When Learning is a Crime

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

18 thoughts on “When Learning is a Crime”

  1. It’s not fair that they can’t learn mexican american studies. It’s ok to learn every other study but the mexican american study. Thats just racist and bogus. I’ll never visit Tuson, Arizona.

  2. That is just wrong to do that.People like you should be banned from even living in that country,that makes me upset and you should be fired for being like that Tom Horne

  3. Why you guys doing this all the kids deserve to know about the past. Just like us we all ready know why can’t they know.

  4. I think the students have a right to learn the Mexican Ethincs program just like the other programs becuase the have the right to know more of there culture and all the others to.

  5. I think it’s completely unfair that the students who go to that school in tucson arizona don’t get to read that book. And you know what if we want to learn more about our culture we can and we dont have to go back to our culture just to learn more. It’s completely unfair, those kids have the right to learn. And since you wont let them i have some of my family in arizona and if they ever want there kids to go to that school, im going to say no it is unfair and those students deserve justice and if you do go there. There just going to tell you if you want to learn about your culture go back to where you came from. Then as that ru our spreads it’ll get around the U.S. nation wide then you won’t have no kids at that school and your going to regret what you did. We will keep doing whatever we can so that we have justice for all. How coulds a,man do such a thing. Especially fire a teacher for teaching mexican culture. I’ll make sure to go to arizona with a whole lot of people and i’ll share my piece of mind.

  6. Fight 4 mexican studies.let them learn what they want to learn ,Its their culture and who is going to care if they are not from that country,yeah i bet just you and your dumb possey.I’m with lola on this,I will NEVER VIST TUSCON ARIZONA.

  7. Dear School Board of Tucson, Arizona, February 1, 2012

    I don’t get why you don’t let Tucson, Arizona students read the book called Rethinking Columbus. Why don’t you let the kids learn about Mexican Americans and Native Americans? You must let them know about what happened in 1492 with Christopher Columbus the guy who supposedly discovered America. It is not fair because we get to read and learn about that book and they don’t. The school board should be ashamed of themselves. The people in Tucson, Arizona should let them read that book so that the students can learn the culture and history of the Mexican Americans.

    Those kids should learn about that and also it’s not about the culture, it’s about what they want to learn. If I was in Tucson Arizona I would fight for us so we can read that book and learn about that book. Those kids should not be treated like that they should read the book and learn.

    I have learned a lot from that book and my friends did to and I really think that you should let them read the book and learn the book. It really does not madder of the culture that it is it’s about the learning. Their parents should be angry because their kids want to learn something new that they have not heard of ever.

    I am going to tell you what I learned in my school from that book called Rethinking Columbus. I learned that we can be a group and we can work with everyone in the group. How do we defend us because we were playing a game and we had to defend us and things like that? I also learned about the Tianos, that they did not know that much and when Columbus gave them his sword they cut them self’s.

    U.S. Grant Elementary School



  8. They shool board of Tucson, Arizona is being so unfair they don’t know they are hurting other people. Why do they just judge one group of people? They should not even judge any culture. When I hear this i shut down. They were talking about my culture and my whole family. I know that one day they will change this. “MAINTAIN FAITH IN THE FUTURE.” Is what Martin Luther King Jr. said. That is my favorite quote that i remember ever time i am think of Tucson,Arizona. I will not rest until there is and end to this.

  9. I think this is wrong to ban the book “Rethinking Columbus,” because it is like taking away learning to some children and in their future they aren’t going to know what christopher columbus did to the tainos and if I had a chance to go and do something for a change i would go to tuscon,arizona and to make a better change for children. I would go to Tuscon Arizona And Make things better there. To me i think that banning the book is wrong because later in their life people could be missing out in very important things.

  10. Dear Board of Tucson Arizona you should let the children learn about that book because they need to know the truth about who found the country. And what Christopher Columbus did to the Native Americans. And what his crew had done. And Cesar Chavez should have a day instead of Christopher Columbus because he’s the one who got Mexican Americans and farm workers to have their rights. The kids should be able to learn whatever they want to learn. Everyone should be equal and don’t judge people because of their skin color. As Cesar Dear school Chavez said once social change begins it cannot be reversed you cannot uneducated the person who has learn to read you cannot humiliate the person who feels pride you cannot oppress the people who are not afraid any more we have seen the future and the future is ours-Cesar Chaves
    You should take Caesar Chaves advice and let those kids learn about Mexican Americans and Native Americans. Sincerely Maximiliano Castillo

  11. I think that the kids have a right to learn about the Mexican Ethinics program because it is right and they should never had fired that teacher because it is not wrong at all.

  12. i think that you should not of fierd that guy he was teaching the rights about mexicans. that program should go on they were doing a great thing in that class they said a good thing and they should go on

  13. not fair to people who live in arizona in california we can learn ethnic studies but its not fair everyone cant learn the same thing

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