Friday, March 21, 2014

Focando 2014: MAS y MAS y Mas

NACCS-Tejas 2014 @ Northwest Vista College in San Antonio, Texas
The National Association of Chicana and Chicano Studies Tejas Foco conference always leaves me regenerated intellectually, politically, and spiritually, and this year's conference even more-so than in previous years.

This year, much of the work of the conference focused on the gains that Mexican American Studies has made in Texas and the progress we have yet to make. In particular, although Mexican American Studies seems to be surviving budget cuts, threats of program termination, and frequent misunderstanding of the nature of the field in higher education, there is a growing recognition of the grave need for MAS courses in K-12 public education in a state with a Latino population of almost 40%. The rewards of the continued struggle for Chicano Studies in Texas can be seen in the success of programs like UTPA's revamped Mexican American Studies degree programs and the recognition of UT-Austin's and University of Houston's centers for Mexican American Studies as national leaders in the field as well as the growth of MAS programs in 2-year colleges across the state (e.g., South Texas College in McAllen, Palo Alto College in San Anto, and HCC in Houston). In addition to continuing to grow these programs, a fundamental part of la lucha is expanding the reach of Chicano Studies into K-12 public education.

Que Podemos Hacer Ahorita? / What Can We Do Now?

The approach discussed at the conference is multi-pronged. One effort, widely publicized by mi colega en Houston, Tony "El Librotraficante" Diaz, has been to turn to the state legislature and the Texas State Board of Education to get a Mexican American Studies course as an optional offering at the K-12 level. To move this forward, we need to pressure the Chair of the SBOE, Barbara Cargill (R-Woodlands), to move MAS from a "Discussion Item" to an "Action Item" for their next board meeting on April 9th, 2014.

Right Now, You Can . . .

Call and email your SBOE representatives and Barbara Cargill herself to move MAS to an "Action Item." The NACCS Tejas Foco Committee for Mexican American Studies Pre-K to 12 has initiated a two-week "E-mail and Call-In Campaign" that began on March 17th and lasts until March 31st. Feel free to contact me if you want the name and contact info for your SBOE rep. Then, on Monday, April 7th, we're having a "Day of Action," in which we ask that everyone call and email their individual SBOE reps and email all 15 representatives at sboesupport at tea dot state dot tx dot us. Now and on April 7th, you can use this address and type "To All Texas State Board of Education Members" in the body of the email so that they will all receive it.

Finally, if you want to testify at the April 9th SBOE meeting in Austin, individuals may register on the website or by fax between 8am on Friday through 5pm on Monday prior to the board meeting; or, in person or by telephone between 8am and 5pm Friday or Monday with the appropriate agency office. Register at:

You can also sign this petition in support of Mexican American Studies.

Unsure what to say?

You can adapt language such as this to your own circumstances:
My name is Lydia French, and I am Director of Mexican American/Latino Studies and instructor of English at Houston Community College - Central in Houston, Texas. I am calling/writing to let you know that I support the integration of Mexican American Studies in Texas schools from Pre-K to 12th grade, and I am asking you to urge Barbara Cargill to move Mexican American Studies from a Discussion Item to an Action Item at the April 9th SBOE meeting so that Texas can begin developing a curriculum for a high school course in Mexican American Studies. Thank you.
(Gracias a Juan Tejeda of Palo Alto College for this language.)

If you're a parent or a student, you should definitely include your own experiences and understandings of the benefits such a course would offer. If you're in Houston Independent School District in particular, you should also feel free to use some of the following statistics:

  • Houston ISD is the largest school district in the state, and it has a 61.9% Hispanic student population.
  • Standardized test results show HISD consistently below state averages
  • Scores and retention rates of Hispanic students are consistently lower than those of other ethnicities and generally at about the same rate as those of economically disadvantaged students of any ethnicity
These data suggest that our Latino/Chicano students are experiencing an impoverishment of education. But our students' educational experiences can be enriched through the incorporation of MAS into the K-12 curriculum.

Myself, Dr. Grisel Cano of HCC Southeast, Tony Diaz of Lone Star College North Harris, Stalina Villarreal of HCC SE and Lorenzo Cano of University of Houston

Y Mas . . .

Now, despite the numbers we all know what we're up against in this fight to get a vote on MAS in K-12. But there is work that we, and specifically, I can do now to work on getting Mexican American/Latino Studies into the high schools. My own lucha at home has been to work with the high schools with which Central is affiliated to get dual credit students into our MAS courses (including MA History, MA Literature, Intro to MAS, and other courses). Of the high schools that work with Central, the statistics reflect the need for students to be more engaged and to see themselves more reflected in their coursework, which is one of the aspects of ethnic studies that makes it so successful.

Mi colega, Grisel Cano at HCC Southeast, has already successfully established MAS in some of the schools affiliated with her college, and she and I are sharing resources to expand the scope of our dual credit offerings. I'll update more on the struggle and (hopefully) successes of the dual credit project as I can. Currently, I'm in the early stages of working through the various levels of any kind of work dealing with multiple bureaucracies, but my goal is to enroll more dual credit students into our courses by Fall 2014.


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