Countdown: Todos Somos (We Are All) RAZA Studies

Part 1

The lines have been drawn. Or rather, the date has been set and the countdown has begun. If Arizona State Schools Superintendent Tom Horne has his way, after Dec 31, 2010, Tucson Unified School District’s highly successful Mexican American Studies K-12 department will cease to exist.

Despite Gov. Jan Brewer having signed HB 2281, the anti-Ethnic Studies measure – in May of this year – supporters have good reason to feel confident that on Jan 1, Raza Studies will be alive and well.

The measure bans schools from teaching hate, anti-Americanism and the violent overthrow of the U.S. government. Horne, 2281’s “intellectual author,” claims that Raza Studies advocates these things, and promotes “ethnic solidarity” and results in racial segregation in schools.

The Draconian measure and Orwellian effort does not call for the outright elimination of Raza/Ethnic Studies. Instead, it calls for the withdrawing of 10% of district funds every month that a program is found to be out of compliance. For TUSD, that would amount to $3 million per month, a sum it can ill-afford to lose.

The day after 2281 was signed and after Horne threatened to show up to TUSD headquarters to do a victory lap, hundreds upon hundreds of K-16 students and community activists laid siege to both TUSD headquarters and then later the state building, resulting in 15 arrests. During this siege, TUSD’s Board of Governors issued a May 14 statement from the acting superintendent. In its entirety, it reads:

TUSD proudly supports our Ethnic Studies classes. We have no plans to eliminate or reduce course offerings. We believe these courses are relevant, engaging, meet state standards and are in full compliance with the law. Additionally, they are part our unitary status plan. We stand firmly behind our Ethnic Studies Department, staff members and students.

The statements are a clear indication that if the program is ruled out of compliance, it will be the anti-thesis of local control and the epitome of foreign [state] intervention. His goal – as he has repeatedly stated – is to rule Raza Studies out of compliance and to eliminate it by the end of the year.

As a result, a historic lawsuit against Tom Horne is forthcoming. The consensus amongst Tucson’s Mexican American community is that come Jan. 3, Raza Studies will be fully operational – continuing to educate and inspire minds and continuing its successful mission of preparing its students to attend colleges and universities nationwide. This program is virtually an anti-dropout program (more than a 90% graduation rate) and more than that, it is now virtually a college student factory (upwards of 70%). But Horne doesn’t care about that. Instead, his primary concern is ensuring that only Greco-Roman knowledge – the purported basis for Western Civilization – is taught in Arizona schools.

Raza Studies grounds students in Critical Thinking, and in Indigenous Pedagogies – on maiz-based or Maya-Nahua knowledge(s) that is thousands-of-years old and that originates on this very continent. Despite this, Horne and his legislative allies claim that Raza Studies is un-American. In court, Horne will have his hands full in defining these terms. Can things that originate in Greece and Rome be considered American, while knowledge that originates on the American continent be considered un-American and not part of Western Civilization?

The measure makes a clumsy attempt to isolate Raza Studies; it allows for the teaching of the Holocaust and purportedly exempts both American Indian Studies classes [required by federal law] and African American Studies classes [that are open to everyone). These are false exemptions because all Ethnic Studies classes are open to everyone and there are no American Indian Ethnic Studies classes required by federal law. Despite this, the measure appears to be a clear discriminatory effort to eliminate Raza Studies.

In the realm of definitions will maiz-based knowledge also be ruled as not Indigenous or not “American Indian”?

The forthcoming lawsuit will be historic in nature. Think Monkey Scopes Trial or Brown v. Topeka Board of Education. What happens here in Arizona will set a legal precedent of not simply what can be taught in public schools, but also whether states have the right to restrict, censor, dictate, intimidate and overrule what districts and educators can teach in local schools.

HB 2281 is the epitome of [cultural] mind control or forced assimilation. Ultimately, the struggle in the forthcoming Precious Knowledge documentary is about the inherent right – also enshrined in treaties and international laws – of children to learn about their own histories and cultures. At TUSD, it is about the right of all children to learn about these histories and cultures and thus the forthcoming lawsuit (

Roberto Rodriguez, a professor at the University of Arizona, can be reached at: Read other articles by Roberto.

3 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. teafoe2 said on September 28th, 2010 at 11:15am #

    Dr R: Have you investigated how the guarantees set forth in the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo might apply to this proposed statute? Treaties entered into by the Federal Government normally trump and pre-empt any State or local legislation attempting to address the same area of the law. ??

  2. Mulga Mumblebrain said on September 29th, 2010 at 3:56am #

    It continues to amaze and horrify, the realisation of just how virulent is the hatred on the Right, for everything ‘other’ than themselves. There are countless examples from history of where this leads, and rarely have the forces of hatred,of vilification, and of demonisation been better organised and funded or more quasi-religiously fanatical ( and overtly religiously as well, with the Zionazis leading the way), than now.
    It could not have been otherwise,though, because the rotten, depraved and omnicidal system of market fundamentalist capitalism (alias ‘The American Way’) is dying, and its only beneficiaries, the parasites, were bound to go ape-shit in order to defend their privileges. And spreading hatred and social antipathy, to divide and rule, is the oldest trick in their book. I don’t doubt that these creatures are confirmed, enthusiastic, racists, who imagine themselves, as representatives of ‘Western Civilization’ to be innately superior to lesser ‘races’ and ‘cultures’. And I do not doubt that they, with that touching self-delusion that amounts to psychopathy, imagine themselves superior, as well, as individuals, given that the stupidest and most ignorant in Western societies are those most likely to falsely imagine themselves to be paragons. The collapse of US economic power and the rise of China, plus the set-backs the Evil Empire is suffering in Afghanistan, have also added to the Right’s rage and dangerousness. The fall of an empire is never an easy time for the stalwarts of that imperium, and they can become even more vicious and dangerous at such times, as their God abandons them.

  3. jayn0t said on October 1st, 2010 at 6:33pm #

    Nietzsche remarks somewhere that it is easy to have the courage of one’s convictions – the thing is to have the courage to challenge them.

    The good thing about this site is you occasionally see articles which challenge left-liberal assumptions. The above, by Roberto Rodriguez, is not one of them.

    Amalgamating Zionists with supporters of The American Way is not a very effective way of opposing the former, and I expect commenter Mulga Mumblebrain (above) knows this. On the contrary – opposing Zionism in a conservative state means emphasizing that Christianity, American patriotism, etc., logically lead to opposing support for the Jewish state. Scary? Not quite pc? Don’t shoot the messenger.

    Zionist organizations are quite happy to support a boycott of Arizona. Mumblebrain is wrong to claim they are inherently right-wing – they only support the right when it suits them – ditto, the left. It is a measure of their success that a number of cities and colleges have announced a boycott of Arizona, but not Israel.

    One could challenge the Arizona right-wingers more effectively by saying – “OK, how about this – let us keep La Raza and Holocaust studies, but schools should also allow white studies and Holocaust revisionism”. That’s the American Way, isn’t it? Exposing young people to, like, a variety of perspectives? This would not only out the conservatives for the wussies they are, but show up liberals like Rodriguez, whose claim that they want ‘children to learn about their own histories and cultures’ is chutzpah on steroids.

    I await his next installment with baited breath.