Is Arizona trying to whitewash history?
This week Arizona’s Governor Jan Brewer signed a law forbidding the teaching of ethnic studies in the state’s public schools. The law would dismantle popular programs in Tucson classrooms that expose students to Mexican American history and culture.
The Tucson Unified School District’s website states the curriculum’s goal is to instill “respect, understanding, appreciation, inclusion, and love” among its students. But Tom Horne, the state’s Republican superintendent of schools who pushed the law and is running for office to become Attorney General, says letting blacks learn about African American history or offering Latino studies to Spanish-speaking youth fosters “ethnic chauvinism.”
By the same logic, learning about the Holocaust promotes anti-semitism.
Frankly, I wish I’d learned more non-European history back when I was in the public schools. Lately, I’ve been reading a book titled Latinos: A Biography of the People by Earl Shorris, which has filled in some big gaps in my appreciation of the Hispanic contribution to America’s present and past.
For instance, did you know Santa Fe was settled in 1598 by Juan de Onate, before Jamestown in Virginia or the Pilgrims reached Plymouth? (Reminding me of Will Roger’s quip that, while his ancestors didn’t come over on the Mayflower, they were on the shore to greet the ship’s passengers as they disembarked.)
Did you know that California passed a statute in 1856 that was actually called “the Greaser law” aimed at unsettling the already-established Spanish-speaking population?
Were you aware that a demand for “English only” education would eliminate hundreds of Spanish words from the North American vocabulary that are in daily use, words like tomato, cigar, hurricane, coyote, and plaza?
Ethnic studies don’t propagate hate. Racism does. And unfortunately, Arizona (which was first explored by Spanish Franciscans in 1539 but didn’t join the United States until 1912) is rapidly becoming the new Mississippi.