Chicana/o Struggles for Education: Activism in the Community

Chicana/o Struggles for Education: Activism in the Community

Chicana/o Struggles for Education: Activism in the Community

Chicana/o Struggles for Education: Activism in the Community

Excerpt

For over a hundred years, Mexican Americans have contested the limited and inferior educational opportunities public school officials have offered them. For most of the twentieth century, however, history books have failed to document these efforts. Not until the 1970s did historians begin to seriously record the community’s struggles for educational equality. The process of discovering and documenting Mexican American activism in education was part of a larger revisionist trend in US social and ethnic history that began a decade earlier. The initial studies appeared in state or regional historical journals. Their numbers gradually increased during the next four decades. The first monograph on the quest for educational equality appeared in 1987. Since then several additional book-length studies have been published.

This small but important scholarship on community activism and educational reform exemplifies the tendency of viewing Mexican American education history primarily through the lens of discrimination. The vast majority of these studies, for instance, document the many ways in which community groups challenged a variety of exclusionary and discriminatory school policies and practices in the United States during the twentieth century. The struggle against school segregation has attracted the most attention by scholars because of its importance to the community and because Mexican Americans have spent a significant amount of time, energy, and effort contesting it. Scholars also note how prior to 1960 Mexican American activists at the local, state, or regional level occasionally contested unequal school facilities, standardized testing, and English-only laws. These studies, Richard Valencia notes, indicate that “Mexican Americans have demonstrated an indefatigable commitment in their struggle for a more equitable education.”

While documenting the long and arduous campaign to achieve educa-

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