New SEP Textbook Content Controversies Compound

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Just days after Mexico’s opposition electoral alliance Va por México announced it would be taking the Mexican Secretariat of Public Education’s (SEP) new public textbooks to the Supreme Court Justice of the Nation (SCJN), pedagogical experts and activists have come out in droves in criticism of the contents of Mexico’s new educational materials – with some going as so far as to describe the textbooks as a “crime against the nation.”

On Monday, Aug. 7, a group of more than 250 activists and education specialists released a signed statement pointing out eight distinct issues with the textbooks, including that they put fundamental subjects – such as reading, writing and math – on the back-burner in favor of an ideological education and stops students from acquiring skills necessary for working as an adult.

The group purports that the new books would hinder the public education experience as they would prevent teaching toward students’ individualized needs, diminishes the development of students’ written and spoken Spanish language skills, and promotes the end of classic subjects like Biology, Civic Education, Mathematics, Spanish Language, Biology, Civic Education and Ethics, Physics, History and Geography.

The experts also allege that the textbooks rewrite history and alter sciences to fit the narrative of the currently in-power National Regeneration Movement (Morena) and presents Mexico “not as a free and democratic country, but as a backward country colonized by European imperialism.”

The statement from group of activists and specialists said that the SEP’s intentions to distribute these textbooks through local communities prioritizes the students’ worldview away from the nation and toward these communities, while students at this age are unequipped with the knowledge and tools to address and solve the social problems within their local communities.

According to the group, the textbooks are a hindrance to Mexican children’s universal rights “to an education of excellence as proposed by the third article of the Mexican Constitution” which will ultimately lead to “a cognitive relativism and a moral relativism that, we can anticipate, will have disastrous effects for the Mexican nation in the long run.”

“Morena takes away all the strength from mathematics, literacy, and science, which are what will allow the student to get a good job when he finishes his education, maybe he will leave very well aware of the Fourth Transformation (4T) vision of what which is the world and the social classes, but they are going to come out terribly ill-prepared for what the world is going to demand of them in the workplace and professional sphere,” said education expert Eduardo Backhoff, who helped prepare the group statement.

Backhoff went on to point out that Morena’s new textbooks borrow from the community teaching model promoted by Brazilian pedagogist and Marxist Paulo Freire, but that Freire’s educational methodologies were created to apply to adult communities, not children.

The SEP textbooks also supposedly promote the history of guerrilla warfare and communism within Mexico; while the events in question undeniably occurred, experts say the language and descriptions used in the textbooks sanitizes crimes like kidnapping and assassination.

As a result of the controversy, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) addressed the SEP textbooks during his daily morning press conference on Wednesday, Aug. 9, noting that the educational materials have been endorsed by the National Union of Education Workers (SNTE).

AMLO said he would have the textbooks reviewed for all of their purported promotions  of communism, with the federal executive mentioning the opposition has “screamed like town criers” with fears that Morena is “to vaccinate the country with the communism virus.”

“I want a review on the references to communism,” said López Obrador at the time. “We are going to review everything, just so they can see how fake these corrupt people are, all in their eagerness to return to continue stealing.”

“They have not even read the textbooks and they are already condemning them,” concluded the federal executive.

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