Culturally relevant government and history classes will be offered to TUSD high school juniors and seniors starting Thursday.

The TUSD Governing Board approved the courses 3-2 Tuesday night, with Mark Stegeman and Michael Hicks dissenting.

Board members did not offer any comment before voting.

The classes, which will be taught from the Mexican-American and African-American perspectives, are replacing the Tucson Unified School District’s now-defunct Mexican-American Studies courses.

They will be offered at three pilot schools — Cholla, Tucson and Pueblo high schools. Palo Verde Magnet High School also will offer a pilot program in U.S. history from an African-American perspective.

The government classes aim to ensure that students understand the essentials, source and history of the constitutions of the United States and Arizona, American institutions and ideals, and the importance of each person as an individual with human and civil rights.

Examples of essential questions that students will study include:

• How does change happen in society and who can promote it?

• In what ways have African-Americans and Mexican-Americans promoted positive change in the U.S.?

• How might the idea of “all men are created equal” be perceived by different groups of people?

• Why is it necessary to limit the power of government?

The content in the history classes vary for the Mexican-American perspective and the African-American perspective, but both provide students with an understanding of the significant role that each group played in the shaping of the United States, and how the past impacts the present and the future.

Essential questions include:

• Does freedom mean equality?

• What does it mean to be a second-class citizen?

• Does progress for one group mean regression for others?

• Is conquest easier than coexistence?

The culturally relevant curricula are based on the Arizona Common Core standards, with involvement from curriculum experts across the country, all of the major Arizona universities and local content area experts in TUSD who currently teach government. It was also reviewed by the Arizona Department of Education.

In other business, a proposal to move the public comment portion of Governing Board meetings from the beginning of the agenda to the end failed.

Hicks asked the board to place the proposal on a future agenda for consideration, arguing that the change would move meetings along more quickly, but three of his fellow board members — Kristel Ann Foster, Cam Juarez and Adelita Grijalva — disagreed and did not support it.

Betts Putnam-Hidalgo, a TUSD parent, opposed Hicks’ proposal, saying there are few opportunities for the public to speak to the board.

She agreed there is a problem with meetings running too long, saying “I have fallen asleep at a couple myself,” but suggested starting meetings earlier.

Education writer for #ThisIsTucson. Mom of one.