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Opening Arguments

It could be worse

Now, we have two of the three finalists chosen for the "Jeopardy!" teen tournament. In addition to the girl from Indiana, there is now a boy from Paducah, Ky. I guess that says something about the education in this part of the country. As much as we criticize our public schools, they seem to stay on a fairly level-headed course. To understand that, you have only to see a school system that has gone completely off the rails, such as the Tucson Unified School District.

It has an "ethnic studies" department, because, as its director, Augustine Romero, explains, "traditional" history and civics courses, all devised by "ultraconservatives," have been "highly ineffective to children of color." Since you can't teach history without a political orientation, Romero makes sure all of his instructors are "left-leaning progressives" who teach the value of revolutions and have portraits of Che Guevera in their classrooms. And they seem to have a wider mission:

Romero's program has raised some eyebrows. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne, who had a devil of a time even learning about the program's curriculum, has seen the program's texts (at last). He concludes they are steeped in leftist ideology and race-based resentment.

But the real horrors of Romero's program are closer to home.

In the past several weeks, messages have filtered out from teachers and other TUSD employees (some directed to Horne; others who have contacted me, following two previous columns on this subject) about what an officially recognized resentment-based program does to a high school.

In a word, it creates fear.

Teachers and counselors are being called before their school principals and even the district school board and accused of being racists. And with a cadre of self-acknowledged "progressive" political activists in the ethnic-studies department on the hunt, the race transgressors are multiplying.

One school counselor, who wrote to Horne, described an entire counseling department being decried as a racist after one of Romero's activists saw an "innocuous notation" on a draft paper drawn up from a department brain-storming session.

The ethnic-studies teacher "grossly misinterpreted" the notation to have racist meaning, the counselor said. The teacher wrote a letter to the parents of his students "telling them the school's counselors are racist" and encouraged his students to sign the letter.

"I can tell you that the weeks that followed were difficult ones for the counselors," the TUSD school counselor wrote.

I think if Fort Wayne Community Schools ever got that out of control, citizens would march on the administration building with torches in hand.