An Arizona bill that would ban ethnic studies and social justice classes at state universities revives an enduring – and increasingly partisan – debate about what it means for the US to be a multicultural nation.
Published Jan. 17, 2017
LOS ANGELES—Before she went to college, Felina Rodriguez knew little about her Mexican heritage.
Her awareness of the role Mexico and Mexican-Americans played in the United States’ rise as a nation came mainly from high school history classes that, she says, glossed over the Mexican communities of the Southwest in the 1800s, and the Chicano civil rights movement of the 1960s.
“Teachers would only say one sentence about it,” says Ms. Rodriguez, who grew up in Tucson, Ariz.
Only when she started taking courses on Mexican cinema, literature, and history at Arizona State University (ASU) did she begin to understand her ethnic culture’s place in the American story, Rodriguez says.
So when Arizona lawmakers on Friday introduced a bill that would expand restrictions on ethnic studies programs at state universities and community colleges, Rodriguez was upset.
“We need courses like these,” she says. “They help me be more able to understand how I came to be in the US from a long historical perspective. They helped me realize that it’s OK to be a combination of two cultures.”