Would this class be illegal in Arizona?

The state of Arizona has been in the news lately for the controversial immigration laws they have passed, but now they are making headlines for a recently passed education bill. The bill, H2281, now makes it illegal for public schools to have classes that are “designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group,” or that advocate “the overthrow of the United States government,” or create “resentment toward a race or class of people.” The focus of the new law has been African-American and Latino studies classes. Tom Horne, the state school chief, has said that ethnic studies classes promote “ethnic chauvinism” and only serve to teach minority students that they are oppressed by white people. [1]

Advocates claim they do not want students learning a “slanted history,” but that’s what they are actually pushing for, its just THEIR slanted history. The advocates of this bill want students to learn a version of history that is free of oppression and racism, in other words a false history. Ethnic studies courses deal with these issues because, simply, that is what happened to members of certain ethnic groups. [2]

What really blows my mind about this bill though is that it forbids teaching anything that will cause “resentment towards a race or class of people.” The goal of this is to  prevent a teacher from teaching a racist curriculum, but who decides what is racist? If students were learning that minorities are not people, okay, that’s clearly racist. But if students are learning to be proud of their heritage and history? Is that racist? Also, couldn’t this be used to ban against any historical topic? Be careful how you teach the American Revolution because it could create resentment towards the British! You can’t teach about the Civil War because students might resent the Confederacy for having slaves! I know those are unrealistic examples, but the vague language of the bill could prove to be even more damaging than expected.

I’m not clear how this bill affects public colleges, most of the discussion has been about high school classes, but I had to wonder, would CRG be illegal under this new law? It doesn’t focus on one particular ethnic group, but most of what we’ve discussed has been about minorities or oppressed people. We did discuss some of the ways different peoples were oppressed in the United States and how best to deal with not only that history, but present issues as well. I hope no one thinks we were plotting to overthrow the government (but Will was talking about European-style socialism last week, that could be seen as suspicious).

I don’t know how our class would be affected by this new law, but either way, I’m glad to not be in Arizona.

[1] “Arizona schools chief says ethnic studies law takes focus off race,” http://www.cnn.com/2010/POLITICS/05/13/arizona.ethnic.studies/index.html

[2] “Why did Arizona Pass an Ethnic Studies Bill?” http://newsfeed.time.com/2010/05/14/why-did-arizona-pass-an-ethnic-studies-bill/

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