Sunday, June 14, 2009

Arizona schools superintendent pushes ban on ethnic studies

Looks like this ugly battle of values is continuing. I hope someone's testimony on this bill acknowledges that these are the kinds of courses and supports that have been proven to contribute to overall positive identify formation and a major factor associated with educational success (i.e., enrolling and completing college and even graduate degrees).

Being bicultural isn't an either/or and stripping youth's culture and language is itself a form of "non-ethnic" cultural chauvinism - Valenzuela (1999) breaks this down well, btw.


by Pat Kossan - Jun. 12, 2009 11:38 AM
The Arizona Republic

Arizona's schools superintendent Tom Horne is pushing legislation to ban ethnic-studies courses from high schools, specifically the 22 courses offered at four Tucson high schools in history, government, and literature.

If Senate Bill 1069 becomes law, a district or charter school that allows such courses would lose 10 percent of its state funds each month. The money would be returned when the district shut down the program.

"The job of the public schools is to develop the student's identity as Americans and as strong individuals," Horne said. "It's not the job of the public schools to promote ethnic chauvinism."

At the last minute, Horne added two exceptions to his bill. Native American studies would be exempt because these courses are protected by federal law. Also exempt is any grouping of students based on academic performance, even if most of the students are predominantly from one ethnic background. This would prevent the new mandatory four-hours-a-day language classes for English learners from running afoul of the law. Sen. Jonathan Paton, a Tucson Republican, is sponsoring the legislation.

Horne called ethnic studies "harmful and dysfunctional" and has tried for nearly two years to persudade Tucson voters to bounce the local school board members who supported ethnic studies. The strategy failed, and Horne reported that some board members want to expand the program to middle school. Students are on waiting lists to get into the courses at Tucson and Cholla High Magnet Schools, said Augustine Romero, who heads the district program.

Romero also teaches one of the courses, U.S. Government and Social Justice. This course teaches the historic functions of government by tracking the changes in court decisions and legislation that reflect America's changing attitudes toward minorities.

Romero said the district supports the courses for good reasons: They connect students to their cultural past and their roles in American history, including students with Native American, Mexican, Asian and African American heritages. They heighten student interest and make the courses relevant to their everyday experience. Data collected since 2002 by the Tucson school district show students who attend the courses perform better on AIMS, the state's standardized test, than students who do not attend the courses. That fulfills the goal of No Child Left Behind, which is to raise student achievement among minority students.

"This legislation is very mean spirited," Romero said. These courses "should be recognized and applauded and people should be finding ways to implement this methodology, rather than attacking it because it doesn't fit into their narrow box of how things should be done."

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad that you posted this, Patricia. Stuff like this amazes me. It's like the medieval book burnings of centuries past. What's amazing is that this kind of policy action is so anti-intellectual. It is a position of NOT wanting to know....

    Hang in there, Arizona people of conscience and intellect!