Friday, June 13, 2008

Open Letter to Citizen Tom Horne

This is in response to the June 11, 2007-dated memo (unless they've fixed it, the grammar police is issuing a citation) from Arizona's Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne entitled, "An Open Letter to the Citizens of Tucson" (.pdf warning)

Dear Superintendent Horne:

In your 'Open Letter to the Citizens of Tucson', you write in the opening section:
"The citizens of Tucson, of all mainstream political ideologies, would call for the elimination of the Tucson Unified School District’s ethnic studies program if they knew what was happening there. I believe this is true of citizens of all mainstream political ideologies. The purpose of this letter is to bring these facts out into the open. The decision of whether or not to eliminate this program will rest with the citizens of Tucson through their elected school board."
It's not lost on me that you have included the word "citizen" four times in your opening salvo - a signal that you are conflating the curriculum of the Tucson Unified School District's ethnic studies department with the political debate on immigration. It speaks of a gross misunderstanding of the history and culture of the state that you have, regrettably, been elected to represent as the chief administrator of Arizona's education system.

You and other nativist politicians are working to enact cultural genocide in a country that has a rich and diverse history that is whitewashed in history books. The ethnic studies department at TUSD is an attempt to engage students in critical thinking by expanding their understanding of that incomplete history by studying, celebrating and engaging various cultures that are in our society - some of which are indigenous to this area.

Your pandering screed, which I have no doubt you believe in forcefully, is based in ignorance. You call for the abolishment of a program that you have never visited. What type of administrator forms such an opinion without ever taking so much as a footstep into the classrooms of students who are participating in a program that is successful? An irresponsible one.

I understand, of course, that politics is playing a very large role in your decision to target Mexican-American/Raza Studies - let's not kid ourselves, that's what this whole thing is about. You've calculated that it is in your best interest to attack our culture as you prepare for a 2010 run for the Arizona Governorship. You've bought in to the whole Reconquista myth like a good nativist soldier by exploiting groups that you know nothing about.

You write:
The very name “Raza” is translated as “the race.” On the TUSD website, it says the basic text for this program is “the pedagogy of oppression.” Most of these students’ parents and grandparents came to this country, legally, because this is the land of opportunity. They trust the public schools with their children. Those students should be taught that this is the land of opportunity, and that if they work hard they can achieve their goals. They should not be taught that they are oppressed.
Know this: you are not allowed to define Chicanos or our movement that seeks equality not oppression. No matter how many times you and others repeat that "Raza = Race", it doesn't make it true. We understand it to signify "The People", as in "We, The People" - all of us.

Stop your attempts to label us dissidents of the United States. Our families do work hard, many serve in the armed forces, and there are more than a few of us who have roots in this region that precede the movement of the border between the United States and Mexico. Again, quit conflating indigenous cultural studies with the immigration debate.

As for the claim that "a kind of destructive ethnic chauvinism" is being taught, it should be noted that the TUSD Ethnic Studies Department does not discriminate nor segregate students. They are available to any pupil who wishes to participate. Collectively, TUSD's African American, Native American, Pan Asian, and Mexican American Studies Departments are successful qualitatively by raising AIMS scores and graduation rates - but as you demonstrated yesterday when you came to Tucson for your anti-Raza press conference - student success is not your main concern.

No wonder Arizona's education system is ranked 50th in the country - the State Superintendent of Public Instruction is getting a big, fat F on his report card.

Do your job, Mr. Horne, and wake yourself up from the self-created nightmare that Tucson students are being brainwashed. The reality is that they are having their brains engaged, which we all know is a threat to the type of nativism and ignorance you exude.


A Tucson citizen of mainstream political ideology

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