I was happy to wake up to news in the Austin American-Statesman that the State Board of Education is considering integrating ethnic studies into the high school curriculum.
These courses are great policy for Texas and the nation.
The Action Item if passed—and we are certainly hopeful that it will—creates an 11th and 12th grade, full-credit, Ethnic Studies Literature Foundation (as opposed to “Enrichment” or elective) courses that will count toward graduation and that can substitute for English III and English IV for high school juniors and seniors throughout the state of Texas.
The courses do not actually have a name yet, so I’m simply calling them “Ethnic Studies in Comparative Literary Perspective.”
This happens, of course, on the heels of the successful #RejectTheText battle in the September and November, 2016, meetings of the SBOE which speaks to the powerful and important role of advocacy and a unified voice, together with persistence on a cause that promises to breathe life into our state curriculum that will benefit ALL of our youth.
Hats off to SBOE member Georgina Perez for her stellar leadership, as well as to the rest of the SBOE—especially SBOE Members Rubén Cortez and Marissa Perez—for their unflagging leadership and support. Erika Beltran (Dallas), also on the Committee on Instruction, gave voice to the significance of Ethnic Studies. While it made an important difference in her life, her exposure to it was negligible, not unlike how it generally is for our youth statewide today.
University of Arizona Tucson professor, Dr. Nolan Cabrera, who testified alongside me on his data and analysis out of Ethnic Studies in the Tucson Independent School District shared data from his published piece titled, Missing the (Student Achievement) Forest for all the (Political) Trees: Empiricism and the Mexican American Studies Controversy in Tucson, published in the top education journal in the field, namely, the American Education Research Journal (AERJ).
I very much encourage you to read this path breaking research, alongside the equally path breaking study by Thomas Dee and Emily Penner based on data gathered out of the San Francisco Unified School District’s Ethnic Studies program that was recently published in the AERJ.
My testimony largely underscored how extant multicultural standards that I culled through various sources are precisely about the positive negotiation of difference in our diverse society and world, as well as to how these courses help prepare youth for college.
Kudos, as well, to the numerous scholars, parents, teachers, legislators, community leaders, and organizations that have weighed in over the years. In this vein, I invite you to read Dr. Emilio Zamora’s recent post titled, The Mexican Fight for Ethnic Studies in Texas: The Biography of a Cause to which yesterday’s testimony is another important addition.
We’re not there yet, but we’re getting very close, thankfully. The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words resonate today, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”
Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above guest column shows students attending a pro-Mexican American Studies news conference at Dr. Americo Paredes Elementary School in Brownsville last September.