The issue of Mexican American Studies (MAS) in TUSD has escalated to the point where protests, increased security and frustrated community members are the norm at board meetings. The dismantling of this program has been the subject of national attention, scrutiny and ridicule.
I am an ardent supporter of the MAS program, ethnic studies and free speech, and I feel the community as a whole may not understand some of the details, other than what they've seen on TV and occasionally read in news articles and blogs.
I want to take the opportunity to clarify the most recent activity regarding the now-defunct MAS program.
At our last meeting, I vocally objected to a proposed resolution that would "end the proscription" of books that had been used in MAS courses.
As the only board member who voted against the dismantling of MAS, and thus the banning of books, it would seem that I should have found satisfaction when a colleague wanted to "un-ban" these books.
Unfortunately, the resolution proposed before the board did not represent a significant change to current policy, but instead was a hideous attempt to placate the community and, more specifically, potential voters in an election-year stunt.
The resolution in question would have done nothing to change the current status of the books' availability, nor would it have helped students who have been denied access to the knowledge and life-changing experiences created in MAS classrooms through the use of these books.
TUSD has argued that the books are not banned because students have the ability to bring their own copies onto campuses, or find them on school library shelves - in other words, they have never been denied physical access to these books, and thus they are not censored.
I argue that the censorship of these books does exist, and began when they were removed from the MAS curriculum.
Though students are "free" to read any of these titles, it could be considered illegal to have a classroom discussion about them, or be taught a lesson using them as a resource. Students and teachers are being robbed of the ability to engage in any sort of discourse.
Until we can reach a point in this school district, city and state where the discussion of ethnicity, culture, race and history is not considered illegal, people like myself and the countless supporters of ethnic studies will continue to demand change.
If we do not learn from our history, we are doomed to repeat it.
Unfortunately, the proposed resolution fell significantly short of providing a path toward community healing, trust and, most importantly, toward the creation of a district that is excellent and equitable in all of its services.
With this in mind, it must be said that the highest quality educational programs and practices can never be accomplished if some ethnic groups and their contributions to the development of U.S. history and culture are ignored or demeaned.
I am 100 percent in favor of "bringing back the books" but, when we do, let's do so in a way that focuses on what is best for the students we serve.
Adelita Grijalva is a member of the Tucson Unified School District Governing Board. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org