UPDATE 4/22: A previous version of this post inaccurately explained the State Board of Education vote this month on Mexican-American studies in public schools. The board voted to open up a call for publishers to submit textbook materials for courses like Mexican-American studies. There was no approval of an elective course, though school districts are allowed to include MAS under the "Special Topics in Social Studies" curriculum. "The state board took this action in place of adding an elective course on Mexican-American Studies to the official state curriculum," according to a statement from the Texas Freedom Network.
Original story: As of this month, Mexican American studies, or MAS (Get it, more?), no longer has to be categorized as an "innovative" course in Texas public schools. It will be an elective, but one viable with classroom texts approved by the state.
Two weeks ago the State Board of Education approved a plan to "broaden its call for new textbooks for Special Topics in Social Studies to include but not limited to Mexican American Studies, African American Studies, Native American Studies, and Asian American Studies."
What this all means is that there
will could be state-approved textbooks on the topic under curriculum standards called "Special Topics in Social Studies." But all these changes won't begin to go into effect until the 2016-2017 school year, according to the TEA.
With half the state having deep Hispanic/Latino origins (if you will), what took them so long to allow approved teaching on this history to the kids of Houston and the state?
Most likely, immigration bashing, according to Maria C. Gonzalez, an associate professor in the University of Houston's English department. "When you're in a state like Texas, a conservative state, they still have a problem with diversity," she said.
"This should have been done decades ago. One of the biggest challenges we face is we don't do enough history of just where we're from. What is Texas history? What was Houston like 200 years ago? It didn't belong to the United States."
Ahead of the amendment to the state's Proclamation 2016, which approves classroom materials, HISD backed a non-mandatory Mexican-American studies portion of the curriculum.
"This is huge, not just for the history that it makes, but for what it means strategically," renowned book smuggler Tony Diaz told Buzzfeed.com. "This is the largest of Texas's 1,200 school districts, and its student body is over 60 percent Latino. The way Houston moves, the rest of the state moves."
Gonzalez, who teaches Mexican American literature, said many of her students will become future Houston Independent School District Teachers, ones who will hopefully take on the challenge to include Mexican American studies in their courses.
Still, she said she's heard all the balking from conservatives who see this move as reverse racism before. "They're going to read this as controversial. Even as a high school elective."
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.