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Borderland educators push for official Mexican-American course

By Crystal Price
EL PASO, Texas -- Some educators in the El Paso area are pushing for the Texas State Board of Education to add Mexican-American studies as an official state class.

A state board member from Brownsville made the proposal last year that the Mexican-American studies course be added to the curriculum.

The proposal would allow the districts to receive a consistent curriculum and textbook for the course.

Dr. Dennis Bixler-Marquez, director of Chicano Studies at UTEP, has books in his office on Mexican-American studies that were used in El Paso schools several decades ago.

"When the state changed their semester program to a quarter program, then the content of the courses in Mexican History and Arts became merely a portion of a course," Dr. Bixler-Marquez said. "This would last maybe a week or two at the discretion of the instructor of the particular school."

Dr. Bixler Marquez said the courses have slowly diminished in El Paso schools as a result.

UTEP Professor Julio Noboa is one of those educators who testified to the board.

"As of now over 50 percent of the students population in the public schools are Hispanic, Dr. Noboa said. "Latinos are motivated by seeing their own sheroes and heroes represented in the history books of literature."

However, State Board of Education member Patricia Hardy, District 11, said she is staunchly opposed to the proposal.

Hardy told KFOX 14 that the board recently removed a world geography class from the state curriculum.

"Why in the world, would I turn around when we've lost a world geography requirement, why would I turn around and create another class that to me is not as valuable as world geography -- a basic social studies class?" said Hardy.

Hardy said that all districts have the ability to create their own Mexican-American studies course at the district level.

Here in the Borderland, educators like former Riverside teacher Georgina Perez says they need help from the state to get the appropriate textbook and teaching materials.

Perez said with more than half of the population in Texas schools being Hispanic, students should have the opportunity to learn more about their heritage.

"When you identify with literature, when you identify with your study, it gives you a positive self-image of positive self-esteem," Perez said. "Doesn't every child deserves that, especially in the school and in the classroom?"

A woman of Hispanic descent, she said it is important for students to know their roots in history.

"Because of all of their struggles, I'm able to be a student, I'm able to work in the movement," Noboa said. "That's something that should not only be told, but should be honored."

The chairman of the Texas State Board of Education said the development of the new courses will be on the April agenda.