Even before I lived in Arizona, I was told by many of the state’s boosters that Arizona was a “test-market” region. Apparently, because of the variety of people and the diversity of their origins, companies liked to share their evolving products with our residents to see what we thought. As Arizona went, so went the nation—at least in regard to New Coke.

If we were considered a model for the nation in commerce, we should not be surprised to see that other of our qualities have caused a national stir.

Today launches the national effort called Ethnic Studies Week. Though its recognition will occur in cities and towns across the United States, it got at least part of its genesis right here. As the organizers describe it:

“The first Ethnic Studies Week October 1-7, 2010 was inspired by opposition to the May 11 2010 passage of HB 2281 in Arizona banning ethnic studies in the AZ public schools and the May 21 2010 passage of new social studies standards by the influential Texas State Board of Education. It was initiated by 225 educators, endorsed by educational and activist organizations around the country, and open to all who wanted to participate, as hundreds did in individual K-12 and college classrooms, where students, listened to speakers, watched films and paused to reflect on the importance of ethnic studies. Public events occurred in dozens of venues … .”

Odd, in a way, that businesses choose to focus-group their products here due to diverse origins, but a national movement was launched due to a conflict over whether that very thing was even admirable. But ethnic studies has become a rallying cry for opposing camps. Of interest to me, it also had a “legal” beginning, and the resolution is likely to end with a court’s opinion.

Eddy Zheng

Locally, if you’re Ethnic Studies-curious, I came across a few events at which you might listen, learn and maybe vent your own spleen, depending on your viewpoint. One event is this afternoon, and the second is on Thursday.  They are listed through ASU’s School of Social Transformation:

Monday, October 3
“Be the Change Within,” a talk by Eddy Zheng
3:30 – 5 p.m.
West Hall 135, ASU’s Tempe campus
Activist, community organizer and former prisoner Eddy Zheng will speak about his experiences and perspectives concerning youth, education, immigration and the prison industrial complex, as well as coming into political consciousness while reading ethnic studies texts behind bars.

Thursday, October 6
“A World We Were Never Meant to Survive: Education, Repression and Resistance in Tucson,” a Teach-in/Panel Discussion
6 -8 p.m.
West Hall 135, ASU’s Tempe campus
What is the status of the fight over Mexican American studies curriculum in the Tucson Unified School District in the wake of HR 2281? How might it affect us here in Tempe/Phoenix and why should it concern us? Join Tucson teachers and students, activists and professors from the University of Arizona for a special teach-in and panel discussion.

Complete details are here.