damonpackwood

Letters from Tuscon, AZ – Part 1

In Education, Politics on February 2, 2012 at 9:05 am

For those who haven’t had enough of Arizona after the recent incident with President Obama and the Governor of our 16th most populated state, here is letter from Tuscon High School teacher, Curtis Acosta detailing the fallout of the Tuscon Unified School District’s declaration that their Ethnic Studies program is illegal.

Another dark day in Tucson education history for my students and myself. Despite claims by our Deputy Superintendent that MAS teachers willl be given time and the resources needed to completely rewrite our curriculum, the reality is totally different. Here is the link to the Deputy Superintendent’s interview.

http://ondemand.azpm.org/videoshorts/watch/2012/1/24/1830-mexican-american-studies-books-in-storage/

As the weeks move forward the district and site administrators are becoming far more dismissive to our plight and the antagonism is clearly taking root toward our questions and concerns for our students. We are a mere inconvience to the business of running the district. But what is curious is the question of who are they running the district for if it’s not our students? Take my experiences today for example.

I asked my local site administrator for a reasonable amount of time to prepare for the semester, including time to read novels that I may have not read in fifteen years, or in some cases, ever. It takes time to develop an authentic unit with a novel, and it takes time to read a novel. Not to mention, we are being asked to create a brand new syllabus or curriculum map to prove our compliance to the new policy and law. My request for the days I needed to accomplish these tasks were rebuffed immediately. I even suggested that I spread the days throughout the semester, or be granted comp time during the weekends, so it would be a less disruptive to my students. However, I was told from my site administrator that I would get only three days to familiarize myself with the textbooks and create my new units. I reiterated that this meant that I would not be able to teach any novels this semester to my juniors and seniors, and the administrator shrugged as if this was not his problem, and told me that the time given was adequate.

What this will mean is that my students will go from a college preparatory curriculum to one that is remedial at best. My desire was to work within this horrible climate and shameful situation in way that did not damage the students any further and was confident that I could create this. It is painfully obvious that the district does not care about the quality of education that our students receive regardless of their press releases and interviews. Can you imagine such attitudes and low expectations being shared with the AP teacher at our school, the students, or their parents? Can you imagine them being satisfied with internet lesson plans and textbooks instead of novels? Can you imagine the AP teacher being rebuffed after begging for a few more days to prepare a new curriculum for his students, after ten years of lesson plans, units, and curriculum were scrapped? At the grassroots level, we know better. We know that the elitist, dismissive attitudes of these administrators are nothing new, and that communities of color have had to endure such indignities for generations. There is a serious lack of honor and respect being displayed by these actions.

Things are becoming toxic with administrators in our district and the working environment is becoming increasingly hostile. I would not be surprised if one of my colleagues is dismissed within the next few weeks. Already there are district supervisors monitoring our classrooms for violations, including a 45 minute visit to one of my colleagues today. What is even more frustrating is how many of our questions have been ignored or dismissed that would help specify how we can protect ourselves from termination while we continue to help our students prepare for college. I know that this will only increase as the days unfold and the normalcy sets in that Mexican American Studies and heritage are banned. That is why it is so important to have the support of our friends throughout the nation. We are humbled and honored to have so many people care enough about our students and our plight. Thank you to all who have been working on the February 1st MAS solidarity action, No History is Illegal. Without all of these efforts and attention then we would soon be a memory. Thank you for keeping us alive in your minds, hearts, and actions.

In Lak Ech (Tu eres mi otro yo / you are my other me),

Curtis

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