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Brewer signs bill banning TUSD ethnic studies classes

A bill banning ethnic studies classes in Arizona was signed Tuesday by Gov. Jan Brewer. The law, which takes effective Dec. 31, was pushed by state Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Horne, a longtime critic of such classes in TUSD.

HB 2281 bans classes that promote “the overthrow of the United States government,” “resentment toward a race or class of people,” “are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group” or “advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.”

According to Politico, "neither the governor nor the bill’s supporters have identified examples where a Chicano studies class has advocated the “overthrow” of the federal government, and the bill’s opponents in the state have expressed outrage over what they see as a law that unfairly targets Hispanics."

Horne has said the new law is targeted at the ethnic studies program in Tucson schools.

Horne, a Republican, is stepping down from his Arizona school chief post to run for state attorney general.

The LA Times reports that TUSD isn't planning on ending the program:

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.

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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.

The bill also amends Arizona law to prohibit  basing student discipline on race, color, religion, sex, national origin or ancestry.

Districts violating the law can have 10 percent of their state funding withheld.

What's your take?

Should TUSD offer ethnic studies classes? Should ethnic studies classes count towards graduation requirements? Should the state dictate what classes local districts teach?

Disclosure: Dylan Smith’s wife is a teacher in the Tucson Unified School District.

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3 comments on this story

May 26, 2010, 9:02 am
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What’s next? Which book, language, culture is going to be next? Who will stand by and watch, and who will have the courage to break down these walls?


May 12, 2010, 8:33 pm
-0 +1

The key phrase (if you ignore the “overthrow of the government” nonsense) seems to be: “are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group”.

The implication is that if you take a ‘Chicano Studies’ course you can only be Chicano and only interested in your own ethnic/other sociocultural group.

The further implication is that history and literature of countries/peoples/etc. should not be studied by those who don’t have a direct stake.

Chinese history and literature? Leave it to the Chinese. Arabic language study? Leave it to the Arabs. History of World War Two? That was a long time ago, and why are you bringing it up?

Brewer’s really covering herself with glory this year ...

May 12, 2010, 7:14 pm
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Seriously? Is she being blackmailed by the KKK or something? It’s like she’s zipping through this preposterous loser list she has to complete after losing some secret bet with David Duke.

And I love the points cited in this thing too. It bans any coursework that supports “the overthrow of the United States government,” “resentment toward a race or class of people,” “are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group” or “advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.”

This sounds more like something you’d read in the Confederate States of America textbooks and it’s no wonder we’re going through this right now. Even though Lincoln abolished slavery and Arizona became a proper state there was that old pervasive line of racism that never went away. It kept running north through Phoenix since the Civil War and it’s been there since before this was called the Arizona Territory. It was there before it was ever even a part of the Confederacy and those Deep Southern roots will continue to keep hold of their skewed views forever.

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