As part of its compliance with a state ban on ethnic studies, the Tucson Unified School District has banned its Mexican American Studies program and a number of books including The Tempest by William Shakespeare and Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years, which includes pieces by various Native American authors including Suzan Shown Harjo, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Joseph Bruchac, Leslie Marmon Silko and Winona LaDuke.
“By ordering teachers to remove Rethinking Columbus, the Tucson school district has shown tremendous disrespect for teachers and students,” said the book’s editor Bill Bigelow. “It offers teaching strategies and readings that teachers can use to help students think about the perspectives that are too often silenced in the traditional curriculum.”
Other books banned include Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Brazilian educator Paulo Freire and Occupied America: A History of Chicanos by Rodolfo Acuña.
Removing the banned books wasn’t done quietly. In a YouTube video (below) a group of Mexican American Studies students discusses how the ban on classes and books has affected them. One student said seeing the books being taken away was “disheartening…just watching them box them all up is definitely Nazi Germany-like.” Someone off camera noted that officials seemed to be “rubbing it in their faces” by taking the books away during school hours.
Arizona’s state ban on ethnic studies—in HB 2281—took effect January 1, and states that no classes can be taught that “promote the overthrow of the United States government; promote resentment toward a race or class of people; are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group; advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.”
The Arizona Department of Education can withhold 10 percent of a district’s state funding if it is found in violation of HB 2281. That provision put $15 million of state funding for TUSD in danger.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne pushed for the passage of HB 2281 and has been criticizing ethnic studies programs in Tucson for years.
“A fundamental role of the public schools is to take students of different backgrounds and teach them to treat each other as individuals and not of the race they were born into. Tucson Unified District does the opposite,” Horne told The Arizona Republic. “They divide (students) by race and teach each group about its own background only.”
Yolanda Sotelo, a Mexican American Studies teacher at Pueblo High School, speaks about the books by Chicano(a) authors she can no longer teach from:
Mexican American Studies students speak about their classes and books being banned: