“All things in common nature should produce
Without sweat or endeavor: treason, felony,
Sword, pike, knife, gun, or need of any engine,
Would I not have; but nature should bring forth,
Of its own kind, all foison, all abundance,
To feed my innocent people.” – William Shakespeare, The Tempest
Most of you have heard by now about the Tucson book ban – the Tucson Unified School District’s removal of seven books from the State’s curriculum. Among these books are Critical Race Theory, The History of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, and Rethinking Columbus. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been openly opposed to book banning since about 9th grade, when I first read Fahrenheit 451. Even Mein Kampf has literary value as a record of the reasoning behind one of the most evil minds of modern times.
The story of the banning, in a nutshell, is that Arizona Superintendent for Public Instruction, John Huppenthal, “suspended” the books according to state law ARS 15-122, which prohibits teachers from using materials that “(1) Promote overthrowing the U.S. government; (2) Promote resentment towards a race or class of people; (3) Are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic race; and (4) Advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.” Shakespeare’s The Tempest is permitted, under the condition that teachers do not mention that the native on the island are “oppressed” or that the enslavers are “oppressors.” As Susan Shown Harjo, a Cheyenne poet, columnist, and policy advocate claims in her article on the ban in Indian Country Today, “Huppenthal is sensitive about words related to oppressor,” which he traces back to The Communist Manifesto. Although, as Harjo points out, the word “oppressor” does not date back to The Communist Manifesto, it “is Middle English, deriving from Old French and Latin; in Karl Marx’s German, it’s unterdrucker.” Huppenthal also claims that no books have been banned – “Teachers may continue to use materials in their classroom as appropriate for the course curriculum. The Tempest and other books approved for the curriculum are still viable for the curriculum.” Thing is, as of now, those seven not-really-banned books have not been approved by the curriculum police. “Because words are important,” writes Harjo, “let’s just call the stored books banned.”
See also this video of Noam Chomsky, famed linguist, philosophy, and self-proclaimed anarchist, on the banning.