Travis Rebel News

The Future Is Now

AISD bridges the gap with ethnic studies courses

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The Future Is Now

By Andrew Gonzales, THS Social Studies Teacher, Guest Columnist

Majority…Minority.

An oxymoron, but also the future of our school district, our city, our state, and our country.

This year, forty Travis Early College High School students, along with students from seven other Austin Independent School district high schools, will make history by taking part in a brand-new course designed just for that, future: Ethnic Studies.

Ethnic Studies is a social studies class that begins with the basis that race and racism have been and continue to be powerful social and cultural forces in American society.

To understand this history and to analyze current events, students focus on the experiences of African-Americans, Latinos, LGBTQ Americans, Disabled Americans, Asian-Americans, Native-Americans and other communities in the United States.

Students not only compare experiences of ethnic groups, but also look at the intersection between other systems of difference including race, gender, and sexual orientation.

Travis ECHS is among the first high schools in the state to offer Ethnic Studies.

The inspiration for this new class comes from the nationally-acclaimed, and until recently, outlawed, Mexican American Studies Program of the Tucson Unified School District(Arizona).

Created in 1997, the program resulted in reduced dropout rates and increased college enrollment for students who took the courses. In 2010, the state of Arizona passed a controversial law banning the teaching of any class designed for a particular ethnic group that would, “promote the overthrow of the United States government and resentment toward a race or class of people.”

Last month, in a victory for teachers and advocates of ethnic studies, a federal judge ruled that the state of Arizona had violated students’ First and Fourteenth Amendment rights by outlawing and eliminating the Mexican-American Studies program from the Tucson Unified School District.

According to Judge A. Wallace Tashima, “Both the enactment and enforcement [of the ban] were motivated by racial animus toward Latinos.”

In the seven years since the original passing of this unconstitutional attack on educational equity, activists across the country, including right here in Austin, have lobbied for the creation of ethnic studies courses outside of the state of Arizona.

Austin ISD is one of a handful of school districts in Texas to lead the charge in creating new classes and curriculum that more accurately reflect the experiences of the students in our classrooms.

Pending the results of this pilot year, Austin ISD is considering expanding the course not only to all other high schools but also as a requirement for graduation.

For any questions about Ethnic Studies or for further information, please see, me, Mr. G in Room 604. All are welcome.

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The Future Is Now