Sunday, September 02, 2012

Books Removed From Classrooms

Nine-year old being screened before Tucson school board hearing.
Only in AZ

From September 1 to October 31, 2012, Armacost Library is holding an Intellectual Freedom Blogathon featuring posts on topics concerning censorship, the freedom to read, view, and express, and the connection these various freedoms have to individual life experiences and the state of society. The following essay is part of the Armacost Library Intellectual Freedom (ALIF) Blogathon. 

My beloved home state of Arizona has done it again.  Must be something in the (lack of) water.  Books have been removed from classrooms (in front of students during class time, allegedly) and are gathering dust in a school district warehouse.  What message does this send?

A long-time state legislator, who became Superintendent of Public Instruction and is now Attorney General, got a bee in his bonnet over some comments made by labor leader Dolores Huerta to a Tucson high school class several years ago, allegedly.  He proceeded to draft, and lead to enactment, legislation that is now codified into Arizona law.  Under that statute, referred to by some as the anti-ethnic studies law, he ordered Tucson to immediately shut down their very successful Mexican American Studies (MAS) program - success measured in significantly higher graduation rates among Mexican American program participants compared to the overall Mexican American student population.  The Tucson school board then voted 4-1 to dismantle the MAS curriculum, ordering school officials to stop teaching MAS classes and to remove MAS program books from classroom shelves.  A few of the removed books (with Armacost Library call numbers):

Thoreau, Henry David. Civil Disobedience. PS3048 .A1 1970
Rodriguez, Luis J. Always Running: La Vida Loca, Gang Days in L.A. HV6439.U7 L77 1993
Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. LB880.F73 P4313 2006
Alexie, Sherman. Ten Little Indians. PS3551.L35774 T46 2003
Cisneros, Sandra. Woman Hollering Creek. PS3553.I78 W66 1991
Díaz, Junot. Drown. PS3554.I259 D76 1997
Shakespeare, William. The Tempest. PR2833.A2 H6 1955
Baca, Jimmy Santiago. Black Mesa Poems. PS3552.A254 B54 1989
Esquivel, Laura. Like Water for Chocolate. PQ7298.15.S638 C8613 1995
Gonzales, Rodolfo “Corky”. Message to Aztlan. PS3557.O47 M4 2001
Hooks, Bell. Feminism is for Everybody. HQ1190 .H67 2000
Kozol, Jonathan. Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools. LC4091 .K69 1992
Valdez, Luis. Zoot Suit and Other Plays. PS3572.A387 Z6 1992

Some of these titles obviously found themselves on the wrong shelves at the wrong time.  Banning Shakespeare?  Are you kidding me?!  At the same time, plenty of the books present challenging material.  They present alternative viewpoints.  They contain ideas that require readers to use (develop) critical thinking skills.  They are exactly the kind of material that students should be reading.  If the book banners do not want students engaging with this material, they have chosen a tactic that is bound to fail.  By removing these books from the classroom, they have created greater interest in them within the student body and the public.  These titles are readily available via many libraries and booksellers.  We have most of them at the Armacost Library.

Adelita Grijalva was the lone dissenting board member in the 4-1 vote to stop the MAS program.  She, and others, spoke at the American Library Association Annual Conference in June 2012.  Another of the speakers was Tony Diaz, aka El Librotraficante (the Book Smuggler).  His website has interesting information on efforts to fight the book ban.  Many other people are trying to return books to students.  News of their efforts, and much more information, can be found online, of course, by Googling or searching for actual news articles via databases such as LexisNexis.

Image icon of person with open book. Text reads I FREE.
Les Canterbury, Collection Development/Reference/Natural Sciences Librarian, Armacost Library


Kevin Eberle said...

I was teaching in the state of Arizona an hour north of Tucson when this bill was crafted. Education in the state of Arizona is completely underfunded and underappreciated. I had to teach a reading group in addition to my duties as a music teacher and in that group, we read Toni Morrison's Beloved. Before we began I explained to my children what banned books meant and they had to think while they read why this book was banned in our district. At the end of the semester, when we finished the book, my students were thinking more critically and making deeper connections to real life problems as a result of reading this book. I got in so much trouble with my school district, but it was worth it.

Les said...

Thank you for sharing your story, Kevin. It is great to learn that someone connected with UR has had a direct positive impact on the lives of Arizona students. I wonder how many other Redlands folks have personal connections to the events in Tucson.