Feathered Bastard

John Huppenthal Invokes Mein Kampf, Queen Boudica, and Hannibal, Rationalizing War on Ethnic Studies Students and Teachers

Hupp goes all Hannibal on the MAS crowd, 6:34 on

What I like about Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal is his consistency. You know when he opens his mouth, he's bound to say something stupid. It's just a matter of how stupid.

His latest round of revelatory idiocies -- at least, the most recent captured on video -- occurred during a February 29 interview with reporter Brad Zinn of the conservative website Western Free Press, which has posted the confab on YouTube.

After regaling Zinn with the glories of "school choice" (read, "white flight from public schools" or "voluntary racial segregation," take your pick) and kvetching about needing funding for a new computer system, Hupp addresses the most contentious issue of his tenure at the state Department of Education: his quashing of the highly successful Mexican American Studies program at the Tucson Unified School District.

Perhaps knowing that his fellow right-wingers would like a bit of red meat, he tossed his pseudo-educator's cap, and donned his spiffy ideologue's helmet. 

Rather than doing what's right for TUSD's students, parents and teachers, Hupp framed the ethnic studies issue as one of war, wherein he preferred the methods of the great Carthaginian military commander Hannibal versus those of ancient Britain's Queen Boudica, both of whom battled the Roman army back in the day.

Hupp told Zinn that in this sort of situation, "You can very quickly, as a conservative, end up with a lot of forces against you, and be defeated in your mission."

Which is where the Boudica-Hannibal comparisons come into play, as Hupp explained his "strategy" in taking on the ethnic studies students and teachers, much in the same way that Elmer Fudd would explain his hunt for the ever-elusive "bunny wabbit."

As a labor-saving device, I'm using screenshots of a transcription of this interview entered into the federal court record as part of Acosta v. Horne, the civil rights lawsuit that's attempting to overthrow Arizona's ethnic studies law HB 2281 as unconstitutional. 

See, when you're a public official and you say dumb stuff, it can be quoted against you in court. And using a "military analogy" to describe the ethnic studies debate is not only dumb, it shows that Hupp's intent all along was to unfairly target MAS as he would an enemy, singling it out in a discriminatory fashion under the aegis of a vaguely-worded statute.

Not to mention that it's uncouth for a superintendent to view the MAS students and teachers as his enemies, but I digress. On to Hannibal.

That wily Fudd, er, I mean, Hannibal Hupp. He stretched the matter out all right, and in the process cost the state beaucoup cash, which was funneled to private lawyers who just happened to be contributors to Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne, the progenitor of HB 2281.

A rising tide lifts all boats, you see, even when that tide is comprised of the noxious sludge of corruption and bigotry. Hupp goes on to paint a grand picture of "the eternal battle of all time, the forces of collectivism against the forces of individual liberty."

Unless it's the liberty to teach or read certain books in a Tucson classroom. Even Shakespeare's The Tempest, which is fine for English lit, best not be taught with any discussion of that taboo topic of slavery or any of these pinko notions about "oppression."

Hupp touched upon his book banning controversy during a January 18 interview with National Public Radio, also recently entered into the record in Acosta v. Horne

"Like some people are talking about the books," said Hupp. "The books aren't of concern at all.  You know, I tell people you can bring Mein Kampf into the classroom, but you'd better be really careful about the viewpoint in which you're bringing that into the classroom."

So teaching Rethinking Columbus or Occupied America: A History of Chicanos (two books verboten in TUSD now) is equivalent to teaching Hitler's autobiography? Nice use of the Nazi card, Hupp. Glenn Beck would be proud of ya.

It's not the first time Hupp's gone there. As reported by writer Jeff Biggers in Huffington Post, Hupp likened the practices of MAS to those of the Hitler Jugend (Hitler Youth) during a GOP meeting in September of last year.

Guess no one's told Hupp that the Arizona chapter of the Anti-Defamation League has long supported the MAS program. Hey, what do they know about Nazis, right?

Such shrill, irrational comparisons have found their way into the arguments of lawyers for the AG's office, which took over the case after Hupp's budget had been drained by the above-mentioned outside counsel. In a January filing, AG's legal beagles suggested a parallel between MAS and a hypothetical "Ku Klux Klan curriculum that openly taught hatred of minority groups."

One wonders if such ludicrous language will invade the oral arguments on motions for summary judgment set for Monday, March 19 before federal Judge A. Wallace Tashima. 

Will the AG's lawyers depict MAS students as jack-booted thugs, white-sheet-wearers, and genocide-makers? If so, may I suggest that they familiarize themselves with the Freudian concept of "projection."

As for Hupp, he should educate himself further on the life of Hannibal. Sure, he won great victories against Rome, but the Romans ultimately defeated him at the Battle of Zama, where Rome triumphed over Carthage. 

Many years later, the Romans razed Carthage to the ground. Hannibal eventually ended his life as a suicide.

So much for that particular "military analogy."

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons