Chican@ studies professor Mario Garcia and Chican@ rights activist Sal Castro will host a panel discussion and book signing today at 3 p.m.

The talk will focus on Garcia’s new book Blowout! Sal Castro and the Chicano Struggle for Educational Justice, which chronicles Castro’s influence in the 1970s Chican@ movement for educational equality. While teaching at Lincoln High School in east Los Angeles, Castro helped initiate the pivotal 1968 walkouts to protest the school’s discriminatory practices toward Mexican-American students. According to Castro, school officials encouraged Chicano students to attend trade school, as opposed to college, upon graduation. After the school board failed to acknowledge these concerns, Castro recommended that students organize the campus-wide walkout that became a catalyst of the Chicano movement for equal education.

Castro said he is still dedicated to educating others about the history and importance of the walkouts.

“Every child deserves a fair shot of a college education — the walkouts were a cornerstone of the Chicano civil rights movement,” Castro said. “Radical changes needed to be made to the education system to abolish the stereotypes that all Mexican children were going to be high school dropouts who get married and get pregnant. It was a huge task to change the attitudes and stereotypes, and while some stereotypes may still be present, colleges are aware of accepting minorities and the schools are more culturally sensitive and focused on preparing all the students for the opportunity of college, regardless of race.”

Castro said the walkouts spurred a series of educational reforms, including bilingual education, more ethically diverse faculty membership and integration of Mexican-American history into California’s high school curriculum.

More importantly, Garcia said the walkouts brought together the Mexican-American community and emboldened a generation of students to succeed.

“The walkouts brought about pride in the students and educated them to recognize that they were not the problem — the school was,” Garcia said. “The schools were giving them the impression that their Chicano culture was what was holding them back and made the students believe in the own racial stereotypes they were being branded with. The walkouts created a deeper sense of community and empowered the students to question authority and demand their civil rights in equal education.”

Associate Chican@ studies professor Tara Yosso said she is enthusiastic about Garcia’s book and the account of the numerous contributions Castro has made to the Chicano community.

“I appreciate that — unlike all those Hollywood stories about white teachers saving black and Latino students — Sal Castro didn’t patronize or underestimate his students,” Yosso said in an e-mail. “Garcia’s positioning of Sal’s story within the larger sociopolitical contexts of 1968 sheds much light on the urgency of those times while reminding us that in our urgent times, we must work with renewed commitment to carry on their legacy.”

The event will be held in the McCune Conference Room, Humanities and Social Sciences Building 6020.