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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Ethnic studes law un-Republican

There’s a whole lot wrong with Arizona House Bill 2281, more commonly known as the Ethnic Studies bill. When Gov. Jan Brewer signed the legislation into law on May 11, she authorized state government control of school curricula, banning “”courses or classes that either promote the overthrow of the United States government or promote resentment toward a race or class of people.”” Basically, the law prohibits teaching students history or social sciences through the lens of a particular ethnic or socioeconomic experience.

However, buried in the bill’s fine print, one finds that the act cannot be used to restrict or prohibit classes for Native American students (as per federal law), classes in African American studies or classes based on a student’s ability to speak English.

In other words, true to what seems to be Arizona’s modus operandi this legislative session, the law targets Hispanic students, most specifically those in Tucson Unified School District’s Chicano studies program. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne developed a vendetta against the program four years ago, and misused the state legislature to squash the program with this hissy fit of a law.

In defense of his efforts, Horne told Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren: “”In the Tucson school district — this was what led me to introduce this legislation — they divide the kids up.

They’ve got Raza studies for the Latino kids … African-American studies for the African-American kids, Indian studies for the Native American kids and Asian studies for the Asian kids. And they’re dividing them up just like the old South.””

The bill does nothing to end this imaginary Jim Crow segregation Horne claims exists in Tucson schools. Instead, it targets Hispanic students’ rights. It is designed not to protect the rights of students to be treated as individuals, as it promises, but to keep those in a particular minority from learning about their history. This bill has sinister intentions and its effects are bound to be just as sinister. Rather than eliminating intolerance in education, Horne and his legislative lackeys have built it right in by instituting a state chokehold on the educational rights of a target community.

In addition to HB 2281’s blatant racism, the law, which drew support from an overwhelmingly conservative base, is straight up anti-Republican.

Since when does the Republican Party, they of small government and local rights, use the state to control community decision-making processes? Horne should recognize the vitality of local school boards when it comes to designing curricula. He claims, “”The function of the public schools is to bring in kids from different backgrounds and teach them to treat each other as individuals. And the Tucson district is doing the opposite. They’re teaching them to emphasize … what I call ethnic chauvinism.””

But school districts’ constituents elect their school board officials to make just these sorts of decisions. Local government autonomy is a fundamental tenet of republicanism, one Horne and the state legislature have sadly forgotten. The state superintendent is elected to represent the interests of education in Arizona, not to attempt to control it based on personal grudges. Horne admitted that the bill was an explicit effort to gain more control of Tucson curricula, saying, “”That’s why I introduced this legislation — to give myself the authority to put a stop to (the Raza studies program).”” The legislature should have followed its collective sense of duty to its constituents rather than Horne’s temper.

House Bill 2281 is over-regulation at its most terrifying — the regulation of young people’s right to learn and educators’ right to teach. No self-respecting Republican would stand for such meddling in local school boards’ rights to determine their own curricula. Unfortunately for Arizona, Horne and the legislature seem to have lost their self-respect and replaced it with paranoia and racism. And truly, they should be ashamed.

— Heather Price-Wright is a creative writing senior.

She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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