Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Tempest not banned by Tucson conservatives after all

Yesterday I was reading The Australian and one story stood out as being quite unusual. It was a brief item about how Shakespeare's play The Tempest had been banned in schools in Tucson, Arizona. The thing that made it noticeable was that conservatives were behind this push:

The ban is part of a battle over Arizona's treatment of its Mexican-immigrant population, and the extent to which cultural and racial differences should be examined in class.

The Tempest is studied in many US schools for its perceived insights into racism and colonialism. One of its protagonists is Caliban, a black slave on an island ruled by Prospero, the exiled Duke of Milan.

Yet the play has fallen foul of conservative Arizonans disgusted that state schools offer classes in what they regard as increasingly radicalised Mexican-American studies.

This did strike me as somewhat odd, because I do tend to associate censorship with the politically correct Left. Not only do they do it overtly from time to time (such as with the Bolt case here in Australia) but they've been indulging in it covertly for decades all over the Anglosphere by characterizing any kind of speech or writing they don't like as sexist, racist, or homophobic, etc. They are particularly angry about many works in the Western canon. Those lefty quackademics sure as hell loathe those "dead white males" -- Shakespeare in particular. 

Still, I accepted that the story -- which has been reported by many big mainstream media outlets -- was true, and conservatives were guilty this time. Perhaps this was the exception that proved the rule? Or maybe they were trying to be trendily leftist themselves -- you know, by "subverting the dominant paradigm"?

Anyway I did a bit of Googling and discovered a blog post stating that the story, which seems to have come from this Salon article, was not accurate after all:

Sensing that Biggers’ story did not sound correct, nor comport with my understanding of the law in this subject area here in Arizona, I was able to make contact with officials at TUSD over the Martin Luther King extended holiday weekend and spoke with an official on Monday, even though the school system was officially closed. It is an understatement to say they were dismayed and concerned; it is “disingenuous to say ‘banned’” said Cara Rene, Communications Director for the TUSD.

The author of that particular post links to this press release from the educational organization accused of the ban, which opens with this clear statement: "Tucson Unified Schools District has not banned any books as has been widely and incorrectly reported."

And later

Other books have also been falsely reported as being banned by TUSD. It has been incorrectly reported that William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” is not allowed for instruction. Teachers may continue to use materials in their classrooms as appropriate for the course curriculum. “The Tempest” and other books approved for curriculum are still viable options for instructors.

Hopefully The Oz and all those other big outfits will make a correction and admit they were wrong. I doubt they will, though.

It's understandable that they ran with it in the first place. When you are prejudiced against conservatives and believe that they are the more censorious group you're more likely to believe such a claim.

It's depressing that there are so many people like this in the meeja, even those in the thrall of the eeevil Rupert Murdoch. Still, it's also a little heartening to know that my prejudices were confirmed, and that conservatives turned out not to be guilty in this case.

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