1. Mount a legal challenge to it.

I am no legal expert but common sense and a historical perspective make me suspect that the right of a state school board to dictate what should or should not be taught in local schools may be a legal principle that has been reaffirmed several times. However the right to exclude a class or group of Americans from the curriculum may indeed provide grounds for a legal challenge.  Here I would defer to those who have more knowledge and experience of the legal system. Whether it does or not I hope that this law gets challenged in court like the Arizona anti-immigrant law.  At the very least this court case would provide a valuable educational forum for a debate. Is this a case where local or community rights supersede state rights? Do state laws supersede federal laws or constitutional rights in the fourteenth amendment for example? I would hope that civil liberties groups might take up this issue  or that other organizations might see in this a threat to the ethnic minorities and provide free or low costs legal services or at the very least raise money for a legal challenge.

2. Use this as an occasion to organize, organize, organize.

Organize for political action.  Whether it is to punish those who voted for this law, help those who opposed it or to run new candidates more respectful and sympathetic to the educational needs of the local community. The law gives the power to the local school boards to enforce its dictates.  Pay more attention to who is on those school boards. Run and support candidates who will interpret the law liberally. It may seem difficult to get those who are scrambling to make a living or support a family to care about and participate in local politics, but it is the lack of a political voice that allows these people to run roughshod over minority communities.  This needs to be treated as a new civil rights movement that counters the conservative swing in politics.

Organize for community action. There is no reason that all education has to take place inside concrete school buildings that hold children prisoner for five or six hours a day.  If that school system is failing our children by either not effectively teaching anything from basics to community culture or by presenting things in a way that prevents students from learning, the community needs to do something about it.  It may take the form of more participation in our children’s education, informal mentoring, providing opportunities to learn at home or outside of school (like cultural festivals or exhibits) and even working to form charter schools.   The process of organizing can itself bring communities together.

3. Use the digital realm.

There is indeed something of a digital divide in which  language,  class and lack of experience or knowledge prevents some ethnic communities from participating in the computer age. The younger generation however is becoming well versed in the electronic age with access to video games, cell phone technology and the coming of TV’s with internet access built in. The challenge is to find new ways to use these media that is both more entertaining and educational than school. One of the advantages of the digital realm is that it networks with people not only within but beyond the local community.  Within the community one can use the digital realm to socially network people for the organizing mentioned in point 2 as well as spread information quickly and far. It also provides an opportunity to avoid being constrained by the legal strictures imposed by this law.  The truth is indeed out there and in this day and age attempts to limit access to it are silly and futile.  Even if the truth about an ethnic group, its relation to mainstream society and its culture are not taught in school it will be available somewhere on the web. Students elsewhere whether in secondary schools or colleges can produce materials that are available for anyone. Giving students and their community a hand in their own education outside of school changes education from a passive to an active activity, helps a community better appreciate and value education, and brings people from all over the world into the community if only virtually. We are on the verge of having the infrastructure for this available even to the smallest and poorest communities. Public computers are now available in libraries and some schools, mobile phones are everywhere and we will soon have computers inside our televisions. We need to take advantage of this changing world.

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One Response to “What progressives should do about the Arizona Anti-ethnic studies law”

  1. […] News that Arizona has censured its first public school ethnic studies program has prompted me to write about it.  I first did so in this blog about a year ago. […]


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