Arizona Superintendent Promotes Native Culture

Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal recently visited schools on the Navajo Nation and expressed his support for teaching Native American languages and culture in public schools.

Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal may be taking flack for cutting the Mexican American Studies program at the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD), but he spent February 21 and 22 telling educators and students on the Navajo Nation that the state of Arizona wants to help them teach language and cultures.

Huppenthal held two town hall meetings, one in Chinle at the Chinle Wildcat Den and the other in Kayenta at the Monument Valley High School Student Activity Center.

He told the gathered participants at Chinle that Native language and culture classes would not be banned like Mexican American Studies has been at TUSD.

"We don't anticipate any fallout to other cultural studies programs," Huppenthal said, according to Navajo Times. "The challenges associated with that (Mexican American Studies) program are isolated to that program, that school district and that environment.”

But how does Huppenthal plan on helping tribes teach their language and culture? He said the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) is revising requirements for those who teach tribal culture and language.

"We're already taking steps to cut down on the regulations that make it difficult to bring in Native speakers to teach language," Navajo Times reported Huppenthal said.

He also started the Native American Advisory Group, which is meant to help the ADE improve service to Native American students in Arizona. Read more about that in the July 2011 Indian Education Update.

According to Navajo Times, Huppenthal’s visit was the first time in 29 years an Arizona superintendent came to the Navajo Nation. Read their full story here.