The Arizona Education Department is objecting to the Tucson school board’s decision to rescind a classroom ban on seven books once used to teach a controversial Mexican American Studies course.
Within a day of the board’s decision to once again allow the books back into classrooms, the state’s Education Department said it was “concerned” about the move, the Arizona Daily Star reports.
“Given the prior misuse of the approved texts in TUSD [Tucson Unified School District] classrooms, the Arizona Department of Education is concerned whether the Governing Board’s actions indicate an attempt to return to practices found to have violated Arizona’s statutes in 2011,” the agency said in a statement released to the Arizona paper.
The statement said the agency would monitor the use of the books.
The Arizona legislature passed legislation in 2010 aimed at shutting down the courses, after conservatives led by then-Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne and then-State Sen. John Huppenthal accused the teachers of politicizing the students and breeding resentment among Latinos against white people.
The law bans classes that promote the overthrow of the government, breed ethnic resentment, or advocate ethnic solidarity instead of treating students as individuals.
The teachers deny the allegations, saying they encouraged critical thinking about socioeconomic conflict. Independent research showed that the courses helped improve student achievement. A state-commissioned audit recommended expanding the courses in 2011. A challenge to the law is currently coursing its way through the courts.
The Tucson school board voted to suspend the controversial program in January 2012, after the Arizona Education Department found the courses in violation of the new law. After the vote, administrators plucked seven books from classrooms and banned them from instruction in the city’s public schools, noting that they were named in a lawsuit against the state.
The books in question include several classics of Latino social science literature that are routinely assigned in university courses, like Rudolfo Acuña’s Chicano history text “Occupied America” and Brazilian educator Paulo Freire’s “Pedagogy of the Oppressed.” Six of the seven books were penned by Latino authors.
Huppenthal, who spearheaded the effort to pass the ethnic studies law through the Arizona legislature, now heads the Arizona Education Department. He said last year that he was considering taking his fight against Mexican American Studies to the university system.
“I think that’s where this toxic thing starts from, the universities,” Huppenthal told Fox News Latino.
Tucson implemented “culturally relevant courses” as a substitute for the outlawed Mexican American Studies curriculum this school year. The district is required to provide such classes due to a decades-old desegregation lawsuit.
The curriculum for the new classes does not yet contain a single work by a Chicano author, though the majority of the Tucson student body is Mexican American and the classes are supposed to be taught from their perspective.
Check out the list of books once banned from Tucson classrooms in the slideshow below.