Texas State Board of Education Votes Down Controversial Mexican-American Studies Text

Benito Juarez, shown here flanked by his sister Nela (left) and wife Margarita, deserves more attention than an essay bought from a term-paper mill.
Benito Juarez, shown here flanked by his sister Nela (left) and wife Margarita, deserves more attention than an essay bought from a term-paper mill.

Mexican American Heritage was dead on arrival. Just as they promised in September, members of the Texas State Board of Education rejected the book, labeled as "racist," "inaccurate" and "embarrassing" by opponents. Wednesday's preliminary vote was  14-0 against adopting the book as a text approved for use in Texas' classrooms.

The book, published by a company owned by former conservative firebrand board of education member Cynthia Dunbar, describes Mexicans as "viewed as lazy compared to European or American workers." Mexicans, according to the book, operated on something called "mañana time," meaning they looked to put things off until tomorrow. Chicano activists in the '60s, the book also claimed, "adopted a revolutionary narrative that opposed Western civilization and wanted to destroy this society." An essay in the book about about former Mexican president Benito Juarez is available for purchase on a website called 123helpme.com.

As Mexican American Heritage has gone through vetting by the board, scholars, Texas legislators and members of the board have all come out against the book.

"This book is so flawed that it should never get the stamp of approval from anyone in the state of Texas," state Senator Sylvia Garcia said at a board hearing in September. "The board approval of this textbook would be a major embarrassment to this state. I personally have found the textbook unacceptable. It is one thing to hear political rhetoric that calls us lazy and calls us names, but we should never expect it as facts and accept it and put it in textbooks."

Before Wednesday's vote, Dunbar sent a letter to the board claiming that they were censoring her textbook. Board member Thomas Ratliff, a Republican, flatly rejected Dunbar's claims. During the initial hearing for the book in September, Ratliff described the text as "dead on arrival" saying it had no chance to get the board's stamp of approval.

"I think it's important to say what we are doing and what we aren't doing. What we are not doing is censoring a textbook," Ratliff said Wednesday. "Nothing prohibits [Dunbar] from printing the book exactly as it is. Nothing prohibits [her] from resubmitting the book and nothing that we are doing prevents [her] from selling the book to Texas school districts. What we are doing is following Texas education policy and our rules."

After the vote, Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa credited the board with rejecting racism.

“This is bigger than just a textbook, it speaks to the ongoing fight to ensure Texas embraces all of its children. How can we solve challenges like health care, education, or find good jobs if we have such blatant racism in our schools?" Hinojosa said.

Wednesday's vote is expected to be made final at Friday's board meeting.


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