by David Safier
True, there's something sleazy about Ed Supe John Huppenthal's internet habits. A public, elected official who writes hundreds and hundreds of anonymous comments on blog posts and articles all over the Arizona blogosphere is the kind of guy who is willing to use his office in deceptive and underhanded ways when it suits him. Regularly defending himself by name while pretending to be someone else is one higher level of sleaze. And altering Wikipedia pages about himself, Slade Meade (who ran against Huppenthal for a state senate seat) and current Secretary of State Ken Bennett — that's more of the same.
But we've become so accustomed to sleaze from people in the political sector, we just consider it part of the territory — unless they leave an obscene photo trail behind, of course. The sleaze factor won't do more than bruise Huppenthal's reputation a little. So let's put that aside.
What's really troubling is what Huppenthal revealed about himself with his comments. His attitudes toward the poor, Hispanics, even the Spanish language itself, indicate that he shouldn't be allowed within a hundred miles of our children's educations.
Lisa Graham Keegan, a Republican who is a former Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction and an important part of the conservative "education reform" movement, called on Huppenthal to resign. She was concerned about his comment about Obama "rewarding the lazy pigs with food stamps," saying, "His comments are extremely disrespectful of the people the state superintendent serves." She's right. If Huppenthal feels such a deep disrespect for poor children and their parents that they deserve to be called "lazy pigs," how can he be trusted to determine the nature of their educations? But his "lazy pigs" comment is just the beginning.
Huppenthal's comment about people on public assistance pales in comparison to the vile statements he made about Hispanics in his blog comments. Someone with attitudes like his cannot be trusted to make decisions about the education of the state's Hispanic children.
For example, it's one thing to think Che Guevara is a horrible guy and not a hero as some believe. Che is a controversial figure. But it's quite another to write,
"Che Guvera (sp) is not to be afraid of, he is to be despised and his memory should be defecated upon."
What level of disgust must you feel about someone to say you want to defecate on his memory? I've never read a statement by Huppenthal close to that about anyone else, even Adolph Hitler, who he mentioned a number of times. Huppenthal's comment about Guevara was made in the context of TUSD's Mexican American Studies program, because his picture was on an MAS classroom wall. That's what raised Huppenthal's disgust to an excretory level, Guevara's connection to a Hispanic-centered curriculum.
Huppenthal launched an all out war against TUSD's Mexican American Studies program, and he used barely disguised racist code language about the program during his campaign for superintendent. But his anonymous comments reveal a more disturbing level of hatred. He wrote, "MAS=KKK in a different color." Members of the Ku Klux Klan put on hoods, then terrorized and lynched African Americans for decades. Anyone who thinks the KKK is a reasonable comparison to an ethnic studies program harbors a level of hatred that's way out of control. In another comment, Huppenthal calls the program's teachers "MAS skin heads." The skin heads he's referring to are contemporary racist thugs who terrorize, torture and kill members of a number of minority groups. They are a more recent incarnation of the same kind of violent racism that drove the KKK. If our Superintendent of Public Instruction thinks it's reasonable to compare teachers under his jurisdiction to "skin heads" because he objects to what they teach and how they teach it, how can he possibly make rational decisions about ethnic studies programs in our schools?
Some comments which just surfaced on the blog, Espresso Pundit, show Huppenthal's anti-Hispanic attitudes even extend to the Spanish language itself. Huppenthal commented,
"We all need to stomp out balkanization. No spanish radio stations, no spanish billboards, no spanish tv stations, no spanish newspapers. This is America, speak English."
Later in the comment stream, when someone made fun of Huppenthal's comment, saying maybe we shouldn't serve ethic food here, he upped the ante.
"I don’t mind them selling Mexican food as long as the menus are mostly in English. And, I’m not being humorous or racist. A lot is at stake here."
These views go beyond simple racism into one of the very dark moments in our history of public education. Native American children used to be sent away from their parents to boarding schools where they were forbidden from speaking their mother tongues. Children were beaten if they dared speak anything but English. Spanish speaking children had their language treated with the same disrespect in public schools in Arizona and around the country. They were scolded, punished, even hit if they were caught speaking Spanish. With Native American children, the purpose was to try and wipe out their languages entirely in a generation, and the boarding schools nearly succeeded. Spanish couldn't be eliminated as a language, of course, but the idea was to teach the children, as Huppenthal said in his comment, "This is America, speak English."
For someone in charge of our children's education to say we need to "stomp out" the use of Spanish, then list radio stations, billboards, TV stations and newspapers as examples, is horrifying. Note that the comment, which I copied exactly, writes the word "spanish" four times uncapitalized, then ends by using the proper capitals in the final statement, "This is America, speak English." As Huppenthal typed that comment, he refused even to give the Spanish language a capital letter which he then uses for "America" and "English."
Should a man with that kind of attitude toward non-English speakers and their languages be in charge of children whose first language isn't English? It's no wonder Huppenthal is a strong advocate for English Immersion in ELL programs — four hours a day of drilling, drilling, drilling in English without the use of the children's original languages. During every moment of the school day, he wants to hammer home the message, "This is America, speak English."
Forget the sleaze, if you wish. Forget the anonymous posting, the sock puppetry, the Wikipedia editing. What's important is, a man with Huppenthal's ideas should not be in a position of authority over any aspect of our children's lives, let alone their educations. He needs to go, as soon as possible.
COLUMNIST UPDATE: Tim Steller in the Star and Laurie Roberts in the Republic have done excellent work dissecting, slicing and dicing some of the same Huppenthal comments I analyzed here. We all go in somewhat different directions, indicating the complexity and depth of the stupidity, arrogance and racism Huppenthal displays.