Challenging Arizona’s Ban on Ethnic Studies

Challenging Arizona’s Ban on Ethnic Studies

Challenging Arizona’s Ban on Ethnic Studies

Teacher Activist Groups are fighting back with a month of nationwide workshops based on the banned curriculum.


In January 2011, Arizona state Attorney General Tom Horne declared the Tucson Unified School District MAS (Mexican American Studies) program illegal. This despite the curriculum’s astonishing success in graduating 100 percent of its students from high school and obtaining college placement for 82 percent of its alumni.


Over the past year, teachers, students and administrators have come together to challenge Horne’s ruling, but on this past January 10, the TUSD school board voted four to one to immediately cease all MAS classes.

Horne’s decision entailed the widespread removal of select books that were used in the curriculum. The list of banned books is extensive, includes important Latino authors and activists’ books that were banished from the school system and has provoked particular outrage in Arizona and beyond.

Adding insult to injury, officials recently went into schools during the school day in front of students and “confiscated” seven books from the classrooms deemed to promote “ethnic resentment.” Among them were several best-selling classics including Pedagogy of the Oppressed, by Paulo Freire, and Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years, by Bill Bigelow.

My colleague Habiba Alcindor penned a good post detailing the furious and forthright responses of numerous activist groups to Arizona’s efforts to censor ethnic studies.

The Education for Liberation Network and its affiliated Teacher Activist Groups (TAG) have been particularly active. Starting today, February 1, the first day on which the TUSD must comply with this law, TAG is coordinating a month of nationwide teaching workshops about the banned MAS program.

TAG has pulled together a wealth of resources on its website, including sample lesson plans from the MAS curriculum as well as creative ideas for exploring this issue with students of all ages. Pledge your support, tell your own story and download and share the curriculum. Whatever happens in Arizona, we can keep the ideas and values of MAS alive by teaching them in our own classrooms, community centers, houses of worship and homes.

At the same time, politely implore Arizona Governor Jan Brewer and Attorney General Horne to rescind HB 2281 banning the indisputably successful MAS program.

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