Textbooks: The Opposition’s Motives

La Jornada editorial, Tuesday, August 8, 2023

Leaders of the PAN, PRI and PRD announced in the Chamber of Deputies that they will undertake a series of actions to prevent the distribution of the new free school textbooks. The plan of the member parties of the Frente Amplio por México includes presenting a motion before the Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the textbooks, promoting the massive filing of collective injunctions, and inviting right-wing academics and intellectuals to reinforce their propaganda campaign against such books. Meanwhile, the PAN governor of Chihuahua, María Eugenia Campos, and the MC governor of Jalisco, Enrique Alfaro, announced that they will block the distribution of the textbooks in their states.

This is by no means the first time in which the change in basic education curricula, as well as the texts that serve as a guide and material to apply the scholastic plans, spark controversy and protest. Indeed, every time the State renews its educational policy, it inevitably affects the interests or beliefs of one or another sector of society. What is unique in the current cycle of discontent is the convergence of ultra-conservative religious groups, corporations with billions of pesos at stake, and the political-media opposition machinery.

Organizations such as the National Parents’ Union (UNPF) and the like, as well as the hierarchies of the Catholic Church and representatives of other congregations, oppose these printed materials just as they have historically rejected any program that disseminates a scientific and factual version of issues that, in their view, clash with the Neanderthal positions that today do not enjoy consensus even among religious believers. These outdated currents are joined by companies that have monopolized the publishing industry and, as their own spokespersons admit, during previous presidential administrations obtained juicy contracts for the production of educational materials financed by the State.

Another focus of distortions corresponds to the media moguls, who, beyond their agreement with the anti-values of intolerance, encourage scandals as an instrument of blackmail in their struggle with the authorities to evade multimillion peso debts in back taxes. Finally, the parties in the alliance headed by Claudio X. Gonzalez are taking advantage of the situation in order to wear down the federal government, gain notoriety, and position themselves before the voters ahead of next year’s elections.

In their efforts to discredit the textbooks, these forces manipulate the data and invent a mythical past in which the materials developed by the Ministry of Public Education (SEP) offered aseptic, ahistorical contents and orientations, of an unquestionable impartiality and without any link to the ideology of the government in power. The truth is that, since their creation and indeed it could not be otherwise, the textbooks have reflected the vision of the country and the ways of understanding the world of the authorities who developed them, so it is logical and inevitable that at a time of transformation such as the one the country is experiencing, books with a progressive stance and sensitive to the demands of the popular sectors should be produced.

The campaign to discredit this project magnifies the errors contained in the free textbooks and resorts to the fearful specter of an imaginary communism to induce a collective psychosis based on absurd readings disconnected from reality.

As has already been mentioned in this space, the errors and perfectible aspects of the textbooks in question must be corrected, and the task corresponds mainly to the teachers in the classrooms and in the course of their educational endeavors. Therefore, what is urgent is to ensure that the books reach their recipients, and that they are the ones who evaluate, criticize, and improve them.

For this to be possible, the judiciary must firmly reject the pretension of ultraconservative groups, businessmen, and opposition parties to prevent, through the courts, the printing and distribution of the above-mentioned didactic materials, a situation that, more than harming the federal government, would affect the education of millions of children and would make the work of their teachers impossible.