Thursday, December 7, 2023

Education Ministry’s new textbooks seek to purge ‘authoritarian discourse’

The federal government has entrusted a group of teachers, teaching students and retired teachers with the task of writing 18 textbooks that, unlike their predecessors, will be free of “authoritarian discourse.”

The 2,365 people selected to work on the project, none of whom has previous experience in writing textbooks, will have just two weeks to complete the job, which includes penning primary school texts and workbooks for Spanish, natural sciences, history and geography, among other subjects.

The writing of new textbooks normally takes up to nine months, the news website Animal Político reported, noting that experts in each subject area, and pedagogy in general, as well as editorial designers, are traditionally involved in the process.

Marx Arriaga, director of educational materials at the Ministry of Public Education (SEP), said experts weren’t asked to develop the new books because previous texts only served certain academic and economic interests.

The teachers, teaching students and retired teachers tasked with developing the next textbooks for grades 3–6 have been given training that covered topics such as “how to develop didactic material.”

They were expressly told by Arriaga that their objective is to “eliminate authoritarian discourse” that appears in existing texts.

The new textbooks, which are slated to be ready for the 2021–2022 school year, will comply with the ideals of the government’s “new Mexican school” concept.

In a training session broadcast online, Arriaga made it clear that the books should have both a political and pedagogical function, apparently saying in code that they should be sympathetic to the current government and propagate its ideals.

Esther López Portillo, a textbook author and expert in the development of educational materials, told the newspaper Reforma that it was worrying that the SEP is seeking to develop new texts in such a short period of time.

“The process of making a textbook can take six months or a year, even two years, depending on the project. … Not four days to write something, four days to evaluate it, four days to illustrate it,” she said.

López was also concerned that Arriaga saw textbooks as tools for the indoctrination of students.

“The biggest risk,” she said, is that the new textbooks won’t contain quality educational material and won’t be neutral in a political sense.

Source: Reforma (sp), Animal Político (sp) 

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