Ahead of a public hearing next week over a new Mexican American Studies textbook the state is considering teaching in Texas public schools, a group of scholars and professors on Tuesday submitted a scathing 54-page report that calls the text "a prolific misrepresentation of facts." The result, according to the analysis submitted to the State Board of Education on Tuesday, is "a polemic attempting to masquerade as a textbook" — one that scholars and critics fear could soon be taught to Texas schoolchildren.
The book, called Mexican American Heritage, raised eyebrows as soon as a draft was made public earlier this year. Scholars in the field insisted the book contained numerous factual inaccuracies and gross errors of interpretation, including passages that demonized the country's long history of Chicano activism. (Chicanos, the textbook authors wrote, had "adopted a revolutionary narrative that opposed Western civilization and wanted to destroy this society.") The book is the first Mexican American Studies text up for review by the State Board of Education since legislation was passed two years ago calling for the subject to be included in statewide curriculum for high school students. It's the only text up for review.
Since the proposed book was made public earlier this year, scholars and professors in the field have been racing to perform a top-down review of the text ahead of the state board's public hearing on the matter next Tuesday in Austin. Authored by an ad hoc committee of history, public policy, Mexican American Studies and education policy professors, Tuesday's report to the board reveals problems with the book are deep-seated and go well beyond a few troublingly phrased passages and racist potshots.
The group's report (which you can see here) compiled more than 150 factual errors, "interpretative errors" and errors of omission that they say lead to a textbook that wrongly presents Mexican American history as one rife with menacing or un-American trends. Parts of the book, they write, reinforce a narrative that is “anti-Catholic, anti-Spanish, anti-Mexican, anti-Mexican American, and anti-immigrant.” The textbook authors, they say, present indigenous groups as "civilized" only if they behaved like Europeans; whitewash history by omitting uncomfortable or complicating facts; claim the U.S. Constitution was based on "Judeo-Christian principles" (when, as noted by multiple constitutional scholars, it wasn't); and even manage to botch basic definitions (like "mestizo" or "pantheism").
The group held a press conference in the border city of Brownsville Tuesday to announce the findings of their report outside Paredes Elementary School, which just so happens to be named after Mexican-American scholar Américo Paredes (you can watch the press conference here). The Texas Tribune quotes Trinidad Gonzales, a history professor at South Texas College, says entire passages of the textbook were spun from “a web of racist assertions.”
In their report, the textbook reviewers say the state's proposed Mexican American Studies text builds on the back of what they call other problematic, racist scholarship, like the 2004 book Who Are We? The Challenges to America’s National Identity, which presented Mexican immigration and culture as existential threats to the country. They say the textbook also ignores the voices and perspectives of women and other groups.
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