"Book Traffickers" Meet Tucson Ban on Mexican-American Studies

By Goldberg, Beverly | American Libraries, March-April 2012 | Go to article overview

"Book Traffickers" Meet Tucson Ban on Mexican-American Studies


Goldberg, Beverly, American Libraries


As of early March, educators were readying a "book trafficker" caravan that would travel March 12-18 from Houston, Texas, to Tucson, Arizona, to donate books about the Mexican-American experience to four volunteer libraries. The donations were meant to counter the removal of at least seven titles from Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) classrooms, where they had been taught as part of the district's now-outlawed Mexican-American Studies (MAS) program. Reminiscent of the Occupy Wall Street Library movement, the book traffickers, or Libro Traficantes, organized by Houston Community College professor Tony Diaz, were to contribute titles to underground, libraries in Houston, San Antonio, Albuquerque, and Tucson.

The TUSD school board voted 4--1 to disband MAS so the district, wouldn't lose 10% of its state funding. The penalty would have been imposed per Arizona law HB 2281, enacted in 2010, which bars public and charter schools from, teaching ethnic studies programs that "promote the overthrow of the US government, promote resentment toward a race or class of people, are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group, or advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals"

At its 2012 Midwinter Meeting, the American Library Association denounced the disbanding of MAS as "the suppression of open inquiry and free expression ... on the basis of partisan or doctrinal disapproval. "A joint resolution signed January 30 by ALA's Freedom to Read Foundation and 26 other free-speech groups, booksellers, and academic organizations also condemned the decision.

"Taking away these courses is far more likely to 'promote resentment: toward a race or class of people' than any title in the MAS curriculum," Office for Intellectual Freedom Director Barbara Jones told American Libraries.

Expressing a similar argument, US Rep. Charles A. Gonzalez (D-Tex.) and Raul M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus have asked the Justice Department to investigate HB 2281, which they contend is "bad public policy and fundamentally flawed."

Banned, or just boxed? …

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