By Matthew Rothschild on January 19, 2012

What happened last week in Tucson was outrageous.

The Tucson Unified School District, after voting to ban Mexican American Studies, went into the classrooms and took books away from young people, books that the state, in its hateful law, has deemed unacceptable.

These books specifically include:

Chicano! The History of the Mexican Civil Rights Movement, by Arturo Rosales

Critical Race Theory, by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic

500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures, edited by Elizabeth Martinez

Message to Aztlan, by Rodolfo Corky Gonzales

Occupied America: A History of Chicanos, by Rodolfo Acuña

Pedagogy of the Oppressed, by Paulo Freire

Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years, edited by Bill Bigelow and Bob Peterson.

The school board said it was simply responding to an order by a reactionary judge, who cited these seven books. But the school district took away additional titles as well, as it swept through the Mexican American Studies classrooms. (See Brenda Norell’s reporting hereSee Brenda Norell’s reporting here.)

(See also Jeff Biggers at Salon, who helped break this story.)

Other books on the now-banned curriculum of Mexican American Studies that were to be “cleared from all classrooms” include:

Rodolfo Anaya, The Anaya Reader

Gloria Anzaldua, Borderlands

Sherman Alexie, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven

Jimmy Santiago Baca, A Place to Stand, and five other books by him.

James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time

Ana Castillo, Loverboys and So Far From God

Cesar Chavez, Address to the Commonwealth Club of California

Sandra Cisneros, Woman Hollering Creek

Junot Diaz, Drown

Martín Espada, Zapata’s Disciple

Laura Esquivel, Like Water for Chocolate

Bell Hooks, Feminism Is for Everbody

Dagoberto Gilb, The Magic of Blood

Jonathan Kozol, Savage Inequalities

Luis Rodriguez, Always Running

Roberto Rodriguez, Justice: A Question of Race

Luis Alberto Urrea, By the Lake of Sleeping Children and Nobody’s Son

Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States

(Shakespeare’s The Tempest was also on the list but after Salon exposed that fact, the school district hastened to say that Shakespeare wasn’t off limits.)

The school board didn’t need to go in and take books out of the hands of students. It could have appealed the court’s decision, for instance. It could have stood up for academic freedom.

Instead, it caved in, and taught the students an object lesson in cowardice and racism and censorship.

But the students aren’t taking it lying and down. And neither are the authors, nor Latino and Native American activists.

“I am very stunned and very shocked and very pissed off,” said the poet Simon Ortiz, who is a professor English and American Indian Studies at Arizona State University.

“Democracy has been dealt a blow,” says Rodolfo Acuña. “The actions of these racists has contributed to disillusionment among many students. . . . In ending the MAS program, the State of Arizona is complicit in condemning many Latino students to failure.”

This is about the freedom to teach and to learn, and the freedom to study the various histories that make up the competing telling of U.S. history.

This freedom—real freedom—the rightwing just can’t handle.

If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story “Pundits Slight Ron Paul after Strong NH Showing."

Follow Matthew Rothschild @mattrothschild on Twitter

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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