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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    A real solution: Incorporate ethnic studies into history and literature courses

    After more than three years of challenges to the Arizona House Bill 2281, a federal court judge ruled earlier this month that the bulk of the law is constitutional. The bill, backed strongly by Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne, was designed to ban the ethnic studies program in Arizona.

    The locally based Save Ethnic Studies Group is considering challenging the law again in the 9th U.S. Circuit of Court of Appeals, but this would be a horrible waste of effort and resources. Instead, the district should focus on creating a comprehensive curriculum that teaches ethnic studies in all history and literature courses in the Tucson Unified School District instead of only in a select few.

    HB 2281 states that schools cannot teach courses that are “designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group” and that doing so can promote resentment toward other races.

    The federal court judge ruled that teaching courses for only one ethnic group was “unconstitutionally vague,” but the rest of the law was accepted, effectively banning the ethnic studies program in Arizona schools.

    The program had already been suspended in January 2012 because Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal had ordered that 10 percent of the district’s monthly state aid be withheld until the district complied with the law. The total withholdings would have been more than $1 million each month.

    Teaching a diverse curriculum has obvious benefits. The district reported that students in the ethnic studies classes had lower dropout rates and higher standardized test scores than students who were not enrolled in these courses. We should be able to teach Mexican-American studies in an American history class and still keep students interested.

    Perhaps even more importantly, teaching the history of cultural conflict lends critical insight into modern day conflicts. Reading literature from different cultures helps students to think critically about relevant issues that pervade today’s political discourse. Exploring another culture promotes understanding between different ethnic groups.

    Removing ethnic education from Tucson, or any other school district, would be foolish. Continuing to challenge the law instead of creating real solutions is foolish.

    The ethnic studies that were previously taught in an isolated program should be incorporated into every history and literature class in TUSD. The topics are relevant, and when taught objectively as part of a carefully planned curriculum, are legal.

    There is no reason for this information to be taught separately from American history or American literature. Ethnic studies aren’t just valuable for Mexican-Americans, Asian-Americans, African-Americans and Native Americans; they teach a curriculum full of relevant issues that are valuable for all Americans.

    The Save Ethnic Studies Group has already lost with the political game. Now it’s time for it to refocus and create real solutions that will benefit every student attending public schools in Arizona.

    — Nathaniel Drake is a sophomore studying political science and communications. He can be reached at or Twitter via @WildcatOpinions.

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