12 May 2010

Arizona: "We're all individuals!"

For a while I've been trying to give the state of Arizona the benefit of the doubt regarding its treatment of Hispanics. I did not believe that the measures for stricter surveillance of possible illegal aliens demonstrated hatred for Hispanics, though in original form the legislation did appear to mandate racial profiling. Now, however, the governor has signed into law a bill banning ethnic-studies programs in Arizona public schools. This legislation is reportedly aimed at a program in the Tucson school district that allegedly indoctrinates minorities into thinking themselves oppressed. The bill does not forbid the teaching of controversial topics, but seeks to regulate the context in which these subjects are taught. No class should "promote resentment toward a race or class of people." An admirable sentiment until you recall the thin-skinnedness of white Americans when it comes to this country's history. Too many of my fellow Caucasians resent any open airing of past injustices, thinking that it is brought up only to make people hate America. That makes me question how resentment will be identified. Some reactionaries will assume instantly that a curriculum that pulls no punches on racism and bigotry must automatically promote resentment. That assumption sounds like guilty conscience to me, but I suspect it will have a chilling effect on attempts to teach anything besides the utopian narrative favored by knee-jerk patriots.

Meanwhile, the law also forbids courses that "advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals." Solidarity is a dirty word in reactionary circles, so this little detail doesn't surprise me. I'm surprised they didn't take advantage of the opportunity to forbid "class solidarity" as well. Again, it's most likely that "ethnic solidarity" will be identified in the eye of a hostile if not prejudicial beholder. I'm not unconditionally promoting ethnic solidarity as opposed to other loyalties, but when the only alternative suggested isn't even patriotism but an inevitably ideological individualism, it should be obvious that one form of alleged indoctrination is being replaced by another through this legislation. Maybe public education automatically involves some kind of indoctrination; given the purpose of creating citizens, indoctrination may be an inescapable imperative. If so, let people make an informed choice of the kind of indoctrination they want. Don't say one thing is indoctrination and another of the same kind isn't. That's your lesson for today.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"I want to be different like everybody else."