Monday, July 29, 2013

Why California textbooks ignore Chicano/ Mexican American history


 And what you can do about it.
Textbooks for  California schools are selected by the State Board of Education based upon recommendations of their Curriculum Committees and the state frameworks and standards.   The current Framework was written in 1987 – before the fall of the Soviet Union. It is urgent that the History-Social Science Framework be revised to provide an accurate history of the contributions of Mexicans, Mexican Americans, Latinos and Asians to the history of the state and of the nation. The current Framework reflects the historiography of the 1950’s. It was written in 1986 by senior scholars, they in turn were educated in the early 1970’s or before. It is substantially out of date. For a more detailed description of this issue see https://sites.google.com/site/chicanodigital/home/why-california-students-do-not-know-chicano-history
Unfortunately this existing, outdated, biased  document could well become the template for schools throughout the nation as a part of the Common Core Standards efforts.
Here is the problem. The  Democracy and Education Institute and the Mexican American Digital History Project  has  been working for the last  three  years to change the California History/Social Science Framework for California Public Schools to include the significant contributions of Mexicans and Chicanos to the history of the state. 
At the same time, the U.S. is moving toward Common Core standards for all schools in the nation.   The Common Core is well along its way in math and English (reading).  History, Civics and Social Studies will follow soon. The development of a common core  usually proceeds from a state’s existing standards.  The existing California standards are based upon the existing biased and insufficient  1987 History Social Science Framework.  Unless there is change, California will be advocating for a set of Common Core standards that ignore Chicano ( and Asian) history.  Other states including Texas and Arizona have similarly biased and insufficient standards.  Thus, unless there is a change in the California standards, the Common Core effort  could well lock in the 1987 standards for another decade.  An unnecessary shame.

 Standards and frameworks are products of the people who make the decisions. Frameworks like  standards pick winners and losers;  the choices which committees make favor one group over another group- choices are based upon the political power of those represented on the committees.  The Framework is  supposed to be revised each 7 years but it has not been revised.  The current Framework reflects the historiography  of the 1970’s  and the political balance of power of the 1980’s.
       When the 48.72 % of students who are Latino , and the 11.5 % who are Asian do not see themselves as part of history,  for many their sense of self is marginalized.   Marginalization negatively impacts their connections with school and their success at school.  It contributes to an over 50% drop out rate for Latinos and some Asian students.  An accurate history  would provide some students with a  a sense of self, of direction,  of purpose. History and social science  classes  should help young people acquire and learn to use the skills, knowledge, and attitudes that will prepare them to be competent and responsible citizens throughout their lives.   Instead, the current history textbooks tell a fairy tale of what happened here in the Southwest.
             As a consequence of the  outdated  Framework, most schools in California  fail to teach an accurate, complete, history of the Chicano- Latino people and of Asian Americans.  This essentially means that the writers are choosing not to recognize reality. – not to tell the full story.  .
It is urgent that the  California History-Social Science Framework be revised to provide an accurate history of the contributions of Mexicans, Mexican Americans, Latinos and Asians to the history of the state and of the nation before it becomes incorporated into the Common Core standards work.



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