Mexican-American studies under threat in Tucson, Arizona

Arizona’s attorney general, Tom Horne, has declared classes in Mexican-American history and social studies to be illegal on the grounds that they are teaching students to hate white people and overthrow the government. Leaving aside all the reasons why the non-white population of the USA might hate white people – or at least the white establishment – it is very frightening to see politicians dictating what history can be taught to our children. I fear that Michael Gove is probably nodding appreciatively at this happening in Arizona 😦 Surely we have moved on from the debate about so-called ethnic history – we are all ethnic! And there has never been just one history.
Sadly the old saying about history being written by the victors now seems to be in the teaching as well.Guardian article


3 thoughts on “Mexican-American studies under threat in Tucson, Arizona

  1. I have no idea about the situation with specifically mexican-american studies (and am generally opposed to government intervention in academics), but we should bear in mind that there is a lot of nonsense going on in various x-american studies, women’s studies, and similar, before we crucify mr. Horne. I did some reading on http://www.thefire.org/ and http://durhamwonderland.blogspot.com/ a while back—and there are some scary things going on in at least some colleges. This includes not-too-rare claims that all white people are racists, that all men (Europe) or white men (US) are privileged, and that there is some sort of collective white guilt; and methods that are not compatible with academic discourse, intellectual freedom, or freedom of speech. The situation wrt women’s studies in my native Sweden is very similar (as I know from own experience and a multitude of other sources; obviously, race issues are of far lesser prominence).

    1. Hi Michael,
      Thanks for your comment. I agree wholeheartedly that there are some very disturbing things happening in colleges everywhere that would contravene freedom of speech, intellectual freedom and academic discourse. My own area is Irish Studies and women’s history and I am – sadly – all too aware that there is a real problem in some places. But my issue with AG Tom Horne is the declaration of an entire field of study to be illegal. Surely this also flies in the face of academic freedom?

      Best wishes, Tracey

      1. Hi Tracy,

        declaring an entire field illegal would be going too far. Indeed, my own take on the excesses in various “PC-studies” is that they should be countered with more critical thinking, greater strictness in methodology, better training of Ph.D. candidates, etc.—in particular, as it would be wrong to assume that all the apples in the barrel are bad. My point was rather that his general negative attitude towards the field might be justified (you seem to have made similar observations)—and it is a lesser crime to want to ban something “evil” than something “good”, even when both would limit personal or academic freedom.

        However, I have been mulling over the more general issue for a few days (thus the lengthy answer) and I find myself landing with an ethical dilemma and a reframing:

        Dilemma: If we deal with a field that has low scientific value, is dominated by ideological, concerns, whatnot, and is it self a suppressor of academic freedom, which is the lesser of two evils? To intervene, risk academic freedom, and setting a dangerous precedent—or to not intervene, still risk academic freedom, let waste of resources continue, see non-scientific results pass as science, … There may well be cases where the intervention is the lesser evil. (I am not necessarily saying that mexican-american studies would be such a case, however.)

        Reframing: If we were to ban a particular discipline, it does not automatically follow that the subject of the field’s studies is banned. If we compare e.g. astronomy and astrology, then (hypothetically) banning astrology would not imply a dislike of stars or an aversion to research on stars—on the contrary, there is a fair chance that the motivation for the ban would be related to a wish to make more room for astronomy. Similary, the question could arise whether a particular pseudo- or proto-scientific field will over time evolve into valid science or whether the slate actually needs to be swept clean for a fresh beginning. Thus, would we have banned the study of stars? Or merely one particular approach that is fundamentally flawed and a tool of charlatans?

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