Why Mexican-American Studies Matter

Protesters gather to support the Tucson Unified School District as Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal annou
Protesters gather to support the Tucson Unified School District as Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal announce that the Tucson Unified School District violates state law by teaching it's Mexican American Studies Department's ethic studies program at a news conference at the Arizona Department of Education Wednesday, June 15, 2011, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

The Texas State Board of Education will vote on Wednesday on whether or not to adopt an elective Mexican-American studies course for public high schools. The proposal from Brownsville Democrat Ruben Cortez has generated opposition from some members of the Republican-dominated SBOE, with one conservative calling the proposal "reverse racism."

What's all the fuss about? HuffPost Latino Voices explains everything you need to know about Mexican-American Studies.

This is America. Why do we need to study about Mexico?

Perhaps the most common misconception about Mexican-American Studies is that such courses focus on Mexico. They do not. They focus on the contributions of Americans of Mexican origin to American history and culture. Mexican-American Studies is a branch of American studies. It’s about the United States.

Aren’t we all Americans? Why should one group get its own history class?

There wouldn’t be a need for ethnic studies, supporters say, if our current curricula did enough to emphasize the history, culture and achievements of Hispanics in the majority-Latino Texas public school system.

"In a nutshell, what it does it implements culturally relevant texts and materials from the Chicano and indigenous perspective, so that we are valuing our students as human beings," El Paso educator Georgina Perez told The Huffington Post. "We know that when students see themselves in the curriculum that they feel valued."

As things stand today, however, most public school curricula focus overwhelmingly on the history and culture of European-Americans, more commonly known as “white people.”

Ok, but why should Mexican-American get their own classes? Won’t every culture need a special class then?

Supporters say it makes sense to offer Mexican-American studies in southwestern states for the same reason it makes sense to offer African-American studies in the Chicago public school system: demographics.

Hispanics make up more than half of the nearly 5 million students in Texas public schools, the vast majority of them of Mexican origin.

Who opposes Mexican-American Studies?

The opposition to Mexican-American Studies is led by political conservatives, many of whom view the idea of developing curricula focused on Hispanics undermines the creation of a collective national identity.

The Texas GOP platform of 2012, which remains in effect until later this year, says:

We believe the current teaching of a multicultural curriculum is divisive. We favor strengthening our common American identity and loyalty instead of political correctness that nurtures alienation among racial and ethnic groups.

Educators, by contrast, largely support the idea that developing curricula that reflect the history and culture of the student body would help boost student achievement. Several Texas school districts -- including Houston, the state's largest -- have passed resolutions endorsing the Mexican-American studies proposal. Universities across the country have implemented Mexican-American Studies programs and departments, as well as other ethnic studies programs.

What does Rage Against the Machine have to say about this?

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) favorite band railed against ethnocentrism in the public school system in the 1992 ethnic studies anthem “Take the Power Back.”

The present curriculum
I put my fist in ‘em
Eurocentric, every last one of ‘em
See right through the red, white and blue disguise
With lecture I puncture the structure of lies

Installed in our minds and attempting to hold us back
We’ve got to take it back
Holes in our spirit causin’ tears and fears
One-sided stories for years and years and years
I’m inferior? Who’s inferior?
Yeah, we need to check the interior
Of the system that cares about only one culture
And that is why we gotta take the power back