US School District Bans Books
A US school district has confiscated a number of critical books from its schools, after coming under pressure from the state to end its Mexican American studies programme.
After ethnic studies was banned in the US state of Arizona, the Tucson school district, where 60% of pupils are from Mexican-American backgrounds, feared losing $15 million in state support if it did not terminate its Mexican American Studies programme. Despite the success and popularity of the thirteen year old programme, the district voted 4-1 in favour of ending it.
Books associated with the programme were boxed up and taken away by school authorities during classes.
Although the district denied that books had been banned, Bill Bigelow, co-editor of one of the banned books - Rethinking Columbus - was told by the school district’s director of communications that the books were taken as ‘evidence’.
Among the banned books are: Rethinking Columbus - which challenges the traditional narrative about the ‘discovery of America’ - Paulo Freire's A Pedagogy of the Oppressed; Rodolfo Acuña's Occupied America; Elizabeth Martinez's 500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures; and Shakespeare’s The Tempest.
In an interview this week with Jeff Biggers at the Huffington Post, Mexican American Studies Teacher Curtis Acosta said teachers had been told to stay away from units where “race, ethnicity and oppression are central themes”.
Acosta said, “…if I avoid discussing such themes in class, let the students see the themes and decide to write, discuss or ask questions in class, we may also be found to be in violation. The stakes are far too high since a violation of the law could cost the district millions, our employment, and personal penalties from the state for breaking the law.
"At the end of the meeting it became clear to all of us that I need to avoid such literature and it was directly stated… Now we are in the position of having to rule out The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Great Gatsby, etc. for the exact same reasons.”