stephanie jones

Shocking Censorship, Banning, and Silencing in Arizona!

In anti-bias teaching, communities, democracy, Education Policy on January 20, 2012 at 8:21 pm

Many of you already know about the shocking decision to suspend the Mexican-American Studies program in the Tucson Unified School District, well now books connected to those programs are being banned in schools.

Check this out for a list of BANNED books – some of which have been confiscated by school officials during class while students and teachers are present.

And, if we want to take on a more “come on, this ain’t about politics, or race, or power, or fear, or the teaching of one particular history and the exclusion of exploitation and colonization – this is just about closing down the courses and therefore moving all the books used in those courses to central office storage where they will be tightly sealed in boxes and never to be used by youth or teachers again unless they go out of their way and locate one of the few copies we might have available in some of our libraries” stance – here’s the “official” story of book banning reposted from Empty Wheel.

Here’s a message from Rethinking Schools – if you’re on Facebook (which I’m not) you might want to post ideas and messages of support:

Dear Rethinking Schools friends,
Did you see the news last week? On Friday, we learned that our book Rethinking Columbus was banned — along with other books used in Tucson’s Mexican American Studies program, including Paulo Freire’s A Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Rodolfo Acuña’s Occupied America, and Elizabeth Martinez’s 500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures. So we’re in good company.
School authorities confiscated the books during class—boxed them up and hauled them off. As one student said, “We were in shock … It was very heartbreaking to see that happening in the middle of class.”
This is the latest chapter in the rightwing attempt to ban ethnic studies in Arizona. Last week, facing the loss of $15 million in state support, the governing board of Tucson’s schools voted 4-1 to terminate the popular and successful Mexican American Studies program.
On Friday, I spoke to the Tucson school district’s director of communications, who told me that the books had to be seized and carted away, because they were “evidence”—as if the teaching going on there were a crime scene. On Tuesday, the district protested that no books had been “banned”—although district officials admitted that they had been “boxed and stored” and could not be used in class. Sounds like “banning” to me.
Rethinking Schools is talking with teachers, students, and activists in Tucson about how we can help their struggle there. We will let you know as we gather ideas.
Do you have ideas to express support for Tucson teachers and students, and to organize opposition to Arizona’s banning of Mexican American Studies and Tucson’s confiscation of books in their curriculum? Please post ideas to the Rethinking Schools facebook page, or if you’re not on facebook, e-mail me.
We’ll follow up soon.
For more information, check out Jeff Biggers’ article, “Who’s Afraid of ‘The Tempest’?” Debbie Reese’s, “Teaching Critical Thinking in Arizona: NOT ALLOWED,” Biggers’ Huffington Post interview with Tucson teacher Curtis Acosta, and my Rethinking Schools blog post.
Thanks for your important work.


  1. I recently read about Tucson banning these books and the curriculum and am truly mortified. Rethinking Columbus is a resource I’ve been using to teach about the Age of Exploration since my first year of teaching and found it extraordinarily useful in stretching my students thinking on the subject. The lessons from this curriculum left my students with more questions and helped them make connection from the past to the present. Without teaching history from multiple perspectives, then we’re not really teaching. Have you had a chance to read the legislation? It cuts into the heart of social studies education!

    I also recently read a bill proposed in Tennessee which, if passed, could seriously lead to further attacks on LGBTQ students without any consequences for the perpetrator.

  2. This is an excerpt from a 2009 blog post of mine: (

    In the ground in the center of the Bebelplatz in Berlin, Germany there is a glass window that looks down into a room full of empty book shelves. Nearby, is a plaque with a quote from an 1821 play by the poet Heinrich Heine saying, “Das war win vorspiel nor dort wo man bucker verbrennt. Verbrennt man am ends such menschen.” Roughly translated means: “That was mere foreplay. When you start by burning books, you will end by burning people”.

    This is the very spot were the Nazis burned books over 100 years after Heine wrote these prophetic words. Included in the pile of burning books were some of Heine’s own works. . . .

    . . . . . Just south of the Brandenburg, Gate along Ebertstraße, is the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Completed in 2005 by the Jewish American architect Peter Eisenman, the site consists of 2711 concrete blocks.

    As you walk into the memorial, the ground falls away and rises again, tipping from side to side. The blocks become monoliths, some towering over 15 ft. high. This is done intentionally to disorient you, to make you feel enclosed and trapped.

    I believe it is important that we remember these things, not to deepen old wounds or chastise the German people for atrocities of which they are all too well aware. But as a reminder to us to be ever vigilant of the subtle beginnings of such horrors.

    As Americans we should not turn a blind eye to intolerance, injustice, or bigotry, no matter how large or small. To do so makes us culpable. Passing on rumors or innuendo, regardless of how innocent or funny it might seem at the time, is unacceptable. America is a country founded on some very basic principles and rights. So, whether it be banning books, restraining speech or just simply listening to only one perspective is the beginning of a slippery slope. We all want to keep our country, our community, and our children safe. However, repressing speech, access to books, different cultures, and different points of view is NOT a form of protection, but rather a recipe for intolerance and misunderstanding and the beginning of new “Walls” being built.

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