Texas Rejects Flawed Mexican American Studies Textbook

AP Photo
The Associated Press
Austin, TX

The Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) rejected the adoption of a textbook submitted for a Mexican American Studies (MAS) high school elective because of editorial flaws and factual errors identified by an expert panel of reviewers.

On Wednesday, the state board preliminarily voted nearly unanimously, 13-1, against the adoption of The Mexican American Studies Toolkit from Kendall Hunt Publishing. Only board member Ruben Cortez (D-Brownsville) voted in favor of the textbook authored by Tony Diaz.

This marks the second year that the SBOE turned down a MAS textbook. As Breitbart Texas reported, the board rejected Mexican American Heritage from Momentum Books over factual errors. The textbook’s critics also alleged the product was racist.

The state’s panel of experts who reviewed the “toolkit” included scholars and educators. They advised the SBOE against adopting the textbook over significant editorial flaws and factual errors of which the publisher appeared to only address five of them.

Breitbart Texas reported:

In reviewing the textbook, the state’s experts identified 12 pages of factual errors and addressed content flaws in nine additional pages of comments. They wrote that a “grave lack of historical context prevents a thorough understanding of the social, political, and economic factors shaping the Mexican and Mexican American experience.” They said the “toolkit” needed “substantial revisions.”

The academic panelists also underscored that the textbook “does not cultivate and nurture social studies skills required by the state.” They commented that “the author claims to present teachers with the most ‘up-to-date’ approach to contemporary issues…’ However, upon review of the content, the panel agrees that teachers will have to heavily supplement the material with additional secondary and primary sources to fill the numerous historical voids.”

These reviewers pointed out that Social Studies textbooks do not use the first-person in the narrative. “The informal tone and language of the book reads antagonistically preventing a nuanced understanding of the multidisciplinary development and scope of the field,” they commented, noting it “does not allow for the development of analytical and critical thinking skills in students.”

Ultimately, the experts stated: “The panel has collectively come to the conclusion to not recommend the adoption of The Mexican American Studies Toolkit as it stands.”

During SBOE discussion, board member and longtime social studies teacher Pat Hardy (R-Fort Worth) voiced strong support for a statewide Mexican American studies course but also expressed disappointment that the “toolkit” was so “limited in its scope” and was “not a textbook.”

Marisa Perez Diaz (D-Converse), who voted against the “toolkit,” felt that Tony Diaz was not given enough time or guidance in terms of the state’s curriculum standards. However, other board members pointed out the call for MAS textbook submissions originated several years ago.

Barbara Cargill (R-Conroe) stated: “I don’t think any of us are against having a good Mexican American studies textbook.” She raised concerns with uncorrected errors in Diaz’s textbook.

Erica Beltran (D-Fort Worth) commented that while she appreciated the good intentions made by the textbook’s author, Diaz, her loyalties were with the 5.4 million students the state educates in public schools and deferred to the judgment of the scholars who reviewed the textbook. She added that “as a member of the Mexican American community” she was excited that “there is commitment in this room” for such a future course.

Overall, the bipartisan board expressed strong interest in approving a MAS elective modeled on an existing innovative class offered by the Houston Independent School District. Monica Martinez with the Texas Education Agency told the board the earliest they could realistically approve standards for such a course would be Fall 2020.

On Tuesday, the SBOE heard public testimony both for and against the textbook. A concern raised during this meeting that was that the publisher submitted new instructional materials for Diaz’s textbook over the weekend, none of which went through the formal adoption process.

On Friday, the state board will officially confirm the vote.

Follow Merrill Hope, a member of the original Breitbart Texas team, on Twitter.