Mexican-American Studies: Trailblazing into Texas Public Schools

Dianna Cabello, Staff Writer

The Texas Board of Education voted earlier this week, in an 11-3 vote, in which they compromised on a tentative decision that allows school districts to offer Mexican-American, African, Native, and Asian American studies as an official multicultural studies elective course in high school. Originally, activist groups were seeking a Mexican-American Studies (MAS) class as a stand-alone course.  The supporting argument was that the Latino student population in Texas public schools has soared to a 51% majority, and thus should offer the elective as a means to inform, educate, and inspire. In addition, supporters of the MAS course elective believe that the current Texas history curriculum offered in its public schools doesn’t begin to sufficiently provide the students with the significant and massive historical influence Mexico and other Latino countries have had in influencing the growth and shape of Texas and of our nation.

Opposing arguments responded that Texas students are required to study the “trailblazing Tejanos” of Texas history and to study civil rights leader Hector P. Garcia in their fourth and seventh grade classes. Although opponents respect the ideology of this curriculum and its sincerity, it is but a snapshot on the impact and growing influence of Latinos in Texas and of the United States; a meek snapshot which should be expanded and elaborated into Texas’ secondary schools.

In an interview with Texas Education Agency board member Patricia Hardy, she stated “We’re not about Hispanic history; we’re about American history,” and “We’re not about taking each little group out and saying, ‘You’re the majority, so we’re going to teach your history.’ We’re Americans, United States people.” While Ms. Hardy words are patriotically sound, opponents again argue that there are core classes, in which certain literary and historical movements are taught as an educational study, and as a vital portrait of the United States, such as the Harlem Renaissance, Puritanism, etc. These literary and historical movements are not taught to isolate thought or advocate ethnic and or religious solidarity in the American classrooms. Rather they are taught to educate, expose, and genuinely encourage students to appreciate the grandness that is our cultural melting pot.

A Republican board member from Beaumont, Texas, David Bradley, and an opponent of the proposed class course, directly alluded to the famed and legendary Mexican-American leader Cesar Chavez, when he stated that “I might pull a Cesar Chavez and call for a boycott,” in reference to the vote if approved and passed.  When then approached with the diplomatic solution of a multicultural studies course, Bradley stated, “We’re all Americans. To suggest otherwise is to further segregate and divide the community, I’m sorry if I disappoint some folks, but it’s almost reverse racism.” He then adds, “Critics, though, dismiss the effort as an attempt to inject progressive politics into the classroom.”

Despite Bradley’s harsh allusion, activists remain hopeful. And in a poignant statement addressed by NAACP’s Gary Bledsoe at a recent press conference, he stated, “Ignorance is a breeding ground for racism,” and “We must say that Texas history is our history, including Latino Texans. That story has not been effectively and accurately told in our education system.”

Dianna Cabello is a Staff Writer for Latino Giant and an English Language Arts Educator in the DFW area in Texas. She graduated from the University of Texas in Arlington with a  Bachelor of Arts in Spanish, with emphasis an on Mexican-American Studies and a Minor in English. She is involved and highly supportive of the Latino community in North Texas and support the progressive endeavors of the emerging community Latino leaders.