Teachers’ Perspectives on Decolonizing U.S. Curriculum for Latinx Through Ethnic Studies Programs at the Middle and High School Levels

Richard Varela, University of Texas at El Paso


The purpose of this study was to understand the implementation of an ethnic studies program with an emphasis on Mexican American Studies at the middle and high school level, in a district located along the Mexican/U.S. frontera. Ethnic Studies are a critical, interdisciplinary academic field of study that acknowledges that race, and racism are embedded in every U.S. system, especially our educational institution. As a critical pedagogy, ethnic studies validate and encourages the voices and viewpoints of the marginalized, while analyzing and criticizing dominant influences that promote “normalizing” of racialized inequality (de los Rios, 2013). At the center of ethnic studies, are the experiences of people of color, like our Latinx communities, who have been subjected to colonialism and imperialism. Further, these courses also address their response and involvement in defying and confronting European interventions (Valdez, 2020). This field of study, opposes “Western imperialism and Eurocentrism” by offering a “liberating educational process.” It provides a critical and cultural relevant pedagogy rooted in the civil rights movement and the anti-war movement of the 1960s. These two social struggles provided a desperately needed platform that exposed the effects of colonialism and imperialism in the political, social, and educational systems of our nation. To challenge local and state curriculum grounded in European experiences that utilizes Whites as a benchmark or the standard, I draw attention to Critical Race Theory (CRT) and Latina/o Critical Race Theory (LatCrit) to investigate the implementation of an ethnic studies program along the Mexican/U.S. frontera. By utilizing these theoretical frameworks, the goal is to advocate for a quality ethnic studies program; one that promotes social justice, critical consciousness, and a transformative, critical pedagogy. This dissertation encourages a paradigm shift to campaign for an inclusive, liberating, and relevant education by identifying, analyzing, challenging, and dismantling racism in curricula, teacher staff development, and pedagogical approach in education.

Subject Area

Education|Latin American Studies|Ethnic studies|Pedagogy|Curriculum development|Hispanic American studies

Recommended Citation

Varela, Richard, "Teachers’ Perspectives on Decolonizing U.S. Curriculum for Latinx Through Ethnic Studies Programs at the Middle and High School Levels" (2022). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI30001140.