Proposed textbook ‘dripping in racism,’ state board member says

Textbook (Nexstar Photo)

AUSTIN (NEXSTAR) — A group of educators and students called on the State Board of Education to keep a controversial Mexican American studies textbook out of Texas classrooms Tuesday.

“A disaster” that is “dripping in racism and intolerance” — that’s how one state board member described the history book. “And it should not even be considered a textbook,” said Ruben Cortes Jr., D-Brownsville.

Cortez formed his own advisory committee — a coalition of scholars that included seven history professors and one high school teacher — to review the book.

“The problems are so serious that I couldn’t help but laugh,” said Emilio Zamora, a professor of history at the University of Texas-Austin who served on the advisory committee.

“We found all kinds of errors, the majority of them were factual errors, but there were also interpretation errors and omission errors,” Zamora said.

The committee denounced the textbook and released a 54-page report Tuesday citing 141 inaccuracies in the proposed textbook, titled “Mexican American Heritage.”

According to Zamora, the eight-person committee systematically reviewed the book according to guidelines established by the American Historical Association and the Texas Education Agency’s standard curriculum requirements.

His section of the review focused on chapters that spanned from the end of the Mexican-American War in 1848 to the present.

“These authors weren’t very well versed in Mexican American history and that is a real bothersome finding,” Zamora said.

Zamora said the textbook contains factual errors and “racial ideas that are disparaging and demeaning.”

According to the committee’s report, the following passage was pulled from page 248 of the book, under the subsection titled “Ethnic Hostility”:

“Stereotypically, Mexicans were viewed as lazy compared to European or American workers. 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. It was also traditional to skip work on Mondays, and drinking on the job could be a problem.”

Cortes said he fears what this kind of passage would teach Texas kids, if presented facts inside a textbook. “It’s wrong — I don’t understand what these people are thinking,” Cortes said of the publisher, “or why they think it’s okay to teach racism to our kids.”

The publisher will have the chance to revise passages and make corrections, if factual errors are proven, but Cortes said this book should not be salvaged.

He called on the board to reject the textbook and reopen bids for a new Mexican-American history book.

The State Board of Education is set to hear public comments on the proposed textbook at a meeting Tuesday.

The board will decide whether to adopt the textbook in November but the decision will ultimately be left to school districts.

The Mexican American studies class is proposed as an elective and state law allows school districts to select their own textbooks and materials, as long as those items align with the state’s curriculum.