The State Board of Education on Wednesday tentatively rejected a Mexican-American studies textbook for Texas high school students.
This the second time in as many years the board has turned down a Mexican-American studies textbook. Last year, the board dumped a textbook after scholars, activists and politicians denounced the book as racist. The most recent one “The Mexican American Toolkit” has not received the same level of public criticism but a state review panel of five high school teachers and college professors did not recommend adoption an earlier, uncorrected version of the textbook.
“I think it is a disservice to the Mexican American community. It is limited in its scope. It could be used as a supplemental. It’s not a textbook,” said board member and former social studies teacher Pat Hardy, R-Fort Worth.
Ruben Cortez, D-Brownsville, was the only board member to vote in favor of the textbook.
Although they acknowledged he had little time to write the book, the review panel over the summer found more than 50 errors and editorial problems, including typos, grammatical errors and vagueness in certain assertions author Tony Diaz made in the book.
Diaz said he has worked closely with panelists to make many changes, including adding more material to the book. He said the board keeps changing the definition of what a textbook should be.
“The book met the letter of the law, the spirit of the law,” said Diaz, a Houston area activist and Mexican-American studies professor at Lone Star College. “I think there’s been no more vetted book…and they moved the goal post again.”
Although the board isn’t adopting Diaz’s textbook, school districts can go directly to his publisher Kendall Hunt to buy the textbook. It’s not clear when the board will open another call for a Mexican-American or other ethnic studies books.
Board member Georgina Pérez, D-El Paso, said the board should have first approved a Mexican-American course with learning standards before calling for a textbook. Without a course with standards, authors are left in the dark about what they should be writing, she said.
“Our students deserve far better than piecemealing together,” Pérez said, adding that Diaz’s book doesn’t pass muster as a standalone Mexican-American studies textbook.
The board in 2014 rejected immediately implementing a Mexican-American studies course, opting instead to encourage school districts to adopt a Mexican-American studies course as an “innovative course” and adding Mexican-American studies to a wishlist of courses to be developed after courses required by the state Legislature were developed, said board chair Donna Bahorich, R-Houston. The board also called for textbooks in ethnic studies, including Mexican-American studies.
On Wednesday, several board members including Hardy and Bahorich indicated they still want Mexican-American studies to be established as a high school social studies elective course. Such a course could go into effect in fall 2020, according to the Texas Education Agency.
“We’re seeing a demand,” said board member Ken Mercer, R-San Antonio, adding he would like to see a Hispanic-American course, not just Mexican American.
Pérez said she doesn’t want Mexican-American studies to be treated as an elective course.
“Mexican Americans are a staple in American history. We should be in the mainstream history classroom,” she said.