Texas Board of Education has a date with Mexican-American history

Mexican-American leaders are hoping to capitalize on the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act by convincing the Texas State Board of Education to create culturally…
Texas Board of Education has a date with Mexican-American history

FILE – In this Feb. 27, 1979 picture, United Farm Workers leader Cesar Chavez, foreground right, addresses a large crowd at a rally in Calexico, Calif. calling for a boycott of Chiquita brand bananas. Cesar Chavez and other Mexican leaders form a part of the rich Mexican-American history in the US. Activists want Texas schools to offer courses. (AP Photo/Wally Fong)

Mexican-American leaders are hoping to capitalize on the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act by convincing the Texas State Board of Education to create culturally relevant courses for Lone Star State schools, in particular a Mexican-American Studies curriculum.

Already 51 percent of the state’s 5 million students are Hispanic. At the same time as a Civil Rights Summit featuring Presidents Obama, Bush, Carter and Clinton is being be held Tuesday, April 8 at the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library in Austin, activists are taking part in a statewide coalition. The group will be descending on the state capital to influence the Texas State Board of Education regarding a vote to implement the Mexican-American Studies curriculum.

SEE ALSO: Spanish speaking students trigger a civil right showdown in TX

“What’s significant is that on the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, the Texas State Board of Education can stamp out one of the last vestiges of discrimination by implementing Mexican-American studies,” Librotraficante Movement leader Tony Diaz told VOXXI. “The irony is, most people don’t know that LBJ taught at a Mexican-only school in Cotulla, Texas, and there hasn’t been an official course that tells that story. What we have now is a hodge-podge of different curriculums.”

Diaz and others are scheduled to testify before the Texas State Board of Education (TSBOE)  on Tuesday, with representative Ruben Cortez, who has been championing this issue, presenting the vote on implementing Mexican-American Studies on Wednesday.

“Our ability as a society to adapt defines the essence of the American spirit,” Cortez said. “We must acknowledge the significance of the contributions of Mexican-Americans and record them as history so all generations know that cultural diversity is what continues to make America the greatest nation in the world.”

While the Mexican-American studies concept has been discussed for years, Diaz said Republican TSBOE members have said all along districts have the autonomy to offer any course. However, his point is Texas has roughly 1,200 school districts, which would require activists to convince each district individually instead of the TSBOE doing so across the board.

“Would we tolerate 1,200 different versions of math?” Diaz said. “This really is an issue of discrimination, and I’m hoping on April 8 the Republican members of the TSBOE will walk with us into a new era of America. We’ll update the American dream. We’re going to need three of them to vote in favor of Mex-American studies.”

SEE ALSO: Librotraficante – Keeping Mexican-American studies alive

The TSBOE currently has five Democrats, who Diaz said are in favor of the Mexican-American studies. In order for the measure to pass, eight of the 15-member TSBOE must vote it in. Recently, the activists have enjoyed various victories regarding the matter. Not only did the state’s largest district, Houston Independent School District, unanimously vote to implement Mexican-American studies at the state board level but a Houston charter school also followed suit.

Diaz stressed the current goal of activists is far from heavy-handed.

“This is basically asking for the Mexican-American studies course to be implemented at the high school level as an option,” Diaz said. “This seems straightforward and there is no logical reason to oppose this. The only reason that exists to oppose this is discrimination. That’s it.”

He added, “This is the last chance for the GOP in Texas to show that they will work with Hispanics. If they don’t, then they want to turn us into Arizona where the far right will create legislation that directly oppresses Mexican-Americans. We’ve seen that play out in Arizona. We’re not going to tolerate that here. This is a chance for the GOP. This is huge. This is historic.”

While there are plenty of entities against Mexican-American studies, including Tea Party leaders, Diaz remains optimistic about the vote on Wednesday.

“My gut tells me we’re about to make history,” Diaz said. “And if not, the GOP will never win Texas. Just like the GOP autopsy report said about the Latino vote, they will never have a president again. And they will accelerate turning Texas blue. We will start voting them out of office.”

SEE ALSO: Education is a real issue for Hispanics