Arizona's Ban On Ethnic Studies Program | THE POLITICUS

Arizona's Ban On Ethnic Studies Program

In 2010 Arizona adopted a law that attempts to ban ethnic studies programs in public schools using the conservative spin of reverse racism. Up until now it hasn't stood out on the national radar from all of the other nastiness coming out of that state. Now an effort to overturn the law is before the 9th circuit court of appeals.

Arizona's Mexican-American Studies Ban Questioned By Appeals Judges

The 2010 law, designed to target a Tucson Mexican-American studies program that conservative lawmakers said politicized students and bred resentment against whites, prohibits courses that promote the overthrow of the U.S. government, kindle ethnic resentment, foster ethnic solidarity or treat students as members of a group rather than as individuals.

Under pressure from state officials, Tucson shut down the program in January 2012.

John Huppenthal, the outgoing head of the Arizona Education Department, also found Tucson’s “culturally relevant” curriculum out of compliance with the law earlier this month, citing the teaching of Mexican history, Rage Against the Machine lyrics and a KRS-One essay.

This is the stated aim and purpose of the law:

THE LEGISLATURE FINDS AND DECLARES THAT PUBLIC SCHOOL PUPILS SHOULD BE TAUGHT TO TREAT AND VALUE EACH OTHER AS INDIVIDUALS AND NOT BE TAUGHT TO RESENT OR HATE OTHER RACES OR CLASSES OF PEOPLE.

The legal arguments in the appellate hearing got a bit convoluted in dealing with intertwining legal issues. However, the core issue is whether this law constitutes racial discrimination by prohibiting any effort to provide an ethnic studies program on the grounds that it makes majority white people uncomfortable.

This strikes me as part of a larger trend of conservatives attempting to take the constitutional provisions such as the first and fourteenth amendments that have been used to promote diversity and minority civil rights and turn them upside down in an effort to restore the control of traditional conservative culture. Their contention is that allowing things like ethnic studies, same sex marriage and access to contraception somehow restricts the constitutional freedoms of conservative white Americans. It is not just an academic argument. The recent Hobby Lobby case gives some indication that such arguments are finding a sympathetic ear with conservative jurists. As the demographics of the US population continue to shift, we can certainly expect to see more of such efforts to hold onto privilege.  

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