It was January 11, 2011, not even a full twenty-four hours after the Tucson Unified School District had voted to dismantle our Mexican American Studies classes in wake of threats from state officials in Arizona to withhold millions of dollars in funding.
I was sitting in the conference room adjacent to the principal’s office with Dr. Abel Morado and Assistant Principal David Mandel and a few colleagues. It’s called the Badger Room. Fans of symbolism may get a kick out of that.
Our administrators were conducting a meeting about the restrictions to our curriculum due to the actions of the governing board.
At this point, the academic tragedy was still fresh and the conversation was more human than it eventually became as the meetings, threats and prohibitions would later be conveyed in a highly dictatorial and hierarchical manner.
I knew that I would need to address the issue of The Tempest by William Shakespeare since it was the unit that I was about to start and I knew with the parameters that were being set by TUSD, that Wild Bill Shakespeare was about to get this vato teacher in trouble.
Earlier in the meeting we were told to avoid any academic unit that focused upon “race, class, or oppression” by Mr. Mandel. (For those familiar with The Tempest, you already know what a tough spot I was in, since one of the major themes of the play is the colonization of the Americas.) When I asked for clarity in regard to the new parameter (which only affected former Mexican American Studies teachers and their classes), I was told the following by Assistant Superintendent Morado:
“I think you should throw it out… Once you begin to describe the natives and… delve into issues that are going to be from a critical race theory perspective, that’s when you’re not in that safe harbor, so to speak.”
read what happens next at La Tolteca, article by Curtis Acosta.