Many of my past posts have discussed my background as a middle school teacher and my passion for education. People are constantly telling me that I should go back to teaching since I can’t seem to get it off my mind. And sometimes, I think they are right. Maybe I will swallow the lack of job security and insanely reduced budgets to give Phoenix students what they deserve.
And them something comes along that reminds me why I got out of teaching to begin with.
Today a story in the Arizona Republic discussed how Superintendent Tom Horne is pushing a ban on “ethnic” classes in Tucson schools. Direct quote:
“The job of the public schools is to develop the student’s identity as Americans and as strong individuals,” Horne said. “It’s not the job of the public schools to promote ethnic chauvinism.”
How exactly are public schools supposed to go about developing a student’s identity as an “American”? The American identity is a mix of ethnicitys and immigrants. Our differences are what the “American Dream” was built on…that any person of any background could come to the United States and make something of themselves. And shouldn’t developing our students into “strong individuals” involve creating open minds and encouraging a world view?
As a former history teacher, I’m developing in my mind what a year-long class would look like if I was given the task of “developing my student’s identities as Americans”. Let’s see…racial intolerance and genocide, repression of women’s rights, imperialism, a hegemonic obsession leading to irrelevant wars…need I go on?
I’m not saying there isn’t another side to this. There is a reason to teach about all the aforementioned themes. The next generation must learn from the previous to avoid their mistakes. Lessons on American history and “culture” (if there is such a thing) should not be sacrificed for a guilty need to pay reparations through programs like Black History month (which seem to have become a joke in most schools). What should occur is a genuine exploration of other cultures, their identities, and how these characteristics fit into our own lives. These classes being threatened are not some half-handed approach. They don’t give lip service to “culture diversity”. They find real connections that improve student’s education. Case and point:
“Data collected since 2002 by the Tucson School Distict show students who attend the courses perform better on AIMS, the state’s standardized test, than students who do not attend the courses. That fulfills the goal of No Child Left Behind, which is to raise student achievement among minority students.”
If these programs disappear, much needed state funding goes with it. Shouldn’t Tom Horne be focusing on the real problem of finding ways to provide quality education with 1/3 of a budget?