I don’t know how you may feel about this interview, but I believe that it was extremely biased! Just listen to the comments made by the news reporter and notice the manner in which both the news reporter and Ben Shaprio interrupt the woman defending ethnic studies; the poor woman is practically being attacked! I was especially disturbed by how the Mexican-American students and parents were portrayed. I was so incredibly uncomfortable while I was watching this video and it seriously boiled my blood…honestly it brought tears of both disappointment and fury to my eyes. I don’t believe this woman was given a fair chance to defend her position on ethnic studies, so I want to take the chance to further this discussion here. The article I am about to quote can be found HERE, so if you are interested on educating yourself on the topic, and taking in a variety of opinions, please read this article; I definitely recommend it. After all, we should build our own opinions on such controversial topics with a range of information on the topic before we accept certain views.
“The Fight Over Ethnic Studies in Tucson, Arizona
As the new year opened, the outgoing head of public education in Arizona, Tom Horne, issued an official “finding” declaring that the Mexican American Studies program in the Tucson school district, one of four ethnic studies programs in that district, was in violation of a new state law that had just gone into effect. The finding by Horne—now the newly elected Arizona state attorney general—gave the Tucson school district 60 days to “comply” with the law. And the finding threatened that “the only way in which compliance can be effective within the next 60 days is by elimination of the Mexican American Studies program.” The Tucson school district could have 10 percent of its budget taken away, amounting to about $15 million, if it does not eliminate the program.
The law that went into effect on January 1 declares that a school district or charter school in Arizona cannot include in its program of instruction any course or classes that include any of the following:
1. Promote the overthrow of the United States government;
2. Promote resentment toward a race or class of people;
3. Are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group; or
4. Advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.
While the law does not make ethnic studies as such illegal, those behind the law have made no secret of their desire to get rid of the Tucson school district’s Mexican American Studies and other ethnic studies programs in the state.
This new law, passed by the Arizona legislature last April, came on the heels of Arizona’s reactionary anti-immigrant law, SB1070, which legalizes racial profiling by requiring police to stop and question anyone who they suspect is undocumented. That was followed by an announcement by the state’s Department of Education that teachers with heavy accents must be removed from classes for students still learning English. Many have interpreted this as targeting immigrant teachers who were first hired under a program to teach bilingual education, a program later abolished as part of the overall anti-immigrant climate.
The attack on ethnic studies represents yet another “brick in the wall” of an officially sanctioned white supremacy and American chauvinism in Arizona, while encouraging its spread around the country. Arizona has become an ugly battleground, and testing ground, for a new “Jim Crow,” reviving an official second-class status for the 30 percent of the people of Arizona who are Latino. (A federal judge issued an order that temporarily prevented Arizona from putting into effect several major provisions of the anti-immigrant law, but other repressive sections of the law did go into effect on July 29. See Revolution articles “Arizona’s Anti-Immigrant Law Is Inhumane & Illegitimate: Stop the System’s Fascist Attacks on Immigrants,” (#208, July 25, 2010) and “Behind the Federal Court Ruling: Vicious Attack on Immigrants Continue,” (#209, August 15, 2010), both online at revcom.us.)
The Importance of Ethnic Studies
In an online interview in July last year, Curtis Acosta, a high school ethnic studies teacher in Tucson and part of the group SaveEthnicStudies.org, said, “The purposes of our classes are varied, but our main objective is to rehumanize the academic experience for our students through culturally and socially relevant curriculum. It is no news flash that Latin@, African-American and Native American students have been historically marginalized and ignored in mainstream public school curriculum, and that the drop-out/push-out rates for our communities are far out of proportion compared to European-American students. The numbers are disturbing, unsettling, and as educators we have an obligation and responsibility to offer progressive pedagogical and curriculum changes to promote academic equality and achievement for all our students.” (Full interview is online at freshloveink.com/fli/tag/curtis-acosta.)”
As a Mexican American woman who proudly agrees with the information you have just read, the comments made my Ben Shaprio seriously boil my blood. How can he sum up an ethnic study course as “an excuse to meet girls and get an easy A”? I feel that by describing these courses in such a manner, my culture is being demeaned because in essence he is saying that my culture does not matter, it is simple, and who cares? Well, I’ll tell you what Ben Shaprio, I CARE! You may not have found your ethnic study course valuable, but I certainly have.
Let me just say that I thought I knew everything about being Mexican-American and being Chicana, but boy was I wrong. In my Chican@ Studies courses at UCLA, I have learned so much about my culture and so much that I feel I should have had the right to learn in the first place. I am thankful for these classes, but am saddened that my Chicano friends back home don’t have the same opportunities to sit in these classes and learn what I have. I do however try my best to share what I’ve learned with my family and friends.
Yes, Mexican-American studies may be “an easy A”, but you know why it’s an easy A? Because what I’ve learned in those classes is relevant to me, relevant to my experiences, and to the experiences of my ancestors. I’ve learned about the struggles Chicanos face in America because this history is true, why sugarcoat it and pretend it didn’t happen (like many U.S history books do)? The things I learned in these courses have not made me resent the Anglo Saxon race and have definitely not given me ideas on how to overthrow the government. I think it’s extremely ignorant to say that these are the results/outcomes of the class if these are not the things being said directly by the students themselves.
What these courses did for me was allow me to learn about my my ancestry, understand my history, and motivate me to keep striving for my education. At one point in time, and not too long ago actually, the quality of my education did not equal that of Caucasian students and to a certain degree it still doesn’t. (But that’s a topic for another blog post). I now understand that I am not at UCLA for just me, but I am here for my family, for those who couldn’t make it, and for my community because they deserve to see me graduate and bring my knowledge and eye-opening experiences back to inform my community. I don’t understand why Ethnic studies is banned, practically feared, but I do have my inclinations. The only reason why I would think that Arizona wants ethnic studies to be banned is to keep Chicanos from succeeding. These courses make us aware, more directed, passionate, community-oriented, proud, and much, much more. Without these studies, Chicanos don’t learn about their history, tend to feel like foreigners in their own country, and this keeps them from moving their communities forward. This is what I believe the ban on Mexican-American studies is doing. As for the news reporter and Ben Shaprio, take a Mexican-American studies ethnic course and then state your opinions. These courses aren’t only meant for Chicano students, I think students of all other ethnicities would benefit from these courses as well.
We deserve to know our history, especially because Mexico was once part of the U.S! Have you ever wondered what happened to Mexican families and children when the territory they lived in became the U.S? If you ever want to be mind-blown, research that information.
Now that you know more of the facts, what do you think about including ethnic studies courses in schools?
Post by: Alexandra Barba