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The Texas Board of Education Refuses to Call Mexican-American Studies What It Is

Illustration for article titled The Texas Board of Education Refuses to Call Mexican-American Studies What It Is
Photo: Jensen Walker (Getty Images)

Everything’s bigger in Texas, including the fuckery committed regularly by certain elected representatives.

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On Friday, the Texas Board of Education unanimously voted to keep Mexican-American studies as an official elective in public high schools, but then voted in favor of renaming the class “Ethnic Studies: An Overview of Americans of Mexican Descent.” As the Houston Chronicle reports, the name change was proposed by conservative Republican board member David Bradley, who earlier in the week said “I find hyphenated Americanism to be divisive.” That’s interesting, because I find his total buffoonery to be divisive, but that’s just one woman’s opinion.

Reached over the phone, he told the Chronicle, “We’re all Americans. I don’t go around saying I’m an Irish American or an East Texas Moonshining American or anything else. It’s a melting pot and most of the board agreed with that.” Apparently unable to not to stick his foot in his mouth, Bradley added, “They got what they wanted. They got 99 percent of what they wanted,” and later, “They just can’t figure out how to say thank you,” which, HMMMM.

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The new name is disappointing when you consider that a Mexican-American studies course would give students from Mexican or Latino backgrounds a chance to see themselves in the material they learn, and that studies have shown that courses in Mexican-American studies lead to higher graduation rates and standardized test scores. Board member Marisa Perez-Diaz released a statement against the name change, correctly pointing out that it, frankly, doesn’t make any sense: “Today, 9 of my 14 colleagues told me how they believe I should identify: ‘American of Mexican Descent.’ What does that mean? How do any of them expect this title to resonate with any of our scholars who identify as Mexican American?”

Friday’s vote made history for the state: Texas is now the second state in the country to have ever endorsed a high-school Mexican-American studies class at the state level. Sadly, that very statistic shows just how fraught the battle for more inclusive curriculum has been. The only other state to have done this is Arizona, and that’s only because the state tried to ban such classes, and last year a federal judge shut that shit down, ruling that the ban was motivated by racism and was unconstitutional.

Senior Writer, Jezebel

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DISCUSSION

c83nonstop
C83nonstop

I am Mexican American, or others would describe me as such. Born in America, but of Mexican ethnicity. My father immigrated to America in the 60s when he was 9 with the rest of his family, my mother was born in America. Anywho, when I was a little girl, probably around 9 or 10, I referred to myself as Mexican-American. My father quickly corrected me and said you are an American of Mexican descent. I asked why? And he explained that he was Mexican American, because he was born in Mexico but now lives in America as a nationalized American. But I was American, first because I was born in America, and the only thing that was Mexican about me is my ethnicity. It was true, and still is. I lived a good life as an American child, the product of people living and working for the American dream. Yes, I speak some Spanish, cook Mexican foods, and have Latino features. But other than that, I am American. I live in America, work for an American company, went to American schools, married an American, vote in America, pay American taxes, am part of American culture as any other American would. America is all I know. She’s my country. So, I am not really mad at this if the courses and curriculum is truly to study those of Mexican ethnicity born in America. But I also hesitate to say that all Mexican-American’s can’t be mad at this. I live in the Bay Area, and its such a melting pot that I have never really felt prejudice because of my ethnicity. Nor have I felt like I need to hold on to preserve my Mexican roots, because I am surrounded by so much of it daily - food, language, people, celebrations, customs, etc. And I can see how someone living in an area or state or neighborhood without this cultural preservation could feel very strongly about this course, what its called, and the information included in this.