This lesson will help students understand a subset of the Chicano movement that led to high school student walk-outs. Specifically, this lesson will focus on exploring the roots of the Chicano student demand for changes in educational curriculum during the late 1960s.
Students will be presented with background on the roots of educational segregation of Mexican Americans in the 20th century and the emergence of the Chicano identity in the 1960s. Understanding the shift of a white Mexican American identity to a brown Chicano identity, will allow students to recognize events leading up to the East LA walkouts in 1968. Following the introduction of the East LA walkouts, students will be asked to analyze various sections of primary sources regarding Chicano student demands for changes in educational curriculum. From these sources and previous lectures, students will gain an understanding of this particular subset of the Chicano movement. By the end of the lesson, students will be able to use historical events to write a short essay regarding why changes in educational curriculum were so important to Chicano students.
Empowered Chicano students sought to make changes in educational curriculum to promote the contributions of Mexican Americans in society and to end the perpetuation of racist stereotypes found within their learning materials.
- How did discrimination affect Mexican Americans prior to Mendez v. Westminister School District of Orange County?
- How did Mendez v. Westminister School District of Orange County lead to a white Mexican American identity?
- In the context of the 1960s, what did it mean to identify as Chicano vs. Mexican American?
- How did the classrooms of the Chicano schools compare to those of the Caucasian schools in Los Angeles?
- What were the varying perspectives among students involved in the East LA Walkouts?
- From Diebold’s article, how were the educational materials Chicano students used a result of previous racist/discriminatory policies?
- Why were changes in educational curriculum essential for the Chicano Students?
During the first half of the 20th century Mexican Americans were segregated on the basis of unwritten rules and racial prejudice. Mexican American children were often given intelligence tests that excluded them from white schools. These intelligence tests, however, were reflective of deficient English language skills, rather than poor intelligence. In addition, teachers claimed that Mexican children had poor personal hygiene. The segregated Mexican schools used old textbooks passed down from white schools and Mexican-American children were not allowed to play in white sport’s leagues.
Unwritten clauses barring Mexican-Americans from attending white schools were challenged in 1947 in the court case Mendez et al. v. Westminster School District of Orange County. Mendez et al. argued that segregating children of Mexican ancestry was a violation of the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Since, Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896 upheld racial segregation, the attorney for this case argued that this was not a case of racial segregation because Mexicans were members of the white race The judges ruled in favor of desegregating school on the basis that Mexicans were of the white race.
Although creating a white identity theoretically allowed these children to attend better schools, it rejected the indigenous Mexican heritage. During the 1960s, Mexican-American youths became to identify as Chicanos. The word Chicano is derived from “mexhicano” which has its roots in Aztec heritage. The shift in identity for these youths from Mexican American to Chicano was a result of several factors, predominantly the changing social atmosphere that was spearheaded by African American struggles for civil rights.
In 1968 students of East LA High Schools protested the poor conditions of their schools through a series of walk-outs. These walk-outs were accompanied by a list of student demands for better education. The formation of the Chicano identity, in other words, rejection of a white identity, fueled a sense of empowerment for these students as bringing forward a minority identity is an acknowledgment of an oppressed past. The demands of the students include a change in textbooks and curriculum to reflect Mexican contributions to society.
This lesson plan aims to explore why changing textbooks and curriculum was so important to the Chicano students. To do so, readings will include:
· a complete list of demands the Chicano students presented to the board of education to reflect the conditions of Mexican schools to Caucasian schools
·an article demonstrating the perspectives of various students on the walk-outs in order to provide additional support for the conditions in the schools
· and finally another article demonstrating the demands of a high school in Pomona, CA, which explicitly demonstrates that the textbooks students were using in their classes were reflective of racist and stereotypical ideas of Mexican Americans.
This lesson plan is designed to take place over the course of 3 class periods in an 11th grade class (about 50 minutes each). The first day will serve as an introduction to the material via a short lecture and viewing a short clip on the Mendez v. Westminster court case. The second day will be a discussion of assigned homework followed by short lecture and viewing of a portion of a PBS documentary on the East La Walk outs. The third day will be a discussion on the readings
The following lessons assume students have some knowledge on civil rights movements associated with the African American community including Brown v. Board of Education.
Begin the class by asking students what they know about segregation. Have them break up into groups of 3-5 students to answer the following questions.
- How would you define segregation?
- What are the first things you think about when you hear the term “segregation”?
- What sorts of events do you associate with segregation?
Bring the groups back into a whole class discussion and ask students to volunteer what the different groups talked about.
This activity will serve as short warm-up that will allow students to acknowledge what they know about segregation. (10 minutes)
Present a short lecture on conditions of Mexican education before the 1940s. This will give students a background on segregation and discrimination of Mexican Americans and allow them to contextualize the Chicano student demands for changes in educational curriculum as well as provide context for the white Mexican American identity. (15 minutes)
Include the following topics:
- Plessy v. Ferguson (1896)
- Conditions of Mexican education in the first half of the 20th century
- IQ testing/ English language deficiency
- Stereotypes of Mexican Americans
- Mexican Repatriation program
- Introduction of Mendez v. Westminster case
Note: Create a handout with key points that students can refer to for their Final Assignment.
Show the short video “Mendez v. Westminster: Desegregating California’s Schools” (10 minutes)
After the video presentation, ask students to get back into their groups and ask them to discuss the following questions:
- How did the video influence your previous thoughts on segregation?
- Why were the Vidaurri children, but not the Mendez children allowed to attend the white school?
- Why couldn’t the attorney’s argue against racist segregation?
- How did the judges decide the Mendez children were being treated unfairly?
Bring the discussion back the whole class and ask students from each group to contribute to the overall class discussion. (15 minutes)
Homework: Write 2-3 paragraphs addressing how you think the judges decision to rule in favor of the Mendez children on the basis of a “white” Mexican American identity affected the way Mexican Americans saw themselves AND why you think this court case is not as well known as Brown v. Board of Education.
Ask the students to share with their classmates what they wrote about in their homework assignment. Bring the discussion back to the entire class and ask students to share their ideas with the rest of the class. (5 minutes)
Present a short lecture on the origins of the Chicano movement. This lecture will serve as a transition from the white Mexican American identity to the Chicano identity and will allow for a larger understanding of the Chicano student demands. (15 minutes)
Include the following topics:
- Felix Longoria
- Brief mention of the general rise of other Mexican civil rights groups that led to empowerment of Mexican Americans
- Definition of the term Chicano
- Brief Introduction to East LA Walkouts of 1968
Note: Create a handout with key points that students can refer to for their Final Assignment.
Watch “Taking back the schools” a PBS documentary from the series Chicano! from 11:09 to 31:05. (20 minutes)
Following the documentary, briefly ask the students what they took away from the documentary and how this related to the lesson from the previous day. This discussion can go in various directions, but the purpose is to connect the lesson from Day 1 to Day 2. (5 minutes)
Brief introduction to the homework assignment:
Handout the article “Frivolous to Fundamental”and ask for a volunteer to read out demand 3 and another person for demand 4 (both of which relate to changes in educational curriculum). Ask students why they think changes in education curriculum were important to the Chicano students. (10 minutes)
Homework: Read through “Frivolous to Fundamental”. Read the article “No Regrets, Chicano Students Who Walked Out Say ’68 Protest Brought Better Education, Most Believe”.
Write a 2-page (double spaced) response to the readings.
- For “Frivolous to Fundamental”: Specifically, pick out some of the demands (at least 2) you think were important. Explain why you think those demands you chose were important to the Chicano students. What do the demands of these students tell us about the time period? How did the shift to a Chicano identity influence these students?
- For “No Regrets” focus the parts of the article that are boxed off. How do these additional stories lend support to “Frivolous to Fundamental”. What kinds of perspectives are presented in this article? How do these perspectives show us that changes to educational curriculum were important to the student?
- As a concluding paragraph write about how you think these documents tie in with what we learned about the Mendez v. Westminster case.
Note: This assignment will serve to make student think about how shift from a white Mexican American identity to a Chicano identity empowered Chicano students to make these demands. It will also allow guide students to think critically about primary sources and about the larger historical context.
Ask the students to share with their classmates what they wrote about in their homework assignment. Bring the discussion back to the entire class and ask students to share their ideas with the rest of the class.
Ask the students what they found interesting about both articles.
Specifically ask them about
- The differing perspectives seen in “No Regrets”
- How they incorporated the Mendez v. Westminster case in thinking about the readings.
- The significance of the student demands for changes in educational curriculum and their important to the Chicano students.
Handout the article “Pomona Schools Given Ultimatum by Chicanos”. Ask students to read the article on their own. (10 minutes)
Ask the students to discuss with their classmates what they read about.
Specifically ask the students to address
- The anthropology textbook being used in the 10th grade class
- What were the arguments made against using the textbook?
- How do you think using these textbooks and textbooks like these affects education of Mexican Americans in the 1960s?
As usual, bring the discussion back to the entire class and ask each group to discuss what their conclusions were from their groups. Be sure to point out that this lesson plan is a result of movements to incorporate the histories of Mexican American communities into current educational curriculum (20 minutes)
Final Lesson Assignment: Write a 4 page double spaced response:
Using the background from the Mendez v. Westminster case and the rise of the Chicano identity, why were changes in textbooks and educational curriculum so important to the Chicano students? Be sure to use specific examples and quotations from each of the 3 articles we read and discussed the past two days.
Note: This final assignment will allow students to think about everything we discussed in the unit starting from the roots of educational segregation to shift in the Mexican American identity to a specific demand the Chicano students were being made. In this way, student will analyze primary sources and think about how previous historical events had an impact on a specific component of the Chicano movement.
Cultural Assimilation- The process in which individuals or groups of different ethnic heritage are absorbed into the dominant culture of a society. The process of assimilation involves a minority culture taking on the traits of the dominant culture. Eventually assimilation can make the minority group socially indistinguishable from other members of society.
Chicano- people of Mexican descendent that identify the Mexican community as a non-white race.
Institutional Racism- systems of inequality based on race that are visible in laws and other establishments such as government, business, schools, etc.
Reading Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies 6-12
Key Details and Ideas
- Cite speciﬁc textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from speciﬁc details to an understanding of the text as a whole.
- Analyze in detail how a complex primary source is structured, including how key sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text contribute to the whole.
- Evaluate authors’ differing points of view on the same historical event or issue by assessing the authors’ claims, reasoning, and evidence.
- Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.
Writing Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies 6-12
- Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
- Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation
Castro, Sal and Mario T. Garcia. Blowout! Sal Castro and the Chicano Strugge for Educational Justice. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2011.
Gonzales, Gilbert. Chicanos Education in the era of Segregation. Philadelphia: Balch Institute Press, 1990.
Gonzales, Juan. Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America. New York, New York: Penguin Books, 2011.
Lopez, Ian.Racism on Trial The Chicano Fight for Justice. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Belknap Harvard, 2004.
MacDonald, Victoria-Maria, Latino Education in the United States: A Narrated History from 1513-2000 New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.
Menchaca, Martha. Recovering History, Constructing Race: The Indian, Black, and White Roots of Mexican Americans Austin, TX, USA: University of Texas Press, 2001
Mendez et al. v. Westminister School District of Orange County et al. Civil Action no. 4292. 64 F. Supp. 544 Distict court, S.D. California, Central Division February 18, 1946.
 Gonzales, Gilbert, Chicanos Education in the era of Segregation (Philadelphia: Balch Institute Press, 1990).
 Mac Donald, Victoria-Maria, Latino Education in the United States: A Narrated History from 1513-2000 (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004) 117-123.
 Mendez et al. v. Westminister School District of Orange County et al. Civil Action no. 4292. 64 F. Supp. 544 Distict court, S.D. California, Central Division February 18, 1946.