The issue of TUSD’s Mexican-American Studies (MAS) has been a highly contentious one—not only in Tucson, but across the state of Arizona. State and local politicians adopted MAS as a campaign talking point, which worked well for them in their efforts to get attention and instigate emotion. The result, however, is that MAS is now a symbol of political partisanship, a symbol anyone can exploit to get attention in political circles.
As a result, everyone seems to have an opinion about MAS, and that opinion is closely related to their political affiliation. Democrats tend to be supportive. Republicans tend to be critical. Racial slurs are increasingly involved in the discussion, on both sides. It is sad, and I refuse to support the in-fighting that has done nothing for our children or the intellectual or financial economies of this community.
Enough is enough. It is time we stop using MAS as a political football, stop playing with our students’ futures in favor of politicians and their careers. It is time to focus on our schools and educational quality.
TUSD Governing Board Members have a responsibility to set policies that honor all political perspectives. Even more, board members owe a duty to students—to ensure that they have the resources they deserve to learn the critical thinking skills they need to survive in this world. Mostly, students need peace so they can concentrate on their studies.
Board members should protect and encourage that peace, even if it requires some personal or political sacrifice. We should not use MAS as so many other politicians have, to the detriment of our students, to make a political point that will almost certainly alienate nearly half of our community. Tucson is politically diverse. As non-partisan representatives for our schools, board members must put our personal politics aside and find a middle ground—even when there seems to be none—for the sake of our students.
TUSD has suffered large achievement gaps for at least 15 years. The gaps have not budged. It is time for us to stop making excuses about why those gaps persist and start doing the work necessary to close them. Research indicates that ethnic studies can help. So, TUSD adopted ethnic studies courses. I requested a review of those courses, which we received on Jan. 30 and which I encourage you to watch. [You can find it here: http://govboard.tusd1.org/Meetings/Meeting-Video or here: http://govboard.tusd1.org/Meetings/Meeting-Audio.]
During that presentation, it was confirmed for me that TUSD has high quality educational leaders with more experience and a better perspective on our students’ needs than board members. I also learned that TUSD currently offers culturally relevant courses from a Mexican-American perspective. If our educational leaders think that those courses should be updated in light of the recent court decision involving A.R.S. 15-112, I fully trust them to bring their ideas to the board, as appropriate. The board should not initiate—and thereby politicize—this process. Instead, we should seek to protect our students and schools from potential political onslaughts.
We will continue to improve, and we will move forward with care because our decisions impact the lives of thousands of children and their families. But move forward we will. In the process, it is my greatest hope that we will set aside our political preferences and make intelligent, educated decisions that support the teachers and administrators who work directly with students, our future.
I sent the above to the Arizona Daily Star in response to a request from an editor to send in a guest opinion piece for this Sunday. The editor sent the request to Adelita Grijalva and I both and let us know that if one decided not to write, neither piece would be published. We shall see if they publish my piece in its entirety, and whether Adelita decided to send in an opinion after all. My piece is not the best written master piece, but I think I made my point. What do you think?