No grants for AZ education….just bans

Posted: August 24, 2010 in Delusional in AZ, Education, Illegal Immigration, The Economy

The winners of the Race to the Top federal grants were announced today.  And you guessed, Arizona isn’t one of the winners.   There was $3.4 billion available from the President’s new initiative.  The 8 state winners were  Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio and Rhode Island.  For more details see the Washington Post story.

In 2000, Arizona was ranked dead last amongst the states in a survey conducted by Education Week mainly due to a lack of funding.  One of the areas that suffered the greatest neglect was ESL or English as a Second Language.  Not only was the state underfunding teaching ESL, they were absolutely refusing to teach bilingually–in spite of the fact that a large percentage of students spoke no English whatsoever.   Prop 203 that banned bilingual education and placed restrictions on ESL passed a ballot initiative with 63% of voters in favor that same year.

Ten years later, things haven’t gotten better.  In fact, they’ve gotten worse, particularly for minorities.  Even as the percentage of the Hispanic population has risen, Arizona increasingly fights against their inclusion in the school system.    According to Arizona’s own statistics we have over 1 million children in our K-12 school system and that comprises 16% of our state population.  Of that number approximately 20% are Hispanic.  Some news sources dispute this number and say that Hispanics constitute almost half of the student population when you focus on public schools versus private/charter schools.

Now everyone agrees that our children are our future (smarmy as that sounds).  And what of the children of the Hispanic immigrants that attend our schools (who, at least for now and so long as conservatives don’t overturn the 14th Amendment, ARE U.S. citizens)?  For the future of our state, what has Arizona done for students in general and what have they done for our special needs populations?  In the budget crunch of the Recession they’ve slashed Education and continued to allow irresponsible tax breaks for corporations.  They’ve sold state trust lands instead of preserving them for the use of future generations. They’ve increased funding for privatized prisons and the need for them by performing “round ups” of suspected illegal immigrants (leaving many children alone without parents).  They spend like crazy on their conservative agenda but they aren’t spending on education, on the future of Arizona.

Here’s a great example…..they’ve spent time and energy on creating a bill to ban ethinic studies.  House Bill 2281, known as the 2010 anti-ethnic studies bill is the brainchild of State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne (R).  It’s goal is to prohibit schools from offering courses at any grade level that advocate ethnic solidarity, promote overthrow of the US government, or cater to specific ethnic groups [emphasis mine].  What started it all was that Tom Horne took issue with a Chicano Studies course taken by a very small minority of the Tucson district student population.  Supporters of the Chicano Studies course indicated that it was historical in nature and that its purpose was to educate students to accept people as something more than simple exemplars of their particular ethnicity.  In other words it’s purpose, like that of all ethnic studies courses, was to open students minds, not to close them.  But why bother with looking at the motivation of those opposed or supportive of the course or why bother to look at it’s purpose.  That would be too logical.  Let’s instead just examine the Bill to see what  is being proposed, mainly by Repulican state legislators.

First, banning an educational program  because it promotes ethnic solidarity even on it’s face is not even plausible.  It is a matter of historical fact that many movements and groups in American history have promoted ethnic solidarity…..for good or for ill.  Are we not to discuss them now?  How can we ignore the solidarity promoted by the KKK, the Back Panthers, La Raza, etc.  Obviously we can’t……they’re historical facts that had a major effect on the history of our nation. 

Furthermore, does it mean we are promoting that same mindset by studying historical fact?  No, of course it doesn’t.  If that was the case we would be ignoring the majority of human history, which is littered with examples of man’s inhumanity to man based on the concept of “ethnic solidarity”.  So this excuse of “advocacy” of ethnic superiority and/or solidarity is really a false and dangerous pretense to block Hispanics from discussing the Hispanic subculture within Arizona schools. 

Furthermore, this kind of a ban can be used to hurt more than just the Hispanic subculture….it can be applied to any ethnic group.  This kind of law is dangerous because today the winds of popular opinion blow against Hispanics but who will it turn against tomorrow? 

Next let’s address the the ban on anything advocating the overthrow of the U.S. Government.  First the same argument being made above could easily apply here.  For example study of the Civil War requires students to focus on the concept of secession and why the Southern states’ motivations.  By explaining that to students are we advocating secession?  No, of course not. But let’s just ignore that first argument, since Tom Horne and Republican state legislators seem to be ignoring it, and approach this second goal from a different angle.

On the surface banning advocacy of overthrowing the US Government actually sounds reasonable.  But as a responsible voter and citizen I would want to know about the process of how this law would be applied.  Because the devil is in the details.  What is the process of determining whether a course actually advocates the overthrow of the Government? And I would need to know who gets to make that determination?  Will it be local school boards?  Will it be the Department of Education or will it be State Legislatures? 

It makes a difference to me because whoever makes this decision needs to first have some expertise in education and a good foundation in American History–neither of which is required to be on a local school board or to hold elective office.  There are many examples of how this lack of expertise can and will come back to haunt us.  Look at the recent decisions made by local school boards in Texas.  Most local school board elections are ignored by most voters.  So some “Christianist”, conservative candidates took control of a local school board in Texas and then started making decisions about covering evolution in science courses, taking out the Founding Fathers in the textbooks, and so much more.  These individuals not only have no experience or expertise to justify their positions but they are basing their decisions on personally held beliefs and severe personal biases regarding the subject matter.  That is not how our educational system is supposed to be administered.

Finally, the easiest one to counter is the ridiculous goal of banning courses that “cater to specific ethnic groups”.  That’s the point of ethnic studies…..Modern education in the US, and in fact the entire world, contains many examples of excellent ethnic studies courses and even college degrees.  This kind of intellectual inquiry does more than connect a certain ethnic group with its culture, it expands its reach to those outside of the group, to create a better understanding and dialog with non-members of the group.  Non-members of the ethnic group are encouraged to take these courses.  Any kind of course that fosters and promotes cross-semination of ideas, understanding and communication should be lauded and not banned. 

I’m sure that Tom Horne doesn’t agree with that concept though.  He’d rather that our brown population remains silent, unseen, uneducated, and misunderstood.  And so long as they keep performing the jobs that Americans don’t want for the many Arizona companies who take advantage of their blood, sweat and tears, the happier Mr. Horne and his cohorts will be.    And the less likely our state will be able to pursue worthy goals and federal grants that would greatly aid us in this horrible Recession. 

So keep up the good work Arizona Republicans.  When that 50% of state’s youth grow up, they’ll remember your own stands on ethnic solidarity and how you shortchanged them.  They’ll vote your asses right out of office.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s