Coalition Calls Proposed Mexican American Studies Textbook Inaccurate and Offensive

A coalition of scholars and activists have finished reviewing a controversial textbook that the State Board of Education will consider later this year and are calling on it to reject the text, which they say is riddled with factual errors and offensive stereotypes — like calling Mexican workers lazy.

The Responsible Ethnic Studies Textbook Coalition, which includes numerous education and advocacy organizations, announced the findings of their scholarly review of the textbook at a press conference in Austin Monday. 

Those findings included descriptions of Mexican Americans as lazy and passages that blame communism for increased crime in Latin America during the Cold War era, among other factual inaccuracies and historical distortions — all in a state where the majority of public school students are Latino. 

"This text has the look of a task given to an intern who has been told to cobble together what they can using the Internet," Dr. José María Herrera, an assistant professor in education at the University of Texas at El Paso, said. "It is criminally shallow and, in some cases, factually ignorant."

For instance, here's a passage about the relationship between workers and American industrialists:

Industrialists were very driven, competitive men who were always on the clock and continually concerned about efficiency. They were used to their workers putting in a full day’s work, quietly and obediently, and respecting rules, authority, and property. In contrast, Mexican laborers were not reared to put in a full day’s work so vigorously. There was a cultural attitude of ‘mañana,’ or ‘tomorrow,’ when it came to high-gear production.

The text also whitewashes the Civil War by arguing that state rights — not slavery — was the root cause of the conflict. It goes on to say that forcing civil rights on southerners failed to protect former slaves not because of racism, but, rather, because white southerners were disenfranchised after the war.

Forcing civil rights on Southern states during Reconstruction failed because it bypassed representational avenues and trumped the beliefs of millions of citizens, including veterans and previous legislators from the South. While freed slaves were being mass registered for the Republican Party by Republican governors, southern white citizens had been disenfranchised.

Celina Moreno, an attorney with the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund who spoke on behalf of the Texas Latino Education Coalition at the press conference, said the book — Mexican American Heritage — has no place in a classroom, especially in one dedicated to teaching high school students about Mexican American contributions to the country.

“The textbook not only insults Mexican Americans, but also African Americans and other people of color," Moreno said. "Every parent and taxpayer should take offense that such a poorly researched and written textbook would even be considered for use in Texas public schools.”

Mexican American Heritage was written by Jamie Riddle and Valerie Angle and published by Momentum Instruction, which is operated by former state board member Cynthia Dunbar. While on the board, Dunbar refuted the educational necessity of teaching students about the separation of church and state and lobbied for creationist arguments over evolutionary fact. In 2008, Dunbar published a book called One Nation Under God that described public education as a deceptive tool of perversion, calling public schools tyrannical and unconstitutional.

Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller said if the board approves the text, it will be a major embarrassment to the state because Dunbar is clearly politicizing and the authors don't appear to have any actual expertise.

“When a publisher is more interested in promoting a political agenda than working with real scholars and experts in the field, this is the kind of textbook you get,” Miller said. 

This is the first Mexican American studies textbook up for review by the State Board of Education since legislation was passed two years ago mandating Mexican American Studies as a statewide curriculum for high school students. It's the only text up for review.


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