Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed a bill targeting a school district’s ethnic studies programs on May 11, creating yet another controversy involving immigration.
This bill allows Arizona to take yet another step toward ethnic bigotry by taking away students’ rights to learn about their own cultural and linguistic heritage. Every student has the right to learn about his or her heritage and should not be prohibited from doing so.
Brewer signed this bill less than a month after she signed the nation’s crackdown on illegal immigration, which created international criticism by arguing it would encourage racial profiling.
Arizona state schools chief Tom Horne, who is in support of this bill, believes the Tucson school district’s Mexican-American studies programs teach Latino students that they are demoralized by white people. Public, state-funded schools should not encourage students to dislike particular races, he said.
The measure bans classes that encourage ethnic solidarity, that are designed for students of specific races or that promote resentment toward certain ethnic groups.
The Tucson school district offers specialized courses in African-American, Mexican-American and Native-American studies that spotlight history and literature and include information about the ethnic group’s influence on society. Many say the programs promote racial resentment toward whites and separate students by race.
This new measure, however, does not prohibit classes that teach history of a particular ethnic group as long as the course is open to all students and does not encourage racial resentment.
Instructors in the Mexican-American Studies program in the district say their students perform better in school if they see people who look like them. Arizona should re-examine whether their students are actually learning to resent races other than their own before signing such a bill. If the Arizona legislature is not careful, it will earn a bad reputation among other states, by passing bills that promote prejudice against minority races, if they have not done so already.