In Texas, textbook bias skews Mexican-American history

Educators in Texas are pushing back against a textbook that they claim is racist towards those of Mexican heritage. (George Hodan/PublicDomainPictures.net)

A newly published history textbook has made headlines in the past week for being racist and calling Mexican-Americans lazy, according to a piece from J. Weston Phippen of The Atlantic. In addition to the biased comments the textbook has made, it has been cited to have many factual inaccuracies and to leave out important pieces of history between Mexico and America. The textbook in question, entitled “Mexican American Heritage,” is supposed to be used in a Mexican-American History class that will now be offered in some Texas school districts.

After a four-year battle to get the class approved, Texas educators are now worried that using this book will cause more harm than good and spread fictional ideas to their students about the culture and history of Mexicans in America. It is clear that this textbook should not be used in any schools, Texas or otherwise, and it is an insult that it was even considered in the first place.

One of the most deplorable offenses that this textbook has made is containing blatantly false information. Last Tuesday, Sept. 6, a group of educators and historians released a 54-page statement where they described all of the issues they found with the textbook. J. Weston Phippen found that though, “The informal review committee’s report found 68 factual errors, 42 interpretive errors, and 31 omission errors…only one error has been corrected." The correction mentioned relates to a passage that portrays English as the official language of the United States.

Apart from the fact that this textbook also has implied racial biases, it has given false information which is unacceptable for an educational research text. There is no way for students to trust that what they are reading is accurate, and this makes it much more difficult for teachers to help their students learn. There is no way this textbook should be permitted in classes with the number of inaccuracies it contains that see no future of being fixed.

This book is also lacking in its publisher, Momentum Instruction, which is owned by former Texas Board of Education member, Cynthia Dunbar. Dunbar is known for her dislike of the U.S. education system which she has called “tyrannical” and has said that sending children to school is “throwing them into the enemy’s flames.” Currently a professor at Liberty University, Dunbar claimed that it was necessary to include passages in her book saying that Mexican-Americans are lazy because “it was a perception of the time” and that she was only interested in presenting “the good, the bad, and the ugly of it all."

The current social and political climate has allowed outspoken people like Cynthia Dunbar to be publically racist to a point where it is interfering with the U.S. education system. Our children should not be exposed to the kind of bigotry and xenophobic ideas that this textbook is providing, especially in a time when racial tensions are running high in many countries, including America.

This textbook would only serve to give students a false view of how Mexican-American relations were historically and would serve as a precursor to any expectations of what Mexican-Americans are like today. All this textbook would do is spread misguided hate throughout the country.

This textbook is an insult to both Mexicans and Americans. It is clearly racist in its description of Mexicans as “stereotypically lazy compared to European or American workers” and shows absolutely no appreciation or value of the truth in multicultural history.

As the first text of its kind to be used in a U.S. school system, we need to demand a higher standard for the information we give to our children. We can no longer settle for false facts with hidden agendas or overt intolerant views being spoon-fed to them while disguised as expository writing. Although not all of the history between America and Mexico is amiable, this is an important and vastly growing culture that needs to be represented properly. To not do so would be an embarrassment for both Mexico and America alike.


Emma Hungaski is an opinion contributor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at emma.hungaski@uconn.edu.