Mexican Judge Orders SEP to Halt Printing of New Textbooks

Photo: Alexander Grey/Unsplash


Mexico’s National Union of Families and Parents (UNPF) on Monday, May 22, obtained a provisional suspension from Yadira Elizabeth Medina Alcántara, third district judge in administrative matters in Mexico City, ordering the Secretariat of Public Education (SEP) and the National Commission for Free Textbooks (Conaliteg) to stop the printing of textbooks for the 2023-2024 Mexican school year, until both government agencies comply with certain provisions.

The UNPF, in the lawsuit it filed against the SEP, specifically flagged the absence of study plans and programs that it said should have supported the educational materials and textbooks. In addition, the group said that necessary consultations with tutors and teachers were also lacking.

Incidentally, it was also Medina Alcántara who ordered in September of last year the restoration of the Full-Time Schools Program, which the administration of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) cancelled. The Full-Time Schools Program was started in 2008, under former Mexican President Felipe Calderón, and allowed students to use school facilities so they could do their homework, or take language or music classes, while their parents were at work. Through this program, students were also provided hot meals.

The UNPF further argued in its lawsuit that the textbooks “lack scientific, technical and pedagogical bases, as well as academic professionalism,” and that various educational unions and groups were not consulted for the materials.

“We hold the executive branch responsible for the damage that they want to cause our children with their textbooks that have not been approved by Mexican society as a whole,” the group said in a statement.

“It is a reality that the educational authorities are acting behind the backs of Mexicans, because up to now they have not given us an opportunity to review the content of the textbooks. In addition, they have declared that they have already printed the books, which violates our rights as parents and family.”

An initial check made by parents, educational experts and civil associations of the contents of the textbooks revealed that schoolchildren could possibly be indoctrinated — apart from several errors that they pointed out in the text.

“They teach first-grade students to organize assemblies and, for example, there are references to illustrations and idyllic figures for the president (López Obrador), like Felipe Ángeles, Pancho Villa, in a Spanish book. It’s a weird mix,” said Paulina Amozurrutia, president of Educación con Rumbo.

For his part, Francisco Landero, president of Suma por la Educación, said he is worried that, in several of the textbooks, poverty is being glorified.

“In the textbooks, at least in the ones we have read in first grade, the situation of poverty is considered a virtue and an ideal state of the individual,” said Landero. “This is reflected in the figures in the increase in poverty in the current six-year term (of López Obrador). From 2018 to 2022, there were 6.1 million people living in poverty.”

After her ruling, Medina Alcántara set a hearing for June 12, where she will decide whether to permanently grant the amparo or injunction provisionally awarded to the UNPF.

Marco Antonio Carlos Dueñas González, on behalf of the UNPF, filed the amparo appeal on April 24 to challenge the authorization of the SEP to print the textbooks.

“The suspension is granted so that the responsible authorities within their sphere of competence, before continuing with the edition, printing and delivery of the free textbooks for the 2023-2024 school year, verify that the respective legal procedures have been observed for the determination of the programs and study plans and for the publicization of free textbooks, which guarantee the intervention of state governments and specialists in educational matters; as well as the availability of those books in terms of what is provided for in the law,” said Medina Alcántara in her ruling.

Early this year, the SEP caused an uproar among education specialists in the country when Marx Arriaga, director of the Department of Educational Materials at the SEP, and his second in command, former Venezuelan government official Sady Arturo Loaiza Escalona, proposed in a text — jointly written by Arriaga and Loaiza Escalona — that “teachers promote the freedom of students and their community,” and asks them “to stick to the definition of freedom of the Russian anarchist Mikhail Bakunin, and to question individual freedom.”

The textbook likewise reportedly asks teachers to do a self-examination to analyze their “critical conscience,” and at one point poses a question to educators: “Are you unaware that, under a neoliberal model, only populist, proselytizing promises are the ideas of democracy, social mobility, economic stability, equitable educational and cultural services?”

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