United Non-discriminatory Individuals Demanding Our Studies (UNIDOS), a new youth coalition of Arizona high school students and community members with a mission is to protect ethnic studies and promote diversity and justice in education, announced a press conference that will take place tomorrow, at Tucson Unified School District Headquarters. UNIDOS was created in response to HB 2281, an Arizona bill from spring 2010 that aims to eliminate ethnic studies programs in the state.
According to MotherJones.com, a website specializing in investigative, political, and social justice reporting, HB 2281 prohibits schools from offering courses at any grade level that “advocate ethnic solidarity, promote overthrow of the US government, or cater to specific ethnic groups”, and requires the dismantlement of all Arizona’s Mexican-American studies programs.
The bill was approved largely because of State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne's bias against the Tucson Unified School District's Chicano studies program, MotherJones.com charged. According to the New York Times, Horne’s crusade against ethnic studies goes back to 2007, when Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers, told high school students that Republicans hated Latinos. Horne was outraged. Result: The school districts will lose 10 percent of their state education funds if their ethnic studies programs are found not to comply with new law.
"Traditionally, the American public school system has brought together students from different backgrounds and taught them to be Americans and to treat each other as individuals, and not on the basis of their ethnic backgrounds," Horne stated in an April press release quoted by MotherJones.com. "This is consistent with the fundamental American value that we are all individuals, not exemplars of whatever ethnic groups we were born into. Ethnic studies programs teach the opposite, and are designed to promote ethnic chauvinism." To the Native ear, this blunt blindness to one's "ethnic backgrounds" sounds sadly familiar: this is exactly the tune to which American Indians lost much of their land and their cultural inheritance.
International envoys seem to agree that the new legislation is alarming. United Nations Human Rights blog, a group of UN human rights experts serious concern over the new legislation: “Such law and attitude are at odds with the State’s responsibility to respect the right of everyone to have access to his or her own cultural and linguistic heritage and to participate in cultural life. Everyone has the right to seek and develop cultural knowledge and to know and understand his or her own culture and that of others through education and information.”
On the agenda of the upcoming UNIDOS press conference: A demand to meet with the Governing Board of the Tucson Unified School District, in order to save ethnic studies programs. Members of the coalition insist that the TUSD Governing Board, the State Board of Education and the State of Arizona should "act in accordance to human rights law".