Arizona’s Ban on Ethnic Studies

Over the past few years, Arizona has implemented harsh anti-immigration laws, such as Senate Bill 1070 and House Bill 2281. The SB 1070 law, signed on April 2010 by governor Jan Brewer, would essentially legalize racial profiling since it would allow authorities to stop and detain an individual they believe is undocumented. Arizona’s ban on ethnic studies, which was implemented by John Huppenthal, the superintendent of public instruction in 2011, is officially known as HB 2281. This state law prohibits public and charter schools from incorporating Mexican or Chicano studies into curriculums. In doing so schools must remove books that convey Mexican solidarity and ‘bashing’ of the United States. Law makers are specially targeting classes and courses they believe cultivates an anti-American attitude, fosters unity among ethnic groups which could potentially lead them to advocate for the overthrow of the United States government; in short, “HB 2281 bans schools from teaching classes that are designed for students of a particular ethnic group, promote resentment or advocate ethnic solidarity over treating pupils as individuals. The bill also bans classes that promote the overthrow of the U.S. government” (Santa Cruz 2010).

Though policy makers are only viewing Mexican ethnic studies as potentially harmful to the United States, in reality the program has proven to help Latino students stay in school. Dropout rates among Latinos are incredibly high, but statistics have shown that Chicano based curriculums in Arizona have dramatically decreased drop-out rates among this group; “Tucson’s ethnic studies program, created in 1998 and initially called ‘Mexican American/Raza Studies,’ has been effective in reducing dropout rates among Latino students, as well as discipline problems, poor attendance and failure rates, teachers said” (Martinez 2011). In Tucson, “about 3% of the district’s 55,000 students are enrolled in such classes;” the number of students in these classes is so few, there does not seem to be much of a threat. Yet policy makers are placing their efforts in banning these programs that so few students actually are part of. Though law makers might argue that ethnic studies are detrimental to America, high-drop out rates are more harmful to the future generations.

Similar anti-immigration laws in Arizona and Alabama, which target Latino immigrants are shown to negatively impact children of immigrants; policies are targeting their parents placement in the United States and now they are targeting these children’s education; “U.S. immigration policy has become more restrictive and punitive as government policies have expanded intervention at the federal and local levels. These changes have both contributed to a hostile anti-immigrant climate, and have placed undocumented immigrant children in an even more precarious economic situation” (Androff 2011: 80). In short, anti-immigration laws have only create a hostile environments for immigrants who clearly have made the United States their home. The law is now being proposed to be extended to public states colleges. Some state officials who supported the ban have admitted to have never entered a classroom with a Mexican studies curriculum, but they based their decisions on banning Mexican studies because “they simply didn’t like the idea of teachers telling students the apparently subversive facts that nonwhite people have at times suffered at the hands of white people, or that people of every color have at times acted with color-conscious solidarity” (Liu 2012). This brings into question, why and how are these policy makers basing their decisions on anti-immigrants laws?


Androff, David K. et al. (2011). “U.S. Immigration Policy and Immigrant Children’s   Wellbeing: The Impact of Policy Shifts.” Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare.

Liu, Eric (2012). The Whitewashing of Arizona. Time.

Martinez, Michael. (2011). Arizona education chief moves to ban ethnic studies in Tucson schools. CNN US.

Santa Cruz, Nicole (2010). Arizona bill targeting ethnic studies signed into law. Los Angeles Times. Url: