WESLACO, RGV – It’s that time of the year again. School is about to get underway and a big issue for some is a new textbook, titled Mexican-American Heritage.
The book, authored Jamie Riddle and Valarie Angle, covers Mexican-American history and culture. The State Board of Education had wanted more diversity in its prescribed list of textbooks but the Riddle/Angle book is causing a lot of controversy.
“I created an ad hoc committee of scholars and they’re telling me that the quality of this textbook is so bad that it has no place in any classroom,” said Ruben Cortez, the Rio Grande Valley’s representative on the State Board of Education said.
“Based on what I’m learning this textbook falls far short of the high standards we need in our schools. My ad hoc committee should have their report completed next week, but what they are telling me is that there are factual errors are on almost every single page.”
The textbook was listed as a contender for Mexican-American studies and could appear in the 2017-2018 academic curriculum. The Texas Education Agency provided a sample on its website, which has caused a backlash from the public. Some of those who read samples of the book were appalled by what they say is completely inaccurate information. They say it is racially discriminatory.
In one part of the book, Chicanos are said to have “adopted a revolutionary narrative that opposed Western civilization and wanted to destroy this society.” In another part of the book, undocumented immigrants are disparaged.
Douglas Torres-Edwards, who coordinated a Mexican American Studies course approved by the Texas Education Agency (TEA), says Angle, one of the authors of the textbook, is not recognized as an author.
“Frankly, that author is not recognized as someone who is part of the Mexican-American studies scholarship and most individuals engaged in scholarship will not recognize her as an author,” Torres-Edwards told the Houston Chronicle. He said he will not be recommending approval of the book by the SBOE.
There are 5.1 million students in Texas. Of these, 51.8 percent are Hispanic. Because of this, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund has been pushing for the creation of a Mexican-American history textbook for all Texas schools.
MALDEF, a coalition that protects the rights of Latinos in the U.S., is strongly opposed to the adoption of Mexican American Heritage as a Texas textbook. The group put together a team of scholars to review the book and found “an incredible amount of factual errors,” said Celina Moreno, a MALDEF attorney.
Moreno was interviewed after speaking at a Latino Summit hosted by the Senate Hispanic Caucus. The event was held at South Texas College’s Mid-Valley campus in Weslaco. Moreno said the textbook omits many historical events and is written in a biased manner, so much so that it could be referred to as racist.
“The textbook that is about Mexican-American heritage is extremely offensive, has offensive stereotypes, not only to Mexican-Americans but to African-Americans and completely misrepresents the founding and the principle of church and state in our nation,” Moreno told the Rio Grande Guardian.
“For example, it whitewashes the post-reconstruction period. It makes it seem as though the root cause of the civil war is not slavery but was in fact state’s rights. It calls Mexican workers lazy, and says that leaders in the Chicano movement in the 1960s and 70s wanted to destroy society. Just very offensive and most importantly for the State board of Education, factually incorrect.”
SBOE board member Cortez pointed out that more than half of the kids in Texas public schools are Hispanic.
“Mexican-American studies could inspire these students by teaching them about the history and experiences of people just like them. But this book is hurtful. Some of us have heard that kind of language a lot in the past,” Cortez added.
SBOE will decide upon the textbook’s fate in September. Before then, all Texans are able to comment on the selections of the book made public. The comments will be reviewed by a committee of school administrators and teachers and based on the comments heard will give a recommendation to the state board.
Even if the state board approves the textbook, MALDEF’s Moreno said, it does not mean that all schools will be forced to buy and teach it. The books that are listed on the state boards’ recommended textbooks don’t have to be taught by the schools. Schools have many other options and may choose whichever book they feel appropriate. Both the State Board and schools, when making their final decision, will likely take the content being scrutinized by the public into consideration.
“It is cheaper and easier for schools to use state approved textbooks but school districts would not be required to do so. So another purpose for our campaign and advocacy is to expose these problems so that that if indeed the state board passes and approves this textbook, school districts know and are warned of all of the factual errors,” Moreno said.