Texas Conservatives Closer To Banning Cesar Chavez From School Textbooks
By Dolores M. Bernal
NEWS JUNKIE POSTJan 10, 2010 at 1:37 am
What would happen if there was a debate in your state where the school board told you they were removing Abraham Lincoln from their textbooks? No excuse would even come close to advocating for such a thing, after all Lincoln was a key figure in American history — declaring the Emancipation Proclamation, which helped put an end to slavery. It was a heroic act during a time when white Southerners had so much influence and blacks had few advocates. It’s a lesson about doing the right thing, about standing up for others who are oppressed. It’s what we want our children to learn. But, in the state of Texas that lesson is what they are trying to erase — not about Lincoln, but about Cesar Chavez.
A debate takes place in Texas every 10 years — the new curriculum that will be taught in the public schools and the historical figures that will make it into the textbooks. This time around such debate has sparked anger from Latin-American groups who are fighting to keep Cesar Chavez in the social studies textbooks before a preliminary school board vote on January 13.
Cesar Chavez as you may already know is the most notable Latino figure of the 20th Century. What Martin Luther King Jr. is to the African American community, Chavez is to Latinos. His work not only led to major labor reforms for farm workers and their families in California, but he also empowered a whole new generation of people to stand up for their rights and challenge the status quo in a peaceful and strategic manner.
Nevertheless, advisers to the Texas Board of Education have come to question the historical value of teaching children in Texas about Chavez’ life. Their verdict without a trial has cast Chavez as inconsequential to American history despite the fact that his legacy can strongly resonate with children in Texas who happen to be mostly Latino.
The United Farm Workers of America — the union that Chavez and Dolores Huerta helped found in 1962 — is leading the fight to stop the Texas School Board from banning Chavez. According to UFWA, Gail Lowe, the chair of the board who happens to be an outspoken creationist, has said that:
(Cesar Chavez) “lacks the stature…and contributions” and should not “be held up to our children as someone worthy of emulation.”
But Chavez is not the only historical figure possibly being banned from Texas textbooks, the UFWA is informing its members that Lowe is also attempting to remove Irma Rangel, the first Hispanic woman elected to the state Legislature.
So what’s the excuse that the Texas Board of Education is coming up with to justify such actions? The UFWA says that board members and their appointees have complained about an “over representation of minorities” in the current social studies standards. You see, two Latino historical figures are just too many.
Governor Rick Perry is standing by Lowe on this one, after all he appointed her. Republicans don’t see it in their best interest to teach children about civil rights figures who could inspire black or brown people. The tactics used by Chavez like fasting and civil disobedience, which were taught by Ghandi and used also by Martin Luther King Jr. could give children ideas. But really, are the Republicans that scared? Obviously, yes. The last thing they want is to have a whole new generation of children who will grow up to stand up for their rights, hold vigils and organize boycotts.
The big lesson that will turn out from this debate is that at the end of the day if they manage to ban Chavez from the textbooks, it would prove that Texas’ politicians — the Perry’s, Bush’s, and Lowe’s — are not the cowboys they think they are, but a bunch of cowards wearing hats and boots; white folks who are too scared of the brown people and what they may do.
Their approach is the same old colonialism, to assimilate the “savages,” but keep them ignorant. Well, guess what? Not going to happen. In this case, Texas conservatives may take Chavez out of the classroom, but they can’t take him out of the hearts of the parents who will find ways to teach their kids about him, and more importantly, teach them to stand up for justice and to do the right thing.
The UFWA has a petition to keep Chavez in the textbooks, click here to visit their site.
To read more about this debate, click here.
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