Thursday, January 14, 2010

Julio Noboa's Testimony yesterday at the Tx State Board of Education

With Dr. Noboa's permission, I'm posting his illuminating testimony. -Angela


JANUARY 13, 2010
Dr. Julio Noboa,
Assistant Professor of Social Studies
University of Texas at El Paso
Coordinator, MASSA

Let me first of all thank the SBOE for the opportunity of providing both oral and written testimony regarding the social studies TEKS, the standards that will serve as a basis for teaching, textbooks and testing in Texas and elsewhere, over the next decade or more. My name is Dr. Julio Noboa; I'm a father of three children now adults, all educated in the public schools of Texas and all graduated from Texas institutions of higher learning. I’m an Assistant Professor of Social Studies at the UTEP and teach courses in social studies methods as well as curriculum development. The opinions I express here are my own, and not that of the University of Texas at El Paso. I represent a new organization we call MASSA, the Multicultural Alliance for Social Studies

Advocacy, for which a brief Statement of Purpose is printed in my handout:

MASSA Statement of Purpose

Recognizing the essentially multicultural nature of our state and nation and the value of teaching future generations the best qualities of democracy, human rights, and social justice, we the Multicultural Alliance for Social Studies Advocacy, are committed to promoting through a variety of activities, the teaching of accurate, significant, relevant, and culturally diverse social studies in the public schools of Texas.

Nearly four years ago, Routledge published my book, Leaving Latinos Out of History, in which I clearly documented the exclusion of Latinos in the textbooks, teaching and TEKS for both courses in U.S. history taught at the 8th and 11th grades. In all of those previous TEKS for both courses, not once does the term “Hispanic,” “Latino,” “Mexican,” “Mexican American,” let alone “Chicano” even appear. In neither of those TEKS for the entire history of our nation, was there any mention of a single person of Hispanic descent. Can you even imagine how easily this gap of knowledge about Latinos, which millions of Texas students have experienced in over a decade, could be filled with ignorance, prejudice and bigotry?

It is also important to note that since before 2006, Latino students, the vast majority of whom are of Mexican descent, have constituted the largest ethnic group in the public schools of Texas, surpassing the number of Anglo students by the millions.
Naturally, I took a keen interest in this latest TEKS revision and even had the privilege of collaborating in the committee that wrote the TEKS for the second part of U.S. history, an opportunity for which I am deeply grateful. For the most part, in the committee we arrived at consensus on the difficult decisions we had to make, and took democratic votes on the rest. Nevertheless, I recognize that there are a few additional changes that could make the TEKS for U.S. history since Reconstruction even more accurate and complete.

More importantly, I would like to reiterate my support for the many improvements our writing committee made to these TEKS by explicitly including César Chávez and Thurgood Marshall, despite the ridiculous suggestion from one of the Board appointed “experts” that they be excluded. I am especially proud of the work we did in the History#8, regarding the various Civil Rights Movements of the last century, and in the TEKS for Citizenship#22 and Culture#23 and #24. In all of these sections we appropriately and accurately include women, Latinos, African Americans and other significant minorities into the historical narrative of our nation.

There is one specific suggestion I have, however regarding History#3: The statement in this TEKS is very unclear and the U.S. is redundantly mentioned twice.

History 3 (B) evaluate American imperialism, including responses from the United States, and acquisitions such as Guam, Hawaii, Cuba, Philippines, Puerto Rico, and the United States;

It could be reworded thus for better clarity: (B) evaluate the impact of American imperialism including responses from the leaders of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Philippines, Hawaii and Guam, as well as within the United States.

For the remainder of this testimony, I’ll be focusing on the TEKS for the World History Studies course taught at the 10th grade, and mostly on those TEKS that deal with “History” proper.

I’ll begin first with the state “mandate” that all schools and grade levels “Celebrate Freedom Week,” a concept that has positive potential for teaching students about the evolution of democracy in our nation. Yet, although the list of required topics does appropriately include the abolitionist and women’s movements, it explicitly excludes all the pivotal civil rights movements of the 20th century. A statement about these should be added to the text in World History Studies, b) Introduction 7A.

The following SE section 7B requires that students not only study the Declaration of Independence, which is a valuable lesson, but they’re also required to recite selected passages from this document. To require this is incredibly contradictory because forcing student to recite any statement, even the Pledge of Allegiance, would violate the very concept of “freedom” which educators are attempting to uphold. Students should study the Declaration of Independence, not be forced to recite it.
There are 13 TEKS specifically related to “history” proper in the WH Studies, much information is concentrated in these, but there exists some obvious gaps, omissions and distortions. Among them:

In History#1, sections B&C, many classical civilizations are named in Europe, India and China, together covering the eras from 500 BCE to 1450 CE, and in these nearly two thousand years of human history, other great classical civilizations arose in the Americas, such as the Olmec, Maya, Aztec and Incan, and in Africa arose civilizations such as the Kingdom of Kush along the Nile, and Great Zimbabwe in East Africa. None of these American and African civilizations are named and should be included in this honored roster of ancient civilizations.

In History#1, sections D, E& F, the focus is on significant “turning points” in history covering from 1450 CE to the Present time. Again, many worthy topics are included; however, excluded are other historical turning points such as:
a. the Fall of Granada and the expulsion of Jews and Moors from Spain;

b. national liberation movements and political revolutions throughout Asia, Africa, and Latin America, including the 1910 Mexican Revolution;

c. the recent rise of democratically elected socialist governments throughout Latin America.

Then again in History#3, classical civilizations, empires, and social systems are focused on in more detail covering from 500 BCE to 1450 CE, and again the civilizations and empires of the Americas and Africa are left out.

Thus far, the first four TEKS for history were more global in their attempted approach, then in History #4, #5 and #6, the focus is on just ONE specific region of the world; and needless to say, that region is Europe. So, three entire TEKS are dedicated to Europe, but not one to any other region of the world!

Then History #8 deals with “major political revolutions” between 1750 and 1914: and thankfully mentions Latin American revolutions as well as the American and French. This would include the 1910 Mexican Revolution; however, there is no opportunity in these TEKS for students to even study the many globally impactful revolutions which occurred after 1914, especially in the Third World: Namely the Chinese, Cuban, Vietnamese, and South African revolutions, as well as that incredibly peaceful revolution let by Mahatma Gandhi in India. So millions of Texas students would have no knowledge of these 20th century revolutions, and their leaders, and thus harbor a significantly distorted view of modern world history.
Nevertheless, in History #12: Mao Zedong is mentioned in section (B) quite appropriately, and so is “the Vietnam War,” as is the “rise of independence movements in Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia,” all the in context of the “Cold War” and “decolonization.” These are well placed, yet, still excluded are Latin American revolutions since 1914, like the Cuban and Nicaraguan Revolutions; yet both had a tremendous impact on U.S. foreign policy and practice especially during the Cold War.
In History #13, for the first time in these TEKS, the term “terrorism” is mentioned, a topic that should be known and understood by students. Yet why is this very first mention of “terrorism” connected specifically and only with Islamic extremists? In fact acts of “terrorism” have been perpetrated in the past by the U.S. Cavalry against American Indians, by the Texas Rangers against Mexican Americans, and for decades by the Ku Klux Klan, and other white supremacist “Christian” groups right here in our own country. They hold to the same ideology that inspired Timothy McVeigh and his accomplices, to bomb of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 2000.

There’s a lot of loose talk about terror in the media, by politicians, pundits and populists. Let’s be clear at least about one thing: It is the targeting of innocent, non-combatant civilians that defines a terrorist, not his race, nor his religion, nor his ultimate cause.

Concluding Remarks

Having served in a writing committee myself, I can fully understand the thought and effort it takes to create a standard that is accurate, inclusive and relevant. While I applaud the work accomplished by all the committees and am generally pleased with the progress we have made, there is always room for more improvement and I hope that members of the State Board of Education accept those changes that will ultimately benefit the millions of Texas students who depend on our decisions for what they learn about their nation and the world.

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