Following her recent signing of a law that gives the police leeway to detain anyone they suspect of being an illegal immigrant, Governor Jan Brewer (R) of Arizona (left) signed a bill to restrict ethnic studies in state schools:
Under the law signed on Tuesday, any school district that offers classes designed primarily for students of particular ethnic groups, advocate ethnic solidarity or promote resentment of a race or a class of people would risk losing 10 percent of its state financing.
The law has been pushed by Tom Horne, state superintendent of public instruction, who is running as a Republican candidate for state attorney general. Horne believes that ethnic studies "teach students to feel oppressed and to hate whites."
Education sure can be dangerous. Learning one's cultural history, including the ways in which one's ethnic group has been oppressed, apparently fills one with hostility. Doesn't education also teach one to employ critical faculties in order to approach history with a sense of perspective? According to two educators, ethnic studies impart positive lessons:
Judy Burns, president of the governing board of the Tucson schools, said the district’s ethnic studies courses did not violate any of the provisions of the new law and would be continued because they were valuable to the students.
“From everything I’ve seen, they empower kids to take charge of their own destiny, gain a sense of the value of their own existence and become more determined to be well-educated contributing members of society,” Ms. Burns said.
...Sean Arce, director of Tucson’s Mexican-American studies department, said the ethnic studies courses do teach students about the marginalization of different groups in the United States through history.
“They don’t teach resentment or hostility, in any way, shape or form,” Mr. Arce said. “Instead, they build cultural bridges of understanding, and teach the skills students need to understand history.”
Furthermore, Mr. Arce said, the ethnic studies courses have been highly effective in reducing students’ dropout rates and increasing their college matriculation well above the national average for Latino students.
Does Mr. Horne have first-hand knowledge of what goes on in ethnic studies classes?
Mr. Arce and Ms. Burns said that they had repeatedly invited Mr. Horne to visit the ethnic studies classes, but that he had declined the invitations.
“We wish he’d come see it, so he’d know what we do, and not just go on hearsay,” Ms. Burns said.
Mr. Horne acknowledged that he had never sat in on a class, but said he did not believe that what he would see would be representative of what regularly took place.