Al Young title

The Tucson Unified School District book ban and Arizona’s shutdown of ethnic studies

Book-banning has a distasteful history. Catholic priests burned Mayan books in 1562, Nazi Germany banned 4,100 or so books from 1933 to 1939.

Winona LaDuke
(“To the Women of the World: Our Future, Our Responsibility,” an essay)


Debate: Tucson School’s Book Ban After Suspension of Mexican American Studies Program, Pt. 1
<Democracy Now>

Debate: Tucson School’s Book Ban After Suspension of Mexican American Studies Program Pt. 2
<Democracy Now>



Friday, Jan 13, 2012 2:47 PM PST

Who’s afraid of ‘The Tempest’?

Arizona’s ban on ethnic studies proscribes Mexican-American history, local authors, even Shakespeare


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 spokesperson 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.

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.

“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. “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.”

© 2012 by Jeff Biggers |

>>> To read Jeff Biggers’ full account of Tucson’s heinous book ban, click here >>>


Authors on Tucson’s Mexican-American Studies Banned Book List Respond



Tuesday, January 31 2012, 10:05 AM EST

Go to the original

Arizona’s ban on the Mexican American Studies curriculum used in Tucson high schools went into effect on January 1st. Several authors who are on the banned list have made statements.

“Administrators told Mexican-American studies teachers to stay away from any class units where ‘race, ethnicity and oppression are central themes,’”Jeff Biggers wrote on

That list of banned books includes Occupied America: A History of Chicanos, Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Rethinking Columbus, Critical Race Theory, Shakespeare’s The Tempest and Chicano!: the History of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement.

The Progressive has compiled responses from authors included in the ban including Sherman Alexie, Winona La Duke, and Junot Diaz.

Alexie’s book “The Lone Ranger and Tonto’s Fist Fight in Heaven,” was on the banned curriculum of the Mexican American Studies Program. An excerpt from his response via The Progressive:

Let’s get one thing out of the way: Mexican immigration is an oxymoron. Mexicans are indigenous. So, in a strange way, I’m pleased that the racist folks of Arizona have officially declared, in banning me alongside Urrea, Baca, and Castillo, that their anti-immigration laws are also anti-Indian. I’m also strangely pleased that the folks of Arizona have officially announced their fear of an educated underclass. You give those brown kids some books about brown folks and what happens? Those brown kids change the world. In the effort to vanish our books, Arizona has actually given them enormous power. Arizona has made our books sacred documents now.

Winona LaDuke responded on the Indian Country Today Network, an excerpt below:

My essay “To the Women of the World: Our Future, Our Responsibility” was also included in the book. Interestingly enough, if I were going to ban one of my essays from a public school, this would probably not be the one. The essay is the transcript of my opening plenary address to the United Nations Conference on the Status of Women in 1995, held in Bejing, China. Other books and writings banned include those by famed Brazilian educator Paulo Friere and, in a multiracial censorship move, Shakespeare’s The Tempest was also banned.

Book-banning has a distasteful history. Catholic priests burned Mayan books in 1562, Nazi Germany banned 4,100 or so books from 1933 to 1939.

Junot Diaz’s book “Drown” was also part of the banned curriculum of Mexican American Studies. Diaz won the Pulitzer prize for “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.” His response to the Progressive is below:

This is covert white supremacy in the guise of educational standard-keeping—nothing more, nothing less. Given the sharp increase of anti-Latino rhetoric, policies, and crimes in Arizona and the rest of the country, one should not be surprised by this madness and yet one is. The removal of those books before those students’ very eyes makes it brutally clear how vulnerable communities of color and our children are to this latest eruption of cruel, divisive, irrational, fearful, and yes racist politics. Truly infuriating. And more reason to continue to fight for a just society.

© 2012



Edited and compiled by Debbie Reese

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

AICL Coverage of Arizona Law that resulted in shut down of Mexican American Studies Program and Banning of Books

This is a comprehensive set of links to AICL’s coverage of the Arizona law that led to the shut down of the Mexican American Studies Program in Arizona and the subsequent banning of books used in the program. It will be updated as my coverage continues. My primary source of developments is David Abie Morales, a blogger in Tucson who writes The Three Sonorans.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Friday, January 20, 2012

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Monday, January 23, 2012

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Friday, January 27, 2012

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Monday, January 30, 2012

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Friday, February 3, 2012

Monday, February 6, 2012

Friday, February 10, 2012

Sunday, February 12,  2012

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

Friday, February 24th, 2012


Additional information outside of AICL:

For insider updates from Tucson, read these blogs (on a daily basis):

Tuesday, January 24, 2012:

Wednesday, January 25, 2012:

  • CNN is reporting that Norma Gonzales, a teacher who taught in the MAS program, has been reassigned to teach American history and was asked to teach out of a textbook that says the Tohono O’odham tribe mysteriously disappeared. She has two Tohono O’odham students in her class. Among the books no longer being taught in the shut down MAS program is Ofelia Zepeda’s Ocean Power. Zepeda is Tohono O’odham, teaches in the American Indian Studies program at the University of Arizona, and won a MacArthur Genius Grant.

Monday, January 30, 2012:

Efforts to support Mexican American Studies teachers and students:


To order a copy of Precious Knowledge, a documentary of the Mexican American Studies program (view trailer here):

  1. Send an email to

  2. Send a check made out to DOS VATOS PRODUCTIONS to:

Dos Vatos Productions

4029 E. Camino de la Colina

Tucson, AZ 85711

The DVD is priced as follows—Individual: $28, Community Group, High School, Public Library, Non-profit: $40, University and public performance rights: $200

© 2012 American Indians in Children’s Literature


“I’m a native Tucsonan (Born April 18, 1938 at St. Mary’s Hospital) who has lived in San Diego since 1962, working with children as a teacher, vice-principal, principal. I retired from San Diego City Schools in 1999 but I’ve continued working with young people in the areas of drama, writing prose and poetry, playwriting, and movement. I’m a father, grandfather, great grandfather, husband, athlete, and community activist who rises everyday to do what I can to make the world a better place. Working with children makes that a somewhat easy task as they are game for anything.” [Mr. McCray, former Arizona Wildcat, is also a basketball legend  — A.Y.]

There’s this book ban
in Arizona
which is supposedly
in the USA
where book banning
isn’t supposed to take place
but they went on and did it anyway.

And it happened “quicker than
you can say,
Jack Robinson,”
an idiom
from a long ago day.

Here’s a play by play.
First there was
that they say
was to get a hold
on immigration
Harass a Mexican
to make your day.

And before you could yawn
and say: “What’s going on?”
Mexican American Studies
was gone.
And the book banning
came along
like lyrics
free versed
in a rap song.

Lawd, have mercy,
something’s gone
way wrong.
When I took
a look
at the books
on the list
that Arizona doesn’t want to exist,
I wondered,
“Am I stoned?”
It was chilling
to my old bones.
I counted 88.
And according to the
Grand Canyon State,
William Shakespeare’s
“The Tempest”
doth not appeareth too great!
And it blew my mind
to find
James Baldwin’s
“Fire Next Time”
as that book
was as essential
as oxygen
in the development
of my Colored, Negro, Black, African American
social and political mind.
Because of cats like James
I ain’t the least bit blind.
And Paolo Freire,
my main man,
loving mentor to the oppressed,
blessed with the gift to help a people in distress rise like birds lifting to the skies, on to hopes and dreams, banned.
Ain’t that a trip?
Cast aside
by people who’s brains
are made of “Yee! Ha!” and rawhide.
Alongside Howard Zinn,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
our long time friend,
who hipped us
to a People’s History.
Jonathon Kozol
who exposed before us all
the Savage Inequalities,
in our communities,
in our society,
to which our schools give root.
And those fools
Fahrenheit 451?d
Zoot Suit
and other Luis Valdez plays
that help folks
understand their roots,
their pachuconess,
their vatoness,
their eseness,
their chicaness…;
And down, too,
went Culture Clash.
They flatout don’t want
young Chicanos
to think and laugh.
Oh, man, that’s a gas.
It’s like a mass dash
to bash what they see as the underclass.
And what’s their fear of
“Like Water for Chocolate?”
an immaculate love story
of tense human emotions,
intertwined with food and
recipes and Mexican traditions…

The powers-that-be
simply cannot tolerate imagery
wherein brown children
learn the wonders
of their culture,
who they are,
where they’ve been,
how they’ve come
to the various situations
they find themselves in.
But the powers-that-be
are a bit tardy
because the children
are already
Rethinking Columbus
and the sins
perpetrated against them,
like the one they’re
wrapped up in in this very second.
They already know the truth.
They’ve had Chicano Studies.
They live what they’ve learned,
loving life,
feeling good about themselves,
giving to their world,
as that’s what their learning
has concentrated on.
So, powers-that-be,
your hateful ugly grandiose plan
to keep Mexican Americans
from living free
is pretty much over and done.
The Chicanos will win
because when a people
are up on their feet
trekking on a path to full liberty,
a path to a life of dignity,
they can’t help but overcome.
That’s Pursuit of Freedom 101.

Watch out, Arizona!

© 2012 Ernie McCray | From the Soul: An Old Sonoran’s Take on the World


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