Educational Regression in Arizona

As a very appropriate follow-up to my last post, I thought I should point out a recent opinion piece from Al Jazeera entitled "Arizona and Chile: Concealing History in the Classroom." This article highlights the recent ongoings in Tucson, Arizona, where ethnic studies classes were dismantled in the middle of the school year and several books were also banned from the library, not for the usual reasons books are banned in American schools, like profanity or sexual content, but because the books promote a different sort of perspective - hispanic, indigenous, or revisionist perspectives.

Take a look at this resolution here.
Now, at present there are a lot of differing accounts out there on the internet as to the number of books banned by the Tuscon Unified School District, the titles of those books, and whether they were banned at all. One site I read suggests that the books were simply removed from the approved curriculum list, and that they would still be available in libraries. Even if this was true, it strikes me as pernicious indeed to remove books from approved curriculum lists; a school board would still have to judge that there was something "wrong" about the books before doing that. The books cited include books about Chicanos and Mexican-American history, books about race as a concept and books with titles like Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years, and even Shakespeare's Tempest. All these books simply place emphasis on topics that are often glossed over or completely ignored in standard curricula. It's clear that, regardless of the exact details, the Tucson school district was acting to eliminate a diversity of perspective from their schools.

Look at this article here.
This is even more clear when one considers the dismantling of the district's ethnic studies classes. Indeed, here the blame can't be placed entirely at Tucson's feet, because it was an Arizonan state law that was passed to ban these courses, and if Tucson didn't comply they'd be deprived of money. (With school districts, it's always about the money.) Stated reasons for these actions from politicians and supporters alike revolve around the notion that classes and books that focus on minorities can only create divisiveness in society. Of course, it is the opposite that is true: blatantly discriminatory acts drive divisions even deeper, and they ensure that students will forever remember the sort of ignorance and bigotry that shut down their classes, enraged their teachers and scarred their school experiences.

However, I believe ethnic studies classes are only a stepping stone. While Arizona is trying to shut out different perspectives in favor of condemning students to a single "unified" and certifiably false perspective on America, (again see my last post), the only way forward is to demolish that narrative and remake teaching in a way that integrates many different views and ultimately leads students not to just accept what they're told, but to question everything and walk through history in many different shoes.

If students consider everything and decide they'd prefer coercive schooling that demands that every child think the same way, they are entirely free to have that opinion. Somehow, though, I don't think that's going to happen.

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