Defend Arizona’s Education Law


Over there in Arizona they probably bit more than they can chew. Bless them for their courage. While the rest of us meticulously hold our noses and point fingers and throws the ball into the future for someone else to line up, the Arizonans face issues head-on. First the law on immigration and now the law against education monoethnic studies. You can support or deplore their positions, but in any case ask yourself the following question: what has your state done to resolve these problems?

Arizona Superintendent of Education Tom Horne drafted the law to “ban ethnic studies,” to use the short form of those who oppose the initiative, and Gov. Jan Brewer passed it. this Tuesday, May 11. For his suffering, Tom Horne has endured a nationwide, misrepresentation and race-based abuse. A quick reminder first: Horne is said to have said he opposed courses that “promote the overthrow of the US government”, teach that “Republicans hate Latinos”, and generally incite ethnic division through books with titles like Occupied America: A History of the Chicanos.

In a legally vague but otherwise rather convincing expression, the bill bans education that “promotes ethnic solidarity rather than treating students as individuals.” He was the formidably intellectual literary editor of New Republic, Léon Wieselthier, who once said that a “multicultural society should produce multicultural individuals”. Chicano education classes do no such thing. Indeed, sad to say, multicultural societies tend to produce monocultural enclaves, united, if at all, in the endless struggle to empower their own species.

It’s certainly true that Arizona’s law will target both intentionally and effectively Mexican children taking Mexican or Latino classes – tangible evidence of anti-ethnic, if not racist, bigotry, critics say. . Never mind that the forbidden courses can be accused of this. No, in various interviews Horn has gone to great lengths to emphasize that he is fully supportive of a variety of taught cultures, but just not in the spirit of resentment or grievance. Doesn’t that automatically censor the story of injustice towards, say, Native Americans or African Americans? Ah, this is where the shoe pinches, because it rather depends on what clings to the historical facts. That is, it all depends on whether you teach history or politics, or, in other words, use history to underpin a political agenda. If so, the state should absolutely demand that opposing views be included. Namely, for example, that the history of this country undeniably included problems of race, but also of triumphs to overcome them. Exhibit 1: the president.

There is another not-so-minimal problem that we’re never supposed to mention in discussions like this. As we praise and empower minority cultures for their dynamism, when can we (or are they) highlight their shortcomings? Here’s what happens: Minority culturati blame their flaws entirely on the mainstream culture and get a free pass on flaws in their own tradition. Imagine the Chicanos, in today’s education climate, learning Mexican history and US history in tandem. Which would be taught with more self-criticism? What deserves to be taught with more self-criticism? Which would probably contain the greatest amount of truth and transparency? It could be pointed out that the grievances of the Chicanos in America do not come from the country they have chosen to inhabit, but from the one they have chosen to leave. How insulting to assume that minorities are to be pampered and infantilized with ethnic cheerleaders as a substitute for knowledge.

We are doing minorities a disservice when we teach them the doctrine of their own cultural infallibility. Too often we put them on a dangerous path. Consider the alleged Times Square car bomb. He was apparently motivated by ethnic sympathy for his fellow Pashtuns – in fact Taliban sympathizers – killed by US forces during the war in Afghanistan. Did anyone, at some point, educate him in the bloody history of the Pashtun tribes of the Pakistan-Pakistan region – how many of their ilk have they killed over the centuries in the intra-Pashtun wars , not to mention the largely Pashtun war? The Taliban rule over Afghanistan in the 1990s? What about their treatment of women through the ages to the present day? What about the Chicano treatment of women? Ethnic minorities who resent America might be less inclined to take action if they had a clearer idea of ​​how their own cultures had failed them in the first place.

I will cite, if I may, another example from my own experience of how minority chauvinism can be dangerously self-destructive. Strangely enough, in the mid-1980s I wrote a column in the Voice of the village. I was idealistic and young – in my early twenties – and quite handsome in tight jeans. I got a lot of attention from the gay staff members who were kind enough to spend time, despite my heterosexual beliefs, advising me on editorial matters. I suggested to the most experienced editor on gay subjects to go undercover in the “gay baths” and “backrooms” (as such places were called) to chronicle the grim scenes of daily worship that took place. take place there. “No,” he said, “that would be disastrous for gays. It has taken too long for us to gain the empowerment we have. At that time, New Yorkers and indeed the country in its own right. All already knew that AIDS was sexually transmitted, but for the leading pro-gay publication of the time, the danger of gay men infecting and killing each other was less important than the dangers of self-publication.

I say none of this in the spirit of a deplorable “ism” or narrow-minded prejudice. Rather the opposite. A country centered on the minority is ultimately a country without a greater center to which one can aspire or assimilate. It is a country where one is forced to fall back, without hope of expansion, on the narrow culture of its identity group. Finally, it is a country which imports all the problems of the world without having the courage to identify them sincerely.

Melik Kaylan, a New York-based writer, writes a weekly column for Forbes. His story “Georgia in the time of Misha” is presented in The Best American Travel Report 2008.

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