Yesterday, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed a bill banning Latin American/Latino/Chicano Studies courses in public high schools. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne said the bill was implemented to target the Chicano studies program in the Tuscon school system, which he says "are designed for students of a particular ethnic group" and "promote resentment or advocate ethnic solidarity over treating pupils as individuals." With this bill, they plan to stop the influence of classes that promote the overthrow of the U.S. government.
School districts don't have to comply with the new law...instead, they can choose to have up to 10% of their state funds withheld each month.
I guess the title of this post makes my opinion on this issue pretty clear, but this legislation bothers me a great deal. As a teacher of primarily Mexican American students, and just plain as a teacher, I think this bill is a frightening disregard of events and ideas that are part of all Americans' history, and an obvious attempt to silence various ethnic groups, starting with Mexican Americans and other Latinos.
While these officials don't outright say that studying the history of a specific ethnic group (namely Chicanos) leads to a desire to overthrow the U.S. government, that seems to be implicit in the legislation. And they do explicitly say that the bill is targeting the Chicano studies program in Tuscon school system. Perhaps they're trying to get points for honesty? What's next? Will it be illegal to speak Spanish in public places? Illegal to be Mexican American?
Granted, I don't know anything about the Mexican American studies program in Tuscon, but I can say with 100% certainty that in all of the times I have taught Mexican American history to my students, I have never seen any indication that these lessons "advocated ethnic solidarity over treating pupils as individuals" or led to students wanting to overthrow the government. Increased pride in their cultural heritage and improved self-confidence? Absolutely. Desire to lead a mass uprising against The Man? No way.
Pearl S. Buck said, "One faces the future with one's past." What kind of future are we facing if we can't teach our students about the events from our collective past?
Read more about the bill here.
I'm interested to know...what do you think about this bill?