Arizona Schools Now Free To “Promote Resentment Toward A Race Or Class Of People”

In 2011, activists took over the TUSD board meeting and stopped a vote that would have made the Mexican American Studies classes “electives.” Supporters of the classes believed that if the classes were made electives rather than required courses, students would not enroll. [Photo from Youtube]

Ultimately it was former Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne’s use of “code words” such as “American values,” “rudeness,” and “communists,” that exposed the “racial animus” Arizona leaders held when passing A.R.S. § 15-112, that led Judge Wallace Tashima to prohibit any potential oversight of the Tucson Unified School District’s Mexican American Studies classes.

While the classes are no longer offered, and attorneys for the State of Arizona advised the court earlier this year that the State had no intention of enforcing an unconstitutional law, Tashima’s final ruling in the matter on Wednesday was hailed as a huge victory by supporters of the ethnicity based pedagogy.

To bolster his finding that Arizona officials had racist intent, Tashima notes that both then-superintendent of public instruction John Huppenthal and then-attorney general Tom Horne failed to investigate the Paulo Freire charter schools, of which both “were aware.” Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed served as part of the foundation for the Mexican American Studies (MAS) classes and was required reading for MAS students.

TUSD MAS supporters discuss the implications of the ruling.

Currently there are a number of charter schools in Arizona that offer students “radical pedagogy” based on the Marxist inspired philosophy outlined and promoted in Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed.

Unlike Tucson Unified School District’s (TUSD) Mexican American Studies (MAS)classes, no one has ever filed a formal complaint against the Freire schools. In fact, Arizona’s charter schools operate with little scrutiny and Tashima’s ruling opens the door to ideologues on both extremes of the spectrum to promote hate against any class of people.

Schools in the state are now given the green light to offer classes that (1) “Promote the overthrow of the United States government,” (2) “Promote resentment toward a race or class of people,” (3) “Are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group.”

Despite the fact that the law was sponsored by Sen. Steve Montenegro, an immigrant from El Salvador, Huppenthal’s racist rants online gave the judge everything he needed to find that the law was crafted with racist intent.

Unfortunately, Tashima’s ruling essentially sets in stone the racist nature of the “code” users who utter the words “American values,” “rudeness,” and “communists.”

TUSD Governing Board member Mark Stegeman stated, “If the TUSD staff recommends any changes to the curriculum of TUSD’s Culturally Relevant Courses, the successor courses to the Mexican American Studies program, then I will consider those revisions on their merits, just as for any other curricular change.”

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“I was not at the trial and am not a lawyer and so will not comment on the court’s legal finding on the motivation behind the law, except to note that the ruling of racist intent relies on the statements of a tiny fraction of the legislators who voted for it and among those mainly on the statements of one legislator. While I opposed passage of the law as a whole, I continue to endorse the core principle that public schools should not teach courses that “promote resentment toward a race or class of people” and see nothing in the judge’s ruling that implies that most of the votes for the law extended beyond support for its explicit language to racial animus. Students should be exposed to controversial historical events and viewpoints, but that process in no respect implies the promotion of resentment toward a race or class, e.g. to persons who have no personal connection to those historical events,” continued Stegeman.

“The Board’s resolution terminating the Mexican American Studies Program, in January 2012, included the following provision: “The district shall revise its social studies core curriculum to increase its coverage of Mexican-American history and culture, including a balanced presentation of diverse viewpoints on controversial issues. The end result shall be a single common social studies core sequence through which all high school students are exposed to diverse viewpoints.” While respecting TUSD’s obligations under the Unitary Status Plan, I still support that goal,” concluded Stegeman.