Stegeman: Clarifying TUSD's MAS 'book ban'
Tucson Unified School District Governing Board President emailed the following letter on Sunday.—ed.
Dear friends and correspondents,
Because of the recent media attention on TUSD's "book ban," it seems useful to clarify that situation. TUSD also issued a press release on this subject several days ago, which is posted on the district website.
Every district in the state approves curriculum according to a process guided by statute and local policy, and approving the books to be used is part of that process. Through such processes a typical district might approve several hundred books for use in instruction. This leaves millions of books not approved for instruction; it would be silly to say that all of those books are "banned."
When the TUSD board voted (4-1) to end the Mexican-American Studies (MAS) curriculum, ending use of the books had to be part of that package. Staff says that the seven titles removed from classrooms and placed into storage are still available in school libraries, and I expect many of the books in storage to be distributed to libraries where they are not already available.
Because MAS did not actually have a board-approved curriculum, it was not immediately obvious which books to remove, but the staff took guidance from the evidence presented during the hearing on TUSD's appeal of Huppenthal's finding against the district. Because one motivation for the board's vote to end the MAS classes was to forestall the substantial financial penalty which the ADE threatened to impose, it made sense to remove the books which helped to provide the basis for that finding.
The seven removed books are:
- "Occupied America: A History of Chicanos" - Rodolfo Acuña
- "Rethinking Columbus: The next 500 Years" - Bill Bigelow
- "Critical Race Theory" - Richard Delgado
- "Pedagogy of the Oppressed" - Paulo Freire
- "Message to AZTLAN" - Rodolfo Gonzales
- "500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures" - Elizabeth Martinez (ed.)
- "Chicano! The History of the Mexican Civil Rights Movement" - Arturo Rosales
I am not aware of any other school district in Arizona which has approved these books for use in instruction. If anyone knows of such approvals, then I would be interested to hear about them.
Shakespeare's The Tempest is not on this list and never was, despite some media accounts to the contrary. Instructors are free to use it.
In the resolution which ended the MAS program, the TUSD board also said:
"The district shall revise its social studies core curriculum to increase its coverage of Mexican-American history and culture, including a balanced presentation of diverse viewpoints on controversial issues. The end result shall be a single common social studies core sequence through which all high school students are exposed to diverse viewpoints."
When staff brings this new curriculum to the board, it may or may not recommend that some of the seven books be approved for use in that new curriculum. I do not expect this to happen any time soon, however. Developing the new curriculum will be a long process, which will include community input. Obviously, this time, we want to get it right.
Thank you for your continued interest in TUSD. The MAS issue has been a long-running distraction for the district, far out of proportion to the small number of students in the MAS courses (currently fewer than 300). Bringing that issue to closure will increase our capacity to focus on the many large reforms necessary to improve education in TUSD, for all students.