Weekly Update, Week of January 30th: The Troubles in Tucson, Pushback, the Broad Borg and More

It seems that all eyes are focused on Tucson now and for very good reason. The powers that be in Tucson have banned books and closed the Ethnic Studies department of all the schools in that district. As I posted last Friday in the weekly update Weekly Update, January 27, 2012: In Tucson racism is alive and well, Rahm bus(ted) in Chicago and other stories in education:

The powers that be thought that all they had to do was ban a few books and close the Ethnic Studies program in Tucson and that would be the end of it. They just dusted their hands off and went home. Because of  their actions, which were so severe, the story has gained national attention. They have found themselves in the eye of the storm and they’re not handling things very well.

Much has happened since then. People got organized.

I received this in my inbox this week:

If you weren’t aware Educators for Social Justice (ENSJ) is part of a national coalition of Teacher Activist Groups or TAG. TAG is coordinating a month of
solidarity work in support of Tuscon’s Mexican-American Studies Program,
beginning February 1.

Curriculum is being compiled and will be housed on a site for folks to
download and use. The idea is that rather than stifling the teaching/learning coming out of MAS, it will flourish and spread. The lessons will both be from the “banned” curriculum in Tuscon, as well as others. There will be a website where people can pledge to teach these lessons, and those pledges will be tracked and mapped to show the spread of the work.

This campaign is called “No History is Illegal: A Campaign to Save Our
Stories.”

And from their website:

No History Is Illegal

A Campaign to Save Our Stories

They say shut it down. We say spread it around!

As a network of Teacher Activist Groups (TAG), we believe that education is essential to the preservation of civil and human rights and is a tool for human liberation. In alignment with these beliefs, TAG is proud to coordinate No History is Illegal, a month of solidarity work in support of Tucson’s Mexican American Studies (MAS) Program. In January, 2011, state attorney general Tom Horne declared the Tucson Unified School District MAS program illegal. Over the past year, teachers, students and administrators have come together to challenge Horne’s ruling, but on January 10, 2012, the TUSD school board voted 4-1 to cease all MAS classes immediately for fear of losing state aid.

In the month of February we invite you to strike back against this attack on our history by teaching lessons from and about the banned MAS program. On this website you will find a guide that includes sample lesson plans from the MAS curriculum as well as creative ideas and resources for exploring this issue with students. Whatever happens in Arizona, we can keep the ideas and values of MAS alive by teaching about them in our classrooms, our community centers, our houses of worship, our homes.

On the Rethinking Schools Blog is a letter from a teacher in Tuscon asking some very thoughtful and tough questions about what teachers are to do at this point. There has been no guidance. The folks “in charge” just shut down the programs, snatched away the books with no plan in terms of what to put in place of the curriculum and this is in the middle of the school year! To follow is an excerpt:

Behind the Curtain in Tucson: A letter from Curtis Acosta

Unfortunately, there has been little guidance and movement toward how my colleagues and I are to move forward in the development of brand new curriculum and the pedagogical changes that must be made. As I wrote to you all last week, anything from the Mexican American Studies perspective is now illegal for the former MAS teachers. We are being asked to use the district-adopted textbooks as the model for how to move forward.

Now, onward to California. I should start a OMG! category just for this article. Aren’t you glad, Seattle, that the Broad borg pulled up stakes and moved on after Goodloe-Johnson was fired? Check this out and thank your lucky stars.

Turning the Tables: VAM on Trial

Los Angeles Unified School District is embroiled in negotiations over teacher evaluations, and will now face pressure from outside the district intended to force counter-productive teacher evaluation methods into use.  Yesterday, I read this  Los Angeles Times article about a lawsuit to be filed by an unnamed “group of parents and education advocates.”  The article notes that, “The lawsuit was drafted in consultation with EdVoice, a Sacramento-based group. Its board includes arts and education philanthropist Eli Broad, former ambassador Frank Baxter and healthcare company executive Richard Merkin.”

You can go to InterACT to read the article in full.

And while we’re feeling grateful, let’s also thank the gods that we did NOT get awarded the “prize” of RTTT money that wouldn’t have covered the cost of postage compared to what we would have had to do. It was a major scam and now states are just starting to realize it.

Check out LI schools opting out of Race to the Top. Here’s an excerpt:

School districts across Long Island say the cost of implementing the federal Race to the Top initiative outstrips the monetary awards.

Some are opting out, rejecting the funding to free themselves of the obligation.

Neil Lederer, interim superintendent of the Three Village district, said it just didn’t make sense to take the money. His district, with about 7,400 students, was to get $30,176, spread over four years.

“It was minuscule, and the amount of paperwork involved in documenting how the money was used would have cost us more in labor . . . and in record-keeping than it was worth,” Lederer said. “For $7,500 a year, it was almost laughable.”

This weekend I will leave you with Bill Moyers on Moyers & Company and his interview with Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson on the segment Winner-Take-All Politics.

Here is an excerpt from the program description:

In its premiere episode, Moyers & Company dives into one of the most important and controversial issues of our time: How Washington and Big Business colluded to make the super-rich richer and turn their backs on the rest of us.

Bill’s guests – Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson, authors of Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer — And Turned Its Back on the Middle Class, argue that America’s vast inequality is no accident, but in fact has been politically engineered.

I’m so glad that he’s back.

Have a great weekend!

Dora

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