There has been a bit of a resurgence of #yasaves on twitter – and I’m not talking about the normal tweets about tshirts and book reviews (which are all wonderful, don’t get me wrong – – a few of those are mine).  I am talking about one article in particular that caught my attention right away:

Tucson Schools Bans Books hits home, literally – I live in Tucson! So beware this is not going to be a ‘short’ post…

But first a little background: there has been a long debate about changing the curriculum of the Mexican American Studies within the Tucson Unified School District schools (ignited by the superintendent) starting in 2006.  His reasoning for this: they create segregation instead of individualism, they promote the overthrow of the US Government, and they promote resentment.  Having not been in high school for a very long time, and in a different city, I cannot tell you if these findings are 100% accurate.  But that is not the point.  To make a long debate short the schools were under so much presser that instead of changing the curriculum to “fit” what the superintendent deemed appropriate, on January 10th they abruptly shut down ALL Mexican American Studies within the TUSD.  In a place you live right next to the Mexican border, this just doesn’t make sense to me…. but before I go on a tirade about the schools’ decision I should get back on track…. the banning of books.

After these programs were ‘shut down’ all the schools literally SEIZED all books written by Chicano and Native American authors.  And if this couldn’t get worse… IT DOES!  There are numerous reports of these books literally being taken out of the students’ hands!!  

 (one of the books that have been “banned”)

According to The Sun, here are some books that have been banned (even though they are supposedly still in the schools’ libraries [saying this with sarcasm] and/or the “district storage facility”:

  • Rethinking Columbus by Bill Bigelow
  • 500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures edited by Elizabeth Martinez
  • Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Frire
  • Chicano! The History of the Mexican Civil Rights Movement by F. Rosales – – he was one of my professors in my undergrade!!

Speaking Out

Students been speaking out, hosting their own rally on Martin Luther King Day.  Many respected authors and poets have been speaking out as well:

  • Simon Ortiz, poet and regents professor at Arizona State University’s English Department and American Indian Studies said:
    “I am very stunned and very shocked and very pissed off the Tucson Unified School District would ban Mexican American Studies and books like Rethinking Columbus: The Next Five Hundred Years that includes works by Indigenous (Native) authors Leslie Marmon Silko, N. Scott Momaday, Winona LaDuke, Buffy St. Marie, Joy Harjo, Wendy Rose, Joseph Bruchac, Jimmie Durham, Peter Blue Cloud, Luther Standing Bear, Gail Trembly, Jose Barreiro, Phillip Martin, Suzanne Shown Harjo. The banning explicitly and pointedly shows it is not only Mexican American Studies and people and so-called illegal immigrants that are targeted but Indigenous studies and people as a whole”
  • One of the nation’s top Chicano authors and professor at University of Arizona (in Tucson), Roberto Rodriguez, said:
    “The attacks in Arizona are mind-boggling. To ban the teaching of a discipline is draconian in and of itself.”

Ripple Effects

It is hard to not believe that this is going to, if it has not already, have ripple effects within schools, libraries, communities and homes.  If Mexican American Studies can be banned, what about other cultural studies? What about topics such as feminism and Black History Month?  Already you can see how students are being affected NOW:  “Students, describing the trauma, said it was as if they were in Nazi Germany (source).  But it is not just books that have been “banned”: “It’s everything…ever created.” This means posters, slide shows, and those fun things that help bring more students into such programs (source).  The same teacher that said this also said that she was “told that she cannot teach the Aztec Calendar to her students. ‘Nothing related to Mexican history or culture.’ “

Final Thoughts
There are soo many things to be said about this….I could go on a never-ending tirade about this.  But to make sure I stay on track I’ll break it down:

  • Restructuring the programs – Instead of getting ride of such programs, why not restructure them!! Put in the work.  As I’ve said, its been a very long time since I was in high school, and if some of these programs are promoting un-civil things then restructure the program so it promotes peace and understanding (I know how cheesy that sounds but seriously!)
  • School Libraries – because of budget cuts today most schools NO LONGER have libraries… so I’m curious how many schools actually have their own libraries today? According to TUSD Spokeswoman these books where moved to the libraries…. but if the schools do not have their own library, are they staying on site or have they been completely removed from the school site??
  • Deleting History – I personally see all of this as taking out a large part of American (and Arizona) history out of the curriculum for schools.  I am not sure if related historical events that were taught in these Studies have been or will be taken out as well.  Honestly, I would not be surprised if this did happen.
  • Defining “Ban” is not important – it doesn’t matter if these books were “banned” or placed in a different location; they have been removed from the classrooms, thus making it less likely for students to read them let alone know of their existence (especially as the program is now non-existent).   In the end THIS IS A FORM OF CENSORSHIP!! (ironically, the superintendent is supposidely against censorship… umm doesn’t that contradicts itself??…)

“For us here in Tucson, this is not over. If anything, the banning of
books will let the world know precisely what kind of mindset is
operating here; in that previous era, this would be referred to as a
reduccion (cultural genocide) of all things Indigenous. In this era, it
can too also be see as a reduccion.”

Make sure to come back tomorrow for a List of Native American & Chicano Books!