January 18, 2012
However you might take it, a banning of books or “The books… have been moved to the district storage facility because the classes have been suspended,” what is true is students in Arizona have lost the opportunity to formally, intentionally, and critically engage in conversation concerning ethnic studies.
A year ago a law went into effect as a result of Arizona Superintendent (of) Public Instruction John Huppenthal ruling that would ban “classes that promote the overthrow of the U.S. government, encourage resentment toward a race or a class of people, are designed solely for students of a certain ethnicity and advocate for ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of students as individuals.” Last summer Huppenthal announced the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) “Mexican American studies program was illegal,” and that he found a number of texts used in the program were troubling. A few of the troubling books that have been removed from TUSD classrooms are Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire and Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years by Bill Bigelow. Rethinking Columbus gives voice to such writers as Leslie Marmon—”Ceremony,” Suzan Shown Harjo—”We Have No Reason to Celebrate,” and Pulitzer Prize winner N. Scott Momaday and his “The Delight Song of Tsoai-Talee.”
When speaking on the Doctrine of Discovery I often mention we need a new way of understanding our history and make a statement something along the lines that “after all, history is written by those who win the war.” The statement is not new and most people give an affirmative shake of the head. We get it; we understand that it is those with power who have the opportunity to write history. What we miss is history is also being written by the subjugated, the oppressed, and the colonized. However, their voice does not carry far beyond themselves and their supporters because those whom the dominate structure gives power does allow it. Give it some thought, how many of us who are adults had the opportunity in grade school, high school, or college to become familiar with writers such as Paulo Freire, Leslie Marmon, Suzan Shown Harjo, or N. Scott Momaday? What we are watching in Arizona could easily become a case study of how dominate culture halts and removes those voices who dare propose another way of understanding history, life, and landscape.
*Censored News: Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights: http://bsnorrell.blogspot.com/2012/01/banning-of-books-signals-revolution-in.html?spref=fb
*Tucson Citizen.com: http://tucsoncitizen.com/arizona-news/2012/01/17/tucson-district-denies-ban-of-mexican-american-books/
© David B. Bell 2012