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Why California students do not know Chicano History

Why California students do not know  Chicano/Latino history. 1987- 2013. 

See update. 2015.  A New Beginning for Chicano History in Schools.  below. 

By Duane Campbell

Textbooks for  California schools are selected by the State Board of Education based upon recommendations of their Curriculum Committees and the state frameworks and standards.  It is urgent that the History-Social Science Framework be revised to provide an accurate history of the contributions of Mexicans, Mexican Americans, Latinos and Asians to the history of the state and of the nation. The current Framework reflects the historiography of the 1950’s. It was written in 1986 by senior scholars, they in turn were educated in the early 1970’s or before. It is substantially out of date. 

 Standards and frameworks are products of the people who make the decisions. Frameworks like  standards pick winners and losers;  the choices which committees make favor one group over another group- choices are based upon the political power of those represented on the committees.  The Framework is  supposed to be revised each 7 years but it has not been revised.  The current Framework reflects the historiography  of the 1970’s  and the political balance of power of the 1980’s.

 During the winter and spring of 2009, a committee of teachers and other educators appointed by the State Board of Education met to review the current History-Social Science Curriculum Framework and to recommend revisions.  The committee met in a series of two-day public sessions  which were well attended by professionals and civic advocates concerned about the content of history and social studies education in California.

            A new draft Framework was prepared based upon the work of the committee- but the state budget crisis prevented  the required review, revision, and adoption.   In 2010, Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed $144, 000 that was to be used by the Curriculum Commission to complete the adoption process and a legislative effort to fund the review (SB 1278) was held  in committee.  Consequently, the 1987 Framework remains in effect as the policy guidelines for the state.  

The current Framework was written in 1986 and published in 1987 after a great deal of controversy. The Framework is  supposed to be revised each 7 years. The Framework, along with the standards, provides the guidelines for what is to be taught and what is to be included in the history and social science textbooks in California. In 2009, the History /Social Science Framework was  up for re consideration but the process was halted by the budget crisis.

 California has the largest population of any state, with more than 6,252,000 students  in school in 2008.   California students make up more than 11 percent of the United States total. California, along with some 16 other states, adopts textbooks for the entire state instead of district by district purchasing. This makes the California adoption the largest single textbook sale in the nation. Gaining   this market is an important goal for textbook publishers. Many publishers write and edit their books in a targeted attempt to win control of the large and  lucrative California and Texas markets.   Publishers promote and try to sell books developed in California and Texas throughout the nation in an effort to increase their profits. 

 The 1980’s were the age of Ronald Reagan.  As Governor he appointed members of the State Board of Education.  His influence continued long after he became President of the U.S. The view of history that won the battle  in California in 1987  was crafted by neoconservative historian Diane Ravitch and supported by Paul Gagnon and former California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Bill Honig, among others (Cornbleth & Waugh, 1995).

The 1987 Framework still in use today  expanded African American, Native American, and women’s history coverage but remains totally inadequate in the coverage of Latinos and Asians. The only significant change between the 1985 and the 2005 adopted Framework was the addition of a new cover, a cover letter, and additions of photos such as of Cesar Chavez . Latinos currently make up 48.1 percent of California’s student population and Asians make up 8.1 %. 

The dominant neo conservative view  of history argues that textbooks and a common history should provide the glue that unites our society. Historical themes and interpretations are selected in books to create unity in a diverse and divided society, a unity from the point of view of the dominant class.  This viewpoint assigns to schools the task of creating a common culture. In reality, television and military service may do more to create a common culture than do schools and books.

Conservatives assign the task of cultural assimilation to schools, with particular emphasis on the history, social science, and literature curricula. Historians advocating consensus write textbooks that downplay the roles of slavery, class, racism, genocide, and imperialism in our history. They focus on ethnicity and assimilation rather than race, on the success of achieving political reform, representative government, and economic opportunity for European American workers and immigrants. They decline to notice the high poverty rate of U.S. children, the crisis of urban schooling, and the continuation of racial divisions in housing and the labor force. In California they decline to notice that Mexicans, Mexican-Americans and Latinos as well as Asians contributed to the development of this society.

This consensus conservative viewpoint history dominates textbook publishing in California , but these partial and incomplete histories do not empower students from our diverse cultural communities. By recounting primarily a consensual, European American view, history and literature extend and reconstruct current White supremacy, sexism, and class biases in our society. When texts or teachers tell only part of the story, schools foster intellectual colonialism and ideological domination (Cornbleth & Waugh, 1995).


       When the 48.72 % of students who are Latino , and the 11.5 % who are Asian do not see themselves as part of history,  for many their sense of self is marginalized.   Marginalization negatively impacts their connections with school and their success at school.  It contributes to an over 50% drop out rate for Latinos and some Asian students.  An accurate history  would provide some students with a  a sense of self, of direction,  of purpose. History and social science  classes  should help young people acquire and learn to use the skills, knowledge, and attitudes that will prepare them to be competent and responsible citizens throughout their lives.   Instead, the current history textbooks tell a fairy tale of what happened here in the Southwest.

  In 1995, the author James Loewen described what students learn about history,  “High school students hate history. Whey they list their favorite subjects, history invariably comes in last. Students consider history the most irrelevant of the 21 subjects commonly taught in high school.

Bor-r-ring is the adjective they apply to it.  When students can, they avoid it even though most students get higher grades than in math, science, or English.  Even when they are forced to take classes in history, they repress what they learn so every year or two another study decries what the seventeen year olds don’t know.

African American, Native American, and Latino students view history with a special dislike.  They also learn history especially poorly.  Students of color do only slightly worse than white students in mathematics.  If you’ll pardon my grammar, non white students do more worse in English and most worse in history. “  Lies My Teacher Told me.  P. 1. (1995.)

      As a consequence of the  outdated Framework, most schools fail to teach an accurate, complete, history of the Chicano- Latino people and of Asian Americans.  This essentially means that the writers are choosing not to recognize reality. – not to tell the full story.  This  a problem created  in part by the failure to revise the history/social science framework.

Textbooks for  California schools are selected by the State Board of Education based upon recommendations of their Curriculum Committees and the state frameworks and standards.  It is urgent that the History-Social Science Framework be revised to provide an accurate history of the contributions of Mexicans, Mexican Americans, Latinos and Asians to the history of the state and of the nation.

After providing testimony, and encouraging others to testify, I can report that the draft of the Framework for Grades 8 and 11 ( U.S. History) now included substantially improved coverage of the  Chicano/Mexicano experience.  Testimony was given by BMED Graduate Martin Ramirez and  Dr. Lorena Marquez. For complete text see page; Why California Students do not understand Chicano/Latino history. 

      For this reason, further work on the frameworks for history-social science, science, health, and mathematics has been stopped. On July 17, 2009, the Curriculum Development and Supplemental Materials Commission (Curriculum Commission) approved the draft update of the History-Social Science Framework for California Public Schools for field review. The draft framework has been posted on the CDE Web page at http://www.cde.ca.gov/ci/hs/cf/, but the actual field review and online survey will not occur at this time. For more information go to the Curriculum Frameworks and Instructional Materials Web page at http://www.cde.ca.gov/ci/cr/cf/index.asp.


      When  students do not seem themselves as a part of history, their sense of self is limited.

    Marginalization negatively impacts their connections with school and their success at school. It Disempowers.

      Accurate history provides a sense of self, of direction, of purpose.

       Lack of history of self, does not commit students to democratic participation in the society.

       An outline of Latino history is in my book, and on my web site along with lesson plans.  I urge you teachers to teach your students the truth- Yes, come inconvenient truths, not just myths.  For example, if a person is going to understand our  society and the economy, they need to understand immigration.   The history of Chicano/Mexicano people in California exists – but it was ignored by the writers of the  current State Framework.

Update; October. 2015.

 A New Beginning for Chicano history in California

By Duane Campbell

The Mexican American Digital History Project and a broad group of allies have been working for over a year to add Chicano history to the California History/Social Science Framework, the document that determines what goes into textbooks in California.

For details see here. http://choosingdemocracy.blogspot.com/2015/04/teachers-we-need-your-letters-on.html

 Now, the Quality Instructional Materials Commission of the California State Board of Education have posted their proposed revised framework and it includes most of what we proposed. 

It is here.  http://www.cde.ca.gov/be/cc/cd/hsssmcmtgagenda102015b.asp

The actual proposed course descriptions  are listed as appendices to this meeting agenda.

You need to read the specific appendices for grades 9-12.

For example, the 11th. grade U.S. history would include:

For example, from 1969 through 1971 American Indian activists occupied Alcatraz Island; while in 1972 and 1973, American Indian Movement (AIM) activists took over the Bureau of Indian Affairs building in Washington, D.C. and held a stand-off at Wounded Knee, South Dakota. Meanwhile, Chicano/a activists staged student walkouts in high schools around the country like the famed Chicano Moratorium in Los Angeles in 1970, protested the war in Vietnam, and formed a number of organizations to address economic and social inequalities as well as police brutality, and energized cultural pride. Students should learn about the emergence and trajectory of the Chicano civil rights movement by focusing on key groups, events, documents such as the 1968 walkout or “blowout” by approximately 15,000 high school students in East Los Angeles to advocate for improved educational opportunities and protest against racial discrimination, the El Plan de Aztlan, which called for the decolonization of the Mexican American people; El Plan de Santa Barbara, which called for the establishment of Chicano studies; and the formation of the Chicano

 La Raza Unida Party, which sought to challenge mainstream political parties. California activists like Harvey Milk and Cleve Jones were part of a broader movement that emerged in the aftermath of the Stonewall riots,



Students can study recent immigration to California, foreshadowing their studies on immigration in eleventh grade United States history. Students can analyze push and pull factors that contributed to shifting immigration patterns, but they should also learn about changes in immigration policy. Propositions 187, 209, and 227 attacked illegal immigration, affirmative action, and bilingual education. While all but one provision of Proposition 187 was blocked by federal courts, throughout the 1990s and even more so after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Congress provided for increased border enforcement. By the 2000s the status of Mexican-Americans and Mexican immigration became a national political discussion. In California Latino/as became the largest ethnic group in 2010, and Latino/a children comprised more than 51% of public schools.  It was within this context that the Latino/a community became increasingly politically active.


The next steps are for this draft to be reviewed again   ( Nov 18/19 ) and then for it to be sent out for field review.

Our effort was to change the document before it went out to review.  It is very difficult to achieve changes once the QIMC adopts the draft.

So, we have won the day, but work remains to be done. We need to monitor that these changes are accepted.  But, as Cesar Chavez taught, celebrate your victories.

It is possible that some readers of this post may want to achieve more.  That is fine.  We have made no commitments to not push for more.  Please read the drafts and submit your proposals  directly to the QIM Commission.

This is a breakthrough on an effort we have been working on each revision since 1986.   Thank all of you who assisted.  This will change the textbooks in California at the next adoption.

For a detailed history of the effort, see here


If you have questions or comments, contact Duane Campbell of the Mexican American Digital History project in Sacramento at campd22702@gmail.com

Here are the next steps.

As far a future hearings on the draft HSS Framework, you can give public comment at the November 19–20, 2015, Instructional Quality Commission (IQC) meeting —Also, public comment can be submitted during the 60-day draft HSS Framework public review and comment period (January–February 2016). The State Board of Education (SBE) will hold a public hearing at its May 2016 meeting before it takes action on the draft HSS Framework. The IQC and SBE meeting will be held in Sacramento at the California Department of Education (CDE) building.


In addition, public comment can be  submitted to the HSS mailbox at hssframework@cde.ca.gov or IQC mailbox at IQC@cde.ca.gov


For readers who worked on the effort to pass the Ethnic Studies bill. AB 101. Note that what the governor said in his veto message was, the best place to achieve the goals of AB 101 is to direct changes to the HSS Framework.  La lucha sigue !


Paso a paso.

See the update.   https://sites.google.com/site/democracyandeducationorg/Home/latino-students-and-civic-engagement

See update. April 2015.   https://sites.google.com/site/democracyandeducationorg/Home/latino-students-and-civic-engagement/project-plan---mexican-american-history

History classes  should help young people acquire and learn to use the skills, knowledge, and attitudes that will prepare them to be competent and responsible citizens throughout their lives.