By Richard R. Valencia
New York University Press
New York: New York University Press, 2008, Pp 480.
Reviewed by Jerrald S.S. Eldridge
Eldridge, Jerrald. Review of Chicano Students and the Court: The Mexican American Legal Struggle for Educational Equality. By Richard R. Valencia. New York: New York University Press, 2008. Pp 480.
Mexican Americans have played an integral role in the struggle for educational equality. Albeit the abundance of facts that provide an insight to the importance of education that Mexican American families share the equal education struggle of Mexican Americans has been overlooked, thought to be miniscule or often misidentified altogether. To counter the aforementioned and to confront those that perpetuate such negative fallacies Richard R. Valencia has written the book Chicano Students and the Court.1 Valencia is professor for University of Texas at Austin’s College of Education in the Department of Educational Psychology. Some of his research interests include ethnic or minority education focusing mainly on Mexican Americans. He has several publications that deal with Mexican Americans and Education topics.
Looking through a lens of historical perspective at the United States discourse on civil rights and educational equality the most visible theme is between black and white equality. The highly publicized and vastly studied civil rights movement that was prevalent in the 1960’s has fostered the ideology among Americans that the social construct within America is a bipartite entity.2 This widely held philosophy goes unrecognized due to the bi-racial paradigm of a black and white legal struggle that has dominated the equal rights contextual litigation in America.3 The nature of the racial dualism in society overshadows the participation of Mexican Americans in pursuing equal educational opportunities (Valencia, p. 21-22). Which in turn has consequently created a myth that Mexican Americans do not value education (Valencia, p13). Thomas Sowell, an economist, wrote “The goals and values of Mexican Americans have never centered on education” (Valencia, p.13). Along with Sowell, most scholarly works assert the same fallacy of Mexican Americans and educational aspirations.
The central problem is that Blacks and Mexican Americans are not academically competitive [with Whites].... Various studies seem to show that Blacks [and] Mexican Americans spend less time in school They have a culture that seems not to encourage achievement.... failure is not looked upon with disgrace. (Valencia, p. 14)
In his book, Chicano Students and the Courts, Valencia dedicates the introduction to mapping out the contextual framework of the book. Valencia chronologically places the thirty-five court cases throughout eight chapters. The book offers an academic analysis of litigation involving Mexican Americans and their struggle to attain equal education that spans more than eighty years. Valencia Identifies thirty-five court cases between 1925 and 1985 pertaining to Mexican American desegregation lawsuits. The author effectively uses the tools of Critical Race Theory, critical legal studies and postcolonial scholarship to weigh the significance of the outcomes or rulings and the effects of each case (Valencia, p.16). Valencia validates his argument of how involved the Mexican American’ community has been in seeking equality in the educational system by using such cases as Romo v Laird (Valencia, p. 34-35). Albeit the Romo v Laird case of 1925 is/was not very influential in jurisprudence it is significant because it was the first Mexican American desegregation case. Valencia does not limit his book to court decisions to support his thesis. “Valencia’s study offers enterprising historians myriad ways in which to…