Recently, in my Spanish class, my classmates and I were required to debate over whether ethnic studies courses/programs should be taught in schools. My professor assigns us to groups, so we have no leeway over which side we would prefer to defend. I was required to be on the opposing side of the argument, the side claiming that ethnic studies should not be present in schools.
Going into this debate, my task and that of my group-mates already seemed difficult enough, even though we each only had to speak for one minute (in Spanish) about our points and reasoning. However, once I began doing the research necessary for the topic and looked up the topics recommended in the course textbook, I found that this topic, when the textbook was published, referred to the law banning ethnic studies being taught in public schools in Arizona.
Every single headline in regards to this topic had something to do with the law being overturned due to the fact that the law was found to have racist motives behind it, and/or that the law was unconstitutional. So, it is good that the law no longer exists. However, in terms of the debate, it just made my task even more difficult. First of all, since the law in question was already deemed racist and unconstitutional, the debate felt completely pointless to me and felt like we were fighting a battle we were already guaranteed to lose, which was extremely frustrating.
Apart from that, however, it's especially difficult to argue a case in which the reasoning was influenced by racist personalities. Yes, I understand that arguing in support of points that you personally disagree with can help you expand your mind and train you to put yourself in the shoes and mind of someone who thinks differently than you. I totally get that and the fact that college is where you're supposed to learn critical thinking skills such as these. However, arguing in support of essentially racist laws?
I still prepared my argument (because I still wanted a good grade) putting in BS like how these classes could potentially reduce patriotism toward the country that one is in, how these classes could support government rebellions, and how there is simply not enough money for most schools to invest in ethnic studies programs (this is the only reasoning I could fully get behind, as other programs such as art, music, and drama have suffered budget cuts in recent school years as well and need money. However, personally, ethnic studies is definitely an important investment). But after each person gave their one minute spiel, for both groups, and the audience began to ask questions directed towards both groups, I felt the strong urge to tell my professor and the class what I thought of this debate (neither side had mentioned the Arizona law or the overturn or the racist motives behind it). And I did, respectfully.
The group that was for ethnic studies argued all of their points very well, and I agreed with their statements. It is absolutely crucial to learn about people, histories, cultures, genders, and religions that you are not a part of. I did not grow up with any ethnic studies classes, but I think we would have benefited from them.