Arizona Amendment Limits Curriculum

Arizona Amendment Limits Curriculum

The ethnic study ban now in place for Arizona public schools makes it illegal to teach about subjects such as Mexican-American studies, but exempts courses on the Holocaust.

In wake of Arizona’s recent immigration laws, another slight to the state’s minorities has taken the form of an amendment to the state’s curriculum, officially banning all teachings of ethnic studies in public schools.

Under this new legislation, classes are illegal if they promote the overthrow of the United States, promote resentment toward a race or class of people, or are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group.

This law is an excuse for forced assimilation rather than ethnic acceptance. Although the text of the legislation appears to promote individualism, this clear violation of the First Amendment just sequesters ethnic identification for anyone not of European descent. America is a country built upon many different races, so how can we alienate any part of our population by discouraging their culture?

The law also states that English teachers with “heavy” accents must meet new fluency standards. Speech classes are offered to teachers who don’t pass state requirements, and are mandatory for those who wish to keep their position.

Contrary to what Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne is trying to achieve with new fluency standards, changing how teachers speak does not affect what they teach. This requirement only further illustrates the discrimination of the greater Arizona population towards Latino residents.

This legislation, which reads, “public school pupils should be taught to treat and value each other as individuals and not be taught to resent or hate other races or classes of people,” is controversial within Arizona’s 30 percent Latino population as well as nationwide. Ignorance of other cultures, what this law seems to be promoting, has historically been the basis for discrimination.

A lawsuit from October 2010, opposing the ban on ethnic studies, states that teachers of the Tucson Unified School District “believe that the Act is the product of racial bias aimed specifically at Hispanics, is unlawful, results in impermissible deprivations of rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution.”

Plaintiffs say that this law violates their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights and that the law’s provisions are too vague. What defines “resentment” and “ethnic solidarity” is unclear and unquantifiable.

Students should have the freedom to study what they want. If Arizona officials want public school students to take US History or US Government classes, then they can make those classes mandatory. But the students should still have the freedom to take ethnic studies classes, like Mexican American Studies, as additional social studies courses.

Already, state legislators have run into problems with the text and have had to make amendments to the law including exempting courses on genocide, specifically the Holocaust. This early roadblock to the Arizona ideal of “American solidarity” foreshadows the opposition it will face in the future.

How can students truly understand the causes and repercussions of the Holocaust if they aren’t allowed to learn about the backgrounds of Jewish and German culture? Will exemptions be made for all cultures whose people have been involved in genocide? What this law demands in terms of limiting education is implausible.

A government that withholds subjects from students is like a government that censors information in newspapers or on the Internet. Cultural knowledge belongs to no one, and is therefore no one’s to withhold.