Thursday, July 3, 2014

Rot At The Top. The Culture Of Intolerance At The Arizona Department Of Education

Posted By on Thu, Jul 3, 2014 at 10:32 AM


The Mexican American Studies program is the equivalent of the Ku Klux Klan and its teachers are skin heads, John Huppenthal wrote. A teacher who writes op eds against the Common Core is a "f*cktard," according to an email from a Department of Education employee. These wildly inappropriate comments indicate a level of hatred and intolerance toward perceived enemies at the top levels of the Arizona education system, in an agency whose mission is to promote the academic and social educations of Arizona's youth.

Huppenthal has been justly condemned for his anonymous blog posts under the pseudonyms "Thucydides" and "Falcon9." Some of the comments were pointed directly at TUSD's Mexican American Studies program, which he hated with a passion unbecoming the Superintendent of Public Instruction. He wrote that TUSD's Mexican American Studies program was the equivalent of the Ku Klux Klan ("MAS=KKK in a different color"). The Klan is a post-Civil War group which terrorized, tortured and lynched African Americans [Note: The KKK also targeted Mexican-Americans, a point I should have included in the original post]. It's hard to imagine a more inappropriate, ignorant or offensive comparison. He called the MAS teachers skin heads ("MAS skin heads can’t run classrooms"), meaning the teachers deserve to be put into the same category as members of roving gangs of often racist, often white supremacist youth who use hate speech and violence against ethnic minorities. Making a comparison like that is beneath contempt.

Huppenthal, furious with the MAS program, lashed out at people he perceived as enemies using language which originated in some dark, dangerous corner of his psyche and which was meant to do injury to the Mexican American Studies program and the TUSD staff who implemented it.

Now we learn this level of hatred and demonization of those who presented a threat to the mission of Huppenthal's Department of Education extended further. Recently, it was directed at a teacher who spoke out against the Common Core. In an email written during work by Angela Escobar, an ADE employee, about Brad McQueen, a Tucson-area teacher who has written and spoken out against the Common Core, she wrote, "What a f*cktard."

Calling McQueen a "f*cktard" is far worse than, say, calling him an asshole, especially coming from someone in the Department of Education. "F*cktard" is an abbreviation of "fucking retard." Retard? That's a playground insult hurled at an enemy by an angry child. The term "retard" has such negative connotations in the world of education, its use has been effectively banned. Escobar's use of the term is the same as a Department of Civil Rights employee calling someone a "fucking faggot." The person the epithet is hurled at doesn't have to be developmentally delayed in the first case or a member of the LGBT community in the second. The point is to insult the person by making a comparison to a group the speaker finds contemptible. Language of this kind has been unacceptable for decades, and especially among employees who are supposed to be serving and protecting the people they are insulting.

Both Huppenthal and Escobar hurled their insults under cover. Huppenthal used pseudonyms and was only exposed when Blog for Arizona discovered his identity. Escobar wrote her email to a colleague, and it was only made public through a public records search.

Now that Huppenthal and Escobar have been exposed for acting in a wildly inappropriate manner given their positions of responsibility at the top of the state's education system, what's happened to them?

Huppenthal has said over and over in two public appearances, he "apologizes" for his "hateful comments" and he "repudiates" and "renounces" them. He's still in his job and hopes to be reelected so he can be superintendent for another four years. Angela Escobar was disciplined, though the Department of Education won't tell us what that means, and she's still in her job.

In the Arizona Department of Education, apparently there are no serious consequences for hurling insults and using language which would result in the suspension or expulsion of a student in most Arizona public schools.

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