Most ethnic studies programs in public schools are at best a waste of taxpayer money, and at worst racially and ethnically divisive indoctrination. But the goal shouldn't be just getting rid of these programs, which a controversial new bill passed by the Arizona legislature attempts to do, but ensuring that public schools give all students a firm grounding in American history, culture, and government.
The impetus for the Arizona bill is a program used in the Tucson Unified School District that provides ethnic studies courses for Hispanics, blacks, Asians, and Native Americans. Critics of the program claim that the courses, especially those aimed at Mexican Americans, have become forums for political propaganda. And the school district's own website provides evidence the critics are right.
Among the goals listed for the Mexican American Studies program are the following: "Advocating for and providing curriculum that is centered within the pursuit of social justice. ... Working towards the invoking of a critical consciousness within each and every student. ... Providing and promoting teacher education that is centered within Critical Pedagogy, Latino Critical Race Pedagogy, and Authentic Caring."
The idea of the public schools promoting "race pedagogy" of any sort should send shivers down the spine -- and is there such a thing as "inauthentic" caring, whose antidote this program pretends to be?
Programs like Tucson's have been around since the 1960s, starting first in colleges and universities and, later, adopted in public school curricula. Afrocentric education was all the rage in the 1990s in public schools from Portland, Ore., to Prince George's County, Maryland. The study guides used in those programs were not just racially incendiary but downright kooky, claiming, for example, that absence of melanin in the skin made whites more likely to become sexual deviants.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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