Students and faculty at Tucson Magnet High School in 2010 protest a law banning… (James S. Wood / Arizona Daily…)
The Tucson school district may have ended its controversial ethnic studies program months ago, but the protests over it continue. A Houston writer launched a particularly dramatic one this week, with a "librotraficante," or book-smuggling, caravan that’s traveling through the West.
Literature professor Tony Diaz and about 30 supporters departed from Houston on Monday carrying hundreds of books, the Arizona Republic reported. They plan to stop in San Antonio and El Paso, Texas, and Albuquerque and Mesilla, N.M., to pack more books and supporters onto their bus.
Their final destination: Tucson, where a battle over the school district's Mexican American studies program has been ongoing since last year.
The state superintendent of public instruction, John Huppenthal, recently determined that the program violated a state law banning ethnic studies classes that are considered divisive. Huppenthal said he’d observed a Chicano literature class in which a lecturer portrayed Benjamin Franklin as a racist and discussed educational theorist Paulo Freire’s book "Pedagogy of the Oppressed.”
"These kids got it," he told The Times a few months ago. "They understood the framework that was being laid out — that Hispanics are the oppressed and Caucasians are the oppressors. That's very troubling."
Huppenthal recommended that the state withhold millions of dollars in funding. In response, the local school board voted to suspend the classes. But that hasn’t snuffed out the firestorm, with supporters going to court to try to have the program reinstated.
Diaz’s group is expected to arrive in Tucson on Friday. He wrote that the group fears other states might copy Arizona’s crackdown on ethnic studies, much as they passed legislation mirroring Arizona’s tough anti-illegal immigration law, SB 1070.
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