Monday, March 15, 2010

Texas History Giving Way to Hysteria

When I was an 8th grader at Richardson Junior High, a social studies assignment got me in trouble.

Yes, I turned it in and yes, I turned it in on time. But, I was still sent to the Principal's office! The reason: the assignment was to write a paper about Abraham Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation. The upshot of my paper was, that Lincoln didn't issue the Proclamation out of a sense of moral responsibility or out of a sense of justice, but as a political expedient.

My sources were cited. Among those sources was 'The Autobiography of Frederick Douglass' that I had just read. My infraction: I had written a paper that was 'disrespectful' to the memory of President Lincoln.

I thought about this as I read about the Texas State Board of Education's recent proposal regarding standards in what would be taught in social study classes throughout our state:

"In a decision split along party and ethnic lines, Republicans rejected a move by the panel's five Democrats – all minorities – to require that history standards include by name the Tejanos who died in the fall of the Alamo, 174 years ago this month."

"The skirmish came as the board wrapped up three fractious days of work on new curriculum standards that put a more conservative slant on U.S. history, government and other social studies subjects taught in Texas schools."

"Board members tentatively approved the standards on a 10-5 vote after extended debate on civil rights, religion, politics and even music."

"Friday, conservatives beat back an effort to include hip-hop as an example of an important cultural movement."

"All five minority members opposed the revised standards, citing inadequate coverage of blacks and Hispanics and the promotion of conservative – and Republican – causes."

""I cannot go back to my community and say I participated in perpetrating this fraud on the students," said board member Mavis Knight, D-Dallas, who opposed the new standards."

"She charged that some board members – primarily social conservatives – "manipulated" the process to insert their own political and religious views, "whether or not it was appropriate.""

Imagine! Perpetuating the myth that the only freedom fighters martyred at the Alamo were white people - Davy Crockett, William Travis and Jim Bowie, among the most famous, as virtually the only notable martyrs at the Alamo, and relegating Tejano martyrs to anonymous 'honorable mention'...

Children who must learn about this event will grow up with the notion that the important 'personalities' were named, while there were others who died in of Mexican descent died in obscurity. This is psychologically and socially dangerous. Santa Anna is going to be 'named' as the enemy. So the personality of the Mexican will be the enemy aggressor, while those of Mexican descent who died with Travis, Bowie and Crockett, will simply be 'extras' in an historic event.

This was the same way of viewing history that had me sent to Mr. Greene's office so many years ago: in America's history there are heroes who sacrificed for our country - they happened to be white - there were those who were beneficiaries of their sacrifice, compassion and largess; they were - well everyone else.

Why is this important? Because Texas' State Board of Education is attempting to replace education with indoctrination. This is an ideological indoctrination meant to assure that there is a 'proper' understanding of who the real citizens of this country are - and, in this case, if you have an Hispanic surname, its not you.

As in the case of the Emancipation Proclamation, the traditional teaching suggested that freedom was 'given' to slaves, with little mention of the struggle that forced Lincoln's hand in signing the document or subsequently allow blacks to serve in the Union Army.

Secondly, it feeds into the current frenzy, hysteria and paranoia that has given birth to movements like the TEA Party. This is why people feel comfortable crying, 'I want my country back'. As if the benefits of American life are the province of one segment of the American populace.

"...board member Terri Leo, R-Spring, called the standards a "world-class document" that will stand out across the nation..."

A 'world class document'? My question is, 'In what world do these people live'?

By the way, for the record, here's a list of some of the Tejanos who died at the Alamo. It doesn't make Jim Bowie less 'heroic' at all does it? You can read more here.

It won't hurt a bit!

Juan Abamillo was a native Tejano who had volunteered to serve in the Texas Revolution under the command of Juan N. Seguín. He had arrived at the Alamo on February 23, 1836 and he died there on March 6, 1836 as he fought alongside Travis, Crocket and the others.

Juan Antonio Badillo was born in Texas and also served under Captain Juan N. Seguín. Badillo accompanied Seguín to the Alamo in February. But when Seguín was called out to rally reinforcements, Badillo stayed at the Alamo. Like his fellow revolutionary, Juan Abamillo, Juan Antonio Badillo died on March 6, defending the Alamo against Mexican Federal troops.

Carlos Espalier (1819-1836) was born in Texas and was said to be a protégé of Jim Bowie. When he died at the Alamo, he was only seventeen years old.

José María Esparza (1802-1836), also known as Gregorio Esparza, was born in San Antonio de Béxar, as the child of Juan Antonio and Maria Petra (Olivas) Esparza. He married Anna Salazar, by whom he had several children. Esparza had enlisted with Captain Seguín in October 1835. When General Santa Anna and his forces arrived in February 1836, Esparza and his family were advised to take refuge in the Alamo. Although Esparza could have left if he had desired to do so, he decided to stay, and his family remained with him. He tended a cannon during the siege and died when the Alamo fell on March 6, 1836. His brother, Francisco Esparza, recovered his body and arranged for a Christian ceremony and burial. Most of the defenders were not given the same respect.

Antonio Fuentes (1813-1836) was born in San Antonio de Béxar, Texas. He was recruited by Juan N. Seguín and took part in the siege of Béxar. Fuentes had a falling out with the Seguín and Travis, but when the Mexican troops arrived in San Antonio, he stayed and fell with the other defenders.

Damacio Jiménez, a native of Texas, also joined Seguín's militia. Damacio had served with Colonel Travis at Anahuac and entered the Alamo in late 1835. He died with the other defenders.

José Toribio Losoya (1808-1836) was one of Capt. Juan N. Seguín's company of Tejanos. He had been born in the Alamo barrio on April 11, 1808, to Ventura Losoya and Concepción de Los Angeles Charlé. He deserted the Mexican army to enlist as a rifleman in Seguín's company. In February 1836, Losoya rode to the Alamo with Seguín and was there when the fortress fall. His wife and three children sought refuge in the mission chapel and survived the siege.

Andrés Nava (1810-1836) was a native of Texas who had enlisted for six months service under the command of Juan N. Seguín. He took part in the siege of Béxar and later died while defending the Alamo on March 6, 1836.


Larry James said...

Great stuff!

randye said...

Oh, please. Your really believe Tejanos are left out? The point is in this case to name the leadership at the alamo. Mexicans and Tejanos figure prominently in the actual guidelines:

According to the actual TEKS (page 35):

"explain the roles played by significant individuals during the Texas Revolution, including George Childress, Lorenzo de Zavala, James Fannin, Sam Houston, Antonio López de Santa Anna, Juan N. Seguín, and William B. Travis; ..."

look at page 35-

If you don't like the board, and i don't, facts rather than setting up a divisive strawman is probably more helpful.

Gerald Britt said...

Randye, I think I understand your point, but I also don't think that mine is a straw argument. I also don't think you have to be a minority to understand how Hispanics, blacks and others have been marginalized in telling this country's story.

The controversy is not whether or not Tejanos are represented on the TEKS test. It is how their historical representation is conveyed in the classroom. Bowie and Travis are heroes and leaders because they were, essentially, leading an insurrection against the Mexican government that ultimately resulted in 'Tejas' becoming a state in the union. While it is inarguable that their leadership and prominance in fact and in lore significant - it is wrong to convey that Tejanos who died with them are only due 'honorable mention'. The best historical accounts of WWI or II don't simply tell the story from the standpoint of the generals.

Look again at what the article says, "The board's clash over the Alamo began when Mary Helen Berlanga, D-Corpus Christi, proposed a requirement that history students learn about the Tejanos who died at the San Antonio mission.

"These people fought alongside Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie. They were there, yet we have ignored their names for a long time in our textbooks and schools. They deserve their place in history," Berlanga said.

Pat Hardy, R-Fort Worth, questioned the need for the requirement, noting that no Hispanics were considered leaders at the Alamo.

"They were just among the other people who died at the Alamo. It would be awkward to say that teachers and students should identify people who died at the Alamo," she said.

Hardy and other board members said it was appropriate for students to learn about Alamo leaders such as Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie and William B. Travis.

But that argument drew a quick retort from Berlanga, who said, "What did James Bowie and Davy Crockett do that the Tejanos did not do?"

"This is a disservice to the Hispanics who fought alongside the others at the Alamo," she said."

The amount of damage done to the integrity of the history being told and to those who are being told that they don't count is profound.

And, by the way, you're right - I don't like this board. They are playing fast and lose with education in ways that undermine the little that hasn't been tainted by ideological politics and gamesmanship.

belinda said...

thanks for sharing this information!

c hand said...

Some people want to sudy history not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. Maybe someday.

But a few Tejano shout outs would help contradict a Howard Zinn type yarn(white invaders plundering inocent native mexicans)