By Jeff Biggers
From the high plains of Wyoming to the urban centers of Atlanta, Chicago and New York City, hundreds of schools launched a historic teach-in movement today to incorporate lesson plans from the banished Mexican American Studies program in Tucson in their own classrooms.
Organized by the Teacher Activist Groups and joined by Rethinking Schools and other educational networks, the month-long “No History is Illegal” initiative comes on the heels of an unusually strong statement by over two dozen of the nation’s largest publishing, literary and education organizations that calls on the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) and Arizona state education officials to recognize First Amendment rights and “return all books to classrooms and remove all restrictions on ideas that can be addressed in class.”
Thousands of detained books remain behind lock and key in the school district’s warehouse like broken chairs and desks and school bus parts, despite the fact that the TUSD library catalog shows that there are less than 2-3 copies of several of the removed Mexican American Studies textbooks in the entire school district, which serves more than 55,000 students.
In outrage at the detained books, nearly 15,000 people have also signed a petition started by former Mexican American Studies teacher Norma Gonzalez, which calls on the Tucson school district to “immediately remove these books from their ‘district storage facility’ and make them available in each school’s library. Knowledge cannot be boxed off and carried away from students who want to learn!”
Signed by representatives of the Association of American Publishers, American Association of University Professors, American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, National Coalition Against Censorship, National Council for the Social Studies, National Council of Teachers of English, and the PEN American Center, among other national groups, the censorship statement yesterday also calls out the troubling doublespeak by Tucson Unified School District administrators like Superintendent John Pedicone, who declared the drastic confiscation of textbooks and curriculum materials in front of children and subsequent detainment in locked storage units is not a ban.
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