Ethnic studies in AZ schools
Not so much
At times I find myself amazed at how the conservative religious zealots and xenophobes have taken over our Arizona government. A perfect example is last week’s passing of a bill in the Arizona House Education Committee which would require high schools to include Bible studies in their elective curriculum. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Terri Proud (R -Tucson), would create an elective high school class entitled “The Bible and its influence on Western Culture.”
Under current Arizona law, school boards must “exclude from school libraries all books, publications and papers of a sectarian, partisan or denominational character.” As noted in the Arizona Star, “Proud’s bill creates an exception, but only for the Old and New Testaments.” Defending her bill, Representative Proud stated:
“[K]eeping the Bible out of classrooms over fears of proselytizing denies students the background they need to understand everything from Shakespeare to the Bill of Rights.”
Consider this action in light of a recent court order requiring Tucson’s public school district to shut down its ethnic studies program. A recent New York Times editorial highlighted the background of that move:
“The Tucson Unified School District has dismantled its Mexican-American studies program, packed away its offending books, shuttled its students into other classes. It was blackmailed into doing so: keeping the program would have meant losing more than $14 million in state funding. It was a blunt-force victory for the Arizona school superintendent, John Huppenthal, who has spent years crusading against ethnic-studies programs he claims are ‘brainwashing’ children into thinking that Latinos have been victims of white oppression.
As a state legislator, he co-wrote a law cracking down on ethnic studies, and as superintendent he decided that Tucson’s district was violating it. School officials in Tucson and elsewhere strenuously disagree, saying he misunderstood and mischaracterized a program that brought much-needed attention to a neglected part of America’s history and culture. They say it engaged students, pushed them to excel, and led to better grades and attendance”.
Arizona legislators accept the importance of Christian studies in public schools, but they deny the importance of teaching about the rich Mexican-American cultural heritage that helped build this state.