by David Safier
TUSD has ordered that a number of Mexican-American Studies-related texts "be cleared from all classrooms, boxed up and sent to the Textbook Depository for storage,” according to Cara Rene, the district's spokesperson. Jeff Biggers has the whole story on Salon.
Here's the list of banned books in Jeff's article. The book list is probably incomplete, he tells me, and it doesn't include any DVDs, posters, or other materials which might have been swept up, or will be in the near future.
- Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years
- Pedagogy of the Oppressed
- Occupied America: A History of Chicanos
- Chicano!: The History of the Mexican Civil Rights Movement
- 500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures
- Critical Race Theory
- [See next paragraph]
Also removed from classrooms was "The Tempest" by William Shakespeare. It seems some MAS teachers taught the play, Shakespeare's last and considered among his best, in their classes, which makes it immediately verboten.
Yes, Shakespeare's "The Tempest" is on TUSD's banned book list.
It's hard to overstate the impact of a move like this. After suspending the MAS courses, this is the district's first public action. It's a slap in the face to Tucson's Hispanic community to remove all the books dealing with Mexican-American history. "First we come for your classes. Then we come for your books." It's an affront to the students and the teachers. As with all book banning, it's an affront to the free expression of ideas.
It tells the world, TUSD is more interested in placating Huppental, who cited many of these texts in his condemnation of the MAS program, than in preserving its educational autonomy and integrity.
The decision makes a mockery of this passage from the recent resolution to suspend MAS courses:
The district shall revise its social studies core curriculum to increase its coverage of Mexican-American history and culture, including a balanced presentation of diverse viewpoints on controversial issues. The end result shall be a single common social studies core sequence through which all high school students are exposed to diverse viewpoints.
The word "balanced" in that passage, as in "a balanced presentation of diverse viewpoints on controversial issues," clearly means "sanitized." TUSD will create a sanitized version of Mexican American history and culture. After all, if it's not uncontroversial, if it's not as White Bread as possible, how will it escape the wrath of our Superintendent of Education and the rest of the . . . let's not call them Latino Haters. That would be too inflammatory. Let's call them White Exceptionalists instead.
NOTE: One of the banned books, "Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years," was published by Rethinking Schools. You can read the response to the book banning by Bill Bigelow, the book's editor. He writes, the book has sold over 300,000 copies and is used in school districts across the country. This is the first time a school district has banned the book. But he mentions an earlier banning of another book:
[T]he last time a book of mine was outlawed was during the state of emergency in apartheid South Africa in 1986, when the regime there banned the curriculum I’d written, Strangers in Their Own Country, likely because it included excerpts from a speech by then-imprisoned Nelson Mandela. Confronting massive opposition at home and abroad, the white minority government feared for its life in 1986. It’s worth asking what the school authorities in Arizona fear today.