Ethnic Studies petition goes viral on social mediaby Carli Brosseau on Jan. 20, 2012, under news, social media, Twitter
The battle over whether Tucson Unified School District ought to allow students to enroll in a Mexican American studies course as anything but an elective has been simmering for months inside the legislative and judicial systems. Students and activists were stirred up about it, but few others seemed to pay all that close attention. But when TUSD’s board voted to end the Mexican American Studies program and began taking the books used to teach those courses out of classrooms, protest erupted.
TUSD denied that its reaction could be fairly characterized as banning books (in TUSD Governing Board President Mark Stegeman’s own words here). Nonetheless, people on the street were talking about what does or does not constitute a book ban, what is or isn’t American and what does or doesn’t spur learning. What was an Arizona issue of limited national interest became an issue that got the attention of people, especially literary people, across the country. Books, we all seem to agree, are important to learning. (Some would take it a step further and argue that they may be a key ingredient in surviving one’s childhood, to cultivating imagination and a sense of opportunity. I can attest that they were for me.)
Once the narrative that books and free speech are good and book bans are Orwellian got established, outrage spread. It was social media, which some describe as itself a threat to general literacy, that helped to fan the flames. Presente.org, which describes itself as a national organization to amplify the political voice of Latino communities, created an online petition, and it has been tweeted and retweeted with incredible speed. What real-world manifestation the social media indignation will take is to be seen. Here’s a small taste of what the feeds looked like today.