Arizona Superintendent Horne Defends State's New Ethnic Studies Law

Isn't this lovely? Another day, another Arizona Republican trying to score points political points from exploiting the racial tensions in that state.
up

Isn't this lovely? Another day, another Arizona Republican trying to score points political points from exploiting the racial tensions in that state. Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne defended the new law to CNN's Anderson Cooper. Here's more from the HuffPo.

Arizona Ethnic Studies Law Signed By Governor Brewer, Condemned By UN Human Rights Experts:

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed a bill targeting a school district's ethnic studies program on Tuesday, hours after a report by United Nations human rights experts condemned the measure.

State schools chief Tom Horne, who has pushed the measure for years, said a Tucson school district program promotes "ethnic chauvinism" and racial resentment toward whites while segregating students by race.

"It's just like the old South, and it's long past time that we prohibited it," Horne said.

The measure prohibits classes that advocate ethnic solidarity, that are designed primarily for students of a particular race or that promote resentment toward a certain ethnic group. It also prohibits classes that promote the overthrow of the U.S. government.

The Tucson Unified School District program offers specialized courses in African-American, Mexican-American and Native-American studies that focus on history and literature and include information about the influence of a particular ethnic group.

...A Republican running for attorney general, Horne has been trying to restrict the program ever since he learned that Hispanic civil rights activist Dolores Huerta in 2006 told students that "Republicans hate Latinos."

Here's Tom Horne's exploratory site for his run for AG. This guy looks like Lou Dobbs' long-lost brother who's hoping his stance on this is going to elevate him to higher office.

Transcript via CNN below the fold.

COOPER: All right, let's dig deeper now in this fight over ethnic studies with Tom Horne -- Horne, who we mentioned ago -- a moment ago, also sociologist Michael Eric Dyson, who teaches, of course, on race and ethnicity at Georgetown University.

Appreciate both of you being with us.

Tom, why shouldn't black literature, Chicano literature, specific courses designed to introduce kids to other point of views, be taught?

TOM HORNE, ARIZONA SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC EDUCATION: Well, the standards that we promulgate require that all social studies classes teach different cultures. We want all kids to be exposed to a lot of different cultures.

But what I'm opposed is dividing kids up, so they have raza studies for the Chicano kids -- raza means "the race" in Spanish -- African-American studies for the African-American kids, Asian studies for the Asian kids.

COOPER: But what's wrong with that? If -- if -- if an African- American kid wants a class that has a focus on African-American studies, what's wrong with that? HORNE: What's wrong with it is that it divides students up by race.

And I believe that one of the principal ideas of the American public school system is, we bring kids together and we teach them to treat each others as individuals. What matters about a person is, what does he know, what can he do, what's his character or hers, not what race was he born into.

And one of our important functions is to teach kids, kids from different backgrounds, to treat each other as individuals, and not to -- not to infuse them with ethnic chauvinism about a particular race, and teach them narrowly just about the background and culture of the race that they happened to have been born into, but to teach them about all different cultures and different races and different traditions, and not divide them up by race. That -- I think that's really backwards.

COOPER: Michael, you have taught a course like this at Georgetown. Mr. Horne's basically saying, look, these classes are teaching these kids that they had been oppressed and that it creates anger and hatred, he said.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, PROFESSOR, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: Well, it's ironic, to me, first of all, Mr. Horne doesn't see the contradiction in terms, because he has targeted this law towards Chicana studies. So, he's targeted a special racial subgroup, an ethnic group within the large panoply of American identities for this program.

Number two, what's interesting is that ethnic studies are rife in American history. But the ethnicities happen to be Polish, Irish, Italian. They happen to white, European, Western and Eastern European identities that are the basis of ethnic identity and what constitutes American history.

If there was an integration of Chicana studies, of African- American studies, of Latina studies, of gay and lesbian studies into the broader curriculum, there would be no need to have these subgroupings and these subcultural paid to these particular formations.

Thirdly, I teach classes all the time at Georgetown and before that at Penn and at DePaul University, and most of my students happened to be non -- people who are not students of color. So, they happened to be African-American, but they also happen to be Latina, Asian-Americans and white Americans.

I think that white Americans benefit from Chicana studies. I think that white Americans benefit from Latina studies. I think that white Americans benefit from African-American studies.

And, finally, if we're talking about American history and being -- shying away from the history of oppression, we're not talking about American history.

I live in Washington, D.C. Right next door, the governor of Virginia failed to mention that slavery was a critical part of the Civil War. This is why we need these area studies, to remind us the true history of America. And I think that Mr. Horne would agree that, when we tell the truth about American history the blood, the glory, the -- the hardships and all of that needs to be told, along with the great celebration of American democracy.

COOPER: Mr. Horne, a lot to respond to. I have got to take a quick break.

Gentlemen, just stay with us. We're going to continue the conversation on the other side of the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: The Republican Party today chose Tampa-Saint Petersburg, Florida, for its 2012 presidential convention, over Salt Lake City and Phoenix -- RNC Chairman Michael Steele denying that Arizona's new immigration law played a part in the decision.

Other organizations, though, making it very plain, citing the new law, the climate they say it creates, and taking business elsewhere. An African-American fraternity convention in July, an arts society conference next spring. All in all, according to the Arizona Hotel and Lodging Association, 23 meetings worth about $10 million worth in business have so far been canceled because of the immigration law.

And now this curriculum law.

Let's dig deeper, back now with Tom Horne, Arizona's superintendent of public instruction, and sociologist Michael Eric Dyson.

Tom, you said have that Chicano studies is teaching kids they have been oppressed, and it makes them angry and unruly. Hasn't there been a history of oppression, though, of ethnic groups in this country, and shouldn't kids learn that? HORNE: Well, let me say that I didn't say that. I was quoting a former teacher who said that. We have testimony from a number of teachers and former teachers about the radical separatist agenda that the raza studies program has.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Well, you did say -- you did say that, actually, in your -- in your arguments that you published as an open letter to the people of Tucson.

HORNE: Yes, I was quoting a teacher. So, it wasn't from -- I wasn't just asserting it. We had quotations from a witness that that...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: But -- but you believe that. Why do you believe that?

I mean, shouldn't -- shouldn't -- if there has been a history of oppression, which most people would say there has, why shouldn't that be taught?

HORNE: The -- the textbook that they use called "The Pedagogy of the Oppressed" by Paulo Freire, who is a well-known communist, I have read the book. The sources are Marx, Engels, Lenin, Che Guevara, the philosophers who influenced them.

And these kids' parents and grandparents came to this country, most of them legally, because this is the land of opportunity. And they trust their children to our schools. And we should be teaching these kids that this is the land of opportunity, and, if they work hard, they can achieve their dreams, and not teach them that they're oppressed.

In fact, one of the girls from the -- they sent up some of the kids from the program...

COOPER: So, is there no racism today? I mean, is there -- and is that something that should not be discussed?

HORNE: That's not the predominant atmosphere of America. America's a land of opportunity. And we should be teaching the kids that this is a land of opportunity, and not teach them the downer that they're oppressed and they can't get anywhere. They should be angry against their government. They should be angry against the country.

There's what the teachers are saying their observation is that has been going on in this raza studies program. In fact, I brought in a picture that you might want to show that shows the revolutionary garb that they wore when they protested against my law with masks, sunglasses, berets, brown shirts.

This is a revolutionary program which is an absolute abuse of taxpayer money to do that in the public schools.

COOPER: Michael...

HORNE: And we had -- there was a girl -- they sent up a bunch of students to testify at the legislature. And a girl was testifying. A state senator said, couldn't you learn these things in other courses?

And she said, no, before I took this course, I didn't realize I was oppressed. Now that I took the course, I realized that I'm oppressed.

COOPER: Michael, what about that?

DYSON: Well, this is ludicrous.

Paulo Freire, the correct pronunciation of the Brazilian philosopher, talked about the pedagogy of the oppressed, learning of people who have been oppressed. You could talk about Michel Foucault, who is a Frenchman. You could talk about Jacques Derrida.

There are many people who talk about oppression and the release from oppression and how we gain relief from it. In fact, Anderson, the history America is to seek relief from the oppression of the British, so we could establish this country.

So, we're teaching relief from oppression when we talk about the relief from the British. But, more -- more specifically, this is ludicrous to assume that the entire history and culture of a people can be reduced to responses to white supremacy, social injustice and inequality.

The reality is, we have fought those battles, but we have made America better. When Martin Luther King Jr. marched, that should be taught, not simply to African-American people, but to Americans, because he fought against the principles and practices of prejudice, so that the ideals of democracy could become real.

Cesar Chavez, when he fought for the workers' rights there in California, needs to be -- that story needs to be told, so that Americans can understand that they were histories of people who oppressed these people.

COOPER: But, Michael, when -- when -- when people see that picture of, you know, kids dressed up in khaki garb, that's going to concern some people. Why -- why should...

DYSON: Well, I -- I understand that. I don't -- I don't mind people being critical of certain aspects. But that's just like saying the Tea Party movement that's out now that has racist and vitriolic portrayals of Senator Obama -- of President Obama, should be wiped out altogether.

And I'm sure that many people say, no, there are legitimate points to be made, but those racist elements must be dealt with. I don't think that -- I understand why it would be problematic, but radical separatism has been practiced by American government, practices in terms of legal segregation.

COOPER: So...

DYSON: The most radically separatist organization in this country has been the American government. So, now we want to not deny the legitimacy of telling people the truth. We want to say, bring the truth in the open, so we can understand the greatness of this country.

But we can't do so by pretending that the ugliness did not exist.

COOPER: So, Tom, what about that?

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: I mean, are you throwing the baby out with the bathwater? Why not just try to change the curriculum?

HORNE: You know what? I was on that March on Washington in 19 -- summer of 1963 -- I had just graduated from high school -- where Martin Luther King gave his famous speech, saying, we should be judged by the quality of our character, and not the color of our skin.

And that has been my most fundamental belief my entire life, that we are individuals. We are not exemplars of the race we were born into. And this philosophy that's preached by this program in Tucson and by your other guest, that's a race-obsessed philosophy and it's a downer philosophy. Teach people that they're oppressed.

DYSON: Well, look...

HORNE: Make them angry.

DYSON: You know what?

HORNE: Make it so that they don't -- they don't have hope for their future.

DYSON: But here's the reality. Let me finish -- let me jump in.

HORNE: This is not the way to teach kids.

DYSON: Let me jump in, too.

I'm saying that it's not about -- you -- you keep saying downer. Look, it's a downer that people are oppressed, it's a downer that people are depressed. It's a downer that people suffer injustice.

HORNE: That's not what you should be teaching then.

(CROSSTALK)

DYSON: But -- hold on. But the thing is, if we don't deal with the downers, we can't deal with what is up. We have got to deal with...

(CROSSTALK)

DYSON: How many stories have we told about Benjamin Franklin? How many stories have we told about Aaron Burr? How many stories have we told about the founding fathers and brothers?

And then let's tell the truth about Thomas Jefferson, a great American. He wrote the -- the Declaration -- I mean the Declaration of Independence, but he also -- one of the authors -- but he was also a slaveholder. Let's tell the truth about the downer to Sally Hemings, and then we can tell the full truth about Thomas Jefferson and the full arc of democracy.

This kind of ostrich approach, where we deny the legitimacy...

COOPER: OK. I want Tom to be able to...

(CROSSTALK)

DYSON: ... of people...

(CROSSTALK)

DYSON: ... oppressed them. Then we get mad if they say they were oppressed. And then when they say they're part of American history, we deny them. This is a central part of American history that we need to know.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Let's let Tom respond.

I want you to be able to respond.

HORNE: Let's teach American history to all of the kids. And we can show both sides of issues when we teach history to all the kids.

But don't divide them by race and teach the black kids black history, the Chicano kids Chicano history, the Asian kids Asian history. They should all be exposed to all the history.

DYSON: Absolutely.

HORNE: And it's a race-obsessed philosophy that should be kept out of our schools that kids should be put in courses where they only learn about the history of the race they happened to have been born into. That is the wrong philosophy for the American public schools.

(CROSSTALK)

DYSON: No. No. If you have been -- if you have been demoralized and degraded, and your history has not been taught, why should we have to have a special class for Chicano studies? Why doesn't the larger curriculum... (CROSSTALK)

HORNE: We don't have to.

DYSON: Let me tell you -- deal with the -- deal with the profound and sophisticated contributions of Chicano people to American society. Once that happens... (CROSSTALK)

HORNE: We have that in our standards.

(CROSSTALK)

DYSON: Wait a minute.

(CROSSTALK)

HORNE: We have that in our standards. All the kids have to learn that.

(CROSSTALK)

DYSON: Let me finish.

Once that happens -- once that happens, then, when we integrate the full arc of the contributions of demoralized and degraded peoples into the curriculum, then we won't need that curriculum. Until that time...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: I have got to jump in here.

Tom, let me ask you, a lot of your critics say, look, this is about politics. You want to run for attorney general. You're running for attorney general. Your term is up as superintendent. Is that true; you're running for attorney general?

HORNE: Yes, I am running for attorney general. I have served eight years as superintendent of schools, and that's all that's allowed.

COOPER: So, to your critics who say this is about politics, you're basically trying to appeal to potential voters out there?

(CROSSTALK)

HORNE: I have been fighting for this law for four years. And this is among my most deeply held beliefs.

I mentioned to you being on the March on Washington, where Martin Luther King gave his speech. I have -- believe very deeply that people are individuals. They're not exemplars of the race they were born into. And this race-obsessed philosophy that your other guest is expounding...

DYSON: Sir...

HORNE: ... and what is going on in Tucson is wrong for the American public schools.

(CROSSTALK)

DYSON: It's not race-obsessed.

First of all, you repeated that same statement earlier, so it's a great line. But the reality is, Martin Luther King Jr. said, the whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundation of this nation until the Negro -- and we can add others -- are granted his full citizenship rights.

He talked about the bitter legacy of white supremacy, before he began to talk about that dream. And then he said that, in America, it's an ideal toward which we should strive, but, in the meantime, we should adjust to the reality that we have some negative realities that we should adjust to, and that we should address.

(CROSSTALK)

DYSON: And I think that Martin Luther King Jr. cannot be used to justify xenophobic and racist passions that are dressed up as desires to reform the curriculum.

HORNE: Well, I would say the xenophobia and the racism is on your side. Martin Luther King...

DYSON: No, no, no, I don't want to keep anybody out. I don't want to keep anybody out. I want to include all people.

(CROSSTALK)

DYSON: Arizona has been deeply, profoundly racist and xenophobic.

(CROSSTALK)

HORNE: No, you want to divide kids by race. You want to divide kids by race. Martin Luther King...

DYSON: No, I want -- I want white kids to learn about Chicano people. I want white kids to learn about African-American people.

(CROSSTALK)

HORNE: Martin Luther King -- Martin Luther King inspired us all by saying that we should be judged by the content of our character and not by the color of our skin. And that's what we should be teaching in our public schools.

DYSON: The night before he died, Martin Luther King Jr. said, America, all I ask you is to be true to what you said on paper.

(CROSSTALK)

HORNE: Treat people as individuals.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Wait. One at a time, because both at a time, no one's going to listen. Michael, finish up.

(CROSSTALK)

DYSON: ... African-American people and others. Now you must raise them up.

Martin Luther King Jr. cannot be taken out of context. And you can't use one speech, as if you froze him in 1963, without seeing what he said in 1968, where he was bitterly opposed to the practices of most of what America was doing in the name of freedom and democracy.

That's the tradition I think that the people in -- who support Chicano studies in Arizona are carrying forward.

COOPER: Tom, I want you to be able to respond. Then we got to go.

HORNE: OK.

It's not out of context to say that he's inspired us all with the idea that we are to be judged as individuals, what can we do, what is our character, not what race do we happen to have been born into.

Don't divide kids by race. Don't propagandize kids that they are oppressed, and they have no future, and they should be angry at this country.

COOPER: But anyone can take -- Tom, anyone can take these classes, right?

HORNE: Teach them that this is the land of opportunity -- teach them that this is the land of opportunity, where, if they work hard, they can achieve their dreams and teach them American history.

COOPER: Tom, anyone -- just for accuracy's sake, anyone can take these classes?

HORNE: Anyone can take the classes.

COOPER: OK.

HORNE: But they're designed primarily for the race, either the...

COOPER: Tom Horne...

HORNE: ... African-American...

COOPER: Got to leave it...

HORNE: ... the Chicano...

COOPER: Tom Horne, Michael Eric Dyson...

HORNE: ... the Asian, or the Indian. COOPER: ... guys, I appreciate your time. Good discussion.

DYSON: Thank you.

About Heather

Comments

We welcome relevant, respectful comments. Please refer to our Terms of Service for information on our posting policy.