Last week, the Tucson school board voted to rescind an objection to “culturally relevant coursework” as part of a plan to desegregate district schools. The move means that the district’s acclaimed Mexican American Studies program may be reinstated, and with it, books that were forcibly removed from classrooms may be returned.
Nearly a year ago, CBLDF joined a coalition of free speech advocates, writers, and artists to decry the dissolution of Tucson’s award-winning MAS program, which the district ended in response to Arizona state legislation that declared the courses illegal. In ending the program, the school district removed several books by Mexican American and Native authors from classrooms.
The program was ended despite independent audits that found that the program led to higher academic achievement. A recent article in The Huffington Post describes the legislation that led to the demise of the MAS program and the conservative politicians behind it:
The Arizona legislature passed a law in 2010 targeted at Tucson’s Mexican American Studies program that criminalized courses that teach ethnic solidarity rather than individuality. Conservative Arizona politicians, led by then-State Sen. John Huppenthal (now State Superintendent of Education) and Attorney General Tom Horne said the courses politicized students and demonized white people.
While the recent decision by the Tucson school board seems to fly in the face of the state legislation, the school board made the move because of plans to improve the racial diversity of the district’s schools through culturally-focused literature and history courses. Such desegregation plans are federally mandated, and the plan and objections to the plan are being reviewed by U.S. District Judge David Bury. While reinstatement of the MAS program is not absolute, this move by the school board is a positive step toward the return of the removed books.
Betsy Gomez is the Web Editor for CBLDF.