Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne talks about why he wants to ban ethnic studies in Arizona.
Ted Simons: Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne would like to put an end to ethnic studies in Arizona. Right now those courses are only taught in Tucson. Earlier this evening I spoke to him about why he wants an end to those courses.
Ted Simons: Tom, good to see you, thanks for joining us on "Horizon."
Tom Horne: I love being on your show because you always get into the depth of things.
Ted Simons: Well then let's do it, talk about ethnic studies courses in high schools. Why do you want to put a stop to them?
Tom Horne: I believe it's a very fundamental philosophical position, I believe that it is a fundamental American value that we judge ourselves as individuals and not based on whatever race we happen to have been born into. What can you do, what do you know, what is your character, what is your appreciation of beauty, not what grace did you happen to have been born into. Traditionally the public schools have been places that take students from diverse backgrounds and teach them to treat each other as individuals. And to transcend feelings about it matters what race you came from and the ethnic studies courses in Tucson they've done exactly the opposite. They've divided kids by race, taught them separately by race. I think that's totally wrong.
Ted Simons: The school board down there obviously agrees with these courses. Why not just convince the folks that they need to vote this school board out?
Tom Horne: Well, I tried that for two years actually. This started two years ago, and I started publicizing it in Tucson, hoping they would vote the school board out. They didn't do that. In fact, Congressman Grijalva's daughter's on that school board and she proposed expanding it, making it required and bringing it down to eighth grade, sort of giving me the defiant finger gesture, so this is plan B to get the legislature to pass a law to prohibit it in Arizona schools funded by Arizona taxpayer dollars.
Ted Simons: By getting past plan A, are you looking past the fact that apparently parents like the courses, there are waiting lists for students to get into these courses, why is it as to popular?
Tom Horne: I don't know that it's so popular. Some parents like it. My guess is that probably 90% of people whether they're Republicans or Democrats,Conservatives or Liberals, believe we should treat each other as individuals, not on the basis service our race but they have other things on their minds and I didn't succeed in getting their attention. I hope I have better luck with the legislature.
Ted Simons: The Tucson school district down there says that since 2002 the kids who take these courses have better AIMS scores than those who don't take these courses. It sounds like it's raising student achievement.
Tom Horne: I have two responses to that. One is John Ward who is one of the whistle-blowers because he taught down there and disclosed what was going on as far as the radicalization of kids in these courses challenged the legitimacy of those statistics and asked for backup statistics a year ago. They still have not supplied those, so there's a question about methodology, whether those statistics are valid. Even if they were, I analogized it to the good nutrition initiative that I had. When I said we should stop selling junk food, the school said we make money on the junk food, I said there's better ways to raise money than to push saturated fat and sugar on kids, and similarly there are better ways to raise test scores than divide kids up by race and teach them separately according to race.
Ted Simons: Are there better ways to teach kids about their cultural past?
Tom Horne: I think kids should be taught about all cultural pasts and we should teach kids about diverse cultures, diverse histories, I brought back the teaching of history in public schools in a big way and I'm very much in favor of teaching different cultures but you don't teach a student only about his own cultural past. That's the very kind of parochialism the public schools are designed to overcome and get the kids to transcend that and be interested in all cultures and people as individuals.
Ted Simons: But how do you get past let's say a Hispanic, Latino student who's learning about his cultural history in America, how do you say that, well, because he's taking that class he's only learning about his heritage, when an African-American student, a white student, might be taking the same class?
Tom Horne: Well, the classes are aimed at the people of that race. There are some people who have taken the classes that aren't, and but they're exceptions. The basic thrust of it is that the Raza studies are aimed at Hispanic kids, African-American studies aimed at African-American kids and Asian studies aimed at Asian kids and Native American studies are aimed at the Native American kids-- it's a terrible system of segregation down there and they're using desegregation funds to segregate kids. It's totally outrageous. On top of that in the Raza studies program, Raza Spanish for the race, it's a very radical program. We've got the materials, we've had teachers talk about it, Che Guevara's one of their heroes, as the textbook they have the pedagogy of the oppressed. These kids, their parents and grandparents came her mostly legally because this is the land of opportunity and we should be teaching them it's the land of opportunity and if they work hard they can achieve anything, we shouldn't be teaching them that they are oppressed.
Ted Simons: Are they not learning that if you work hard you can do anything, but taking these classes? Are these classes just one part of a well rounded education?
Tom Horne: They really aren't. In fact they Senate Judiciary Committee which passed my bill on a party line vote, there was a girl who testified about how much she loved the course because before she took the course she didn't know she was oppressed. Now she knows she's oppressed. It's ridiculous what they're teaching. The book the pedagogy of the oppressed, he's a total open Marxist, the main sources in the book are Lenin, Marx, Che Guevara and the philosophers that influenced them, and they're teaching them that every society's divided between the oppressors and the oppressed and that they're oppressed and that the main culture are the oppressors. They're team teaching them to be against western culture, our government, teaching them they live in occupied Mexico. One textbook is called occupied America.
Ted Simons: How should ethnic studies in let's call it -- targeting Tucson here, how should ethnic studies be taught down there?
Tom Horne: Should be abolished. We should teach kids, have a history class where kids learn about all kinds of different cultures. They should learn the history of all different cultures and they should be taught that they're individuals, should be proud individuals, work hard, achieve what they choose to achieve by working hard and treat the other kids as individuals and stop the emphasis on race. It's time to transcend race,
Ted Simons: Can you teach a Japanese American, U.S. history, without mentioning internment camps?
Tom Horne: I'm all for mentioning things in the history class, but let's have all the kids together and let's mention all the things that are relevant. In fact in our standards we've done that. I worked hard for two years to have the most content rich history standards in the country, the chief historian of the History Channel said we were head and shoulders above the other 49 states. It's got programs in there dealing with all different cultures. All kids should learn all different cultures but we shouldn't have kids on a narrow course where they're just learning about the race that they happen to be born could into. That's totally wrong.
Ted Simons: Last question, is there a balance here? Can there be a compromise as opposed to just taking legislation and abolishing a whole course of study?
Tom Horne: I am a man of compromise and I generally like to be reasonable and like to compromise, but in this case we're talking about an extremely important principle, and the principle is do we as American learn that we treat each other as individuals or do we have coursework in our public schools that separate us out by ethnicity and teach us to value our ethnicity rather than ourselves as individuals what we can achieve, and other people as individuals, what they can achieve and what is their character. I think we need to be individuals and not exemplars of a racial group that you happen to be born into.
Ted Simons: Tom, thanks for joining us. We appreciate it.
Tom Horne: Great pleasure, thank you.
Tom Horne: Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction;