Curtis Acosta, appeared at the ASA on 12/15/2011. He is an English teacher who helped develop the Mexican American Studies program at Tucson High School, will discuss the controversial program in a talk at the Academy Village next Thursday afternoon.
The talk is free and open to the public. It will be held in the Great Room of the Arizona Senior Academy Building at Academy Village, an active-adult community located six miles southeast of Saguaro National Park East, off Old Spanish Trail.
Since the civil rights movement of the 1960s, programs have been popular in the nation’s schools and universities that promote the study of ethnic history and cultures at all school levels. Tucson Unified School District has a long history of such programs, but only the Mexican American Studies program has been singled out in a lawsuit.
Arizona’s Superintendent of Schools, John Huppenthal is pursuing the suit, which claims the Mexican American Studies Program is in violation of an Arizona state law (ARS 15-112) which prohibits classes that: “1) promote overthrowing the U.S. government; 2) promote resentment towards a race or class of people; 3) are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic race; and 4) advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.”
Acosta and his colleagues deny that such violations have occurred and cite a report commissioned by Huppenthal’s own office which found that the programs did not violate state law. A judge’s opinion in the suit against the school district is pending at this time.
Acosta has been teaching English at Tucson High for 17 years with numerous local and national awards. With colleagues, he helped develop and teaches in the program he says is centered on empowering students in a culturally responsive curriculum reflecting social justice and antiracist themes.
TUSD has Mexican American study programs in elementary and middle schools, but the largest concentration of courses has been at the high school level, where students have the opportunity to select Latino Literature, U.S. History: Mexican American Perspectives, American Government: Social Justice Education Project, and Chicano Art.
According to TUSD records, the graduation rate for students in the program is 93 percent, compared to a national average of 44 percent for Mexican Americans. More than 70 percent of these students have gone on to post-secondary education, compared to 24 percent, the national average for Mexican American college enrollment.