Another Tempest in Arizona

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?

This entry was posted in Bopping Around Tucson, Fight wimpiness, Politics and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Another Tempest in Arizona

  1. Sharon Osborne says:

    Very well said, Sheila. And that IS the question: What are people so afraid of? And WHY?
    I didn’t get whether the ethnic studies program has actually been taken away or not. Was that in an earlier blog? If so, I hope the student protest got it restored. Sharon O.

  2. sheilawill says:

    Democracy Now! Daily News Digest
    January 18, 2012
    Debating Tucson School District’s Book Ban After Suspension of Mexican American Studies Program
    Public school officials in Tucson, Arizona, have released a list of seven banned books that can no longer be used in classrooms following their suspension of the district’s acclaimed Mexican American Studies program. Last year, Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal ruled the program violated a new state law, saying it “promote[s] resentment toward a race or class of people.” We host a debate between Huppenthal and Richard Martinez, the attorney representing teachers and students trying to save the Mexican American Studies program. Watch/Listen/Read

    Sharon, the program has been ditched by the state, the guys in Phoenix. To find out more check out the above Democracy Now! show or go to my links in the post.

  3. Phyl Brazee says:

    Some people fear losing their (illusory) power “over” others…in a highly competitive society. They most likely have no experience with a collaborative community and the synergy that such a structure can bring to EVERYONE!

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