Tucson Unified School District Cultural Studies Program Still Under Hot Water

July 12, 2013

The long standing controversy over cultural studies at the Tucson Unified School District continues. The district is under a federal court order to come up with a new ethnic studies curriculum after it ended its Mexican American Studies program, but now state authorities have complaints. TUSD had asked the Arizona Department of Education to review its new multicultural curriculum in history, English and government. State authorities had responded in June with concerns and had asked for revisions.

They say they were taken by surprise when the district board voted to approve the English curriculum this week without waiting for state approval.

"Our concern with the proposed curriculum is that it does not meet Arizona state academic standards and that it could be in violation of state statute," said Kristen Landry, a spokeswoman for the Arizona Department of Education.

Previously, the state found TUSD's Mexican American studies program violated a state statute that prohibits courses that "advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals," or "are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group."

The district was under threat of losing 10 percent of its funds from the state and eliminated the program.

The Department of Education's June review of TUSD's updated curriculum found a "lack of evidence that students have access to multiple viewpoints."

Specifically, the state reviewers were concerned over a proposed History course that "appears to narrow the curriculum with limited topics, viewpoints and perspectives."

The review gave as an example the fact that the following terminology was used in the curriculum: “oppressed”, “assumed superiority of whiteness”, “Mexican people disenfranchised”, “violated”, “exploited”, “historically underserved populations.”

Meanwhile, the district seems to be receiving very different feedback from a federal judge, who in the context of a decades-long desegregation lawsuit ordered the district to put into effect a "culturally relevant" courses that reflect the perspectives of the African American and the Mexican American viewpoint.