Battle Front Tucson

By: Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - CommentaryThe battle for Latino and Mexican American studies in Arizona continues. Even though such studies have been officially banned in the Tucson Unified School District school system, the Arizona Education Department decided to go one step further. They have decided to ban those books on Latino and Mexican American themes deemed circulating ideas to attempt to “foment the overthrow of the U.S. government, cause race or ethnic resentment, or emphasize students’ ethnicity rather than their individuality.” The state authorities decided to have these books taken out of the schools, although they say that that books are not “banned.” The books have been taken to a warehouse where they are being put into the public library system. I’m sorry, but these books are indeed being banned. True, we do not see book burnings as happened in Nazi Germany, and no people are not being arrested or shot for having “banned” books. But in a democratic country like the United States, this is as close to banning books as is possible.

Ironically, because these books are being “banned” in Arizona’s elementary and high schools, they are now becoming more read than ever. So far, the state authorities have not been able to find a way to ban books in public libraries, or stop students from going to libraries to read the exact same books they are not allowed to read in school. It is truly crazy that books that might not have seen the light of day are now becoming popular in a sort-of underground railroad of state banned books. Books like Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire and Message to AZTLAN by Rudolfo Corky Gonzalez would never have been given a second look by any student. Now that they are “banned” books, you can be sure that these books will be in hot demand by the very students these books were supposed to be kept from. All other books that the Arizona Education Department is attempting to ban will most likely now become the choice for all Latino and even non-Latino students to try and check out at their local library.

As the old saying “rebellious youth” goes, so now it will be “cool” for so many young Latino and non-Latino people to do something they might not have thought of doing had these books not been banned—actually go and read and learn something. And from reading these books and thinking about the issues raised in these books, these students will be applying critical ideas and analyzing the environment around them. This will make these young people far more aware and indeed critical of those who would deny them the right to learn. If the Arizona Education Department thought it can make these young people into spoon-fed drones then it has badly miscalculated (in fact, it would have been better if the Arizona Education Department had done nothing at all and if the state had not banned Latino and Mexican American studies in the first place). There is no question that the State of Arizona will find new ways to ban or curtail certain academic activities and make the state government the thought police. And just as true the state’s young people will find a way around all of this authoritarian non-sense.

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