AFT - American Federation of Teachers

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AFT Resolutions


WHEREAS, we are largely a nation of immigrants who must value our diversity, not declare war on it, and our students deserve a well-rounded education that makes no judgment on any group's ethnicity; and

WHEREAS, the American Federation of Teachers denounces the censorship and attack on intellectual freedom that at times result from policies and laws rooted in racist and xenophobic rhetoric; and

WHEREAS, the AFT supports the importance of public school, college and university curricula that explore a full range of literature, history and fine arts reflecting the distinctive experience and heritage of all peoples who make up the fabric of our country; and

WHEREAS, the Arizona attorney general's most recent action enforcing a ban on ethnic studies (H.B. 2281), combined with Arizona's law targeting immigrants (S.B. 1070), compromises the civil and human rights and intellectual freedoms we have worked so hard to embed in our national consciousness; and

WHEREAS, the AFT recognizes the effectiveness of ethnic studies programs in advancing student achievement and applauds the accomplishments of the Mexican American Studies program in the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD), which has been proven to close the achievement gap in reading and writing, lower dropout rates and increase the proportion of students who go on to college; and

WHEREAS, the AFT rejects the clauses within H.B. 2281 passed by the Arizona Legislature that assert that critically conscious pedagogy and knowledge about inequality, racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination promote "the overthrow of the United States government," promote "resentment towards a race or class of people," are "designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group," and advocate "ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals"; and

WHEREAS, the AFT decries the seizing of books and educational materials from students in the classroom, and reiterates the central value of freedom of information and free exploration of ideas, concepts and materials in the public spaces of schools, universities and colleges, which are essential conditions for a democratic society; and
WHEREAS, the AFT celebrates the engagement of TUSD high school students, teachers and community members in actively taking an interest in and expressing their preferences about the local curriculum, an engagement that is critical to maintaining and upholding democracy; and

WHEREAS, the AFT recognizes that the Arizona ethnic studies ban occurs in the context of broader attacks on the rights and voice of immigrants and historically marginalized communities and notes with alarm that previous Arizona legislation such as S.B. 1070 has served as a model for similar bills that have spread around the country; and

WHEREAS, state federations, including the California Federation of Teachers, have already condemned this action and have entertained faculty, including Sean Arce, the deposed director of the TUSD Mexican American Studies program:

RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers condemns H.B. 2281 and S.B. 1070 and calls for their immediate repeal; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will call upon the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education to investigate the constitutionality of the Arizona ethnic studies ban and will demand the reinstatement of the Mexican American Studies program; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will join forces with youth and community organizations calling for the Arizona state superintendent and Legislature to cease and desist with their attacks on the freedom of students and teachers to explore the history and culture of ethnic and cultural communities of the United States, and the sociopolitical issues that have affected them; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will educate its members and the public about the threats to academic freedom and cultural identity that this Arizona case represents in order to heighten awareness and ensure that offensive laws such as this do not spread to institutions of postsecondary education and other parts of the country; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will call for the expansion of culturally relevant and student-centered curricular programs proven to raise student achievement and foster a commitment to learning, such as the Mexican American Studies program in Tucson; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will promote and celebrate the reading of literature and history from multiple perspectives and will disseminate broadly the list of books banned in Tucson so that they can be widely read and taught throughout the country.