Arizona Bans Teachers With Accents From Classroom

Jeanne Sager

Flickr photo by Fibonacci Blue
Arizona's harsh immigration bill is still standing, but state legislators aren't done with their Gestapo-like tactics to root out the non-natives.

Next stop: The classroom.

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal over the weekend, "The Arizona Department of Education recently began telling school districts that teachers whose spoken English it deems to be heavily accented or ungrammatical must be removed from classes for students still learning English."

Note the words "heavily accented."

So if you show up with a master's degree in education from Harvard, but you sound like you were born and raised in Maine, you're off the job?

Hey, I'm just going with the rules. Of course, we're pretty sure Mainers, Brooklyn-ites, and other Americans with thick regional accents are safe, but then there's those "fer-ners" who might, gasp, sound like they were born in another country!

Most people would agree with a push to ensure teachers speak with proper grammar -- it's a school, after all. But the link between "heavy accents" and poor grammar is clear -- if you're not born here, you must not have the means to speak English "properly."

Tell that to my Italian-born editor, a graduate of an American college, whose job is ... wait for it ... to stay on top of my grammar! My boss at an American newspaper, he has an accent, and it was a beautiful thing to listen to the "r"s rolling off his tongue.

This new move reflects the anti-immigrant sentiment that's taken over the Arizona landscape, particularly because the state boasts a significant number of teachers whose first language is Spanish. These legal residents can't be pushed out via the immigration bill, but their lives can be made miserable in other ways.

Add to this yet another bill passed by the Arizona Senate last week -- this one outlawing "ethnic studies" in the classroom -- and it's like a game of racial dominoes being played with human lives.

According to the Arizona Daily Star, this bill would "make it illegal for a school district to have any courses or classes that promote the overthrow of the US government, are designed primarily for students of a particular ethnic group, or advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals."

Also targeted: classes that "promote resentment toward a race or class of people."

Which is so broad, as one lawmaker tried to point out, it would essentially make it illegal to teach about 9/11, lest someone possibly walk away with a dislike of Arab Americans.

Taking that further -- teaching about the Trail of Tears should form a resentment toward Americans as a whole, ditto Japanese internment camps, etc.

But the real victim of this bill would be a Mexican-American studies department in Tucson, targeted because it promotes "ethnic chauvinism," according to the state's school superintendent.

Arizona, when is it going to stop? Is this truly an "illegals"  issue or a discomfort with the American melting pot?

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