Commentary: Let’s celebrate the value in working together

Our national celebration as Americans will soon be here with the red, white and blue prominently displayed. Celebrations draw our attention from the ordinary to the inspired. Something inspiring happened at the Texas State Board of Education that merits celebration.

We bemoan the fact we are becoming a people divided — society that lives in separate cultural and political silos. The board — 10 Republicans and five Democrats — voted unanimously in June to adopt curriculum standards for an elective high school course — Ethnic Studies: Mexican American Studies — that expands the knowledge of Texas’ broader cultural heritage. This is a hook the board hopes will improve educational outcomes and understanding as students are exposed more deeply to Mexican-American contributions to our shared American story. With a unanimous vote to adopt curriculum standards for this course, the board showed there is more to unite us than divide us.

RELATED: Texas panel tentatively OKs using ‘Mexican American’ in course title.

In addition, we invited school districts to submit African-American, Asian Pacific Islander, Latino and Native American studies courses — as Houston ISD did in submitting the highly praised Mexican American Studies course. Setting the stage for other ethnic studies courses to come, it includes curriculum standards on history, geography, economics, government, citizenship, culture, science, technology and social studies skills.

All this is to increase the chances that students will truly learn to value of e pluribus unum, expressed on our nation’s great seal.

Every board member was aware that the eyes of Texas’ schoolchildren were upon us as we worked through our differences. The journey included reconciling differences on the need for the course, and even on its title. All ended in two unanimous votes to adopt the course curriculum standards and title. Maybe — just maybe — we were an example to our children of the benefit of continuing to collaborate.

Politics energizes as well as frustrates. Politicians are maligned by all sides when the battle is a high-profile, high-stakes one. Tearing down the daunting walls of “us versus them” is back-breaking work. The problem is we don’t encourage or celebrate it enough.

CASTILLO: Here’s a solution to intolerance that we can call agree on.

In the 5 1/2 years I’ve served, this board that I now proudly lead has proven that there is intrinsic value in working together. You can’t always get there. Values will inevitably clash — but, commitment to working together will result in better decisions and advance the likelihood of better outcomes for students.

For example, we:

• Put textbooks online for public comment during the review period before adoption.

• Revised the curriculum standards process to add greater transparency, more feedback and appointed experts in higher education.

• Approved integrated language-arts standards in English and Spanish.

• Streamlined lengthy science standards.

• Hosted three free roundtable conferences on important education topics with panels of national and state experts and practitioners to support educators and policymakers.

• Are set to approve the Long-Range Plan for Public Education in September, which will include the views and voices of 12,000 Texans.

OPINION: An economic argument for Mexican-American studies.

Moreover, Texas is the first state to require use of open digitized standards — built on Texas curriculum standards — to increase interoperability in digital textbooks.

Politics that aims to understand perspectives, push through walls and coalesce around an important issue takes an enormous amount of time, patience and a willingness to engage on a human level with folks outside our tribe.

What began in the spring of 2014 as advocacy for a Mexican-American course by activists and experts will result in the board providing both a course and an important lesson. Maybe the State Board of Education has provided a bit of inspiration during our national time of celebrating who we are as Americans — altogether.

Together, we’re Texas. Together, we’re America. Let the celebrations begin!

Bahorich, R-Houston, is chair of the State Board of Education.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Opinion

Opinion: Action must be taken to address black community’s problems

During the weekend of Aug. 4-5 (and the preceding Friday night), 12 Chicagoans were shot dead, and 62 others were shot and wounded, the Chicago Tribune reported. Before last week’s mayhem, 1,718 Chicagoans had been shot since the beginning of the year, and 306 had been murdered. Adding to this tragedy is the fact that Chicago’s clearance...
Letters to the editor: Aug. 14, 2018
Letters to the editor: Aug. 14, 2018

Re: Aug. 8 article, “Greg Abbott tweets bogus Winston Churchill quotation about anti-fascists.” Instead of misattributing a quote to Winston Churchill, perhaps Gov. Greg Abbott should have posted: “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross,” a quote often erroneously attributed to Sinclair...
Facebook comments: Aug. 14, 2018
Facebook comments: Aug. 14, 2018

As reported by the American-Statesman’s Melissa B. Taboada, Education Commissioner Mike Morath recently recommended the state create a system that authorizes districts to move to a tiered pay plan, which pays more to teachers considered high-performing, to recruit more top college graduates to the profession. Though a Dallas program was touted...
INSIGHT: What schools should tell ninth-graders about intelligence
INSIGHT: What schools should tell ninth-graders about intelligence

This month, more than 4 million students across the nation will begin high school. Many will do well. But many will not. Consider that nearly two-thirds of students will experience the “ninth-grade shock,” which refers to a dramatic drop in a student’s academic performance. Some students cope with this shock by avoiding challenges...
Opinion: ‘BlacKkKlansman’ holds a mirror to America’s deepest problem

The credits were rolling, Spike Lee’s latest offering to cinema, the Cannes Film Festival sensation “BlacKkKlansman,” was concluding in a Midwestern premiere. A man seated next to him leaned over to Lee’s co-writer Kevin Willmott with a confession, followed by a denial. “I voted for Donald Trump,” he said. There...
More Stories