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Rodolfo F. Acuna - A White Paper and History

Rodolfo F. Acuna - A White Paper and History

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Published by: Editor on Oct 11, 2012
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09/08/2013

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A White Paper and
 
History
 
By
 
Rodolfo F. Acuña
 
When
anything titled a “white paper” comes across my email, Iusually ignore it. Why is truth always called “white”? Why not
brown, yellow or black? Is it because black is considered negative,i.e., Black Friday, black as sin, Halloween, or death whereas white isthe color of god and goodness?
 
So when I received a paper titled “White Paper: CulturalResponsive Pedagogy,” I only read it because it was authored by Dr.
Augustine Romero, the director of Tucson Unified School District'sdepartment of student equity. Romero is charged with puttingHumpty Dumpty together again
 — 
i.e., the Ethnic Studies programthat the TUSD school board smashed to bits. (Humpty Dumptyrefers to a large canon used during the 17
th
Century English Civilwar).Romero is a controversial figure and many of his former colleagues
refuse to talk to him. They see Romero’s decision to stay in his
administrative post with the District as a defection because,according to them, it gives the destruction of Mexican AmericanStudies legitimacy. As proof they point to the pattern common ininstitutions of higher learning that destroy ethnic studies programs,and then remake them in their own image.Although informative, the paper came across as an apologia.Romero says that MAS was a highly successful, well-constructedprogram, not shying away from the fact that it was destroyed at thebehest of the Arizona Attorney General and Superintendent of Schools, a decision that was solely based on politics -- pedagogyplayed no role.
 
Clearly Romero is conflicted.
 
In reading the paper I found myself agreeing with Romero as topedagogy; the paper would have been highly appropriate in anacademic setting. However, the paper never explains why heabsolves the District and joins a corrupt group. Romero says that
the District is in the midst of “its second attempt to obtain unitarystatus in its federal segregation case,” adding that the District doesnot understand how “to make schools more effective and joyousplaces for all students.” He concedes that
the TUSD destroyed an
“effective and special” program.”What is disturbing is Romero’s lack of context, which is necessary
for most professionals to understand what is happening in Tucson.The truth be told, most progressive educators view Romero as achampion and advocate for MAS, a fighter for its integrity. Witnesshis multiple YouTube presentations.
 
Curious to learn more, I read a piece that Romero wrote in the
 Arizona Daily Star
around the first of the year. Romero sa
id, “We
fully understand that we have created something special for young
people.” He vigorously defended the program but the Daily Star
headline left me wondering Romero by this time had resigned
himself to go along with the District. It reads, “Mexican
American
Studies’ demise will foster even stronger program.” It left me
wondering if by this time Romero was contemplating absolvingthose who had thrown Humpty Dumpty off the wall.As I have said, I respect Romero as an educator; I am in agreementwith Romero on pedagogy. However, as a historian I am offendedby his lack of context, which will lead to bad history. History differsfrom education; it is a study of documents, and whether Romerowants to admit it or not, his paper is a historical document. At the
heart of the Tucson MAS struggle is the Truth, and Romero’s paper
distorts the narrative.
 
 No doubt that my differences with Romero are due to anepistemological gulf. How people acquire knowledge determine thequestions they ask and the answers that they arrive at. This is trueeven within branches of the same discipline; for example, anAmerican historian may reach different understandings of thequestion of U.S. Imperialism than a Latin Americanist.
 
Romero appeals to pedagogy in his apologia, and the result is that it
plays into the hands of “All the King's horses, And the entire King'smen,” who threw Humpty Dumpty off the wall.
 The question that gnaws at me is how Romero can conclude that the
demise of the MAS program will foster
an even stronger
program.”? How will the demise help the Mexican Americancommunity to help Tucson “heal from the devastating attacks onour program and community?” Is Romero in denial
?
 
I repeat, as an educator, I respect Romero’s arguments about
education and methodology. However, I cannot buy his argumentsthat being destroyed and humiliated will strengthen MexicanAmerican Studies. Perhaps if I were a theologian or a minister I
could understand Romero’s apologia. But as a social scientist I have
to examine his statements critically.Real life does not work that way:
 
For instance, how can Romero reconcile the conspiracy to destroythe MAS program and to get rid of its chair Sean Arce? StateSuperintendent of Schools John Huppenthal and Arizona AttorneyGeneral Tom Horne ran on the platform of destroying MAS. Theyignored credible evidence that disprove their claims that MAS isunpatriotic and advocates the overthrow of the government.

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