Getting Mexican-American studies into Texas’ public schools has been an uphill battle. In April 2014, Texas’ State Board of Education (SBOE) outright rejected offering a statewide Mexican-American studies elective, with those opposed claiming it promoted reverse racism and welcomed “leftist ideology” into schools, according to the Associated Press. In the end, the SBOE decided in an 11-3 vote to ask publishers to submit textbooks on Mexican-American, African-American, Native American, and Asian-American studies. School districts could then decide whether or not they’d offer the course. At the time, board member Rubén Cortez praised the decision for being a step in the right direction. “The biggest difficulty for school districts is not developing a course, it’s obtaining the appropriate instructional materials,” he said.
Flash forward to present-day, and the Texas Education Agency has released a sample of Mexican American Heritage, a proposed Mexican-American history textbook that scholars have panned. The Huffington Post reports that the textbook is grossly inaccurate and the authors are not knowledgeable on Mexican-American history. It’s important to note that former SBOE member Cynthia Dunbar has been linked to the publisher, Momentum Instruction, LLC.
Though Momentum purports to “comprehensively and effectively retell [the] colorful period of history” of “vibrant heritages,” the book begins with a highly romanticized retelling of Spanish colonization. “When Europeans first arrived in the Western hemisphere in 1492, it was a watershed moment for both them and the people they found,” the book’s introduction reads. “All of a sudden, two worlds collided. East met West, and two groups faced each other who had never known of the other’s existence before. The ideas, languages, and cultures of of opposite hemisphere were forced to intermingle in what has been called the great ‘Columbian Exchange.’ Neither side would be the same again.”
One line that has particularly earned the ire of scholars and Mexican-Americans describes the Chicano movement as anti-American. “Chicanos, on the other hand, adopted a revolutionary narrative that opposed Western civilization and wanted to destroy this society,” according to page 415 and 416.
Those who are actually well-versed in Mexican-American history have weighed in, and explained why the proposed text is so problematic. Nolan Cabrera, an education professor at the University of Arizona, told the Huffington Post the book painted immigrants in a negative light. “This is a terrible example of revisionist, ideological whitewashing of history,” Nolan said. “It has nothing to do with Mexican American heritage in a meaningful sense. It creates a false image of U.S. history which, ironically, only serves to exacerbate the problems of educational inequity and inter-ethnic tension.”
From now until September, Texans can submit complaints about the book. By November, the SBOE will decide whether the book will become part of the recommended instructional materials for the 2017-2018 school year, the Houston Chronicle notes.