Ethnic Studies Not Allowed in Arizona

March 25, 2011  |  

By Charlotte Young

Learning about one’s culture or the cultural background of others is a big no-no in Arizona state schools. According to local TV station KGUN9, classes on ethnic studies in Arizona’s Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) are being banned, and it’s fueling a heated conflict between students and state authorities.

“We have African American studies for African American kids. We have Asian studies for Asian kids. We have Indian studies for the Native American kids. It sounds just like the Old South I fought against in the 1950’s and 1960’s,” Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne said.

Ethnic studies classes became a point of contention when Horne, then acting as the state schools superintendent, outlawed the Mexican-American Studies program, declaring it was racist right before he stepped out of office.

This past Tuesday, students at the Latino Law group invited him to participate in a discussion on HB 2281, Arizona’s law against ethnic studies in any district in the state. The law states that these classes may possibly promote racial division and the overthrow of the government.

“The difference between his America and mine is in my America, you get to pick what you believe because you have developed critical thinking skills that have led you to a conclusion grounded in fact,” Richard Martinez said. Martinez is the civil rights attorney representing 11 teachers fighting to keep the Ethnic Studies program alive.

In order to defend its Ethnic Studies program, The Tucson Unified School District will have to undergo an independent audit that is estimated to cost about $170-200 thousand. While supporters consider this an unnecessary use of taxpayer’s dollars, it’s a small price to pay compared to the millions in federal funding TUSD will lose if the Ethnic Studies program does in fact violate the new Ethnic Studies Law.

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