It's been nearly a year since John Huppenthal, Arizona's superintendent of public instruction, decided to dismantle the Tucson Unified School District's Mexican American studies program by invoking an absurd new state law.
The law, which was enacted in 2010 but took effect last year, outlaws school programs that "promote resentment toward a race or class of people" or that advocate for "the overthrow of the U.S." or that encourage "ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals." Of course, it was designed to solve a phantom problem. There are no data to indicate that Arizona students are being taught resentment, much less that they're being encouraged to overthrow the government. Yet the state's conservatives, already at war with Latino immigrants, clearly see this as a potentially fruitful strategy to win campaign support and votes.
Huppenthal, a former legislator and a zealous supporter of the new law, declared that Tucson's Mexican American studies program violated it. But how he reached his decision is a mystery. An independent audit commissioned by Huppenthal's office last year concluded that the program not only promoted tolerance but also helped students perform better in school. The audit cited improved standardized test scores and graduation rates for high school students in the program.