As you can see from this San Antonio Express-News column, we had a wonderful weekend in San Antonio this past weekend where we met as Mexican American Studies scholars, teachers, advocates, and community members convened in our third annual statewide summit to discuss the advent of Mexican American Studies in Texas public schools for which we have advocated since 2014 and earlier.
A lot of work remains ahead but we are certainly motivated. However, it was extra nice and special to give pause and celebrate our community's historic victory.
Thanks to our speakers, Dr. Dolores Dolores Calderón Estrada from Western Washington University and Dr. Roberto Cintli Rodriguez from the University of Arizona Tucson for gracing us with their presence and enlightening us with their research and scholarship that accord emphasis to our complex identities and histories that while mestiz@, are also always inescapably indigenous.
- Angela Valenzuela
Mario Longoria, a retired civil rights officer with the U.S. Forest Service, asks "do your respective communities really understand what Chicano studies are?" during a higher education morning breakout session at the 3rd Annual Statewide Summit on Mexican American Studies for Texas Schools 2018 at Northwest Vista College on Saturday, June 30, 2018. Teachers from all over the state met to identify institutional barriers, establish priorities and develop a plan of action for the implementation of MAS in Texas schools, Pre-K through 12th grade, and for increasing the access to MAS courses and content within the community. MARVIN PFEIFFERemail@example.com
Texas is now the leader in a movement to implement Mexican American Studies in public schools across the nation, a longtime advocate in Arizona said to educators at a summit Saturday in San Antonio.
The third Statewide Summit on Mexican American Studies for Texas Schools drew more than 300 teachers, administrators and community educators to Northwest Vista College, just weeks after many of them traveled to Austin to successfully urge the State Board of Education to reverse its naming of a course approved in April.
“Our inspiration in Arizona is now Tejas,” said Roberto “Dr. Cintli” Rodriguez, an assistant professor at the Mexican American & Raza Studies Department at the University of Arizona. “You went through a similar battle and won.”
In 2010, the Arizona Legislature killed the Mexican American Studies course in its public schools in a highly controversial move that attracted national attention. Activists there have long sought to have the course restored in vain, but last year a federal judge found the ban racist and said it violated students constitutional rights. That ruling has buoyed Arizona advocates’ hopes, and the Texas victory is showing a way.
When the Texas board approved adding a Mexican American Studies course to its social studies electives in April, it was historic. But advocates’ excitement was dimmed when the Republican-majority board voted, at the same meeting, to name the course “Ethnic Studies: An Overview of Americans of Mexican Descent.” Advocates viewed the name change as the state taking away their right to self-identify and dismissing an established field of study. They were further insulted by a comment made by board member David Bradley, R-Beaumont, that “hyphenated Americanism” is divisive.
Advocates rallied across the state and testified before board members in Austin ahead of the board’s June vote. The board decided on “Ethnic Studies: Mexican American Studies” and adopted proposed standards for the state-approved course. Participants in Saturday’s summit reviewed the standards, with plans to submit recommendations ahead of the board’s final vote in September, said Juan Tejeda, a retired professor who taught that field at Palo Alto College and has long promoted its teaching in high schools.
“We’re celebrating it, but now our work continues because we have to make sure we work with the networks we’ve developed throughout the state to make sure they implement these courses,” Tejeda said.
While state leaders debated whether to approve a standard course for use statewide, schools in Bexar County and other school districts in Texas developed their own courses in Mexican American Studies. Local teachers who saw what happened in Arizona took steps to fortify their classes. Some of those teachers led discussions at Saturday’s summit about struggles they faced implementing the courses and ways to overcome.
“We strive to get Mexican American Studies in every district in the state of Texas. That is our ultimate goal,” said Christopher Carmona, chair of the group that presented the summit, called National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies Tejas Foco Committee for Mexican American Studies in PreK-12 Education.
Rodriguez, an author and assistant professor at the Mexican American & Raza Studies Department at the University of Arizona, told summit participants that now roles have reversed. Advocates in his state are following what’s happening in Texas as they continue pushing back against Arizona’s “culturally relevant curriculum.”
“The obvious difference is self-identity and self-determination,” Rodriguez said. “MAS came from us and our community. It can’t be up to a state or government or anybody to tell us who we are and who we aren’t.”