If you were wondering whether you should take Arizona off your travel plans for the summer, here’s another reason to convince you to steer clear of the state.
Unless, that is, you like being around racist xenophobes, since politicians in Arizona seem determined to present themselves that way. On Tuesday, just hours after the United Nations released a report by human rights experts condemning Arizona Immigration Bill SB 1070, Governor Jan Brewer signed a law banning the state’s schools from teaching ethnic studies classes.
As Jessica Pieklo discusses in her fascinating post on this topic, Arizona GOP Takes Another Whack At Latinos, the most vocal proponent of the law is Arizona’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tom Horne, a Republican who just happens to be running for Attorney General. Interesting.
Although this is a statewide law, the measure is directed specifically against the ethnic studies program in the Tucson Unified School District, which Horne believes promotes “ethnic chauvinism” and racial resentment towards whites. Interviewed on CNN’s “American Morning” yesterday, Horne stated that the legislation is “designed to get schools to teach kids to treat each other as individuals and not on the basis of what race they were born into.” He explained that the measure prohibits school classes which “promote resentment toward a race or class of people, are designed for a particular ethnic group, or advocate ethnic solidarity instead of treatment of pupils as individuals.”
Let’s get some facts straight here: according to stunned officials of the Tucson Unified School District, their curriculum is not intended to promote resentment. Secondly, while the new law forbids classes “designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group,” the truth is that these courses are open to all students. Any student of any race and ethnicity can take an African-American class, or an Asian-American class, or any of the many possibilities.
Furthermore, what’s wrong with learning about your heritage? Actually, what is wrong is being denied the opportunity to learn about your heritage. Becoming a full human being, an individual as Horne puts it, means learning who you are and where you come from.
As Michael Eric Dyson, Professor of Sociology at Georgetown University, argued eloquently, countering Horne, “We need to bring the truth to the open so we can understand the greatness of this country, but we can’t do that by pretending the ugliness doesn’t exist.” And as he also pointed out, if the regular U.S. history classes included the history of all Americans: African Americans, Latinos, Asian-Americans, gays and lesbians, for example, there would be no need for separate ethnic studies classes.
Clearly, Horne and his cohorts don’t want anyone who is not white learning anything about their history. It reminds me of the history texts I suffered through, growing up in England. I loved history, but not these books, which dealt only with the royalty and the nobility, and almost never mentioned women. I was absent from the history of my country, just as so many ethnic groups are absent from the “official” history of this country.
Pity the poor students of Arizona, deprived of the right to learn about their history. It’s a scary reminder of what happened in Texas in March, when efforts by Hispanic members of the Texas State Board of Education to include more Latino figures as role models for the state’s large Hispanic population were defeated. This is a frightening trend.
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