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Texas Textbook Mystery @MLA

At the Modern Language Association (MLA) 2013 meeting in Boston, a professor claimed the existence of a “textbook describing slavery as a TransAtlantic trade triangle.” Yet when asked to provide a title, she offered none.

Cynthia Franklin of the University of Hawaii at Manoa, who made the claim, suggested googling the phrases “TransAtlantic trade triangle” and “Texas textbook guidelines.” This yields many articles which also make that assertion but fail to link to the original primary source—the Texas Education Agency [1] (TEA).

This correspondent did not recall that phrase from the TEA [2] guidelines. Indeed, typing the phrase “TransAtlantic trade triangle” onto the TEA site brings up a solitary math test.

Thus, such a textbook may exist but cannot be located on Franklin’s reference. One hopes that the references she gives her students are easier to track, but the odds are against it. If this the best she can do at a scholarly conference, the chances that her undergraduates have access to better information in her lecture hall are rather slim.

“It [the Texas guidelines] replaces capitalism with free market,” Sandra K. Soto of the University of Arizona pointed out. Apparently, this was supposed to offend me.

Soto became nationally renowned because of her opposition to Arizona’s laws restricting illegal immigration and advocacy of the controversial ethnic studies curriculum that the state assembly sought to influence.

Soto noted that the Arizona legislature is trying to ban courses which “promote the overthrow of the U. S. government.” “The thing to do is to critique the law rather than fit in it,” Soto avers.

As it happens, the courses may have a hard time making it through even the loosest hurdles. “The Arizona citizens upset about this kind of material said that they initiated an investigation into the problem back in 2007 and found it difficult to get access to the books,” Cliff Kincaid [3] of Accuracy in Media (AIM) wrote in an exhaustive study of the Mexican ethnic studies curriculum at the heart of the controversy. “One activist said the concern began when parents came to be aware of violence in the schools directed against white and black children.”

“This investigation was undertaken to find the roots of this hate,” she told Kincaid.

Soto is also less than forthcoming about the details of the courses but desires “ethnic studies as a counter-hegemonic force.” “Critics have worried that ethnic studies has become too institutionalized,” she said at the MLA convention.


Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.
If you would like to comment on this article, e-mail mal.kline@academia.org.