Arizona Passes Bill Restricting Ethnic Studies

By Jason Beahm on May 17, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Arizona is back in the spotlight again after Gov. Jan Brewer signed a new law designed to restrict ethnic studies courses. Supporters of the Arizona house bill, say that the ethnic studies courses were dividing the students up by race and offering them differing versions of history. Latinos in particular, say supporters, were allegedly being taught a history that emphasized their oppression and that emphasized that capitalism is the enemy.  

Under the new law, any school that offers classes primarily for a particular ethnic group, that advocate an ethno-centric point of view, or resentment of a race, will risk losing 10 percent of its state financing.

Tom Horne, state superintendent of public instruction for Arizona, believes that the new law is a positive step for Arizona. "The most offensive thing to me, fundamentally, is dividing kids by race," Mr. Horne said. Horne believed that the current system of ethnic studies classes promoted a warped view of history that led to defiance by Latino students. Horne cited an incident during a school speech when a group of Latino students turned their backs on the speaker and put their fists in the air.

Paul Senseman, spokesman for Gov. Brewer, said that the governor supports equality.

"Governor Brewer signed the bill because she believes, and the legislation states, that public school students 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." 

However, supporters of the ethnic studies classes, such as Judy Burns, president of the governing board of the Tucson schools, said that they provide a positive, well-rounded education. Burns said the courses will continue, even after the new law.

"From everything I've seen, they empower kids to take charge of their own destiny, gain a sense of the value of their own existence and become more determined to be well-educated contributing members of society," Ms. Burns said.

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