As expected following Wednesday’s preliminary vote, the Texas State Board of Education today chose not to adopt a proposed Mexican American studies (MAS) textbook that the author and publisher had rushed forward to meet a deadline scholars had warned was too tight. Now, after failing to get more than a single textbook submission for adoption in each of the last two years, it’s past time for the board to do what scholars and advocates asked in 2014: create real curriculum standards for a MAS course and then issue a new call for publishers to submit instructional materials.
That decision in 2014 declining to create curriculum standards for a MAS course directly led to an unfortunate series of events, culminating with the vote this week.
The absence of curriculum standards opened the door to the submission last year of a deeply flawed and offensive textbook based on racial stereotypes and other misinformation. The board rightly rejected that textbook. Then board members asked again for publishers to submit textbooks but insisted on an unusually short deadline that was almost impossible for most publishers to meet. As a result, they got just one submission this year, The Mexican American Studies Toolkit.
The state’s official review team, made up of educators and scholars, noted a variety of concerns about the textbook. The author made substantial revisions to meet reviewers’ objections, but board members were concerned that there wasn’t sufficient time or capacity to vet the new content.
TFN refrained from taking a position for or against the adoption of The MAS Toolkit, deferring to the judgement of the scholars on the review team — as the board ultimately did in declining to adopt the book. But we remain concerned that Texas — a state in which more than half of public school students are Hispanic, mostly Mexican American — still has no state-approved curriculum standards or instructional materials to help local school districts create sound, effective MAS courses.
A number of state board members have indicated a renewed commitment to changing this. They have the first opportunity to begin that process in January. They should take it.