May 13, 2010

Native lit class threatens Arizona

Native American students learn 'their' literatureDavid, a student at Westwood High School in Mesa, was ready to drop out of school at the end of his junior year. He didn’t need those boring senior classes.

But then David, a Pima/Ute, heard that teacher Andi Box planned to offer a class in Native American literature in the spring, and he quickly changed his mind.

“He was the first one to sign up. “Midway through the semester he told me, ‘I come to school for this class. I deal with the other ones,’” Box said.

Box’s class, a pilot project created with the help of ASU English faculty members James Blasingame and Simon Ortiz, is the first literature class in the Mesa Public Schools (MPS) to focus entirely on Native American authors and texts.
And:The pilot class focused on regional Native American literature of the Southwest, and included material from books such as “Rising Voices,” by Beverly Singer, a collection of poems and essays by young Native Americans about their identity, rituals and the harsh realities of their lives; “Code Talkers,” a novel for young adults by Joseph Bruchac (which the students didn’t want to put down, Box said), and Alexie’s novel, as well as films such as “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.”

Class units have included “Finding Our Warriors, Finding Our Beliefs”; “Finding Our Inner Poetry”; “Finding True Education”; “Finding Frustration: The Rise in Indian Activism”; and “Finding Our Future.”
And:The students also made posters, brought in Native dishes to share, created pictures to symbolize themselves, and wrote stories or poems about themselves. Box said she focused on both the positive and negative sides of Native American history.

For some of the Native American students, it was the first time they had read or seen an outsider’s view of their history.
Comment:  Good to see that Native students respond to a Native-themed class. Even though Charles Trimble warned us about focusing on the past, it seems to help these kids.

But...teaching brown-skinned students about their history is risky. We know this because Arizona's legislators have told us so. Once students get ideas in their heads, who knows what could emerge from their slums and barrios and reservations?

This is the kind of divisive class Arizona meant to ban with its new ethnic studies law. If we don't stop this "teaching" in its tracks, we'll face another round of '60s-style counterculture chaos. We'll see radicals marching in the streets and criticizing their government.

Why Native class must go

Here's why the new law should prohibit this class:

  • Designed primarily for students of a particular race? Check. Note the references to Indian identity, the pictures and poems created to "symbolize themselves," and the frequent use of "our." This class is for Indians only. It promotes ethnic "pride" and "solidarity."

  • Promotes resentment toward a certain ethnic group? Check. Note the references to "the harsh realities of their lives," "frustration," and "activism." This class fosters resentment against whites. Students in the class may learn to hate Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, and other great men.

  • Promotes the overthrow of the U.S. government? Check. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee talks about the Ghost Dance movement, which intended to cleanse the land of Euro-Americans. Books about warriors and soldiers encourage armed resistance. Books about recent history probably talk about AIM and its anti-government rhetoric. No doubt these books will inspire some students to become teabaggers militia men domestic terrorists.

    Someone alert Arizona's superintendent of public instruction. This is just what he fears hates wants to ban. We must destroy these dangerous ideas before they destroy us.

    For more on the subject, see Arizona to Ban White Studies? and Arizona to Ban Native Studies?

    Below:  A manifesto for rebellion against the US government?


    dmarks said...

    "•Designed primarily for students of a particular race? Check."

    I saw a major defender of Arizona ethnic studies, Augustine Romero, on TV yesterday. He did say that these studies programs are intended to be for all students of all races. That is as it should be. An Indians-only program should be deplored.

    Anonymous said...

    Rob says: "This class is for Indian students only."

    Nope. You're wrong on that. Even Tom Horne, the sole author of the "Ethnic Studies Law" stated that "anyone can join these classes". He appeared on the PBS program last night--Horizonte and debated against Rep. Kristen Sinema

    Dmarks say: "An Indians-Only program should be deplored."

    Do you know of a certain public institituion that is specifically an "Indians-Only programs"??? I doubt it. Ironically my aunt lives just a block North of Westwood High. Her daughter graduated from there. The so called ethnic studies classes at that high school were open to anyone. And there is no such thing as "Indian-Only" in regards to ethnic studies.

    And btw, Sarah Palin with whom you seemed eagerly to defend, did nothing for the Natives in Alaska under her tenure while violating Canada's First Nations soveriegnty. Not sure why you bothered defending her position on the environment. She allowed oil pipeline "to nowhere" through Canada's First Nations. Then she waste millions on buidling a bridge to nowhere. As far as those oil rig in the gulf is concerned, Bush administration failed. They had 8 years to deal with the problem long before Obama became the next president. But yeah, you're a typical "tea pottier"--blame it on Obama.

    Melissa said...

    I think when Rob said that this class was "for Indians only" he meant that almost all the students interested in taking the class would be Indians because of the design and content of the class. I don't think he wrote anything to suggest that other students wouldn't be allowed into these classes (Rob, please correct me if I'm wrong).
    I think these courses should be promoted among non-Indians students, too. I'm sure a lot of non-Indian kids would be interested in taking courses different from the ones usually offered if they felt they would be welcome there and offered some guidance, and this would help a lot in educating our youth in multicultural issues.

    dmarks said...

    Anon said: "Do you know of a certain public institituion that is specifically an "Indians-Only programs"??? I doubt it. "

    No, I don't. See my mention of Romero, which implies that such programs do not exist.

    "She allowed oil pipeline "to nowhere" through Canada's First Nations"

    I thought Palin was weak and didn't do much. And now I read here that she commanded Canada! I defend her for her good ideas (and she has a lot of ideas that are better than Obama's) and condemn her for the bad things. Like quitting when she could not stand the heat, or the matters of Native sovereignty mentioned before.

    As for the oil rig, blame where blame is due. It happened on Obama's watch. He's had more than a couple of years as major Presidential candidate and as President, and he hadn't even mentioned it or done anything about it. The failure would have been Bush's had it happened on his watch. But it didn't. Blame Obama for what he is responsible for.

    Rob said...

    I was pretending to be a typical Arizona conservative when I "criticized" this class. And I explicitly wrote, "Designed primarily for students of a particular race? Check." "Designed primarily" means it's intended only for Indians in the conservative's mind. It's not literally for Indians only, meaning no one else can attend.

    If Horne admits that any student can attend any ethnic studies class in Arizona, then part of his law is null and void. You know, the part that bans classes "designed primarily for students of a particular race." I'm glad to hear his law is already a partial failure, and I look forward to its failing completely.

    Rob said...

    "Anyone can join these classes" isn't the same as "mainly minorities join these classes," "these classes are bad because minorities join them," or "the new law gives me the power to ban these classes."

    I think Horne makes his intentions clear in this interview:,2933,592863,00.html

    In the Tucson school district -- this was what led me to introduce this legislation -- they divide the kids up. They've got Raza studies for the Latino kids. Raza means "the race" in Spanish. African-American studies for the African-American kids, Indian studies for the Native American kids and Asian studies for the Asian kids. And they're dividing them up just like the old South.

    And I believe that what's important about us is what we know, what we can do, what's our character as individuals, not what race we happen to have been born into. And the function of the public schools is to bring in kids from different backgrounds and teach them to treat each other as individuals. And the Tucson district is doing the opposite. They're teaching them to emphasize ethnic solidarity, what I call ethnic chauvinism. And I think that's exactly is the wrong thing to do in the public schools, and that's why I introduced this legislation to give myself the authority to put a stop to it.

    Rob said...

    Sounds to me like he's hoping to ban every ethnic studies class in Arizona. Including the Native literature class in this posting. Hence my interpretation of the typical conservative's thinking.