ADL Testifies Against Controversial Textbook

  • September 13, 2016

The Anti-Defamation League submitted testimony to the Texas State Board of Education asking the board to “critically review” the proposed textbook: Mexican American Heritage.  The book has been said to contain numerous errors and promote stereotypes of Mexican Americans.   ADL’s testimony in full is below:

September 13, 2016

Good morning, my name is Lisa Humphrey. I serve as the Assistant Regional Director for the Austin Region of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). We thank the Board for the opportunity to speak about the proposed Mexican-American studies textbook that is being considered.

ADL is a human rights, civil rights and education organization. We are dedicated in purpose and program to combatting anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry.  ADL has offices in Austin, Dallas and Houston.  Because we serve a state-wide constituency, ADL is able to offer perspective from El Paso to Marshall, from Wichita Falls to the Valley.  For over a century we have been an ardent advocate “for securing justice and fair treatment for all.”

It is ADL’s commitment to “fair treatment for all” that brings us to today’s hearing. ADL is the leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.  As part of its work, ADL advocates for equal opportunity by seeking ways to close racial and ethnic disparities in education outcomes.

Studies show that Mexican American Studies programs are successful on multiple fronts. They tend to foster equality and quash resentment of different races.  On an even more practical level, they show success by boosting graduation rates and an increase in high school student achievement.  MAS programs benefit our entire state.

ADL is concerned about the proposed Mexican-American studies textbook for high school students. We are concerned about what it will teach students.  The right text will offer a balanced perspective that will positively explore the culture, art and history accomplishments of Mexican Americans while simultaneously acknowledging the struggles of the same people.  An effective text would contain objective trials and tribulations.

However, textbooks should not teach bias.  Students should learn that there might be times where describing people according to identity characteristics is relevant.  However, texts like the one being considered paint broad brush strokes that allude to stereotypes when they are not relevant.

We urge the State Board of Education to critically review the submitted text for its objective presentation. History cannot be taught effectively when it is predicated on inaccurate information.  As students develop abstract thinking skills, they are able to become aware of the attitudes and behaviors of persons in positions of authority in the educational system.   Students participating in a Mexican American Studies program at the high school level will understand bias and have an increasing awareness of the valuing and de-valuing of race.  These students understand racial and cultural stereotypes and have a fundamental understanding of how internalizing a negative view about self might affect confidence.

Texas public school students deserve a Mexican American studies text book that accurately teaches them the history.  They deserve a text that does not contain misinformation and that avoids stereo-typing and name calling.