My East Coast friends often ask how I can live in Arizona. Good question. Sunshine helps a lot. Here’s the latest controversy — ethnic studies/book censorship. In the wake of this uproar there’s actually a Tucson Republican lawmaker who wants to allow the Bible to be taught as an elective in high school. “State Rep. Terri Proud said that the concept is gaining support among her colleagues in the House.”
Well, yeah, these are the folks who brought us SB 1070 and a bill to allow weapons on college campuses, which thankfully, even Gov. Jan Brewer had the foresight to veto. These are the folks who saw fit to make Arizona proud by naming a state gun — even after the shooting rampage in Tucson last Jan. 8 — while slashing funds for mental health services.
Tucson is different than the rest of Arizona, I tell my East Coast friends. John Pedicone, Tucson Unified School District’s superintendent says legislation to allow a Bible elective “strikes him as an unnecessary bill.” Democratic Rep. Steve Farley opined that maybe students should have “some fundamental knowledge of the Quran as well.” Proud responded that the Quran “hasn’t influenced Western culture the way the Bible has.” Yesterday’s Arizona Daily Star’s editorial made the case for real legislative concerns.
Shutting down TUSD’s ethnic studies program came from state government. Education was in the local domain last time I checked. But so-called conservatives in Phoenix stuck their nose into Tucson’s business. Aren’t conservatives supposed to be about limiting the long arm of government, or does that only apply to what they don’t like?
When have students protested en masse when a course has been taken away? They did for the TUSD ethnic studies program. Education is always about wheeling a “little pushcart” into the classroom, “offering my wares along with the others, leaving students to make their own choices,” as the late historian Howard Zinn wrote in his autobiography, “You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train.” (I’ve probably used this quote before; I’m glad to repeat it).
Education is not about imposing — or disallowing — ideas in the classroom. And that should be true for the Bible or Quran, which are already included in the study of religious systems in European History classes.
Why are options, different perspectives and ideas so scary? What are people so afraid of in Phoenix, or for that matter, everywhere?