Monday, May 17, 2010

By The Time I Get To Arizona...

I've spent quite a bit of time in Phoenix over the years, courtesy of (what else?) my Day Job. Personally, I love the place. The air's crisp and clean, the scenery's beautiful, people are nice, traffic is minimal, and even though it can easily get into the 100-teens in the Summertime, the total and complete lack of humidity make the heat more bearable than you might think. Besides, since it's the desert, it still gets chilly every night anyway. I wouldn't personally move there because there's no beach within a 2 hour drive (a requirement for anywhere I live), but I can certainly understand why folks who live there love it.

Unfortunately (much like Utah, an equally beautiful and flawed state) Arizona's gotten a rap over the years as not being outwardly accepting of minorities. It was the only territory west of Texas to secede from the Union and join the Confederacy during the Civil War. Nobody will forget the state's dogged resistance to recognize MLK Day. And of course, there's all the tension with supposedly illegal immigration, which lead to a recent law (since revised due to public scrutiny, might I add) that many say could encourage racial profiling.

Governor Jan Brewer, a woman who seems intent on snagging the coveted Bull Connor Memorial Award For Taking Setting America Back, surely isn't helping the state's image with this latest example of Caucasian Craziness.
A bill that aims to ban ethnic studies in Arizona schools was signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Jan Brewer, cheering critics who called such classes divisive and alarming others who said it's yet another law targeting Latinos in the state. The move comes less than 20 days after Brewer signed a controversial immigration bill that has caused widespread protests against the state. The governor's press office did not return requests for comment Tuesday evening.

HB 2281 bans schools from teaching classes that are designed for students of a particular ethnic group, promote resentment or advocate ethnic solidarity over treating pupils as individuals. The bill also bans classes that promote the overthrow of the U.S. government.

The bill was written to target the Chicano, or Mexican American, studies program in the Tucson school system, said state Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Horne. School districts that don't comply with the new law could have as much as 10% of their state funds withheld each month. Districts have the right to appeal the mandate, which goes into effect Dec. 31.

Tucson Unified School District officials say the Chicano studies classes benefit students and promote critical thinking. "We don't teach all those ugly things they think we're teaching," said Judy Burns, the president of the district's governing board. She has no intention of ending the program, which offers courses from elementary school through high school in topics such as literature, history and social justice, with an emphasis on Latino authors and history. About 3% of the district's 55,000 students are enrolled in such classes.

Horne has been trying to end the program for years, saying it divides students by race and promotes resentment. He singled out one history book used in some classes, "Occupied America: A History of Chicanos," by Rodolfo Acuna, a professor and founder of the Chicano studies program at Cal State Northridge.

"To begin with, the title of the book implies to the kids that they live in occupied America, or occupied Mexico," Horne said last week in a telephone interview.

Ethnic studies are taught at high schools and colleges nationwide, but the Tucson district officials say their 14-year-old program is unique because it's district wide, offered to grades K-12, and can satisfy high school graduation requirements.
Call me crazy, but I don't really understand why such classes are controversial. I very, very, very seriously doubt any teacher is instructing these kids on how to "overthrow of the U.S. government". Really?

The mere thought that teaching minority kids about their culture and its contributions to this country and the world is somehow "divisive" or "promotes resentment or advocates ethnic solidarity over treating pupils as individuals" is laughable, and borderline insulting.

Question: Is Arizona's Ethnic Studies ban a good idea or not?

Arizona bill targeting ethnic studies signed into law [LATimes]

blog comments powered by Disqus

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.