The SBOE Approved the Ethnic Studies Proposal. Now What?

After 2,358 of your petition signatures and testimony from dozens of Texans in support, the State Board of Education today voted to make it easier for Texas schools to offer courses in Mexican-American, African-American, Native American and Asian-American studies.

The 12-2 vote means publishers will have a chance to submit to the state instructional materials for those courses next year. Schools choosing to teach the classes would use curriculum standards designed for special local courses. Another conversation at the board’s July meeting will further dictate the rigor of these courses.

For those of you unfamiliar with the party breakdown of the board, 12 votes in favor means the measure had bipartisan support. The two ‘no’ votes came from David Bradley, R-Beaumont, and Geraldine “Tincy” Miller, R-Dallas. Board member Ken Mercer, R-San Antonio, was at today’s hearing but did not cast a vote.

It’s true, this isn’t the stand-alone, state course advocates wanted — but it’s an important step forward. That’s especially true because four years ago state board members debated whether American heroes like Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta and Thurgood Marshall should even be included in the state’s social studies curriculum standards.

Right-wing groups opposed any effort to teach courses about the contributions of Mexican-Americans, African-Americans and others to our nation’s history and culture. One group even resorted to race-baiting in opposition to these courses.

But the voices of members in organizations working together — like the League of United Latin American Citizens, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the NAACP, Librotraficante, MAS-Texas, Texas State Teachers Association, Texas American Federation of Teachers and TFN — rose above those who derided the call for a Mexican-American and other ethnic studies courses as exclusionary or “reverse racism.”

What to teach students about our nation’s rich diversity will almost certainly be another point of debate when the state board adopts new social studies textbooks later this year.

But for now, we should all be proud of this accomplishment. And, oh yeah, a big Texas-sized thank you to all of you who were part of this. Now, let’s carry this momentum of achievement forward.