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Explore the banned curriculum

In this week’s Need to Know, we report on the long-running dispute over a Mexican-American studies program that has tensions high in Tucson, Arizona.

But what’s behind the uproar? What does the contested curriculum actually look like? Here we explore two of the banned books in Tucson — and ask you to form your own opinions about the controversial coursework.

Here’s a look at some of the classroom materials outlawed by the Tucson law:

“Rethinking Columbus” encourages students to think critically about the man who most school books portray as the intrepid explorer who discovered the American continents.

In the introduction of “Rethinking Columbus,”authors Bill Bigelow and Bob Peterson describe why they aim to paint a critical, more nuanced portrait of the Spanish colonizer:

We have tried to provide a forum for native people to tell some of their side of the encounter — through interviews, poetry, analysis, and stories.

The point is not to present ‘two sides,’ but to tell parts of the story that have been mostly neglected.

It would be nice to think that the biases in the curriculum disappear after Columbus. But the Columbus myth is only the beginning of a winners’ history that profoundly neglects the lives and perspectives of many “others”: people of color, women, working-class people, the poor.

“Rethinking Columbus” is aimed primarily at teachers, but is written in a simple style appropriate for a high school or college reading level. Chapter topics range from “The Truth about the First Thanksgiving,” to “Black Indians & Resistance,” to the contemporary struggles of Native Americans, including the ongoing challenge of preserving territories.

At the end of the book, the authors provide a list of resources for young adults and educators, opening the final chapter with the following quote:

is like
the wind…

once obtaining it,
you can go

— Yellow Horse

Explore a PDF of the book’s Table of Contents here, courtesy of Rethinking Schools Online.

Paulo Freire, a Brazilian born author and educator, is considered to be a major contributor to the Critical Pedagogy theory of education.

His book, “Pedagogy of the Oppressed,” chronicles the struggle of lower classes to self-identify within a system lacking education and modeled on affliction. His theory presents a model for such individuals to find a certain “self-awareness” and understanding of the world. In doing so, these classes are offered a different model of the world, than that of oppressor versus oppressed.

A few excerpts:

“The oppressed, having internalized the image of the oppressor and adopted his guidelines, are fearful of freedom. Freedom would require them to eject this image and replace it with autonomy and responsibility. Freedom is acquired by conquest, not by gift.”

“It is not our role to speak to the people about our own view of the world, nor to attempt to impose the view on them, but rather to dialogue with the people about their view and ours.”

“As long as the oppressed remain unaware of the causes of their condition, they fatalistically “accept” their exploitation. Further, they are apt to react in a passive and alienated manner when confronted with the necessity to struggle for their freedom and self-affirmation.”

Overall, the Tucson school district pulled seven books from the classrooms.

These “banned” books are still available in libraries, but are not permitted in Tucson public school classrooms. The books include the two listed above as well as “500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures” by Elizabeth Martinez, “Critical Race Theory” by Richard Delgado, “Message to Aztlán: Selected Writings of Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzalez” and “Chicano! The History of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement” by Arturo Rosales. (Full list via HuffPost Latino Voices).

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  • Mark Talmont

    The Propaganda Broadcasting Service in all it’s full flaming Marxist glory.

    “Critical thinking” should involve actual logic. How many of you can identify what “necessary and sufficient conditions” means? I would wager that NONE of the students featured on the program could. I doubt if any of the
    “teachers” on the program could either; I’m afraid I have my doubts about the professional academics or the presenters as well.

    I am familiar with the course materials referenced. They are actually more lop-sided and propadandistic than the allegedly “Eurocentric” curricula they replaced. “Remember the Alamo?” Why don’t you try web-searching what happened at Goliad around the same time, because I know you won’t find it in the books by Martinez or the “history” by the notorious race nationalist Rodolfo Acuna, whose book is apparently still allowed in the classrooms. I wonder if they have “Mein Kampf”?

    These people care about education less than Col. Sanders cared about chickens. Remember Jaime Escalante, who taught barrio youth calculus? (told in the film “Stand and Deliver”). Escalante tried to pass that program on to a protege; the geniuses that run the school system in LA killed it off. There’s no such program at Garfield High today

    This charade is about nothing other than turning the public schools into a political vehicle for the radical left. These people have had an inordinate influence on all things educational since the 1960s. Everything they touch turns to garbage. They are the specific reason we can be in our 6th year of crisis unemployment levels yet with unfilled jobs all over the country because the educationists have failed to produce the right skill sets (they really like the idea of having to import everything as it fits in with the immigration agenda). Hope you all enjoy financing your own self-destruction.

  • Milt

    To write:


These “banned” books are still available in libraries, but are not permitted in Tucson public school classrooms.

    is simply inflammatory. Most, if not all, school districts have policies about using only “board approved” materials and if I am not mistaken, these books were removed from the classrooms because they were not board approved. So, the non-approved biology text is also “banned” from the classroom.

  • Billyjoe

    Where are the Protocols of the Elders of Zion? It’s not just the white man who’s keeping Hispanics down. Clearly the curriculum needs to present a wider range of voices and perspectives. Or maybe it’s on the list of banned books.

  • Sue

    Girls have been studying the history of men since there has been such a class. And we are not even a minority.

  • nvsand

    Well Mark, at least you got to express your opinion on this site. Not so, in the public schools it seems!

  • Shareef EL

    This only supports the claims of so-called minorities. It reveals the need for flexibility within the school board. It seems as though the agenda is to teach the conquered that the conqueror is their hero. I reinforces low self worth. And at this point with the world catching up and passing the US. We should be willing to put our biased agenda to the side and begin to instill the kind of self esteem and pride that can generate a love for education for students that struggle to even have an interest in a system that teaches them indirectly of course that they are “minor”

  • Shareef EL

    Through sin and disobedience…All nations have suffered. The point is to tell the whole truth. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Tell the truth about the Spanish Inquisition, and how the exploration to these Americas was the continuation of it. And of the expulsion and genocide of Moors from Spain. And in turn the Moors must tell the truth of how they ruled Spain for some 700 years with arrogance, lust, and abuse. And how the current general disregard for the cares of so-called minorities is the result of the way in which the dark skinned Moors treated Europeans in those days. If we can tell these truths we can grow and get passed our petty differences.

  • Diane

    In your reporting you showed exactly why these courses are banned. You proved all points in the bill. At the same time never confronting the radical issued you reported.

    Promote the overthrow of the United States Government.

    Promote resentment toward a race or class of people.
    Are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group.

    Advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.

    Students demonstrated union bully methods that were taught and encouraged.

    The professor interviewed confirmed people who study only one ideology only learn think one way. These student should study Italian, Indian, Cajun, Chinese, German history.