Another chapter in the already-sordid story of Texas Republicans behaving very, very badly. According to the Associated Press:
A textbook proposed to help teach the cultural history of Mexican-Americans in Texas public schools is under scrutiny by scholars, some of whom decry the effort as racist and not a reflection of serious academic study.
The textbook, titled “Mexican American Heritage,” describes Mexican-Americans as people who “adopted a revolutionary narrative that opposed Western civilization and wanted to destroy this society.” It also links Mexican-Americans to undocumented immigrants, saying illegal immigration has “caused a number of economic and security problems” in the U.S. that include “poverty, drugs, crime, non-assimilation, and exploitation”
The State Board of Education voted to include textbooks on Mexican-American studies after activists last year demanded the subject be formally included in state curriculum. “Mexican American Heritage” is the first textbook on the subject included in a list of proposed instructional materials.
In 2014, a broad coalition of community, education, and legal advocacy organizations petitioned the State Board of Education and won the chance for the board to consider appropriate textbooks for Mexican-American studies.
Now, the same board has announced its selection of a book that is the equivalent of picking the infamous, fraudulent, and thoroughly anti-Semitic screed The Protocols of the Elders of Zion as the primary text for a history of Judaism. More from AP:
The book “is not a text that we have recommended nor we will be recommending,” says Douglas Torres-Edwards, coordinator of a TEA-approved Mexican-American studies course that has been implemented in some Houston Independent School District schools. “Frankly, that author is not recognized as someone who is part of the Mexican-American studies scholarship and most individuals engaged in scholarship will not recognize her as an author.”
The book is produced by Momentum Instruction, a company that appears to be owned or operated by Cynthia Dunbar, a member of the Texas State Board of Education from 2007 to 2011. Dunbar, a right-wing Christian activist who questioned the constitutionality of public schools in 2008, labeled the education system “tyrannical” when she published her book, “One Nation Under God,” while serving on the board.
The two authors, quite plainly, lack appropriate credentials for the job they were assigned.
Co-author Jaime Riddle, whose LinkedIn profile describes her as the “primary author,” does have an undergraduate degree from Duke. That degree, plus her graduate degree from Pat Robertson’s Regent University, helped her secure, before she came on board at Momentum Group in 2015 to write the Mexican-American studies textbook, several jobs:
- A content designer for Cambridge Christian Fellowship, where she helped “pioneer Imago Dei, a group focused on apologetics, biblical worldview, and networking Christian students with Christian faculty for on-campus solidarity.”
- A freelance blogger, who wrote for blogs like “www.FreeMarketMommy.com, a website devoted to explaining financial concepts and encouraging childhood entrepreneurship through literature and extension activities.” She also notes her extensive experience reviewing books on Amazon.com.
- Four years teaching in a homeschool co-op, where one of her classes prompted “several young people to consider a future in mission work.”
- Content developer for the Go Network. She took on some editing duties for books like “The Fight for Life by noted pro-life activist Catherine Davis,” and served as “co-author of three books including Introducing the Bible, Come Follow Me, and Cracking the End Time Code (against the Armageddon fad).”
Valarie Angle, Riddle’s co-author, has experience as an early childhood and elementary school teacher, but no graduate level coursework in history. She did take a course on the philosophy of Ayn Rand. When not writing Mexican-American studies textbooks, she runs Bella Vita, a wellness coaching business, promising:
I am an overwhelmed woman’s secret weapon. I transform your cluttered mind into a peaceful fountain of creativity, your stressed knot of a body into a wellness machine, your chaotic frenzy of life into a seamless flow of energy, and your choppy disaster of a schedule into a calm fulfilling routine.
While she assures readers that her company is not about peddling products, she does hawk reduced-chemical cosmetics and essential oils.
What language is strong enough to explain just how insulting and wrong it is to select a textbook written by a blogger and a wellness coach, published by a company run by a former SBOE member whose stunts while serving included opening a state board meeting about what students should learn about the separation of church and state with a prayer?
Scholars, teachers, parents, and reasonable Texans, keep an eye on this story, and be prepared to speak out:
Texans have until September to submit comments on the proposed instructional materials, said TEA spokeswoman DeEtta Culbertson. She also said the proposed textbooks will undergo review by a committee that includes teachers and administrators and that committee will make recommendations to the board.
Burnt Orange Report and many others will watch closely to see who is selected to serve on the review committee, and whether their credentials support their selection.
Photo by Patrick Feller used under creative commons license. Vaquero by Luis Jimenez stands in Houston’s Moody Park. The sculpture itself, and its installation in the park, are the sort of thing that should be covered in any text on Mexican-American history in Texas. Curious to see how the Riddle-Angle text frames the story.