On this day honoring the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we are reminded that his dream has not been achieved: not in society, not in education, not in the work force. A prime example is in a recent move by Tucson Unified School District to ban an important book on Native American education.
The first atrocities of inequality and prejudice in America began with the indigenous people.
It only got worse from there.
In one of my first years teaching, I was given a copy of Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years: Resources for teaching about the impact of the arrival of Columbus in the Americas at a Native American art workshop. I immediately cherished this book as a tool that created balance with the state-adopted history textbook. I used it often. Thank goodness I was not a teacher in Tucson!
According to the Rethinking Schools Blog:
Rethinking Schools learned today that for the first time in its more-than-20-year history, our bookRethinking Columbus was banned by a school district: Tucson, Arizona. According to journalist Jeff Biggers, officials with the Tucson Unified School District ordered that teachers pull the book from their classrooms, evidently as an outcome of the school board’s 4-1 vote this week to abolish the Mexican American Studies program…
For the record, Rethinking Columbus is Rethinking Schools’ top-selling book, having sold well over 300,000 copies. And over the years many school districts have not banned, but have purchased Rethinking Columbus for use with students. These include: Portland, Ore., Milwaukee, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Toronto, Ont., Atlanta, New York City, Anchorage, Alaska, Minneapolis, St. Paul, Chicago, Albuquerque, Las Vegas, Oakland, San Diego, Portland, Maine, Washington, DC, Cincinnati; Rochester, NY, Cambridge, Mass., Missoula, Montana, and the state of Maryland, as well as smaller towns like Stillwater, Minnesota; Athens, Ohio; Eugene, Oregon; and Estes, Colorado…
Of course, the suppression of our book is only a small part of the effort by Arizona school officials to crush the wildly successful Mexican American Studies program in Tucson. The program itself exemplifies an effort to address critical questions about stories sorely lacking in today’s corporate-produced textbooks and standardized curriculum. Students in the Mexican American Studies classes will now be dispersed to other classes, according to the resolution passed this week by the governing board of Tucson schools.
The judge ruled that the program violated state law by having one or more classes designed primarily for one ethnic group, promoting racial resentment and advocating ethnic solidarity instead of treating students as individuals.