The state board of education considered a long-shot proposal Tuesday that would add a Mexican-American studies course as a statewide high school elective, listening to dozens of supporters who said such a class is the only way to truly understand a state where Hispanics make up 51 percent of public school students and which was once part of Mexico.
During hours of often-heated testimony, some backers of the proposal choked back tears and others argued bitterly with skeptical board members.
Those opposed to the course say it would inject progressive politics into the classroom.
The board’s 10 Republicans and five Democrats vote on new courses Wednesday.
It’s the first time Texas has considered a Mexican-American studies class, and specifics on exactly what the course would teach haven’t been devised. Historic Texans of Mexican descent and Mexican-American culture are already covered in existing history and other classes, including Texas history in the fourth and seventh grades.
Even if approved, developing a Mexican-American curriculum and appropriate textbooks means it wouldn’t actually be ready for classrooms for two to three years. But the debate re-ignited past ideological battles about what’s taught to students in the nation’s second most-populous state.
“The whole world is watching, and the whole world is changed,” Tony Diaz, an activist from Houston, told the board. “It will never go back to the way it was. I mention that because Texas is behind, we need to help Texas catch up.”
The state has created curriculum guidelines for more than 200 high school electives, including floral design, musical theater, landscape design and turf-grass management.
The Fort Worth school district has had a Mexican-American studies course in its curricula for more than a decade, a curriculum official said Tuesday.
Several Texas school boards, including for the largest district, Houston, have passed resolutions supporting a statewide Mexican-American studies course. Still the proposal likely won’t pass the state board.
Some Republicans on the board have said they’d be more amenable to a multicultural studies class encompassing the accomplishments of Mexican-Americans but also Texans of other races and ethnicities.
Board member Patricia Hardy, R-Weatherford, told the Houston Chronicle before the meeting that the state already includes a considerable amount of Mexican-American history in the curriculum. A former social-studies teacher, she argued that a Mexican-American studies class would do students a disservice if it displaces other social-studies offerings.
“World geography or world history would be more to a student’s advantage,” she says.“They need more global courses that are broader than Mexican-American.”