Friday, May 2, 2008

Reject your own culture, kids: "You're here. Adopt American values."

Incorporate the lived experience of our students and communities into our schools? "Na", says Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce. And other legislators have actually agreed.

Funny how teaching anything outside of the traditional American white values is considered "indoctrinating." Yet, "to inculcate values of American citizenship" is not?

Find a petition against this Amendment here.

The Arizona Republic reports:

Arizona public schools would be barred from any teachings considered counter to democracy or Western civilization under a proposal endorsed Wednesday by a legislative panel.

Additionally, the measure would prohibit students of the state's universities and community colleges from forming groups based in whole or part on the race of their members, such as the Black Business Students Association at Arizona State University or Native Americans United at Northern Arizona University. Those groups would be forbidden from operating on campus.

The brainchild of Rep. Russell Pearce, the measure appeared as an amendment to Senate Bill 1108, which originally would have made minor changes to the state's Homeland Security advisory councils. The House Appropriations Committee approved the new proposal on a 9-6 vote.

Pearce, a Mesa Republican, said his target isn't diversity instruction, but schools that use taxpayer dollars to indoctrinate students in what he characterized as anti-American or seditious thinking. The measure is at least partially a response to a controversy surrounding an ethnic-studies program in the Tucson Unified School District, which critics have said is unpatriotic and teaches revolution.

SB 1108 states, "A primary purpose of public education is to inculcate values of American citizenship. Public tax dollars used in public schools should not be used to denigrate American values and the teachings of Western civilization."

For schools that violate the anti-Western-teachings provision, the bill provides the state superintendent of public instruction with the authority to withhold a portion of state funding.

Rep. John Kavanagh, a member of the Appropriations Committee, said he hopes the measure helps return cultural studies in the state's schools to a "melting pot" model.

"This bill basically says, 'You're here. Adopt American values,' " said Kavanagh, a Fountain Hills Republican. "If you want a different culture, then fine, go back to that culture."

But Democratic committee members complained that the measure is overly vague, failing to define what constitutes teachings that "disparage or overtly encourage dissent from the values of democracy and Western civilization."

The result, said Rep. Pete Rios, would likely be a chilling effect on public instruction regarding diversity and other cultures.

"There's nothing wrong with being bilingual, bicultural," said Rios, a Hayden Democrat. "I like Mexican music. I like Elvis Presley. I'm bicultural. What's wrong with that? I think kids, students, need to learn about their culture."

What are your thoughts?


Dave said...

The fallacy in many arguments for multiculturalism in the U.S., and in the public school system is that it acts as if all cultures are equally worthy of reverence and acceptance. An half-enlightened person would admit that not all cultures are created equal, and that there are some cultures who are more advanced morally, etc. Classical Western culture is one of those cultures. It ranks far higher than many, and should have pride of place in a country built on western values and mores. To argue otherwise is to argue from a place of moral and cultural relativity that does not stand up to scrutiny.

adognamedpig said...

Dear Dave,

In response to your comment:

Prejudiced. Elitist. Narrow-minded. Racist. Arrogant. Intolerant.
None of these adjectives describe someone who is “morally advanced,” and yet they all describe you.
The point you are clearly missing is that no culture should be revered, least of all ours.
It is true that not all cultures are created equally. Some are more advanced in the areas of technology, literacy, etc.
But to claim that any culture is morally superior to another is not only offensive. It is ridiculous.
We live in a nation that refuses to remedy the societal conditions and attitudes that perpetuate poverty and violence.
We live in a nation where a husband can tie up his wife, hold a knife to her throat and rape her. Law enforcement will tell her it’s his right and none of their business.
We live in a nation where people are denied health care, not because it’s not available, but because they were born into poverty, so they’re not worthy.
Sure sounds like the American dream, huh?
It is alarming that you insist on overlooking these things in favor of some vague sense of patriotism.
That you so staunchly defend these inhumane ideals is, in a word, vomit-inducing.
I am appalled that as an “educator,” you would prefer to teach a false version of history, which champions democracy, instead of history as it happened, because it admits our imperfections.
The only possible outcome will be resentment from your students when they grow to learn the truth.
You have left some awful tastes in my mouth over the years, but none so vile as this.

Dave said...

So many fallacies, so little space. But, I will start where you are correct. I am en elitist, as is anyone who believes in an absolute truth. I am narrow-minded in the sense that I believe that some things are inherently better than others. I am in certainly intolerant of things that don't deserve to be tolerated. But, to believe that certain cultures are better than others morally is not arrogant, nor racist. Believing one culture is better than another doesn't even begin to touch on the idea of race.

I never described myself as morally advanced. No culture should be revered? Really? I don't think anyone believes that. Why does it offend you for someone to say that some cultures are more morally advanced than others? I don't see how it would, but I am interested in hearing. But here are some brief examples of morally inferior cultures or at least cultural practices: the Callations ate their dead fathers; it is common practice in many places (some Islamic countries) to have more than one wife at the same time; among Eskimos, infanticide is permitted at the discretion of the parents, Killing of the elderly (by abandoning them in the snow) has been practiced by Eskimos and the native peoples of northern Greenland; female circumcision is widely practiced in many African countries. Will you defend these cultures as not morally inferior?

Also, the examples you give referring to abhorrent situations that hav arisen such as rape, health care availability, have nothing to do with Classical Western culture, and really don't have anything to do with American cultural values. But, no, doesn't sound like the American dream.

I don't think I've ever insisted overlooking those things. I know I've never defended the widespread American ideal and Western value of letting knife-wielding male rapists go. Lastly, should I not champion democracy in my classroom? What should I champion, if not? Oligarchism, anarchy, aristocracy, monarchy, totalitarianism? Oh no wait dictatorship! I also don't know if I've ever heard a more unreasonable argument that championing the governmental system most responsible for widespread human freedom in the history of the world as false history. By the way, how did it happen? I'll need to know so I can assuage my students resentment with the healing balm of "truth" - your word.

George said...

Ok Dave, you're getting a bit off track. I mean your responses don't seem to be to that article at all. The whole point of this post that there is a bill banning cultural groups like a "Hispanic Heritage Club" or "Croation Dance Club" or "Native American Pride Group".

Sure every culture from the Middle East to the Americas has both good and bad things within it, does that mean children should reject their ancestors entire cultures? We should all just brand ourselves generically as Americans and have no pride or knowledge of the places and cultures we came from.

No one is suggesting they have "Female Circumcision day" at public schools. I mean really? Because someone comes from a culture that has this to have an "African Culture Club" or something is wrong? They should be completely ashamed of where they come from and just embrace Western white values and identity?

Your arguments don't seem to be addressing the actual points of the legislation in any way. You're just making very broad generalized statements that are completely devoid of nuance and empathy.

Megan said...


I am truly heartbroken that you feel the way you do about other cultures and traditions that were cited in your responses. As a man who calls himself a Christian and is in fact representing Christ to those that do not believe, your comments are completely off the wall and disgraceful.

Your arguments use your western mindset as the judge and measurement of what is superior and what is not. You and I are too much a product of a Judeo-Christian western ideology to be able to neutrally decide what a cultural hierarchy system would look like. In saying this, I fundamentally disagree with any sort of ranking system that positions such uniquely different cultural characteristics against one another. The difference between this idea and your presumed opinions is that your narrative infers that the level of enlightenment needed to view the aforementioned characteristics has not been reached.

Yes you should teach democracy in your classroom, but you should teach all of its limitations and the limitations and positives of other forms of government. Your students are at an age where they should be exploring different systems in order to construct their own world view, they should not be preached at in a PUBLIC school why communism has no value to anyone. Having been a citizen of the state of Virginia for 6 years, I believe that I am not alone in my view of how schools are to educate. Unless the course that you are teaching is US Government through the eyes of the neo-con and the primary text is the End of History, I feel that I am not wrong for expressing these ideas.

I pray for you and your blossoming family that the words you typed on this screen will not be reflected in the life lessons that you portray to the miracle that you and Emily are receiving shortly. It is with great love for you and Emily that I write these thoughts.

The Quatch said...

Dave, you have a twisted worldview.

Please, with some help, pull the plank out of your own eye. You can, and I encourage this, develop and own your personal moral structure. It can be founded on biased or truthful sources or experiences but you cannot make a claim as a US government teacher that any culture is more morally sophisticated or developed than any other.

How do we measure morality and furthermore, the advancement of morality?

I hope you know some eskimos, because you seem to have enough evidence to deem their culture inferior to yours. Do you know some? Because, if I was an outsider to American culture it would only take the fact that the USA is the only nation to drop an atomic bomb on another nation for me label America possibly morally "off base". Let's not forget slavery and segregation. Oo! How about our Thanksgiving friends the Native Americans? "Bundle up little Running Horse, we deserve this land!"

Instead of ranking cultures let us just be aware of the plusses and minusses of each and let history teach us instead of giving evidence for elitist and ignorant ideologies. (I can believe that you feel this way, but I am blown away that you have the audacity to write it down somewhere)

For example, most Eskimo cultures do not even have a word for "war". Although violence exists, as it does everywhere in a distopic fallen world, they do not even understand war because it does not exist to them. They don't start wars. That sounds like a pretty moral tradition. Peace with their neighbors. It is like in Gulliver's Travels when he reaches a utopic society that does not even have a word for "lie".

I do not practice or encourage polygamy, but who am I to judge another culture or faith. Thanks for pointing out that the "Islams" do it, but not mentioning that it happens in our great lonestar state.

You can sit at a bar and pontificate all that you believe in, but don't let it seep into your lesssons. Children need to learn that democracy is wonderful, but not infallible. That there are terrorists in the Middle East, but also loving peaceful people who don't understand why America is bombing their village or helping other people to do so.

Also, if you are a believer in Christ, know that there is a collision between our culture and Christianity. It's everywhere and its a wolf in sheep's clothing, but still this collision is dangerous. Is America really founded on Christian values or is that another lie we learned in government class? "Blessed are the peacemakers ..."- Jesus

No one culture can rightfully claim that another is inferior. Look at the evidence of how this is dangerous in the history of imperialism and colonialism. Look at it in war. What good does it do to label and rank? Rudyard Kipling wrote the "White Man's Burden" saying that the "half-devil half-child" Africans NEED the Europeans to civilize them. We instead, through our own arrogance, exploited African tribes and drew political lines that are still causing problems today.

It is detrimental to the formation of one global community that is needed. America, economically, has started it whether they want it or not. Why is your child any better than a child born elsewhere? But I'll assume that you are not talking on an individual level but on a larger, broader level. I will also assume that you are not not as arrogant as you sound. Western culture may be the most powerful and developed, but why would that make it better? Is it better because it tramples on other cultures? Does power dictate worth?

Love and Peace

The Quatch said...

Oh, because I do not want to hide behind my blogging name ... the quatch is Bradford Bucknum

Dave said...

A lot to respond to there guys, but I do appreciate the tone that you guys decided to take. The response to my first post was quite personal and chocked full of ad hominem attacks. I am not going to respond to everything you guys have said. I think if you actually read my original post I was not making any judgements about the relative merits of any of the cultures mentioned in the article. All I said was that not all cultures are created equal, and I stand by that remark. There are cultures in the world, that illustrate by their widespread acceptable practices that they are less advanced - women just started being allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia for another example. But, because of your stubborn belief in cultural relativity you are unwilling to criticize any culture other than the American culture. You can not and will not agree that it is OK to have an outside criteria for judging cultures. Megan are you truly heartbroken that I feel female circumcision, or infanticide, or women having to wear burkas are abhorrent cultural practices? Do you believe that simply because they are part of someone's culture that they can't be criticized? Do you think those practices are OK? And, also, never talk to me about my family and how I should raise my child again.

LH said...

I agree with Dave. Let's keep personal attacks out of the comments section.

A final note for me: I do not believe in cultural relativism. Practices that invoke harm to human beings are wrong: i.e. female circumcision. However, there are some practices, such a the way Muslim women dress, that we are quick to pounce upon and criticize.

What is important is that we realize that all cultures make mistakes. All cultures are evolving. While our country is advanced in some ways, it still has far to go. There are many things that we are still wrong about.

In schools where students come from a number of cultural backgrounds, we should choose not to erase and ignore these backgrounds because we are afraid of them, but we should choose to embrace the wealth of diversity and insight that can come from studying them. (And this doesn't mean taco nights and superficial forms of multicultural education.) In a world where there is so much prejudice because of misunderstanding, we owe it to ourselves to be educated so that we are able, as Paulo Freire says, to read not only "the word", but "the world."