dear arizona republicans: did you know ronald reagan approved of ethnic studies?

The LA Times reports on a newly signed Arizona bill that prohibits ethnic studies in public schools. I’d like to gently remind Arizona republicans that Ronald Reagan approved of ethnic studies, as reported in my book on the rise of the ethnic studies movement. Yes, it’s true. Here’s the quote from a 1969 interview with Reagan, when he was governor:

While I have supported black studies programs and as a trustee, one must really ask whether the demand for a completely autonomous is not in reality a request for sanctuary from the rigors of the institution, a sanctuary from the normal standards? If that is what it is then what in reality, will these students have when they leave the institution, what will they have learned, and will they be able to compete in the outside world. On the other hand, it is possible that you can justify a black studies program on its symbolic value alone. But an all black studies department would not be useful. What we really should do is get some whites into the black studies department to learn something about black people. [emphasis mine]

What’s the context? Reagan was California governor during the Third World Strike, a bitter dispute at San Francisco State College over ethnic studies and other issues. He’s clearly not a huge fan, but reluctantly admits that it might be ok if it’s extended to white students, and if it maintains high academic standards. In other words, even Ronald Reagan thought that ethnic studies could be a valuable thing, especially for white people. Source: Interview with Ronald Reagan. February 18, 1969. RG 283. Records of the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence. Box 12 LBJ Library, Austin, Texas.

Written by fabiorojas

May 13, 2010 at 4:50 pm

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  1. Here’s a discussion with Tom Horne, the guy who has been pushing this for a few years. On the other side is Michael Eric Dyson from Georgetown. This shows the framing that has been constructed against ethnic studies. Horne makes several mistakes and assumptions about students in ethnic studies and the schools that house them. One of my favorite parts is when he says “La Raza” is Spanish for “the race.” Perhaps, before he said that, he should have sat in on one of those classes he pushed to be banned, and find out that La Raza isn’t Spanish for the race, but “the cosmic race” and how it developed…



    May 14, 2010 at 12:28 pm

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