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SBOE rejects that lousy Mexican-American studies textbook

Nice.

The State Board of Education voted 14-0 Wednesday to deny the adoption of a Mexican-American studies textbook decried by opponents as racist and inaccurate.

The textbook, titled “Mexican American Heritage,” was the only submission the board received when it made a 2015 call for textbooks for high school social studies classes, including Mexican-American studies.

But critics say the book is riddled with factual, “interpretive” and “omission” errors and doesn’t meet basic standards for use in classrooms.

Wednesday’s vote wasn’t the last step, as the board will take a final vote Friday. The only board member not present for the vote was David Bradley. In emails obtained through a state open records request by Texas Freedom Network, a left-leaning advocacy group, the Beaumont Republican had written that a “lack of quorum on [the book] would be nice. Deny the Hispanics a record vote. The book still fails.”

With as much dignity and gravity as I can muster, I say “Neener neener” to you, David Bradley. It’s what you deserve.

The Chron reports on the hearing at which opponents of the textbook far outnumbered its supporters.

State education board members on Tuesday grilled the publisher of a controversial Mexican-American studies textbook about alleged errors, all but promising to reject the proposed book later this week.

Members of the State Board of Education are poised to vote Friday on whether to adopt “Mexican American Heritage,” a textbook that university professors and historical experts argue is riddled with errors, cherry-picks sources and claims immigrants have radical ideas that pose a cultural and political threat to American society.

“This book offers one thing. It offers hatred. It offers hate toward Mexican-Americans,” said Ruben Cortez Jr., a member from Brownsville.

Board members from both parties spent nearly two hours of a public hearing peppering Momentum Instruction CEO and owner Cynthia Dunbar about reported errors in the proposed textbook.

“You have submitted a textbook that will be rejected” from landing on the state’s preferred textbook list, said board member Erika Beltran, D-Fort Worth, who criticized Dunbar for failing to recall the credentials of the book’s authors. “We’re not just talking about a textbook on Mexican-American heritage, we’re talking about the education of 5 million kids.”

[…]

Vice Chairman Thomas Ratliff, R-Mount Pleasant, who said in September the book was “dead on arrival,” stressed the board needs to focus on the errors that Dunbar has refused to fix.

“I’m not a scientist, but I know enough to know that communism does not cause natural disasters,” said Ratliff, referring to a passage in the textbook that links the two. Dunbar said the passage was “not a verified factual error,” then later agreed to change the sentence.

Emilio Zamora, a University of Texas at Austin professor who reviewed the text, accused the authors and publisher of arrogance by refusing to acknowledge the problems.

“Not once do they agree with any of our findings of error – not once,” said Zamora, shaking his fist behind a podium before the state board. He and a team of professors reported finding 407 errors in the book’s latest version.

See here and here for some background, and here for the report on how crappy this textbook was that SBOE member Ruben Cortez’s ad hoc committee put together. This issue won’t go away for long. The SBOE will put out another call for a hopefully non-crappy textbook, so there should be more submissions in the future. And just to make this all the more fun, to-be-rejected publisher Dunbar is threatening a lawsuit if she gets rejected, because by God you just don’t do that in Donald Trump’s America. Or something like that. The Trib, the Observer, the Current, the Texas Freedom Network, the DMN, and the Austin Chronicle have more.

Publisher of crappy Mexican American Studies textbook defends said textbook

It’s not that crappy, she swears.

The publisher of a proposed Mexican-American studies textbook that scholars, elected officials and Hispanic activists have decried as racist and inaccurate is defending the high school text ahead of a public hearing on the book Tuesday before the Texas State Board of Education.

“There’s never been a book in the history of SBOE that’s been attacked so prematurely in the process,” said Cynthia Dunbar, a former right-wing Republican member of the education board who now heads the educational curriculum company that produced the textbook.

The text, titled Mexican American Heritage and published by Momentum Instruction, was the only submission the board received after it issued a call in 2015 for textbooks to be used in Mexican-American studies classes at the high school level. The powerful 15-member panel sets statewide curriculum and approves textbooks.

[…]

Dunbar, who had not previously responded to interview requests, told The Texas Tribune on Monday that criticisms have been overblown and that most of them are based on a draft copy that her company has since revised. Changes include corrections of at least a few factual errors — one identified by an SBOE-appointed review board — and other tweaks in response to public feedback. The passage that implied that Mexican-American laborers are lazy has been “clarified,” Dunbar said, while contending that critics took that particular bit out of context.

“It exposed a racial bias stereotyped against them,” she said, noting that the review board found that the book totally met state curriculum standards.

“The point is there’s no hidden agenda here,” she added.

See here and here for some background. It’s nice that Dunbar says the book has undergone revisions and fixed some errors since it first appeared, but Dunbar has a long history of saying and doing ugly things, so her credibility isn’t very high. I’ll wait to hear from someone more trustworthy before I believe there’s any merit to her publication. In the meantime, the advice of rejecting this book and (one hopes) getting other groups to write them remains sound. See this open letter from SBOE member Marisa Perez for more.

The good news is that there doesn’t appear to be any support for adopting this textbook.

Hundreds of Hispanic advocates, activists, students and elected officials from across the state on Tuesday called on the Texas Board of Education to reject a proposed Mexican-American studies textbook they blasted as blatantly racist and which many scholars have deemed historically inaccurate.

The 15-member education board took public input on the text during an hours-long public hearing at which some of the panel’s Republican members criticized the Legislature for diminishing the education board’s power to vet textbooks.

The panel will vote to accept or reject the text in November, when it will hold a second public hearing.

[…]

Ruben Cortez Jr., D-Brownsville, who was so concerned about the text that he convened an ad-hoc committee of scholars and educators to review it, said he believes a supermajority of his colleagues will vote to reject it. (A report his committee unveiled last week found that the text is littered with errors.) Meanwhile, Vice Chairman Thomas Ratliff, R-Mount Pleasant, described the text Tuesday as “dead on arrival” and board member Marty Rowley, R-Amarillo, said he has “real concerns” about it.

Chairwoman Donna Bahorich, R-Houston, kicked off the public hearing with a heartfelt message dedicated to “Mexican-American colleagues, friends and neighbors,” assuring them that the board is committed to approving accurate instructional materials that adequately reflect their major role in U.S. society.

“Your story is part of the American story,” she said. “Everyone deserves to have their story told in a fair and accurate manner.”

Several Republican board members criticized Texas legislators on Tuesday for passing laws over the years that have diminished the panel’s authority to decide what textbooks local school districts use. And they warned that their weakened oversight could mean the proliferation of even more controversial instructional material.

They pointed specifically to legislation approved in 2011 that allowed school districts to choose textbooks that haven’t been approved by the board as long as they can show their instructional materials cover state curriculum standards. (Senate Bill 6, passed in the wake of a raucous, high-profile debate over social studies curriculum in which members of the board’s since-diminished social conservative block — including Dunbar — grabbed national headlines for their extreme comments.)

David Bradley, R-Beaumont, and other board members complained repeatedly Tuesday that the law allows for publishers to peddle problematic textbooks directly to school districts. He and former board chairwoman Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands, asked Democratic Hispanic lawmakers who addressed the board if they’d be willing to reconsider those parameters.

Sen. José Menéndez, D-San Antonio, acknowledged that “legislation has a history of unintended consequences and this very well may be a case.”The Senate Education Committee is “looking at everything including this issue you’re bringing up,” state Sen. José Rodríguez, D-El Paso, who is a member of that panel, told the board.

But Rep. Diego Bernal, D-San Antonio, said the purpose of Tuesday’s hearing was not to “re-litigate” old legislation but discuss whether the text should be allowed in Texas classrooms.

“Not only does this book not belong in the classroom, it doesn’t deserve the attention it’s getting now,” he said.

I agree, but at least all the attention has accomplished one thing, and that’s the real need for a much better textbook. Let’s hope the next time around we get more than one possible candidates for that.

Documenting the ways that proposed Mexican-American Studies textbook sucks

Read the report.

Saying that a proposed Mexican-American studies textbook is “dripping with racism and intolerance,” several educators and students are calling for the State Board of Education to reject the controversial book.

“It is an utter shame we must deal with racially offensive academic work,” State Board member Ruben Cortez Jr., D-Brownsville, said Tuesday at a news conference in Brownsville announcing that a committee he convened had produced a 54-page report citing inaccuracies in the proposed “Mexican American Heritage” textbook.

He said the textbook describes Mexicans as people who don’t value hard work and who only bring crimes and drugs into the country. According to the committee’s report, one passage said, “Stereotypically, Mexicans were viewed as lazy compared to European or American workers … It was also traditional to skip work on Mondays, and drinking on the job could be a problem.”

Cortez convened the ad hoc committee — which includes professors and high school teachers — to examine the book being considered for use in Mexican-American studies classes for Texas high school students. A public hearing over the proposed textbook is set for next Tuesday in Austin, and members of the committee will present their report then.

[…]

Board member David Bradley, R-Beaumont, said he thinks the state needs to focus on preparing students for college before adding courses such as Mexican-American studies. He also believes many school districts with a limited schedule and budget will not be able to add the optional course into their curriculum.

“This is not a required course,” he said. “The use of the textbook is certainly optional to the district. It’s really kind of perplexing as to what all the controversy is.”

Bradley also said he thinks the course is discriminatory toward other ethnic groups.

“Are we not being a little discriminatory in singling out one group?” he said. “I am French-Irish, and you don’t see the French or the Irish pounding the table wanting special treatment, do you?”

See here for the background, and here for a copy of the report. I’d like to personally thank Board member David Bradley for elevating the discussion of this issue as only he can. Allow me to respond in kind, Irishman to Irishman: Hey, David, what’s the difference between an Irish wedding and an Irish wake? One less drunk at the wake. If I were to write a textbook about the history of the Irish-American people, and I were to include that as a True Fact about the Irish, would you consider that a problem, or would you consider that to be a valid scholarly conclusion that should be taught in the classroom? I’ll give you a few minutes to formulate an answer. In the meantime, there will be a #RejectTheText rally in Austin on Tuesday, for those of you who might want to attend. The Current, the Press, and Mayor Turner, who called on the SBOE to reject this textbook, have more.

In which we find another way to suck at textbooks

Oh, good Lord.

If the State Board of Education approves a proposed Mexican-American studies textbook this fall, Texas students could learn that the Aztecs waged war because of “bloodlust,” 19th-century Mexican industrial laborers often drank on the job and slavery was in swift decline just before the Civil War, scholars and activists said at a press conference Monday.

Activist groups and professors with the Responsible Ethnic Studies Textbook Coalition gathered Monday at the Texas Education Agency to list their concerns with the book, “Mexican American Heritage,” and call on the board to reject it.

“Excessive errors render the proposed textbook useless and even counterproductive,” said Emilio Zamora, a professor of history at the University of Texas at Austin who reviewed the textbook at the request of board member Ruben Cortez, D-Brownsville.

The text was the only submission the board received after it issued a call in 2015 for textbooks to be used in Mexican-American studies classes at the high school level. Roughly 10 high schools in Texas currently offer Mexican-American studies; the content of the course varies from school to school, but is often interdisciplinary and includes history, literature and current events. Activists had hoped that a state-approved textbook would make it easier for teachers to start offering the class.

At the press conference, Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, noted that the publisher of “Mexican American Heritage,” Momentum Instruction, LLC, has never published a textbook before, and one of the text’s contributors is Cynthia Dunbar, a conservative former board member.

[…]

At the press conference, Zamora said he found an average of five to seven errors on each page he reviewed. He said the text focuses more on general American and world history than on the experiences of Mexican-Americans, characterizes Mexican-American social justice leaders as a threat to the United States and doesn’t cite professional scholarship in the interdisciplinary field of Mexican-American Studies.

Christopher Carmona, chairman of the Committee on Mexican American Studies in Pre-K-12 at Tejas Foco, the state branch of the National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies, said the flawed textbook reflects a broader problem in Texas: the relative paucity of Mexican-American studies courses in public schools where over half of the student body is Hispanic. Currently, about 10 high schools have established such courses through the state’s elective course “Special Topics in Social Studies,” which allows schools to develop their own classes, including ethnic studies.

“The textbook is a symptom of the fact that we don’t have this in place,” said Carmona, who is also an instructor of English at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

The call for textbooks was issued as a compromise when the board debated ethnic studies in 2014. Cortez initially proposed establishing a full-fledged Mexican-American studies course. Instead, the board voted 11-3 to ask publishers to submit textbooks that teachers could use for courses in various ethnic studies classes.

First, let’s be clear that any endeavor involving Cynthia Dunbar is going to be a miasma of toxic wingnuttery. The existence of this textbook has been known for a couple of months, and the SBOE has yet to take up the matter of whether it will be adopted or tossed onto the trash pile where it belongs. (This is the SBOE we’re talking about, so you can probably guess what the likely outcome is.) I – haven’t followed this closely so I can’t tell you a whole lot more about this; go read that Observer link for the basics, and go here if you want to get involved. It sure would be nice if we could avoid embarrassing ourselves again, wouldn’t it? ThinkProgress, the Observer, and the Press have more.

SBOE does something OK

I know, I’m as surprised as you are.

Instead of making Mexican-American studies an official high school course, the Texas State Board of Education has settled on a tentative compromise that would allow school districts to decide whether to offer the course.

“It wasn’t necessarily what we were hoping, with a stand-alone course for Mexican-American studies,” member Marisa Perez, a San Antonio Democrat, said in an interview after the meeting. “But it’s definitely a step in the right direction.”

In an 11-3 vote, board members added the class — along with African-American studies, Native American studies and Asian-American studies — to the list of instructional materials that publishers will develop for Texas social studies standards in the 2016-17 school year. That means schools will have a list of state-approved textbooks and other resources to choose from if they opt to give the class.

“This will enable districts to teach courses in Mexican-American studies, African-American studies, Native American studies if they choose to do so,” said board member Marty Rowley, who spoke in favor of the motion, supporting local development of the courses for school districts. “There is curriculum out there, there are materials out there, and publishers are free to submit those materials.”

The board will have a final vote on Friday.

See here for the background. While the vote is encouraging, the Observer notes that the crazy people are reacting to this about as you’d expect them to, so don’t get overconfident about this. Stace and TFN Insider have more.

Standing up for science

Sure hope it did some good.

A past Texas State Board of Education chairman and outspoken creationist urged his former colleagues on Tuesday to approve high school biology textbooks he said would “strike a final blow to the teaching of evolution.”

Appearing at a board hearing on new instructional materials, Don McLeroy, a Bryan dentist who lost his seat on the SBOE in the 2010 Republican primary, told board members that the science textbooks currently under consideration contained many “hidden gems just waiting to be mined by inquisitive students” that proved there was no evidence for evolution.

McLeroy’s testimony diverged from other witnesses skeptical of evolution, who criticized the proposed textbooks for inadequate coverage of alternatives to the scientific theory and asked the board not to approve them until publishers made changes.

[…]

The 15-member SBOE won’t vote on the 14 science textbooks currently under consideration until November. Chairwoman Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands, said the board would also discuss revising the state’s textbook approval process, which science education advocates have criticized for allegedly lacking transparency and including unqualified reviewers.

Cargill herself has drawn accusations of improper involvement in the review process from the Texas Freedom Network, a group that monitors religious influence in public schools, after reports that she encouraged creationists on the panels. Cargill said she only attended the meetings to thank volunteers for their work reviewing the texts.

State panels have been reviewing sample instructional materials since April. The panels, which are assembled by SBOE members, have included several prominent creationists and evolution skeptics, as well as others without a background in education or science. Their preliminary proposed changes obtained by the Texas Freedom Network pushed for the inclusion of more arguments critical of evolution.

[…]

Prior to Tuesday’s hearing, three SBOE members — Ruben Cortez, D-Brownsville; Marisa Perez, D-San Antonio; and Martha Dominguez, D-El Paso — expressed their disappointment with the process at a rally organized by the Texas Freedom Network. They said that publishers were being pressured into including non-science based arguments against evolution and called for only “content-relevant educators” to be included on review panels.

Cargill said during the hearing that she had asked publishers to voluntarily disclose for public review any changes they made to textbooks prior to their adoption. She also emphasized that any reports made by review teams were preliminary — and that in November, the board would take up suggestions about how to improve the process.

“I’m very appreciative of the reviewers themselves,” she said. “But we’ve got some work to do.”

Just as Rick Perry works to keep Texas sick, so does Don McLeroy work to keep Texas ignorant. TFN Insider liveblogged the hearing, and also provided some extra background. What happens from here I don’t know, but as always it would be a good idea to stay engaged, and to keep an eye on the November hearing. Finally, kudos to new SBOE members Cortez, Perez, and Dominguez for their involvement. Perez and Dominguez gave us some moments of uncertainty last year, but so far they’ve exceeded my expectations on the board. Eileen Smith and the Stand Up for Science Tumblr have more.

Precinct analysis: Comparing 2012 and 2008, Senate and SBOE edition

To follow up on my previous examination of how the 2012 election returns looked in State House districts compared to the 2008 returns, I now have the data to look at other types of districts as well. You can find it as well on the Texas Legislative Council’s webpage – here are the reports for the State Senate and the SBOE. Those are the Excel report directories, but if you want something else – CSV or PDF – just click the Parent Directory link and find the report you want. Let’s first look at the Senate:

Dist McCain Pct Obama08 Pct Romney Pct Obama12 Pct RIdx DIdx ============================================================================== 01 214,365 69.50% 91,835 29.77% 220,140 72.14% 81,936 26.85% 1.04 0.90 02 159,810 60.79% 100,445 38.21% 161,348 63.22% 90,500 35.46% 1.04 0.93 03 213,045 71.13% 83,554 27.90% 225,526 75.47% 69,915 23.40% 1.06 0.84 04 195,512 67.01% 93,968 32.21% 216,087 70.03% 88,832 28.79% 1.05 0.89 05 170,905 59.67% 111,063 38.78% 181,385 63.06% 99,176 34.48% 1.06 0.89 06 48,222 35.81% 85,445 63.45% 43,931 32.46% 89,849 66.39% 0.91 1.05 07 184,620 66.24% 92,106 33.04% 196,383 66.76% 94,057 31.97% 1.01 0.97 08 180,746 59.48% 119,559 39.34% 186,753 61.67% 110,824 36.60% 1.04 0.93 09 145,020 57.76% 103,614 41.27% 142,499 59.28% 94,117 39.15% 1.03 0.95 10 158,677 52.13% 143,351 47.10% 155,936 53.31% 132,707 45.37% 1.02 0.96 11 173,843 62.64% 101,218 36.47% 184,101 65.06% 94,893 33.53% 1.04 0.92 12 186,268 63.00% 106,834 36.14% 197,333 66.23% 95,905 32.19% 1.05 0.89 13 35,820 16.44% 181,104 83.13% 32,917 15.44% 178,404 83.70% 0.94 1.01 14 114,865 34.49% 212,317 63.76% 116,001 36.14% 193,112 60.16% 1.05 0.94 15 85,552 39.37% 130,042 59.85% 89,030 39.68% 132,125 58.89% 1.01 0.98 16 161,779 54.99% 129,105 43.89% 159,759 56.96% 116,603 41.58% 1.04 0.95 17 174,371 57.76% 124,939 41.38% 178,241 59.36% 117,562 39.15% 1.03 0.95 18 181,472 64.51% 97,598 34.69% 198,175 67.34% 92,809 31.54% 1.04 0.91 19 92,299 43.57% 117,658 55.54% 94,159 44.11% 116,477 54.56% 1.01 0.98 20 81,772 43.32% 105,412 55.84% 78,474 41.65% 107,629 57.12% 0.96 1.02 21 81,054 40.85% 115,445 58.18% 79,167 39.83% 116,117 58.42% 0.98 1.00 22 184,967 65.29% 96,063 33.91% 186,950 67.97% 84,413 30.69% 1.04 0.91 23 46,236 19.46% 189,896 79.91% 42,408 18.09% 190,103 81.10% 0.93 1.01 24 190,823 66.60% 92,555 32.30% 195,593 70.71% 76,766 27.75% 1.06 0.86 25 218,093 61.41% 132,809 37.39% 233,884 64.15% 123,739 33.94% 1.04 0.91 26 84,889 38.24% 134,470 60.58% 74,472 36.30% 127,237 62.01% 0.95 1.02 27 47,197 32.24% 97,746 66.77% 45,768 30.58% 102,319 68.37% 0.95 1.02 28 189,851 71.07% 75,007 28.08% 182,982 73.59% 62,163 25.00% 1.04 0.89 29 63,736 33.50% 124,663 65.52% 59,137 33.33% 115,612 65.16% 0.99 0.99 30 216,383 71.14% 84,565 27.80% 223,487 75.74% 66,674 22.60% 1.06 0.81 31 196,846 77.75% 54,132 21.38% 186,762 79.51% 45,034 19.17% 1.02 0.90

As you can see, Sen. Wendy Davis not only won a district that was carried by Mitt Romney, she won a district that was more Republican in 2012 than it was in 2008. As far as I know, her district is no longer being contested in the redistricting lawsuit, so barring anything strange what we see is what we’ll get going forward. It’s not clear to me that she would have more to fear in 2014 than she did last year or would in 2016, but I presume someone is calculating her odds of re-election versus the odds of being elected statewide, and advising her accordingly. I’m glad that’s not my job. Three other Democratic Senators saw a drop in Democratic performance in their districts – Sens. Kirk Watson, John Whitmire, and Carlos Uresti. Watson’s SD14 was affected by the overall decline in Travis County turnout, which I suspect is a blip and not a trend; Whitmire saw modest increases in both D and R turnout; and Uresti had a small bump in R turnout and a tiny decline in D turnout. I don’t think any of it matters, but Uresti has the smallest margin of error after Davis. Pre-redistricting, SD09 was almost as purple a district as SD10 was in 2008, but that ain’t the case now. Democrats really don’t have any obvious targets to expand their delegation, though SDs 16, 17, and maybe 09 will trend their way somewhat over the decade. But don’t expect much turnover in the Senate that isn’t caused by primaries or voluntary departures.

Here’s the SBOE:

Dist McCain Pct Obama08 Pct Romney Pct Obama12 Pct RIdx DIdx ============================================================================== 01 168,833 42.84% 221,865 56.30% 161,807 42.58% 213,132 56.08% 0.99 1.00 02 191,754 47.11% 211,625 52.00% 187,147 46.69% 209,020 52.15% 0.99 1.00 03 157,233 38.29% 249,268 60.70% 149,659 37.20% 247,020 61.40% 0.97 1.01 04 89,884 22.61% 305,638 76.89% 84,036 21.07% 311,236 78.04% 0.93 1.01 05 358,691 52.16% 319,808 46.50% 375,942 54.67% 294,887 42.89% 1.05 0.92 06 320,914 58.39% 224,088 40.77% 332,415 59.70% 215,839 38.76% 1.02 0.95 07 358,380 61.22% 221,939 37.91% 390,808 63.64% 215,952 35.16% 1.04 0.93 08 370,712 67.66% 172,373 31.46% 398,664 70.32% 160,372 28.29% 1.04 0.90 09 436,392 69.69% 184,583 29.48% 449,301 73.29% 156,833 25.58% 1.05 0.87 10 313,379 53.54% 263,033 44.94% 331,022 56.97% 235,591 40.55% 1.06 0.90 11 391,597 61.92% 234,922 37.14% 396,329 64.27% 210,974 34.21% 1.04 0.92 12 365,314 57.49% 262,939 41.38% 373,920 59.71% 242,306 38.69% 1.04 0.94 13 123,380 27.66% 319,557 71.63% 110,615 25.75% 314,630 73.26% 0.93 1.02 14 401,810 66.98% 192,696 32.12% 413,181 70.62% 163,020 27.86% 1.05 0.87 15 430,765 74.27% 144,184 24.86% 413,942 76.91% 116,797 21.70% 1.04 0.87

No surprises here. Democratic districts were slightly more Democratic, Republican districts were more Republican. Sure is a good thing Martha Dominguez didn’t withdraw, because District 1 was way too easy a pickup to throw away. Keep an eye on freshman Democrat Ruben Cortez in District 2, who will be on the ballot in 2014, as that could go Republican in a bad year. The Dems’ best shot at pickups are in districts 5 and 10. Both will next be on the ballot in 2016.

I have one more post in this series to come, a look at the Congressional districts. Hope you find this useful.