Questioning ethnic programs stirs debate  
Arizona Daily Star
Nov. 19, 2007


Tucson, Arizona | Published:

The following letters are in response to the Nov. 15 article "Horne seeks info on ethnic studies programs in TUSD."

Program is costly, divisive

I would like to know why we are spending money on marginal classes designed to motivate, allow a relationship with a teacher, or develop identity when we can't pay our teachers a decent salary. Do we now provide therapy for students, as well as feeding them and busing them to school? I thought it was the task of the parent to motivate and communicate their family cultural history.

Whatever need there is for cultural history, it can be included in core classes like history or sociology. There is no legitimate need to separate certain students based on ethnicity. Ethnic studies is not only a waste of scarce resources, it is divisive, and should be eliminated as a separate entity. When the state is facing serious revenue shortfalls, this program offers savings.

Jacqueline O'Connor

Administrator, Sierra Vista

Curriculum isn't Horne's concern

The curriculum of a school district or school represents the values of its community embodied in the programs, courses and details necessary to implement it.

In the Tucson community, students and parents have asked for and received inclusion of ethnic studies. School districts have implemented such courses to include the values and contributions of our diverse culture. Schools all over the United States have such courses in their curricula.

Arizona School Superintendent Tom Horne questions the value of ethnic studies in TUSD's curriculum. He is responsible for such things as AIMS, required courses determined by the State Board of Education, certification of school personnel, and school assessment. But he does not have the authority to tell a community what its total school curriculum should be. That is the responsibility of the local school board.

TUSD's response to Horne's request for documentation and records on ethnic studies courses should be "Mind your own business."

Bob Bowers

Retired educator, Tucson

Ethnic studies have value

The ethnic studies classes I took in college taught me a world of knowledge about my own culture and the cultures of others. What role, for example, did the thousands of Mexicans who instantly became American citizens in 1848 play in the Civil War?

The question never occurred to the teachers in my predominantly Latino high school. Yet many of the best-known heroes of the Civil War got their first combat experience during the U.S.-Mexican War, and although Mexican-Americans served bravely on both sides of the U.S. Civil War, I only learned about the Battle of Valverde and the Battle of Glorieta Pass thanks to the research completed by scholars in Mexican-American studies.

The history and literature uncovered by scholars in every ethnic studies area develops a more complete picture of our nation's rich cultural heritage. It's a shame that our state superintendent of public instruction cannot appreciate that.

Salvador Gabaldon

Teacher, Oro Valley

An assault on the curriculum

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne's move to investigate TUSD's successful African-American and Mexican-American studies programs is nothing short of an ideological witch hunt, designed to intimidate TUSD and strip our students of the benefits derived from learning about history everyone's history, not just the narrowly defined and officially sanctioned ideological version Horne adheres to.

Teaching mathematics and the sciences is critical, and so is the exposure of our youth to the arts, sports and history. Our community must stand up to Horne's assault on teachers, students and curriculum.

At this rate the only courses taught will be those mandated and engineered by the state for students to memorize stuff so that some unacceptable percentage of them will pass the state mandated AIMS test. We ought to be teaching our kids to be creative, inquisitive, well-rounded individuals prepared to successfully engage the global economy.

Bruce Wheeler

Former City Council member, Tucson