Thursday, February 02, 2012

Go to the NO HISTORY IS ILLEGAL website

 [Note: For a chronological and comprehensive list of links to AICL's coverage of the shut-down of the Mexican American Studies Department at Tucson Unified School District, go here. To go right to information about the National Mexican American Studies Teach-in, go here. The best source for daily updates out of Tucson is blogger David Abie Morales at Three Sonorans.]

Isn't that a terrific image? It was created by Julio Salgado, who was inspired by this photograph, taken by DA Morales:

The images beautifully and powerfully capture what is at the heart of the nationwide support for the Mexican American Studies program that was shut-down in Tucson Unified School District. Students want to be able to read stories that reflect who they are, and stories that tell a richer story about the peoples of the United States. 

Yesterday, Teacher Activist Groups launched No History is Illegal: A Campaign to Save Our Stories  in support of the now-banned Mexican American Studies (MAS) Department. The young woman above was reading aloud from Sherman Alexie's Ten Little Indians, one of the books taught in the program. She was at a protest organized by students who have been mobilizing to push back on efforts to take stories away from them.

An early riser, I had no trouble opening the No History is Illegal site before sunrise, but later in the day when I went back to it, it was slowing down, and that continued for several hours.

What that meant, of course, is that a lot of people were going to the site. Into the afternoon and evening hours, the site loaded fine. Perhaps TAG moved to a server that was more capable of handling large volumes of traffic. If you couldn't access the site yesterday, try again.

Like a lot of people, I wanted to see the lesson plans teachers in the MAS program had been using. I clicked on "Download the curriculum" and am making my way through the 22-page booklet.

It is--I am finding--a very rich document.

So rich, in fact, that I have yet to finish reading it because I'm going through it methodically, clicking on links on every page.

There are links to videos, like "Ethnic Studies in Arizona" on the PBS site.  I encourage you to set aside ten minutes today to watch the video and then head over to the No History is Illegal website. Download the curriculum and start learning about the program. There's a lot to learn, and a lot to choose from if you only have an hour to give to supporting the program.

In the coming days, I'll post my thoughts as I make my way through the curriculum.

At the end of his article yesterday ("Teaching Tucson: More National Groups Demand Release of Detained Books, as Teachers Adopt Banned Mexican American Studies") Jeff Bigger's closed with an excerpt from the No History is Illegal site:
"As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. warned us," the "No History is Illegal" website notes, "'Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.' What is happening in Arizona is not only a threat to Mexican American Studies, it is a threat to our right to teach the experiences of all people of color, LGBT people, poor and working people, the undocumented, people with disabilities and all those who are least powerful in this country. Our history is not illegal."
My support for the Mexican American Studies program is tied to the work I do with American Indians in Children's Literature, and in my lectures, workshops, and teaching. Far too many people graduate from high school thinking that we vanished due to warfare and disease. Even highly educated people who graduate from college think that we were primitive and savage people who killed each other off!

As a nation, we ought to be embarrassed at our collective ignorance. And as a nation, we ought to fight for programs like the one in was shut down in Arizona.   

Visit No History is Illegal and start learning about the experiences of Mexican Americans in the United States.

And watch a live stream of the Teach-In for Tucson event taking place on Saturday, February 4. MAS teachers will be on a panel. A link for the livestream will be available on the Teach In for Tucson site.


Becky Schaller said...

I'm really hard pressed to understand what is going on. According to the TUSD website, the Mexican American Studies Department was closed down for being in violation of Arizona statutes. Therefore, they boxed up the books and put them away. Other copies of the books are still in libraries. Nobody is being forbidden from reading them and teachers aren't being forbidden from using them in their classrooms. At least that's how I read it. It seems natural to me that when you're ordered to close a program, you store the books until you decide where they can be used. If there is information I'm missing, I'd certainly like to know what it is.

Anonymous said...

Becky, be sure to take note of the history of the closure, including the fact that a law was passed by the Arizona legislature that resulted in shutting down ethnic studies programs. Why pass that kind of law? What if a law like that were passed in your home state (Assuming you aren't in AZ)? Would that seem like a breach of intellectual freedom? Would it be something you would be okay with? Also, kids aren't being told they "can't" read the books but as Debbie's research found, many of the books are not available in every high school library (or even most of the libraries) in Tucson and teachers are not allowed to use the books unless they have school board prior approval.

jpm said...

It's good to keep in mind that the TUSD Web site is going to give one perspective on the story. And it will be a perspective that sheds the best possible light on TUSD.