Ethnic Studies = Social Justice

Mark Tapson, a Hollywood-based writer and screenwriter, is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He focuses on the politics of popular culture.


ethAs Latinos overtake non-Hispanic whites as California’s largest ethnic group, a bill is now before the California state Senate which would require the Education Department to form a task force to study the implementation of a standardized ethnic studies curriculum in high schools across the state.

Sponsored by Assemblyman Luis Alejo, who has a bachelor’s degree in Chicano Studies from UC Berkeley, bill AB 1750 seeks to succeed where similar efforts to establish mandatory ethnic studies classes elsewhere have proven controversial – and failed.

Arizona, for example, passed a law in 2010 to shut down a Mexican-American studies curriculum that included books which Attorney General Tom Horne described as shockingly racist (even New Mexico state Rep. Nora Espinoza – herself Latina – called them “hate books”). Under a law forbidding classes “that advocate the overthrow of the United States, promote racial resentment, or emphasize students’ ethnicity rather than their individuality,” seven books were removed from high school classrooms to reside in the library (not banned, as opponents insist on describing it). Among them were titles such as Critical Race Theory, Occupied America: A History of Chicanos, Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years, Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Marxist activist Paulo Freire, and Message to Aztlan (Aztlan is a symbol for Latino activists who believe they have a legal right to the land the United States acquired from the Mexican-American War).

Tony Diaz, who co-founded the pro-ethnic studies movement Librotraficante to subvert the Arizonan law, says that anti-ethnic studies efforts are discriminatory and, curiously, “an attempt to turn colleges and high schools into finishing schools for corporations.” Diaz didn’t expound on why preparing students to succeed in the corporate workforce is bad or what it has to do with ethnic studies.

A movement to require Mexican-American courses in Texas recently fizzled out as well. Some Latino activists there say the public school curriculum reflects “institutionalized racism,” by which they mean that they resent being denied the opportunity to inflame students with their own anti-capitalist, racial supremacism.

Rodolfo Acuña, professor of Chicano Studies at Cal State University Northridge and author of the aforementioned Occupied America, claims to have worked on at least a dozen attempts himself to extend ethnic studies to public schools, but they never garnered legislative support. However, he said he doesn’t anticipate much opposition to the Californian bill. Assemblyman Alejo is optimistic too:

California is moving in a different direction, one that recognizes and values the history of the people who make up our state. This will put California on the cutting edge — while other states are trying to abolish ethnic studies, we can standardize and incorporate it into high school curriculum…

We’re trying to incorporate the histories and knowledge of different communities that make up our state — not limited to communities of color. Ethnic studies should be seen not just as Latino — but Irish, Jewish, Filipino — there is no limitation.

About California’s diverse student population, Alejo says, “We recognize those unique values and history, language and literatures – all of that should be included in California’s high school curriculum.”

Supporters say such a curriculum is necessary to help the burgeoning Latino student population feel better about themselves by delving into their own cultural heritage. Opponents say that such classes politicize students and breed ethnic resentment. Devon Peña, former director of the National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies, smears opposition as McCarthyism: “It’s just a witch hunt of a different color. Now, instead of going after the reds, they’re going after the browns.”

What, really, is ethnic studies all about? Ask proponents and among the responses you will find a common thread: social justice. Santa Monica High School teacher Kitaro Webb, for example, says that ethnic studies is about “civic engagement, responsibility and fighting for what you believe in.” “From its origins in the late 1960s, Ethnic Studies scholars have been committed to issues of social justice,” reads the mission statement of the University of Oregon’s Ethnic Studies Department, which analyzes “inequalities as they relate to whiteness and white privilege.” The UC Berkeley Ethnic Studies Department’s mission statement reads, in part: “Inquiries into the nature of racial, ethnic, and gender inequality are informed by a commitment to social change and social justice.” [emphases added] Allyson Tintiangco-Cubales, an Ethnic Studies professor at San Francisco State and a “community-engaged-motherscholar-of-color”, says that “What ethnic studies is really about is creating opportunity for young people to learn about themselves and the world around them and make the world a better place.” By making the world a better place, she means social justice, of course – the progressive euphemism for racial payback and wealth redistribution.

“It is unethical and unprofessional for teachers to use their power over students to get the students to be activists in support of the teachers’ political causes,” says Arizona Attorney General Horne. Absolutely right, but enlisting youth in the cause of social justice is the very raison d’etre of multiculturalist educators.

“For multiculturalists there is no unifying American culture” as James S. Robbins puts it in Native Americans: Patriotism, Exceptionalism, and the New American Identity. “They define people within groups and cultures that are present in the United States but are not to be thought of primarily, if at all, as American.” Multiculturalism is the politics of victimhood, and its proponents must “rewrite history to serve as a platform for their endless grievances.”

I’m no community-engaged-motherscholar-of-color, and forgive my unfashionable belief in American exceptionalism and my politically incorrect yearning to see my country lead the free world into the future. Allow me to put forth a crazy concept: instead of aggravating racial division and radicalizing ethnic students to despise their adopted country and white people, I recommend we expel subversives disguised as educators and concentrate our educational efforts at the high school level on the following common-sense points:

  • ground students in critical thinking skills and the crucial basics of math, science, and English communication expertise;
  • rather than explore what Alejo calls “the unique values and history, language and literatures” of a multitude of ethnicities, celebrate the history and values of the greatest country in the history of the world, the United States, and encourage our melting-pot unity as non-hyphenated Americans;
  • instill in students the conviction that individual achievement through competition and hard work will lead to personal and national economic success, while wallowing in the collective grievances of identity politics will lead only to poverty and racial division.

Education is more than teaching about the world around us, as Prof. Tintiangco-Cubales put it. It’s certainly not about mobilizing political activists and promoting ethnic rage and economic envy. Education is about empowering young people of all ethnicities with the competitive intellectual tools to fulfill their individual potential and to make their own productive way in the world. That will make the world a better place.

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  • DaCoachK

    “Ethnic studies,” I think, should be called what Mike Adams calls them: Resentment studies. Every single one of these type classes is based on the “diversity-is-our-strength-but-whitey-is-not-diversity” meme, where one’s status is based entirely upon one’s victim status: who got screwed by whitey the worst. Such programs have the desired effect: create angry and bitter minorities that will vote for anyone with a (D) behind their name.

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  • johnlac

    The ultimate goal of leftists is to create as many different groups as possible to destroy the idea of national unity. All the aggrieved groups will be indebted to big government and the Dem Party who will provide guidance and make sure their resentments are perpetually stoked. The last thing Dems want is independent thinkers who don’t need them.

  • Hard Little Machine

    Figure 5 years, tops, before California decides to outlaw teaching in public schools in English.

  • Demo P. Seal; PouponMarks

    This creates centrifugal social, economic, and political force where everything moves away from the center, i.e., unity. On the other hand, CENTRIPETAL force moves toward the center. Eventually, like an overspending rotating machine, all the components fail, and the entire machine is destroyed.

    It’s Alinsky over and over. He screamed at his students, who voiced their idealism of greater equality, opportunity, peace, justice, etc., that this was irrelevant and for weak minded dreamers, and that the goal-and only goal-was POWER. Of course, that is the only goal of Lucifer, who does not build or construct, only destroy and dominate.

  • wileyvet

    Sure, make everyone feel good about themselves and their culture, while denigrating the very culture that makes it possible for this nonsense in the first place. While you are teaching Hispanics, Chicanos, Latinos or whatever about how whitey American has prevented them from achieving their dream, also tell them that it was the Spanish Hidalgos and the encomienda system that laid the foundation for the systemic ethnic divide and class divisions that permeate Mexico and created the crushing poverty that exists there and in most Latin American countries. The methods that the Spanish Crown used for colonization are vastly different than the British method used in America proper and it is these differences that produced the opposite results between Britain/America and Spain/Mexico. Spain was never interested in more than mere plunder and prestige and only provided enough infrastructure in their possessions to milk the immediate mineral wealth from them. The glory of Spain lasted about 100 years, and began to crumble in the early 17th century. Despite the vast sums of gold and silver accruing to the Royal Coffers, it did little for the economy or the advancement of Spain or the New World. Spain tried to be a big shot, but failed miserably, and were soon eclipsed by England. As the money began to run dry, Spain had no answer to the rising economic power of Britain, which gave rise to a superior Navy, and ultimate command of the seas, facilitating the expansion of the British Empire. By the time of The War of Independence, Spain was a broke and miserable shadow of its former self, while America was free and prosperous with a citizenry ready to break out of their tidewater and coastal regions, and the resources to do it. The Spanish lost Mexico, and after independence Mexico too, was broke. Yes they claimed vast territory, but thinly populated by peasant farmers and so accepted the payment for the land that America subsequently gained after the Mexican war.
    So teach Hispanics what a miserable failure their ancestors made of Mexico and South America. Teach them how the Spanish hated the Indians and enslaved them, and when Indians proved unsuitable, they brought in Blacks. Teach them how there is not one single Hispanic country in the world with the prosperity of America or history of innovation and technological know how. All cultures are not equal. But, hey as long as Hispanics can blame America, they don’t need a dose of the truth.

    • Lightbringer

      Great post, Wileyvet, and absolutely correct. But don’t expect your kids to come home from school and tell you this; nobody wants to believe it today.

    • nightspore

      Agreed, it’s a good post. One thing though; according to Evelyn Waugh’s “Robbery Under Law”, Mexico was in pretty good shape until socialist generals who assumed the presidency around the middle of the 19th century drove the economy into the ground.

  • doubleblack4

    Pure hate and a lack of self-respect toward others. If you want America to be like Mexico, maybe you should emigrate to what you consider your country of origin and be happy, happy.

  • http://www.clarespark.com/ Clare Spark

    “Liberals” (not leftists) are responsible for cultural nationalism and the irredentism embodied by Chicano Studies and related fields. See http://clarespark.com/2012/02/09/glee-goes-la-raza/. “Glee goes La Raza.” If Fox is already broadcasting such material, there is more support than imagined for triumphalist ethnic studies. Beware.

    • objectivefactsmatter

      How are these liberals or neo-liberals not leftists?

  • El Desdichado

    [instead of aggravating racial division and radicalizing ethnic students
    to despise their adopted country and white people, I recommend we expel
    subversives disguised as educators..]

    Why – this makes so much common sense it’s downright dangerous…it might improve things and we can’t have any of that.

    Take my quiz:
    http://connecthook.wordpress.com/2013/08/22/4-easy-pieces-conceptual-poemquiz/
    Dig my writ:
    http://connecthook.wordpress.com/2014/04/03/agitating-the-spin-cycle/

  • http://www.stubbornthings.org NAHALKIDES

    And the self-destruction of California continues apace…

  • garyfouse

    I was up at the UC Santa Barbara campus a couple of months ago. The Ethnic Studies dept. is housed in two huge 6-story buildings. Walk through the halls and the teachers’ offices are plastered with posters crying out victimology and rage against the machine type stuff. They are basically dedicated to indoctrinating students that America is an evil country that must be radically transformed. They prepare their students for nothing more than a career in teaching the same crap to the next generation of students.
    I teach at UC Irvine. What saves our school is the fact that we have a small humanities department.

  • Drakken

    The progressives keep pushing Balkanization to it’s inevitable conclusion, a fragmented US made up of ethnic enclaves and ethnic interest. One just has to look at the former Yugoslavia for a glimpse of your future if the progressives get their way. When you import the 3rd world, you become the 3rd world and the left embraces it with suicidal intensity.

  • ArentIpretty

    The USA is a dumping ground for the woes mainly of our southern neighbors. We are their welfare programs, prisons, schools, healthcare, etc… We have in our academia ideological hacks perpetuating socialist ploys and the myth that the white Europeans are responsible for their lot. Whites are not allowed to protect what’s theirs, or criticize anyone else. If you do, you are a bigot, racist, or a phobe of some kind. The pro-immigration cons use all of this to push an anti-white invasion of the USA in an attempt to destroy the evil white man and his society. I know it sounds paranoid, but it’s to a large part true. We are being invaded by an enemy who hates us and wants to take what we have. They have no right to it and have no right to run across our borders and demand anything. The current mess is because our politicians have played the illegals and immigration for votes. The only justice that will solve this problem is to actually enforce the laws we already have. DEPORT, DEPORT, DEPORT.

  • laura427

    Read the books! There are books like “Occupied America” (by Acuna) that makes the U.S. out as the evil perpetrator and has quotes such as “Kill the gr-ngo” (white people) and “execute all white males over age 16″ (from their first Plan to kill the whites – they now have a Third Plan called “The Spiritual Plan of Aztlan” (nothing spiritual about it). After the first Plan, I read they actually went out & killed 20+ white males over age 16. Then there is “Message to Aztlan” by Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales that has tons of dirty words and a poem telling the kids to make a Revolution on the U.S. (the name is “The Revolution”) and a quote, “We must destroy Capitalism”. Then you have books written by Communists: Howard Zinn, Antonio Gramsci, Paolo Freire (who tells the kids they are being “oppressed” in “Pedagogy of the Oppressed”. There are tons more horrid books with sexualized materials. The reason these books are in is because no one checks to see what is in the books anymore in our schools and just let the teachers or Head of the Dept. pick what they want! Our schools need to start overseeing what is in these books and stop teaching Communism and that the United States is bad when it is one of the best (if not “THE BEST”)in the world!

  • laura427

    And one more thing: if you want to see “real” racism – go to Mexico! Of all the countries I have lived in – it is the most racist one I have ever seen. So many of them hate blacks (I still don’t understand that but I speak fluent Spanish and they would tell me this) but even worst was their “hatred” for their pure Indians (the “indigenous” which make up 17% of Mexico). When I lived there, they were the only people who were not required to go to school and every one I met was illiterate and could not get a good job and had to take whatever anyone gave them to do someone else’s dirty work! One young man I helped had his whole family murdered (he said by the gov’t. that wanted their land).