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Arizona Moves to Create “Forbidden Curriculums”

June 25, 2009

By Roberto Dr. Cintli  Rodriguez

Arizona is the New South and the New South Africa. It is the home of Sheriff Joe Arpaio – where racial profiling is official policy. Now, Tom Horne, the state superintendent of schools, wants to eliminate ethnic studies… another form of racial profiling.

Arizona is a place where mass show trials are conducted daily in federal court and where migrants are convicted of smuggling themselves. Arizona is the New Berlin – it is a place of barbed wire, fences and walls. Here, leaving water for migrants has landed people in prison.  Since the mid-1990s, some 5,000 migrants have died in the desert as a result of official immigration policies. Under the leadership of State Sen. Russell Pearce, 20 more anti-immigrant bills are on their way, including one that will require schools to do the work of the migra.

As part of the nation’s culture wars, Horne wants to send Arizona schoolchildren into the dark ages. Overriding the concept of local control, Horne wants Arizona teachers to impose one view of America upon the state’s children. At his behest and by a 4-3 Senate panel vote, an amendment to S.B. 1069 was passed that emphasizes the teaching of individualism at the expense of ethnic studies. The full legislature is expected to pass it within several weeks and Republican Gov. Jan Brewer is expected to sign it into law.

While Horne’s objective is “to prohibit ethnic studies in Arizona public schools” – creating forbidden curriculums in the process – his real objective appears to be ensuring that only the nation’s sacrosanct national narrative is taught in schools.

This narrative is presumably the nation’s greatest asset; it is a compilation of foundational myths and legends that defines the United States as the New Promised Land – a nation chosen by God to essentially bring heaven on earth. Its secular version is to militarily spread freedom, democracy and capitalism to the rest of the world.

Anything that strays from this is unpatriotic. As we are also learning in the Sonia Sotomayor nomination process for the Supreme Court, anyone that fights against racism and oppression is nowadays labeled a “racist” or a “reverse racist.”

Horne joins the likes of Newt Gingrich, Tom Tancredo, plus Rush Limbaugh, Lou Dobbs and all their talk-show brethren, in both, promoting scapegoat politics and in corrupting the English language.

In Horne’s America, genocide, slavery, land theft, segregation, discrimination, extralegal brutality and racial supremacy are at best, taught as footnotes, but more conveniently, disappeared altogether. In his America, exclusion is inclusion and ignorance is bliss. In attempting to impose his philosophy, he fancies himself as carrying on the work of Martin Luther King Jr.  He oxymoronically accuses ethnic studies educators of promoting racism and separatism.

The legislation targets ethnic studies but exempts “classes or courses for Native American pupils that are required to comply with federal law.” Also exempted are classes for English learners. Horne’s actual target is Raza Studies at Tucson Unified School District.  In his crusade, he accuses Raza Studies of promoting “ethnic chauvinism” and of being a “dysfunctional program.”

Nicolette Gomez who was in both Native American and Raza Studies at Tucson High School says: “The outsiders whom say that we are “unamerican” and “dysfunctional” obviously do not sit in these classes to experience intellectual students ready for college material.”

Horne is seemingly unaware that students from Raza Studies – who are taught about their Indigenous cultures – consistently outperform students from all backgrounds at TUSD. They also have a very high college-going rate. Research by Dr. Augustine Romero, former director of Raza Studies, confirms this phenomenal success.

Apparently, facts are of no concern to Horne. Only the nation’s foundational myths/legends are important. This includes, as he told the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation in 2007, the Greco-Roman roots of Western Civilization.

Lecia J. Brooks, Director of the Civil Rights Memorial Center and Teaching Tolerance at the Southern Poverty Law Center – the nation’s premier organization that tracks hate – says: “The teaching of so-called “individualism” is but another example of Western European cultural dominance. This is madness. Educators everywhere should declare in one voice: culturally relevant pedagogy actually improves instruction for all students—that is, if they’re allowed access to it.”

Horne’s objective sounds not like sound educational policy that encourages critical thinking, but rather, hyper-U.S. nationalism or nationalized mind control.

As University of Arizona 1st year student Pricila Rodriguez, a Raza Studies alum from Tucson High also reminds us, “people that insist that taxpayer money should not be used for ethnic studies forget that we are taxpayers too.”

* On June 27-29, supporters of ethnic studies will walk/march run through the desert from Tucson to Phoenix to show their opposition to this bill.

Rodriguez, assistant professor at the University of Arizona, can be reached at:

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