Thursday, April 19, 2012

Tucson School Board Fires Ethnic Studies Director

On April 11, 2012, a truly sad even occurred in Tucson, AZ: Sean Arce, director of the Mexican American Studies program was fired.  The director of a program that improved student achievement scores, expanded students' understanding of different perspectives on ethnic minorities through history, and was overall fantastic, was let go because of his failure to cooperate with the State's despicable decision to shut the program down.  An article in Common Dreams had the following to say:
Sean Arce, the director of the embattled Mexican American Studies program in Tucson, Arizona was fired last night after a split vote by the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD). Students, teachers, and community members gathered before the vote to champion Arce as a vital member of the school district and berated the TUSD board members for targeting Arce for dismissal due to his outspoken support for the ethnic studies program. 
Calling the board’s move “irresponsible, unlawful and reflects yet another step in TUSD’s descent into abysmal discrimination,” Arce’s attorney Richard Martinez warned in a letter on Tuesday that the non-renewal notice sent to the former MAS director also failed to follow proper legal procedures. “The Pedicone era at TUSD,” Martinez added, “has proven to be a complete disaster, one that has allowed racism to prevail over the educational needs and rights of our students.”
Another article in the Tucson Sentinel reported on the proceedings prior to the vote from the School Board, noting that "A call to the audience lasting over two and a half hours saw nearly four dozen supporters of the Mexican American Studies program alternately berate the board and praise Arce. No one rose to speak against the program during the meeting."  Support for the program and the director were shown through displays of "anger, tears, raised voices and sometimes quiet dignity as [those in the audience] pleaded for the board to retain Arce and restore MAS classes...."  At least I can rest with the assurance that the general public in Tucson are NOT in support of this decision.  

It's interesting, in this age of censorship and book challenges that one or two parents can get a book removed from the hands of hundreds of children, but when dozens of supporters speak up, students protest, and organizations write letters of protest, the School Board is suddenly deaf, and the State's support is nowhere to be found (mostly because the State ordered the dissolution of the program to begin with, but the Tucson School Board did nothing to fight the decision.)

To remind us of the importance of these sorts of programs, and article in Education Week states:
“On Arizona’s achievement tests in reading, writing, and math, its students also outscore students of all racial and ethnic groups in the same schools but not in that program—a remarkable record. As schools nationwide struggle to close racial achievement gaps, Tucson’s Mexican-American studies program should be one from which we are learning.”
Thanks for Reading!

And for interest's sake, here are a few other articles of interest for the week:

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