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Putting a stop to the attack on ethnic studies

In Arizona, the attacks on anything to do with immigrant rights are escalating.

First, it was the "papers please" law, which allowed law enforcement agents to demand proof of immigration status from anyone they felt might be undocumented. That law drew strong condemnation from the AFT executive council.

Then it was state Superintendent John Huppenthal and his predecessor, state Attorney General Tom Horne, going after the widely admired Mexican American Studies program in the Tucson Unified School District. Citing a law he was instrumental in getting passed, Huppenthal has banned MAS in the schools.

Now, Huppenthal is trying to censure the University of Arizona faculty who helped design the innovative MAS program.

An independent evaluation published by the Annenberg Institute for School Reform shows the MAS program's student-centered approach is working. Students in the MAS program far outperformed their peers on Arizona's state standardized tests in reading (by 45 percentage points), writing (by 59 percentage points) and math (by 33 percentage points), and they enroll in postsecondary institutions at a rate of 67 percent, well above the national average.

Yet Huppenthal says such an approach promotes racial resentment.

Arizona faculty and professional staff are circulating a petition that calls on Huppenthal and the Arizona state Legislature to cease and desist with their attacks on university faculty and to reinstate the Mexican American Studies curriculum in the Tucson schools. They will deliver the petition June 14.

The AFT believes faculty and teachers should be free to design and teach a curriculum that meets the needs of students. [Barbara McKenna]

June 1, 2012