Why One Former Ariz. Teacher Supports the Ethnic Studies Law

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," May 17, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: And now to Arizona, where things are getting hotter. The illegal immigration fight is still blazing hot, and now the battle escalates, taking on another law that bans some ethnic studies classes from being taught in Arizona schools. Former Tucson, Arizona, high school teacher John Ward used to teach in an ethnic studies department. He says he was removed from teaching a class. Why? John Ward joins us live. Good evening, John. And why were you removed from teaching a class?

JOHN A. WARD, FORMER TUCSON HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER: Hi, Greta. Thank you for having me. The short and simple is I was removed from teaching a class because I questioned the pedagogy and the instruction that was taking place in that classroom. And that was something that was not going to be tolerated by these ethnic study activists who were involved in the curriculum.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, now, I have a copy of an article or an op-ed that you wrote back in 2008, so this is not something new that suddenly has come up in the heat of all the other battle over the immigration law. This is something you've been talking about for at least two years.

Now, tell me, this was originally supposed to be a history class you were teaching, is that right?

WARD: It was. It was an American history class and students were receiving American history credit that is required by the state of Arizona for graduation.

VAN SUSTEREN: What was wrong with it? Why wasn't it, in your view, American history? What was -- what was the argument about it?

WARD: I was surprised during the first six weeks of class when absolutely no American history was being covered in the class. The class focused solely on the history of the Aztec people, which is the group that Mexican-American activists basically ascribe their lineage to. And at that point, I questioned why these students were receiving American history credit when, in fact, there was no American history being taught. So that was the beginning of this internal conflict that was taking place within the program.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, now, in this op-ed going back two years, you note that you yourself are Hispanic. So I imagine that was somewhat of an interesting twist to all this. But you also write, "The basic theme of the curriculum was that Mexican-Americans were and continue to be victims of a racist American society driven by the interests of middle and upper class whites."

Is this paragraph that you have in this op-ed -- was this sort of - - is this something that sort of permeated the whole course, that it was not necessarily, Let's see what history was, but rather was a diatribe of some sort?

WARD: That was the underlying theme of the entire course from the first day of class until the point in March in which I was removed from that classroom for raising concerns. And so you have a group of very young, impressionable students who are very smart but nonetheless very impressionable, and this is what the were being force-fed on a daily basis. And by the time I had left the classroom, these students had bought that message totally and believed that they were nothing less than victims of a very racist and oppressive society.

VAN SUSTEREN: In terms of the response to you, you write in your op-ed, "When I raised these concerns" -- ones that you and I just discussed, you were told that you were a racist, despite being Hispanic, and that acknowledging your heritage, the Raza studies staff also informed you that you were a bandito -- I don't know if I'm pronouncing that correctly -- which is a Spanish term for sell-out?

WARD: Good pronunciation.

VAN SUSTEREN: Thank you. So it's -- you were -- that you were -- in fact, you got attacked for being a sell-out.

WARD: True. For many of these ethnic activists, they demand conformity to their radical ideas. And if one does not agree with those ideas and they're part of that ethnic group, they have to be discredited somehow. And so obviously, one way of doing it is by calling someone a, you know, sell-out or a racist themselves. And that's totally absurd. I'm proud of my heritage. I'm proud of my family, who are all Mexican- American. But these are the types of tactics that these groups use to try to discredit individuals who disagree with them, especially individuals who are within that community.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, it seems to me there's a big difference between teaching history, teaching cultural history, which describes a person's ethnic background, and teaching hate. And it seems to me from at least your description that this was almost teaching to be a victim and to hate. Am I right? I mean, is that the way you describe it?

WARD: The underlying themes of the course were victimization and resentment. And it was at that point that I, you know, put my foot down as the co-instructor of the course and said, This is no longer going to happen as long as I'm the teacher of record of this class. And it was at that point that I was asked to remove myself from that classroom.

VAN SUSTEREN: You -- what is this "teacher of record," too? It says that you were the teacher of record in the course. What does that mean?

WARD: Initially, before the beginning of the school year, they needed someone to teach the class. The class was typically thought by someone from the ethnic studies department at the district level. The individual that was slated to teach the course didn't have a teaching credential, and so they needed someone like myself, who had teaching credentials, to be the, quote, "teacher of record."

My understanding was that I would co-teach the class with this other teacher. Unfortunately, I found out once I entered the class that I was expected to sit in the back of the room and simply be the name below the assignment of grades at the end of the semester and to keep quiet. And that was simply not a role that I was willing to accept or embrace. And at that point, it was when, again, this was something that was not going to be allowed or tolerated by these individuals.

VAN SUSTEREN: John, thank you.

WARD: Thank you.

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