Dozens of national organizations and several ABA member booksellers have joined together to protest the banning of books used for the Mexican American Studies program in the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD). The TUSD board ordered the books removed after State Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal threatened to withhold state funding pursuant to a recently enacted Arizona law, which prohibits public schools from teaching anything that promotes racial or ethnic “resentment,” or that is designed “primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group” or advocates “ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.” That law is being challenged in court.
Among the titles being removed from classrooms are Critical Race Theory by Richard Delgado; 500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures, edited by Elizabeth Martinez; Message to Aztlan by Rodolfo Corky Gonzales; Chicano! The History of the Mexican Civil Rights Movement by Arturo Rosales; Occupied America: A History of Chicanos by Rodolfo Acuna; Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire; and Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years by Bill Bigelow.
“This is censorship at its most brazen,” said Joan Bertin, executive director at the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC). “Officials at the state and local level are responsible for this unacceptable restriction on the educational opportunities of students and their ability to have discussion in school about historical and contemporary events touching on race and ethnicity. We call on them to restore the books and the topics for discussion in the district’s classrooms.”
“We do not think the students of Tucson should have to wait for a federal court order to get the education they deserve,” said Chris Finan, president of American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE). “Regardless of the outcome of legal proceedings, this is harming students, whose education should be the primary concern of elected officials. Instead they are putting politics and ideology ahead of the well-being of young people.”
NCAC and ABFFE are the sponsors of the Kids’ Right to Read Project (KRRP), which offers support, education, and advocacy to promote the right of young people to read widely and to receive a high quality education that is challenging and relevant. NCAC and ABFFE were joined in protesting TUSD’s actions by a number of national organizations representing publishers, teachers, and civil libertarians, as well as area booksellers, including Tempe’s Changing Hands, Tucson’s Antigone Books, and Bisbee’s Atalanta’s Music & Books. On Monday, the groups released a statement calling on the appropriate authorities to reverse their actions.
“The First Amendment right to read, speak and think freely applies to all, regardless of race, ethnicity, sex, religion, or national origin,” they wrote. “We strongly urge Arizona school officials to take this commitment seriously and to return all books to classrooms and remove all restrictions on ideas that can be addressed in class.”