The Common Good
November 2012

A Tempest in Arizona

by Julie Polter | November 2012

Books are removed from classrooms to avoid discussion of race, ethnicity, or Mexican American history.

TECHNICALLY, the Tucson Unified School District did not ban any books after the Dec. 27, 2011, state court ruling that upheld the Arizona Education Department’s order finding the Mexican American Studies program illegal. But in January, the school district removed from classrooms seven books it said were referenced in the ruling and put them into remote storage. The district, according to Roque Planas of Fox News Latino, also “implemented a series of restrictions ranging from outright prohibition of some books from classrooms, to new approval requirements for supplemental texts, and vague instructions regarding how texts may be taught.”

Banned book, "Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years"

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Former Mexican American Studies teachers have been instructed to not use their former curricula or instruct students to apply perspectives dealing with race, ethnicity, or Mexican American history. So, for example, Shakespeare’s The Tempest can still be taught—but former Mexican American Studies instructors have been advised to avoid discussion of oppression or race (which have long been taught as themes of the play, even in predominantly white classrooms many miles removed from Tucson).

The following seven titles were cited by the Tucson school board as part of a curriculum “in violation of state law”:

1. Critical Race Theory, by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic
2. 500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures, edited by Elizabeth Martínez
3. Message to Aztlán, by Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzáles
4. Chicano! The History of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement, by F. Arturo Rosales
5. Occupied America: A History of Chicanos by Rodolfo Acuña
6. Pedagogy of the Oppressed, by Paulo Freire
7. Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years, edited by Bill Bigelow

A sampling of other titles reportedly removed from some Tucson classrooms or left in instructional limbo: Ten Little Indians, by Sherman Alexie; The Fire Next Time, by James Baldwin; Like Water for Chocolate, by Laura Esquivel; Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools, by Jonathan Kozol; Civil Disobedience, by Henry David Thoreau; and Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories, by Sandra Cisneros.



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