Scholars Call on State Board of Education to Repair Sins of Past and Present

Vote expected Friday to rename Mexican-American studies course

Carol Alvarado
Carol Alvarado

Advocates and scholars spent Tuesday, June 12 pleading with the Texas State Board of Education to correct their many racially insensitive and historically inaccurate mistakes. In 2010, the SBOE passed such ideological social studies curriculum standards, even a conservative think tank slapped them with a failing grade for giving students a "politicized distortion of history." (That's gotta sting.) In testimony, academics suggested the board reverse its claim that slavery was not the principal cause of the Civil War, and criticized the standards for glorifying Confederate leaders such as Stonewall Jackson. A final vote on changes to those standards is expected in November.

But that wasn't the scholars' only request on Tues­day. Following a rally outside, protesters spent three hours urging the SBOE to change the recently passed Mexican-American studies high school elective course back to its rightful name. In April, right-wing board member David Bradley switched the MAS course title to the watered down and academically inaccurate "Ethnic Studies: An Overview of Americans of Mexican Descent." (Bradley was noticeably absent from Tues­day's hearing.) Douglas Torres Edwards, who led the creation of the Houston MAS curriculum the statewide version is based on, said "changing the name of a people is going to be perceived by many as an indignity to their personhood because it implies that somehow being Mexican-American is a threat to the notion of being American." State Rep. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, visited Austin to criticize the course name for not actually representing the field of Mexican-American studies. "This attempt to whitewash our Mexican heritage from a course that is centered on the study of our Mexican-American heritage is confusing and fruitless," she told the board.

On Wednesday, board member Georgina C. Pérez motioned to change the course to "Ethnic Studies: Mexican American Studies," a compromise between the original name and the new one. That even got the approval of Bradley, who seconded the amendment. Reflecting the continued dissatisfaction of some board members, Erika Beltran proposed scrapping "Ethnic Studies" from the title and reverting completely back to MAS, but that plan didn't fly with the majority, and in the end, the board unanimously voted for Pérez's name change – perhaps a sign of incremental progress in the right direction. The SBOE is expected to take a final vote this Friday.

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State Board of Education, David Bradley, Douglas Torres Edwards, Carol Alvarado, Georgina C. Pérez, Erika Beltran

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