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Arizona Law Bans Ethnic Studies Classes Featuring Rage Against the Machine

Kevin Winter, Getty Images

If you think a class on hip-hop and Rage Against the Machine sounds interesting, you might want to steer clear of Arizona.

Arizona schools may lose funding if they don’t remove “culturally relevant” classes from their course offerings, including two classes that have incorporated Rage Against the Machine and rapper KRS-One into their lesson plans.

Former Republican Gov. Jan Brewer deemed such classes as divisive and consequently helped enact a state ban in 2010 against any courses that “promote resentment toward any race or class” and “advocate ethnic solidarity instead of being individuals.”

In a letter written on his last day in office this past Friday (Jan. 2), Arizona’s state superintendent John Huppenthal singled out the Tucson Unified School District and Cholla Magnet High School for its ‘Culturally Relevant Mexican American Perspective’ and ‘Culturally Relevant African American Perspective’ classes. In the former, students study the lyrics to Rage Against the Machine’s ‘Take the Power Back,’ while students of the latter study KRS-One’s essay, ‘An Introduction to Hip-Hop.’

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“I am deeply concerned by the fact that the noncompliance appears to extend beyond classes taught from the Mexican American perspective and now also includes classes taught from the African American perspective,” Huppenthal wrote in the letter — because, you know, classes taught from Mexican American and African American perspectives are outrageous concepts.

If Cholla Magnet High School doesn’t comply with the ban by Mar. 4, Huppenthal wrote that the school would risk losing 10-percent of its state funding.

To no one’s surprise, teachers and students alike have drawn issue with the ban, arguing that such classes help promote students’ involvement in the learning process.

In hopes of overturning the law, a group of teachers and students have sued the state, saying the ban violates their right to free speech. It will go before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Jan. 12.

Where do you lie on this issue? Let us know in the comments section below, and in the meantime, just remember: “The circle of hatred continues unless we react / We gotta take the power back.”

Next: Watch Tom Morello Perform ‘Marching On Ferguson’ in Hollywood

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