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Texas Education Board Rejects ‘Racist’ Textbook

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After months of controversy surrounding a proposed Mexican-American studies textbook that critics called racist and inaccurate, the Texas State Board of Education voted this week to reject its adoption.

The board rejected the textbook on Wednesday 14-0, with one board member absent. A final vote will take place today, but even if the board votes “no” again, the text could still show up in Texas public school classrooms — just not on the board-approved list of instructional materials.

According to The Texas Tribune, 37 people testified before the board on Tuesday. All but two opposed its approval.

The book — the only Mexican-American studies textbook proposed to the board — has been hotly contested, with advocates for Mexican-American studies education saying the textbook is racist and riddled with factual errors. The book was reportedly authored by writers who are unknown in the field of Mexican-American studies and produced by Momentum Instruction, a company owned by former rightwing SBOE member Cynthia Dunbar.

Among the many faults critics found with the textbook was a description of Mexican Americans as people who opposed Western civilization and wanted to destroy this society. Besides that, as Patrick Michels of the Texas Observer wrote in May, “Little attention is given to the history of Mexican-American people.”

A group of educators and historians who reviewed the text issued a report in September claiming the textbook, called “Mexican American Heritage,” was “blatantly racist” and promotes the stereotype that Mexicans are inferior.

An editorial committee submitted more than 140 corrections, and Momentum Instruction then made changes, including the revision of 14 factual errors. Dunbar said the textbook meets all requirements of the State Board of Education’s bid for textbooks and sent the board a letter from an attorney claiming that any move to reject the book would be “unconstitutional.”

One board member, Ruben Cortez, a Democrat from Brownsville, said during a news conference Tuesday that he would ask his fellow members to reject the textbook, which he felt would perpetuate hatred against Hispanics stirred up after the recent election of Donald Trump as the country’s next president. Celina Moreno, an attorney for the Latino civil rights organization MALDEF, argued that it would contribute to the wave of bullying against Latino students in K-12 schools, Tribune reporter Aliyya Swaby tweeted.

Thomas Ratliff, a Republican and vice chair of the board, reminded people after the board’s vote not to include the textbook on its approved list did not mean that it was censoring the book. Momentum Instruction could still publish and sell it to school districts, he said.