COMMENTARY | Arizona education officials are being accused of racism for cutting courses and banning textbooks from the Mexican-American Studies program, according to Yahoo! Shine. If the class truly supported ethnic diversity by teaching unbiased material about another culture, the courses should be reinstated. But if the course encourages racism and fosters bigotry, it violates the law and should not be a part of a public school curriculum.
The Arizona state superintendent of schools determined last week that the Chicano history and literature classes encouraged racial unrest and violated a state law prohibiting courses promoting resentment or are designed solely for a specific ethnic group. While protestors outside the school waving banners are angry about the elimination of the Latino instructional classes, they are dismissing a valuable part of the curriculum debate. The law protects students of all races from attending classes in an educational environment which allows one race to be placed above another.
A class only about white history should be equally offensive to those who believe in an ethical and well-rounded education. Unless the school district also offers history courses specifically designed to teach black history, Asian history and women's studies, there is an inherent bias in permitting the Chicano history and literature courses to continue at the Tucson Unified School District. One books used in the class, "Pedagogy of the Oppressed" by Paolo Freire notes a racial solidarity tone prohibited by state law.
Tucson's director of Mexican American Studies program feels that the school district caved into pressure from a racist state legislature, according to the Los Angeles Times. If the school continued to violate the anti-discrimination state law, they would face a penalty of $15 million. The school district appealed the Arizona Superintendent of school John Huppenthal's mandate to terminate the classes, but the decision was upheld in court, according to Shine.
Terminating the Chicano specific courses does not mean an end to educating students about local, state and national achievements by Mexican Americans. Traditional history classes or short courses focusing on specific historic periods or topics could include detailed lessons about a variety or minority groups. For decades history textbooks were very lax in relaying anything about the contributions of women and minorities. Supplemental reading material and research assignments can enhance the formal text and offer a deeper appreciation for all minority groups which help build and shape this great nation.