Holding off on required culture course prudent for Tucson Unified School District

Our view: Curriculum must be fully developed, vetted before setting requirement
2013-05-12T00:00:00Z Holding off on required culture course prudent for Tucson Unified School District Arizona Daily Star
May 12, 2013 12:00 am

The Tucson Unified School District did the only thing it could do - put on the brakes - when it became apparent that the curriculum of a required freshman course at some schools wasn't complete and hadn't been reviewed by the board or the public.

The semester-long course, titled "Ninth Grade Culture, Identity and Transformation: A Culturally Relevant Viewpoint," was to have been offered at Rincon, Sahuaro and Santa Rita high schools beginning next school year.

But when it came to light that students were being enrolled before the curriculum was finished and that the Governing Board hadn't voted on either the course content or making it a freshman requirement, it was time to pull back.

The course concept is a good idea. The district is required by a federal desegregation agreement to offer "culturally relevant" courses, and we are inclined to believe such a course should be a requirement. But an educated decision requires details.

Pushing ahead with incomplete information does not make sense, especially not in a district that has been through damaging upheaval because of its Mexican American Studies program. Those classes were targeted by elected officials in Phoenix and have been dismantled, under a state law targeted at TUSD that threatened the entire district with financial punishment if the MAS program wasn't halted.

The district must be exceedingly careful when creating, vetting, introducing and launching the course - it is guaranteed to be scrutinzed and criticized no matter what the curriculum contains.

TUSD shouldn't play defense when developing the course, however. History teaches us that trying to fend off criticism with blandness and acquiesence never works - and it does a disservice to the students who need to understand events, context and others' experiences. Such knowledge is necessary to become an educated person.

Students who connect with something in school - a class, a teacher, an activity like band or sports - are less likely to drop out. A course like the one being created will help build those bonds.

It makes sense to reach students as early in their high school careers as possible.

These classes must be academically challenging, focused on critical thinking and analysis and offer something more than a bird's eye view of different cultures.

They must be the best they can possibly be, and developing such a curriculum takes time.

It's far better to do what is necessary to create a valuable course than rushing to meet a deadline.

Arizona Daily Star

Pushing ahead with incomplete information does not make sense, especially not in a district that has been through damaging upheaval because of its Mexican American Studies program.

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