Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Salomón R. Baldenegro: 'It’s Déjà Vu All Over Again'

Posted By on Tue, May 3, 2011 at 2:40 PM

Salomón R. Baldenegro, former assistant dean for Hispanic student affairs, was hoping an opinion piece he wrote recently would be published in today's daily. It wasn't, although there were three essays from governing board members Miguel Cuevas and Judy Burns, and two UNIDOS high school members, regarding ethnic studies.

Baldenegro wrote his essay in response to an opinion piece written by TUSD Superintendent John Pedicone, published Saturday.

Here's Baldenegro's take on history repeating itself:

Democracy is not something you believe in or a place to hang your hat…it's something you do. Abbie Hoffman

It’s déjà vu all over again. Yogi Berra

Recent comments by TUSD Superintendent John Pedicone regarding ethnic studies brought to mind the above quotes.

In March 1969, students from Tucson and Pueblo high schools confronted issues such as tracking (Mexican American students were systematically channeled into vocational rather than college-prep courses) and the lack of Mexican American teachers and counselors in TUSD. They also wanted courses that dealt with the rich history and the immense contributions of Mexican Americans.

The students met with school officials and circulated petitions, all to no avail.

Frustrated, the students walked out of school in protest. These protests planted the seed for today’s Mexican Studies program and led to fundamental changes in TUSD, such as hiring policies.

It was the students who organized and carried out the walkouts. Adults—clergy, lawyers, teachers, social workers, alumni of the two schools—supported the students, as did their parents.

However, not willing to accept the notion that students could act on their own, then-Superintendent Thomas Lee did exactly what Pedicone is doing: made speeches and wrote op-eds saying that adults, including the students’ parents, were using and manipulating the students.

Lee's comments resonated with the ugly side of Tucson. In response to his demonizing campaign, hard-core Mexican haters came out from under the rocks they lived in and denounced the students and their supporters with every racist characterization they could conjure up.

The "Comments" after Pedicone’s Op-Ed piece indicate that the political/philosophical descendents of the 1969 Mexican haters are alive and well and picking up the Pedicone line.

The Lee and Pedicone supporters have in common the ubiquitous “Go back to Mexico” line.

Pedicone talks of “dialogue,” yet last week’s meeting prohibited dialogue—there was to be no “call to the audience.” Conveniently, however, Pedicone did engage in “dialogue” with the Metropolitan Education Commission—after last week’s demonstration.

It was announced that this week’s school-board meeting would be on Thursday at Catalina High School, but then over the weekend the date of the meeting was changed and the meeting was moved back to the TUSD building. A sure way to confuse people and minimize attendance at the meeting—the very antithesis of promoting “dialogue.”

Over the years there have been scores of very unruly board meetings involving teachers, staff, parents, etc., and not once (!) have these folks had to go through metal scanners or have to face armed security guards.

The ethnic overtones here make a huge statement: Mexican American students, parents, and community members are seen by Pedicone as criminals and terrorists. Metal scanners’ sole purpose is to detect weapons. Likewise, guards are armed so as to be able to shoot people.

To even deny that we are criminals or terrorists would dignify Pedicone’s egregious insult to our community. He knows full well who we are. He also knows with whom his and his supporters’ demagoguery resonates.

Pedicone and his school-board cronies should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves for suggesting that the very people whose ancestors built and developed Tucson and founded public education in Arizona are criminals and terrorists.

I was involved in the events of 1969 and last week in which students and others actually did democracy, and I never thought I’d ever come to see our old nemesis Dr. Lee as a moderate in comparison to today’s TUSD leaders.

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