Implementing Mexican American Studies in Texas a “Daunting, Horrifying Experience”

Even with a Mexican-American population that, according to recent census figures, makes up nearly 60 percent of the population in San Antonio area, the struggle to teach Mexican American studies in Texas public schools has been active for years in Texas. After a long battle, the Texas State Board of Education finally allowed local districts to implement Mexican American Studies curriculum as a “special topics in social studies” elective in Texas public schools.

Lilliana Patricia Saldaña, PhD, an assistant professor of Mexican American Studies at UTSA, says that two years ago students and educators traveled to the Texas SBOE to voice their support for legislation that would mandate MAS as a statewide curriculum for high school education in public schools. They got strong support from south Democrats on the board, such as Ruben Cortez, from the Rio Grande Valley, and Marisa Perez, from San Antonio. “However, the majority of the board was and continues to consist of conservative Republicans who do not support MAS (for various reasons),” Saldaña told us.

This past weekend the Texas Summit for Implementing Mexican American Studies in Pre-K-12 Education met at San Antonio College.  Among the many issues brought up during the summit (which include consistent community involvement, access to educational tools, parental engagement, marketing plans for the MAS teaching resources) were the wildly  inaccurate representations of Mexicans and Mexican Americans in high school textbooks that have already been submitted.

The first textbook up for review by the SBOE is titled Mexican American Heritage written by Jamie Riddle and Valerie Angle. An example of one anti-Indigenous passage from the textbook: “Indians lacked a common language which limited cross-cultural communication with each other. The lack of communication combined with no formal education caused an information deficit in Indian society." The textbook also contained this passage on Chicano activism:
It differed from the approach of civil rights leaders who organized Viva Kennedy clubs and mass registered Mexican-Americans to vote. The latter was led by Kennedy, Johnson, and others in order to help Latinos prosper within modern, democratic society. Chicanos, on the other hand, adopted a revolutionary narrative that opposed Western civilization and wanted to destroy this society. Two sets of Mexican-American activists, with similar hopes for their community, were pursuing two different approaches. 
And that’s not withstanding the many other factual errors academics and scholars say they've uncovered in the textbook review process. All of which beg the question: How seriously are the state and textbook makers taking MAS curriculum? Saldaña said that so far trying to implement Mexican American studies across the board in Texas has been “a daunting, horrifying experience.” Saldaña, a member of the committee that is reviewing the textbook, told us, “The entire text, in my assessment, is written from a white supremacist, Euro-American perspective.”

Marco A. Cervantes, PhD, another member of the review committee who teaches Chicano Studies and African-American studies at UTSA, says that the textbook erases the importance of indigenous groups in Mexican American history and culture. “You get this idea that the U.S. came and ‘saved the day’ for Mexicans in the area.” Cervantes the textbook also erases any African presence in Mexico, including the Afro-Indigenous roots of the Mexico’s second president, Vicente Guerrero, portraying the president’s choice to abolish slavery in Mexico simply as the intention of pleasing his constituents.

The Mexican American Heritage textbook panel will submit its review proposal to the SBOE next month. The deadline for the public to submit comments to the SBOE on the textbook is September 2.