Activist Who Promoted Controversial Mexican-American Curriculum in Arizona to Speak at Vanderbilt


Curtis Acosta, an activist and former high school teacher involved in promoting a controversial Mexican-American studies program in Tuscon, Arizona schools, will speak at Vanderbilt University Dec. 7.

In 2010, in response to criticism of the instructional program, Arizona passed a law banning materials that promote overthrowing the U.S. government and inculcate racial resentment and ethnic solidarity. Most of the law was upheld by a federal judge when challenged. The case was appealed and went back to trial and in August the same judge ruled that the ban is racially discriminatory and violates students’ constitutional rights.

“Acosta’s presentation will focus on that victory by examining the connection between the racist and dehumanizing policies in Arizona with the current national political climate that is affecting youth, people of color and other marginalized communities,” says a Vanderbilt University news release.

The Tuscon Unified School District in 2012 dropped the Mexican-American studies program so as not to lose state funding. But controversy continued over instructional materials as educators pressed to teach the same themes as part of a “culturally relevant” curriculum. The Daily Caller reported that teachers received approval to use texts including “Occupied America,” “Message to Aztlan” and “Chicano!

There also was controversy over Rage Against the Machine’s “Take the Power Back” being used in a high school history class. The song lyrics include the following words:

So called facts are fraud
They want us to allege and pledge
And bow down to their God
Lost the culture, the culture lost
Spun our minds and through time
Ignorance has taken over
Yo, we gotta take the power back!
Bam! Here’s the plan
Mother**** Uncle Sam
Step back, I know who I am
Raise up your ear, I’ll drop the style and clear
It’s the beats and the lyrics they fear
The rage is relentless
We need a movement with a quickness
You are the witness of change
And to counteract
We gotta take the power back

Yeah, we gotta take the power back
Come on, come on!
We gotta take the power back

The present curriculum
I put my fist in ’em
Eurocentric every last one of ’em
See right through the red, white and blue disguise

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