With Republican majorities in 20 state legislatures, Tea Party activists and the GOP have wasted no time narrowing the curriculum and starting an assault on diversity education. State by state, the attacks add up to a steady undermining of the freedoms and rights earned since the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1965. Here are some examples of what’s going on:
Tennessee Tea Party activists presented a list of their demands to their state representatives as state legislatures around the nation geared up for a new session.
One such demand involves teaching the “truth” about the state’s history, with “truth” defined as:
“No portrayal of minority experience in the history which actually occurred shall obscure the experience or contributions of the Founding Fathers, or the majority of citizens, including those who reached positions of leadership.” [emphasis in the original--eds.]
Fayette County attorney Hal Rounds, the group’s lead spokesman during the news conference, said the group wants to address “an awful lot of made-up criticism about, for instance, the founders intruding on the Indians or having slaves or being hypocrites in one way or another.”
In essence, the point is to cast doubt on the contributions of Native and African American people (one would have to prove it “actually occurred” first) and teach a highly selective history of what the Founding Fathers did and said. For example, the fact that Thomas Jefferson was a slave owner, which conflicts with “All men are created equal,” the words he helped pen, would probably be struck from Tennessee classrooms.
Tea Party partisans want to cherry pick the parts of history they agree with and minimize the rest. This is intellectually dishonest and diminishes the value and contribution of nonwhites to America. It is also untrue to the facts of how our history unfolded and disrespectful to the methods embraced by generations of scholars in establishing what we know.
The ban on ethnic studies in Arizona has pitted teachers who value multicultural education and academic freedom against a school board that won’t defend their opposition to the ban.
Arizona is 31% Mexican American and Native American. Eleven teachers are currently willing to go to court to teach accurate history and for the academic freedom to teach Mexican American history as it is widely accepted.
Sign the petition for academic freedom and honesty: save ethnic studies in Arizona.
Recently, right-wing activists backed by Tea Party-astroturfers the Koch brothers successfully dissolved a successful integration program in North Carolina:
The integration plan, which created thriving schools in poor African-American parts of the school district along with achieving diversity in schools located in wealthy white enclaves, was a model for the nation. However, Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the Tea Party group founded and funded by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, worked with local right-wing financier (and AFP board member) Art Pope to fundamentally change Wake County’s school board…
North Carolina is 22% African American.
Within days of the beginning of Minnesota’s legislative session, the GOP has introduced an English-language only law that puts non-native speakers on the defensive and would remove multilingual documentation of government regulations, applications, voting instructions, benefits applications, and other official business.
Among the first bills introduced in the Minnesota House this session is one aimed at establishing English as the official language of the state. Republican Reps. Steve Drazkowski of Mazeppa, David Hancock of Bemidji, Sondra Erickson of Princeton, and Roger Crawford of Mora introduced the bill on Monday.
HF 64 would make English the official language of Minnesota: “No law, ordinance, order, program, or policy of this state or any of its political subdivisions, shall require the use of any language other than English for any documents, regulations, orders, transactions, proceedings, meetings, programs, or publications, except as provided in subdivision 3.”
English is already the de facto official language of the United States. Limiting all official documentation to English would have the effect of denying non-native speaking citizens, permanent residents, and others with legal documentation full and equal access to important government services. Department of Motor Vehicle paperwork, for example, would all be in English, as would voter registration information. Attempts to institute English-only laws have historically been intended to limit access and stigmatize people whose first language is not English, despite their legal right to use services and participate in democracy.
The Tea Party agenda is to re-write history from a conservative point of view to remove the contributions of nonwhites in the hopes of discounting their perspectives, contributions, and growing political power. Right-wing activists hope to stall the demographic shift when nonwhites make up a numerical majority, and instead lock up power and influence in their waning numbers. Their vision of America is a zero-sum game, as if gains must mean someone else’s loss.
Instead, we must work to ensure that our nation remains the land of expanding opportunity, capable of encompassing everyone who works hard and contributes to this country. That begins with making a place for cultural, religious, sexual, and language minorities in our histories and in public life.
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