Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report
At an April State Board of Education meeting, Mexican-American Studies advocates found only partial satisfaction in a board vote that approved the creation of state standards for a MAS course, but altered the name of the class. In a split vote, the board changed the name of the class from "Mexican-American Studies" to "Ethnic Studies: An Overview of Americans of Mexican Descent."
On Wednesday, opponents of the name change rallied at the Guadalupe Theater in San Antonio and in five other Texas cities to support the reversal of the board vote. They said they hope the state board members who voted for the name change will listen to their argument and reverse the board's decision, which was introduced by board member David Bradley (R-Beaumont) who said he found "hyphenated Americanism to be divisive."
State board member Marisa Perez-Diaz, a Democrat whose district includes a portion of Bexar County, spoke at the rally, echoing her previous disapproval for the name change. Following the vote, she called it a "slap in the face," and an "insult."
"It is ridiculous that we are here today, right, it is ridiculous that we have to fight for our own identity and for the name of a course," Perez-Diaz said Wednesday.
She said that while Bradley expressed discomfort with “hyphenated-Americanism,” she felt the name change was “completely un-American.”
The rally’s organizer, Juan Tejeda, read a statement from the National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies Tejas Foco Committee on Mexican American Studies Pre-K-12 to the nearly 40 people gathered at the rally. Tejeda listed a number of reasons the group desired a name change back to Mexican-American Studies, including MAS being an established field of study in higher education. It is, he said, an affirmation of identity for Mexican-American students. He also likened it to terms such as African Americans or Italian Americans.
At its next meeting on June 12, the state board will discuss the state standards that were approved for creation in April. The Texas Education Agency developed these standards from a Houston Independent School District class that already covers the topic. The state board is expected to begin accepting feedback on the standards before voting on them sometime in September.
Mexican-American studies advocates have argued that creating state standards for the course will make it easier for publishers to create textbooks and resources. These resources will help small schools and districts offer the classes. Advocates, including those who rallied on Wednesday, argue without standards or textbooks, smaller districts struggle to develop their own original curriculum and aren't able to offer the class.
The group assembled at the rally plans to demand the name change reversal at the next State Board of Education meeting.
Perez-Diaz said she doesn't know if her her fellow board members will change their minds.
“I don’t know, I didn’t even know they were going to change the name and then it happened at the eleventh hour,” she said.
Even if the name is not changed back, however, Perez-Diaz said she will still support the approval of the standards, because doing otherwise would be a step in the “wrong direction.”
San Antonio and Edgewood ISDs will begin offering Mexican-American studies courses in the next two school years. District officials told the Rivard Report that the new classes will feature local history and influential figures.
Clarification: This story has been updated to reflect conflicting reports about the number of "for" votes in the State Board of Education's decision to change the name of the elective course.