What’s Up With Arizona?

Arizona has been in the news a lot lately. Most of the hullaballoo has been about the immigration bill, which has been covered at great length here at America’s Right. I won’t get into it here, except to say that if you read the actual bill itself you would hardly recognize it from the hysterical coverage it’s gotten in the press. (Read it here.)

Another bill, that has been overshadowed by the immigration law is the so-called birther bill. As you can imagine, the White House is thrilled about this one:

“I can’t imagine Arizona voters think their tax dollars are well served by a legislature that is less focused on their lives than in fringe right-wing radio conspiracy theories,” White House spokesman Bill Burton told CNN. “This is a question that has been answered exhaustively.”

There’s a lot more to this one then the immigration bill, and I haven’t read it all. From what I can tell it requires that presidential candidates supply proof of natural born citizenship to be an eligible candidate in the state of Arizona. I’m not a fan of the birther movement, but that sounds reasonable in and of itself. The problem is that the ultimate determination of legitimacy is left wholly in the hands of the Arizona secretary of state. Obviously there’s a potential for abuse there.

Now we’ve got a third new law to add to the roster. The Breitbart headline couldn’t be more incendiary: Arizona Governor bans ethnic studies program, and the LA Times is only a shade more subdued Arizona bill targeting ethnic studies signed into law.

My first reaction was that “this is exactly the wrong kind of conservatism”. I’m as tired of universities and schools being used to indoctrinate students into liberal political correctness as the next guy. But the answer isn’t more government. Do we really want legislators reaching in and micromanaging curricula? (See what I did there with the plural of curriculum? I impress even myself.)

But then I went and dug into the actual law. There are 10 major provisions. The first two convey the gist of the law:

  1. States that the Legislature finds and declares that public school pupils should be taught to treat and value each other as individuals and not be taught to resent or hate other races or classes of people.
  2. Prohibits a school district or charter school from including in its program of instruction any courses or classes that:
    1. Promote the overthrow of the United States government.
    2. Promote resentment toward a race or class of people.
    3. Are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group.
    4. Advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.

The first thing that stood out to me is that none of these would constitute a blanket ban on ethnic studies. In fact, the seventh provision lays out some exceptions to the law. The following can’t be banned:

  1. Courses or classes for Native American pupils that are required to comply with federal law.
  2. The grouping of pupils according to academic performance, including capability in the English language, that may result in a disparate impact by ethnicity.
  3. Courses or classes that include the history of any ethnic group and that are open to all students, unless the course or class violates this act.

Seems to me that the third exemption would cover ethnic studies as long as the ethnic studies class is open to everyone, doesn’t denigrate any race, and doesn’t advocate ethnic solidarity.

I can’t exactly come out in support of this bill for one simple reason: If I had my way government wouldn’t be in the education business to begin with. Unfortunately that’s not the world we inhabit. Again quoting from the bill:

The State Board of Education (SBE) must prescribe a minimum course of study, incorporating Arizona’s academic standards, to be taught in Arizona public schools (Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S.) § 15-701). School district governing boards must approve the course of study, including the basic textbook for each approved course and all other units recommended for credit before implementing each course in both elementary and high schools.

As long as the Arizona government is already in charge of the curriculum that goes on in the Arizona government-funded schools, it doesn’t seem like an expansion of government power to place reasonable limits on what is taught in those classrooms. So the real question is whether or not the provisions (especially the “no ethnic solidarity” one) are reasonable. It seems overly broad to me. Ask me again after three years of law school.

Stepping back there are two things I take away from the most recent law. The first is simple: be prepared for the media to get this one wrong. Journalists and bloggers tend towards sensationalism to drive traffic, and that means “law bans ethnic studies classes” is going to to take precedence over “law bans classes that advocate overthrowing the government, racism, or ethnic solidarity”.

The second is that Arizona seems to be acting as a temperature gauge for conservative populist anger, and I’m not thrilled with what I’m seeing. It’s important for the resurgent conservative movement to play smart rather than relying purely on populist anger.  At the state level there is no more important issue than a resuscitation of American federalism.  That was the strongest aspect of the immigration law, and I’d rather see more of that and less of the kinds of laws that can be so readily gift-wrapped for the DNC by a left-leaning main-stream media.

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Comments

  1. T.I.M. says:

    Somewhat related: a caller on Mark Levin’s show yesterday told how her state-supported college (Humboldt State), which like much of California is short on funds, keeps spending money not only for the “regular” graduation ceremonies, but also for “separate but equal” (my term) graduations for Latinos and Blacks.
    When does P C equal Pecuniary Catastrophe?

  2. Duncan says:

    Arizona should be allowed to direct these matters within the state of Arizona. That really isn’t an over-reach of power. What would be an over-reach is the federal government mandating what Arizona teaches. Maybe I missed something, but I really didn’t see anything that should raised alarms about the law. The law seems to stamp out ethnic solidarity programs in favor of E Pluribus Unum.

  3. John Buyon says:

    I would like to know one class taught in Arizona or in the USA that does any of the following:

    1. Promote the overthrow of the United States government.
    2. Promote resentment toward a race or class of people.
    3. Are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group.
    4. Advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.

  4. T. Jefferson says:

    Where can I sign up for overthrow the US government classes?

  5. Randy Wills says:

    It sounds to me like the folks in Arizona are simply trying to throw off the shackles of government interference in every aspect of their lives or compensate for the inability of the feds perform their constitutional duties and, in so doing, bring a little common-sense management to the affairs that directly affect its citizens. It won’t be until a majority of the states follow suit and act with boldness that we’ll be able to see the light of day in this country.

    Where do I go to apply for honorary citizenship in Arizona? I’d even be willing to make a donation to the state treasury to offset the economic boycots invoked by their “friends and neighbors”.

    Randy

  6. Scriv says:

    “If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”
    -James Madison, from Federalist no. 51

    The floodgates of overreaching legislation into aspects of behavior were long ago broken in our country. Unfortunately, that is a genie that cannot be put back into the bottle easily if at all. I too am concerned with the conservative ascendancy and the direction that it is taking. Legislating behavior is not a trait reserved only for the left. Our biggest issues now come from our cultural direction, and the government is being used as a means to “adjust the sails”.

    Today’s America is almost unrecognizable when set side by side with America 60 years ago. I cannot spend too much time on the reasons in this forum, but the current state of our Country has changed from a cultural standpoint is almost a complete contrast to what it was in only a few decades. So much has changed (for good and bad) in such a short span of generations that there is a complex spectrum of views of “what America SHOULD be”. Some want the nation to strictly adhere to Judeo/Christian value systems while others adamantly fight the whole idea of religion- let alone legislation resulting from those beliefs. Those beliefs were the ones that kept our society cohesive on the family/community level, though. Now that we are moving farther and farther away from them we are seeing the problems that they prevented manifesting: lowered personal value systems, cheating and lying becoming a cultural “norm”, raising the importance of the individual over the family and community (as seen in the expressively selfish behavior that is so common these days, feeding into the “entitlement society”), and issues that fall into the “immoral but legal” category. These issues are more of a cultural nature, though, and government legislation is being used to change the direction.

    With the conservative agenda having so much wind in its sails, we must be cautious. It is far too easy to see something wrong with our society and demand legislation to govern the actions of others. If left unchecked, we could end up being the Judeo/Christian version of Iran. That is what is scaring the left so much about the current movement. The answer to a cultural problem lies in the communities i.e. raising our children with SOME sort of value system (just one example of many), not blanket legislation of behavior. The common mindset grown in the minds of my peers who grew up in a secular, apathetic household is “it’s only wrong if you get caught”. This type of thinking on a mass scale is causing problems becoming more and more evident in our culture. Maybe that is what the Islamo-fascists see and hate so much. I often see their response to our culture written off as jealousy (which is an astoundingly arrogant argument), but maybe their ire is an indicator that we need to review how we represent ourselves as a culture. They aren’t fighting our government, by the way, they are fighting you and me.

    We are sliding down a slippery slope, and if we are not careful our noble cause may become just as destructive the framework of America as the agendas that we are fighting. I fully support the current move towards rebuilding a conservative America, but we also need to realize that authoritarianism is a trap set for both the “left” and the “right”. Conservatives in power still need to be checked, and we cannot let them continue the power grab that the federal (and some state) government(s) are currently undertaking.

  7. Anonymous says:

    “in Arizona or in the USA” (12:40)

    they are everywhere in Canada, I bet.

  8. Randy Wills says:

    Scriv says “If left unchecked, we could end up becoming the Judeo/Christion version of Iran.”

    That statement represents a total ignorance of both Christianity and Islam. I’m appalled by it.

    Oh, I get it; if in power, we Christians might force others to “love your neighbor as yourself”. How terrible.

    Randy

  9. Gail B. says:

    Not only are Arizonians “trying to throw off the shackles of government interference in every aspect of their lives or compensate for the inability of the feds perform their constitutional duties,” but I think they are fighting for their very lives–to stay alive, to breathe free, and to do the best they can to keep their morale afloat!

  10. Gail B. says:

    In other words, I believe that those folks in Arizona feel that they are under siege from every direction. Personally, I admire them for fighting back at the oppressors.

  11. Gail B. says:

    Here’s what’s up with Arizona–a report from WSB-TV in Atlanta, GA, in November 2009, while Janet Napolitano was still governor of AZ:

    http://www.wsbtv.com/video/23438021/index.html

  12. Scriv says:

    Randy,

    I was just trying to illustrate the fears of the “left” in a conservative run America. My point was that authoritarian governments can be both “left” and “right”, and we cannot fall into that trap and keep America what it was intended to be. There are issues that are based in our culture that should be off-limits to legislate for or against. I wish I had the answer to the cultural decay we have been experiencing, but I do not. All I know is that we cannot use any power gained through the elections to enforce morality. That is just becoming what we are fighting against today. My intention was to expand on the phrase that Robert says in his final paragraph: “It’s important for the resurgent conservative movement to play smart rather than relying purely on populist anger.” When we act on emotion (anger) we are very susceptible to these kinds of things.

    On a side note, I share your implied belief that if people did embrace that simple teaching (the “golden rule”) many of our problems as a society would not be. As a lifelong Catholic who attended parochial schools for the majority of my education I am anything but ignorant of the teachings of Christianity. Maybe Islam (somewhat), but not Christianity. That is my personal life. When the government is concerned, though, I cannot support legislating my moral viewpoints in their entirety. The thing that makes our country so unique is the fact that people of all creeds and beliefs are free to co-exist, so long as they do not become a destructive force in our society. I live my faith in my personal life but do not force it onto others.

    Apologies to you for not clearly stating that point as an example of what I see as an underlying factor to the “left’s” fear of a conservative ascendancy. I am obviously not the caliber of writer that you, Jeff, Robert and the other contributors to this site are. I didn’t have much time to review or edit my post as I had to hurry because I had to leave for my job. That also explains the typos (and why I type in the comment section of articles instead of writing them). All I was trying to express was the danger of legislating over behavior and how we should be wary and not fall into the same trap that the modern liberals have. I am assuming Jeff has my e-mail information since I had to include it to submit the comment and I would not mind if he forwarded it to you to continue this discussion in more depth if you wish. Sorry for taking so much comment space, and I didn’t mean for anyone to be “appalled” by my initial statement.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Scriv,

    Your words speak to why I will not fly the stars(50) and stripes again on my flagpole. Not to be a drama queen, but this really is not the USA, as founded, anymore.

    I will fly the Gadsden, or the Betsy Ross, from here on.

    Michelle O and their plan to ban advertising by McDonalds, Burger King, Coca Cola, and the like, has my Bill Of Rights blood boiling.

    And I am sooooo looking forward to hearing a REAL American, Marcus Luttrell, speak here in Memphis on July 4.

  14. Sing along, patriots says:

    Arizona……. to quote a country song,
    Anything goes when Everything’s Wrong

  15. whats_up says:

    Randy,

    Scriv brought up some good points. Conservatives have no problem with govt intrusions on states or individuals when it is thier pet social projects. Just look at the AZ law on ethnic studies.

  16. William A. Rose says:

    Hi Randy, and everyone else.

    A couple things struck me here: People are confusing race and ethnicity – or are using the terms interchangeably.

    There is one race. It is the human race.

    There are many ethnicities. Too many to list.

    As for forcing someone to love his neighbor as himself, I see that as a problem and in opposition to God’s fundamental design for human beings. God gave us free will. He gave us freedom of choice. Of course, because we are all as smart and wise as a bag of hammers, God gave us some 613 Commands and Ordinances and He also gave us the answers to stuff. Specifically, for example, He tells us He places before us life and death, then he says choose life. He did that because he knows we will most often make the wrong choice. So, forcing anyone to do anything that is good and right and righteous, as necessary as it really is, is not in line with God’s design.

    I know me, and I need to be forced to do what’s right because I blow it all the time. Thank God for Jesus and the forgiveness that is there, free for the asking, for all of us.

    Just my thoughts.

  17. Randy Wills says:

    Good comments by all of you – and I mean that sincerely, “whats-up” – in reference to my rather bombasic response to “Scriv’s” original comment. I guess it was the “unless we keep it in check” that pushed my buttons. I apologize to Scriv and all of you for going a little bit ballistic when I should have just asked for clarification. I’ll try to do better in the future.

    And Scriv, I thought that your writing, per se, was as good as anyone’s – certainly as good or better than mine.

    Randy

  18. Butch Cassidy says:
  19. Gail B. says:

    Randy, doesn’t it feel good to know that the only perfect person died (for us) over 2,000 years ago? Sure takes a load off my shoulders. Jeff knows how I can “get started” too.

    The best comments on blogs are found right here at AR, and I am happy that there’s a dialogue when appropriate with the author of a piece.

    That reminds me–we haven’t heard from Old Bob in a while.

  20. Scriv says:

    Randy,

    No need to apologize, I should have taken the time initially to clarify the statement. I find volumes of insightful commentary at AR and I am thankful for the time that you and all the contributors take to prepare them. I look forward to reading your next post.

  21. Randy Wills says:

    Thanks, “Scriv” for your graceful acceptance of my apology and “Gail”, you are absolutely right. I embarass myself with my inconsistency in practicing what I “preach”.

    And yes, there are a number of folks, such as “Susan”, who have moved on and don’t show up anymore. They’re truly missed, but there are (or should that be “is”?) a host of new commentors – both on the left and the right, that make a real contribution to AR.

    Randy

  22. Jeff Schreiber says:

    They’re truly missed, but there are (or should that be “is”?) a host of new commentors – both on the left and the right, that make a real contribution to AR.

    And I need you guys more now than ever. Bar study officially starts tonight. Ugh.

  23. whats_up says:

    Jeff says:

    And I need you guys more now than ever. Bar study officially starts tonight. Ugh.

    Good luck Jeff, you will be missed. Randy, keep up the good writing. I enjoy AR because it constantly makes me re-acess what I think and believe.

  24. Lazy President says:

    Uncle Sam WANTS YOU,
    to give Aunt Jan a hard time for doing a job he won’t do.

    Hey maybe an illegal should be president, they supposedly will take jobs we won’t do.

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