Used at TC, banned in Arizona: On book removal and silencing student voices

| January 25, 2012

“The freedom to read is essential to our democracy. It is continuously under attack,” – ALA

The events taking place in Arizona’s Tucson Unified School District are hitting too close to home. As a former ethnic studies student and as I continue my studies here at TC with the purpose of improving the educational experiences of Latino youth, I am both saddened and angered at the decisions taking place by individuals who have not set foot in an ethnic studies classroom and who push race and culture to the side as if it had zero value to our students.

In my final semester, as I work towards completing my final Master’s project, I am using some of the books which are currently being boxed up in Tucson’s classrooms.  One of the titles, Pedagogy of the Oppressed is a frequently used text here at Teachers College.   Although the word “ban” is not officially used by the district to describe the removal of many titles, including Shakespeare’s The Tempest and  Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic’s Critical Race Theory, there are others, like me, who feel that the word is appropriate.

Other books being removed from classrooms are:

  • 500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures, edited by Elizabeth Martinez
  • Message to Aztlán, by Rodolfo Corky Gonzales
  • Chicano! The History of the Mexican Civil Rights Movement, by F Arturo Rosales
  • Occupied America: A History of Chicanos, by Rodolfo Acuña
  • Pedagogy of the Oppressed, by Paulo Freire
  • Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years, by Bill Bigelow

In light of the events in Tucson, the American Library Association (ALA) had this to say:

“it condemns the ‘suppression of open inquiry and free expression caused by closure of ethnic and cultural studies programs,’ it condemns the ‘restriction of access to education materials related to ethnic and cultural studies,’ and it urges the Arizona legislature to pass HB 2654, ‘An Act Repealing Sections 15-111 and 15-112, Arizona Revised Statutes; Relating to School Curriculum.'”

How are we as educators to close gaps and inspire if our students do not see themselves in what they learn?