Friday, September 9, 2016

Mexican-American scholars in uproar over textbook

Two years ago, Mexican American educators, activists and officials persuaded the Texas State School Board to seek submissions for a textbook on Mexican American history.

They couldn’t have imagined that this Tuesday they would be traveling to Austin for a hearing on the sole submission, a 507-page tome titled “Mexican American Heritage.”

Or that they would be asking the state board to toss it in the trash bin.

Nor could they have imagined that the person publishing the book and writing part of it would be a former member of the State Board.

Cynthia Dunbar was a Houston-area member of the state board from 2007 to 2011.

She stirred controversy beyond her attempts to change curricula in conformity with her belief that God wants, and the founders intended, for the United States to be a Christian nation.

In 2008, Dunbar wrote that if Barack Obama was elected, a massive terrorist attack within six months would be planned “by those with whom Obama truly sympathizes to take down the America that is a threat to tyranny.”

She added that Obama would use the attack as an excuse to declare martial law.

This week, a committee of eight Hispanic scholars and educators issued a 54-page critique of the book submitted by Dunbar.

It alleges many errors of fact and omission.

It also, they say, is infused with considerable bias.

They cite a multiple of examples, but one stands out.

It is worth quoting at some length:

Stereotypically, Mexicans were viewed as lazy compared to European or American workers. Industrialists were very driven, competitive men who were always on the clock and continually concerned about efficiency.

They were used to their workers putting in a full day’s work, quietly and obediently, and respecting rules, authority, and property.

In contrast, Mexican laborers were not reared to put in a full day’s work so vigorously.

There was a cultural attitude of ‘mañana,’ or ‘tomorrow,’ when it came to high-gear production. It was also traditional to skip work on Mondays, and drinking on the job could be a problem.

The result was that Mexican laborers were seen as inferior and kept in low-paying, unskilled jobs that did not provide a pathway upward.
I don’t know what would be worse: Hispanic students reading that passage, or Anglo students.

Dunbar has objected that the passage was intended to portray the prejudices Mexican Americans had to overcome.

But the first sentence doesn’t identify the way Mexicans were viewed as false, and the rest of the paragraph presents those stereotypes as fact.

I wonder if that includes passages describing the Chicano civil rights movement as adopting “a revolutionary narrative that opposed Western civilization and wanted to destroy this society.”

Dunbar considers the critique as unfair and not constructive.

 “It would seem like the logical thing would be to call and talk to people calmly and work together instead of doing this horrible hit piece, character assassination,” she told the Austin American-Statesman this week.

Having moved to Virginia and served as state co-chair for Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign, Dunbar is now a national Republican committee woman pumping for the candidate who called Mexicans rapists and declared a Mexican-American judge could not be fair.
When she angrily says, “We want our country back,” it’s not a message that is hard for first, second and third generation Mexican Americans to decode.

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