Who needs education when facts are optional?
At first glance, you would think there is little connection between Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and a proposed Texas textbook, Mexican American Heritage, which misrepresents and demeans the important contributions of the Hispanic culture to the state and the country that we know today.
But in an era in which a growing number of people are motivated more by fear and ideology than they are by truth, the separate furors created by Trump and the textbook share some common ground.
First, there are the wall that Trump vows to build along the Mexican border and his proposed roundup of undocumented immigrants. They would be expensive, divisive attempts to deny the inevitable fact that within the next generation or so Hispanics will constitute a majority of the Texas population and, sooner or later, control the centers of Texas political power. The proposed textbook, meanwhile, tries to rewrite the history of the Hispanic culture already represented by more than half of Texas’ 5.2 million public school students.
Trump’s campaign has been built on bluster, misrepresentations of the truth, outright lies, bigotry and an appeal to fear.
Trump is outrageous, not ideological. But Cynthia Dunbar, the publisher of the offensive textbook, is very ideological. In an interview with the Texas Tribune before the State Board of Education hearing on the book, she said she had “no hidden agenda” in publishing the text and offering it for use in high school Mexican American studies classes.
The book, however, is riddled with inaccuracies and racial stereotypes, according to many scholars who have reviewed it. And as a member of the State Board of Education several years ago, Dunbar certainly had an agenda to impose her own right-wing ideology on Texas’ public schools, including an effort to remove the separation of church and state principle under which the United States was founded from the Texas curriculum. She also has called public education a “tool of perversion.”
Trump and Dunbar, in their own separate ways, are part of what Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. calls a “post-factual nation,” an America, under attack from cable TV, social media and other ideological platforms, “where untruth is gospel, reality is multiple choice and ‘facts’ are whatever you have testes enough to say and somebody is dumb enough to believe.”
The school children of Texas deserve better, and so do their parents.