Controlling — and opening — minds in Arizona

Ethnic studies end in Arizona on Jan. 1. The conservative state legislature is really calling for an end to teaching about social justice. What the hell. It’s OK to teach about a genocide relating to one ethnic group, such as the Holocaust, but not about its relationship to other genocides.

Isn’t a major goal of studying genocide figuring out how to stop it from happening again? Will ignoring the history of genocide move us in that direction?

The wacko state legislature also wants to end campus gun bans. “If an assailant comes into a classroom with intent to do harm, it’s minimized by a law-abiding citizen that’s allowed to carry (a weapon) concealed,” says Sen. Jack Harper, R-Surprise.

That’s right, we’re going to trust that more Arizonans “carrying” will protect us. The initial vigilantes will be “qualified” faculty on university and community college campuses, but Harper also aims to qualify certain students as wild westerners in the future.  A return to vigilante law to herd off a possible attack?

The fears of police chiefs are unwarranted, says the legislator. Oh really? I’m not sure how many students have been murdered on Arizona college campuses, but I don’t think more people carrying guns will help.

So the state legislature raises the paranoia level.

With Arizona racing to the bottom of spending on public education (they’re nearly there at #49), I understand why parents choose to send their kids to private schools — if they’re lucky enough to afford them.

Expansive learning opportunities are plentiful at local private schools or a few of the charter schools where the legislature doesn’t institute its obsessive fears.

After a hiatus of six years, I’ll be returning to teaching starting next week. The Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona’s Hebrew High is offering an exemplary program to teens: “A Commitment to Remember.”

Local Holocaust survivors will tell their stories to a small group of high school students, who will commit to sharing the survivors’ stories through 2045 (100 years after the end of World War II) and beyond.

Students will keep journals, interview survivors and discuss what they’ve learned.  Their questions, epiphanies and the survivors’ historical testimonies will be presented at the public Yom HaShoah commemoration on Sunday, May 1 from 2 to 4 p.m. at Congregation Anshei Israel, 5550 E. Fifth Street.

Now that’s education.

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