LatinaLista — At a time when public school districts with large Latino student populations are wondering how to stem the flow of drop-outs and encourage them to seriously think of higher education, the Tucson Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne (Correction: Horne is Superintendent of Public Instruction for the whole state of Arizona) will announce tomorrow in a press conference the reasons why he wants to do away with a program that has achieved in elevating Latino students’ chances for academic success.
According to a tip from Mann Eegee at Latino Politico, Horne will announce why he thinks the Tucson School District’s Ethnic Studies program, which include African American studies, Native American studies, Mexican American/Raza studies and Pan Asian studies, should be abolished.
Tucson School Superintendent Tom Horne
Given the wave of anti-immigrant fervor in the state, Horne’s announcement is not surprising. Back in November, the Superintendent began an inquiry into how the program was funded. At the time, he said his inquiry was “not based on a question of academics or education, but ‘values.'”
Even at that early date, it isn’t hard to surmise that the Superintendent had already made up his mind about the “value” of the program. Nor is it surprising that he should wait until summer vacation when the kids are out of school to make such an announcement.
Otherwise, walkouts would have been an inevitable reaction.
But summer or not, this Superintendent may find that it doesn’t matter which part of the year you declare as valueless classes geared to bolstering student confidence and academic achievement, reaction will be strong.
Horne justifies his intentions by saying in a 2007 article “I have a long history of opposing ethnic studies and gender studies.”
And that’s supposed to be a badge of honor?
Countless studies of such classes have shown that such programs don’t just enrich the curriculum but broadens the knowledge base of the students and fosters a sense of pride.
During these times in Arizona, this program is especially important given the messages that the state legislature and the Maricopa County Sheriff have been relaying to students.
If public school textbooks had been fair all along and included the history and stories of all the peoples who settled the Southwest and had a hand in the building of this nation then the necessity of such a program could be debated.
But schools and textbook companies failed miserably in that respect and what happened over years is that children of color didn’t feel connected to the country they were born in because nobody wanted to write about THAT history or share those stories in a formal setting.
It doesn’t take a PhD to understand that when children can learn about people who shared the same background as they do and their historical contributions, the pride that is fostered extends to all parts of a student’s life.
Tucson should be so lucky that they have a program that is working and creating students who feel good enough about themselves that they can think of a successful future for themselves â€” and are accomplishing it.
Two recent graduates of TUSD and its raza studies classes say the courses did put them on the path to academic and personal success.
“For kids like me, who had trouble staying motivated, it was something I looked forward to and it gave me a space to talk and have a relationship with my teacher,” said Jesus Romero, an 18-year-old graduate of Tucson Magnet High. “After I graduated, it gave me a sense of who I am as a student and a youth and what I can do.”
Mireya Renteria, 18, is a Rincon High graduate and, like Romero, attends Pima Community College. She said the program helped her grades.
“Before, I was a C-average student. I didn’t care if I would pass as long as I graduated. My counselor never asked me or told me to go to college,” said Renteria. “But my teacher, Dr. Gonzalez, he was concerned if I would continue and get a college education. And my grades went up.”
Yet, in another telling comment, Horne isn’t about to give credit to the program at any cost:
When told about the superior AIMS scores of raza studies students, Horne said the program’s academic success may be what draws students to the program, but the program itself may not lead to student success.
Sadly, Horne seems to be just another sheep following the bleat of what has become, not only anti-immigrant, but anti-Latino decisions in Arizona targeting students. Ironic, that this announcement should come on the heels of state Rep. Pearce’s attempt to abolish “race-based student groups” at colleges and universities.
At any rate, given his position, Horne should be advocating for his students and for any program that can measure academic success. Otherwise, he is of little value for a district that needs to figure out a way to expand a program that works, instead of doing away with it.