School Textbook Debate in Mexico Heats Up with Accusations of ‘Communism’ and ‘Fascism’

by Ryan Lee
fokus keyword: Mexico's school textbook debate

The controversy surrounding school textbooks in Mexico has escalated rapidly, with critics and proponents throwing around terms like “communist” and “fascist.” This acrimonious dispute centers around approximately three dozen new government-authored, free textbooks for students in grades one through nine, set to be implemented on August 28 nationwide.

Javier Alatorre, a news anchor, accused President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s administration of attempting to infuse children with “the virus of communism.” On the other hand, government supporters likened the opposition to Hitler, particularly after opposition leader Marko Cortes suggested some texts be destroyed. President López Obrador has had to direct officials to hold press conferences to address concerns about the new texts.

This heated discourse underlines the stark polarization in Mexico between those loyal to López Obrador and those who despise him. National University sociologist Ishtar Cardona Cardona, who has studied many of these textbooks, observes that the debate has exposed deep societal divisions.

Beyond the ideological differences, these new textbooks represent an innovative teaching method never previously employed in Mexico. The integration of subjects like math, reading, or social studies into multi-subject stories or projects is aimed at creating a more engaging, “experiential” learning process.

Despite these intentions, the textbooks have been marred by glaring mistakes, such as incorrectly stating that ¾ is greater than ⅚, misprinting national hero Benito Juárez’s birthdate, and inaccurately positioning Mars closer to the Sun than Earth. Additionally, the lessons in the books contain strong anti-capitalist undertones.

Officials involved in compiling the textbooks have demonstrated a certain nostalgia for the old Soviet Union, and references to the former Soviet Union’s schools for workers appear in the materials. However, Cardona suggests that this is more indicative of ideological nostalgia rather than an actual call for revolution.

While some parents, like Juan Angoa, believe that the controversy is purely political, others worry about underlying issues. The free textbooks do not alleviate the financial burdens of uniforms and supplementary materials, especially for low-income families.

According to Luz de Teresa Oteysa, a researcher at the Institute of Mathematics of the UNAM, the new books were hastily put together, lacking necessary content and proper proofreading, despite the novel methods applied.

There is also clear criticism of capitalism in the textbooks, even at early stages, such as in a fourth-grade chapter titled “The deterioration of nature and society under capitalist culture.” Some parents, like Husim Pérez Valladares, are concerned about what they perceive to be subliminal, pro-communist messages.

The textbooks also appear to rewrite history and adopt the political positions of López Obrador’s administration. One notable example involves the dates given for Mexico’s “Dirty War,” which is extended to 2016, just before López Obrador took office. Other biases are evident, such as discouraging reliance on mainstream media by suggesting children look for websites with “.edu,” “.gob,” or “.org” addresses, excluding most newspapers that use “.com” domains.

This isn’t the first instance of a Mexican administration’s bias seeping into school textbooks, but the urgency to complete these error-filled textbooks before López Obrador’s term ends in September 2024 raises serious concerns. Cardona concludes that the haste and carelessness with which these books were crafted symbolize a “now or never” attitude, reflecting deeper systemic issues within Mexican education and governance.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about fokus keyword: Mexico’s school textbook debate

What is the debate about school textbooks in Mexico centered around?

The debate is centered around approximately three dozen new government-authored, free textbooks for grades one through nine. The controversy involves accusations of ideological bias, with critics and proponents labeling each other as “communist” and “fascist.” The textbooks also introduce a new teaching method that integrates various subjects, and there are concerns over errors and the anti-capitalist tone of some lessons.

Who are the main parties involved in this debate?

The main parties involved include the administration of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, government supporters, opposition party leaders such as Marko Cortes, news anchor Javier Alatorre, parents, educators, and researchers like Ishtar Cardona Cardona and Luz de Teresa Oteysa.

Are there any specific concerns regarding the content of the textbooks?

Yes, the concerns include glaring mistakes in mathematical concepts, historical inaccuracies, strong anti-capitalist undertones, and a perception of subliminal pro-communist messages. Some also worry about the hastiness with which the books were crafted, leading to a lack of necessary content and poor proofreading.

How does the debate reflect the broader political climate in Mexico?

The heated nature of the debate, with accusations of communism and fascism, reveals stark polarization in Mexican society. It underscores deep divisions between those loyal to López Obrador and those who oppose him, reflecting broader ideological conflicts within the country.

What changes are introduced in the new textbooks?

The new textbooks introduce an innovative teaching method never before used in Mexico, where subjects like math, reading, and social studies are all mixed together into multi-subject stories or projects. This is intended to provide a more engaging, “experiential” learning process.

Are there financial considerations connected to this debate?

Yes, some parents like Juan Angoa have pointed out that while the textbooks are free, other expenses such as uniforms, supplemental books, and activities remain a challenge for low-income parents. The debate over the content of the textbooks may distract from these underlying financial issues.

What is the timeline for implementing these new textbooks?

The new government-written textbooks are set to be implemented in every school nationwide for grades one through nine, starting on August 28.

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Emily Turner August 9, 2023 - 8:17 am

Mixing subjects like math and reading together in textbooks? Sounds interesing but I’m not sure it’ll work. I’d like to know more about that.

Pedro G. August 9, 2023 - 9:42 am

These textbooks are free at least, but what about other costs. Uniforms, books and stuff – it’s never really free!

Mike Johnson August 9, 2023 - 7:02 pm

Can’t belive they’re using words like ‘communist’ and ‘fascist’ in a debate about school books. What’s happening to education these days??

Sara K. August 9, 2023 - 11:53 pm

My sister lives in Mexico, and she’s realy concerned about this. She says that some parents are taking it way too seriously.

Carlos M August 10, 2023 - 1:05 am

whats the big deal with making a few errors? they can always fix them in the next edition. We shold focus on teaching kids important things, not fighting over ideologies.


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