MAASA Resolution in Support of Ethnic Studies: April 2012

As professional scholars, teachers, and students of American Studies, the participants in the annual meeting of the Mid-America American Studies Association, convened in Tulsa, Oklahoma on April 1 and 2, 2012, offer this resolution in support of Ethnic Studies:

Whereas:

  1. Arizona HB 2281 was passed by the Arizona State Legislature in May 2010 and is now in force as Arizona Revised Statue §§15-111 and 15-112;

  2. This legislation requires that students “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”;

  3. It further forbids Arizona schools from offering courses 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”;

  4. Since January 2011, Arizona State Superintendents of Public Instruction have found the Tucson United School District and its Mexican American studies program to be in violation of the new law, and have ordered that state funds be withheld from the district;

  5. As part of the state censure of the Tucson program, specific books have been removed from the curriculum;

  6. Scholarship focused on a particular identity group often serves as a correction to exclusions and active misrepresentations of people and experiences that can rightly be called “underrepresented” in formal archives of knowledge;

  7. This scholarship enriches historical, cultural, and social understanding and therefore is a benefit to all students, regardless of their own identities;

  8. This scholarship is not designed to promote hatred or resentment, but to engage actual circumstances and relations;

  9. This scholarship may lead to the conclusion that ethnic solidarity and racial oppression have been historically significant—this is a valid interpretation that cannot be forbidden by the state in a free society;

  10. Ethnic Studies and similar intellectual projects aimed at incorporating underrepresented groups and experiences are thus legitimate and valuable as academic endeavors.

Therefore be it resolved:

  1. Far from being as subversive as the Arizona legislation suggests, critical scholarship is essential to a functioning democracy;

  2. The field of American Studies has benefitted from Ethnic Studies and is diminished when Ethnic Studies is banned by any public authority, as is scholarship in general;

  3. We stand in support of our embattled colleagues in Arizona, and everywhere that governments intervene in the exchange of ideas and the pursuit of knowledge.

Adopted by the MAASA Executive Board on April 1, 2012, and by the MAASA membership meeting on April 2, 2012, in Tulsa, Oklahoma.