PHOTO: Flickr/Lumina Foundation

PHOTO: Flickr/Lumina Foundation

By Youth Reporter ZAZIL DAVIS-VAZQUEZ, age 16 and TOM ENGLISH

Why Tucson Ended Its Mexican American Studies Program

In January 2012, Tom Horne, the Arizona attorney general, announced that the Mexican American Studies program at Tucson Unified School district was illegal. According to The Nation, the program had a 100 percent graduation rate among its students and placed 82 percent of its graduates in colleges. So why was it shut down?

Horne found the program illegal under a 2010 Arizona law that prohibits classes in public schools that “promote resentment toward a race or class of people, are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group or advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.” Horne found the program violated the law because it “divides students up by race,” though anyone could enroll in the classes. He also claims that the curriculum teaches students that they are oppressed. If the district hadn’t complied with the law, it would have lost $14 million in funding.

In response, former students have spoken out about the value of the program. “When I had the privilege of reading Latino literature and Chicano studies, I became intrigued in the curriculum and pushed myself further to do better,” said high school senior Maria Teresa Mejia.

On February 8, hundreds of students walked out of four schools in the district in protest. Educators across the country have joined the Network of Teacher Activist Groups in its pledge to use materials banned from Tucson classrooms in their own classes.

Arizona: Fast Facts

  • 60% of students in the Tucson district are Latino
  • 30% of Arizona’s population is Latino
  • 27% of Arizonans have Mexican ancestry
  • Arizona was part of Mexico when Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1821. The United States forced Mexico to give up Arizona after the Mexican-American War (1846-1848)

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau; CNN.

Books Removed from Classrooms in Tucson

This book, along with six others, was removed from Tucson classrooms. There are just a few copies available in school libraries. Most of the removed books are about American history told from the perspective of Native Americans or Latinos. IMAGE: Rethinking Schools Ltd

The Mexican American studies program in Tuscon, Arizona's schools, taught kindergarten through high school students about Latino culture and history. PHOTO: Flickr/Lumina FoundationPHOTO: Flickr/Lumina Foundation

The Mexican American studies program in Tuscon, Arizona’s schools, taught kindergarten through high school students about Latino culture and history.
PHOTO: Flickr/Lumina Foundation