This fall, as children head back to school and college students return to their campuses, teachers and students are gearing up to defend their right to teach and learn ethnic studies. Last May, the Arizona Governor signed HB 2281, banning ethnic studies in AZ public schools, while the state's Department of Education is barring educators "with accents" from teaching. Ten days later the Texas State Board of Education approved their new social studies standards, returning U.S. pedagogy to a pre-civil-rights era. Less publicized attacks on ethnic studies education, from K-12 through graduate school, are happening all over the United States as budget cuts provide the excuse to eliminate positions and programs.
Over the summer, 200 educators from across the country and over 30 organizations representing universities, academic groups, teachers' unions, community and student organizations, responded, initiating Banned Ethnic Studies Week October 1-7.
Ethnic Studies Week is a grassroots movement, nationally coordinated and implemented in locally relevant ways. Participants affirm academic freedom, intellectual pluralism and pedagogical effectiveness, and assert that the study and teaching of American Indian, African American, Chicana/o, Latina/o, and Asian American studies should be valued and defended on these grounds. The movement supports educational programs, such as the targeted Mexican American Studies Department in the Tucson public schools, that prepare students for college and civic engagement. Moreover, closing the "achievement gap" requires that these programs be replicated, not restricted.
As supporters of this effort, Willamette's American Ethnic Studies program will host a variety of events that will bring attention to the pressing social issues and discourses that an Ethnic Studies curriculum addresses.
Altogether these efforts affirm our commitment to the development and support of robust ethnic studies programs, and their educational and social value.