The most successful book written by professor Rodolfo Acuña, "Occupied America" represents all that Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne opposed in the Mexican-American Studies program when he launched the attack against it. Horne viewed the curriculum as separatist and ethnically divisive. HB 2281, the law used to ban TUSD's Mexican American Studies program, prohibits courses that "promote the overthrow of the United States government" or "are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group." "These people think you're a separatist if you want to teach and include people," Acuña told the Los Angeles Times in 2011. "I don't want to be part of Mexico ... That's a stupid thing to argue."
This compilation tells the story of Chicano history from before the European conquest of North America, through colonization and into the present day. The book describes the Southwest as "Occupied America" -- a term that Arizona conservatives often view as unjust and disparaging. Actor Edward James Olmos felt differently: "If young people read this book, they will be strong and proud in new ways," he said on the dust jacket to the 1990 edition. "It's a real education, in the true sense of that word."
This seminal work by Brazilian education professor Paulo Freire argued that students learn best when treated as equals and engaged on their own terms. Freire argues against the "banking model" of education, in which teachers treat students as passive recipients of knowledge. His work is studied by education specialists throughout the hemisphere. In a 2012 interview, Arizona Superintendent of Education John Huppenthal explained why he viewed the book as problematic: The title of Paulo Freire's book is 'Pedagogy of the Oppressed,' and so the question is, who is the oppressed? And as we looked at what was going on in the classroom and looked at what was in the materials, we saw they were putting together a Marxian model in the classroom in which the oppressed are the Hispanic students and the oppressors are the white Caucasian power structure. We came to the conclusion that it wasn't O.K. to be preaching that model in the classroom.
A collection of essays, interviews, lesson plans and other materials, Rethinking Columbus aims to change the way students understand the first interactions between the indigenous peoples of the Americas and the Europeans. One contributing author, Tucson's own Leslie Silko, boasts a Native Writers' Circle of the Americas Lifetime Achievement Award and a MacArthur Foundation genius grant.
The academic field of critical race theory challenges traditional ways of looking at race and racism. The field's theoreticians argue that supposedly neutral concepts and institutions, like meritocracy or the legal system, mask systemic inequality and institutionalized racism. Richard Delgado's books is one of the discipline's classics. Some conservatives view critical race theory as "dangerous" because some of its proponents view the Constitution and the fabric of American democracy as imbued with racism. During the course of several interviews in 2012, Julio Cammarota, a professor of Mexican American Studies at the University of Arizona, "You can see the problem, can't you? One side doesn't want to talk about race, the other side wants to talk about race all the time."
The term "Aztlán" refers to the mythic homeland of the Nahua of Central Mexico. Intellectuals of the Chicano movement adopted the term to describe the southwestern United States. Mexican-American Studies teachers at Tucson Unified School District taught those concepts with books like this one, by Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzalez, a writer and political activist who helped found the Chicano Movement in the 1960s.
This well-regarded study of the Chicano movement serves as a companion to the 1996 PBS documentary of the same name.
A New Mexico state representative wants to keep Hispanic history books out of public schools, following in the footsteps of some of her conservative colleagues in Arizona.
New Mexico state Rep. Antonio Maestas (D-Albuquerque) proposed a memorial on Monday praising diversity in the state’s curricula and slammed Tucson’s decision to ban seven ethnic studies books from classroom use.
That didn’t go over well with Republican state Rep. Nora Espinoza (Roswell).
The memorial -- New Mexico’s version of a resolution -- calls for the state’s school curricula to reflect “a spirit of acceptance and a celebration of different cultures and beliefs,” and encourages the support for the seven books and any others “that encourage New Mexicans to understand their cultural history while empowering a generation of youth who are proud of their heritage.”
Espinoza, a conservative legislator who is herself Hispanic, went off on a rant against the Latino intellectuals whose books were banished, saying they don't belong in New Mexico schools.
Espinoza read out loud before the state House Education Committee one of Corky Gonzalez’s poems that contained the sentence “my culture was raped,” and implied the metaphor was not appropriate for young minds.
"These are are extremely racist and hate books,” Espinoza said, according to the report from KRQE. She did not return phone calls or an email asking for comment.
Maestas, who proposed the memorial, told The Huffington Post he was shocked at her reaction. He had intended the memorial as a statement in favor of tolerance.
“What happened in Arizona recently was so un-American, and it’s particularly un-New Mexican,” Maestas said. “New Mexico is a state that takes great pride in celebrating its diversity.”
The memorial will be considered again on Wednesday. If it passes, copies will be sent to both New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez (R) and Gov. Jan Brewer (R) in Arizona.
Mexican-American studies scholar Rodolfo Acuña, whose book is a standard text in college classrooms across the country, wasn’t impressed with Espinoza’s characterization of his work as racist.
“I don’t think she’s qualified to make that judgment,” Acuña told The Huffington Post. “It’s never come up in an academic journal … I’ve been panned, I’ve been praised, but I’ve never been called a racist and the book has never been called racist.”
The New Mexico flap comes just days after a federal court largely upheld a 2010 Arizona law that was used to prohibit Tucson’s experimental Mexican-American studies courses. The decision will likely be appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Richard Martinez, said.
Supporters of the Tucson classes praised the program for boosting student achievement and graduation rates. They point to a state-commissioned, independent audit that recommended expanding the courses. The opponents who dismantled the program accused the teachers of politicizing the classroom and breeding resentment against white people -- a charge the teachers deny.
For Acuña, Mexican American studies has nothing to do with instilling resentment. Instead, he says, such classes build tolerance.
“We get to know each other better,” Acuña said. “Unless you have ideologues who want to come in there and take exception with everything, for the most part 99 percent of students are ready to get in there and learn.”Check out the seven books at the heart of the controversy in the slideshow above.