John Pedicone, the much-maligned Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) Superintendent, has extended an olive branch to the supporters of the Mexican American Studies Program.
On Monday, in nearly identical letters– one to UNIDOS (the young adult activists group who chained themselves to the school board dias and shut down the April 26 board meeting) and the Mexican American Studies Community Advisory Board– Pedicone said that “actions taken by the district have resulted in high levels of concern and, in many cases, frustration[understatement of the year].” He goes on to say that he has recommended that the TUSD board withdraw the proposal to reorganize Ethnic Studies, brought forth by Mark Stegeman, TUSD board president.
The intensity of the discussion has reached a point where it makes it difficult to consider any resolution at this time. [duh] The deep-seated feelings surrounding this program, either as a result of a strong affiliation to its purpose or, in other cases, a rejection of the premise for its inclusion has created a counter-productive atmosphere that must be changed.
This is a smart move by Pedicone, and I hope the board takes his suggestion. The hate speech fueled by a continuous blogging drumbeat and media blitz on radio and social media often distorted the intent of the proposal and blew the situation way out of proportion. On the day that Osama bin Laden– the world’s most wanted man was captured and killed– what was on the front page of the TucsonCitizen.com? Five stories related to Mexican American Studies.
Since the April 26 board room takeover, there have been several calls for civil discourse to bring out the facts surrounding the Mexican American Studies debate and allow for open discussion with respect from all sides (1, 2, 3, 4). Maybe the hate speech and spin will stop for a while, so this can be accomplished– before Attorney General Tom Horne and State Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal step in.
People send me links to interesting articles all the time– hoping I will write about the issues– but I have a life beyond the TucsonCitizen.com and can’t write about everything. Here are several interesting stories you also may find worth reading.
TUSD’s Desegregation Funding Summary FY10-11
This is hard to read but still interesting. You can see salaries, program funding, and school funding. It’s difficult to parse out specifics because some categories are so vague.
TUSD’s Ethnic Studies Audit: Institute for Transformative Education
Tucson Independent Daily examines the TUSD Board report from May 3, 2011. This gives the budget for the Mexican American Studies’ summer institute and a bit about the speakers. It seems to me that the budget is incomplete, since it primarily focus on speaker fees and stipends for attendees and doesn’t include other standard conference costs (room fees, audio-visual, travel expenses, etc.) but who knows. I’m surprised the Star didn’t cover this. Yes, some consider this a right-wing blog, but I have not seen this material covered anywhere else.
Loretta Hunnicutt on Glenn Beck
OK– a little spooky– but you have to see what the right is saying in order to organize against them. If you bury your head in the sand and try to ignore them, they’ll kick you in the ass.
A former TUSD teacher and opponent of Mexican-American Studies has filed a defamation lawsuit against the district and two of its employees.
The lawsuit, filed by John Ward on Monday, names the Tucson Unified School District along with Mexican-American Studies Director Sean Arce and Jose Gonzalez, a curriculum specialist.
Ward is seeking damages for harm to his reputation and for mental pain and suffering; compensatory and punitive damages; and other relief as the court deems proper.
He alleges that defamatory statements by Arce and Gonzalez have damaged his reputation as an educator.
The lawsuit stems from statements made late last year in which Arce and Gonzalez reportedly said that Ward was removed from a Mexican-American Studies classroom because he had used profanity and was slamming books in front of students – statements that Ward says are false.
Ward argues that while employed at TUSD, he was recognized as an outstanding teacher. But conflict arose when he began voicing opposition to instruction in his U.S. history class that was to be taught from the Mexican-American perspective.
He felt that rather than teaching American history, the students were being taught a politicized view of the mistreatment of Hispanics, the suit states.
One of my lifelong inspirations has been my journalism professor, mentor, and advisor at Ohio State: Martha Brian, a lifelong newspaperwoman and one seriously tough customer.
I knew how to write when I took her entry level reporting class, but Ms. Brian taught me to be a journalist. She taught me to dig for the truth, stick to the facts, check my sources, write concisely, meet the deadlines, think on my feet, never accept anything at face value, and always ask questions.
Ms. Brian suffered no fools, and she could spot a slacker a mile away. Her class was the flunk-out class. As the gate-keeper of the School of Journalism at The Ohio State University, you had to pass her class in order to progress. As budding journalist, she hammered four primary rules into us:
News stories should be 100% factual– no excuses. If a student journalist wrote a story with any factual error, she gave them a zero for that story– regardless of how exciting the story or how beautifully it was written.
Journalists meet their deadlines. To teach us this, she locked the door of the class room when the bell rang. It didn’t matter if you were sprinting down the hall toward the door, you didn’t get in, and you got a zero for the day’s work. No make-ups. No excuses.
Journalists investigate stories and seek out credible sources. We were taught to ask questions– lots of questions. We investigated and wrote one original news story during every class period.
The public has a right to know the truth. And it’s a journalists job to tell them. We were instilled with the ideal that journalists should be beholden to no one– not corporations, not politicians, not religious groups, not advertisers, not political parties, not activist movements– because it was our job to be unbiased in our reporting of the news to the American people. (Remember, these were the days of Woodward and Bernstein.)
Oh, Ms. Brian, how times have changed.
It’s a good thing Ms. Brian isn’t alive to see the degradation of our profession. I can see her now in heaven in her neatly tailored suit, well-manicured hair, and little pillbox hat– a scotch on the rocks in one hand and a cigarette in the other– shouting “Error of fact! Error of fact!” at the blogosphere, sneering at FOX News’ “fair and balanced” slogan, and cursing the disappearance of news print and paid journalists.
Ms. Brian’s Legacy and the Mexican American Studies debate
In the spirit of my mentor and the public’s right to know the truth about Mexican American Studies (MAS) debate, I’m calling on fellow bloggers and journalists to:
Stick to the facts and forget the spin.
Don’t take anything at face value.
Ask more questions.
Fight for transparency.
Check multiple sources and cite those sources. (We are the storytellers– not the authorities.)
Drop the editorializing– unless, of course, you’re writing an editorial.
Stop the name-calling, the bullying, and the put-downs.
And, again in the spirit of Ms. Brian, here are a some of my unanswered questions about the MAS debate:
What is the real budget for the MAS program and the other programs under Ethnic Studies? I have seen three budget figures published– one provided by TUSD School Board President Mark Stegeman and two others published by the Three Sonorans. I want full transparency in the funding for this and other TUSD programs supported by the desegregation monies.
What does the evaluation data reveal? MAS supporters claim that the program has been evaluated and proven effective multiple times. The Arizona Daily Star reported that a TUSD statistician found no statistical difference in graduation rates when he compared MAS graduates with others in TUSD. Dr. Stegeman’s statement said it resulted in 10 more graduations per year over the three years studies. Where is the truth here? How many studies have been conducted? How were they conducted? Who conducted them? Was quantitative or descriptive (ie, more casual) data collected? Where is the data published?
What text books are being used in the MAS classes? I think the MAS program should provide a complete list of text books– since the course content is coming under fire from the right wing. (They’re teaching communism! They’re teaching Chicano Nationalism!) MAS supporters claim that the right is “cherry-picking” inflammatory passages from the texts (watch the attached video for some doozies). OK, I wouldn’t put it past them to be using that tactic, but how does the public know what they are teaching when no book list has been provided?
What are the course descriptions for the MAS classes? The curriculum link on the MAS website is very vague. Surely, course descriptions exist. Why not make them public?
Why has the MAS Community Advisory Board backed away from TUSD’s public forum? After the takeover of the TUSD meeting on April 26, MAS supporters chided the TUSD board for not holding the following meeting at a larger location. Now that the TUSD board is willing to hold a public forum– so all voices can be heard– they’re backing away from a meeting that the University of Arizona MAS faculty (many of whom also serve on the MAS Community Advisory Board) called for. (I guess that link has now disappeared from the TucsonCitizen.com.)
While we’re on the subject of the MAS Community Advisory Board: Are their meetings open to the public? If so, how are they publicized? How are people appointed to this board? How long are their terms of service? Are board members compensated monetarily for their time? How often do they meet? Why is there no diversity on the board? What is their relationship to the MAS programs at the UA and TUSD and to the TUSD Board? What is their authority over a taxpayer-funded public school program? Mark Evans’ article from the Tucson Citizen morgue explained the origins of the MAS program and the advisory board, but I still have questions.
How do the multiple familial and collegial relationships through the past four decades and across the multiple MAS support groups impact what is unfolding? Reading the Tucson Weekly’s article about MAS program and Chicano Nationalism movement of the 1970s connected many dots for me. There is a lot of cross pollination out there.
And the bottomline: Has the MAS program improved graduation rates among Latino youth? The 1998 article said the Latino dropout rate was 8.33%. What is it today?
And, finally, what is being done to help the tens of thousands of TUSD students who are not in MAS succeed? What is TUSD doing for those Mexican American, African American, Native American, refugee, mixed race, and poor non-minority students who need our help? Focusing so intensely on this one small program is clouding the bigger picture: Education in Arizona is in trouble, and public education nationwide is under attack. As long as were fighting and drawing lines in the sand, nothing will progress. We need full transparency, and we need a public forum where everyone’s voices can be heard– not just those who shout the loudest. We need to come together to fix this– or Tom Horne will fix it for us.
Following the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, little Christina-Taylor Green and others at a Tucson Safeway in January, there was a nationwide call for civil discourse. President Obama, the First Lady, and others came to Tucson to help us heal.
It seemed as if as a community we were taking President Obama’s words to heart when he invoked the memory of little Christina and said, “I want our democracy to be as good as Christina imagined it to be.”
That memorial event in January and the civility concert in March seem so long ago. Our community which was pulling together just a few short weeks ago is now being torn apart by violent hate speech, bullying, and mob action by the supporters of the Mexican American Studies (MAS) program in Tucson Unified School District (TUSD). These are dark days for our community when people with moderate voices are not allowed to speak or are afraid to attend public meetings– forcing increased security.
With the mob takeover of last week’s TUSD board meeting; the takeover of a University of Arizona economics class taught by School Board President Dr. Mark Stegeman; threats from Unidos that protests at yesterday’s TUSD board meeting would surpass the previous week’s protest; the public and online bullying of anyone who dares to have a different opinion from the MAS supporters; and the relentless smear campaign against Dr. Stegeman and TUSD Superintendent Dr. John Pedicone on the the pages of the Tucson Citizen, on facebook, and in a e-mail blasts– our community has sunk to a new low.
This spring civil rights activist and Princeton professor Dr. Cornel West gave a lecture to a packed house on the UA campus. Dr. West challenged the audience in the epicenter of hate (AKA Arizona– thanks to the Arizona Legislature) to practice radical love. He challenged us to look beyond race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender and work together against the real enemy of the people– the corporatists who control the wealth of our country and who want to control our government.
In the meantime, I challenge everyone– MAS supporters, MAS detractors, and questioning moderates who support ethnic studies but want transparency and true civil discourse on this important issue– to practice radical love and respect for each other. This is the way to protect democracy and free speech. All voices should be heard at the public forum– not just those who shout the loudest.
The Arizona Daily Star was conspicuously absent last week when the TucsonCitizen.com was all afire with news and opinion and the Tucson Weekly included a background article about Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) Board President Mark Stegeman’s proposal to reorganize the district’s Ethnic Studies Program– post notably the Mexican American Studies section.
In Monday’s Star, they made up for their absence by publishing a front page story and an editorial. Here are the links.
In the current Tucson Weekly, reporter Mari Herreras gives additional details on The Elective Question– referring, of course, to the question of the century: Should the Mexican American Studies (MAS) classes in Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) be core courses or electives.
The article juxtaposes quotes from TUSD School Board members, TUSD Superintendent John Pedicone, members of the Mexican American Studies [Community] Advisory Board (a group of Latino activists, Latino elected officials, and University of Arizona MAS faculty, a group that I didn’t know existed until last week), and an unnamed source or sources speaking for maintaining the MAS status quo. (It’s a very good article, but I thought it curious that all sources were named except for the MAS supporters. What’s up with that?)
In addition to confirming that the board will vote on the MAS reorganization proposal that I posted earlier this week, the story reports that Pedicone will provide details on MAS funding. From the Weekly…
At the same meeting, TUSD Superintendent John Pedicone is expected to present a detailed report on where desegregation funds are spent in the district’s four ethnic studies programs: African-American, Mexican-American, Native American and Pan-Asian studies.
The report was requested by governing board president Mark Stegeman and approved at the Tuesday, April 12, meeting. Stegeman, Michael Hicks and Miguel Cuevas voted yes, while Adelita Grijalva voted no. Judy Burns did not vote.
Just to clarify, the TUSD Board wants full transparency on how all of the district’s $68 million in desegregation funds are being spent– not just Ethnic Studies. Between now and the end of 2011, there will be multiple funding reports; next week is the Ethnic Studies report. Let the sunshine in.
Phil Lopes, former State House Minority Leader, will update lefties of all stripes on local Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) organizing efforts at the Drinking Liberally gathering on Sunday, April 10.
Congressman Raul Grijalva and populist commentator Jim Hightower addressed a standing room only crowd at PDA’s initial organizing meeting back in February.
Since then, PDA has been organizing a local steering committee to run the local group and organizing teams to tackle PDA’s core issues. Several Issue Organizing Teams (IOTs) have held strategy meetings and participated in nationwide conference calls around PDA’s core issues: Accountability/Justice, Climate Change, Clean/Fair Elections, Economic and Social Justice, End the Wars/Redirect the Funds, Health Care for All, and a new IOT– Immigration. More volunteers– including IOT leaders– are needed.
PDA is planning another big event for April 25 at the YWCA on Bonita. The featured speaker will be Congressman Grijalva who will address the federal budget. (Watch for further details in the future.)
Personally, I think PDA is a breath of fresh air in a bleak political landscape. If you’re as disgusted as I am with the corporate-controlled political parties, stop by The Shanty tonight or come to the April 25 meeting to learn more about PDA.
Tonight, kibitzing and drinking– both alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages– begins at 6 p.m. Lopes will speak at 7 p.m. Drinking Liberally is a nationwide organization of liberal thinkers who gather regularly to discuss politics. The Tucson group meets every Sunday evening at The Shanty.
The most disturbing part of this whole exercise is her continuation of the BIG LIE that she is protecting education, as she promised to do when she duped Arizona voters into an additional sales tax in 2010 to protect education from the types of cuts she signed into law this week.
“The bottom line is that I’ve been the crusader for education,” Brewer said after the meeting. “I’ve led the charge to protect education. And I’m continuing to try … to protect education as we move through this budget process.” [The Big Lie.]
The governor said, though, nothing Barrett [former CEO of Intel] or anyone said would cause her to back off her proposal to cut university funding, or to scale back another part of her budget which would pare state aid to community colleges by half.
“We are going to do the best job that we can with the dollars that we have to deliver the best education to everyone,” she said, from preschool through college. [The Big Lie, again.]
Senate President Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, also said he has no second thoughts about the deeper education spending cuts his chamber approved.
Now that the budget has been signed, the Governor is trying to apply as much lipstick to that pig as possible. From the Arizona Capitol Times…
Calling it a milestone on Arizona’s road to recovery, Gov. Jan Brewer signed a fiscal year 2012 budget that she said made painful – but necessary – cuts that would protect the state’s fiscal health for years to come.
Brewer acknowledged that many of the budget cuts will be difficult to implement, but said she had done as much as possible to protect priorities like education, public safety and safety-net programs for the vulnerable. [This, of course, is just BS.] She said the budget – Arizona’s first structurally balanced spending plan in several years – would reduce the size and scope of government, while helping the state keep future budgets balanced.
“If Arizona is to reclaim its standing as a national leader in economic growth, its state government must be cost-effective, efficient and fiscally stable,” Brewer wrote today in a letter to House Speaker Kirk Adams and Senate President Russell Pearce. “This budget plan puts the state on the right path in all three categories.” [Thus, totally ignoring what the business leaders told them.]
The budget included $183 million in K-12 education cuts, with $35 million backfilled by federal funds. Brewer acknowledged that the cuts were deeper she wanted … but said the majority of the cuts come from specific programs, such as vocational classes, instead of classroom spending.
“My goal was to avoid severely eroding base support for schools and core education programs. [Repeating another version of the Big Lie.] I believe this budget accomplishes that,” she wrote. [Emphasis added.]
Critics have charged the governor with reneging on her promise to protect education, even though they acknowledge Brewer’s proposals were less harmful than those of legislative Republicans.
The Arizona Education Network, a Tucson-based group of education advocates, said Brewer and the Legislature “have violated the public’s trust with these deep cuts.” [Duh. She lied to us.]
In addition to about $150 million in cuts to K-12, the budget reduces university funding by $198 million and takes $70 million from the community-college system.
[Andrei] Cherny, [chair] of the [Arizona] Democratic Party, said that the budget decimates Arizona education and that Democrats will remind voters of that in next year’s elections.
The budget also cuts $50 million from the Department of Economic Security, which provides the state’s safety-net programs, and $53 million from the Department of Health Services.
The budget reduces funds that have kept the state’s parks system on life support; advocates say the cuts mean some parks will have to close.
Arizona’s attack on education reminded me of the classic Pink Floyd video above. The famous “We don’t need no education” line is about 2 minutes. Do Pearce, Brewer, and, of course, Attorney General Tom Horne want Arizona students to march in lock step like the uniformed zombies envisioned by Pink Floyd? You betcha. Citizens who are stupid, poor, and sick are easier to control and more willing to work for pennies.
What they failed to mention in any of the above articles is that cutting funding from healthcare and education means cutting good-paying jobs in the private and public sectors. This is truly government against the people– less education for our children, less healthcare for the poor and the unemployed, fewer jobs, higher unemployment.
Pamela Powers Hannley writes the Tucson Progressive blog on the TucsonCitizen.com and contributes articles to the Huffington Post and Salon.com. She has had more than 30 years of experience in written, visual, and electronic communication—including freelance writing, photography, graphic design, and consulting. In addition to blogging for the Citizen, she is the Managing Editor of an international medical research journal.
Hannley has authored medical research articles, print magazine and newspaper stories, and numerous cancer prevention and self-help publications.
She has been a blogger since 2006, joined the ranks of Tucson Citizen bloggers in October 2010, and started contributing to the Huffington Post in 2011 and to Salon.com in 2012.
Hannley holds a masters’ degree in public health from The University of Arizona and a bachelors’ degree in journalism from The Ohio State University. She is a native of Amherst, Ohio but has lived in Tucson since 1981.