The Texas State Board of Education voted on Wednesday in favor of creating ethnic studies elective courses for the state’s public high schools.
The 11-to-3 vote instructs the Texas Education Agency to develop curriculum standards for Mexican-American, African-American, Native American, and Asian-American studies, as modifications to the social sciences curriculum already in play. These new electives will address the histories and cultures of each respective group.
The vote has caused controversy, particularly among conservatives who argue that ethnic study classes emphasize racial divisions. Republican board member David Bradley said Tuesday he may call for a boycott, continuing, “We’re all Americans. To suggest otherwise is to further segregation and divide the community. I’m sorry if I disappoint some folks, but it’s almost reverse racism.”
Hispanic activists – who played a large role in the vote, which originally focused solely on Mexican-American studies–believe their heritage has been ignored by the traditional social science courses despite the fact that 51.3% of Texas public school students are Hispanic.
Prior to the vote, Texas public schools could teach ethnic studies through the state’s “Innovative Courses and Programs” provision, which allows districts to offer state-approved innovative courses that enable students to master knowledge, skills, and competencies not included in the essential knowledge and skills of the required curriculum. The new curriculum, expected in 2015, sets Texas apart from border states like Arizona, which passed legislation specifically prohibiting courses that would “advocate ethnic solidarity.”