Sometimes learning about history means changing the course.
That’s a message four Fort Worth high school students took to Austin when they told the State Board of Education they want more African-American and Hispanic representation in Texas’ social studies curriculum. They also offered their views on a course in Mexican American studies.
“Teach our history the same way you teach other people’s history,” said Dontavious Sims, 17, a senior at Fort Worth’s Young Men’s Leadership Academy who testified this week.
Sims was one of four students who attended the hearings. Others who also testified were Kyrone Monta Kimble, 17, a senior at Diamond Hill-Jarvis; Cain Trevino, 15, a sophomore at North Side and Miguel Argumedo, 17, a senior at Paschal.
This week, the State Board of Education held public hearings on the Social Studies curriculum. They also heard testimony about an ethnic studies course about Mexican American Studies that is being developed statewide.
As the issue of how to frame lessons about Texas’ Alamo took center stage in the media, the Fort Worth students were ready with their viewpoints.
For example, lessons on the causes of the the Civil War should be up front about the role slavery.
“They are speaking truth to power,” said Jacinto “Cinto” Ramos, a trustee on the Fort Worth school board whose district includes North Side and Diamond Hill high schools.
Ramos said the students are asking questions about the histories of their communities — conversations that aren’t always easy for communities to address.
The four students are also members of My Brother’s Keeper, a national program initiated by former President Barack Obama that focuses on improving the opportunities for young men of color.
The Fort Worth students said they want history lessons to include the experiences of African-Americans and Hispanics in a way that is complete and deeper than merely mentioning the same minority leaders.
“We are trying to fight for the truth and the honest history of what really happened,” Trevino said.
They also don’t want lessons about African-Americans and Hispanics to start from the perspective of oppression.
“Our heroes only come from slavery,” Sims said, explaining how he has felt throughout much of his schooling. Sims said they want the opportunity to learn the history that unfolded before history — the biographies of kings, leaders, pharaohs.
Argumedo said students should be able to learn about Hispanics who haven’t been the center of lessons.
The young men said their trip and efforts embody the efforts of civil rights leaders who envisioned a united country.
“Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream and we are that dream,” Argumedo said.