On January 10th, 2012, the TUSD board killed the successful Mexican American Studies program. In April, TUSD superintendent John Pedicone fired the MAS director.
The new board-approved plan for dealing with the minorities that make up the majority of the school district was to replace MAS classes with a hugely watered-down Multicultural Curriculum.
Even while African- and Native-American programs were untouched by the state’s racial profiling of Mexican Americans in Tucson, and while students can take literature classes focused on the Bible, the Holocaust and Native American literature, Latino Literature (which included a diversity of authors) is banned.
John Pedicone appointed Augustine Romero to implement this curriculum, although as the year 2012 that banned Mexican American history and literature now comes to an end, it is still unclear how this multicultural program is supposed to work.
One of the original ideas was to replace the powerful MAS classes that were successfully closing the achievement gap for Latinos and instead to sprinkle in a bit of multiculturalism into the “regular” (Anglo-) American history and literature classes. As if there was not already too much material to cover in an American History class, from the Revolutionary War to the Civil War to the present time, now the untrained teachers would have to incorporate some more multiculturalism into their classes.
In the end the regular classes have less time, and the treatment given to “diversity” is laughable. The experts in teaching Mexican American History and Literature are now banned from doing so, and now all the other teachers have to learn how to do it themselves? If there is confusion it is because no major plan has been made clear yet.
When I asked anti-racism author Tim Wise about this, he compared this multicultural program to the traditional “food, fabric, and festival” that satisfies what the dominant culture thinks of as satisfying diversity learning. Perhaps during a lesson on the Mexican-American war students can set aside 15 minutes to learn about the “Mexican people”; that they eat tacos and wear sombreros and party on the Cinco de Mayo… then return to the lesson to keep up with the crammed schedule.
Now enters the bigger dilemma
What was once just the MAS program with one director is now two programs whose sums do not add up to what was once the whole.
Now John Pedicone has two highly-paid administrators do this poor job during a time of budget crisis in TUSD.
There is the Multicultural program, and there is the new MASS (Mexican American Student Services) program that does not have any MAS classes. What the new program does is instead of inspiring Latinos to succeed in school by learning about history where they can see more of themselves in the courses or in the books, now while struggling with Anglo American history or Anglo American literature, a tutor might be assigned to them or other help given.
But the transformational classes that were MAS, with the amazing teachers that inspired students to the point where graduation rates were over 90% while nationwide it is about half dropping out, are no more.
We are back to were TUSD was decades ago.
So Romero’s Multicultural program must be the route to take, but in reality there is no way it can be done. All that can be done is to sprinkle a little lesson plan here and there into the hundreds of classrooms across the district? Does this include a massive training of the teachers? New books that need to be bought? Lesson plans? Curriculum?
All of this costs money.
The third leg of this dilemma is that TUSD is under a federal desegregation order, and in November the court-appointed Special Master will be issuing his new Post-Unitary Plan that TUSD must abide by. While no one knows the final plans yet, it is believed that two huge changes will include two reversals of racist Arizona law; the revival of bilingual education classes and the return of MAS classes.
The problem that arises is that MAS classes would not be under Romero’s multicultural program and plus he needs to focus all his effort on implementing something that makes his boss John Pedicone happy, and it would not be under the new MASS program which does not deal with classes.
So now you have a return of MAS teachers and MAS classes with presumably a need for a director or some kind of structure to organize this.
But if you are a student, wouldn’t you prefer to enroll in the filet-mignon classes that are MAS rather than a water-down ground-up meat that might be a sprinkling of multiculturalism in sea of Anglo American classes?
Thus for Romero and his program to succeed, he must compete with or try to destroy MAS in order for his costly plan to move forward.
It is no surprise that no MAS teachers support Romero, and top Chicano Studies professors from around the country are not pleased with the wrong path in history that Romero has taken.
Nonetheless, Romero has released a White Paper to replace Studies of Brown people. He sent his plan via email to 50 people he trusts the most who he believes will work with him and against the revival of the MAS plan under the desegregation order.
Dear Familia, Friends and Colleagues,
I hope this email find you all in the best of health and spirits. As many of you know I am on verge of re-naming and re-creating the liberatory education work that I started here nearly 12 years ago. [This is false, Romero did NOT create the MAS program!] I have already identified a new group of teachers that is prepared to start the preliminary groundwork with me. It is my hope and my vision that this next creation builds upon and transcends the work that was done previously. As I have stated many times over the last 10 months, “If all we get back is what we had before then we have lost.” To get a better Understanding of where I am coming from here is the link to an Op-Ed I wrote that was published at the end of January:
As we move forward, it is my sincerest hope that you will be able to join me in the latest iteration of this struggle. I know that all of you are concerned about time. This is general mass email that I have sent to the 50 people that I respect the most, that I believe have the greatest ideas, and that I believe can truly help guide and drive this project to a place that has never been found! I have talked to most of you to let you know that this email was coming. What I would like to do is get an email back from you stating when it would be a good time for me to call you. In this phone conversation, what I am hoping to gain is your perspective on how you can help. If need be, I can outline some of the ways I think you can help; however, I want to you all to feel comfortable with your level of commitment. Just a heads up, I am not taking “no” for an answer. I am going to push all of you to a place where you can help.
In order for you to gain more of an understanding of where I am coming from and the space to where I have pushed the district, I am attaching a White Paper that is serving as TUSD’s theoretical foundation.
I look forward to hearing from you!
Thank you for your time, Augustine
Augustine F. Romero, Ph. D.
Director of Multicultural Curriculum
Tucson Unified School District
Note that the people on this list are who Romero believes has the GREATEST IDEAS, which implies that if you did not get an email from him then your knowledge and ideas are crap.
Or at least he knows you are not willing to sell-out the return of MAS just to advance Romero’s career.
The former MAS director Sean Arce who co-founded the program long before Romero tried to take credit for it did not get this email, nor did the MAS teachers such as Curtis Acosta, Sally Rusk, Jose and Norma Gonzales, etc.
Top Chicano Studies professors who literally wrote the book on Chicano History were also excluded from Romero’s idea of who has “great ideas.”
Now granted, he did choose some good people, but how many of them know that they will be helping with a plan that is going to be competing with MAS? For Romero’s plan to succeed, the return of MAS must fail, which is why he says:
“If all we get back is what we had before then we have lost.”
What crazy talk! If we get back the MAS program that was banned earlier this year, then we have lost? Nothing could be further from the truth, unless what you mean by lost is the respect that Romero has left in the TUSD community.
Based on responses to his email, here are some of the people that Romero believes are willing to tarnish their reputations by going against a federally-backed MAS program:
K. Wayne Yang
As of the time of this public records request, this is a list of just some who have responded. My hope is that they soon realize that they will be working against the return of MAS if they want to help Romero who is now a competing force against Mexican American Studies. I suggest they speak to the former MAS teacher in TUSD who refuse to work with Romero.
For a critique of Romero’s White Paper by one of the banned authors in TUSD (how is Romero going to teach Chicano History when Dr. Rudy Acuña’s History of Chicanos book is banned?), just click here to read it.