Monday, January 31, 2011

(PTL) Banning Ethnic Studies in Arizona


  1. My question here is: "Does the government overstep its bounds when it passes a law that forbids the teaching of anti-government policy?"
    At first it seems to be as simple as an attack on free speech and the right to education in all subjects, but if the law is enacted in public schools, is that just one government system using another to protect each other? I mean, there would be no public schools, as we know them now, without the government, so isn't it in some way counterproductive for a government to teach students how to overthrow itself?
    Although I feel the classes should be allowed, I also understand how they don't make much sense to have in the first place.
    This dodged the original point of the article, but the fine print of the law was what really stuck out to me.

  2. Of course, the point of the article is to suggest that a multicultural outlook/curriculum is, or ought to be, central to American democracy and universal education, rather than, as its mindless critics in AZ maintain, a sinister plot to undermine the system.

    But your question remains interesting. I suppose the answer will depend on how we parse "anti-governmental." While the US Constitution, unlike the Declaration of Independence, expressly forbids certain acts (sedition/treason), a vibrant democracy will invariably engender (and allow) dissent, even radically unpopular criticism of the status quo which some may see as "anti-governmental."

  3. Jonathan Yardley of the Washington Post recently reviewed a young historian's book on the Louisiana slave uprising ( Though I haven't yet read the book, I thought Yardley's piece was a snarky, niggling essay, the culminating point of which is that historians shouldn't say "partisan" things, such as mentioning our nation's imperial expansion. This little visit from the thought police (political correctness at it's most insidious) indicates, I suspect, what the real impact of a prohibition on teaching "anti-government policy" would be in practice: censorship, and creeping self-censorship, of anything that might be construed as criticism of the nation or its past, regardless of whether the criticism is deserved.

    A citizen of a genuinely great nation would receive active encouragement in its schools to discuss, openly and rationally, the merits and limitations of the nation itself, particular actions or policies, and the means (not always gentle) by which it has improved itself historically. By what principle would a nation that did not do this claim legitimacy to govern?

  4. "Might makes right" is the only alternative I can think of.