Latino Educational Group Charges Dan Patrick With Limiting Ethnic, Gender Studies at Texas Universities

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When representatives from Librotraficante, a Houston-based organization best-known for its work smuggling Latino texts into Arizona last year, visited Austin on Thursday, they met with one of Sen. Dan Patrick's aides. According to Tony Diaz, Librotraficante's lead organizer, Patrick's aide informed the contingent that while she studied at one of Texas's public universities, she took a course on the history of rock'n'roll. This course, it seems, apparently helped her meet one of her core history requirements.

According to both Diaz and Agustin Loredo, one of Librotraficante's representatives, this aide claimed her experience as the impetus for SB 1128, a piece of legislation submitted in the final week of the filing deadline. Instead of simply striking rock history -- or pop culture history, or technological history -- courses from such a required field, SB 1128 would instead limit the six credit hours of history required within public higher education to a "comprehensive survey of American history."'

As such, according to Librotraficante, the bill would consequently disallow any form of race or ethnic or gender histories from meeting these requirements. While the bill won't outright strike any Mexican- or African-American studies courses from universities's curricula, it will likely depress attendance in electives offered, as non-history students are shuttled to "comprehensive" courses.

"Look: I don't want any KISS fans to be mad at me," Diaz told Hair Balls Friday. "[And Patrick's aide] said she was stunned to find out that this bill could have that impact. ... Those are exact ripoffs of the bill we saw in Arizona. We've dealt with oppression like this before. This reeks of [Ariz. Gov. Jan] Brewer's perfume."

Patrick assures that there was no divisive -- no racial, no gendered -- move behind SB 1128. And, indeed, based on Patrick's legislative and oratorical history, the man has shied from any of the dog-whistle, xenophobic language that some of his colleagues have preferred.

He pointed to the original 1955 piece of legislation that required the six hours of education viz. American history, with an optional three hours directed toward Texas-centered history. This new bill, said Patrick, would simply reinforce the breadth of historical focus he believes was originally mandated in the 1955 law.

"We have passed legislation in the past that required, under law, that students should learn broad comprehensive history of our country," Patrick told Hair Balls. "But it would appear that this legislation's being circumvented."

Such a claim, however, doesn't jibe with the folks at Librotraficante. Pointing to the similarities within recent Arizona legislation dissolving ethnic studies -- a move that saw Librotraficante "smuggle" thousands of Latino texts across the Arizonan border -- Diaz and Loredo both confirmed that they would be monitoring, coalescing, and rallying as the bills move forward.

"Nothing will make Librotraficante budge from this -- SB 1128 must go away," Diaz said, noting that his representatives had already met with a handful of legislators and staffers in Austin. (An earlier post noted that Librotraficante's representatives were meeting with Patrick yesterday. The two did not meet.)

"We've seen what it did to Arizona, and we're not going to stand for it. We won't let Texas become Arizona," he added. "Without a doubt, it's the same oppression."

Diaz, Loredo, and Patrick all pointed to a recent study put forth by the National Association of Scholars, a nominally nonpartisan think-tank dedicated to educational reform. (While NAS's mission statements point toward non-politicization, it's worth noting that the three highest-ranking officers all are or were affiliated with The King's College in New York, one of the more notably conservative universities in the nation.)

The report, which examined US history courses at the University of Texas and Texas A&M, determined that "all too often the course readings gave strong emphasis to race, class, or gender (RCG) social history, an emphasis so strong that it diminished the attention given to other subjects in American history." Among its 10 recommendations, NAS submitted that "[h]istorians and professors of United States history should counter mission creep by returning to their primary task: handing down the American story, as a whole, to future generations."

"I encourage people to look up the crazy report," Diaz said. "What people don't know is about NAS is that they're the intellectual Ku Klux Klan. They're famous for going after multicultural programs and gender studies."

Regardless of what happens with legislation moving forward -- if Patrick's fellow legislators see it as mere formality, or if Librotraficante is able to gather enough support to enforce the parallels between Texas and Arizona -- there's a certain strain, a certain offense, that Patrick's legislation seems to have set off.

"You're going to compare rock and pop and technology to the ethnic makeup of the country?" Loredo asked. "It's not the same. Not only are [non-history students] not exposed to what America is, but now you're putting them into a box. How much can you really delve into? How much American history can you learn in a semester?"

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