Texas GOP Ed Board Member’s Wish on Textbook Controversy: ‘Deny the Hispanics a Record Vote’

by Dan Quinn

Emails show that a Republican member of the State Board of Education wants to “deny the Hispanics a record vote” when the board decides in November whether to adopt a controversial Mexican-American studies textbook proposed for Texas public schools. Other related emails from individuals outside the board are laced with political criticism and insults, with one writer referring to a state board member from the Rio Grande Valley as “another whining Mexican.”

The Texas Freedom Network obtained the emails through a public information request that sought communications related to the proposed adoption of the Mexican American Heritage textbook. Scholars have documented scores of errors in the textbook as well as passages that promote racial stereotypes and distort the historical record. Mexican-American studies courses are elective classes in some Texas school districts.

The emails obtained by TFN include comments from opponents and supporters of the textbook who have written to state board members about the issue. Some emails include exchanges between state board members themselves.

In one email exchange, board member David Bradley, R-Beaumont, asked board colleague Thomas Ratliff, R-Mount Pleasant, whether he supported or opposed adoption of the textbook. In replies to other emailers, Ratliff made it clear that he would “do everything in my power to kill that book.” And he told Bradley that the textbook is “terrible” and “riddled with errors.” One of Bradley’s emails in reply suggests that his own preference would be to avoid giving opponents the satisfaction of seeing the textbook voted down. Bradley speculated about whether the textbook’s adoption could fail for lack of a motion from any board member. He then suggested that board members could simply leave and skip the vote:

“A lack of a quorum on [sic] would be nice. Deny the Hispanics a record vote. The book still fails.”

Bradley has publicly expressed his contempt for the textbook’s opponents and for advocates of teaching Mexican-American studies courses. In June, for example, he characterized advocates as “left-leaning, radical Hispanic activists” looking for “special treatment.”

Bradley’s wasn’t the only offensive email we obtained. One emailer sent a note — with the subject line “Cry baby Mexicans” — to board member Ruben Cortez, D-Brownsville:

“You well know that the Dumbocrats are the inventors of racism (i.e. KKK). You sound like another whining Mexican; nothing is ever to your liking.”

Cortez has been a leading advocate for Mexican-American studies courses but has strongly criticized the proposed textbook as promoting falsehoods and hate.

A Houston attorney, who reportedly served as an alternate delegate to the Republican National Convention this summer, wrote to state board members in support of the textbook. When Ratliff expressed his opposition in reply, the attorney criticized him for relying on Mexican-American studies scholars who have reviewed the text:

 “One only need to be able to read and research, and you as an SBOE member are more than qualified and authorized to do so. It is not appropriate for you to assume that someone else has the corner on accurate transmission of history when we all have, at our fingertips, a body of evidence available to evaluate the historical accuracy, Sir. … I have reviewed textbooks before. It is not necessary to be degreed to do so. The only qualification besides being able to objectively read the materials, is that one has no prejudice.”

Of course, the fact that the textbook was authored by individuals who are not Mexican-American scholars appears to be one of the text’s fatal flaws. Now people like the Houston attorney apparently think it’s unwise even to listen to Mexican-American scholars who have reviewed it.

In other emails in her extended exchange with Ratliff, the attorney expresses her support for “American exceptionalism” and her concern that Ratliff’s opposition to the textbook might be driven by a “socialist progressive ideology.” She also explains her perspective:

“I for one, am proud of my nation, and though it is not perfect, it is a system that far outshines any other on this planet. I am committed to fighting for its survival in the legacy that is tantamount to our children. In the midst of what is nothing more than a hackneyed obfuscation of realities favoring an entitlement mentality, bent on degrading this nation, pulling it down to the level of failed systems of government in other parts of the modern world, I reject the faux guilt-ridden revisionism that is the whine du jour.”

Emails from other writers supporting adoption of the Mexican American Heritage textbook appear to be part of a coordinated campaign. Using almost identical language, a number of writers argued for the textbook’s adoption as a way to reward the publisher for submitting it to the state board’s review process. They also call the textbook “extremely objective.”

Ratliff wasn’t the only state board member to express opposition to the textbook. Board member Pat Hardy, R-Fort Worth, noted her opposition in an email to an aide to Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. Turner has called for the board to reject the textbook. Hardy wrote:

“As a member of the Texas State Board of Education I would like to say that I concur with the mayor’s concern with the book on Mexican-American history. I will do all that I can to oppose the approval of the book in question.”

The state board is set to decide in November on whether to adopt the textbook.

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