A broad coalition of organizations and scholars from across Texas is calling on the State Board of Education to reject a proposed Mexican-American studies textbook that promotes offensive cultural stereotypes, distorts history and is plagued by factual errors. See the list of coalition partners below.
AUSTIN – A broad coalition of organizations from across Texas is calling on the State Board of Education (SBOE) to reject a proposed Mexican-American studies textbook that promotes offensive cultural stereotypes, distorts history and is plagued by factual errors.
“This textbook has no place in a Texas classroom, especially in a course that focuses on teaching about the contributions of Mexican Americans in our country’s history,” said Celina Moreno, representing the Texas Latino Education Coalition (TLEC), in speaking out against the Mexican American Heritage textbook from publisher Momentum Instruction. “The textbook not only insults Mexican Americans, but also African Americans and other people of color. 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.”
Moreno spoke at a press conference launching the Responsible Ethnic Studies Textbook (REST) Coalition. Member organizations include education groups like TLEC, the Rio Grande Valley Coalition for Mexican American Studies, and the Mexican American School Board Members Association (MASBA). Community and civil rights groups like MALDEF, Texas LULAC, the Texas Association of Mexican American Chambers of Commerce, Texas Freedom Network and ACLU of Texas have also joined. A full list of organizations that have signed on to the coalition so far can be found at MASforTexas.org.
Scholars spoke at the press conference about serious problems with the deeply flawed textbook, including passages that reinforce offensive stereotypes, whitewash discussions about slavery and racism, and promote political agendas on topics such as church-state separation.
“The authors don’t even seem interested enough in the subject to know the difference between Mexican Americans and other Latino communities or the fact that their histories, in this nation, are completely different from each other,” said Dr. José María Herrera, an assistant professor in education at the University of Texas at El Paso. “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. It is criminally shallow and, in some cases, factually ignorant.”
The head of the company that published the Mexican American Heritage textbook is Cynthia Dunbar, a controversial former SBOE member who wrote a book in 2008 condemning public education as “tyrannical” and a “tool of perversion.” During her time on the board, Dunbar opposed teaching students about separation of church and state, insisted that they learn about creationist arguments attacking evolution, and helped write new social studies curriculum standards that even the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute has called “a politicized distortion of history.”
Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, noted that the textbook’s authors do not appear to have any expertise in Mexican-American studies.
“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. “The state board’s approval of this textbook would be a major embarrassment for Texas.”
Latinos comprise a majority of Texas public school students. The SBOE in 2014 decided to ask publishers to submit textbooks for local elective courses in Mexican-American, African-American and other ethnic studies. Mexican American Heritage is the only textbook submitted by a publisher for consideration.
Mexican American studies courses are critical in Texas, said Dr. Christopher Carmona, chair of the National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies-Tejas Foco’s Committee on Pre K-12 Education in Texas Schools.
“Currently, the Latinx population of students in Texas public schools is at 52 percent, and yet we do not have curriculum that reflects that in our school system,” Carmona said. “We need to take control of our children’s education and unify our efforts to lay the groundwork for culturally relevant curriculum for all students.”
Other speakers at the press conference included Dr. Lilliana Saldaña, an associate professor in Mexican American Studies at the University of Texas at San Antonio, and Dr. Emilio Zamora, a professor of history at the University of Texas at Austin. Saldaña spoke for Somos MAS, a San Antonio-based collective of Mexican American studies professors. Zamora is working with a group of scholars on a detailed, independent review of the Mexican American Heritage textbook.
The state board is set to hold public hearings on the textbook in the fall and then vote on whether to adopt it for Texas public schools in November.
Following is just a sampling of the problems scholars have identified in the Mexican American Heritage textbook.
“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.”
“Forcing civil rights on Southern states during Reconstruction failed be¬cause 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.”