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Sunday, February 12, 2012

Arizona's Ban on 'Ethnic Studies'

Beyond Arizona's now-famous anti-immigrations law, it also has several others worth examining.

HB 2281 bans public schools (including universities) from teaching classes that are "designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group" and that foster "resentment toward a race or class of people."

But classes have been taught for a 'particular ethic group' for centuries, constantly and belligerently focusing on a single story: the white story. Meantime, significant portions of history are silenced or marginalized in the mainstream classroom. This neglect is detrimental to all students, but is particularly harmful to those students of color that don't get to hear the stories of their heritage taught in the classroom (all while contending with a daily barrage of negative stereotypes in the media).

This lopsided representation of history was starting to be balanced by classes that carved out safe space for the many stories that had traditionally been neglected. But now we have Arizona's new law that bans such classes from taking place.

But gosh! If our classrooms are predominately filled with white history, I guess this new law banning courses about particular ethnic groups means that Arizona teachers have to TOTALLY revamp their history courses (US, European, and world), art courses, music courses, English Lit courses, science courses. All of which have traditionally focused on the white perspective. Or is that not what the legislators meant?

Also in this law, Arizona declares it wants its people to be treated like individuals (H.B. 2281 lines 6, 16)...good thing they have a new immigration law that targets large groups of people indiscriminately and regardless of any individualism that may exist within those groups.

The new rules also say you can't teach in Arizona schools if you are from "BAHston" or "New Joisey" (The Arizona Department of Education suspends/reassigns teachers that are found to have accents). Or again, are native New Englanders not who the law is xenophobicly targeting? 

Final note: Gov. Brewer might have signed the thing, but don't forget she serves an electorate and a law doesn't get to her desk without the state legislature.

Check out some of these books for an alternative perspective on history and to see how schools have been "designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group" for years:

Howard Zinn--A People's History of the United States
James W. Loewen--Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong
James W. Loewen--Teaching What Really Happened

See Also:
White History Month
Racism in Academic Admissions
What is a post-9/11 American?

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By Their Strange Fruit by Katelin H is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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