Ethnic Studies in Arizona: Both Sides of the Story
The Tucson Unified School District Board elected to suspend the Mexican-American Studies Program to be in compliance with the state law Arizona statute ARS 15-112. This decision was also made to avoid losing ten percent of its budget in this period of a struggling economy; but that does not complete the story. The history of disagreement began when Tom Horne, the State Superintendent of Schools, during the last days of his term found Tucson School District in violation of all four provisions of the state law ARS 15-112.
John Huppenthal, who took over as Superintendent of Schools followed up on the decision by ordering an audit of the program and concluded the same. What is ARS 15-112 and how does it relate to Ethnic Studies Program at TUSD. There are different points of view on the bill. According to some resources, this law was specifically written to ban the ethnic studies program, whereas some feel the motive behind the law is not to end ethnic studies but solidarity among race. Moving further it is noted in the Los Angeles Times report “a bill that aims to ban ethnic studies in Arizona schools was signed into law by Governor Jan Brewer” (Santa Cruz).
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So the law has already marked its impression that it intends to dismantle ethnic studies program. Now if the other side of the story is taken into consideration there are people who feel Mexican American Studies program is alarming as it contradicts with the law and encourages overthrow of the government. The language used in the bill is very clear and it is focuses on prohibiting courses and classes. Also the fourth clause specifically states that ethnic solidarity, instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals, cannot be advocated (ARS 15-112).
The statute further gives specific guidelines to school district to stay in compliance. Even if they are not in compliance, the law does not force them to stop the Ethnic Studies Program, the penalty they have is ten percent of deduction in their state funding. So the school district can still proceed with the ethnic studies program, the only thing it will lose is some part of its budget. There is a concern among the large number of Mexican Americans in Arizona that within this law there are fallacies.
Does this statute take away their right as individuals or does it give them this impression that they do not belong here and if they want to live here they will have to forget their ethnic past and belongings and pay the price? But the First Amendment gives liberty and freedom to every American regardless of color, creed, religion or race. The freedom of choice is part of basic human rights and the laws should not govern this rule. One more highlighting point of the conflict is budget constraint, which is evident from the decision of the TUSD board, but does it realize the importance of ethnic studies in general?
Ethnic Studies Programs’ diversity makes it a special program because it highlights the historical importance and background of different races in America. It is special in every way and that is one reason the teachers and followers of the program want support on the cause. As DA Morales writes in Tucson Citizen, “Once you start banning books and censoring knowledge, the boundaries of where to stop always go against the American theme of liberty and freedom” (Morales). So the writer is trying to emphasize on the American theme which is liberty and freedom by linking it to banning of books and knowledge.
But the question is, is it actually like that. To understand the situation from a balanced perspective it is of extreme importance to consider the point of view of the other party. According to Rachel Alexander, who writes for Tea Party Tribune, “Anti-Americanism is disguised as ethnic studies in Tucson Schools” (Alexander). It is very common to find different point of views interrelated after the dispute becomes public and same may be guessed in this case. The evidence of miscommunication and misleading information has created confusion between both parties.
The Ethnic Studies Program has its own importance in the field of education and it becomes more valuable in culturally diverse place like America where this study of people gives us vast knowledge of races, their roots, their lives, backgrounds and their relation with other communities. The word ban has its own implications especially when it is used with books and courses. There has been a constant debate about the banning of books by TUSD, which of course is an alarming situation for everyone who believes in knowledge.
But according to the press release by TUSD, the seven books that were used as supporting materials for curriculum in Mexican American Studies classes have been moved to the district storage facility. The district also stressed that the books were never banned and every book is still available to students through several school libraries (Rene). A good education system is backbone of every country, and what is required by a good education system is excellent teachers, well-designed curriculum, and the key spirit to spread the knowledge.
This idea should be the driving force behind the education system of the country. And it is the responsibility of the state, federal governments, and legislations to ensure this big responsibility is carried out in the best way. And that is the reason laws are made and applied to balance the system. The designed education programs should have specific goals and focus. This will not only help teachers in teaching but it will also help students in acquiring knowledge.
The Ethnic Studies Program should be part of the curriculum to provide history of different races but at the same time the focus must be on solidarity not individuality. If the Ethnic Studies Program can be redesigned keeping in mind the concern of both parties it can solve many problems. The purpose of the education is to help individuals reach their full potential and every individual plays a significant role in the society. Mexican Americans along with other ethnicities are part of America and so are the laws. And abiding the laws of the land is the duty of the citizen of that country.
Alexander, Rachel. “Anti-Americanism Disguised as Ethnic Studies in Tucson Schools.” Letter. Tea Party Tribune. N.p., 22 Aug. 2011. Web. 15 Mar. 2012. . Morales, DA. “Did you know: Even Shakespeare got banned from TUSD with MAS ruling?” Did you know: Even Shakespeare got banned from TUSD with MAS ruling? http://tucsoncitizen.com/, 13 Jan. 2012. Web. 20 Feb. 2012. . Prohibited Courses And Alasses; Enforcement. Pub. L. ARS 15-112. Stat. 11 May 2010. Arizona State Legislature. Arizona State Legislature, n.d. Web. 15 Mar. 2012. . Rene, Cara. “Reports of TUSD book ban completely false and misleading .” Tucson Unified School District, 17 Jan. 2012. Web. 15 Mar. 2012. . Santa Cruz, Nicole. “Arizona bill targeting ethnic studies signed into law.” Editorial. www.latimes.com. Los Angeles Times, 12 May 2010. Web. 20 Feb. 2012. .