When CPS unveiled its interdisciplinary Latino and Latin American studies curriculum last week, there was one module that really jumped out at School Board member Jesse Ruiz.
Eighth grade students at district-run schools will learn about the World War II-era “bracero” program that brought Mexicans to the U.S. to fill labor shortages in agricultural fields. It’s a little-known bit of immigration history that’s more often taught in college ethnic studies courses or upper-level high school classes than in elementary schools.
“My father was a bracero,” says Ruiz, before recounting his father’s stories of brutal treatment by supervisors in the fields. “I’m so glad that students at CPS will learn about guys like my dad.”
As Hispanics continue to make up a growing share of all CPS students – nearly 46 percent of students identify as Hispanic this year, compared to just over one-third 15 years ago – district leaders say it’s necessary to make the study of Latino history and culture a core part of education.
The new curriculum will be taught from kindergarten through 10th grade and includes complete units and lessons in a range of disciplines (teachers can download the lessons from an internal district website). The interdisciplinary approach means that kindergartners can learn about the Mayan counting system while they’re learning numbers, and fifth-graders can learn about African influences on South American percussion during music class.