Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has again stirred the ire of civil rights proponents with her recent signing into law of a bill that prohibits ethnic studies classes that advocate ethnic solidarity, and which are designed mainly for students of a particular race or promote resentment toward a certain ethnic group.
The bill targets a program offered by the Tucson Unified School District, which enrolls about 1,500 of that city’s Latino students. In addition to its Mexican-American curriculum, the program offers specialized courses in African-American and Native-American studies with what some state officials called an anti-White slant on history and literature.
Program advocates countered that the classes have nothing to do with promoting resentment toward Whites and that the classes are open to all students, regardless of ethnic backgrounds.
State schools chief Tom Horne said he believes the program teaches Latino students that they are oppressed by Whites. Horne, a Republican who had pushed for the measure, added that the program promotes ethnic chauvinism as well as racial divisiveness and resentment toward Whites.
According to Horne, public schools should not encourage students to look unfavorably upon any particular race.
A spokesman for Brewer told the Associated Press that the governor “believes public school students should be taught to treat and value each other as individuals and not be taught to resent or hate other races or classes of people.”
Brewer had previously spawned widespread controversy by signing off on a law that cracks down on illegal immigration and which critics say fosters the racial profiling of Hispanics.
She signed the latest measure into law on May 11 despite condemnation by United Nations human rights experts.
According to the AP, hours before the bill was signed into law, six such experts released a statement saying all people have the right to learn about their own cultural and linguistic heritage.
The bill goes into effect on December 31. Schools have the right to appeal the law and maintain the ethnic studies programs. However, if implemented, districts that fail to comply with the law face losing up to 10 percent of their monthly state funding.