Stegeman: Bring back Mexican American Studies books

Ethnic-studies backers see resolution as politically motivated
2012-07-20T00:00:00Z 2014-07-02T08:44:14Z Stegeman: Bring back Mexican American Studies booksAlexis Huicochea Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
July 20, 2012 12:00 am  • 

TUSD board member Mark Stegeman wants to return to district classrooms seven books removed as part of the elimination of Mexican American Studies courses.

His proposal drew criticism from MAS supporters, who held a news conference outside the board member's home this week.

Stegeman, who supported the elimination of the classes while serving as board president, will introduce a resolution to the board Tuesday.

The resolution, in part, reads: "The books which were used in the suspended Mexican American Studies courses shall henceforth be subject to the same rules for classroom use as are all other books."

The books, which include "Critical Race Theory" by Richard Delgado, "Message to Aztlan" by Rodolfo Corky Gonzales, "Pedagogy of the Oppressed" by Paulo Freire and "Occupied America: A History of Chicanos" by Rodolfo Acuña, were removed from TUSD classrooms in January.

Though the removal was not approved by the board, it occurred as a result of the board's vote to end the classes, which were found to be in violation of state law. At the time, TUSD was facing the loss of millions in state funding unless the violation was remedied.

The decision to remove the books was made by TUSD in consultation with the Arizona Department of Education, primarily because even though the courses were no longer going to be offered, the students enrolled in them would remain in the same classrooms with the same teachers.

"I gather that the state was skeptical that anything would be different," said Stegeman, who was not part of the conversation to remove the titles. "Out of those discussions, they decided that one way to make it clear that things were different was to take the books out."

Stegeman, who recently stepped down as board president, says he is not critical of the decision to remove the books, but feels that's no longer necessary because TUSD is starting a new school year, with new students.

"Why should we continue with that when the reason for doing so doesn't exist anymore?" Stegeman asked. Stegeman doesn't believe reintroducing the books will violate any agreement between TUSD and the state Education Department or the state law, known as HB 2281.

"The law isn't about books," he said. If the Education Department "came back and said 'we think those books have to be banned forever,' I don't think that's the intent of the statute and I'd have to debate that."

The resolution, if approved, would allow any teacher to use the books in their course materials by request.

Another factor in Stegeman's decision to introduce the resolution is to put an end to the negative press TUSD dealt with as a result of the decision to end the MAS classes.

Though the books were made available to students through their campus libraries, supporters of the Mexican American Studies program claimed that TUSD was banning books - a story that quickly spread across the country.

However, supporters of Mexican American Studies said Stegeman's move may be an attempt to bolster his re-election campaign this fall.

"Stegeman's decision raises some concerns," said Alfred Chavez a community organizer with a coalition that has dubbed itself Tucson Freedom Summer.

"Now, after all the ignorance directed at the Chicano community, the insults, the emotional and physical harm, now Stegeman conveniently decides to take back his capricious decision?" he said.

Added fellow community organizer Alanna Castro: "How can anyone put their trust in an elected public official who is going back on such a vital decision that affects the community and academics nationwide?"

Stegeman denies his proposal is a calculated move to gain more votes.

The group, Tucson Freedom Summer, made its statements about the resolution Wednesday outside of Stegeman's home north of the University of Arizona.

If you go

The TUSD Governing Board will meet Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at TUSD Headquarters, 1010 E. 10th Street.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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