What a 1950s Texas Textbook Can Teach Us About Today’s Textbook Fight

This is not the first time that non-historians have written a textbook for Texas classrooms.

By Nathan BernierNovember 18, 2016 10:33 am| , , ,

From KUT:

The Texas State Board of Education preliminarily voted 14-0 today to reject a Mexican-American history textbook that scholars have said was riddled with inaccuracies. A final vote on the textbook is due Friday.

“One of the fundamental problems with the scholarship of the book is that you have non-historians writing a textbook for history,” said Trinidad Gonzales, a professor of history at South Texas College. “It’s really a polemic masquerading as a textbook, and it’s really trying to argue that Mexican-American culture, including Catholicism, is a fundamental threat to American democracy.”

But this is not the first time that non-historians have written a textbook for Texas classrooms.

A seventh-grade Texas history textbook, published in 1954, which was written by two middle school principals – one from Marshall and one from San Antonio – shows how textbook bias can become more apparent with the passage of time. Historians say the exclusion of women and minority narratives from these books can leave children who don’t seem themselves reflected in the history less interested in the material.

In the acknowledgments at the front, you can find the book’s guiding philosophy:

KUT asked several experts in Texas history to review this book.

Dr. Nancy Baker Jones of the Ruth Winegarden Foundation for Texas Women’s History says one of the most obvious aspects of women’s history in Texas is missing from the book: the suffrage movement, when women fought for the right to vote.

“Preserving orthodox notions of gender and faith and nation, and to have been aware of the participation and contributions of groups other than Anglo males, was just not in the cards educationally during the 1950s,” Jones said, adding that women in the book are defined by their relationship with men.

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