Long before mainstream news media decided to take notice of this event, Mother Jones reported on the decision of an Arizona school district to eradicate all ethnic studies programs.
Mother Jones: “Hispanic students fill nearly half the seats in Arizona’s public school classrooms, but a new law signed by Governor Jan Brewer…makes it illegal for these students to learn about their heritage in school.” Governor Brewer, it may be recalled, made unfounded claims last year about the physical dangers, such as “beheadings,” to Arizona citizens by Mexican immigrants.
In addition to slashing ethnic studies, the Tuscon Unified School District is also banning a selection of books. According the NY Daily News, the banned books comprise “a lengthy list that removes every textbook dealing with Mexican-American history — and even Shakespeare.”
Yes, near the top of the banned book list, sits Shakespeare’s play “The Tempest.”
As reported in Salon, “In a meeting this week, [Tuscon school district] administrators informed Mexican-American studies teachers to stay away from any [books] where “race, ethnicity and oppression are central themes,” – including the teaching of Shakespeare’s classic – in Mexican-American literature courses.”
Salon further 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.”
Says Tuscon school district spokesperson, Cara Rene, the books “will be cleared from all classrooms, boxed up and sent to the Textbook Depository for storage.”
Arizona’s ban on the Mexican American Studies curriculum went into effect on Jan. 1. As reported by AlterNet, “Initially, the Tucson Unified School District Board of Education seemed poised to refuse compliance. But it quickly caved when State Superintendent John Huppenthal, who thought up this whole thing, slapped the district with a $4.9 million penalty by cutting its state funding retroactively to last August.”
Salon reports, Huppenthal, who campaigned in 2010 to stop the Mexican-American studies program, overruled an independent audit – which praised the curriculum – and ruled last month that it violated the state ban.
Richard Martinez, the lead attorney on behalf of teachers and students challenging the ban in federal court, says the Tuscon Unified School District denials “lack accuracy and represents a thinly veiled attempt to cover up with distortions what is happening. 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.”
How do you feel about the elimination of ethnic studies in schools?
Is this dangerous to democracy?
Do you think the banning of books is dangerous to democracy?