Education

Controversy Over “Raza Studies” in Tucson

By Mary Ann Zehr — July 01, 2008 1 min read

The Flypaper has decided to join Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne and conservative talk show hosts in condemning the teaching of Mexican-American/Raza Studies in Tucson Unified School District in Arizona. The blog points to a commentary by a teacher who taught a U.S. history course with a Mexican-American perspective as part of the Tucson program in the 2002-2003 school year. That teacher felt the curriculum was biased and “engendered racial hostility.”

Liam Julian at Flypaper points out that teachers who teach the courses with a Mexican-American perspective in Tucson are invited to attend a seminar in which they work with leading scholars in the areas of “Latino critical race theory, critical race theory, critical multicultural education, Chicana/o studies, ethnic studies, cultural studies, critical pedagogy, and critical race pedagogy.” He concludes: “It’s incredible.”

I can see how Mr. Julian’s comment, “it’s incredible,” could refer to some of the claims made by the teacher in his commentary, such as that he was called a “sellout” by other educators when he objected to some of the content of the course. But I don’t see that it’s incredible, or negative in any way, that teachers would study “critical pedagogy” or “critical race theory,” if those terms mean what they seem to me to mean at face value. What seems more incredible to me is that many teachers aren’t encouraged to be critical of textbooks or curriculum in schools. In fact, the teacher who wrote the commentary that the Flypaper features probably practiced a bit of “critical pedagogy” to come up with his views of the course, which is a good thing.

An article that ran in The Arizona Star in late May seems to me to provide a balanced picture of the intense feelings swirling around the debate over whether a Mexican-American perspective should be taught—and if so, how should it be taught—in a school system with lots of students of Mexican heritage.

July 2 Update: The National Review Online published a commentary today by Liam Julian, subtitled “Grievance and Distortion 101" on Raza studies.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.

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