A proposed Mexican-American studies textbook is riddled with errors, many of them racially charged, according to a report released Tuesday from a committee of educators who studied the book.
The report, citing 141 errors, follows outcry from Hispanic activists and academics who called the proposed book for Texas high school students offensive and inaccurate.
Cynthia Dunbar, chief executive officer of the book’s publisher, Momentum Instruction, however, told the American-Statesman that there is no hidden agenda or attempt to malign Hispanics.
“There was no goal here to do anything other than put forward a good objective textbook,” said Dunbar, a former Republican member of the State Board of Education.
State Board of Education member Ruben Cortez Jr., D-Brownsville, asked seven professors and a high school teacher to review the proposed textbook “Mexican American Heritage,” which the Texas Education Agency released in May for the public to review.
Referencing the committee’s findings, Cortez on Tuesday slammed Dunbar and the book in particular as a “complete disaster” and “a political Trojan horse into our schools,” speaking at an elementary school in Brownsville and shown on Facebook Live.
“This racially offensive textbook is a glimpse into her distorted reality of what the Hispanic culture represents to her. Her actions are morally reprehensible, and we cannot allow it to enter into our Texas public schools,” Cortez said. Cortez also criticized Dunbar for once calling public schools a “subtly deceptive tool of perversion.”
The State Board of Education will hold a public hearing about proposed textbooks, including “Mexican American Heritage,” next Tuesday during its regular meeting.
Critics have blasted the textbook for painting the Chicano movement as a “threat to society,” omitting the contributions of Mexican-American female civil rights leaders, and for suggesting immigration “has been increasingly tied up with an illegal drug trade” and suggesting that Hispanics are lazy.
Dismissing Cortez’s accusations, Dunbar said she has tried to contact the educators examining the book so that any errors could be corrected. She was turned away, she said.
“It would seem like the logical thing would be to call and talk to people calmly and work together instead of doing this horrible hit piece, character assassination,” Dunbar said.
Since it was first proposed to the state in April, the book has undergone several edits based on public comments to the Texas Education Agency, Dunbar said.
She said the education agency has only let her know of one error in the book and it was corrected – a passage that implied that English was the official language of the U.S.
The education agency has given the book preliminary approval because it aligns with the state’s curriculum standards.
Dunbar also defended the book’s authors, Jaime Riddle and Valarie Angle, who she said have backgrounds in education and curriculum development and relied on primary sources to present different sides so that students and teachers can arrive at their own conclusions.
The board will decide whether to adopt the textbook in November.
Cortez wants the board to reject the proposed text and reopen bids for a new one. In that case, it would probably be couple of years before another Mexican-American studies textbook is adopted.
School districts aren’t required to use textbooks approved by the board, but many end up adopting them instead of finding other material.
Cortez on Tuesday asked fellow state Board of Education member David Bradley, R-Beaumont, to apologize for telling the Statesman in June that complaints about the book were only coming from “left-leaning, radical Hispanic activists.”
Bradley on Tuesday accused Cortez of contriving controversy for his own benefit and of writing the book off before the Texas Education Agency has released its final recommendations.
“The freshman member once again has got the cart before the horse. He is unwilling and unable to understand the rules for the board’s adoption process,” Bradley said.
Mexican-American textbook errors
A committee of educators found 141 errors in a proposed Mexican-American studies textbook. They include:
- On Page 5, the use of “civilized” and “nomadic” are used to contrast Europeans and indigenous communities. The educators said the latter group had complex cultures with social structures.
- On Page 281, the authors say that the “Mexican population in America was still small, however — fewer than 100,000 in 1900.” The educators said that that half a million or more Hispanics lived in the U.S. at that time, most of whom were of Mexican origin.
- On Page 346, the authors say that in 1945, World War II veteran Macario Garcia was the first Mexican-American to earn a Medal of Honor, but the educators say that six preceded him.
- The civil rights movement is portrayed as a “White/Black binary” on Page 371 instead of “one that incorporates the diversity, cross-racial alliances and antagonisms, and regionalism of civil rights efforts.”
- On Page 435, the authors of assert that bilingual advocates are seeking to make Spanish a national language.
Members of the committee:
- Christopher Carmona, assistant professor of creative writing at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
- Juan Carmona, social studies teacher at Donna High School
- Trinidad Gonzales, history instructor at South Texas College
- Rogelio Sáenz, dean of the public policy college at the University of Texas at San Antonio
- Guadalupe San Miguel Jr., history professor at the University of Houston
- Angela Valenzuela, director of UT Center for Education Policy at the University of Texas at Austin
- Aimee Villarreal, Mexican-American studies program head at Our Lady of the Lake University
- Emilio Zamora, history professor at the University of Texas at Austin