Is school out on ethnic studies in Arizona?

First acts are hard to follow, but Arizona can’t be knocked for trying.

Less than a month after signing into law an immigration bill that has divided citizens and politicians alike, Ariz. Governor Jan Brewer approved a measure that restricts ethnic studies in the state’s public school curriculums.

Under the new law, classes cannot do one or all of the following:

  • Promote the overthrow of the U.S. government;
  • Promote resentment towards a race or class of people;
  • Be designed primarily for students of a particular race; and
  • Advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of students as individuals.

Schools that don’t comply after receiving notice would see up to 10 percent of their funding taken away.

The bill’s primary target is a 12-year-old Mexican-American studies program in the Tucson school district that has been strongly criticized by the state’s school superintendent Tom Horne, who has called the program racist.

“When I just graduated from high school, I went to the march on Washington, in which Martin Luther King gave his famous speech in which he said we should be judged by the quality of our character, rather than the color of our skin,” Horne said in an interview with Fox New’s Greta Van Susteren.

“And this been among my deepest beliefs my entire life.  And so this has made me opposed to dividing students by race.”

The Mexican-American studies program wouldn’t be the only such program affected, since it is part of a $2-million ethnic studies department that includes African-American studies, Native American Studies and Asian Studies.
Defenders of these programs say they help integrate each culture into the larger curriculum of American history.

Mexican-American studies program director Sean Acre told the Associated Press that students “need to know that their ancestors, many of their parents, great grandparents, have contributed to this great nation.”

Criticism of the bill has reached beyond the state’s boundaries to even the United Nations, where human rights experts released a statement calling it – coupled with the recent immigration bill – “a disturbing pattern of legislative activity hostile to ethnic minorities and immigrants.

Ethnic studies education has been a not-so-third-rail lightening rod since its adoption in the midst of the civil rights movement in the late 1960s.  For years, the debate has mainly stayed on college campuses, where conservative critics argued that such classes were just left-wing propaganda. Recently it’s been part of the major fight over school textbooks in Texas, where efforts to include more historical Latino figures in schoolbooks were defeated.

With immigration in the spotlight in Arizona, it’s hard to miss the politics behind this new bill.

Horne is not only the state schools chief, but he’s also a candidate for state attorney general in a competitive Republican primary with former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas, who has his own critics and admirers when it comes to immigration.  And in a state where two-thirds of GOP primary voters say a candidate’s view on immigration will affect how they vote, the stakes are high and rising.

 
SUGGESTED STORIES
  • thumb
    Memorial Day every day
    Beyond the backyard BBQ: Honor and aid those who have served.
  • Fast and too furious?
    Can accuracy and the demand for instant information coexist in the media?
  • thumb
      Steinbeck's Salinas Valley
    John Steinbeck's hometown came to worldwide notice through the Grapes of Wrath. Not all city fathers were pleased by the portrait. Explore what has changed and what remains the same in Salinas.

Comments

  • Dennis M. Beaty

    Those Right Wing Extremists sure know how to hate. It is clear that they want to make Arizona a safe haven for terrorists by institutionalizing racism. Real Americans will find a way to boycott Arizona highways, parks, and business. Say no to institutionalized hate. Boycott any business that does not pull out of Arizona now.

  • T.D.L.

    Wow…and he had the nerve to quote Dr. King to justify the madness!

  • Neil

    It is a sign of our cultural decay that a law like this is even required.

    Detractors put their mental decay on public display.

  • rdro

    Have no problem with students in K-12 learning about other cultures as they apply to the founding of America. However, let’s make sure they understand the basics first. Very few can name all the Presidents or know much about any of them other than a few highlights. Few know exactly how our Government is supposed to run from the bottom up, name all the States and their capitals and actually locate them on a map and on and on. Frankly, I’m tired of hyphonated Americans and emphasis being placed on them as seperate races. Your an American or your not, it’s that simple.