Arizona Bill Targets Latino Students

James S. Wood<a href=",0,5575300.story">, For The Times / May 8, 2010/</a>

The lawmakers who helped Arizona adopt a racist immigration law are now targeting the state’s large Latino student population, the Los Angeles Times reports. A bill awaiting signature or veto from Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer would ban schools from teaching classes that advocate ethnic solidarity, promote overthrow of the US government, or cater to specific ethnic groups, putting the state’s popular “Xicano” or Chicano studies programs in jeopardy.  

Supporters of Mexican-American studies say the courses allow students to explore historical perspectives that are often ignored by academia’s mainstream, fostering ethnic pride among a frequently marginalized group. Tuscon High School literature teacher Curtis Acosta’s classroom walls are covered with posters of labor leaders Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, and his students read fiction by Luis Alberto Urrea and Junot Diaz, but this doesn’t mean his Chicano studies courses encourage ethnically motivated uprisings, Acosta told the Times. “Literature is art, man,” he said. “That’s why I love teaching it.”

Three percent of the 55,000 students in Tuscon Unified School District take Chicano studies courses, and they hail from all grade levels. Sean Arce, Tuscan’s Chicano studies program director, told the Times that lawmakers should stop trying to legislate against ethnic pride and start thinking more about closing the achievement gap between white and Latino students. “Why aren’t these legislators up in arms that we have this huge Latino population going to prison and not to higher education?” he asked. “They should be outraged about that. They should be saying, ‘What can we do to fix that?’ But they’re not.”

Brewer has until Tuesday to approve or reject HB 2281.  If she does nothing, the bill becomes law.