Arizona ban spurs interest in Chicano studies

Tucson schools were forced to drop Mexican-American Studies classes after a state law banned courses that are “designed for a specific ethnic group,” advocate “ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals” or fan “racial resentment.” This month, a federal judge upheld the Arizona law.

The ban has revived interest in ethnic studies, according to the Los Angeles Times.

“Underground” libraries with Chicano literature are popping up across the Southwest and are set to open soon in unexpected places such as Milwaukee and Louisville.

. . . “It was only until it was banned that I really took this seriously and recognized the need,” said (Raquel) Velasquez, a 19-year-old originally from Tucson. She is one of 14 students at Prescott College taking a pedagogy class to help train them to become ethnic studies teachers.

Curtis Acosta now teaches English rather than Mexican American Studies at a Tucson high school. On Sundays, he teaches a Chicano literature class at a youth center. Ten students enrolled. Donations pay their tuition and Prescott College has offered college credits.

Bianca Sierra, a high school senior, said she’d never studied Chicano literature.

She says she likes her Sunday class better than her classes at school because she can relate to its subject matter on a personal level. For example, books she reads in her Chicano literature class have characters with names similar to those of her mother and grandmother or mention foods similar to those prepared in her home.

. . .  Instead of simply listening to the teacher lecture, the students gather in a circle and, along with Acosta, discuss and debate the subject matter.

“I like it because it makes me feel more invested in it, because they are asking you, ‘What is your opinion?’ I was never asked what my opinion was on an issue [in class]. You’re just not asked that in regular school,” she said.

No Chicano novels in the English curriculum? Were they all ghetto-ized in the ethnic studies class? And Tucson teachers never let students express opinions?

Ruling: Ethnic studies classes break Arizona law

Tucson schools must drop Mexican-American Studies or lose 10 percent of state funding, ruled an administrative law judge, who found the ethnic classes violate Arizona law. The 2010 law bans courses that are “designed for a specific ethnic group” or advocate “ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.” It also bans fanning “racial resentment.”

Ignoring the history of  ”oppression and racism” will promote resentment, a school district witness testified. But Judge Lewis Kowal found the classes went beyond “teaching oppression objectively” to “actively presenting material in a biased, political, and emotionally charged manner.”

“Teaching in such a manner promotes social or political activism against the white people, promotes racial resentment, and advocates ethnic solidarity, instead of treating pupils as individuals,” Kowal wrote. He cited a lesson that taught students that the historic treatment of Mexican-Americans was “marked by the use of force, fraud and exploitation,” and a parent’s complaint that one of her daughters, who was white, was shunned by Latino classmates after a government course was taught “in an extremely biased manner.”

A group of teachers are challenging the law in federal court, arguing it was motivated by “a racial bias and anti-Hispanic beliefs and sentiments.”

Tucson risks funding over ethnic studies

Ethnic studies classes could cost Tucson schools 10 percent of state funding, reports Learning the Language. Arizona Superintendent Tom Horne says he’ll withhold district funding to comply with a law that bans classes designed for a particular ethnic group. Horne, who’s running for attorney general, also asked Tucson to videotape all ethnic studies classes, though he’s especially concerned with La Raza Studies.

The district can appeal to an administrative law judge.

In a letter to Tucson’s acting superintendent, Horne says he cited statements from teachers showing the curriculum encourages resentment towards certain races. “They are telling students they are victims and they should be angry and rise up.”

Guestblogger Michael Lopez, who has a law degree, analyzed Arizona’s law.

Discipline quotas

Tucson has adopted racial/ethnic quotas for discipline, writes Heather Mac Donald on City Journal.

Schools that suspend or expel Hispanic and black students at higher rates than white students will now get a visit from a district “Equity Team” and will be expected to remedy those disparities by reducing their minority discipline rates.

Administrators say suspended students “lose valuable learning time,”  widening the ethnic academic achievement gap.

Such thinking ignores the students who are not disrupting class or threatening teachers and who also lose valuable learning time when unruly or violent students remain in the classroom.

Mac Donald offers help for Tucson principals told to examine the “root causes” of disparate rates of suspension: “The root cause of disparate rates of suspension is disparate rates of bad behavior.”

What’s the root cause of bad behavior? Cherchez the absent father, Mac Donald suggests.