July 5, 2010

New Arizona Ban on Ethnicity-focused Classes Proves Western Egocentrism

The SB 1070 law which reduces state financing for any schools which “offer classes designed primarily for students of particular ethnic groups and/or advocate ethnic solidarity” is hoping to prevent people within ethnic groups from creating strong bonds with each other and neglecting everybody else. Families whose children have understood their identities through association with their ethnic group are frustrated. Tom Horne, the state superintendent of public instruction, said in justification of the law “My point of view is that these kids’ parents and grandparents came, mostly legally, because this is the land of opportunity, and we should teach them that if they work hard, they can accomplish anything,” implying that if ethnic groups associate with their own culture rather than assimilate into American culture that they will have less of a chance at upward social mobility. Indicating that more opportunities are afforded to those that have adopted social norms sets into place a cultural hierarchy.

Horne also defines these ethnic classes as “chauvinistic” which is ironic because the non-ethnic classes are taught using Western methodologies for understanding the world and promote American patriotism. The SB 1070 law is built off the premise that the ethnic classes are promoting the solidarity of certain groups of people rather than unity, but by not allowing children to learn about their cultural heritage and teaching them to adopt Western ways of life they are forcing them to neglect the beliefs of their family in exchange for just another set of beliefs deemed superior in our society. Because some of the public high schools in Arizona are over half Mexican, in theory, if the idea was to increase understanding and awareness then all the students should be forced to learn about Mexican-American culture. This shows that Governor Brewer did not like she said sign the bill because she 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,” but because she hopes to minimize racism by teaching non-white, non-American students how to act in accordance with Western norms so they are less easily ostracized.

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