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Statement to the Texas State Board of Education to the recent historic vote to approve TEKS standard

On Friday, April 13, 2018, the Texas State Board of Education (TXSBOE) approved Texas Essential Skills and Knowledge (TEKS) standards for a Mexican American Studies (MAS) course for high school students. This is the first time in Texas and US history that a state board of education approves a MAS course, and the first time in Texas history that an Ethnic Studies course of any kind is approved. In addition, the TXSBOE voted to open the process to create other Ethnic Studies courses. We commend the TXSBOE for finally approving this MAS course and opening up the process to create other Ethnic Studies courses.

The TXSBOE vote to approve this MAS course should have been an historic victory for the TXSBOE, the National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies (NACCS) Tejas Foco Committee on MAS Pre-K-12, and the many organizations and individuals who have been advocating for such a course before the board for the last five years. However, this historic vote was marred by the TXBOE’s amendment and vote to change the name of the course from Mexican American Studies to Ethnic Studies: An Overview of Americans of Mexican Descent. This is unacceptable to the NACCS Tejas Foco Committee on MAS Pre-K-12, and we demand that the TXSBOE vote to change the name back to its original name, Mexican American Studies, for the following reasons:

1. The course approved by the TXSBOE is modeled after the Innovative course that the Houston Independent School District adopted with the consent of the Texas Education Agency. Its title, Mexican American Studies, reflects the Mexican American Studies course content;

2. Mexican American Studies is an established field of study in Texas as authorized by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, the higher education counterpart to the TXSBOE. One of the main purposes of this designation is to align the curriculum across the educational pipeline and to grant the courses the necessary transferability from the high schools to the community colleges and universities. Naming the course Mexican American Studies conforms with the name of the field of study and policy of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, and the logic of alignment and transferability;

3. The stated reasons for changing the Mexican American Studies title are a historical and misleading. The term Mexican American is not divisive or biased, nor does it suggest a hyphenated (or unassimilable) condition. Mexican American has been the most popular English-language self-referent since at least the middle 1800's and the typical way to refer to Mexican-origin persons. It affirms an American identity and national allegiance at the same time that it claims a Mexican ancestry. In that sense, the term is no different from other groups, such as African Americans, Italian Americans, and Native Americans. Lastly, the use of Mexican is meant to expand on, and not detract from, the meaning of American, and emphasizes an American identity. The remark by board member Bradley that to adopt Mexican American Studies is to accept the idea that “hyphenated Americans” do not accept and embrace an American identity, is preposterous, misleading and divisive;

4. Names are important. Mexican Americans have the right to name themselves, the field of study, and courses within this field of study. They also have the right to tell the stories that have been written in their name, including the vast body of scholarly literature that uses the term to describe their work and the courses that high school, college and university instructors are currently teaching;

5. The large numbers of Mexican Americans in Texas public schools calls for the designation of Mexican American Studies. Mexican Americans and other Latin-x students comprise 52% of the almost 5.4 million students in Texas schools Pre-K-12, and this will grow to almost 70% by 2050;

6. The title Mexican American Studies conforms with Mexican American Studies courses that Texas school districts have already adopted (some of which have been approved or allowed by the TXSBOE), as well as Social Studies, Texas and U.S. history courses that emphasize Mexican American history and contemporary experiences;

7. In singling out the name change for this Mexican American Studies course, the TXSBOE has created a glaring inconsistency with the other courses included in the vote: Native American Studies, African American Studies, Latino Studies and Asian/Pacific Islander Studies; and

8. The word "Overview" in the name change calls for a cursory treatment and not an in-depth examination of the subject, in contradiction with the broad purpose and content of this course. In addition, the term “Americans of Mexican Descent” is not a term that most Mexican Americans/Chican-xs identify with and is a throwback to the 1950's Jim Crow era of segregation when Black and Brown youth were denigrated for their race and ethnicity in Texas schools.

In light of all the logical reasons stated above, our questions for the nine Anglo Republicans and one Latina Democrat who voted for this name change are: What are the real reasons that you voted for this name change? Is it true, as board member Bradley stated to the press, that the TXSBOE would have never voted for the approval of this MAS course if the name had not been changed? And if so, why not? Are not all students in Texas public schools worthy and deserving of knowing and understanding the contributions Mexican Americans have made to American history and the making of Texas and the Southwest? Are the Mexican American people not worthy of having one MAS elective course for high school students approved by the TXSBOE without changing the name of this course, and, in effect, changing the name of an established field of study, and worse, changing the name of an entire ethnic group of people who prefer to identify with the term Mexican American?

The National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies Tejas Foco Committee on Mexican American Studies Pre-K-12 has been working tirelessly over the last five years to advance Mexican American Studies in Texas schools with significantly positive and historic results. The recent decision by the TXSBOE to misname this Mexican American Studies course represents one more obstacle in our work. We are committed to opposing this name change until the members of the TXSBOE accept our reasonable petition. It is an easy fix. Vote to change the name of this MAS course back to its original title: Mexican American Studies.

This NACCS Tejas Statement will be presented to the elected members of the Texas State Board of Education at their next meeting on Tuesday, June 12, 2018 at the William B. Travis Bldg. (1701 Congress Ave., Austin, TX 78701). A "Protest the Name Change Press Conference & Rally" will precede the board meeting from 8:30-9:30am in front of the William B. Travis Bldg. The public is invited to attend the Rally and to testify before the board.

Posted courtesy of Latino Lubbock Magazine Digital Media

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