Social Studies

Critics Call for Texas Board to Reject Mexican-American Studies Textbook

By Jaclyn Zubrzycki — September 07, 2016 2 min read
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The only textbook proposed for a Texas social studies course on Mexican-American history is under fire from educators, activists, students, and local and state lawmakers for its portrayal of Mexicans and indigenous history.

The state board will hold a public hearing on whether to adopt the book, “Mexican American Heritage,” published by Momentum Instruction, and other instructional materials at its meeting next week. The Texas Tribune reports that “Mexican American Heritage” was the only submission the state board of education received after calling for textbooks for the course in 2015, and that this is the first textbook published by Momentum Instruction. About ten high schools in the state currently offer Mexican-American studies courses.

Already, it’s clear that the book is in for significant criticism. An ad hoc committee of educators released a 54-page report to state board representative Ruben Cortez yesterday that says that the book “does not meet basic standards and guiding principles in the history profession.” It highlights a number of factual and interpretive errors in the text.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner also released a statement calling for the state’s board of education to reject the textbook.

In a press release, Turner highlights this passage from the book:

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."

Turner said in a press release that it is “unbelievable” that a textbook would include such stereotypes about Mexicans.

The Texas Tribune reports that another member of the state board, David Bradley, said he is perplexed by the controversy because many schools will not offer the optional course, and individual schools can choose whether to use the book. He also is concerned about the creation of a Mexican-American studies course, which he said amounted to “special treatment” and is discriminatory toward other ethnic groups.

It’s no surprise that there were not many submissions for the textbook: The president of the National Association for Ethnic Studies, Ravi K. Perry, told Education Week that most ethnic studies programs are developed at the local level.

Opponents of the book said they are considering proposing a bill similar to one in California that would call for the state to create a model ethnic studies curriculum. That bill in California is currently awaiting the governor’s signature.

Last year, a mother in Texas called for a different set of textbooks to be rejected for referring to slaves as “workers.” McGraw-Hill Education, the publisher of that book, said it would make changes to the digital and print editions of the book.

But the controversy isn’t necessarily a signal that the book won’t be adopted. In 2014, a majority of textbooks recommended for adoption in the state were approved despite concerns from both conservative and liberal groups.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.

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