Thursday, February 01, 2018

Update on Texas SBOE's Consideration of a Mexican American Studies Course

For those of you keeping up with this story, Tuesday evening's consideration by the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) of our community's long-standing demand for a Mexican American Studies (MAS) course in state curriculum got muddled in an ad hoc discussion about Latino Studies and whether the course should actually be the latter than the former.  

Excuse me, this is a board that doesn't know diddly squat about the differences between MAS and "Latino Studies," nor has it ever cared.  As award-winning UTRGV Professor Stephanie Alvarez brilliantly explained about these two courses that she has actually taught, namely, MAS and Latino Studies, the latter is taught east of the Mississippi River and the former, west of it.  Ours is a distinct history in Texas with respect to Mexico, the border, and Mexican Americans that one has to grasp if one hopes to understand the experiences of other non-Mexican Latino groups in Texas.  It's a different history for Latinos east of the Mississippi and so these courses are radically different.  

Dr. Alvarez herself is a Cubana and she adheres passionately to this view in her leadership and instruction as Director of MAS at her home institution in South Texas. But not even this, her expert testimony, swayed the board discussion. It was as if she had not spoken at all.  Same for the rest of us present who also testified.

Plus, our community of NACCS Tejas foco scholars—and other allies like the Texas Freedom Network and the broader REST Coalition—have been solidly advocating for MAS since 2014.  While we are a large, breathing, statewide constituency, Latino Studies has no such counterpart.  We should know.  They would have surfaced by now.

This is not to say that there aren't some Latino Studies scholars who, by the way, haven't done this serious advocacy or in-depth K-12 curriculum development work that may seek to profit from our efforts—and God forbid—actually get a course that no one either teaches or is prepared to teach by the end of next April's SBOE meeting.  While stranger things have happened, it's not over 'til it's over.

Disturbingly, while SBOE agenda item 10 made no reference at all to Latino Studies, that is what surfaced in conversation—not, of course, with our statewide constituency—but with the Anglo members of the board itself, resulting in concomitant board inaction as Dr. Trini Gonzales' piece below lays out.  This unwillingness to give the community an official course in state curriculum is dismissive and insulting.

  As I expressed earlier on Facebook,
"Tony Diaz is totally on point that the problem is not that our community doesn't play by the rules, but rather the opposite: The rule makers, the Texas State Board of Education, does not [begin listening at 4:20]. In reference to the antics by the Texas State Board of Education, they indeed "keep moving the goal posts," changing the rules and playing us through their politics of manufactured uncertainty and confusion.

Not those, of course, that have championed Mexican American Studies like Ruben Cortez, Marisa B. Perez , or Erika Beltran who fight the good fight, and do so honorably and in the full light of day.

Hats off to our community gathered from far and wide, and to our students, too, who got a lesson in cultural chauvinism and white supremacy today, while bearing witness to the mischievious machinations of power.

Keep carrying the torch and remember the Mexican proverb that even when they think they've buried us, we're actually seeds.
Many in our community were, of course, deflated and offended by the board's ploys to divert our agenda.  Community, we must mobilize.  Reach out to your board member that represents you and let them know how you feel.  Find out who represents you here and call them or visit with them.

Also, our organization of scholars and advocates will be discussing next steps with respect to the SBOE to create an MAS class at this year's NACCS TEJAS CONFERENCE.  

Come one, come all.  

Angela Valenzuela

State board to vote on Mexican American studies in April

Local experts advocated for state curriculum at meeting this week

McALLEN — The State Board of Education listened to testimony from Mexican American studies experts from all over Texas on Tuesday, most advocating for the creation of a state-approved curriculum. While no decision was made, the board indicated a vote is soon  to come.

Advocates of Mexican American studies, MAS, including several from the Rio Grande Valley, traveled to Austin asking for Texas Essential Knowledge Skills, known as TEKS, to be created as a way to standardized learning throughout the State.

The vote on whether or not the Texas Education Agency will create a course curriculum is expected during the board’s meeting in April.

“This is going to be a historic vote in April, because at the end of the day a class is going to be created but what will be decided at that meeting is how that class will look,” said Trinidad Gonzales, history instructor at South Texas College and advocate for the creation of the MAS TEKS.

The board had the opportunity to ask questions of the experts as they seemed not to have a clear understanding of the need behind the curriculum since the courses are currently being taught in some districts.

If approved, the TEKS would provide districts that wish to offer the course all necessary materials that ensure every student has a solid base of knowledge in the subject before leaving the system, advocates argued, as well as providing guidelines to textbook makers to supplement the courses.
School districts currently have two avenues to teach the course — as a dual-enrollment course or using a course curriculum developed by the Houston school district.

But while the two methods provide a viable avenue for districts to adopt the course, there are no clear guidelines of what the curriculum can and should include, making it hard for districts to want to invest the resources needed to develop them. The same goes for textbook publishers.

“This doesn’t have to take a long time,” said board member Ruben Cortez Jr. “These individuals here and probably others that are represented here today have offered as we’ve done in the past to be a working group with the agency to help develop this. You’ve got decades and decades of experience here from all universities across the state.”
SBOE Member Rubén Cortez
 Cortez was one of the board members who called for the item to be discussed, and expressed his desire to approve a working group on the Mexican American studies curriculum. “This has obviously gone long enough,” he said.

The discussion on the need for statewide curriculum and guidance on the subject has been going on for about three years. And the board has already placed the subject on its list of possible future courses.

Another issue discussed was the possibility of creating a Latino studies course as well or instead.
Having two courses would be ideal, Gonzales said, but this could take a long time and the fact that there is already some framework to guide the creation of curriculum for the Mexican American studies course would speed the process.

“There’s some board members who want to do a Latino studies class, there are other board members who want the Mexican American studies class, and then there’s the other option of having a Mexican American studies class that includes Latino studies,” Gonzales said.

TEA staff was present at the meeting to discuss the feasibility of the project. At some point, Monica Martinez, associate commissioner of standards and policy, said the agency doesn’t have the resources necessary to compensate a committee of experts to help create the TEKS.

The agency usually summons experts from across the state for guidance and compensates them for lodging and other expenses. But those present said they would be willing to freely volunteer their time.

For now, Gonzales said the National Association of Chicana ChicanoStudies-Tejas Foco Working Group, of which he is a member, will meet next month to discuss their options as the SBOE vote approaches.

“It seems like a general consensus of all the speakers by the end of the testimony is that whatever that class is, it has to be based on Mexican American Studies,” he said. “Including a Latino studies or the creation of a separate Latino studies course as another option.”

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous4:43 PM

    I will definitely be contacting the individual who represents me in League City Tx that my children, have the right to learn about the contributions their ancestors made in this country. Thank goodness for all the brave advocates who have brought light to this important topic.