4 Reasons Arizona Needs Ethnic Studies Courses

Last year, the Tucson, Arizona school district put a ban on Mexican American Studies courses. In fact, the Arizona state legislature went so far as to make these classes illegal and threatened to withhold $14 million in funding from school districts if these classes weren’t discontinued. However, on Tuesday, the city’s school board voted 3 to 2 to lift its objection to these courses, which may mean that Tucson schools will see a return of their wildly successful and popular Mexican American Studies courses in the very near future. Aside from being an obviously racist move to ban these courses, there are many reasons why Arizona needs Mexican American Studies. Here are four of them:

Students need to feel like they are reflected in the curriculum.

Many teachers have spoken out about the importance of incorporating Mexican American Studies in the curriculum of the Tucson, Arizona schools. The incorporation of such a curriculum has worked to instill pride in students’ Latino heritage, says Lorenzo Lopez, a teacher in the district. He himself felt that he first wanted to become a teacher because he took a Chicano/a literature course in college and finally felt that he saw himself reflected in the curriculum. Unfortunately, many students who do not see themselves reflected in curricula become disinterested and disengaged, making college seem like a waste of time. If these courses can be introduced at a younger age, retention in school will be much easier. In fact, the Mexican American Studies curriculum was a huge success when it was still in schools — it graduated 100 percent of students from high school and 82 percent went on to college.

In the United States, white people are now the minority.

After last year’s census what many had suspected for quite some time became official — white births account for under half of the total births in the United States. This means that teaching about only white historical figures, authors, playwrights and musicians does not reflect the cultural diversity that this generation sees in its schools; this is aside from the fact that teaching only about white figures presents a lie to students that only white people did anything of import throughout our nation’s history.

To reflect the growing diversity in our schools, we must offer diverse curricula for students. Students should be presented with a full picture of this great nation’s history, and they should also be provided with options for classes that interest them. Doing so will help to retain students in schools and prepare them for life outside of high school.

Ethnic studies is important for white students, too.

It is not only vital for students of color to see themselves reflected in the curriculum of their school, but it is equally vital for white students to see a variety of historical figures and many authors’ perspectives. Doing so can help teach white students about the privilege they experience, as well as get them ready for what they will see once they graduate high school. Introducing students to their privilege by educating them about other cultures will help combat racism and race-related violence.

Banning the course extends far beyond the curriculum.

When the Mexican American Studies course was banned, it wasn’t just the course that was removed from schools. There was also a list of books that were related to the curriculum that were banned from schools. The list is huge, and includes works by many famous and wonderful authors of color that students should have access to whether the curriculum is in place or not. Banned books are not only often the best that literature has to offer, but also historically pique students’ interest in reading and history. Reinstating the curriculum would reinstate these books and the reading lists to the school.

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Photo Credit: Michael Fleshman


Barbara Mathes
Barbara Mathes5 years ago

This is the United States and we learn about our country not the country where illegals come from If they want to learn about mexico they should all go back there Our country will be better off if they did They are not welcome here!!!

Sarah Hill
Sarah H5 years ago

This is the United States. Everyone should study OUR history, etc. When people choose to come here, they should learn English NOT the other way around, Immigrants need to change to fit into our culture, NOT the other way. I am SO tired of being politically correct!

Stephen Brian
Stephen Brian5 years ago

Why insist on such balkanzation?

In the U.S.'s schools, it is important to learn about the history of the U.S. Whether it was white-dominated, black-dominated, or purple-dominated matters only as much as we want it to matter, for the next generation, whether someone is white, black, or purple. If we want to oppose bigotry, building identities around ethnic origin are not how to do it. Cultural diversity is important, but so is national identity. If we lose diversity, social progress grinds to a halt. If we lose national identity, we effectively split into small monolithic groups and exactly the same thing happens, but with added bigotry.

The culture should be maintained in the home or in voluntary community-groups while national identity should be promoted in school. If your family is from Panama, you can't really learn to identify with Russian immigrants or U.S.-born people at home. School is the perfect place to learn to do that. School-programs are limited in the diversity of their teaching to one curriculum per class. What happens if you come from a small distinct community within your country of origin, one that could not practically receive attention in class? Only the home, or organizations to which parents delegate such responsibility, can be sufficiently personalized to truly maintain diversity.

Barbara Mathes
Barbara Mathes5 years ago

I don't think we should be spending our hard earned taxes on other people's culture You come to the United States of America and learn the ways of our land and people If you want your own culture stay in your own country They don't have to shove your cultures down our throats My Grandparents came to this country, worked hard, learned the language and that's the way it should be

Pamela Tracy
Pamela Tracy5 years ago

Nothing wrong however we need to make sure minority studies are honest as we found some of the things we whites were taught were incorrect.

Nimue Pendragon
Nimue Michelle P5 years ago


Debbie Crandell
Debbie Crandell5 years ago

I did live in Benson Arizona close to Tucson for a little over a year and I was shocked at the amount of illegal Mexicans living there. Arizona is such a beautiful state but just being overrun by illegals. You could drive down some of the roads and people had lots of clothing on barbed wire fences lined up for the illegals when they crossed over the boarder so they didn't have to pack so much. It's fine if someone comes here to the United States and abides by our laws and freedoms which we have fought so hard for and for so many years. But when they come here in huge waves and want us to change our way of life and want us to speak their language and want us to change our flag well I just had enough. Something should have been done a long time ago and now it has gotten way out of hand. Not only has it cost the tax payers dearly to support these illegals I just can't see myself supporting someone who wants to change my way of life to fit theirs just because they crossed the boarder from Mexico. No wonder the citizens living in Arizona are hesitant about excepting Mexican American Studies courses. For example if you take 500 apples and 475 of them are not so good it kinda puts a bad taste in your mouth. I stand by this wonderful state of Arizona and their fight to remain who they are and not what an outsider wants them to be.

Phil S.
Phil S.5 years ago

Aurea W- I've always been here. I used the correct term-RECONQUISTA look it up and it's meaning. I am a American Hispanic and a resident of AZ. We have an awesome mix of cultures here and all contribute to the good. What lots of people resent is the non assimilation of the illegal element that has invaded our state and using up public services and our tax $$. Neighborhoods turned into slums and rampant crime will make anybody upset. They run away from this stuff in their countries but bring the same problems with them to affect our cities. The teachers and professors proudly and undeniably proclaim RECONQUISTA - the re-taking. Believe me, most legal law abiding Hispanics here believe as I do- assimilate, learn the language and become a law abiding addition to the community.

Martha Escalante
Martha E5 years ago

I do agree that Arizona has gone too far with this. There are far more Hispanics here now then years back and not just Mexicans. I'm from Honduras and grew up here in Chicago, IL. Not only should they allow the Mexican American studies, but they should also have Latin American studies as a whole, including Central & South America and Spain.

Marcia E.
Marcia E5 years ago

http://zinnedproject.org/ plug in. I had a petition to try to get Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States" on the required reading list. You may also enjoy "A people's History of the Supreme Court" by Peter Irons a friend of the late great Zinn