Arizona bans ethnic studies programs in schools

By Katherine Valadez |Staff Writer|

Ethnic minorities are a hot political topic in Arizona once again.

Under a new law, schools across the state are prohibited from offering ethnic studies classes or face having state funds withheld from them each month if they continue to offer classes.

Already having been under scrutiny for its controversial Senate Bill 1070, which many felt discriminated against Latinos, the state is now being criticized again for its passage of Arizona House Bill 2281 which took effect in January.

The bill stated, “HB 2281 prohibits a school district or charter school from including courses or classes that either promote the overthrow of the United States government or promote resentment toward a race or class of people.”

School districts that are found to be in violation of the new law face losing as much as 10 percent of their state funding each month, which adds up to approximately $15 million a year.

The Tuscon Unified School District’s Mexican-American studies program was found to be in violation of the new law by Judge Lewis D. Kowal.

This caused the school district to terminate its ethnic studies program and ban several books that were a part of the curriculum.

Some of the banned books include Paolo Freire’s “Pedagogy of the Oppressed”, Sandra Cisneros’ “House on Mango Street” and Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.”

The ban of ethnic studies in Arizona has caused a backlash across the state and throughout the U.S.

Students at Yale University staged a protest of the bill, several Facebook pages have popped up in opposition to the bill, and some are planning on trafficking banned books into the state in what is known as “Librotraficante,” according to The Huffington Post.

Proponents of the law felt that the ethnic studies curriculum was divisive and promoted hatred, while critics of the bill say that they “push Latino students to excel and teach a long-neglected slice of America’s cultural heritage: Chicano perspectives on literature, history and social justice,” according to the LA Times.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal, said Tuscon’s program divided students by race and would be almost impossible to fix, according to USA Today.

Some students at CSUSB are critical of Arizona’s decision to remove its ethnic studies program, calling the move “racist” and “ignorant.”

“When I heard what happened in Arizona, my Chicana pride came out. I thought it was dumb that they decided to do this because these classes give students an opportunity to learn,” said student Maritza Alarcon.

Other students believe that Arizona’s law should not be copied in other states.

“It’s not right. It’s good for students to learn about other ethnicities even if they’re not that minority. They should learn about both other cultures and their own,” said student Bianca Saucedo. “If this happened in California, I’d move out. I think it would cause chaos because this state is so diverse.”

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