“Stolen Education” film opens discussion on segregation and discrimination
Students and faculty gathered at the Honors College Commons Wednesday night for a free screening of “Stolen Education” and an opportunity to participate in a discussion with film director and University of Texas at San Antonio professor Enrique Alemán Jr.
Alemán is a leading scholar of education policy at UTSA where he is also the chair of Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies.
The documentary depicts the segregation and discrimination in Driscoll Independent School District that occurred in the 1950s. In the film. Alemán follows up and documents the story of eight of the living Mexican-American students who testified in what became the landmark desegregation case, Hernandez v. Driscoll CISD.
Alemán said he was inspired to film the documentary after he found out his mother was a part of the case and was the first child to testify. She was nine years old at the time.
He said he found out about her involvement in the case after she died.
“I’m trying to continue her legacy — the fact that she stood up in a courtroom in the ’50s to push back against discrimination,” said Alemán.
Alemán encouraged the audience to openly share and discuss their opinions and ask questions about the documentary.
The discussion involved audience members’ personal anecdotes that were similar to the ones depicted in the documentary.
Graduate social work student Sonia Ramirez said she was interested in the historical aspect of the case, and it was relevant to her because her parents experienced punishment for speaking Spanish in school.
“I think it’s wonderful that Dr. Alemán talked to the people that actually experienced the case,” said Ramirez. “It’s a treasure to see that and the emotion that people feel 60 years later. It’s incredible.”
Associate history professor Richard Mizelle Jr. said he met Alemán a few years ago at a conference in Illinois where Alemán screened part of his documentary. He said the story behind “Stolen Education” is mostly unknown and invited Alemán because he thinks it is something faculty and students should be aware of.
Biology and anthropology senior Guadalupe Orozco said she heard about the event from a post on Facebook and felt she would enjoy the documentary.
“I thought that it was very interesting, and I have heard about corporal punishment, but I never knew about this specific court case,” said Orozco. “I think (the documentary) teaches people about their history.”
The documentary has been screened at universities and libraries across the country, but Wednesday’s screening was the first time “Stolen Education” was shown in Houston.
Mizelle said he hopes that “Stolen Education” will resonate with students.
“I hope that students will think more critically about discrimination in all forms of life, including education,” Mizelle said. “I also hope students will think about the ways public policy provides advantage to some, while forming the basis of inequality for others.”
The Department of History, the Center for Public History, the Center for Mexican American Studies and the Center for Diversity and Inclusion organized and publicized Alemán’s screening.