Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Arizona Education Chief Critical of University Mexican American Studies Programs

With the Tucson Public Schools’ Mexican American Studies program now dismantled, Arizona Superintendent of Schools John Huppenthal is considering a new battle.

Fox News Latino reports that Huppenthal blames Mexican American Studies programs at universities for educating the teachers who taught in the Tucson program. “I think that’s where this toxic thing starts from, the universities,” he said. “To me, the pervasive problem was the lack of balance going on in these classes.” He has said the Tucson classes encouraged students to resent whites, and he fought successfully for their removal from the curriculum.

Huppenthal is a member of Arizona’s Board of Regents, which oversees the state’s public universities. Professors are now concerned that he might target their courses next. For example, the University of Arizona in Tucson has a Mexican American Studies program. ”It’s an affront to freedom of speech,” that program’s director, Antonio Estrada, told Fox News Latino. “We do not indoctrinate; we educate. Academic freedom will be lost if these programs are not sustained at the university level.”

The program’s website states that it is committed to public policy research on Mexican Americans. It was created in 1981, years after students first protested and demanded its creation in 1968. ”As the leading public policy research center addressing issues of concerns to this minority group in Arizona, the Department works collaboratively with key community agencies in promoting leadership and empowerment of Mexican Americans within the state and nation,” the site says.

In your home communities, do school districts or universities offer similar courses, and are they being criticized as is the case in Arizona? What sort of curriculum do they use? What do students think of these courses? I’d like to learn more about what the students feel they gain from such programs. Especially for Hispanic students, how important is it to read literature written by authors who are of the same ethnic background?