Sunday, January 22, 2012

Arizona School District Wipes Latino American History Off the Map

Saturday, February 25, 2012
2:00 p.m.
Lincoln High School, 4777 Imperial Avenue
San Diego, 92113

Arizona Book Removal

Published on Tuesday, January 17, 2012 by Common Dreams

- Common Dreams staff

A catastrophe in slow motion has played out in Arizona schools over the last several years as anti-immigrant sentiment crept into state legislation guiding how and what kind of Mexican American and indigenous history could be taught in classrooms across the southwestern border state.  What may have seemed absurd until recently is now a reality as boxes of banned books will now be gathered up and locked away.

UPDATED on 1/18/12: Jeff Biggers updates his previous reporting after the Tuscon Unified School District responded to various reports of books being banned in Arizona schools:

In a clarification of last Friday’s announcement of a list of Mexican American Studies books to “be cleared from all classrooms” in order to comply with a state ban on ethnic studies, the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) declared Tuesday that it ”has not banned any books as has been widely and incorrectly reported.”

But, Biggers continues, opponents were not satisfied with TUSD's explanation:

The TUSD statement “lacks accuracy and represents a thinly veiled attempt to cover up with distortions what is happening,” said Richard Martinez, the lead attorney on behalf of teachers and students challenging the ban in federal court.  “Pandora’s box has been opened and the ugly face of the bigoted right wing has been exposed for what it is: an attempt to keep Latinos, poor, dumb and abused.”

Whether the removal of the books from all classrooms should be considered an outright ban or a possibly temporary prohibition brought little comfort to supporters of Tucson’s Mexican American Studies program, who sponsored an emotional community forum last Saturday with students and teachers who had witnessed the forced removal of the books from their classrooms.

UPDATE: Amy Goodman hosted a spirited debate between Huppenthal and Martinez on Wednesday's Democracy Now!:

Jeff Biggers, who has covered the ethnic studies ban in Arizona extensively, reported at Salon:

As part of the state-mandated termination of its ethnic studies  program, the Tucson Unified School District released an initial list of books to be banned from its schools today.  According to district spokeperson Cara Rene, the books “will be cleared from all classrooms, boxed up and sent to the Textbook Depository for storage.”

Facing a multimillion-dollar penalty in state funds, the governing board of Tucson’s largest school district officially ended the 13-year-old program on Tuesday in an attempt to come into compliance with the controversial state ban on the teaching of ethnic studies.

This is the list of textbooks cleared from the classrooms, according to KGUN 9 in Tuscon:

Critical Race Theory– Richard Delgado
500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures – edited by Elizabeth Martinez
Message to AZTLAN – Rodolfo Corky Gonzales
Chicano! The History of the Mexican Civil Rights Movement – Arturo Rosales
Occupied America:  A History of Chicanos – Rodolfo Acuna
Pedagogy of the Oppressed – Paulo Freire
Rethinking Columbus: The next 500 Years – Bill Bigelow

The list of removed books includes the 20-year-old textbook “Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years,” which features an essay by Tucson author Leslie Silko.  Recipient of a Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas Lifetime Achievement Award and a MacArthur Foundation genius grant, Silko has been an outspoken supporter of the ethnic studies program.

Bill Bigelow, editor of the now banned Rethinking Columbus and of the magazine and website Rethinking Schools, had this to say about the decision:

“By ordering teachers to remove ‘Rethinking Columbus,’ the Tucson school district has shown tremendous disrespect for teachers and students. This is a book that has sold over 300,000 copies and is used in school districts from Anchorage to Atlanta, and from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine. 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.”

Indian Country News explains:

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.

And Rodolfo Acuña, writing at Culture Strike, remarks:

Arizona schools have abandoned its mission to educate students; they have intentionally denied Mexican American students access to knowledge. Consequently the Arizona bureaucracy has deliberately kept them in the fields, the mines and the prisons, hoping to deny them alternatives.The Tucson Unified School District has not only banned its Mexican American Studies program, but has now banned a number of ethnic books from its curriculum. (Image: Thinkstock)

The purpose of critical thinking is to give students alternatives and to dispel myths and repel blind allegiance to those who deny them alternatives.

According to the late Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, “Censorship reflects society’s lack of confidence in itself. It is a hallmark of an authoritarian regime.”

The motivation of the TUSD Trustees cannot be explained in terms of greed alone. It cannot be rationalized by culture alone. Money and personal gain play a role.

And explains his book, his teaching philosophy in the following video:

And, Biggers notes:

In a school district founded by a Mexican-American in which more than 60 percent of the students come from Mexican-American backgrounds, the administration also removed every textbook dealing with Mexican-American history, including “Chicano!: The History of the Mexican Civil Rights Movement” by Arturo Rosales, which features a biography of longtime Tucson educator Salomon Baldenegro.  Other books removed from the school include “500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures,” by Elizabeth Martinez and the textbook “Critical Race Theory” by scholars Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic.


79 Comments so far

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Posted by John Shade
Jan 17 2012 - 10:53am
"A catastrophe in slow motion has played out in Arizona schools over the last several years as anti-immigrant sentiment crept into state legislation"

Posted by question
Jan 17 2012 - 12:43pm
The tern "illegal alien" is a dehumanizing term, in my view and the view of friends of mine. Please do not use this term. In a time when our country tortures and murders with premeditated impunity, the way we use language to humanize or dehumanize ourselves ("ourselves" because we are one human family) is critical. I wouldn't say what is being wiped off the map here is Latino American history, because the standard history books will continue to peripherally, begrudgingly, or superficially mention snippets of Latino American history, thus creating the impression of a history that is mostly unremarkable, unimportant, shamefully weak. That is a powerful history to tell. The attempt is more specifically to destroy any critical consciousness about race, history, class, and justice--especially for Latina and Latino children. This is definitely a catastrophe for not just Arizona but for this country and world--part of the ongoing catastrophe of greed, ignorance, and hatred in our time. We must apply the antidotes: real democracy, freedom, universal compassion.

Posted by conscience
Jan 17 2012 - 1:45pm
Before you demand any immigrants be labelled "illegal" ... begin with our illegal war and invasion of Mexico and the taking of their property -- real estate, natural resources. Most Americans understand that Mexicans are only returning to their own land -- in the "US" -- !! After that, discuss how we stole this entire continent from Native Americans -- and the long history of American Imperialism from Hawaii to Africa -- from Vietnam to Afghanistan/Iraq -- Cuba and Haiti and Puerto Rico. Where has American Imperialism not struck? Your comment it merely an attempt to attack the article without addressing the actual issue of censorship and book banning.

Posted by John Shade
Jan 17 2012 - 10:54am
"A catastrophe in slow motion has played out in Arizona schools over the last several years as anti-immigrant sentiment crept into state legislation"

Posted by blessthebeasts
Jan 17 2012 - 4:29pm
Exactly. I've lived in AZ for 35 years and although there has always been a racist element against immigrants (legal or not if they're brown), it has escalated tremendously since the economy went into steep decline. Blaming the immigrants for capitalism's demise won't work for much longer.
Posted by GwNorth
Jan 17 2012 - 11:11am
If the truth shall set you free Arizona has shown it embraces the chains of ignorance.

Onee wonders if all references to the US role in WW2 will be removed. After all is not the teaching of "Peerl Harbor" (that day of infamy) teaching resentment against the Japanese? Even today we have people on THESE boards who claim the "Japs got wheat they deserved wheen we nuked them".

What of the Nazis and Adolf Hitler? Will textbooks no longer mention "brave US soldiers ending the tyranny in Europe". No more of that "Greatest generation" crap might be a relief. What of books on Stalin and "CommunisM".? What of books referencing 9/11 or of mentioning Islam?

There is a heck of a lot more resentment exhibited towards Hispanics and Muslims in the United States of America then there is against those poor beleagured whites.

It very clear this has nothing to do with treating peoples as indviduals and much more to do with preserving the MYTH of the Superiority of the White American male and concealing the fact that so many of the "Heroes of History" were little more then racist Thugs who whould have been right at home In Hitlers Germany.

Posted by Sundome
Jan 17 2012 - 12:18pm
Yes. It's blatant ethnic cleansing, and in the vein of the Nazis.

"As part of the state-mandated termination of its ethnic studies program, the Tucson Unified School District released an initial list of books to be banned from its schools today. "

Posted by raydelcamino
Jan 17 2012 - 1:37pm
Hitler and his Nazis would be green with envy if they could see how well the US has finessed fascism. No book burning here. The books will be "stored", LOL.
Posted by Sundome
Jan 17 2012 - 11:58am
Fascinating. It's a loop!

Arizona makes a racist move to edit history books, thus making an American history book entry for racism. ... That they will probably need to remove because it's immigrant history, thus making another history book entry for racism. That they will probably need to remove because it's immigrant history, thus making another history book entry for racism...

Posted by Ocean
Jan 17 2012 - 12:18pm
(Arizona) Schools likely to lose accreditation, experts say [USA Today]
Posted by Shtickster
Jan 17 2012 - 12:41pm
President Polk's Mexican War, which if I recall is how the U.S.A. acquired that hunk of land, won't get much ink because it might get Hispanics thinking that they really are the rightful owners of the place. Can't have anything that "might promote resentment" especially if resentment is fully justified.

Posted by vdb
Jan 17 2012 - 5:52pm
Polk purposely sent US troops into disputed border territory which Mexico claimed as its own. When the troops were routed by the Mexican defenders Polk stood on the floor of Congress claiming "American blood has been spilt on American soil!" Just another war based on lies.

Posted by John Shade
Jan 17 2012 - 9:03pm
We fought a war and the Mexicans signed a treaty. Losers of wars rarely get a good deal in such, and the Mexicans sure didn't. However, a treaty is a treaty and no subsequent government of Mexico has repudiated it. Now the borders are final. There aren't going to be any changes. If we allowed retroactive territorial claims, then every country on the planet would be fighting each other for their "lost territory". The rightness of the US claim to much of it's land area is not in question.

Posted by GwNorth
Jan 18 2012 - 10:59am
The treaty of Guadalope Hidalgo allowed The residents of that region to remain in the region and declare themselves as Citizens of the USA at will and further allowed any descendants of the same with property in the region to cross into the USA and declare themselves as Citizens of the USA.

The USA did not honor that treaty., They not only began driving the Mexicans over the border , they refused to recognize land claims by the same and refused to grant citizenship rights to those that wished to remain.In California as example they took up arms killing Mexicans and refused to recognize the rights of peoples with land grants.(much like they ignored treaties signed with the Native tribes when gold discovered in placed like North Dakota)

The USA failed to live up to its obligations under that treaty from the very first and much of those territories LEGALLY belong to Mexicans and their descendants. All Land grants made to Mexicans to persons were to be honored in perpetuity as legal to persons so awarded and their descendants. This too was ignored by the new US Government.

Given that hald of the territory of the Continental USA under legal readings of various treaties signed are in fact LEGAL territories of Native Americans, I find it absurd you would cite the treaty signed with Mexico as the basis of your argument thart migrants to those areas are "illegal"

Posted by minitrue
Jan 17 2012 - 12:36pm
And yet there are still people who say there is no parallel between what is happening here and the rise of Nazi Germany in the '30's.

Posted by raydelcamino
Jan 17 2012 - 3:16pm
The epidemic of denial syndrome in the US explains why so many Americans 'say there is no parallel between today's US and Nazi Germany and why anybody who even attempts to connect the dots is labeled a conspiracy theorist.

Posted by sheepherder
Jan 17 2012 - 12:51pm
The photo in the article contains, I assume, some of the books which have been banned. One of them is Shakespeare's "The Tempest." Am I crazy, or are the authorities in Arizona?

Posted by WonderWoman
Jan 17 2012 - 12:54pm
This is just ass backwards. Remind me not to drive through Arizona any time soon, as people often appear to mistake me for Latino, and I don't appreciate racial profiling. I get enough of that at the airport, due to my "ethnic" Middle Eastern name

Here are a few titles.

“Rethinking Columbus,” Inlcuding the following: -

- Leslie Marmon Silko
- Leonard Peltier
- Rigoberta Menchu.
- 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”

The Tempest, by William Shakespeare Pedagogy of the Oppressed” by Paolo Freire Occupied America: A History of Chicanos by Rodolfo Acuña

Posted by WonderWoman
Jan 17 2012 - 3:48pm
It's like ethnic cleansing! In fact, it's totally "cleansing" any political perspective that's deemed to be different from the mainstream!

Posted by Obedient Servant
Jan 17 2012 - 1:16pm
FYI, bardamu, the American Indians in Children's Literature (AICL) website has a few informative posts explaining the context of the book removal and providing what appears to be a comprehensive list.

I can't vouch for its accuracy, but except that its link to a .pdf "Curriculum Audit" didn't work for me, it looks OK.

Here's a working link to the audit that includes the reading list (see appendix).

Posted by question
Jan 17 2012 - 1:00pm
This news, for me, has helped me see the parallel. It really seems all of one piece to me now: from torture and unapologetic state murder--with the new law Obama signed as much as the execution of Troy Davis--to banning ethnic studies and banning books in public schools. We must all resist and disrespect these unjust laws, every day at every opportunity. Align ourselves with the principles we really believe in, and act accordingly. Occupy let flow a new cry and thirst for democracy, which we all can be bolstered by. Buddhism and other great ethical systems, as well as all critical consciousness of freedom and undoing oppression are also at our disposal. Our grandchildren are counting on us.
Posted by tw
Jan 17 2012 - 1:04pm
This move will be counterproductive. In totalitarian states, this ban will gain traction by going underground. Once it goes underground, it will have a profound effect on those who implemented it. Suppression has an incredible way of bringing people together under a noble cause. Whether it was Poland's Solidarity Movement, or any other transformative movements, OCCUPY being one in my opinion, the days for those who censor are numbered.

Posted by Paul Revere
Jan 17 2012 - 1:10pm
If you read Howard Zinns excellent book: The History of the U.S. you will see that this is nothing new. All of American history has been distorted, and much has been wiped off of the map, from the stealing of the only real Americans.... the Native Americans land, to the coverup of 911 . Zinns book should be required reading in all schools.
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