State board dumps another Mexican-American studies textbook

Updated Nov 13, 2017
State Board of Education member Ruben Cortez, D-Brownsville, speaks during Wednesday’s meeting. (RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

The State Board of Education rejected on Friday a Mexican-American studies textbook for Texas high school students that members had said wasn’t comprehensive enough and had contained too many errors.

Instead the board will start discussions in January on implementing a statewide Mexican-American studies course that could go into effect fall 2020.

“I believe it is the will of the body to get that done,” board Chairwoman Donna Bahorich, R-Houston, said of a Mexican-American studies course.

The board declined to take a final vote on the Mexican-American studies textbook on Friday after a majority of the board tentatively voted against it on Wednesday. Last year, the board rejected another proposed Mexican-American studies textbook after several scholars, teachers and activists criticized it as racist.

RELATED: Does a new Texas textbook whitewash Mexican-American history?

The more recent proposal, “The Mexican American Toolkit” by Houston-area activist and scholar Tony Diaz, did not receive the same level of notoriety, but a state review panel of teachers and professors recommended to the board not to adopt it because it contained more than 50 errors and was too vague.

Diaz said his book exceeded the requirements and standards of adoption.

“Additional time would have provided opportunity to report that in a manner conducive to individual board members. They should also define the terms for the process and apply them consistently and fairly,” he said.

Board member Marisa Perez-Diaz, D-Converse said had the board created a Mexican-American studies course, writers would had more guidance of what should be included in such a book. The board rejected immediately implementing a Mexican-American studies course in 2014.

“This vote today is not a vote against … this subject. It is a vote in favor of high quality. It was a very difficult decision for me to come to,” said Perez-Diaz.

Bahorich said the board has always wanted to implement such a course but that legislatively required courses had to come first.

Board members will start discussions at their next meeting in January about creating learning standards for a Mexican-American studies course, using a course in the Houston school district as a blueprint. The Houston school district will soon start discussions on also creating an Asian-American studies course, according to board member Lawrence Allen, D-Houston.

“These types of courses and materials are not going away, and I think it’s important that we take the lead in understanding that it’s only going to grow and we not wait on Houston or anyone else to lead us,” Allen said.

Diaz said the board should have walked away Friday calling again for more ethnic studies textbook proposals; mandating the statewide Mexican-American studies course adopt the learning standards of the Houston school district’s Mexican-American studies course; or creating a plan that will lead to the establishment of a statewide Mexican-American studies course.

“The Texas State Board of Education did nothing for Mexican American Studies. They have failed our community,” he said.

The board on Friday approved 9-6 another ethnic studies book, “Surviving the Angel of Death: The True Story of a Mengele Twin in Auschwitz,” an autobiography of a woman who survived medical experiments conducted during the Holocaust.

Board members who voted against it, including David Bradley, R-Beaumont, grappled with whether the board should be adopting supplemental materials like memoirs instead of general textbooks. Bradley said he’s concerned their vote will open the floodgates for various materials, costing the state money to review each of them.

“If I wanted to create havoc, I would submit the Encyclopedia Britannica and the Bible for every submission for every subject and for every course,” he said.

The story has been updated to include responses from Tony Diaz, author of “The Mexican American Toolkit.”