Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Shakespeare work axed in Arizona schools as law bans 'ethnic studies'

The Mail
Nina Golgowski

William Shakespeare's The Tempest is among a list of banned books in the state of Arizona by a resolution aimed at curbing resentment, government overthrow and ethnic distinction and separation in any district or charter school's curriculum.

The Tuscon Unifed School District has announced they will end their 13-year Mexican American Studies Program after found in violation of the June resolution that bans the books during a court appeal this past December.

If the ruling was not followed by the district they faced a multimillion-dollar penalty in state funds.

Banned: William Shakespeare's play The Tempest was banned by Arizona as part of an ousted Mexican-American ethnic studies program

The district had first appealed the June 15, 2011 ruling by Arizona's Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal to cut the program using the books but it was rejected by an Arizona administrative law judge on December 27, 2011.

A. A school district or charter school in this state shall not include in its program of instruction any courses or classes that include any of the following:

1. Promote the overthrow of the United States government.

2. Promote resentment toward a race or class of people.

3. Are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group.

4. Advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.

- Arizona State Legislature

That resulted in the first planned cut of $5 million to the district's February allotment, according to Arizona Department of Education spokesperson Ryan Ducharme, speaking to the LA Times.

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At issue, the district's Mexican-American program violated the A.R.S. § 15-112 which prohibits courses and classes that 'promote the overthrow of the United States government, promote resentment toward a race or class of people, are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group or advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals,' according to the Arizona State Legislature.

The books used in the program, according to Mr Huppenthal in a statement reported by the Los Angeles times, assert that 'Latino minorities have been and continue to be oppressed by a Caucasian majority.'

Pushed: Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal ruled the ban back in June of 2011 which the school district appealed and lost in December resulting in their state funding cut if not followed
John Huppenthal:  Only the oppression that we acknowledge
shall be included in Arizona school curriculums.

As it's explained by district spokesperson Cara Rene, the books 'will be cleared from all classrooms, boxed up and sent to the Textbook Depository for storage,' she said, speaking to Salon.com.

The Tempest, Shakespeare's play believed to have been penned in the early 1600s by the famous British writer, accounts a banished duke of Milan who seeks revenge through his use of magic while at sea, and is among the list of books banned according to Salon.

The list also includes all textbooks that deal with Mexican-American history which 60 per cent of the district's student population share a heritage with, according to Salon.

Mr Huppenthal's June ruling originally axed the district's Mexican American Studies program saying that 'we would find it nearly impossible for them to cure the program,' speaking to the LA Times.

Worry: The textbook Rethinking Columbus was one of several books banned and accused of teaching that Latino minorities have been and continue to be oppressed by a Caucasian majority

'The problems are so widespread and so deep that it would be very difficult. These are decisions they would have to make,' he said suggesting if the district keeps the Mexican American Studies program they would need to make resulting financial adjustments in sacrifice.

If the district had continued the program, they would have lost about $14.4 million over the fiscal year, Mr Ducharme said.

That's an amount the school district decided they could not afford.

'In my role as State Superintendent of Public Instruction I have a legal responsibility to uphold the law and a professional imperative to ensure that every student has access to an excellent education,' Mr Huppenthal stated in a release while praising the judge's December ruling.

'In the end, I made a decision based on the totality of the information and facts gathered during my investigation – a decision that I felt was best for all students in the Tucson Unified School District. The Judge’s decision confirms that it was the right decision,' he said.

Among that list of books include Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years, a textbook described as 'resources for teaching about the impact of the arrival of Columbus in the Americas,' along with Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Brazilian educator Paolo Freire, Occupied America: A History of Chicanos' by Rodolfo Acuña, Chicano!: The History of the Mexican Civil Rights Movement by Arturo Rosales, 500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures, by Elizabeth Martinez and Critical Race Theory a textbook by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic.

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