Banned Books, Ethnic Studies in Arizona

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BooksflickruserShutterhacksMEDIA ROOTS — For those born with melanin or a mind critical of the establishment, throughout the education system and beyond, ethnic studies have offered crucial perspectives from which to contextualise ethnic tensions within the U.S. and its caucasian dominant monoculture. 

Yet, Arizona continues to build its legacy of intolerance against immigrants and people of colour.  In 2010, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer caused a national uproar when she signed SB 1070, the nation’s most stringent immigration bill to date, which requires citizens to always carry proof of documentation and grants the detention of any suspected illegal immigrants.  Additionally, State Superintendent Tom Horne opposed academic freedom in invoking the HB 2281 ban of ethnic studies that same year, bemoaning the Tucson Unified School District’s progressive material. 

More recently, his successor, State Superintendent John Huppenthal, “who campaigned in 2010 on the promise to ‘stop la raza,'” has taken up the torch against ethnic studies in Arizona.  Last week, the Tucson school district voted to “suspend the district’s acclaimed Mexican American Studies program due to a state ban on the teaching of ethnic studies.”  Along with the course being suspended, all the affiliated books are now officially “banned” from the school system.

Similarly, Texas has engaged in thought policing books in schools and prisons in recent years.  As we assess the state of the nation, neoliberal and neoconservative factions within Government further tighten the grip on society’s flow of information and academic freedom, stifling the evolutionary progress of its citizenry. 



According to The San Fernando Sun, the school district is denying the allegations. “Nothing we ever sent (to the district) said they ever had to ban books,” said Arizona Department of Education spokesman Andrew LeFevre. “The superintendent (Huppenthal) is a huge believer against censorship.”

However, last week students said the books were seized from their classrooms and out of their hands, including a book of photos of Mexico. Crying, students said it was like Nazi Germany, and they were unable to sleep since it happened…

Some teachers were told to turn in the books that have not been banned. Based on the reading list of the MAS courses, that comes to over 80 books removed or confiscated from every classroom.

Sean Arce, former head of the now dismantled Mexican American Studies program, thought the district’s statement was a distinction without a difference saying, “The district administrators went in and boxed up those books and are housing it in a depository. So to me, it’s definitely a ban.” 

© 2012 San Fernando Sun



DEMOCRACY NOW! — In news from Arizona, Tucson school district officials have released an initial list of books to be banned from the school system following last week’s vote to suspend the district’s acclaimed Mexican American Studies program due to a state ban on the teaching of ethnic studies. The banned books include Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years, edited by Bill Bigelow and Bob Peterson; Shakespeare’s play The Tempest; Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire; Occupied America: A History of Chicanos by Rodolfo Acuña; and Chicano!: The History of the Mexican Civil Rights Movement by F. Arturo Rosales. reported teachers have also been informed to stay away from any books where “race, ethnicity and oppression are central themes.”

The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.


SALON — As part of the state-mandated termination of its ethnic studies  program, the Tucson Unified School District released an initial list of books to be banned from its schools today.  According to district spokeperson Cara Rene, the books “will be cleared from all classrooms, boxed up and sent to the Textbook Depository for storage.”

Facing a multimillion-dollar penalty in state funds, the governing board of Tucson’s largest school district officially ended the 13-year-old program on Tuesday in an attempt to come into compliance with the controversial state ban on the teaching of ethnic studies.

The list of removed books includes the 20-year-old textbook “Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years,” which features an essay by Tucson author Leslie Silko.  Recipient of a Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas Lifetime Achievement Award and a MacArthur Foundation genius grant, Silko has been an outspoken supporter of the ethnic studies program.

Other banned books include “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” by famed Brazilian educator Paolo Freire and “Occupied America: A History of Chicanos” by Rodolfo Acuña, two books often singled out by Arizona state superintendent of public instruction John Huppenthal, who campaigned in 2010 on the promise to “stop la raza.”  Huppenthal, who once lectured state educators that he based his own school principles for children on corporate management schemes of the Fortune 500, compared Mexican-American studies to Hitler Jugend indoctrination last fall.

An independent audit of Tucson’s ethnic studies program commissioned by Huppenthal last summer actually praised “Occupied America: A History of Chicanos,” a 40-year-old textbook now in its seventh edition.  According to the audit: “Occupied America: A History of Chicanos is an unbiased, factual textbook designed to accommodate the growing number of Mexican-American or Chicano History Courses. The auditing team refuted a number of allegations about the book, saying, ‘quotes have been taken out of context.’”

Read more about Who’s afraid of ‘The Tempest’?.

© 2012 Salon Media Group, Inc.


Photo by Flickr user Shutterhacks

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