It was a dirty job, but somebody had to do it: defend the new Arizona law that bans ethnic studies in public schools. Fox News anchor Greta van Susteren took on the task, with predictable results.

The law bans classes that "are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group," "promote resentment toward a race or class of people," or "advocate ethnic solidarity.”

Van Susteren took up the issue just after UN human rights experts released a statement criticizing the law on the grounds that all people have the right to learn about their own cultural and linguistic heritage.

What exactly is wrong with Arizona schools offering Chicano Studies classes?   Van Susteren asked Tom Horne, Arizona superintendent of public instruction, who sponsored the bill and who is running for state attorney general (you may be able to guess his political party). 

The problem, Horne said, is that when schools offer Ethnic Studies courses to students, “they’re dividing them up just like the old South.” 

Well, not really: the problem with the old South was not that black students took black studies classes for an hour a day; the problem was that black students were prohibited by law from attending white schools. The problem was that all black students were sent to separate black schools which were inferior to the white schools. 

Second problem, according to Greta van Susteren’s expert: “They’re teaching them to emphasize ethnic solidarity,” Horne said. “That’s exactly is the wrong thing to do.” So instead of learning about Latino solidarity, this law teaches the Mexican-American kids a different lesson: in the words of Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson, the message is “We have power. You don’t.”

Van Susteren didn’t take up several other problems raised by critics of the law. If you ban classes that “promote resentment towards a race or class of people,” doesn’t that eliminate teaching about 9-11, because that would tend to promote resentment towards Muslims?

Somehow Fox News isn’t worried about teaching resentment towards Muslims.

Van Susteren brought up another issue: a Tucson high school once had a speaker named—according to her Fox News website—“Delores Juerta.” (I believe they are referring to Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farmworkers of America.) “Juerta” told students that “Republicans hate Latinos.” This is what’s wrong with teaching ethnic studies, Van Susteren suggested.

“Juerta” spoke in 2006. Angry Republicans have been quoting this line ever since—if you Google “Republicans hate Latinos,” you get 40,000 results.

One problem: “Delores Juerta” didn’t say that in an ethnic studies class. She said it in a high school assembly—to everybody, whites included. Apparently what is needed is not just a ban on ethnic studies courses, but also a ban on speakers who offend Republicans. (Horne, to his credit, is against that: “kids learn from controversial speakers, but they need to hear both sides,” he said.)

The law also prohibits classes that "promote the overthrow of the U.S. government"—which of course has been such a big problem in the Arizona public schools. Van Susteren didn’t go there.