With one of the harshest anti-immigrant laws on the books, Arizona recently targeted Latino schoolchildren and the books teachers use to inform them about Latino history and culture. Last month, the Tucson Unified School District, on a 4-1 vote, dissolved the Mexican American Studies program in local high schools. Subsequently, over 80 books were confiscated and/or banned, including works by Henry David Thoreau, Shakespeare, and famed Brazilian educator Paulo Freire. (The entire list of books removed is extensive and includes important Latino authors and activists’ books.)
Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic, Professors of Law at Seattle University and the authors of Critical Race Theory: An Introduction (one of the most prominent books removed from the curriculum in Arizona) responded to The Progressive about their feelings surrounding the censorship of their book:
“How does it feel to have one of your books banned in Arizona? In part, it feels good. It proves that we have said something that the authorities found dangerous. And they could not have found it dangerous if they had thought that it was untrue–in that case they would merely have ignored or refuted it. Instead, they fabricated patently false reasons for boxing up our book, along with six others, and sending it to a distant book depository. To make sure the children got the point, they arranged to collect the books, which the students had devoured eagerly, during classtime so that they would see what happens to dangerous ideas and thought.
In part, though, it feels bad. Young minds will not learn about critical race theory or Latino history or the historic struggles of their predecessors for school desegregation, immigration reform, and equal rights. They may learn about them piecemeal, but without an overarching framework, it will be difficult for them to develop a comprehensive view of race in American society.
Initiated in response to a desegregation mandate and taught by charismatic young teachers, the popular Mexican American Studies program had, in just a few short years, managed to increase the graduation rate of Latino youth in the district from about fifty percent to over 93. Many had gone on to enroll in college. When an outside audit gave the program a favorable review, the district ended it anyway, insisting that it was divisive and un-American. Americans, of course, don’t ban books (at least not often). But we doubt that the Tucson educational authorities noticed the irony in their own actions.”
[Read the original piece as it appeared in The Progressive here.]