State Board of Education Should Not Approve a Crummy Mexican-American Studies Textbook, Coalition Says

At one point last year, various Texas organizations were criticizing the State Board of Education for not offering a Mexican-American studies class. That prompted SBOE members to sign off on the creation of a Mexican-American studies textbook, but the resulting book has a lot of education, community and civil rights groups up in arms because once again, Texas is on track to produce a textbook that really just shouldn't exist. 

On Monday the various groups, including the Rio Grande Valley Coalition for Mexican American Studies, the Mexican American School Board Members Association, MALDEF, Texas LULAC, the Texas Association of Mexican American Chambers of Commerce, Texas Freedom Network and the ACLU of Texas along with a slew of other organizations got together to form the Responsible Ethnic Studies Textbook Coalition.

The group has called on SBOE members to reject the proposed high school textbook, titled Mexican American Heritage, because they argue it has no place in a Texas classroom, let alone a Mexican-American studies class.

“The textbook not only insults Mexican Americans, but also African Americans and other people of color," Celina Moreno, of the Texas Latino Education Coalition, stated in a release. "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.”

The textbook was submitted to the SBOE by Momentum Instruction, a company owned and operated by former SBOE member Cynthia Dunbar. Dunbar was the board member who questioned whether public schools were constitutionally allowed and called the public education system "tyrannical" in her book One Nation Under God, among many other similar dubious achievements. 

The new textbook proposed to teach the cultural history of Mexican-Americans to Texas students already came under fire back in May when critics said the textbook is racist. Mexican American Heritage describes Mexican-Americans as people who "adopted a revolutionary narrative that opposed Western civilization and wanted to destroy this society." And then, because apparently that wasn't enough to make the point, the book goes on to tie Mexican-Americans to undocumented immigrants who have "caused a number of economic and security problems" in the United States including "poverty, drugs, crime, non-assimilation, and exploitation." 

A couple of months ago, Texas Freedom Network tapped a crew of scholars to review the textbook. The organization will likely come out with a more detailed report on the issues in the book later this year. The request issued to ditch the already controversial textbook was accompanied by a few more observations from more than a dozen scholars currently reviewing the text. 

The scholars pointed out numerous deficiencies in the work, including the fact that the book was penned by people who appear to have no academic background or expertise in Mexican-American studies. The book is supposed to be focused on Mexican-American heritage, but it veers off to tackle other topics, including the Civil War, Reconstruction and the Cold War. 

When the textbook gets to the Industrial Revolution of the late 1800s, the authors don't call Mexicans lazy, but they get pretty darn close to it in their description of the differences between industrialists and Mexican laborers:

"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." 
A lot of the history of Mexico and Texas after Mexico had gained independence from Spain is glossed over, according to a release that outlines the flaws found in the textbook so far. The authors don't discuss colonization or the empresario system, in which the Mexican government sent out empresarios (land agents) to Texas to get Catholic families to move to the area and settle there in exchange for land grants. The book also skips over the Fredonian Rebellion, the first attempt to secede from Mexico in 1826, and a number of other details, according to the release.

On top of that, the textbook spends more time on the Civil War and Reconstruction than one would expect from a textbook purportedly focused on Mexican-American history and culture. Of course, the explanations of the causes behind the Civil War and Reconstruction are as charmingly State-Board-of-Education-esque (read: still apparently free of all fact checking) as one would expect:

"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."

Overall, the textbook comes off as an impressively tone-deaf endeavor. The board is scheduled to hold public hearings on the book this fall, followed by a vote on whether or not to adopt it for Texas schools in November. 

In other words, the odds are good that yet another historically questionable textbook will be making its way to classrooms across the state in the very near future. Isn't that just peachy? 
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Dianna Wray is a nationally award-winning journalist. Born and raised in Houston, she writes about everything from NASA to oil to horse races.
Contact: Dianna Wray