Margaret Dugan, AZ School Superintendent Candidate, Responds on Ethnic Studies Ban

I *heart* ethnic studies, too.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post listing 3 ways that the GOP is targeting children in their war against illegal immigration, and I linked three petitions that you can sign to help send a message to political decision-makers that these strategies are unacceptable. 

One example I cited in this post was Arizona’s recent ban on ethnic studies in public schools. In brief, HB 2281 — which was signed into Arizona state law earlier this year — prohibited the teaching of ethnic studies in the state’s public schools. As I’ve already discussed, this ban will limit the diversity of perpsectives that students will be exposed to in their learning of American history, and even discourages student-centered teaching by ignoring the multiculturalism of Arizona students. 

Earlier this month, I urged readers to sign this petition, which asks current candidates for Arizona’s school superintendent position to make a pledge to, if elected, work towards reinstituting ethnic studies in Arizona’s public schools. To date, more than 50 readers from around the country have signed the petition, alerting these candidates of the importance of ethnic studies classes. 

Interestingly, the impact of these supporters have already been felt. Within days of starting the petition, I received email responses from three of the five candidates currently running for Arizona Superintendent of Public Education, detailing their stances on public education. 

For the sake of length, this post will only reproduce Margaret Dugan’s response on the ethnic studies ban. In a second post, I will reproduce the responses from the other candidates. 

Margaret Dugan 

Margaret Dugan

Margaret Dugan is a Republican and the current Deputy School Superintendent here in Arizona. She is running to succeed her predecessor, Superintendent Tom Horne, who helped push through Arizona’s ethnic studies ban in the first place. Not surprisingly, Dugan echoes much of Horne’s original criticism of ethnic studies. Here’s a video of Margaret Dugan openly lying about ethnic studies classes being taught in the Tucson Unified School District on CNN: 


(Now, I don’t agree with Dr. Romero’s accusation that the ethnic studies ban has anything to do with Nazi Germany, but up until the last minute of the video, Margaret Dugan was getting absolutely schooled — pun intended — for misrepresenting what is being taught in ethnic studies classes in the Tucson Unified School District and around the country.) 

Dugan’s main arguments against ethnic studies are that: 1) students shouldn’t be taught that they are oppressed, and 2) students are being forcibly segregated into ethnic studies classes based on their race. Yet, both of these arguments are flawed. First of all, while Dr. Romero points out that ethnic studies classes do not teach a culture of victimhood in TUSD, one must wonder why there is such a fervent effort on the part of Dugan and her GOP cohorts to prevent the teaching to racial minorities that they experience oppression. American history includes a history of oppression of racial minorities — we cannot avoid teaching minority students about oppression that their communities have and continue to face, unless we want to teach a flawed, ahistorical account of American history that does not address the fact of race-based oppression as part of this nation’s formation. And so, Dugan’s true colours are revealed. 

Secondly, anybody with even a rudimentary exposure to ethnic studies programs knows that these classes are open to all students, and indeed students of diverse backgrounds are specifically encouraged to take ethnic studies classes in order to expand their learning. 

Dugan hit the same notes as her CNN interview when she emailed me earlier last month. Here’s her email: 

Dear Jenn, 

Contributions of all ethnic backgrounds can be taught in our World History and US History classes. By separating students or calling a class by a certain ethnic name does not bring together students of all backgrounds. As a former teacher and high school principal, I believe is is far healthier for all students of all ethnic backgrounds  to be enrolled together rather than in separate classes. In addition, I am of Hispanic descent and I was able to enroll in classes throughout my K-12 public schooling in Arizona with students of diverse backgrounds. We learned together and learned from each other. 

Margaret Dugan, native of Arizona and product of the public school system. I have over 37 years experience as an educator- teacher, assistant principal, principal, district administrator and currently Deputy Supt at the Ariz Dept of Education.  

Interestingly, Dugan highlights her “Hispanic descent” to me, as if somehow this should assuage my concerns. Yet, on the campaign trail, Dugan has been hiding from her Latino heritage by avoiding reference to her “Spanish-sounding” middle name in virtually all campaign literature. 

On her other points, I called Dugan to task, by responding with the following email:

Dear Ms. Dugan,

Thank you for your email.

With respect, I disagree with your response. Ethnic studies classes do not segregate or separate students by race (indeed, Brown v. Board of Education established that segregation in public schools by race is unconstitutional).

Ethnic studies programs provide a focused curriculum that teach specific topics not usually taught in general World History, US History, or Literature classes. For example, a Chicano American Studies class that was targeted by HB 2281 encouraged the reading of prominent Chicano authors because few Chicano authors were read in the general literature classes.

Ethnic studies history classes teach specific aspects of history not normally covered in-depth by general history classes. For example, I notice that in the Grades 9-12 American history content standards, there is no reference of any kind to any aspect of Chicano-American history, nor is there any discussion of the impact of the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act on contemporary American demographics and immigration. These topics are arguably important to understanding American history (particularly in Southern Arizona), yet they are probably only perfunctorily addressed (if at all) in today’s general US History classes.

Ethnic studies classes do not divide students by their backgrounds. Instead they bring students together by having them focus on diverse topics that reflect the multicultural demographics of the classroom. They teach all students to respect the multiculturalism of today’s America by encouraging students to find relevance in another student’s culture and history. I repeat, ethnic studies programs do not enforce or promote racial segregation of classrooms — all students of all ethnic backgrounds can (and are in fact encouraged to) enroll in ethnic studies classes.

You write that in your time as a student, you were enrolled in diverse classes where you “learned together and learned from each other”. I agree with this sentiment. If you believe that there are things you can learn from the Chicano American community, why are you resistant to having a full-semester, optional history course (for example) that would help non-Chicano students learn from the Chicano-American community? Would having such a class offering — and encouraging all students, regardless of race, to enroll in them — run counter to your vision of a diverse classroom?

 Further, if you feel these topics belong in a general course on US history, what do you plan on taking out of the curriculum to make room for detailed coverage of these topics? African Americans and Asian Americans make up nearly 10% of the state’s population — if detailed teaching of the histories of these communities also belong in the general US history class, what else would you take from the curriculum in order to make room for a representative coverage of these topics?

I appreciate your response.


Jenn F.

Given that in both her email to me and in her CNN interview, Dugan suggests that the curricula of ethnic studies classes should be incorporated into general U.S. history classes, I really wanted an answer to what Dugan planned on eliminating from state standards to make room for these topics. Because, in reality, I support the notion that general history classes should be more inclusive of topics generally covered in ethnic studies classes. But, with the already jam-packed curricula of required general history classes, the only way to advocate integrating ethnic studies topics into general classes is to cut something else out. Or to hand out time-turners to students.

Sadly, but not suprisingly, Dugan side-stepped the question — because answering that question would require having actually thought about the issue. Instead, she changed the topic — by acting as if I had offended her:


I am from the generation that is offended by my Hispanic background referred to as Chicano. The word Chicano is a radical term and most Americans with Hispanic descent like me do not like that word. When I was in school, I learned about the hisory and geography of Arizona and the culture and contributions that the Mexican people provided for our state. In fact, I was educated in a small town 7 miles from the Arizona/Mexico border. Why do we continue to point out our differences  instead of identifying our similarities as individuals. I have always taught my students to treat each other  with respect.   My belief is out of many- one. I will check on the Arizona Academic standards relative to inclusion of other cultures. I have been informed that the social studies standards do include objectives of other cultures for our teachers to teach our students.


At least Dugan reveals her true intentions. It’s not that she fears students will be segregated into race-based classrooms. It’s not that she believes in integrated, diverse classrooms. It’s not even that she would rather integrate ethnic studies topics into state standards for general history classes.

No, Margaret Dugan wants to wipe out Chicano American studies — specifically– because she finds Chicano a “radical” term.

Which begs the question: is it actually that La Raza teaches the overthrow of the U.S. government (which it doesn’t), or is it merely that Margaret Dugan and her ilk are trying to legislate based on their own stereotypes of ethnic studies?

Act Now! If you haven’t yet, please sign this petition calling for Arizona School Superintedent candidates to make a pledge in support of ethnic studies.

Also, on August 24th, Arizona voters will be going to the polls to choose their party candidates for Arizona School Superintendent. If you are a Republican, Margaret Dugan should not be your choice. She has already demonstrated a basic lack of understanding of the scientific method (she lacks even the proficiency expected of your average high school student); now, she also shows that she’s more interested in legislating her own biases than addressing the educational needs of Arizona students. She appears to have a frightening lack of knowledge of state educational standards, and seems ill-equipped to understand how these standards are translated into class curricula. 

I don’t normally endorse candidates, but in this case, I just have to say it: Margaret Dugan is not even remotely qualified enough to be this state’s next School Superintendent. Please, Republicans, do not vote for her.

Cross-posted: Blog for Arizona

Did you like this post? Please support Reappropriate on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!