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Latina Lista: News from the Latinx perspective > Education > Texas Latino school children just got the biggest slapdown from the one state agency supposed to be their strongest advocate

Texas Latino school children just got the biggest slapdown from the one state agency supposed to be their strongest advocate

LatinaLista — Demographers have long said to just look at Texas to see the future of the racial make-up of the country. It’s projected that by 2020 the Latino population will surpass all other population groups in Texas to be the majority.

As it stands now, Latino children comprise the majority of students (52%) in public elementary and high schools, and by 2050, the child population in the Lone Star State is projected to be 61 percent Hispanic.

Currently, according to the 2016 State of Texas Children Report, 33 percent of Latino children live in poverty, and 42 percent of Hispanic students are enrolled in high-poverty school districts.

Common sense dictates that since Latino children are literally the future of the state’s economic prosperity that the Texas Education Agency (TEA) would do everything to ensure the future success of Latino school children.

One way would be to advocate for equal school funding and the other would be to include textbooks that celebrate the cultural heritage of the majority of Texas Latino students, namely Mexican-American history.

Advocates for the inclusion of a Mexican American history book as part of the Texas curriculum were heartened by the TEA’s call for submissions for such a book last year. However, it isn’t exactly what advocates hoped it would be.

For starters, though the TEA claims they followed standard procedure for the call to submit instructional materials for Mexican American curriculums under Proclamation 2017, the director of one of the most respected Latino-centric book publishers in the state, Arte Público Press, never got the notice that the TEA was looking for submissions.

Instead a recently formed publishing house named Momentum Instruction snagged the prize. On closer investigation by the Texas Observer, it was discovered that the founder of the publishing house, Cynthia Dunbar, was also a former member of the Texas State Board of Education and during her tenure was part of a panel that recommended removing Cesar Chavez from the state’s educational standards.

Who published the textbook shouldn’t make a difference if they adhered to the retelling of factual, historical data with the realization that the children who would be devouring this information already feel beaten down and have poor self-esteem and need to know this history to understand that it’s in their genes to be much more than who they think they are or can be.

Yet, that’s not what materialized in the textbook titled Mexican American Heritage. Blatantly racist and non-historical passages were inserted into this textbook that do nothing to celebrate the history of Mexican Americans or build up any child’s pride in their cultural history.

Written by people who clearly have a self-serving agenda and obvious limited knowledge of Mexican American history, the book – the only one submitted – has such passages as:

Describing Chicanos as people who “adopted a revolutionary narrative that opposed Western civilization and wanted to destroy this society.”

Or that undocumented immigration (they used the term “illegal”) has “caused a number of economic and security problems in the United States.”

Or that “Poverty, drugs, crime, non-assimilation, and exploitation are among some of these problems. Studies have shown that the Mexican American community suffers from a significant gap in education levels, employment, wages, housing, and other issues relating to poverty that persist through the second, third, and fourth generations.”

On close examination of the book, the Texas Observer wrote:

What’s most notable about the text, on first glance, is how little attention is given to the history of Mexican-American people, and how much is rote retelling of the separate histories of the United States and Mexico. In a 500-page book, only the last few chapters confront civil and labor rights issues. Most is subject matter you’d expect in any U.S. history book — the Declaration of Independence, the Kennedy assassination, the Cold War.

“Every year, Mexican-American festivals feature mariachi bands and traditional Spanish dancing,” one passage reads, before going on to mention the not-quite-so-Mexican salsa, tango and rumba. “Latino celebrities in general are considered to be full of talent, drama, and appeal,” it reads. A passage on “Latin Literature” features the beloved Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez — who at least lived in Mexico — along with the Chilean-American Isabel Allende and the Brazilian Pablo Coelho, who wrote in Portuguese.

Texans have until September to make comments and corrections to the manuscript, which is posted on the TEA’s Proclamation 2017 Pre-Adoption Samples page.

Actually, hidden would be a more accurate word. For some reason, rather than identify the book by its title, Mexican American Heritage, it’s listed under the publisher’s name, Momentum Instruction, under the heading Social Studies.

For a state whose majority will be Latino in a few short years releasing such a book isn’t just an insult to the students and their families but is a short-sighted attempt to keep a growing majority down. A tactic that is wearing thin and is no longer acceptable.

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