Texas has become the next battleground over ethnic studies.
Latino activists are protesting a bill filed by Conservative state Sen. Dan Patrick that would disqualify ethnic studies courses from counting toward core history requirements. SB 1128 would instead require students to take general surveys of U.S. and Texas history in order to graduate.
Opponents of the law have likened the Texas measure to an Arizona law used to dismantle a controversial Mexican American Studies program in Tucson.
“We’re here to snuff out Dan Patrick’s SB 1128,” Tony Diaz, also known as “El Librotraficante,” told HuffPost Live last week from the Texas legislature, where he was lobbying against the bill. “We’ve learned from our brothers and sisters in Arizona how hard it is to get a law off the books, so we’re here to nip it in the bud.”
Watch Tony Diaz's appearance on HuffPost Live. Article continues below the video.
Patrick told the Houston Press that he didn’t intend the law to target ethnic studies, but rather to preserve the intent of the original law, passed in 1955.
"We have passed legislation in the past that required, under law, that students should learn broad comprehensive history of our country," Patrick told Hair Balls. "But it would appear that this legislation's being circumvented."
Patrick, a talk radio host, heads the state's Senate Education Committee, where he has made a push to expand charter schools and offer vouchers for students who want to attend private school. He has backed measures in Texas modeled on Arizona’s controversial crackdown on illegal immigration, SB 1070.
Texas is 38 percent Latino, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. The University of Texas boasts a Center for Mexican American Studies and one of the largest Latin American library collections in the world.
But conservative-dominated Texas isn’t the most hospitable state when it comes to multicultural studies. The state GOP’s platform for 2012 opposes multicultural curricula on the grounds that they are “divisive.” The document also opposes critical thinking.
Activists point to a recent report by the National Association of Scholars as the inspiration behind the Texas law. The report criticizes Texas universities for offering what it views as too many classes focusing on race, gender and class, rather than military and intellectual history.
The paper gives 10 recommendations to educators -- among them, to “evaluate conformity with laws.” The authors encourage other states to enact laws similar to one in Texas requiring students to take two U.S. history courses, and says “better accountability is needed to ensure that colleges’ teaching lines up with legal provisions.”
University of Washington anthropologist Devon Peña, who earned his PhD from the University of Texas at Austin, slammed the bill in an article posted to Arizona activist blog Three Sonorans.
The irony, of course, is that when the Euro-American experience is normalized to be the “comprehensive” experience, that results in the privileging of the narrow views and experiences of a specific ethnic and racial group (whites) whose experiences are misrepresented as the one true measure of the history of the nation or the state. I guess the white male legislators didn’t think of that.
Also on HuffPost:
Occupied America: A History of Chicanos, by Rodolfo Acuña
The most successful book written by professor Rodolfo Acuña, "Occupied America" represents all that Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne opposed in the Mexican-American Studies program when he launched the attack against it. Horne viewed the curriculum as separatist and ethnically divisive. HB 2281, the law used to <a href="http://www.azleg.gov/legtext/49leg/2r/bills/hb2281s.pdf " target="_hplink">ban TUSD's Mexican American Studies</a> program, prohibits courses that "promote the overthrow of the United States government" or "are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group." "These people think you're a separatist if you want to teach and include people," <a href="http://articles.latimes.com/2011/jan/14/local/la-me-0114-tobar-20110114" target="_hplink">Acuña told the <em>Los Angeles Times</em></a> in 2011. "I don't want to be part of Mexico ... That's a stupid thing to argue."
500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures, compiled by Elizabeth Martinez
This compilation tells the story of Chicano history from before the European conquest of North America, through colonization and into the present day. The book describes the Southwest as "Occupied America" -- a term that Arizona conservatives often view as unjust and disparaging. Actor Edward James Olmos felt differently: "If young people read this book, they will be strong and proud in new ways," he said on the dust jacket to the 1990 edition. "It's a real education, in the true sense of that word."
Pedagogy of the Oppressed, by Paulo Freire
This seminal work by Brazilian education professor Paulo Freire argued that students learn best when treated as equals and engaged on their own terms. Freire argues against the "banking model" of education, in which teachers treat students as passive recipients of knowledge. His work is studied by education specialists throughout the hemisphere. In a 2012 interview, <a href="http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/news/2012/04/19/neither-banned-nor-allowed-mexican-american-studies-in-limbo-in-arizona/" target="_hplink">Arizona Superintendent of Education John Huppenthal </a> explained why he viewed the book as problematic: <blockquote>The title of Paulo Freire's book is 'Pedagogy of the Oppressed,' and so the question is, who is the oppressed? And as we looked at what was going on in the classroom and looked at what was in the materials, we saw they were putting together a Marxian model in the classroom in which the oppressed are the Hispanic students and the oppressors are the white Caucasian power structure. We came to the conclusion that it wasn't O.K. to be preaching that model in the classroom.</blockquote>
Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years, by Bill Bigelow
A collection of essays, interviews, lesson plans and other materials, <em>Rethinking Columbus</em> aims to change the way students understand the first interactions between the indigenous peoples of the Americas and the Europeans. One contributing author, <a href="http://www.salon.com/2012/01/13/whos_afraid_of_the_tempest/" target="_hplink">Tucson's own Leslie Silko</a>, boasts a Native Writers' Circle of the Americas Lifetime Achievement Award and a MacArthur Foundation genius grant.
Critical Race Theory, by Richard Delgado
The academic field of <a href="http://spacrs.wordpress.com/what-is-critical-race-theory/" target="_hplink">critical race theory challenges</a> traditional ways of looking at race and racism. The field's theoreticians argue that supposedly neutral concepts and institutions, like meritocracy or the legal system, mask systemic inequality and institutionalized racism. Richard Delgado's books is one of the discipline's classics. Some conservatives <a href="http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2012/03/11/What Is Critical Race Theory" target="_hplink">view critical race theory as "dangerous"</a> because some of its proponents view the Constitution and the fabric of American democracy as imbued with racism. During the course of several interviews in 2012, Julio Cammarota, a professor of Mexican American Studies at the University of Arizona, "You can see the problem, can't you? One side doesn't want to talk about race, the other side wants to talk about race all the time."
Message to Aztlán: Selected Writings of Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzalez
The term "Aztlán" refers to the mythic homeland of the Nahua of Central Mexico. Intellectuals of the Chicano movement adopted the term to describe the southwestern United States. Mexican-American Studies teachers at Tucson Unified School District taught those concepts with books like this one, by Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzalez, a writer and political activist who helped found the Chicano Movement in the 1960s.
Chicano! The History of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement, by Arturo Rosales
This well-regarded study of the Chicano movement serves as a companion to the 1996 PBS documentary of the same name.