The proposed textbook, "Mexican American Heritage," was produced by Momentum Instruction.
The proposed textbook, "Mexican American Heritage," was produced by Momentum Publishing. Credit: Composite / Courtesy

A Mexican-American Studies textbook many considered inaccurate and offensive looks to be dead on arrival before the State Board of Education (SBOE). The Houston Chronicle reported that the SBOE voted unanimously in a preliminary hearing to reject the textbook Mexican American Heritage.

San Antonio scholars called the book “worse than racist,” joining the chorus of activists, educators, and scholars who decried the book’s description of Mexican Americans and its underlying political agenda.

Brownsville businessman and SBOE member Ruben Cortez, Jr. led the effort to keep the book from circulation in Texas schools.

“This book offers one thing. It offers hatred. It offers hate toward Mexican Americans,” Cortez said.

Had the book been approved by the SBOE, it would not have been required in public schools. However it would have been available and sanctioned for districts who wanted to use it.

The Houston Chronicle reported that 15,000 people petitioned the textbook’s placement on the state preferred list. The hearing lasted five hours, with more than 50 people signed up to speak.

Cynthia Dunbar, a former member of the SBOE and CEO of the book’s publisher Momentum Publishing, defended the book to the board, but was unable to persuade its members that the text was suitable for Texas public schools.

“We’re not just talking about a textbook on Mexican-American heritage, we’re talking about the education of 5 million kids,” said board member Erika Beltran of Ft. Worth.

Of those 5 million kids, approximately 50% are Hispanic. Many of those 50% have Mexican ancestry. Educators have called for Mexican-American Studies to be added to school curriculums to help those students see themselves in the country’s history. Dunbar told the Houston Chronicle that the textbook followed all the rules of submission and that the board’s rejection of the text could qualify as “unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination.”

The SBOE maintains that on factual errors alone, the book can be rejected. A University of Texas at Austin professor commissioned to fact check the book found 407 factual errors. He claims that the publisher has not addressed these errors.

The SBOE has indicated that it will reopen its call for Mexican-American and African-American studies textbooks.

Bekah McNeel

Bekah McNeel is a native San Antonian. You can also find her at her blog, FreeBekah.com, on Twitter @BekahMcneel, and on Instagram @wanderbekah.