As the Texas Legislature sits in session, many Texans are questioning the future of diversity in Texas education. SB 1128, filed by Republican Texas Senator Dan Patrick, has the potential to lessen the diversity in higher education by discouraging ethnic studies. Many concerned Chicana and Chicano voters have likened SB 1128 to the Arizona ban on ethnic studies.

In 2010, the state of Arizona upset many voters by passing House Bill 2281.

The Arizona House Bill 2281 explicitly stated that state school districts were banned from teaching courses that, “promoted the overthrow of the U.S. government, promote resentment toward a race or class of people, are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group, advocate ethnic solidarity.” This bill followed legislation that had previously angered Latino residents by allowing law officials to demand to see identification of anyone they suspected to be an illegal immigrant.

Latino activists are now taking up a similar fight in Texas. SB 1128 would effectively disqualify ethnic studies from counting toward a core history credit at any public institution of higher education. The bill would instead require students to take courses in Texas and American history. While this bill would not affect students already enrolled in public institutions, those looking to enroll as 2014 freshmen would have to adhere to the new law.

According to the Pew Hispanic Center, Texas is 38 percent Latino. Unfortunately, for these residents, their legislators are more conservative when it comes to areas of ethnic policy. The 2012 GOP platform opposed multicultural studies, stating that it was too “divisive.” Conservatives point to the National Association of Scholars as support for their exclusion of ethnic studies.

In a study of the history curriculum at the University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M, the National Association of Scholars found that the “focus on race, class and gender often tended to crowd out the teaching of U.S. history as a whole.” The report also claims that university professors have attempted to cure America of its, “prejudice and bigotry,” by overcompensating with studies that focus on “a struggle of the downtrodden against rooted injustice.”

In response, Devon Peña believes that legislators are simply seeing a uniquely white point of view. An anthropologist from the University of Washington and Alumnus of the University of Texas at Austin, Peña posted in an Arizona activist blog that the Euro-American (white) experience is being misrepresented as the “one true measure of the history of the nation or state.”

Patrick’s SB 1128 does not directly address ethnic studies, it only clarifies that core curriculum can only be satisfied by a class in American or Texas history. However, San Antonio Express News columnist Elaine Ayala believes the intent of 1128 is much more racially charged than it initially appears. She writes that when the bill is heard and amended, “It’s likely to morph into what its authors truly intended: an attack against ethnic studies, including Mexican Studies, African American studies and other programs developed in the last half-century.”

Maribel Hermosillo, a senior history major at UTSA and local activist, had the opportunity to meet in the office of Senator Dan Patrick with the activist group, Los Librotraficantes, urging them to remove the bill.

“According to Patrick, the history of communities of color and our role in shaping this country is irrelevant,” states Hermosillo. “I feel this is an attack on the rising demographic of Texas; a good way to disempower an entire community is to take away their past.”

As the Texas Legislature sits in session, many Texans are questioning the future of diversity in Texas education. SB 1128, filed by Republican Texas Senator Dan Patrick, has the potential to lessen the diversity in higher education by discouraging ethnic studies. Many concerned Chicana and Chicano voters have likened SB 1128 to the Arizona ban on ethnic studies.

In 2010, the state of Arizona upset many voters by passing House Bill 2281.

The Arizona House Bill 2281 explicitly stated that state school districts were banned from teaching courses that, “promoted the overthrow of the U.S. government, promote resentment toward a race or class of people, are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group, advocate ethnic solidarity.” This bill followed legislation that had previously angered Latino residents by allowing law officials to demand to see identification of anyone they suspected to be an illegal immigrant.

Latino activists are now taking up a similar fight in Texas. SB 1128 would effectively disqualify ethnic studies from counting toward a core history credit at any public institution of higher education. The bill would instead require students to take courses in Texas and American history. While this bill would not affect students already enrolled in public institutions, those looking to enroll as 2014 freshmen would have to adhere to the new law.

According to the Pew Hispanic Center, Texas is 38 percent Latino. Unfortunately, for these residents, their legislators are more conservative when it comes to areas of ethnic policy. The 2012 GOP platform opposed multicultural studies, stating that it was too “divisive.” Conservatives point to the National Association of Scholars as support for their exclusion of ethnic studies.

In a study of the history curriculum at the University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M, the National Association of Scholars found that the “focus on race, class and gender often tended to crowd out the teaching of U.S. history as a whole.” The report also claims that university professors have attempted to cure America of its, “prejudice and bigotry,” by overcompensating with studies that focus on “a struggle of the downtrodden against rooted injustice.”

In response, Devon Peña believes that legislators are simply seeing a uniquely white point of view. An anthropologist from the University of Washington and Alumnus of the University of Texas at Austin, Peña posted in an Arizona activist blog that the Euro-American (white) experience is being misrepresented as the “one true measure of the history of the nation or state.”

Patrick’s SB 1128 does not directly address ethnic studies, it only clarifies that core curriculum can only be satisfied by a class in American or Texas history. However, San Antonio Express News columnist Elaine Ayala believes the intent of 1128 is much more racially charged than it initially appears. She writes that when the bill is heard and amended, “It’s likely to morph into what its authors truly intended: an attack against ethnic studies, including Mexican Studies, African American studies and other programs developed in the last half-century.”

Maribel Hermosillo, a senior history major at UTSA and local activist, had the opportunity to meet in the office of Senator Dan Patrick with the activist group, Los Librotraficantes, urging them to remove the bill.

“According to Patrick, the history of communities of color and our role in shaping this country is irrelevant,” states Hermosillo. “I feel this is an attack on the rising demographic of Texas; a good way to disempower an entire community is to take away their past.”

Related Stories

More from Sarah Gibbens/Paseo Editor

Editorial Board

At the University of Missouri, real change happened — but only when loss of university revenue was threatened. Missouri student…

More In News

Kayla Burford Contributing Videographer

Students, faculty, staff and other members of the UTSA community participated in UTSA’s forty-second Annual BestFest on Oct. 18. Festivities…