Tucson tries yet again to teach classes that don’t stoke resentment against ‘whites’

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The Tucson Unified School District is racing against the clock to install a new curriculum that will offer race-based courses to satisfy literature, government and American history graduation requirements in some way that doesn’t stoke racial resentment or endorse violent revolution.

Evidently, that task is not as easy as it might seem to normal people outside of Tucson.

A now-scrapped curriculum was brimming with critical race theory and “Barrio Pedagogy” (an actual thing). Courses were taught from a pointedly Mexican-American vantage point. (There will also be a separate, analogous African-American curriculum.)

The school district intervened to forcibly alter the controversial coursework after a federal judge upheld most of a 2010 Arizona state law prohibiting exactly such highly race-conscious courses.

The judge agreed with a prior evidentiary finding by an administrative law judge that the prior program contained “classes or courses designed for Latinos as a group” and promoted “racial resentment against ‘Whites.'”

The relevant sections of the law, commonly known among locals as House Bill 2281 and still contested in these parts, forbid Arizona school districts and charter schools from: (1) promoting the overthrow of the government, (2) promoting racial or class resentment and (3) promoting ethnic solidarity instead of equal treatment. (A fourth prohibition was tossed by the federal judge.)

In May, the Arizona Department of Education advised Tucson school district officials that its latest attempt at a culturally relevant curriculum appeared to violate H.B. 2281, reports the Arizona Daily Independent.

Tucson’s school district is nothing if not relentless, though. Officials are now hastily pushing the latest version of the politically-charged classes—commonly referred to as culturally relevant courses.

The Daily Independent has obtained emails between the director of the culturally relevant courses program, Auggie Romero, and developers of the new curriculum. The emails suggest an insidious effort to make the new program virtually the same as the old, outlawed program.

For example, on February 23, 2013 (just before the federal ruling that upheld the Arizona law), curriculum developer Penelope Buckley emailed Romero, saying:

“Hi Auggie. I added some of your ideas to the latest revision and would love to hear what you suggest. I feel protective of it so can I ask you to send me suggestions before putting them in? I have tried to tone down some of your rhetoric so this passes inspection. Teachers can add their voice easily to the curriculum and I think that being able to spice it up or tone it down will be essential for selling it to teachers.”

Fearing that state education officials might reject the curriculum because it fails to align with new Common Core standards, Romero promised to tack on something.

The program director wrote: “Penny, This look great! I will insert the Common Core. Thanks a bunch!”

District officials appear determined to complete the rushed approval process and offer the elective courses to 11th and 12th graders this year.

“I feel good about this process,” said district deputy superintendent Maria Menconi, according to the Arizona Daily Star. “I feel it was a little rushed, but I believe once it gets to the point where we have it in front of the board for approval that it will be a good and fair curriculum.”

Menconi was not in such a hurry in January in an email to state education officials, though,

“[G]iven the need to do this very well, I think it will be wise not to rush it,” she wrote then, notes the Daily Independent.

Under Arizona statute, school board officials must review and approve the course materials.

This week, district officials released a statement encouraging “the community to examine and comment on the proposed curriculum”—until July 8.

Tucson’s board of education is likely to adopt the curriculum at its July 9 meeting.

This upcoming school year, the classes — if authorized — will occur at just three pilot high schools in Tucson.

You can view the Culturally Relevant African-American English curriculum here.

You can view the Culturally Relevant Mexican-American English curriculum here.

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Eric Owens