By ELIZABETH BASTIAN, Managing Editor
It’s been a big year for Arizona politicians. Not only did they procure a new kind of science that says a fetus’s life starts 2 weeks before conception after a woman’s last period, but they also passed a bill banning the teaching of ethnic studies in K-12 classrooms this past March.
The Tucson Unified School District, or TUSD, used the bill to their advantage to subsequently ban all Mexican-American studies in elementary and secondary education curriculums, claiming that it fostered resentment within the students and teaching them to rebel in a bloody fashion against their white oppressors.
In the first month of the year, the TUSD 5 member Governing Board voted 4 to 1 to eradicate the program, thanks to a Republican-led effort to cut classes that encouraged the overthrow of the government, promoted ethnic solidarity, or treated students as members of groups rather than as individuals, according to the Huffington Post.
Within five weeks, three of those seats on the board will be replaced by newly-elected members. Of the 12 candidates running, only 4 were in favor of reinstating the program. The other eight either wanted to maintain the ban, did not respond, or thought that the district could not afford to lose the $14 million the state legislature threatened to cut off if the classes continued.
I encourage anyone who is interested in this, or thinks it is as ludicrously ignorant as I do, to check out the January 18, 2012 podcast on the NPR website featuring John Huppenthal, the Arizona State Superintendent interviewed by Michel Martin. Not only does he continuously use the word “raceimize”, confusing Martin and listeners, but his cited reasons for why the program was banned are absolutely ridiculous. The Marxist tendencies of the curriculum, calling some of the Founding Fathers “racists”, and the radical qualities of some of the books used within the classroom do not constitute their removal from the schools’ course offerings, especially in an area where there are so many Latinos and others of Hispanic and Mexican descent.
Once again, the conservative, capitalist, Anglo-centric teaching of United States history has reared its ugly head.
Although I believe the incorporation of ethnic studies, and a less Anglo teaching style of American history could have been a part of my pre-collegiate education, I do have to say that being exposed to different readings from various cultures at a young age really expanded my mind. As these MAS (Mexican-American Studies) courses did for the TUSD students, they encouraged myself and my classmates to think critically. We read poems by Gary Soto. We read heart-wrenching stories about migrant workers. We read Amy Tan. We read stories about the Japanese internment camps, and the Trail of Tears. We read books about the Middle Passage and the horrors of slavery, and about the Holocaust. We read tales of the unspeakable atrocities, and pure stupidity, of the Vietnam War.
Was there some glossing over? Oh, sure. Certainly. But there was enough to interest me to continue cultural readings on my own, something I still do to this day. And there was never a point where a teacher elected not to cover something because he/she feared “resentment”. As students, we were encouraged to flesh out our different opinions in a healthy, Socratic method.
Attending such a diverse campus such as the University of Michigan-Dearborn fosters an environment that is encouraging of other ethnicities. Just look at how many ethnic studies courses and minors that are offered here. Differences about where we came from are celebrated; but what is more celebrated is the fact that we are all here now, and we can teach each other about our cultures. It deeply saddens me that there are places, like Arizona, where this is frowned upon.
These kids should be resentful. There is no way to teach American history in its entirety and not be “resentful” or feel “oppressed” at some point, no matter what background you come from. Covering up the mistakes that our government and the people of this country made, and are still making, does nothing productive. In order to look forward, we first have to look back.
And if they weren’t resentful before, they sure as hell are now.
My fingers are crossed that 3 of the 4 “liberal” candidates are voted onto the TUSD Government Board, and can give back to these students the full education they deserve.
And so, despite the constant sunshine and the fact that Bella Swan lived there before she met Edward (EHMAGAWD Twilight!), I think I can safely add Arizona to my “Never Moving Here” list.
Let’s just say I am probably a tad too resentful for their taste.