Very early on Saturday, January 15, 2012, I read an article in Salon that said that Rethinking Columbus and the Tempest were being boxed up and removed from classrooms in Tucson, Arizona. They were part of the curriculum of the Mexican American Studies program in the school district. Due to the objection of some people in Arizona, that program has now been shut down.
On January 13, 2012, Bill Bigelow of Rethinking Schools wrote about Rethinking Columbus being removed. Within its pages are items by Native people, including
- Suzan Shown Harjo's "We Have No Reason to Celebrate"
- Buffy Sainte-Marie's "My Country, 'Tis of Thy People You're Dying"
- Joseph Bruchac's "A Friend of the Indians"
- Cornel Pewewardy's "A Barbie-Doll Pocahontas"
- N. Scott Momaday's "The Delight Song of Tsoai-Talee"
- Michael Dorris's "Why I'm Not Thankful for Thanksgiving"
- Leslie Marmon's "Ceremony"
- Wendy Rose's "Three Thousand Dollar Death Song"
- Winona LaDuke's "To the Women of the World: Our Future, Our Responsibility"
As the day progressed, I began asking colleagues if anyone had a complete list of the books being removed. As of now (Sunday, January 15, 2012), several people are trying to find out more about the books that are being taken away.
One colleague pointed me to an audit of the program that includes a lengthy list of books that auditors saw in the classrooms. It includes Sherman Alexie's Ten Little Indians and Tonto and the Lone Ranger Fist Fight in Heaven; it also includes Ofelia Zepeda's Ocean Power: Poems from the Desert.
One thing I noted in my quick read of the audit is that the students in the program outperformed students who were not in the program. Further research led me to a broadcast on Democracy Now. On December 29, 2011, Amy Goodman quoted from the audit:
[A] Tucson Unified School District audit found its Mexican American Studies program gives students a measurable advantage over their peers. The audit was conducted by David Scott, the district’s director of accountability and research. In it, he wrote, quote, "Juniors taking a Mexican American Studies course are more likely than their peers to pass the [state’s standardized] reading and writing ... test if they had previously failed those tests in their sophomore year," and that "Seniors taking a Mexican American Studies course are more likely to persist to graduation than their peers."
The books used in the program are terrific. Some are award winning children's literature, like Matt de la Pena's Mexican WhiteBoy.
Some are by writers who are not Latino or American Indian. An example of that is Jane Yolen's Twelve Impossible Things Before Breakfast. I asked Jane yesterday morning if she knew whether or not her book was being boxed up. She hadn't heard anything.
The list has some nonfiction on it, too. The auditors said that some of the books are not age-appropriate. According to the auditors, they belong in college, not high school classrooms. That, in my view, is bull. It is a convenient rationale for targeting those books that allows them to hide their fear of critical thinking. Nonfiction titles on the list include:
- Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States
- Jonathan Kozol's Savage Inequalities: Children in America's Schools
- bell hooks' Feminism is for Everybody
Opponents of the program argued that the classes were promoting resentment toward a race or class of people. That race or class of people is white.
In their (perhaps) unspoken words, thinking critically about America is dangerous and threatening to the existing power structure.
I'm pretty sure that Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie is not on the list. Towards the end of that story, Pa learns that the federal government wants squatters (he doesn't use that word) to get off of Indian land. They load the wagon and as they drive away, they look back and see that that "their little log house and the little stable sat lonely in the stillness." Pa says that it is a great country, "but there will be wild Indians and wolves here for many a long day." Books like Little House teach readers to resent a race or class of people, too, but I doubt it is being removed from classrooms in Tucson.
I'll post updates as I get them... If you're in Tucson and saw books being boxed up, please write to me and provide me with titles. You can use my email address (email@example.com) or the Contact option in the menu bar above, or, if you prefer anonymity, use the comment box below.
UPDATE, JAN 15, 2012, 12:50 PM, CST:
Due to queries, I uploaded a list of the books listed in the audit:
Mexican American Studies Department Reading List
UPDATE, JAN 15, 2012, 1:10 PM, CST:
Brenda Norrell of Censored News is covering the story and includes a response from Roberto Rodriguez.
UPDATE, JAN 15, 2012, 4:20 PM, CST:
For further reading:
- House Bill 2281 - "public school pupils should be taught to treat and value each other as individuals and not be taught to resent or hate other races or classes of people."
- Arizona District Court document on the Mexican American Studies program.
Precious Knowledge is a documentary about the Mexican American Studies program that includes powerful footage of students and teachers in the program, and, footage of state administrators who characterize the program and people in it as anti-American. See the trailer and information about the documentary at Precious Knowledge.
Below is a 30 minute clip about the program. Some of it is from Precious Knowledge. The young man who speaks at the 1:58 mark talks about administrators coming into his classroom last week on Friday and directing teachers to box their books. One young woman who works in the library as an aide says that library copies of books will likely remain on the shelves, but that the teachers cannot teach the books. The young woman at 22:20 said it was heartbreaking to watch their teachers box the books. It concludes in a classroom. The teacher speaks with great emotion, which leads me to think that this footage was filmed after House Bill 2281 was passed. [Video source: Three Sonorans channel on YouTube]
Below is a clip of teacher, Yolanda Sotelo, talking about books and the events of last week. Administrators will visit classes to make sure the teachers are not teaching the banned books. [Video source: Three Sonorans channel on YouTube]
UPDATE: MONDAY, JANUARY 16, 2011, 2:05 PM CST:
The Save Ethnic Studies website has an extensive archive of court documents, statements, transcripts, student work.
For ongoing AICL coverage, read through AICL from January 15 to the present or go directly to specific posts by clicking on links below:
Sunday, January 15, 2012
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
- Copies of books in TUSD Libraries?
- "Reports of TUSD book ban completely false and misleading"
- TUSD vs The Tempest: To teach or not to teach
Thursday, January 19, 2012
Friday, January 20, 2012
- Three of the banned books were approved in 2007, but not properly?!
- Video: What Huppenthal saw
- National Association of Multicultural Education responds to closing of Mexican American Studies Program
Saturday, January 21, 2012
- A Sampling of Children's Books used in the Mexican American Studies Program
- Dear Editors at the New York Times
Sunday, January 22, 2012
- ALA Midwinter Discussions of Tucson Ban of Mexican American Studies Covered by CNN
- Progressive Librarian's Guild: Statement of Censorship and the Tucson Unified School District
Monday, January 23, 2012
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
FOR A COMPREHENSIVE LIST OF AICL'S COVERAGE, CLICK ON:
AICL Coverage of Arizona Law that resulted in shut down of Mexican American Studies Program and Banning of Books