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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:

Knowledge
is like
the wind…

once obtaining it,
you can go
anywhere.

— 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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