Dear Washington Post: Why the Silence on the Ban on Mexican American Studies? April 29, 2012

In late February, Monet Cooper’s 10th grade students in Washington, D.C. learned about the attack on ethnic studies in Tucson, Ariz. through a simulation and film clips from Precious Knowledge. (See Teaching About Tucson for a description of the lesson and the students’ responses.)

After the lesson, students were given the opportunity to sign a modified version of the teacher pledge from the No History Is Illegal website, copied on a huge sheet of paper. Then each class discussed what they could do to support their peers in Arizona who must adhere to the ban. Several ideas were given:

  • go to Tucson, Ariz.;
  • write a letter to (the school board, the governor, the students/teachers); and/or
  • watch the full documentary.

After discussing the power of information, they settled on writing a letter to the editor of The Washington Post to address the lack of coverage on this story.

We share a few of their letters here. They have not received a response from The Washington Post, nor were any of their letters published.


Dear Editor,

The closing of Ethnic Studies programs in the Tucson Unified School District under the government rules is just another case of modern day racism. I think it’s crazy and unfair. How would you feel if someone walked into your classroom and took away all your materials, saying, “This is no longer allowed, learning about your culture is not what I feel is important. You will learn about what I think you should learn about and if you don’t like it, oh well, deal with it.”

The Ethnic Studies Programs made students eager to stay in school. According to “Seniors taking a MAS course are more likely to persist to graduation that their peers.” The TUSD goes on and says: “‘The district has no other program that creates the success for students, particularly Latino students, and yet we are under fire.’”

No one really knows what’s going on in Arizona. It’s a big deal to a lot of people. The goal of The Post is to inform people of important current events in the world. I think The Post should inform people about this modern day case of racism. Do your job and inform the world.


Dear Editor,

The Washington Post should report on the closings of Arizona Ethnic Studies programs because it is holding students back from learning about other cultures and religions.

Closing the Arizona Ethnic Studies programs is a huge mistake the governor is making. He says that Mexican American Studies (MAS) is teaching violence. Of course there is violence in history, but educating about how things came to be is not harmful to students. The governor is going to decrease the testing scores in his own state and lower the graduation rates drastically! This program being taken away will decrease the amount of students — mostly Latino — getting into college from Arizona.

Researchers from the Tucson school district found that “over the last six years, students who complete a MAS class during their senior year are more likely to graduate than comparison group seniors. . . The difference in completion rates ranges from 5 percent to 11 percent higher.” All students deserve a chance to take this course freely, go to college, and learn outside their ethnic group. The Arizona government should not control that. We are all human.


Dear Editor,

I am writing this letter to ask you to cover the atrocity that is happening in Arizona. The government should not have the authority to censor ethnic studies in Arizona. Data and statistics support the need for Ethnic Studies. A school district in Tucson reported that city’s Mexican American Studies programs gave students a measurable advantage over non-MAS students in passing reading and writing tests.

If Ethnics Studies is helping students, why do we need to censor them? This needs more attention and what better place than the capital, with all the senators and representatives in the house since they could pass a law against the existing one. Could you please write an article covering the issue of government censorship of Ethnics Studies programs in Arizona?


Dear Washington Post,

People should have the right to learn what they want to and nobody should take that away from them. . . The Washington Post should publish this kind of news. . . I don’t think it’s a good idea if all schools were to ban courses or classes like in Arizona. I think Arizona needs to stop making dumb laws like this and start using their brains for real important things. . .


Dear Washington Post,

Imagine if something unfair is happening in another state. What if it is something that involves people’s lives? If you don’t know yet, in Arizona they are taking away students’ privilege of learning about important people of color. Everyone should have the right to learn about important people of color. This is a country of freedom and liberty where people are free to learn about what they want. . . .  It is important for you to write about it, because it will help other people to learn more about this tragedy.


Dear editor,

My name is Fithawit Gebretensae.

I am in the 10th grade and I am from Eritrea. I came to the USA last year. When I started school, my classmates thought I was Ethiopian, but I am not.

Why did they close the ethnic studies programs in Arizona? It makes me sad.

If students know the histories of different groups, they are not going to be confused. That’s what I think.


Dear editor,

In the back of my mind, I’m wondering why The Washington Post hasn’t covered anything about the law that passed in Arizona. This law has forbidden Tucson High School students to take Ethnic Studies classes. The Post can make the people want to know what is happening. The world, internationally has a right and duty to know.

In the past six years, seniors at this high school who were in the Mexican American Studies program have higher graduation rates than their peers who didn’t take this course. How spectacular is that to know that not only as Mexicans, but these Latinos have worked hard? Everyone cares about world hunger, why not care for something just as much as important? My opinion doesn’t mean anything but if The Post covers this and people try to reach out and change this, we would have a good outcome.

Banning ethnic studies programs discriminates against everybody’s way of life. As a young lady who believes in equality, this isn’t right. We, Latinos and African Americans deserve some changes and respect. The Post’s coverage of this story is a small change that will benefit us all.


Dear Editor,

During my English class in my school, I learned about the new law that was passed in Tucson, Arizona that became effective on the first of February 2012. I never heard about this law on the news or newspaper before it was passed or after it became effective. I’m completely against this law, it’s simply not fair. There’s data that proves that students who took ethnic studies programs had a higher graduation rate than those that didn’t. I believe that students that learn about different ethnic groups at a young age will have a more open mind. These ethnic studies programs helps students understand people outside their ethnic group, helps them get ready for the real world. This law just gave students in Tucson less options of learning new things. I would like to see the media give more attention to this law because I think we can help the students in Tucson fight against it if people nation-wide are informed about it.


To the Editor of the Washington Post,

In the constitution of the United States of America it states that everyone is created equal no matter your race. Reflecting these principles, I think we should respect one another and in doing so we should learn the heritage of those around us so we understand them better, yet it isn’t even possible everywhere now.

In the 50 states there is a place where this opportunity is being taken away. In Tucson, Arizona, Mexican-American Students (MAS) are being denied the right to have an ethnic [studies] class because it encourages students to act unlawfully. These charges are quite outrageous and not statistically-based from 2005 to 2010, the cumulative graduation rate increased by 47% compared to the other students who didn’t take the ethnics class. In a report created by Dr. John Pedicone, these classes actually help the students instead of destroy them. I ask The Post to check out this issue! Please publish a report on it so we can stop this before it gets any worse. If it can happen there wouldn’t it be possible for it to happen here?


Dear editor:

Are you aware of the law that has been past in Arizona concerning the students at Tucson Unified School District? I don’t think you are because you haven’t covered it in The Post. . .

My name is Cindy and I live in Washington DC. I am a student at Capital City Public Charter School. When I first heard about this law that was passed in Arizona I was blown away. I never thought that something like that could happen. . .

But I am even more upset that The Post has not taken the time to look into this situation that is affecting our future leaders of the world which are the young students. This is something that everyone should be aware about because its something that can also happen to our local schools.

This law is affecting the students learning because less of them are graduating. My evidence of this is the chart that David Scott reported. He is the TUSD director of accountability and research. To me, this is an unfair law and I want The Post to make people aware that there are certain things that can be taken away from us, that we need to fight to keep.

* In accordance with school regulations, we have only used the students’ first names.

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