Texas Textbook: Mexican Americans Don’t Work ‘Vigorously,’ Want To ‘Destroy’ Society
by CASEY QUINLAN –
A proposed textbook about Mexican-American history that would be read by Texas high school students is filled with inaccuracies and stereotypes about Mexican Americans, said a coalition of educators opposing the publication of the textbook.
Latino activists and educators have been urging the Texas State Board of Education to allow for more coverage of Latino Americans in the textbooks it reviews, so when a textbook on Mexican Americans was included among the textbooks to be considered for the school year of 2017-2018, it appeared to be a win for those advocates. But when excerpts from the textbook were released, it became clear to advocates for more inclusion of Latino American history that the book was far more harmful than helpful.
Among the issues educators, scholars, and activists take with the book is its representation of Mexican Americans as lazy. The coalition, called The Responsible Ethnic Studies Textbook Coalition, includes the ACLU of Texas, Texas Latino Education Coalition, and Mexican American School Board Members Association. On Monday, this newly formed coalition criticized what they called “offensive cultural stereotypes,” according to The Washington Post, that were found in excerpts that called Industrialists “driven” but said Mexican laborers “were not reared to put in a full day’s work so vigorously.”
Scholars have also objected to a passage of the textbook that equated the Chicano Movement in the 1960s that encouraged Mexican Americans to fight for better working conditions and voting rights with a “revolutionary narrative that opposed Western civilization and wanted to destroy this society,” according to The Washington Post.
As for how it has been received by the board members themselves, reactions have been mixed.According to the Austin-American Statesman, Texas Board of Education member Ruben Cortez Jr. said of the textbook, “Based on the initial conversation with these experts, I don’t believe that this book should see the inside of any classroom in any shape, form, or fashion… If it’s as bad as they’re all telling me, there’s not a chance in hell I’m going to support this book.”
However, fellow board member David Bradley, who didn’t want a Mexican-American heritage textbook in the first place, according to the Statesman, said, “It’s really kind of amusing. The left-leaning, radical Hispanic activists, having pounded the table for special treatment, get approval for a special course that nobody else wanted… Now they don’t like their special textbook?”
It’s unclear if Bradley meant that no one wanted a textbook on Hispanic Americans or Mexican Americans specifically, but it’s worth pointing out that 51 percent of the state’s 5 million plus students in the 2012-2013 school year were Hispanic according to the Texas Education Agency’s 2014 report.
The way marginalized groups are represented in historical texts has always been a source of controversy, but as parents, activists and educators take to social media, it becomes easier to call attention to them. For example, last year a Houston mother objected to a McGraw-Hill textbook that called slaves “workers” and implied that they emigrated to the Americas as opposed to the reality — that they were forced aboard ships to labor as slaves. It is estimated that as many as 85,000 people did not survive the trip to North America, according to Politifact. A European gaming company also found itself under intense criticism last year for an educational game about the Atlantic slave trade that allowed users to stack slaves on top of each other to fit them all on the ship.
The Texas State Board of Education will review the textbook and allow for a public comment period in the fall.