Illegal Poetry

While skimming one of my social media feeds I saw an article from the Huffington Post, Arizona Education Officials Say It’s Illegal To Recite This Poem In School. Of course, because Amy and I are presenting about poetry at TCTELA at the end of the week, the title itself peaked my interest. Briefly scanning it, and not thinking much of it, I sent it on to Amy as just one piece in a dozen I’ve scanned while preparing for our presentation.

In Amy fashion, like she always does for me, she shoots back, “Good one. What’s your take on it?”

Well, honestly I hadn’t really thought about my take on the subject, I was really just thinking about it as a reference that there is censorship in schools even in the genre of poetry. But as I started thinking about it I really generated more questions than answers:

1. What role should a state or federal government play in the specific materials that are used in an individual classroom? I certainly know that this question will continue to linger for me as the state legislators are about to reconvene here in Texas.

2. How do we prepare students for the culturally diverse world they live in when they are not given the opportunity to learn about different cultures? The article mentions that, “The law forbids classes that promote … or treat students as members of a group rather than individuals,” but I wonder to what end. Isn’t my individuality in some way tied to my identity to a particular group? And that’s not to say just ethic group, but also as an educator, a mom, a writer, etc.

3. The article also mentions that if the school district will receive 10% less in state funding if they do not comply with the state mandates. I’m not naive enough to believe that a simple slap on the wrist would be an effective punishment, but if there is a funding cut who are they really hurting, the school district officials or the students of that district? 

Above all though, if you read the portion of the poem that is included in the article, I find it most interesting that there are no terroristic anti-democratic overtones, as one might suspect based on the opinions of those that oppose the piece, rather a sentiment of mutual understanding and respect.

I would now like to return the question to you, Amy, and anyone else who would like to join in the conversation. “What’s your take on it?’



5 thoughts on “Illegal Poetry

  1. […] Illegal Poetry by Heather Cato […]


  2. Ruth January 19, 2015 at 10:31 am Reply

    My 4th graders knew that portion of the poem in both English and Spanish. I had a copy posted in my classroom. They could discuss it too. We do not live in test tubes (though we do test too much!!) and so we MUST know about the other.


    • hcato January 19, 2015 at 8:16 pm Reply

      Well said.


  3. Erika B. January 19, 2015 at 8:46 am Reply


    Thank you for surfacing this! I love the controversy and how you’re facing it head on with inquiry. As I opened the article you posted I was surprised to see what I saw…the mantra of the great Dr. Jeff Duncan Andrade whom I posted about last March:

    I love when things come full circle and also love that there are those of us from TX to NY to CA…and across the globe…challenging this governmental interference with our learners.



    • hcato January 19, 2015 at 8:16 pm Reply

      I completely forgot about your post. That is interesting. I find when I read things like this I always have more questions than answers. While we would like to belive the solution is cut and dry there really are so many perspectives to the story, thus I think it is so important we all keep asking questions.


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