Arizona Passes Law to Cut Ethnic Studies Programs

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Flags of Arizona and the U.S. (flickr user Surat Lozowick (cc:by-nc-sa))

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed a bill on Tuesday that will effectively eliminate a particular school district's ethnic studies program. The bill specifically targets Tucson school district's Mexican-American studies program. That district superintendent, Tom Horne, has pushed the bill for years and says he believes ethnic studies programs promote hate and teach Latino kids to believe they were oppressed by white people. This new law makes headlines just weeks after Gov. Brewer put her signature to one of the most controversial immigration bills in the country.

Do you think there's a place for ethnic studies in U.S. history classes?»

We talk with Dolores Huerta, a Latina civil rights activist, about the importance of ethnic studies and the effect the bill would have on the education of Latino youth in Arizona. And Curtis Acosta teaches Chicano/Latino literature at Tuscon Magnet High School and tells us he feels personally targeted by the law.


Curtis Acosta and Dolores Huerta

Produced by:

Arwa Gunja

Comments [22]

Lawrence Ramos from Fresno, CA

I'd like to tell Mr. Horn that we were oppressed by the white population where I lived in the San Joaquin Valley. I learned that lesson first hand, and I learned to mistrust the white race long before I enrolled in ethnic studies.
You are wrong, Mr. Horn. If anything, ethnic studies have broadened my tolerance.

May. 03 2012 09:06 PM
AZCitizen from Tucson

What Uncle Tom does to one he should do to the other.

Tom Horne is WRONG, if you are going after public school teachers then you must implement this auditing of the taxpayer supported Charter schools. Can he really pick and choose which laws he wants to support and only go halfway?

The Sonoran Science Academy's in Arizona have immigrated Turkish teachers into the USA under HB-1 Visas. They have THICK accents and no experience teaching, their backgrounds are questionable. Many parents and students have complained that this is an issue.

The Sonoran Science Academies have Turkish American Clubs, teach Turkish Language, Dancing, Singing Poetry. Et Al, Turkish Nationalism. and selected students get a trip to "Europe" which is actually a trip to Turkey at the end of the year for a performance. Turkey is actually in the Middle East (Asia Minor) and is not even apart nor will ever be part of the EU. Why do they call it a Euro Trip? Part of the deception of safety in words. Not to mention they do have an affiliation with the Islamic Gulan Movement.

Schools like this are in violation in two ways. One under the No Child Left Behind act implemented by Georgie Bush 2002 and two, the Ethnic studies program ban set in motion this year. Sonoran Science Academy is in violation of the law under both of these policies.

Tom Horne, you cannot audit one school and turn your back on the Charter Schools that you support. Hypo crate. !! Charter Schools are public schools. Supported by our tax dollars. For some us already knowing that Turkish Non Profits in the community have already been given free trips (delegation meetings) to local journalist, State Lawmakers in Education and the assistant to Janet Napolitano.

Cited from the Arizona Daily Star.
"In my main story that day, Superintendent of Public Education Tom Horne said all that matters to him with the regard to the Turkish-run schools is results.

He was unconcerned with possible connections to this religious-political movement or the large scale use of teachers from Turkey and Central Asia. And many commenters after the story took this position as well: If they're not proselytizing and the kids score well, so what?"

Tom Horn is a Hypocrate....

May. 27 2010 07:43 PM
Carmen from Oklahoma City

Endind "ethnic" studies?? Does this mean that the country (at least Arizona state) is aiming to "ignore" history all together? I hope some states' governments do not start passing bills to ignore or erase from books and education what it is "convenient" to cetain interest groups. New Mexico, Texas, Arizona, and California belonged to Mexico. Santa Ana, the fourth Mexican president "sold" those territories to the United States around the 1840's. This is HISTORY, I suggest people investigate a little bit to educate themselves before casting their "own stone".
If we "ignore" history or at least part of it, what kind of country are we going to become?
Is Florida going to pass a bill to stop any Cuban that is "suspected" to be an iligal inmigrant? Did we forget that we all are human beings trying to make a living?
Sad, really sad....

May. 14 2010 11:08 AM
Phil Henshaw from NYC

the real source of our using stereotypes for nearly everything that become prejudice is that our minds keep making up theories as shortcuts and then believing our own theories are the reality and the much more complex real world the real subject.. boy!

I think we just need to lighten up a lot to ever learn how to think more clearly.

May. 14 2010 06:57 AM
Ron from Boston

When I was in school in the midwest, American History had been taught for decades as a process of omission, and I believe, commission, in how it described/discussed the relations of whites with Native Americans, African-Americans, Japanese American internment, etc. Slavery, Reconstruction, and Jim Crow for example, were mentioned, but rarely was there a detailed exploration of the complexities of how those systems evolved, who was behind them, and the real rationale for them.

May. 14 2010 06:56 AM
X and X from Nevada

Why not teach White solidarity? How about White resentment of other races? How about teaching oppression and slavery of Whites especially by Muslim cultures?
Why Not? Because it is Racial Supremacy and Balkanization..
We don't allow whites to teach racial or ethnic solidarity, racial resentment or racial victimization..but if it is allowed to some ethnic and racial will spread to all...The danger is that Whites take a lesson from this...

May. 13 2010 11:49 PM

What's amazing is that students are being taught something about their race through these new laws in Arizona. Mexican students are being taught that it's okay to discriminate against Mexicans. they're being taught that it's fine to push information about ethnic minorities out of the public space. They're being taught that learning about European culture is okay, but learning about Mexican culture is somehow subversive.

Also, there are policies put in place by the US that help keep Mexico a place from which many try to leave. Learning about that complex part of both cultures might actually lead to a solution...but much easier to just blame the brown folks, I guess.

May. 13 2010 06:03 PM
AJ from Detroit, MI

Dear Producers at the Takeaway,

I listened to the segment today on Ethic Education. The gentleman speaking against Ethic Studies was offensive, lacked racial/ethic sensitivity and was terribly flawed when speaking of Paulo Freire's work. Unfortunately, noone was prepared to question him about Paulo Freire's theories of education. He was one of the most influential thinkers about education and his educational reform was award winning. He was writing to teachers in Brazil and beyond to increase the learning in the classroom (Process not Content). This speaker seemed to only be responding to the title of the book and not the pedagogy it promotes for teachers and learners. Friere deserves to be placed in proper context and not to be used as a tool for racial charged education reform.

May. 13 2010 12:47 PM

Though I believe this bill needs a little tweaking (more clarification as to implementation) I have to agree fully with its intent. While historical studies of American history should be taught for the full spectrum of ethnicities, races, and religions it should never be used to undermine stability in the nation. These classes CAN be taught without instilling resentment against those alive today that were not responsible for acts committed in the past and this bill allows for classes to continue. We are all immigrants, yes, even so called "native" americans came across the Bearing. But we need to move past the hate, entitlement, and many times reverse racism that people ALL groups seem to use. People of all race's,religions, and ethnicities have been inslaved, murdered, and persecuted at one point in their distant ancestrial history... why is it always made out to be "whites" that are evil and bad? Tell the truth, nothing but the truth, and leave it at that without instilling hatetrid.

May. 13 2010 12:11 PM

I have a very serious suggestion for producers at The Takeaway.

One of the main flashpoints for the Arizona "ethnic studies" debate is one particular book, by Gabriel Acuna, entitled "Occupied America: A History of Chicanos," that I understand is used as a text in some or all of the classes.

I'd like to know more about the details of that book, and in particular I'd like to hear from someone who is critical of the book's contents in the context of a public school text. I'd be just as happy to hear from a proponent of the book and the current classes, but you sort of already did that today.

A look at the Table of Contents alone reveals these headings:
Table of Contents
I. Not Just Pyramids, Explorers, and Heroes.
II. Legacy of Hate: The Conquest of Mexico's Northwest.
III. Remember the Alamo: The Colonization of Texas.
IV. Freedom in a Cage: The Colonization of New Mexico.
V. Sonora Invaded: The Occupation of Arizona.
VI. California Lost: America for Euroamericans.
VII. The Building of the Southwest: Mexican Labor, 1900-1930.
VIII. The Roaring Twenties: The Americanization of the Mexicano.
IX. Mexican American Communities in the Making: The Depression Years.
X. World War II: The Betrayal of Promises Made.
XI. "Happy Days": Chicano Communities Under Siege.
XII. Goodbye America: The Chicano in the 1960s.
XIII. The Age of the Brokers: The New Hispanics.
XIV. Deconstructing the Sixties, 1980-1999

I get the impression that the real problem is not the teaching of "ethnic studies" in Arizona schools, but rather the political indoctrination with a kind of anti-U.S. theology.

A very close examination of the Acuna book would, I think, provide some much-needed focus to this story.

May. 13 2010 11:44 AM
hufos from Coconut Grove

Angel C...I would strongly suggest that you try living as a hispanic in Arizona or Texas before taking that position. I am pretty certain your position would change very quickly.

Even to the north of you in Florida, you can get a little taste.

Charlie Daniels sang of "taking Florida back" for America.

From who?

Tag!!! You're it Angel C.

May. 13 2010 09:57 AM
Rick Evans from Taxachusetts

Angel C from Miami, FL wrote: "I'm a Hispanic living in Miami, FL." ...and ... "In South Florida, many Mexicans do not congregate with other Hispanics (a mixed bunch down here) and I find that odd."

Hmm. Doesn't Miami like many other cities have it's share of "Little ____" hoods like Little Havana and Little Haiti? Isn't this the norm and not the 'odd' exception for relatively new immigrants? Come to think of it Cubans and Chinese are not particularly new to the U.S. yet still have Chinatowns and Little Havanas. I don't think this is special to Mexicans.

May. 13 2010 09:52 AM
Angel C from Miami, FL

I'm a Hispanic living in Miami, FL. I have met other Hispanics, mostly of Mexican descent, who have displayed what I can only describe as "culturally segregated". They believe that the American people and/or government are against people of Hispanic origin.

I don't feel this way and do not like the fact that African- and Hispanic-American histories are taught separately from "regular" American history. I think those who study these courses have trouble seeing how each ethnic group relates with other groups throughout our history. Should they cancel these courses? I don't know. But they shouldn't be subsidized by the government. Though maybe history courses should be more thorough and include what these folks say is missing.

In South Florida, many Mexicans do not congregate with other Hispanics (a mixed bunch down here) and I find that odd.

May. 13 2010 09:28 AM
Rick Evans from Taxachusetts

The notion that, if we called American History white history or white studies, 'we would not be having this conversation' is ABSURD.

Of course we would be having this conversation in the form of a heated argument. Think of the debate that has erupted over Christian conservatives exclusionary assertion that we are a Christian nation and that school history curricula should reflect that.

May. 13 2010 09:23 AM
hufos from Coconut Grove

Using Hornes logic or lack thereof, african-american studies should be banned because it will teach them about their history of slavery and their oppression by white people.

Jews similarly must not be allowed to read their history because they will find out about the Holocaust.

And of course the Native Americans must be forbidden their own history like their language and names because they will find out about wounded knee and all the rest of it at the hands of white people.

Its interesting that such blatant racism hides behind tortured logic bent into a pretzel to rationalize its bigotry.

The same jokes and same slurs that were used against the jews are being used now.

It would be amusing if it werent so disgusting.

May. 13 2010 09:21 AM
Ken from Tryon, NC

This law represents the sort of technique we've seen used for a long time in places like the fracturing Balkan states, Baltic states, and other locales with ethnic minorities, where the majority sees even the acknowledgment of a distinct subculture as threatening. We used it here in the US to prohibit the study of Native American languages in the middle of the last century. This is a cultural-genocidal impulse - an effort to wipe important components of our collective history and culture off the map - and it is toxic and deserves to be condemned.

May. 13 2010 09:17 AM
Dunnie Dina from Michigan

I think this new law banning ethnic studies is racist and dangerous. I don't think any school is teaching students to overthrow the US government. U would have to go up into Militia Country to find that type of rhetoric. If teaching about American slavery and the Trail of Tears causes some students to think less of leaders like Thomas Jefferson, or Jefferson Davis then so be it. The information is true. It's not a lie. Students should be taught the truth.

Isn't European an ethnicity. It's ok to teach European-American history but not Mexican-American history, I guess they can't teach African-American history either? Doesn't that sound a bit racist?

I am a senior citizen, who was educated in public school, and was taught nothing about the history or blacks, except Lil Black Sambo and happy slaves. I recently took a World History Course at a major University. I was very upset that the course covered European and American History only. There are many ethnic groups in this country and to deny them the right to learn about their history in school, and study only European history
is a crime against humanity in my opinion. It's telling the child that they don't count, only white history matters.

There are Asians that have been here for hundreds of years, what about their history being taught in school, as well as others. Minorities make up about 40% of the American population today. Our schools have to teach these students about their history.
My ancestors came to this country as slaves in the 1700's, I am an American, and I am as entitled to learn about African history as much as German, French or English.

May. 12 2010 09:33 PM

patriot from USA

The law is banning classes that

1. Promote the overthrow of the United States Government
2. Promote resentment toward a race or class or people
3. Are designed primarily for pupils for a particular ethnic group
4. Advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals

The first two make perfect sense for laws made by the state to protect the state, as I stated in my last point, the other two have some weaknesses for being used as law. I didn't say anything about race, immigrants or groups like La Raza. I also didn't say anything about "evil white people". My words related to the majority and the minority. The Irish had to deal with a lot of the same things that immigrants deal with now if we want to talk about immigrants. It's not exclusively about race, race is a topic but not THE topic.

If the state makes laws against sedition being taught in classrooms obviously that makes since. Completely banning classes that teach about ethnic groups is something else. It's not a requirement for you to be apart of the ethnic group to take the class, any one can and should be able to but that history should be taught no matter what. The only argument should be how it's taught, not if it will be.

I'm sure some of you have heard of the L.A. teacher Ron Gochez. Would it make more sense to fire him and investigate what that school is teaching or ban anything that might be related to sedition at the entire school.

To finish the problem that I have with the last two parts listed are:

1. The law was written directly toward Latin American Studies but this can easily be placed on any ethnic group. I've read that the Holocaust will still be taught but what includes "ethnic groups"? Does that include classes that teach African slavery in the U.S., does that include working conditions for Irish immigrants during the famine era, Chinese rail road workers or laws that were passed against certain groups? I've seen the link to the text of the bill and will gladly correct myself if need be.

2. For the fourth reason listed what is wrong with ethnic solidarity as long as no resentment is being paired with it? Also the current majority in the U.S. is white. To write a law that uses the word "individual" means that there is a concrete understanding of what the individual is. If the majority has control over what that is, which it does, then there's a exclusion of the minority in education while everything says what that minority is. This more about individual identity than it is about race. Even American citizens have a history that reaches back farther than U.S. history and that needs to be acknowledged. The good, the bad and everything in between. If the government can't figure out a way to teach that history and to exclude resentment than that's a problem. How can we unite and still know who we are and who we were?

May. 12 2010 04:32 PM

I'm disappointed in the reporting of this law. While I'm not a fan of Jan Brewer's actions recently, this law, when taken at face value, is not the ban on ethnic studies you indicate it to be.


1. Prohibits public schools from including courses or classes which:
a) Promote overthrowing the U.S. government;
b) Promote resentment towards a race or class of people;
c) Are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic race; AND
d) Advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.


7. Stipulates nothing in this section is to be construed to restrict or prohibit any of the following:
a) Courses or classes for Native American pupils as required for compliance with federal law;
b) Grouping of pupils according to academic performance, including capability in the English language; and
c) Courses or classes, including the history of any ethnic group, which are open to all students, unless it is a violation of the restricted material.

I think it would be possible to create an Ethnic Studies course which does not violate any of the section 1 provisions and which is open to all students. If the curriculum is fairly balanced and careful to avoid negative language or bias, it should not violate the provisions of the bill.

May. 12 2010 02:11 PM
Joy from Detroit,MI

I'm curious... when did this Governor and the people of Arizona forget that they are part of the United States and what that means? Is the education system so poor there that they forgot that the USA, as we know it today, was built on the backs and hard work of immigrants. We are all immigrants (just ask they Native Americans). Now freedoms in education are being threatened. What is next? speech? assembly?

Pretty weak Arizona. Pretty weak.

May. 12 2010 01:13 PM
patriot from USA

You are right; it really is "one thing to be ignorant of history". It's also important that the current trend in historical thought, that the USA (in particular the "white male" constituency) is an oppressive, racist, and intolerant society. A true "objective" study of history reveals that, although not perfect, the USA is not the "evil empire" groups such as "La Raza" proclaim it to be. If the people upset with the removal of this "program" from the schools want to organize and discuss their views (or even protest by smearing refried beans on government buildings), nobody is stopping them. However, when schools funded by our tax-payer dollars are concerned, a radical ideology (which promotes animosity towards "white america") such as the one in question should be stopped.

What do I know though....I'm just an evil white man that pays my mortgage and taxes, basically footing the bill for the free services these groups depend on (and for which our "illegal" friends can't find in their own "oh so tolerant and loving" countries).

May. 12 2010 01:06 PM

First off this country constantly reminds minorities that they are minorities to ban ethnic studies is a direct statement that the majority will tell the rest who they are by ignoring who they are, what they have done and what has been done to them. If the consciences of consciousness don't exist in this country than everything that this country boosts about (free speech, choice, tolerance, individuality) is a lie and that fact is very depressing to say the least.

It's one thing to be ignorant of history but it's something else completely when the state openly denies that from a group and the individual. There are laws against openly speaking sedition this law will create, especially being passed during the aftermath of SB 1070, a great division.

Also if schools are allowed to teach these things, excluding overthrow of the government which would obviously be in conflict with the function of the state, it would mean that the information is more likely to be legitimate. So, that students don't come in contact with information that has no foundation.

May. 12 2010 11:47 AM

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