American Indians in Children’s Literature (AICL) coverage of Arizona’s banning of Mexican American Studies and censoring books in Tucson

AICL Coverage of Arizona Law that resulted in shut down of Mexican American Studies Program and Banning of Books

This is a comprehensive set of links to AICL’s coverage of the Arizona law that led to the shut down of the Mexican American Studies Program in Arizona and the subsequent banning of books used in the program. It will be updated as my coverage continues.

AICL Coverage of Arizona Law that resulted in shut down of Mexican American Studies Program and Banning of Books

This is a comprehensive set of links to AICL’s coverage of the Arizona law that led to the shut down of the Mexican American Studies Program in Arizona and the subsequent banning of books used in the program. It will be updated as my coverage continues.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Friday, January 20, 2012

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Monday, January 23, 2012

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Friday, January 27, 2012

Additional information outside of AICL:

Tuesday, January 24, 2012:

Wednesday, January 25, 2012:

  • CNN is reporting that Norma Gonzales, a teacher who taught in the MAS program, has been reassigned to teach American history and was asked to teach out of a textbook that says the Tohono O’odham tribe mysteriously disappeared. She has two Tohono O’odham students in her class. Among the books no longer being taught in the shut down MAS program is Ofelia Zepeda’s Ocean Power. Zepeda is Tohono O’odham, teaches in the American Indian Studies program at the University of Arizona, and won a MacArthur Genius Grant.

Efforts to support Mexican American Studies teachers and students:

To order a copy of Precious Knowledge, a documentary of the Mexican American Studies program (view trailer here):

  1. Send an email to
  2. Send a check made out to DOS VATOS PRODUCTIONS to:

Dos Vatos Productions
4029 E. Camino de la Colina
Tucson, AZ 85711

The DVD is priced as follows—Individual: $28, Community Group, High School, Public Library, Non-profit: $40, University and public performance rights: $200

and see also:

Jan 28 Updates regarding shut-down of Mexican American Studies program at Tucson Unified School District

[Note: For a chronological and comprehensive list of links to AICL’s coverage of the shut-down of the Mexican American Studies Department at Tucson Unified School District, go here. To go right to information about the National Mexican American Studies Teach-in, go here.]

Below is Curtis Acosta’s January 26, 2012 update from Tucson. Acosta is a teacher in the now-shuttered Mexican American Studies Department in Tucson Unified School District.

Norma Gonzales

In his letter, Acosta writes about his colleague, Norma Gonzales, and her experiences over the last few days. In addition to teaching literature at the high school level, Gonzales worked with elementary school teachers in TUSD, helping them bring Mexican American content into their teaching. She also did art projects with students at Wakefield Middle School.

On January 24th, students at Wakefield participated in a walkout. They were subsequently suspended. Rather than stay home on Thursday, January 26th, they spent the day attending Mexican American Studies classes at the University of Arizona, including Roberto Rodriguez’s class. Among the speakers Rodriguez had lined up for that day was Simon J. Ortiz of Acoma Pueblo. Rodriguez has been writing about the attacks on the MAS at TUSD for some time at his blog. In his post on Thursday, he writes that just as his class ended that day, they learned that the suspension of the students had been lifted.

The Three Sonorans YouTube Channel uploaded a twelve-minute video of interviews with the middle school students. I’m sharing it below and urge you to watch the entire video.

Here is Acosta’s letter, titled “Behind the Curtain in Tucson”. He concludes with a reference to students in the video.

Thank you all for your patience this morning with the earlier message, and I hope this latest update on what my colleagues and I are experiencing in Tucson find you well.

Unfortunately, there has been little guidance and movement toward how my colleagues and I are to move forward in the development of brand new curriculum and the pedagogical changes that must be made. As I wrote to you all last week, anything from the Mexican American Studies perspective is now illegal for the former MAS teachers. We are being asked to use the district adopted textbooks as the model for how to move forward. We have been told that we can still teach about race and sensitive topics, which is contradiction to earlier direction from our school/site administrators, but we must be balanced and cannot reflect MAS perspectives, although this has yet to be defined.

In fact, Norma Gonzalez (one of my MAS colleagues) was specifically told that she “CANNOT teach or discuss in class anything that is specific towards the culture and background of Mexican American Students.” This is an exact quote from her administrator. She was also asked to leave the middle school site that she is currently teaching and forced to abandon all her current students. Norma’s mere presence at her school is seen as unbearable to her administration regardless of her quality work, dedication to her classes and amazing relationships she creates with her students. This is the damage being displayed in our classrooms in order to fall in line with the political motivations behind destroying our program.

What is troubling for all of us is the fact that we have always been balanced, encouraged students to engage in critical thought, and embraced diverse voices and viewpoints throughout our curriculum and pedagogy. The direction from the district implies the opposite regardless of the many audits and observations that have proven otherwise.

To put this in a more concrete way, my classes were designed in a way that showed multiple perspectives and voices. Here is a short list of authors who are not Mexican that I use: Sherman Alexie, Jane Yolen, Junot Díaz, David Berliner, Angela Davis, Pat Buchanan, Ofelia Zepeda, Malcolm X, Maxine Hong Kingston, Jonathan Kozol, and Martin Luther King Jr.

This is critical since we see a common theme that administration across the district have told my colleagues and myself – we are all to avoid Mexican work and perspectives at all costs. However, these authors are a part of the same censored, banned, or illegal curriculum and this surely means we must abandon these authors and this curriculum, too. We are also forbidden to use the critical lenses to view the work which challenge students to develop academically credible arguments in order to support their own views.

Thus, when they tell us we may move forward and develop multicultural curriculum it feels like we are being set-up to fail. The district has been caught in so much double speak and contradictory language they have no idea how to move forward, and we have no confidence in trusting them as they give advice. As I have mentioned in other interviews I do not feel safe teaching The Tempest or “Beyond Vietnam” by Dr. King as I normally have for years since it is clear that the district wants us to not only abandon the history and culture of Mexican Americans, but also the curriculum and pedagogy developed by Mexican American teachers. The only safe route appears for us to flee from any history or voices of color, authors that echo the themes that we had used in the past, and embrace curriculum that does not venture down those pathways. In other words, for my colleagues and I we must step back in the time machine to Pleasantville.

We are working without a net and there have been credible claims that two TUSD Governing Board members have told our district superintendent that any violations by teachers should be disciplined harshly and immediately. Thus, my colleagues and I feel that our jobs are very much on the line, and we have not been given any reassurance through specific criteria in curriculum and pedagogy of what is to be avoided and how we can confidently move forward with our students.

Yet our students remain dedicated to the restoration of the program and to have their voices heard. This week many of them participated in walkouts and an Ethnic Studies School was created for a day by the youth of UNIDOS, where many community members and professors from the University of Arizona donated their time to teach the youth. Above all else it is their education that matters, and this massive disruption in their lives and schooling is clear proof of how their futures have been dismissed and marginalized by local and state officials. The good news is that they are resilient and we all will continue to ensure that their future dreams are not compromised by the pettiness and spite of the tragic few that made this deplorable and shameful decision.

In Lak Ech,
Curtis Acosta

Nation-wide responses to the shut-down of the Mexican American Studies Department at Tucson Unified School District

For a comprehensive list of links to AICL’s coverage of the shut-down of the Mexican American Studies program at Tucson Unified School District, go here.

On Tuesday, January 24, 2012, the American Library Association issued a resolution condemning what is happening in Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) and calling for the law that banned Mexican American Studies to be repealed.

However, the harsh reality in Arizona is that the Republicans hold a super majority. They passed the law banning ethnic studies, and the newly introduced bill calling for its repeal is not likely to be passed.

Meanwhile, Tom Horne, the Attorney General for the State of Arizona continued misrepresenting the program in the US and abroad. He gave an interview on BBC in which he said that students in TUSD are divided by race. He said “if you’re this race you take this class. If you’re that race, you take that class.” That is not true. Students from several racial groups have taken classes offered in the program. Last year, John Huppenthal, Arizona’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, hired an independent firm to conduct an audit of the program. The audit includes information about the ethnicity of students who have taken MAS courses as follows:

  • Hispanic, 90%
  • White/Anglo, 5%
  • Native American, 2%
  • African American, 1.5%
  • Asian American and Multi-racial, just under 0.50%

The audit also found improvements in school attendance, grades, and graduation rates of students of all races who were taking classes in MAS.

State level politics in Arizona are driving the shut-down of the program. For background and analysis, I recommend you go to Huffington Post (start with the article dated January 25) and read all the stories Jeff Biggers has written over the last few years. Use the “Mexican American Studies” tag to find them.

Attacks on, and misinformation about, the MAS program in Arizona are not an isolated case. Too many of us express outrage when we learn about this, but, we’ve got to do more than express outrage! Outrage doesn’t stop what is happening. Actions are what is needed.

A few days ago, CNN ran a story that the United States Congressional Hispanic Caucus is asking for an investigation of the law that banned the MAS program.

The CNN story also includes information about how the program’s shut-down is playing out on the lives of students and teachers who were in, or teaching, MAS classes when they were shut down. Imagine being given 48 hours to rewrite your lesson plans and curriculum so that it is stripped of anything that you did from a Mexican American perspective.  Here’s two examples:

  • Norma Gonzales, a teacher who taught Mexican American History was reassigned to teach American History and given a textbook that says that the Tohono O’odham people mysteriously vanished. She has two Tohono O’odham students in her class. Ironically, students who took the Mexican American Literature courses read Ofelia Zepeda’s Ocean Power. She is Tohono O’odham and received the MacArthur Genius Grant for her work. In MAS, curriculum reflected who they are. In the core curriculum, they have “mysteriously disappeared.”
  • Curtis Acosta, a teacher who taught Mexican American Literature, had a meeting with district administrators. Listen to the audio of Acosta being told how he can and cannot teach The Tempest.

As news spread about the banning of books in TUSD spread across the country, people asked what they could do to help. There are several initiatives in progress.


In Tucson, students walked out of classes on Tuesday and held an Ethnic Studies Teach-In off school grounds. Some were suspended for walking out, and rather than stay home yesterday, they attended Mexican American courses at the University of Arizona. Those are localized educational responses to the shut-down of their classes.

A nation-wide educational response in the form of a National Teach-In will take place on February 1st. Some things people can do include the following:

  • View excerpts–specially selected for the Teach In–from Precious Knowledge, the documentary about the MAS program that will be aired on PBS in May.
  • In elementary classrooms or library read-alouds to elementary-aged children, tead aloud from one of the picture books used in the MAS program. Two suggestions are Pam Mora’s The Desert is My Mother, Gary Soto’s Snapshots from the Wedding. 
  • With older students, introduce them to Matt de la Pena’s Mexican WhiteBoy or Sandra Cisnero’s House on Mango Street. 
  • Share what you know with your family, friends, and colleagues.
  • Purchase a copy of Rethinking Columbus or one of the other books that was boxed up and removed from classrooms, or, one of the books that was used in the program.
  • Purchase a copy of Precious Knowledge. To order, write to (Individual copy is $28. Public library copy is $40. Rights for university or public performance are $200.)
  • Sign the petition set up by Norma Gonzales. She taught in the MAS program.
  • Donate to the fund to support the work to fight the ban.

Another option is to watch “A Teach-in on Tucson” that will take place at Georgia State University’s College of Education. Portions of it will be streamed online. Initial information is here. The flier for the event is shown below. I’ll share more information on the Teach In as I learn more details.

In addition to the educational teach ins, there are other ways people are pushing back on the shut-down of the program. I will add others as I find them, and I invite you to send me information about other initiatives that you know about.

  • Librotraficante is a planned caravan in which carloads of banned books will be driven from Texas to Arizona.
  • At Banning History in Arizona, you can submit a video of yourself reading from one of the banned books.

One thought on “American Indians in Children’s Literature (AICL) coverage of Arizona’s banning of Mexican American Studies and censoring books in Tucson

  1. Pingback: La Bloga: Review: Gilb stories. Things not said. Librotraficante … | Literature Blog

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