In Defense of Arizona's Ethnic Studies Law

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," May 13, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Well, it's pretty apparent some people are unglued in Arizona, not just about illegal immigration but also about another new state law that bans certain ethnic studies classes from being taught at public schools. Now, what exactly does this new law do?

Joining us live is Tom Horne, Arizona superintendent of public instruction. Tom, in anticipation of this interview, I took a chance to, you know, look up a little information about you. And I see you have some street cred in terms of your commitment to civil rights. This is not something new to you, is it.

TOM HORNE, ARIZONA SCHOOLS SUPERINTENDENT: No. In the summer of 1963, when I just graduated from high school, I went on the march on Washington, in which Martin Luther King gave his famous speech in which he said we should be judged by the quality of our character, rather than the color of our skin. And that has been among my deepest beliefs my entire life. And so this has made me opposed to dividing students by race.

In the Tucson school district -- this was what led me to introduce this legislation -- they divide the kids up. They've got Raza studies for the Latino kids. Raza means "the race" in Spanish. African-American studies for the African-American kids, Indian studies for the native American kids and Asian studies for the Asian kids. And they're dividing them up just like the old South.

And I believe that what's important about us is what we know, what we can do, what's our character as individuals, not what race we happen to have been born into. And the function of the public schools is to bring in kids from different backgrounds and teach them to treat each other as individuals. And the Tucson district is doing the opposite. They're teaching them to emphasize ethnic solidarity, what I call ethnic chauvinism. And I think that's exactly is the wrong thing to do in the public schools, and that's why I introduced this legislation to give myself the authority to put a stop to it.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, now, one of the other things I was curious about is whether this was something you just came up with because -- you know, just came up recently in connection with the new immigration law. And I have a June 11th, 2007, letter -- a 2007 letter -- in which you have an open letter to the citizens of Tucson in which you talk about your philosophy (INAUDIBLE) you say, I believe people are individuals and not exemplars of racial groups, and that you were -- at least, it seems you were distressed that Delores Juerta (ph) told the entire student body when she spoke there that Republicans hate Latinos.

Now, why do you think that this -- the topics or the classes that you seek to ban, or that have been banned -- why do you think they hurt minorities?

HORNE: Well, one of the things that happened was that when Delores Juerta said that, there was a lot of controversy and people told me I should stop schools from having controversial speakers. And I said No, kids learn from controversial speakers, but they need to hear both sides. So I brought down Margaret Garcia Dugan (ph), who's my deputy and who's running for my position now, as I'm running for attorney general. And I brought her down to give a speech because she grew up in an immigrant family and she's also a Republican. And she said, I'm a proud Latina and a proud Republican, and I don't hate myself. And she gave them a very high- quality speech about how they should be skeptical, they should avoid stereotypes.

In the middle of her speech, a group of students that are in the Raza studies program got up, put their fists in the air, turned their back to her. The principal asked them to sit down and listen, and they walked out on their own principal.

These kids I believe did not learn this rude behavior from home. They were taught at home to be polite. They learned this rude behavior from the Raza studies teachers. And it's dysfunctional for them because as adults, they need to learn to deal with disagreement in a civil way. If they think the way to deal with disagreement is by being rude or getting in people's face, they're going to be unsuccessful adults.

So I think this is mostly dysfunctional for the students that are in this Raza studies program being subject to a revolutionary curriculum, a curriculum that tells them that we took Arizona and other states from Mexico and it should go back to them, that tells them that the enemy is capitalism, that they're oppressed and they should be resentful.

These kids' parents and grandparents came to this country, most of them legally, because this is the land of opportunity, and they trust their children to our schools. And we need to teach these children that this is the land of opportunity, and if they work hard, they can achieve anything, and not teach them that they're oppressed.

VAN SUSTEREN: Tom, thank you. And just sort of my reflection -- seems like it's almost a question of tone and inspiration, versus trying to tear things down. It's, like, trying to figure out solutions where we can appreciate a diverse background and get to know each other and enriched from it, rather than try to destroy. But maybe that's my view of it.

HORNE: That's a bull's-eye. That's exactly right, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: Tom, thank you. And good luck, sir.

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