College students aren’t receiving their recommended daily allowance of American Latino Political History, according to a “page by page” study of 29 college textbooks.
The authors cite considerable research suggesting that, in introductory courses, textbooks are reflections of what students are taught. And since for many students, poli sci 101 (as a general education requirement) will be their entire study of government, these students are unlikely to learn much more about how Latinos fit into the U.S. political system.
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They conclude with a call for textbook authors and editors to rethink their treatment of the ethnic group.
There are two ways I can see this complaint. One is that the complaints are directed to a lack of coverage for Latinos in American political history. The other way of seeing this is that the complaints are about a lack of coverage for Latinos in textbooks relating to modern political science. (The concern could also be directed at both.)
Over the years I’ve heard a lot of complaints that disenfranchised groups aren’t represented in historical accounts. I would like to humbly submit the following thesis: Disenfranchised groups aren’t a big part of history because they are disenfranchised and generally lack the power to be movers and shakers on the political scene.
There are of course exceptions. Sometimes the peasants get uppity, and you get things like rebelling gladiators, guillotines, or marches on the capitol. Such things get coverage in textbooks. But that might not be good enough for certain parties.
Many of the texts discuss César Chávez, but for most that’s about it for sustained discussion of Latino civil rights leaders or movements. The Latino civil rights movement is portrayed as “a few random events, not as part of an overall movement,” the article says. Key figures like Dolóres Huerta rarely appear. Only three of the textbooks studied explained terms such as “Chicano” or “Brown power.”
As for modern political science… that’s not really my field so I don’t know whether there’s more to say about distinctly Latino contributions to the modern political landscape other than the obvious: immigration, bilingual education, and agriculture worker issues. Presumably there is more to it, but I’m not really privy to what goes on in the sort of general ed polisci classes that the authors are concerned with, and I don’t know how much detail can really be crammed into a single semester or 10-week quarter.
There are serious problems with measuring the absence of something in a study. There are a lot of things in this universe that are absent from a number of different contexts. In cases like this, I’d like to see specific, concrete proposals about content that can be weighed on its merits, rather than generalized complaining about a lack of coverage. Then we can know whether something is really missing or simply isn’t of great enough quantity or importance to warrant inclusion.