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Posted at 6:30 AM ET, 05/ 4/2010

Arizona strikes again: Now it is ethnic studies

By Valerie Strauss

Arizona doesn't know when to quit.

First a new law was put on the books requiring police to question anyone who simply appears to be in the country illegally. It’s the most restrictive in the country.

Then there was news that the state Education Department had ordered school districts to remove from classrooms teachers who speak English with a very heavy accent or whose speech is ungrammatical. Of course nobody would want a teacher to stay in the classroom if students can’t understand them, but determining who that is can be tricky.

The move was apparently aimed at Spanish-speaking teachers who had been hired in the 1990s during the state’s era of bilingual education, which, incidentally, ended in 2000, according to the Wall Street Journal. Curious that it took 10 years for officials to realize that students, apparently, were having trouble with heavily accented teachers.

And there is this: State lawmakers have passed legislation that prohibits any classes that:

* Promote the overthrow of the United States government.
* Promote resentment toward a race or class of people.
* Are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group.
* Advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.

Few people would support a class that promotes resentment of a race of class of people, or the overthrow of our government. But the bill’s intended target is actually a Mexican-American studies program in Tucson Unified School District that allows students to learn in history and literature courses about how particular ethnic groups influenced history, according to the Arizona Daily Star.

District officials say the program only provides historical information. The kids learn, for example, that Arizona was once part of Mexico, and that in the 1960s Chicano radicals called for reclaiming the land. Sounds dangerous, doesn’t it?

So whatever would drive the legislature to do this?

Well, the Associated Press reports, the state’s Republican superintendent of public instruction, Tom Horne, is behind the bill. Horne, who is running for attorney general, has wanted to limit the program for several years, since he learned that Hispanic civil right activist Dolores Herta told Tucson high school students that “Republicans hate Latinos.”

Horne said he believes the district’s ethnic studies program teaches Latino students that they are oppressed by white people and promotes racial hatred. Public schools, he said, should not be encouraging students to resent a particular race.

Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Tucson, was quoted by the Arizona Daily Star as saying that the legislation is really an effort to stop the program. Bingo.

You can’t make up this stuff.


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By Valerie Strauss  | May 4, 2010; 6:30 AM ET
Categories:  History  | Tags:  Arizona and heavily accented teachers, Arizona and law, Arizona immigrant law, Mexican-american studies, ethnic studies in Arizona, heavily accented teachers, history  
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"First a new law was put on the books requiring police to question anyone who simply appears to be in the country illegally."

Not true. The new law requires police to question people about their immigration status only if they have been stopped for a crime.

Posted by: postisarag | May 4, 2010 8:40 AM | Report abuse

Well you cannot argue with them not wanting to promote overthrow or to promote resentment, because, how is that going to help anyone?

Is this program open to all students? It sounds like a good idea to have a class like that so people can learn the history of their area. I do agree they shouldn't be teaching them to be "victims" or to "resent".

Sometimes people think that because you are studying a particular ethnic group that the course is only for that group. But anyone can take the courses. It is just that usually the people interested in the program of study are from that group or possibly students of the language.

We have learned much about the lives of African American slaves because there have been African American history programs in our schools. To historians this is very interesting stuff. I can see how some people don't want to think about it, but some people DO like history of the common people and there is a positive message when you find out how people overcome enormous obstacles in their lives. It is not good for any Americans to pretend that all that is worthwhile about our country comes from one "kind" of person. All groups here have contributed.

I took an American history course in college that taught us "regular" American history along with some history from African Americans and women during the time period. I still remember reading Jane Adams letters to her husband. I was just thrilled to read those letters and was fascinated by the fact that history has many stories and lessons for everyone. Some people in our class thought that the prof was blaming them for injustices of the past. I didn't feel that way. I thought he was just showing us the evidence and the stories of the everyday people. For me, that didn't take away anything from the American History, it added to my understanding.

Sometimes the truth is hard to take. But it is still the truth and if you squelch that in the name of unity, how can you claim to be a democracy? It is hypocritical.

Posted by: celestun100 | May 4, 2010 10:07 AM | Report abuse

"activist Dolores Herta told Tucson high school students that 'Republicans hate Latinos.'" Way to live up to the statement Mr. Horne!

Posted by: BeatrixM | May 4, 2010 3:29 PM | Report abuse

This piece is a cheap shot at the Arizona legislature. The ethnic studies programs in Tucson ...where I promote ethnic nationalism. The worst one is the LaRaza studies program.Even more significantly the program has been shown to be ineffective in improving student academic performance. Arizona has the worst budget picture in the country...apart from the bankrupt state of California...and school districts have had to make massive cuts. It is incomprehensible that a wasteful program like LaRaza would be kept in order to satisfy ethnic advocacy groups. I don't suppose you heard that from Linda Lopez.

Here is the context that anyone needs to really examine LaRaza studies. Tucson has one large school district, the Tucson Unified School District, and about a half dozen smaller districts that surround it. There are also many charter schools and private schools in the area. The Tucson District has been losing students to private schools and charter schools for years, but since the federal desegregation order was lifted two years ago THOUSANDS more students...mostly white and middle-class..have left the district to go to neighboring districts that produce better academic performance. This has left the Tucson District as a majority Hispanic District that can not pass budget overrides because of a lack of credibility with voters in Tucson. One major concern with voters has been the LaRaza program. The district has been controlleld by ethnic advocacy groups for some more reason for the white flight. There is even a district-wide discipline policy that treats students differently according to their race and/or ethnicity.

The LaRaza studies program ought to be dismantled in the best interests of the Tucson District, but until the Governing Board stops kowtowing to ethnic advocacy groups that will not happen.

Posted by: kronberg | May 4, 2010 7:55 PM | Report abuse

"in the 1960s Chicano radicals called for reclaiming the land. Sounds dangerous, doesn’t it?"

actually radical groups such as La Raza and MechA still call for the reclamation. or did you miss the signs and banners held up by these groups during the "peaceful" protest marches this past weekend

Posted by: pakurilecz | May 4, 2010 11:27 PM | Report abuse

In the 1960s, our high school history text told us that the Mexican War was a wonderful thing--that the United States responded to the desire of the Mexican people and the Indians living in what became the Gadsden Purchase by helping them gain their freedom from the cruel, oppresive Spanish government--the same ones who the brave men at the Alamo had fought against ten years earlier. According to this book, we also had "liberated" Cuba and the Phillipines in the Spanish-American War. (Our teacher stuck his neck out by contradicting this view.)

One of my history professors in college theorized that part of the baby boomers' mistrust of government and part of the anger toward the government's Vietnam policy was due to anger when we discovered the lies we had been told all through school. I don't know about that, but it's an interesting theory--what does happen to your opinion of an institution when you discover that it's been lying to you all your life? And what do you teach your kids about school when you have learned not to believe what they teach?

Posted by: sideswiththekids | May 5, 2010 7:00 AM | Report abuse

I am an AZ resident. My kids go to a charter school. The local public district schools were overcrowded and English as 2nd language kids were delaying other kids learning (see No Left Behind). I hate the fact that regular schools are allowing more and more "special" days/months to "celebrate" a peticular race or ethnic group. Black History Month, Cinco De Mayo etc. I think it points out our differences and teaches our children to segragate our population by race and background

Posted by: gretchenb25 | May 7, 2010 1:46 PM | Report abuse

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