Last week, Patricia Wiliams, a writer for the UK newspaper the Guardian wrote about Arizona politics. That’s a surprise. And strange. Why’re Arizonan politics on it and the UK’s radar? Well, she writes about America-centric subjects. But it’s also because the prospect of a state, Arizona, nixing whole subjects or specialties, ethnic studies, from public school curricula is strange and off-putting; truly, put bluntly, it’s frightening.
In December, its lawmakers passed a law where Arizona can ban classes, with their anti-ethnic studies law, HB2281, is trying to ban classes that’ll sew division or dissent. What kind of dissent scares them?
Here are the bill’s prohibitions; it bans any curricula that:
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.
4. Advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.
Most people say that they hate censorship, or at least, that it’s bad. The idea of banning or burning books frightens and anger many people. Those books tend to push tradition hot buttons; and young, impressionable people to consider ideas that push their boundaries in a broad range of ways. Those books challenge the mainstream mindset, and are often in dispute in junior high and high school lesson plans.
This law clashes with the individualism and independence, which Americans often celebrate and say distinguishes our society from those, which are uncivilized. Pres. Reagan is revered for having warned us about the consequences of being disagreeable toward one another while we disagree. Banning whole academic subjects is disagreeable.
To create a law that bans those classes, which many moderate- and progressive-minded people consider good and, well, progressive, sounds like a 21st Century take on a tactic, which 20th Century Southern activists used against agitators. We need to ban activities that provoke trouble.
In April, The Root made an interesting point about those fans of that bill, who criticize ethnic scholarship after having read the theses or dissertations’ titles, but not the content.
Conservative people routinely praise the virtues and values of college degrees, most people with those degrees would, in addition, praise the capacity for and interest in independent, critical and creative thinking. Yet, from the manner in which this bill was written, those who wrote this have an inconsistent grasp of these skills. That seems to be a common streak in those who yearn to prohibit either actions or information, whether it is books, ideas, movies, etc.
Why won’t Anglo- or America-oriented classes, which praise Anglo-Saxon foundations of American history and cultural sensibilities breed a similar although different sort of dissent among Arizonans? Aren’t the core and mainstream classes simply specific to the majority culture? You assume that core classes are themselves ethnocentric, with a bias toward and emphasis on Anglo culture and sensibilities. They will have to be banned, too.
I believe that this is the operative question: which community’s resentment or dissent do they fear?