For Horne, raza-studies headache is growing
Arizona Republic
June 22, 2008


A couple of weeks ago, the state superintendent for public instruction ventured down to Tucson to complain, again, to the Tucson Unified School District about the merry band of propagandists it succors within its ethnic-studies program.

For the most part, he could have saved the gasoline.

Ideologically, the Tucson school district and its enthusiastic apologists constitute a closed shop - a moated "Old Pueblo" where Philistines from Phoenix arrive in town with an instant handicap . . . the fact that they've arrived.

Culturally, it has always been thus. They make license plates for those rare married couples with one University of Arizona grad and one alumnus of Arizona State University that read: "A House Divided." It's real, baby. Phoenix residents who venture across the Gila River expecting to get invited to cocktail parties are delusional.

But nothing defined the prickly animosity quite as vividly as an editorial written in one of the Tucson newspapers following Tom Horne's June 12 visit there. The lead paragraph:

"Horne should stay on his side of the Gila River. That is to say, he should stay in the Phoenix metro area. When he comes to Tucson, he pokes his nose into local issues that frankly are none of his business."

Well, OK. Horne addressed his critique in an open letter to the TUSD board, candidly acknowledging that no matter how ideologically doctrinaire the ethnic-studies program is, no matter that its cadre of race-baiting Marxists is a pack of bullies, it is on the TUSD board's shoulders to fix the program. But, then, he dared cross the Gila to say those things. And that just isn't done.

But, then, in the very next paragraph:

"Now the public schools, those are his business. After all, he is Arizona's elected superintendent of public instruction."

Are we following this? Horne should stay in Phoenix. Horne should not "poke his nose" into things that are none of his business - such as Ché Guevara-celebrating, U.S.-condemning, $2.2 million indulgences in extremism occurring in Arizona public schools.

But as for public schools? Well, golly, now you're talking. Those are his business.

Now, as an editorialist myself, I am hardly immune to the occasional flaw in my usual 24-carat logic.

But the fact is, the little ethnic-studies program - which won't be little much longer, likely - is both Horne's problem and Tucson's problem. As my valued Tucson editorial colleagues acknowledge, even though they would rather not, Horne has a duty to use his influence to maintain the integrity of the state's public-education system, even in Tucson.

And the good people of Tucson need to know more about what their school board is approving for their classrooms.

For one thing, the program's supporters make much of the fact that the program is elective. The students are self-selecting. Maybe now, but the TUSD board is determined to make it a requirement. And not just for high-school upperclassmen but for all incoming freshmen and, eventually, in the elementary schools.

Lower-level Tucson school officials have reported privately that they have been told - in no uncertain terms - by district officials that the expansion will happen and that individual schools are on the hook for finding the funds. Goodbye to whatever's left these days of extracurricular athletic funding. Political indoctrination trumps all.

The other argument regularly trotted out by the defenders of TUSD's ethnic studies is that its students tend to do better academically than other students. On the chance that the district's statistics aren't rigged, let's assume it is true.

The still-elective program undoubtedly attracts more motivated students. Studying the glories of Ché may be twisted history, but he's cool among young people for fashion reasons, if not political ones. But arguing that they do better in their schoolwork because of a program that embitters students toward their country - and even toward other teachers - is irrational political pap.

A year from now, Horne will have another reason to drive to Tucson: To argue against expanding the program's propaganda into every school. Into every student's head.

He'll have to go again. After all, it is his business.

Reach the writer at or 602-444-8883.