AZ Superintendent of Public Instruction Under Fire for Anonymous Online Posts

500 Years of Chicano History in pictures, one of the books removed from Tucson classrooms

500 Years of Chicano History in pictures, one of the books removed from Tucson classrooms

In stating that Tucson’s banned Mexican American Studies program “contained content promoting resentment toward a race or class of people” and that “materials repeatedly reference white people as being ‘oppressors….’ in violation of state law,” Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal’s bias against Mexican American’s has been obvious, but the recent discovery of Huppenthal’s anonymous online posts seems to have put him firmly in the overt racism camp.

Huppenthal has been a central figure in the dissolution of the Tucson’s award-winning MAS program. Late last year, the students and teachers of the program brought suit against Huppenthal, and CBLDF joined an amicus brief filed in the case by the Freedom to Read Foundation. The brief attacks Arizona Revised Statute § 15-112, a law passed by the Arizona legislature that specifically targeted the MAS program. Huppenthal and other conservative politicians in the state have long argued the program fomented racial hatred, and passage of the law led to the dissolution of the program despite independent assessment that found the program did no such thing and increased student success, especially among Latino students. With the demise of MAS, TUSD also banned from classrooms seven titles by Mexican American and Native authors. (Fortunately, those titles have been allowed back into classrooms, but the MAS program has not been reinstated.)

The revelation of Huppenthal’s offensive posts is likely no surprise to anyone who has followed the story. Publicly, Huppenthal has been critical of the MAS program, but his public rhetoric pales in comparison to his anonymous posts as Falcon9 for the blog Espresso Pundit. Arizona television station KTVK unearthed some of the posts:

In one post Huppenthal wrote, “We all need to stomp out balkanization. No Spanish radio stations, no Spanish billboards, no Spanish TV stations, no Spanish newspapers. This is America, speak English.”

Huppenthal followed up with another post on the same site that said, “I don’t mind them selling Mexican food as long as the menus are mostly in English. And, I’m not being humorous or racist.”

Talking Points Memo dug up a few more of Huppenthal’s incendiary anonymous posts:

Writing as Falcon9 at the blog Three Sonorans in 2012, Huppenthal apparently described Mexican-American Studies, an experimental curriculum that was ultimately shut down by GOP lawmakers in the state, as “a racist program that pits the races against each other and encourages students to view themselves as victims and successful people as ‘oppressors.'”

He also wrote that “hispanic history [is] defined as a history of victimhood leading to a future of victimhood owned by you…”

In another post, Huppenthal simply wrote, “MAS=KKK.”

Like any other American citizen, Huppenthal is free to express his opinion, but free speech does not mean speech without consequences. Huppenthal’s comments have led to calls for his resignation, and Arizona’s business community has taken notice of his actions. KTVK reports that an awards ceremony honoring Huppenthal has been canceled by the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which stated that “The comments should not have been made and posted under any circumstance. We regret that this decision was necessary.”

One of his predescessors is among those who called for his resignation. Lisa Graham Keegan, a Republican who held the Superintdnet of Public Instruction position from 1995 to 2001, personally called Huppenthal to ask him to step down. AZ Central shared her comments on Huppenthal:

“His comments are extremely disrespectful of the people the state superintendent serves,” she said. “Most of what you do in that job is enforce equal access to education. More than a third of families in Arizona receive assistance because they can’t make ends meet.”

Huppenthal has admitted to making the posts, but he doesn’t seem to be worried that they will negatively impact his re-election campaign, saying “In eight of my 12 elections, I have had to walk through fire,” he said. “I don’t get into this to get along.”

In a state that is already under scrutiny for a lack of federally-mandated desegregation, Huppenthal’s comments only reinforce the idea that the MAS program was targeted because of race. Huppenthal himself has acknowledged a lesson that comes with free speech on the Internet:

“I love talking about public policy, and I have a passion for engaging in debate,” Huppenthal said on Wednesday. “I probably have 300,000 words out on the Internet, and 100 of them are getting me in trouble. When all of your missteps are there all together for people to see, it’s not a pretty picture.”

Unfortunately, in his exercising his right to free speech, Huppenthal fails to recognize that he and a handful of his fellow politicians do not have the right to end the MAS program and remove books “solely because of their content and the messages they contain. The effort to ‘prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, [or] religion” is the essence of censorship, whether the impact results in removal of all the books in a classroom, seven books, or only one.”

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Previously on

Tucson School District Lifts Ban on Mexican American Studies Books

Embattled Mexican American Studies Program Finds Another Way

Court Upholds Law that Led to Tucson Book Ban

Move by Tucson School Board May Mean Overturn of Book Ban

Effort to Return MAS Books to Classrooms Fails in Tucson

Tucson School District Blocks Renowned Chicana Author’s Visit

Protestors Take Over Tucson School Board Meeting

Tucson School Board Tightens Security

Latino and Native Authors Keep Tucson Book Ban in the News

Why Tucson Matters

CBLDF Joins National Organizations in Condemning Arizona School Censorship