Wednesday Protest Against SBOE's Name Change of Mexican-American Studies Course

1:30pm at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center

State Board of Education member Marisa B. Perez at a rally in September of 2016
State Board of Education member Marisa B. Perez at a rally in September of 2016 (Photo by David Brendan Hall)

Tomorrow, May 30 at 1:30pm, advocates will gather statewide to denounce the Texas State Board of Education’s recent decision to dilute ethnic studies. Last month, the SBOE voted to pass a Mexican-American studies elective course for the state’s public high school students (“SBOE Passes Mexican-American Studies, but Whitewashes the Name,” April 13). The move was quite a feat for the historically conservative board who in the recent past have been accused of downplaying and marginalizing Latino and Hispanic leaders and accomplishments. But the vote, which came after more than four years of debate, wasn’t without a classic SBOE twist: At the last minute, the board switched the name of the course from Mexican-American Studies to “Ethnic Studies: An Overview of Americans of Mexican Descent,” after board member David Bradley, R-Beaumont, objected to “hyphenated Americanism” as “divisive.”

While some advocates and scholars celebrated the win – albeit grudgingly – others see the name change as a racist betrayal and haven’t given up the fight to force the SBOE to reverse course. And on Wednesday, the National Association for Chicana and Chicano StudiesTejas Foco Committee on Mexican-American Studies plan to protest the name change in six cities across the state, including Austin. The group also plans to present their objections to all board members during the SBOE’s next meeting on June 12.

Among their arguments, they note that the SBOE never took issue with the name until the eleventh hour, and even signed off on approving the process of including other electives like Native American Studies and African American Studies. The group also points out that Mexican American Studies – the official scholarly field of study name – is used at the college level and in the Houston school course which the SBOE say they modeled the current course on. The group’s chair, Christopher Carmona, tells us the name change is “not just a political issue” but one that could pose complications for students transferring college credit, as some universities may not accept the course due to its non-academic name.

Joining the protest are SBOE members Ruben Cortez, Erika Beltran, and Marisa B. Perez. Perez was especially vocal about her disappointment in the name change. In a statement following the April vote she called the decision “not a victory, but a slap in the face. ... The time for cloaking bigotry and/or fear of diversity under the guise of ‘patriotism’ and ‘Americanism’ is over. ... My experience is as American as apple pie, because guess what, my ancestors were on this land well before it was conquered and named America.”


Wednesday’s rally is scheduled for 1:30pm in the Paul Salinas Room at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center, 600 Red River.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

State Board of Education, Mexican-American Studies, David Bradley, Ruben Cortez, Erika Beltran, Marisa B. Perez

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