisan ideology.

•This constant propaganda resulted in the ostracization of non-Latino students. At a TUSD governing board meeting, Christina Cruz told the governing board that her daughter attempted to withdraw from a MAS class because she had no interest in learning why she should hate her white mother and love her Mexican father. (Testimony of TUSD Governing Board Member, Mark Stegeman, August 19, 2011)

•Another teacher/parent heard her (Caucasian) daughter express distress over the fact that the Hispanic students would not talk to her at all at by end of an MAS class semester. (Testimony of TUSD parent, Mary Stevenson, August 19, 2011)

•A climate of outright intimidation stopped many other teachers from standing up to MAS teachers for fear of being labeled racists. When teacher John Ward criticized the MAS Program, the TUSD administrators removed him from his class. The administrators called him a racist, despite his being Hispanic.

•This fundamentally anti-intellectual tactic stopped any debate by bullying and intimidation that threatened to destroy the reputation of those who would provide another viewpoint. This intimidation was used against anyone who criticized the MAS Program.

•Hector Ayala, an English teacher at Cholla High School, observed that the MAS program taught students a separatist political agenda. His students have told him that their MAS teachers taught them not to “fall for the white man’s traps.” One non-Hispanic student who was enrolled in an MAS course complained to him that he was being “dissed” in the classroom “because I am white.” His public disagreement with the political beliefs of the MAS program led one of the founders of MAS, Augustine Romero, to call Mr. Ayala an “agent of the white man,” a “coconut,” and “racist”.

•During the 2007-2008 school years, another non-MAS teacher, Prewitt Howie, overheard one MAS program instructor, Jose Gonzalez, tell his students that the University of Arizona is a racist organization because only 12% of the students are Latino. Mr. Gonzalez told his students they should go to college so they can gain the power to take back the stolen land and to give it back to Mexico. And, he told his students that the United States is a meritocracy and that Latinos are not a part of it. When Ms. Howie confronted Mr. Gonzalez about his classroom instruction, he told her that he teaches his students that Republicans hate Latinos and that legislation proves it. When she asked him about Mexican American Republicans who are against illegal immigration, Mr. Gonzalez said this is an example of “self-racism.”

•A social science teacher, Ron Silverman, observed that the MAS Program curriculum employs brainwashing practices that results in marked changes in the students. While he was teaching at TUSD, he criticized the veracity of information disseminated in the MAS history class for failing to provide any primary source material and actual historically documented facts, as opposed to “feel good” information. As a result of his criticism, some MAS history teachers, including Sean Arce and Curtis Acosta, called him racist and openly encouraged their students to call him a racist as well.

•TUSD’s Governing Board Members were concerned that teachers in the MAS Program were teaching to indoctrinate based on racial issues (Testimony of TUSD Governing Board Member, Michael Charles Hicks, August 19, 2011). Hicks testified that he was concerned that an “us (Chicanos) versus them (Anglos)” mentality was being created by the program.

• TUSD Board member, Mark Stegeman, wrote an editorial in the Arizona Daily Star pointing out that three fundamental problems with the program predated A.R.S. § 15- 112. (Mark Stegeman, TUSD needs community support, balanced ethnic studies, The Arizona Daily Star, Feb. 9, 2012) First, the process that created the MAS curriculum was so far out of compliance with state law and longstanding district policy. Second, the “critical race” theory foundation of the MAS program and its emphasis on activism for particular causes raised serious concerns that may have violated TUSD’s policies. And, third, the MAS program reached such a small fraction of TUSD’s Mexican American population that it had no appreciable effect on the low average achievement of that group, with any evidence of higher student achievement being exaggerated.

In conclusion the Arizona Attorney General’s stated the case simply. “The creation of separate courses for students of different races envisioned by Section V(6)(a)(ii) causes racial divisions, and does not benefit the academic performance of the affected students.”

Last Friday, in an appearance on Arizona Public Media, Tucson City Councilman Steve Kozachik defended the TUSD MAS classes, “As to the whole MAS question. Intuitively, we are a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural community. It strikes me there ought to be room in the curriculum of our public education for an element such as that. And I would hope that through this process, we find a way to retool that program and get it back into the curriculum, and frankly, tell Horne and Huppenthal to shove it.”

In response one long time Tucsonan asked, “Didn’t someone start a center for civility or something like that in town last year?” While another Tucson native who recently fled the area said, “Only 7% of Tucson residents rate their neighborhood an excellent place to raise a child. Bad councilman, bad school board, poor outcomes, go figure.”

Related article:

Arizona files in TUSD desegregation case

TUSD educator parent testifies in “Ethnic Studies” appeal