The State Board of Education approved the creation of a statewide Mexican-American studies course for high school students on Friday.
Before the 15-member board unanimously approved the course, board member Ruben Cortez, D-Brownsville, tried to get the board to call the course Mexican-American studies, but it failed with nine Republicans voting against it and all five Democrats voting for it. On Wednesday, the board approved naming the course Ethnic Studies: An Overview of Americans of Mexican Descent.
Some Democrats on the board said refusing to call the course Mexican-American studies foments divisiveness and does not accurately characterize the identities of Mexican Americans.
“We’re all made of the same clay, not the same mold,” said board member Marisa Perez-Diaz, D-Converse, through tears. “My colleagues around this board room identified me. My identity is my own and I am to identify myself. We identified thousands of children across Texas today and took that power from them.”
Board member Marty Rowley, R-Amarillo, said he wanted to keep the new name because that was the intent of the majority of the board on Wednesday. He said the board can change the name depending on how the public responds between now and the board’s next meeting in June.
The board in June will give preliminary approval of the curriculum standards of the course, which will mirror a Mexican-American studies course the Houston school district has developed and used.
“I don’t feel that strongly about how we named that course. If we leave it in and it is an issue with people, I’m sure we’ll hear about it. I’m certainly open to input from my constituencies and others as to whether we should make that change,” Rowley said.
Although he said he doesn’t like the name of the course, Cortez has said the board’s vote to move forward with creating a Mexican-American studies course should be considered a victory. The approval of the subject has come after a four-year push for the board to create a curriculum that reflects the histories and experiences of Mexican Americans.
Texas is one of two states that has approved a statewide Mexican-American studies course for public schools, according to scholars. Arizona has had such courses since the 1990s.
The board on Friday also approved considering creating courses in African-American studies, Latino studies, Native-American studies and Asian-American studies.