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The Source: Cultural Identity And Academic Success

Ryan Poppe
TPR News

Mexican-American studies courses were pushed to the back of the line; sometimes having no curriculum, as here in Texas, or being outright banned in states like Arizona.

Many academics and activists have argued for years that we aren't educating students about their independent cultures and are instead focusing on a predominant culture that focuses on the accomplishments of white Americans. But the changing demographics of Texas raised the issue to a fever pitch last week at the State Board of Education (SBOE).

Texas public schools are diverse mix of identities and cultures. According to the Texas Education Agency there are 5 million students; 51 percent are Hispanic, 30 percent are white and 19 percent are African-American. 

The SBOE voted last week to request textbooks for a new ethnic studies course that would address this myriad of cultures.

The benefits, some argued, will be strong. Several studies indicate that a strong connection to culture can be a predictor of academic and life success. Lower incidence of drug and alcohol abuse and lower suicide rates have also been seen in communities that focus on programs encouraging strong cultural identity.

Has the state done enough with an ethnic studies course? Will stronger cultural identity help close the gap between minority and white students rate of graduation?


  • Juan Tejeda, founder and head of Palo Alto College's Mexican-American studies program
  • George Noblit, Joseph R. Neikirk distinguished professor of sociology of education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

*This is the first segment in the April 16 edition of The Source, which airs at 3 p.m. on KSTX 89.1 FM -- audio from this show will be posted by 5:30 p.m.

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Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org and on Twitter at @paulflahive