Latinos and blacks should be offended and angry over TX State Board of Education’s decision to dismiss minority contributions from school textbooks

LatinaLista — Democracy is a dying U.S. ideal — thanks to the Texas State Board of Education (TSBE).

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In a vote of 10-5, the board, dominated by social conservatives, preliminarily adopted a new Social Studies and history curriculum that includes replacing the word “democratic” in referring to the form of U.S. government and opting instead to call it a “constitutional republic.”

Diana Gomez, left, and Garrett Mize, along with other University of Texas students, rally before a State Board of Education meeting in Austin, Texas, on Wednesday, March 10, 2010. A group of 40 students marched to the public hearing to ask “the far-right, conservative faction of the state board to not inject their political agenda into the social studies and history curriculum.” (Associated Press)

In fact, these newly adopted standards exemplify everything bad when one faction calls the shots. Information, in this case curriculum, becomes one-sided, tainted, warped and inaccurate — a sad predictor of the quality of knowledge of students who will be graduating from Texas and other state public schools in the future.

Thanks to the TSBE, students all across the nation — unless individual states and school districts speak up and demand that textbook companies understand that the TSBE speaks only for a narrow group of narrow-minded individuals intent on rewriting history their way and alternative textbooks must be made available — will learn, or more accurately unlearn, what has served as the traditional foundation of every American student’s schooling.

 

The TSBE:

Rejected an attempt to ensure that children learn why the U.S. was founded on the principle of religious freedom.

Made sure that when children learn about the Bill of Rights, the Second Amendment of the right to bear arms is emphasized in a chapter about citizenship in U.S. government classes.

However, the most offensive actions taken by the social conservatives on the TSBE don’t just threaten to rewrite history but reverse years of progress minority communities have made in getting their histories included in school curriculums, a.k.a. the public discourse.

According to an Associated Press article:

Conservatives beat back multiple attempts to include hip-hop as an example of a significant cultural movement that already includes country music.

Numerous attempts to add the names or references to important Hispanics throughout history also were denied, inducing one amendment that would specify that Tejanos died at the Alamo alongside Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie.

The board approved an amendment that deletes a requirement that sociology students “explain how institutional racism is evident in American society.”

In a state where the District Attorney of Dallas, in reviewing past convictions of minority inmates, has been able to exonerate and gain the release of numerous wrongfully imprisoned because of a notoriously prejudicial system against people of color, the idea that students should not know how to analyze a situation to determine if an outcome is based on institutionalized racism or not is pathetically ignorant.

The idea that a handful or less of Hispanic historic figures is sufficient in school curriculums in a country where the Hispanic population will be the majority underscores the blatant racism exercised by this panel — without fear.

To allow these standards to stand as they do not only diminishes the quality of the education but purposely belittles the contributions and presence of communities of color and their roles in history and today.

To basically write out the Hispanic presence or the significance of black influence on popular music can be viewed as nothing less than an act of aggression by a few who happen to be protected by their positions of authority.

It is an abuse of their position and every person who wants the children of this country’s future to receive a balanced view of this nation’s past and present should fight these decisions and force the group to start over.

 

A final vote on these curriculum standards will be taken in May.

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21 Comments

  1. Tara Murphy said:

    FGS, Marissa, stop your whining and blaming and exert your energy towards getting Latino kids to stay in H.S. school, graduate, get jobs that pay more than minimum wage so they can make contributions to the tax-funded social security system, Medicare, etc. instead of wasting their time (and ours) moaning “where’s mine”? It’s right in front you, it’s called education and it’s FREE. Use it or lose it.

  2. Maria said:

    People get a life! It is not all about Mexicans! As far as blacks, their contributions are in the Text Books. Cubans have made major contributions to this Country and you do not see us crying about why we are not in the Text Books and why we should be. History books are written by the winners, their point of view, but the true horrors are never exposed. Anyone with a centimeter or resemblance of any type of education knows that.
    Should we include every Latino country? It is US History folks!

  3. Bryan J. said:

    Hey Marisa,
    Hmm. The severity of this board decision, in my opinion, hinges upon the percentage of students who go on to college after high school. Because if high school education turns towards a conservative, white-centric historical perspective, universities, from my own experience at least, take the opposite tact.
    In fact, what happens in the university many times leans towards left indoctrination. It is dangerous, as well, because a professor has an authority status and is much more schooled in the art of persuasion.
    Perhaps this is why there is so much stagnation in the left-right debate. Entrenched opinions. I have seen this in the Latino blogosphere.
    Without naming names, one blog often bemoans the plight of political prisoners who are perceived victims of the U.S. but absolutely ignores the equally or more damning treatment of political prisoners in Cuba.
    I think disingenuous professors are partly responsible for this phenomena.
    But then again, this all leads back to my question of how many high school students go on to college.

  4. John said:

    You are sadly mistaken if you believe that everything and everyone Latin is in agreement that the move in Texas was related to some racial prejudice or far right religion. FACT – I taught history in a 90% Hispanic school in Texas where the history textbook was far above the ability for the average reading level of students in the grade. It has too much information to begin with. FACT – Latin people are not inherently liberal, quite the opposite, they are family oriented people who are the salt of the Earth. Don’t assume we are agreeing with you. Stop trying to make this about race and be thankful someone if finally empowering students to learn the things they can actually retain. It’s not about race and religion and IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU.

  5. irma said:

    Perhaps this action of the Texas Education Board coupled with that of rampant racism among Texan Republican voters, will bring
    Hispanics to their senses and bring them over to the Democratic party.
    I grew up in Dallas during the sixties and seventies. The textbooks were missing a lot – even then. I didnt learn about the
    Holocaust- there was little discussion of the Civil Rights movement etc. My role model models were African American educators like Booker T Washington and George Washington Carver – I discovered their existence buried in the biography section of my elementary school library. As a Hispanic child, I was desperate for evidence that people
    who were not the majority could succeed in education etc. I found it in the library. Books are very important to how a child will ultimately view the world, this is why the rewriting of history in Texas school books should stop.

  6. Alonzo said:

    Marisa…..”In a vote of 10-5, the board, dominated by social conservatives, preliminarily adopted a new Social Studies and history curriculum that includes replacing the word “democratic” in referring to the form of U.S. government and opting instead to call it a “constitutional republic.”
    I fail to see why this is so objectionable, even though it is actually a little inaccurate We are a constitutional democracy and a federal republic, meaning that we are a democracy with a strong presidency. The proposed change hardly warrants the big deal you are making of it.

  7. Marisa Treviño said:

    Bryan, Though the end result would be great if Latino high schoolers go on to college, the more immediate need is retaining them in high school. One way is to make what they are learning relevant to them. Part of that relevancy is including role models they can relate to. The sad thing is that this Board of Education is purposely limiting the amount of exposure Latino historical figures will have in the curriculum in a state where the major school districts of the state are majority Hispanic and black. Makes no sense.

  8. Marisa Treviño said:

    John, Just from your comment, it seems you don’t have high expectations of these students. That’s the first problem. Nobody said anything about Latinos being inherently liberal — believe me, I know how traditionally conservative Latinos are. Yet, that doesn’t justify saying that Latinos made less of a contribution to the historical development of the state. And not sure which Latinos agree with you because everyone that has responded to me, off this blog, and who live in Texas are justifiably mad.

  9. Alonzo said:

    “The sad thing is that this Board of Education is purposely limiting the amount of exposure Latino historical figures will have in the curriculum in a state where the major school districts of the state are majority Hispanic and black. Makes no sense.”
    The history books in question are about the entire country, not just Texas. A book on the history of Texas would no doubt concentrate on Texas. Other ethnic groups who’ve contributed in other parts of the country have to be included too. Just what proportion of the history of the history of the history over the last 400-years do you think would be fair? Unless each student is to carry an 20-lb encyclopedia, something has to be left out.
    I don’t see why national textbooks should be subject to the politics of the size of ethnic populations. As I said, the books are limited in size. These books can only include the major topics and contributions of the people. If we suddenly had an influx of Japanese into this country, it wouldn’t make sense to spend a lot of space covering focusing on their minor contributions to recent history. I can just see Latinos and other minorities sitting down and allocating page quantities by demographic numbers, while relative importance of contributions is ignored. I don’t like your approach, Marisa, your politicization of this issue.

  10. CHICANO -future tense said:

    LL.. thanks for bringing this issue out into the light of human decency and honesty.This travesty carried out by the Texas Board does need to be drug out into the open and sanitized by the Raza as well as others..
    if they succeed in forcing this reactionary whitewashed revisionist history then I think Chicano students should take a page out of their parents book from the 60′s
    -that is civil disobedience,sit-ins and demonstrations calling for Chicano history to be taught as an alternative view from the mostly white mainstream educational system..
    Chicano students should raise hell and demand that their Chicano history be taught!

  11. Bryan J. said:

    I think communities should be able to choose, within a certain limit, what kind of history they would like to pursue.
    History, for example,(I was a History major, focused on Latin America), is not so much about the geographic region, it is about what how your mind can be transformed and improved by analyzing a particular set of events in the past, be it in the United States, or Europe.
    Speaking for myself, I found and still do find U.S. history to be far less interesting than that of, say, Latin America. Choice is critical and if the studies show that Hispanics and Blacks will be more engaged and better students overall if they learn of indiividuals and events from their own communities, then they should be able to do so.
    On all levels of education,(look at standardized tests, for example) I see a recurring problem: who decides what students learn. It seems to be an elite group that decides, and thus it is subject to abuse, like what appears to be the case here.
    Speaking of education, I should really get to my own at this point. Ha Ha.

  12. Nogui Aramburo said:

    Its an alternate history that they are promoting. They are punishing Thomas Jefferson for separation of Church and State. This is really sad. Its what makes us a great country. Obviously these ultra white wing conservatives don’t mean to include any Latino or Black contribution to America.
    I think they should be free to be think as they please, but don’t propose to rewrite history and teach generations of kids an ideological point of view.

  13. irma said:

    Bryan,
    Your logic is odd. History textbooks should be based on reality not on the percentage of students from a specific cultural group who go on to college.
    It is a fact, that there were Mexicans who fought with David Crockett at the
    Alama against Santa Ana. I dont happen to care that they were there, but they WERE there. History books in Texas schools should not be biased
    in favor one particular view of history.
    Let children figure out what they choose to believe. Take me for example, I was taught in Dallas in
    1968, that Texas was “given freely and legallly to settlers from the USA” by
    Santa Ana. I asked my Mexican born father about this – he gave me the
    Mexican version of this story. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.
    There is no need to feed children a biased view of history. Have faith that they can sort out the data and think for themselves.

  14. Karen said:

    Maria: Mexican-Americans are part of US history. We have been here for hundreds of years and have contributed to US history and culture. If you had a decent education, you would know that.
    The racists in Texas want to erase our contributions to US history, especially Texas history, and impose their phony racist lies on everybody. I truly feel sorry for anybody “educated” in Texas. Our country is falling further behind.
    Where is Obama? Silent as usual.

  15. Xiomara Guitterez said:

    Maria: I find your remarks more than troubling, you cannot be conveniently Latina. There is a difference between Cubans who came to the US after the 1898 Revolution in Cuba to Tampa mostly and in the late 60′s-70′s and Mexicans, Chicano(a)s, Mexican-Americans who have always been here. So, there is a difference. There is also a difference when you say:
    “Cubans have made major contributions to this Country and you do not see us crying about why we are not in the Text Books and why we should be.”
    The difference here to be quite frank is between people working for social stasis and human rights as opposed to people working for social stasis and the right wing forces in this country who seek to oppress Blacks and Latinos.
    We ought to include Latinos and Blacks who made a contribution towards the greater good of this nation.

  16. Bianca said:

    Wow some of you are really racist and ignorant… “Well these kids should stay in school”. Why don’t you try seeing the heart of the problem instead of blaming people’s kids and putting down a whole culture?
    Also to that Cuban person, you should be fighting as well so stop complaining about who made more contributions. For people who read this blog you all sure have such hateful and ignorant comments to gear towards Latinos and in this case, Mexican American people… Absolutely ridiculous…

  17. dgonsalves said:

    Marisa – Thanks for the DEMOCRATIC opportunity to dialogue. Yes, it is wrong for one group to IMPOSE their beliefs on many. On the other hand, the reality is that in the face of adversity, it really is up to concerned groups to create their own ladders to success. ex: Koreans create Saturday schools to keep their language and culture intact. The same with those who are Jewish. Allowing the direction of our lives to be dictated by the whims of politicians is asking to be DEFINED by those who do NOT have our best interests in mind. What else did we think was eventually going to happen, esp. in THIS climate of hostility?

  18. Karen said:

    Re: “Should we include every Latino country? It is US History folks!”
    Mexican-Americans are part of US history, and especially Texas history. It’s pathetic that I should even have to point this out.
    Not only are they purging minorities from the history books, they are portraying the Founding Fathers as Christians. Anybody who has read the Founding fathers knows that they were Deists who did not envision the US as a Christian country. In fact, they had some harsh things to say about Christianity. Ever read “The Age of Reason” by Thomas Paine?
    I have heard many conservatives argue that because the Founding Fathers were familar with the Bible, that they must have been practicing Christians. Reading the Bible was what every educated person did. It doesn’t mean that they wanted America to be theocracy.
    My guess is that more schools will start using online resources to teach students rather than rely on backwards textbooks controlled by ignorant Texas fanatics.

  19. Texan123 said:

    Marisa, I am waiting for you to post my question about the names of Latino leaders that helped form this country. Were there any signers to the Declaration of Independence. Did Latinos help write the Constitution? How about the war for Independence from Mexico? There had to be a few note worthy contributors.
    Who, exactly, are the people you think American school kids should admire. I favor Daniel Boone and Davey Crockett. Oh and Jim Bowie.

  20. Bryan J. said:

    Irma,
    I understand what you are saying. It would be great if there could be a “non-biased” teaching of history at the middle/high school level. But given the sheer magnitude of so many historical events, it is impossible to A. properly explain the course of U.S. history and at the same time include all of the minority actors.
    To learn history, it is not essential to know of all that has happened in history. Therefore, at the high school level, what should be introduced is the history that provides the best opportunity for the student to obtain the tools to interpret and make conclusions about history anywhere and anyplace.
    If studies show that Latinos and Blacks will be more likely to be engaged and thus more likely to obtain the interpretative tools–by focusing on historical figures that they can relate to–then the benefits outweigh the drawbacks and it should be done.
    On a side note, when I was in high school(about 8 years ago), history was so shoddily taught. In essence, the process was as follows: memorize, memorize, memorize, and once in while write an bizarrely designed essay question.
    As a history major, I found that by interpreting an event in the past through more independent research and writing, I memorized facts and events by default. More importantly, I had an overall grasp, as opposed to a scattershot, vague recollection which results from what is taught in high school.

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