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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


“Education a human-rights issue locally, globally”

Last Thursday, at the “”Right to Education”” forum hosted by Jewish Voice for Peace, Palestinian students from Birzeit University and students from Tucson Unified School District explored the connections between the attacks on education in Palestine and in Arizona. The right to education and has been recognized as a human right since the 1976 passage of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. These rights, however, are under attack around the world.

During the first Intifada, the state of Israel declared Palestinian education illegal; every university and college was closed, as were more than 1,000 primary schools. Although many of the universities and schools have since reopened, Palestinian students and teachers still face many difficulties in exercising their right to education. Unlawful detentions, curfews, checkpoints and the apartheid wall obstruct not only Palestinian education, but hinder the development of Palestinian society as a whole.

In Arizona, there is a similar assault on the right to education. After a decades-long grassroots movement, TUSD created its Mexican-American studies program in 1998. The program is well known for its correlation with higher graduation rates and higher college enrollment rates. Unlike many ethnic studies programs, the TUSD program is not simply “”cultural studies”” — it exposes students to critical race theory, in addition to the history of the Southwest. It is this element that makes the program so empowering to students.

Education is not a human right because it magically makes students better people; it is an inalienable human right because education allows students to critically understand their position in society and gives them the tools to perpetuate change in their own lives and communities.

In May 2010, House Bill 2281, a bill targeting the TUSD Mexican-American Studies program, was signed into law. This legislation seeks to eviscerate students’ ability to critically understand their position within American society by enforcing invisible structural racism and constructing the oppression of ethnic groups as something confined to the past. Schools may be denied funding for advocating “”ethnic solidarity,”” but are told the legislation should not be construed to prohibit the teaching of “”controversial aspects of history.””

It is this contradiction that reveals the Arizona state Legislature’s true intent with this bill. Just like in Palestine, education is being denied in order to cripple marginalized groups’ ability to resist an oppressive state and to keep them from gaining the tools needed to create change in their communities.

As U.S. citizens, we have great efficacy in ending these attacks on education. The same U.S. corporations that invested in Israeli apartheid have also partnered with the U.S. federal government and Arizona state government to enact racist, anti-immigrant policies and legislation.

Denying education to Palestinian students and eliminating ethnic studies in Arizona are necessary steps to maintain oppressive, pro-corporate policies. The University of Arizona currently holds contracts with Motorola, Caterpillar and TIAA-CREF, corporations, which support Israeli occupation of Palestine and anti-immigrant legislation in Arizona.

Divestment is the strongest statement our university can make in support for worldwide human rights. We, as members of the university community, demand that our administration end our university’s contracts with these corporations and stand up for human rights around the world and at home.


— Elizabeth Dake is a senior studying history and religious studies, and an intern for the Women’s Resource Center. She can be reached at

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