Chicana/o Struggles for Education: Activism in the Community

By Olden, Danielle R. | The Journal of Southern History, November 2014 | Go to article overview

Chicana/o Struggles for Education: Activism in the Community


Olden, Danielle R., The Journal of Southern History


Chicana/o Struggles for Education: Activism in the Community. By Guadalupe San Miguel Jr. University of Houston Series in Mexican American Studies. (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2013. Pp. [xiv], 240. $40.00, ISBN 978-1-60344-937-3.)

Guadalupe San Miguel Jr.'s Chicana/o Struggles for Education: Activism in the Community is an excellent synthesis of Chicana/o efforts to obtain quality education in the United States. It argues that activists in the post-1960s period had similar goals and strategies as those in earlier periods, but they expanded and strengthened these efforts. San Miguel maintains that activist struggles revolved around three main strategies: contestation, advocacy, and alternative forms of education. Activists contested a number of discriminatory policies and practices that inhibited academic achievement and "devalu[ed] ... their linguistic and cultural heritage" (p. 123). They also advocated for reforms they felt would academically and culturally benefit Chicana/o students. Although these reforms dealt with multiple issues, San Miguel focuses much of his attention on bilingual education. Finally, when neither contestation nor advocacy led to the results activists wanted, many turned to other forms of education, including private and religious institutions, Chicana/o alternative schools, and charter schools.

One of the central goals of the book is to challenge the notion that ethnic Mexicans were only concerned with equal education and ending discrimination in the schools, which has tended to be the assumption since most historical studies on Chicana/o education are focused on school desegregation cases. San Miguel effectively makes this case and demonstrates the diversity of reforms and strategies that activists pursued. In fact, the major strength of the book is its pure breadth, covering everything from desegregation cases and student walkouts to bilingual education and the DREAM Act. …

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