Monday, April 06, 2015

Teachers- ( and allies) We need your letters on inclusion of Mexican American History

Cesar and friends at Sac State. 1972.
  "Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed.  You can not un-educate the person who has learned to read.. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore.
Cesar Chávez. November 9, 1984.

We have a unique opportunity to change the history books in California  K-12 to include Chicano/Mexican American history- but we must act now. Time is passing. 
Mexican American/ Chicano history is currently substantially absent from public school textbooks and curriculum in California- and it has been since 1986.  Latino student political non participation and alienation from school is significantly caused by Latino absence from the K-12 textbooks and curriculum.

Update: October 2015.  The Mexican American Digital History Project and a broad group of allies have been working for over a year to add Chicano history to the California History/Social Science Framework, the document that determines what goes into textbooks in California.

 We are pleased to inform you that the Quality Instructional Materials Commission of the California State Board of Education have posted their proposed revised framework and it includes most of what we wanted. 

On behalf of the Mexican American Digital History project, we  ask that you  write a letter to the review committee for the revision of the History/Social Science framework.  Now is a good time to get this done (a guide to writing such a letter is here

We ask you to
1.     Look over the draft History/Social Science Framework for California Schools. 
(or take our  suggestions and guides to specific pages)
2.    Write a letter  to the Framework Committee encouraging the inclusion of  Mexican American/Latino history in the revised framework.  It is most effective to make specific recommendations of material to include- see samples. To be effective your letter should arrive by May 1, 2015.
3.   Send your letter to
4.  Send a copy to the Mexican American Digital History project at
5.     Links to documents and  background information is available at the site above.

WE want to assist you in getting this letter written and mailed.  We  provide  you with two sample letters from Chicano historians and one from our project.  You can use any of the information in the samples to write your own letters.  We recommend that you  begin with a direct request to amend the draft and include a sentence or two of personal commentary on why you think this is important. – see examples.
We share our thanks to Dr. Lorena Márquez  and Dr. Carlos Muñoz for their assistance in writing draft letters.
The Mexican American Digital History Project.

Sample letter 1.

From: Lorena V. Márquez, Lecturer, Department of Chicana/o Studies at UCD
To: History Social Science Framework committee
RE: Recommendation for amendments:
I strongly urge you to revise the current draft of the History/Social Science  Framework to include a more adequate recording of the history of California and the nation by including the significant contributions of Mexicans and Mexican Americans to this history.  You really can’t have a fair and balanced history without including more information on this topic.  Latinos comprise nearly 39% of the state population, and descendants of Mexican Americans and Latinos now constitute over 52% of the students in our schools.  These students deserve to learn their own history.
I recommend extension of the description of the Chicano movement to more  adequately address this issue.   Recommended additions:  Line 1959.  Page 348.
The Chicano Movement emerged as an instance in the historical trajectory of Mexican American political activism. Like its immediate antecedent, the Black Power Movement, it was constructed in opposition to the pacifist and integrationist rhetoric of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1940s and 1950s. By the mid-1960s Chicano youth challenged the old, integrationist orientations of their predecessors. The Chicano Movement, however, was not a unified entity. It was multi-stranded and broadly diverse, with many internal fissures and local correlations. In its idealized form, the Chicano Movement, hoped to link people through goals, culture, and perceived notions of community. Chicanos across the Southwest and beyond, demanded change to their subordinate standing in the U.S. They argued, that like African Americans, they had suffered discrimination and systematic oppression. Today, it remains unmatched in its ability to reach an ethnic population across a vast geographic region.
The Chicano Movement began in 1965 in Delano, California when Dolores Huerta and Cesar E. Chávez, founders of the National Farm Workers Association (later it became the United Farm Workers union), led a national boycott against table grape growers in the region because they failed to recognize their collective bargaining rights. Chávez, the president of the farm workers union, and the farm worker struggle, became the face of Chicano protest and struggles. While the United Farm Workers union brought national and even international recognition to the plight of Chicanos for labor rights, it had overarching consequences. Many young Chicanas and Chicanos felt connected to the farm worker struggle even though the majority resided in urban areas and had never themselves worked in the California agricultural industry.
An entire generation of mostly young Chicanas and Chicanos identified as an oppressed racial group and unlike their predecessors saw themselves as an “ethnic minority,” like African Americans. Although they were legally “white,” Mexican Americans had been subjected to generations of institutional and social discrimination and racism. They self-identified as Chicanas/os and claimed to be brown, not white. Copying from the African American slogans, they espoused “Brown is Beautiful!” This new generation wanted to know why, despite the wealth and power of the U.S., there was so much poverty, inequality, racism, and sexism? By 1968, the Chicano Movement had evolved from the countryside to the cities.
The first to demonstrate in mass were Chicana and Chicano high school students who walked out of their schools in protest of poor and inadequate educational conditions. On March 1, 1968, students from Wilson, Lincoln, Garfield, Belmont, and Roosevelt High Schools in East Los Angeles walked out of their high school as they grew frustrated with the administration’s inability to understand their cultural and educational needs. These were largely segregated Mexican high schools and had been neglected by the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) for some time. By week’s end, 10,000 high school and even middle school students had joined the Walkouts. The students outlined a list of 36 demands  which they presented to the LAUSD Board of Directors. Some of these demands included: the hiring of Chicana/o teachers and administrators, formation of Chicano Studies courses, culturally sensitive teachers, and bilingual education. Unfortunately, these students were met by a brutal police backlash. When the parents of these students saw that the Los Angeles Police Department began beating and arresting peaceful demonstrators it spurred them to action and they began to add pressure to the LAUSD as well. Up until this point, few young Chicanas/os had engaged in this type of demonstration. They believed in change and hoped for a better tomorrow for those themselves and those that followed.

No comments:

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.