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Paper for a symposium on Human Rights in Textbooks, organized by the

History Foundation, Istanbul April 2004

Racism, Discourse and Textbooks

The coverage of immigration in Spanish textbooks

Teun A. van Dijk

Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona

Second draft, April 9, 2004


In this paper I examine some properties of the discursive

reproduction of racism in textbooks in Spain. Racism is a system of social
domination and inequality that is reproduced in many ways, for instance
by discriminatory practices. One of these practices is discourse.
Discourse is specifically relevant in the reproduction of racism because it
is also the principal means for the reproduction of racist prejudices and
ideologies. And since these racist beliefs in turn are the basis of
discriminatory practices (including discourse), it is obvious that discourse
plays a prominent role in the reproduction of racism (Van Dijk, 1984,
1987a, 1987b, 1991, 1993; Wodak & Van Dijk, 2000).
Not all discourse types are equally relevant though in these
processes of social reproduction. Obviously, news reports in the press
are more important than the weather report in this sense. Thus, because
of their impact on the formation of beliefs of many people, public
discourses have a more significant primary influence than personal,
private text and talk. There is little doubt that the discourses of the mass
media in contemporary society play a leading role in the reproduction of
socially shared beliefs.
The same is true for educational discourse. Among the few
discourse types that are obligatory for some of the participants, namely
the students, forms of educational discourse such as lessons and

textbooks, play a prominent role in the reproduction of society. Besides

their overt contents aiming at the acquisition of standard knowledge in
society and culture, textbooks and their hidden curricula also play an
important role in the reproduction of dominant ideologies, such as those
of race, gender and class. It is therefore important to examine in some
detail how textbooks do this (Apple, 1979, 1982, 1993; Apple & ChristianSmith, 1991).
Also because of increasing migration, most contemporary
societies are more or less multicultural or multiethnic. Also North America
and Western Europe in the last decades have thus become increasingly
diverse. Such diversity is expressed in many ways, such as in social
practices, ideologies and discourses, for instance in politics, the media
and education. Adequate textbooks of multicultural societies may thus be
expected to reflect and promote the values of such multicultural societies.
Unfortunately, much research in the last decades has shown that this is
seldom the case. Most textbooks in the past -- and many still today -rather reflect the prejudices and stereotypes of the dominant white,
European, group about the indigenous populations in the USA or
Australia, and about the immigrants from the South and East in virtually
all countries of Western Europe and North America (Blondin, 1990; Gill,
1992; Giustinelli, 1991; Klein, 1986; Mangan, 1993; Preiswerk, 1980;
Troyna, 1993).
Against the background of these general dimensions of discourse
and the reproduction of racism, and the more specific ones of the role of
textbooks in the discursive reproduction of racism, this paper shall
examine some properties of the coverage of immigration and minorities in
contemporary textbooks in Spain.
The case of Spain is interesting because unlike other western
European countries, migration to Spain is much more recent also
because until quite recently Spain was itself too poor a European country
to attract immigrants. Rather, it was for a long time itself the motherland
of many migrants, first of all to its own former colonies, and later to the
USA and North-Western Europe. Yet, at the same time, Spain had its
own minorities, such as the Jews and especially the Gitanos (gypsies),
who had been persecuted, expelled and discriminated against for
centuries. Until North-Africans, especially from Morocco -- often still
called Moros -- arrived in large numbers during the last decade, the

Gitanos were the main target of racist prejudice and discrimination (Calvo
Buezas, 1997; Colectivo IOE, 2001; Manzanos Bilbao, 1999; Martn Rojo
et al. 1994; SOS Racismo, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003; Van Dijk, 2003).
There are several other reasons to examine the representation of
immigration and minorities in Spanish textbooks. First of all, several
studies suggest that increasing immigration has been accompanied by
increasing racism, and that in that respect Spain has become more and
more like the other countries in Western Europe. Secondly, however, in
some respects Spain may be different than other western European
countries, for instance because of its own experiences of emigration and
the period of fascism under Franco. These experiences might have
created more pronounced ideologies of solidarity as a possible protection
against racism. Arguments for such a position might be the absence of
racist parties -- ubiquitous elsewhere in most Western Europe and of
racist media and tabloids, as we know them from the UK and Germany.
In the present paper, thus, it is interesting to investigate whether
such a special situation of Spain if it is true would also be true to
textbooks. In this case we may compare to results of textbook research in
other countries which were at the same stage of immigration as Spain
has been in the last decade.

Racist discourse

It has been assumed above that racism as a system of social

inequality daily reproduces itself through social practices, such as various
forms of discrimination, exclusion, problematization, or marginalization
(Back & Solomos, 2000; Bulmer & Solomos, 1999; Essed, 1991; Essed &
Goldberg, 2002; Feagin, Vera & Batur, 2001)
A crucial social practice in this case is discourse, language use or
communication. Both as directed at minorities or immigrants, for instance
in everyday conversation, as well as about Others in everyday talk as well
as public elite discourse in politics, media, education and research,
discourse plays a fundamental role in the perpetuation of racism. The
same is true, incidentally, for the reproduction of antiracism as a system
of resistance and opposition.

Despite the vast differences between countries, ethnic groups and









characteristic general properties. First of all, as is the case for most

ideologically based text and talk, racist discourse tends to be polarized in
the sense that it features a negative representation of Them, combined
with a positive representation of Us. Century-old prejudices and
stereotypes fed by an ideology of racial (white) superiority have thus left
their traces in contemporary collective beliefs about non European
peoples. Such polarized representations can manifest themselves at all
levels of discourse, such as the choice of topics, the way discourse
participants are represented, in the syntactic means to emphasize or deemphasize agency and responsibility for good and bad actions, in
metaphors and in general in the way our good things and their bad things
are being enhanced or mitigated. We find such biased representations in
most political discourse, in the mass media as well as in textbooks
(Reisigl & Wodak, 2000, 2001; Van Dijk, 1984, 1987a, 1991, 1993;
Wodak & van Dijk, 2000).

Racism in textbooks

Textbooks are known to be shaped by the dominant ideologies of

society. They are intended not only as means to realize the explicit
curriculum of socially accepted knowledge, but also as the conduit for
prevailing norms, values and attitudes. It is therefore not surprising that
they also have been one of the main sites for the formulation of racist or
Eurocentric ideas, first about the peoples of the Third world, and then
about those from the South immigration to Europe and Northern America.
Whereas such racism in the early 20th century and until the Second World
War was quite explicit, and formulated in terms of white superiority,
contemporary forms of racism in textbooks have become more subtle and
implicit. Research on racism in textbooks of the last decades has found
the following typical characteristics:

Exclusion: immigrants and minorities do not or barely appear as

groups represented in textbooks. Even when significant groups of
immigrants are present, many textbooks still represent society as

homogeneous, monocultural and white. Diversity is not celebrated as

a positive value.

Difference: if represented at all, immigrants, minorities and in

general non European peoples tend to be described as essentially
different from us; differences are emphasized and similarities are deemphasized.

Exotism: The positive side of the emphasis on difference is the

enhancement of the exotic, strange or otherwise distant nature of the
Others. This is especially the case for peoples living far away, or for
the first small groups of immigrants from such peoples.


Representations of the Others tend to be

stereotypical, schematic and fixed. Textbooks often repeat each other

in the reproduction of such stereotypes about poverty, lacking
modernity, backwardness, and so on.

Positive self-presentation of Us: Our own group (Europeans,











knowledgeable, and so on. Typically, We are being represented as

actively helping or assisting (passive) Them.

Negative representation of Them: Besides the usual stereotypes,

Others may also be attributed many negative characteristics, such as







undemocratic, backward, passive, lazy or lacking intelligence.

The denial of racism: The positive representation of Us also










representation of Us. Thus, our history of colonialism, aggression or

racism tends to be ignored or reduced. Racism is typically
represented as of the past (slavery, segregation in the USA) or
elsewhere (e.g. in the USA or South-Africa), and seldom as being
here, now, among us, and in our institution.

Lacking voice: The Others are not only represented stereotypically

and negatively, but also passively and as lacking voice. We talk and
write about Them, but they are seldom heard or represented as
speaking and giving their own opinion, and even less when saying
critical things about Us.

Text and Images: Many of the characteristics mentioned above not

only are exhibited in text, but also in images, which typically exhibit

the exotic, negative or problematic dimensions of Others or other

countries. Thus, we will typically see a picture of huts in Africa or
igloos in Canada, rather than of a traffic jam among skyscrapers of
many cities in Africa, Asia or Latin America.

Assignments: The didactic dimensions of textbooks often

presuppose the exclusive presence of white students in class,
addressing them specifically and inviting them to reflect about the
Others as if these were not also present in class.

Many of these characteristics are not explicitly racist, but contribute to an

overall stereotypical image of a homogeneous monocultural society, and of
Them as being distant, different, absent or more or less subtly inferior to Us
Europeans. Once immigrants and minorities are being represented, such
representations may remain more or less stereotypical or negative as Them,
rather than as part of Us. Problems of multicultural societies tend to be
emphasized, whereas the many positive aspects of diversity are ignored or
played down. Immigrants tend to be portrayed as creating problems for us, rather
than as contributing to our economic prosperity or cultural diversity.
These general characteristics of textbooks are more pronounced in
countries where immigrants or minority groups are recent. Thus, in the USA and
the UK, where debates about racism and textbooks have been going on for a
longer time than in (other) countries of Europe, textbooks have followed the
tendencies of a more general debate about multicultural education.
In Spain, this debate is more recent, and barely integrated in the
curriculum. The international debate in other countries is of course known to
education specialists in Spain, so that they did not need to begin from scratch
(for discussion, see Aparicio Gervs, 2002; Calvo Buezas, 2003; Colectivo
Amani, 2002; Garca Martnez & Sez Carreras, 1998; Jordn Sierra, 2001;
Martn Rojo, 2003; Ruz Romn, 2003; Sabariego Puig, 2002; Sierra Illn, 2001).
Under the influence of international debates on immigration, this also
means that Spanish textbooks are already markedly better than for instance
Dutch textbooks 20 years ago (for Dutch textbooks, see Van Dijk, 1987b). Let us
illustrate this general observation in more detail.

Spanish Textbooks

In the remainder of this paper we examine some Spanish textbooks of

social science of obligatory secondary education (ESO), which in principle is for
adolescents between 12 and 16. Social science in general is taught together with
history and geography, and textbooks tend to be integrated. Some of the
autonomous regions use their own textbooks, in their own language. Thus
textbooks in Catalonia are in Catalan, and in order to be able to compare with
those in Castilian Spanish, we shall also examine one of these Catalan textbooks
(for details about Spanish textbooks and how they cover immigration, see
Castiello Costales, 2002).

Catalan textbook

The Catalan textbook we have examined is called Marca (Vicens Vives,

1rst edition, Barcelona 2003), used in the second year of secondary education. It
combines social sciences, geography and history and is written by a team of 5
authors (A. Albet Mas, B. Benejam Arguimbau, M. Garca Sebastin, C. Gatell
Arimont, and J. Roig Obiol, of which the first is professor of geography and the
others secondary school teachers). The first volume of this book, written for the
first year of ESO features a part on physical geography, and history from
prehistoric times to the Greek and Roman empires, and sections on Catalunya in
the times of the Greeks and the Romans. The volume we shall examine, Volume
2, continues the history part of this book, focusing on the Middle Ages, with a
special section on the Iberic peninsula.
Relevant for our analysis of immigration are the passages on the Arabic
period of Spain (Al Andalus). This section is written in rather objective terms, on
the one hand in terms of conquest by the Muslim army and various periods of
Arabic administration between 711 and 1492, and on the other hand focusing on
the major cultural contributions, mainly those of architecture, such as the Mosque
in Cordoba, and the Alhambra in Granada, as well as literary and agricultural
renewal. In other words, neither the content nor the style of this section imply a
negative attitude towards Muslims or Arabs other than in the usual way in which
historical battles and conquest is being described. On the contrary, the unique
cultural contributions of the Arab conquerors are emphasized.
The rest of the textbook is about the geography of the modern world:
demography, migration, social and political organization, rural and industrial
societies, Europe, Spain and Catalunya. Let us examine some sections of this
part of the book in somewhat more detail (words between double quotes are

translations of Catalan words used in the text whereas single quotes have the
usual functions of special uses of words, and so on).
A first categorization and polarization between the developed and the
underdeveloped world is made according to different demographic models,
with high and low birth rates, respectively (pp. 166 ff.). The demographic
explosion in the underdeveloped countries (nearly all in the South, and
appropriately colored orange on the world map, p. 167), which is also described
as a consequence of medical and sanitary advances (coming from the
developed world) is thus compared to the sometimes negative population
growth in the developed countries in the North (colored green on the map). Low
birth rates in the developed countries is explained in terms of increasing numbers
of women entering the work force and different attitudes about having children
now these are no longer needed for economic reasons. Rather strangely, no











underdeveloped world, high birth rates are explained in terms of the economic
necessity of having many children, the social marginalization of women, and
religious beliefs. No such references are made for the religious beliefs in
developed nations such as the USA or Spain, and it is implied that women in the
South do not work, and hence more easily can have babies. These few
passages already suggest a rather generalized, if not stereotypical, polarization
between developed and underdeveloped nations, if only as far as their
demography is concerned. A picture of a well dressed, middle class, well to do
white family, seated at a table with much food, and with one child, two parents,
two grandparents (and a cat), all smiling (except the cat), and in bright colors, is
shown next to a picture of a very poor mestizo family in the countryside, with
many children, barefoot and dressed very poorly, standing in front of a very
simple house made of wooden sticks, and overall colored in brown like the soil
they are standing on. That is, the picture illustrates and emphasizes the
polarization provided in the text. No mention is made of rich nations, classes or
people in the South or of poor people in the North.
A separate chapter is dedicated to migration and population structure (pp.
172 ff). Migration is explained in terms of economic inequality in the world.
Several pictures on the first page of the chapter illustrate the multicultural
population in the UK, a Muslim woman in Berlin, and a poor family from
Ecuador (without indication of where they are, but implicitly suggested that they
reside in Spain). As conditions that favor immigration are mentioned that
necessities of people are not satisfied in the country where they live (whereas

they can be satisfied in the country where they are going), the media that
transmit information about the new country so that people can compare with their
own circumstances, and means of transport to reach the other countries. No
mention is made of the necessities of the receiving countries, such as the need
for cheap, immigrant labor (as also the term Gastarbeiter suggests), as well as
because of increasingly low birth rates. Besides economic reasons and natural
causes (catastrophes), also social (religious, political, etc) reasons of migration
are mentioned. That the causes of immigration are in the South and not in the
North is explicitly formulated as follows:

It is clear that migration flows are rather generated by the adverse

conditions in the countries of origin and not so much by the attraction
factors in the places of destination. Thus it is the desperation of the
inhabitants of many countries in the South which presently give rise to the
migration flows toward the countries of the North (p. 176).
A drawing linking attraction territories and expelling territories (territoris
de repulsi) shows a worried picture of a man in the first, and a happy picture of
a man in the latter, transmitted by TV to the first. Again, we see that the main
explanation of migration is the negative motivation of people in poor countries,
rather than the needs of rich countries. Also, this drawing seems to imply that
people in poor countries are unhappy and that immigrants in rich countries are
happy, thus contributing to unfounded generalizations and stereotypes, and to
ignorance about the actual living and working conditions of immigrants in rich
The authors of the textbook are of the opinion that measures need to be
taken against the explosion of migration. Thus, there will be less migration from
poor countries if the following actions are taken (p. 176):

Growing investments in technology, education, health care and

infrastructure in the poor countries.

Import barriers in underdeveloped countries need to be lowered

so that imported goods can generate wealth.

Social and political changes (more democracy) will favor


First of all, this passage implies that migration is a problem (explosion)

that need to be solved. Secondly, the solution is sought in the poor countries and
not in the rich countries. Thirdly, lowering import barriers in poor countries first of
all benefits the rich exporting countries. No mention is made of the necessity to
lower import barriers in the rich countries so that poor countries can export their
products. And finally, the poor countries are stereotypically associated with social
inequality and lacking democracy. That many of the undemocratic regimes in the
South have been created and supported by the democratic regimes of the North
is another fact that is not fit to be read about by school kids. Thus, the textbook
gradually construes a polarized picture of the rich, democratic North and the poor
undemocratic South, and immigrants are associated with the latter.
After a brief description of the consequences of migration for the sending
and the receiving countries (in rich countries immigrants do work others do not
want to do), the focus of the next section is on migration control, described as
one of the major worries of the receiving countries. In other words, after briefly
suggesting that migrants may contribute positively to the demography and
economy of the rich countries, immigration is more emphatically defined as a
problem, as is also the case in politics and the media. These problems are
described as follows:

The countries that receive immigrants consider that the number of foreign
workers they can take in is related to the number of vacancies they need
to fill. If these limits are exceeded, illegal flows may result of persons
involved in clandestine jobs and the hidden economy.
The fact that immigrants do not find work may cause social
problems ()
All this favors the arrival () of a large number of clandestine
immigrants through itineraries controlled by mafias who make money with
smuggling people and who even endanger the lives of the immigrants (p.

The problem with such passages is not that they are totally wrong or
misguided, but rather that the selection of negative aspects of immigration and
immigrants creates a social representation that is predominantly negative. If only
a handful of things are being said about immigrants, and these are the same kind
of things the children hear from parents or friends or see on TV, then this can
only confirm established stereotypes. It would in that case be much more

important to take advantage of the textbooks to emphasize those aspects of

immigration than are less known, or that tend to be denied or forgotten. Thus, in
the cited passage, immigrants are associated with such negative concepts as
illegal, clandestine as creating social problems, smuggling and mafias, even
when they are victims of the latter. That immigrants often contribute positively to
the demography, the economy, the diversity, renewal and cultural richness of
their new homeland, would have been an alternative and less stereotypical way
of formulating the consequences of immigration. And among the social problems
one should not only mention or vaguely suggest those caused by them, but also
those caused by the receiving population, as is the case for prejudice,
discrimination and racism.
The latter issues are briefly dealt with in a special section on Immigrants
and social problems at the place of destination, where we find a brief typology of
different relations between immigrants and people in the receiving country, such
as integration, multiculturalism and marginalization (p. 179). When immigrants
are integrated this give us their norms, values and habits; this does not cause
any problems except a loss of personality. Multiculturalism is defined as the
acceptation of different norms, values and conduct by the receiving society, and
such should not lead to any problems. The third situations is defined as follows:

Marginalization or conflict arise when the receiving society and the

newcomers do not accept each other and do not respect the values,
norms and behavior of the others. Problems of racism and xenophobia
may thus be unleashed.
Migration policies are essential to avoid conflicts and to favor integration
and multiculturalism. (p. 179).

Again, in this passage, immigration and immigrants are presupposed to

be related to problems which are said not to occur when the immigrants
integrate and do not need to occur when the receiving society recognizes and
accepts the immigrants. The latter passage mentions racism and xenophobia as
some kind of natural phenomenon, or as a problem that spontaneously arises,
and mutually between groups, and not as something engaged in by people of the
receiving society, that is of Us in the Northern countries. No more is said about
racism and its consequences than this one vague sentence. Moreover, the way
integration is defined it rather stands for assimilation, because there is no
mention of possibly changing norms, values and habits of the receiving society.

Finally, the textbook unambiguously seems to support migration policies, thus

implicitly favoring a limitation of immigration, and defining the problems and
conflicts in terms of the immigrants and not in those of the receiving society.
One year later

A year later, the students of the third ESO grade get more information
about immigration in the next book of the series, Marca 3 (written by A. Albet
Mas, P. Benejam Arguimbau, M. Casas Vilalta, P. Comas Sol and M. Ollr
Freixa). Thus, in Chapter 3 about the population of the world, there is a section
on migrations today of two pages, with two pictures and a world map with arrows
indicating migration flows.
The first picture is of one of the pateras, that is, the little boats used by
undocumented immigrants crossing the Straits of Gibraltar. The second shows a
group of these immigrants sitting ashore with a police van behind them,
obviously having been captured by the Guardia Civil. Although the vast majority
of immigrants arrive by airplane, and through the airport of Madrid, Barajas, or
overstay after legal immigration, the prominent coverage of undocumented entry
by patera, and the often dramatic deaths of many immigrants by drowning,
suggest that most immigrants enter the country this way. The two pictures in the
textbook confirms this stereotype, and thus give a biased representation of how
the immigrants enter the country, at the same time emphasizing their illegality.
As in the previous volume, the text summarizes the main reasons for
immigration, and emphasizes that immigration is largely caused by globalization
and the difference in income between the rich North and the poor South, and
between Eastern and Western Europe. In this case it is also mentioned that the
rich countries needed cheap workers for their economy, but that they now apply
severe entry restrictions. So far so good: very succinct, but correct information.
When however the textbook provides a rather heterogeneous typology of
immigrants, it distinguishes between immigrants who are qualified, those without
education, women, undocumented immigrants and refugees.
In the section with assignments there are three pages more about
immigration First a map and some text gives some further information about
migration in the past, which includes the emigration of many Spanish people to
the Americas after the discovery of that continent. A second map, this time
with arrows indicating migration flows in and to Europe, and an interview with
well-known French deputy Sami Nar, provide more information and opinion

about immigration to Europe. The questions asked after this interview fragment
largely focus on illegal immigrants and the problems of immigration, but that is
only one aspect mentioned in the interview. Nar also talks about xenophobia,
racism and exclusion, and on some positive measures that may contribute to the
development of the countries of origin. No questions or assignments are related
to these aspects of immigration. In sum, despite the fact that the textbook cites a
prominent expert on immigration, its reading and focus of this fragment is again
biased and focused on problems and illegality.
The next section, on immigration to Australia, mentions that this country
has received immigrants from 150 different countries, and that although some
sectors of the population are proud of being a land of immigrants and that
immigration has economically, socially and culturally enriched the country,
among other sectors of the population anti-immigration sentiments have
emerged. A following question about this speaks of opinions against
immigration. In both cases we recognize the familiar euphemisms for racism,
and in both cases we observe the well-known impersonal expressions has
emerged and there are, instead of identifying the actual subjects of these
sentiments: the white (European) population of Australia.
The chapter on the cities of the world has a section that deals with their
multicultural nature and with immigration (p. 116 ff). It is first emphasized that
although in the developed countries there is a feeling of massive immigrants,
most immigration in the world takes place between countries in Asia or Africa. A
separate section provides concrete statistics. A next page focuses on the
consequences of immigration to the cities in the rich countries. A first two points
emphasize again the negative dimensions:

Concentration of ethnic minorities in run-down spaces. In these

places with cheaper rents poverty and the deterioration of housing are
more prominent.
The people who live in these neighborhoods have difficulty to find work
and, when they do not find it, very often they have to work in unstable and
ill paid jobs. Poverty promotes the development of insecurity and the
marginalization of these urban areas.
Big families. The immigrant populations of other cultures usually have
more sons and daughters than families of our own cultural environment
and therefore the percentage of citizens of other culture will continue to
increase, even when no new immigrants would come. (p. 117).

These passages are quite typical of textbooks on immigration. What is

being said is not totally wrong, but seriously incomplete and biased. The
bias consists first in the fact that only negative aspects of immigration to
the big cities of the North are mentioned. Secondly, by omitting crucial
information a wrong impression about immigrants and immigration is
bound to be learned by the students. Thus, although it is true that families
of people immigrating to Europe and especially Spain tend to be bigger, it
is also true that within one or two generation immigrant birth rates soon
adapt to those in the host country, and that therefore there is no reason to
speak of the continuous growth of the immigrant population due to their
high birthrates. Similarly, the first passage focuses on the insecurity of







stereotypical, if not racist, link between poverty, illegality and delinquency.

No positive consequences of migration for the cities of the North are
mentioned, such as the contributions to the vital economy of the cities
(construction, services, etc) and to the diversity of their population and
cultures. Indeed, except from one minor remark about economic
contributions, these textbooks say virtually nothing about the fact that
construction, hotels, restaurants, and so on, in the cities of the North
would cease to function without the presence of (low paid) immigrant
workers. That is, as much as the immigrants need the jobs of the North,
the North needs the cheap labor of the South. Neither this vital
interdependence nor the positive aspects of immigration are highlighted in
the textbook, not even at the level of the third ESO grade for kids of 15
years old. Rather they are confronted with stereotypes about illegal
immigration in pateras, run-down neighborhoods, delinquency, and high
birth rates. Barely one page of biased information about immigrants in
our cities in a book of more than 300 pages is rather scant for the
students to learn about a social environment that many (and soon most)
of the students will experience in the multicultural cities of the North.
Indeed, the urban adolescents who use these books need to read more
about the details of Catalan agriculture.

A Castilian Textbook

The second book I shall examine more closely is written in Castilian and
used in Madrid: Geografa e Historia. Ciencias Sociales, written by M. Burgos, J.
Calvo, V. Fernndez, M. Jaramillo, and F. Velzquez (Madrid, Anaya, 2002).
This means that whereas the Catalan textbook has special sections about
Catalonia, this textbook has special sections on the autonomous region of
Probably due to the general curriculum, the contents of the Catalan and
Castilian textbooks are very similar. Thus, of the 4 volumes, the first deals with
physical geography, and with prehistory and the first civilizations : Egypt,
Greece and Rome, including Roman Hispania.
The second volume, which will concern us here, has six sections, the first
on population and economic activity, the second on social and political
organization, the third on the cultural diversity of human groups, and the fourth,
the fifth and the sixth on medieval history. The first blocks feature several
lessons on the topics that interest us: immigration, ethnic minorities, African and
South America.
Migration is dealt with as part of the lesson on population. As is the case
in the Catalan textbook also this textbook makes a distinction between
underdeveloped and developed countries. The first have high birth rates,
vaguely explained by the lack of control over births, and the latter have low
birthrates, explained, as in the Catalan textbook, by the incorporation of women
in the world of work, and strangely also by the general aging of the
population (p. 15). Religious beliefs and traditional customs contrary to methods
of birth control are also mentioned as influencing birthrate, as well as economic
circumstances, for instance when families need their children to help them with
work on the land. Interestingly religious beliefs are thus mentioned as being
associated with high birth rates in underdeveloped countries, whereas until the
1970s and under Franco, the same was true in Spain, whose birthrate became
one of the lowest in the world in the 1990s.
Migration is explained in terms of hunger, looking for work, the wish to
improve life, wars, and political and religion persecution, as is also the case in
the Catalan textbook. Again, no economic causes of the receiving countries are
mentioned, so that the benefits of immigration only appear to be for those who
immigrate. This is also the reason why this book uses the word to face, that is,
something that is a problem:

At the moment the developed countries have to face an important

migration flow from the underdeveloped countries (p. 17).

It is however added that

in general immigration favors the developed countries, which thus get

cheap labor and a young population. But when the number of immigrants
is high, racism and xenophobia may take place, o feelings of rejection
towards those who arrive from abroad (p. 17).

Again, we find the same problems as in the Catalan textbook: racism and
xenophobia are mentioned only in one sentence, are formulated as something
that simply occurs, as a natural phenomenon, and is not explicitly attributed to
(Spanish) people. Moreover in Spanish the metaphor brotes is used, which
literally means shoots of a plant, and which is normally used to refer to
something that is incipient, and still small or reduced. This confirms the
association of racism with nature, and also mitigates its magnitude. The use of
the euphemism feelings of rejection (sentimientos de rechazo) further confirms
this well-known strategy of de-emphasizing our bad things. In a special report of
one page about immigration to Europe the same euphemism is used as one of
the factors that make integration difficult for most immigrants, together with
problems of language, customs, lacking residence and work permits. Though
very succinctly, this book thus mentions that immigrants also have difficulties in
Europe. Unlike the Catalan textbook it does not associate immigrants as
explicitly with problems and illegality.
One of the next sections in the book deals with different types of societies
and cultures, such as traditional (now virtually extinct) hunter-gatherer and
agrarian societies and (post) industrial societies, the first associated with the
Third World, and the latter with Europe. Also the pictures suggest this
polarization of the representation of societies and peoples: hunter-gatherers and
a village of adobe huts, and a black woman working the land with a child on her
back, on the one hand, and a picture of (white) people working on a computer,
on the other hand. The general distinction made between underdeveloped and
developed (p. 60) further emphasizes this overgeneralization.
Again, as such there is no problem associating for instance poor or
agrarian societies with the Third World or with Asia, Africa and Latin America,
and (post) industrial society with the North. The problem is the unnecessary

overgeneralization: Contrary to existing stereotypes the textbook might have

emphasized that also in Europe and the USA there is still agriculture one of the
reasons why poor countries have difficulty exporting to the North and that the
Third World has many modern, big cities and industry. Both in the text and in the
pictures, this would have been an opportunity to combat stereotypes the students
meet everywhere else in public discourse.
In section on social stratification there is also a report of one page on
ethnic minorities. Brief mention is made of the Gitanos as one of the major
minority groups in Spain, but at the moment eclipsed by the high numbers of new
immigrants from e.g. Africa and Latin America. Not a single word more about
Gitanos. Only a generalization about multiethnic societies:

In our times many countries in the world are becoming multiethnic

societies. This fact on occasion leads to the emergence of certain
attitudes such as prejudice, discrimination and racism. Prejudices are the
consequence of judging all people belonging to a social group on the
basis of preconceived ideas, and not on the correct knowledge of these
people. Discrimination is a behavior, an attitude which implies that
certain rights or opportunities are withheld from minority groups. Finally,
racism consist in considering others as superior or inferior as a function
of physical, racial or ethnic differences.
Facing this behavior each day there are more people conscious of the
necessity to promote cultural pluralism, considering minority cultures as
a form of social and cultural enrichment (p. 64).

We see, again, that prejudice, discrimination and racism miraculously

erupt as a consequence of the multiethnic society, as a phenomenon, not as
something specific people engage in. The succinct further explanation of these
terms again remain very general and very vague, and in no way seem to
implicate Us, white Europeans. If not as natural phenomena of societies,
prejudice, discrimination and racism are described of any multiethnic society in
the world. In other words, white students in Madrid need not feel addressed at all
with this very succinct, general and superficial explanation of these terms.
Indeed, racism is not dealt with specifically as a problem of Spanish society, and
as something that the dominant, Spanish majority has nothing to do with. In sum,
we again witness the familiar pattern of succinct, vague, generalized treatment of

racism and a very marked case of minimizing our (white, European, Spanish)
bad things.
Unlike the Catalan textbook, this Castilian textbook also deals with the
cultural diversity of the various regions of the world (Western Europe, North
America, Latin America, North Africa, etc.), although most of this information
deals with the usual geographical facts about states: population, political
organization, resources, industry, and so on. We read much on highly developed
commerce, industry, and so on, but not a word on immigration, minorities, and
the contribution of immigrants to the wealth of Europe. Nor a word on the colonial
history of Europe as another explanation of its riches (although the next sections
on other parts of the world brief mention colonialism, without a further description
of its forms and consequences).
On North America a few lines mention the white protestant population and
the ethnic minorities. No information about the history of slavery, segregation,
and contemporary racism. Of Iberoamerica we only read this about the

The population of Iberoamerica is largely catholic and of mestizo and

Indian race. The population of the white race only forms the majority in
Chile, Paraguay, Argentina and Uruguay. In the rest of the countries, on
the other hand, the indigenous population is predominant, and represents
between 50% and 70% of the total population, as in Peru, Bolivia, Mexico
and Colombia. (p. 113).
Remarkable here is first the use of the word race to refer to mestizos
and Indians, a notion that is not even problematized in a textbook on geography
and the social sciences. Secondly, apart from the factual errors and omissions
(no mention is made of Ecuador, Venezuela and the Central American states,
and not even of Brazil), there is also no mention of colonial history nor about
current white racism against the indigenous population and against the people of
African descent, which are not mentioned at all.
A special report of one page is dedicated to the indigenous people of the
Americas (p. 114). Here it is briefly said that the colonizers seized (apoderaron)
the lands and resources of the indigenous population, but their diminishing
numbers are largely attributed to themselves (alcohol, illnesses), and not to the
massacres of the colonizers. For Latin America this description of the diminishing
numbers of indigenous people is even more innocuous:










Iberoamerica to an alarming decrease of the number of native Indians.

(p. 114).

Thus, somehow the decrease of the indigenous population is vaguely

related to colonization, but it is not explicitly spelled out how. Again, no word on
colonial history, no word on massacres of indigenous people, no word of the way
they were discriminated, oppressed and marginalized by Spaniard, Portuguese
(as well as Dutch and English) colonizers. As elsewhere, not only our racism in
Europe is ignored or mitigated, also our colonialism and racism in the Americas
is conveniently forgotten. In another section, on the economy of Latin America,
poverty is attributed wholly to the unequal distribution of the land, insufficient
mechanization, and scarce technical preparation of the farmers, that is, to their
own backwardness with no role of the North, for instance in the local
economies, nor in the limitation for exports due to protection. Poverty and
indigence are just said to have spread in the 1990s, but we do not find
information about how such poverty came about.
Similar remarks are relevant for the treatment of Africa. The population is
described as largely being of the black race (p. 122). Colonization is mentioned
in passing, mostly as a cause of the boundaries between states. Of apartheid in
South Africa we read the following:
() managed to overcome the apartheid regime and the confrontation
between the black majority and the while minority (p. 121).
This description presupposes that apartheid was merely overcome as
a joint process and not because of black struggle and resistance (on another
page, as part of an assignment a few more lines say some more about apartheid
and on Mandela). Also, apartheid is not defined in terms of domination by the
white population, but as a kind of conflict between two groups. This is one of the
many ways in which white (European) racism is mitigated. On the other hand,
Europeans are said to have introduced modern agriculture, whereas other
agriculture is rudimentary (p. 124). Again, there are virtually no comments on
the role of the North, Europe or Spain in Africa, and not a single critical remark.
The treatment of Asia and Oceania, is similar.

The final sections of the book are historical and deal with the Middle
Ages. As is the case for the Catalan textbook, we also here find rather extensive
information about Islam and the Muslim occupation of Spain. Generally, these
pages emphasize the many economic, agricultural and cultural contributions of
the Muslim occupation of Spain, including details about new crops and new
techniques of irrigation, as well as other inventions. The section is strictly
historical. We do not find any information about contemporary Islam, or Muslim
immigrants in Spain.

Volume 3

The third volume of this textbook largely deals with a repetition and
further elaboration of geographical notions, such as the physical properties of the
earth and of Spain, weather, population, agrarian and industrial spaces, and so
As in the previous volume there is some information about migration, but
this is very general and does not apply specifically to Spain and Europe. In an
attempt at a typology, one of the categories proposed is to categorize migration
by its (il)legality (p. 63). Also in this volume the information about racism is
limited to one single sentence: () the last years has seen the emergence of
xenophobia and racism. (p. 76). No further information about where, by whom,
against whom, and so on. Only brief information is given about where people
come from and where they are going. In the chapter on the Spanish population
there is some more information about immigration: Spain used to be a land of
emigration but now has become a land of immigration, a fact illustrated with
some statistics about where most immigrants come from, where they settle in
Spain and in which jobs they find work. A picture shows, quite stereotypically,
two immigrants collecting garbage. No mention is made of the thousands of
students, especially from Latin America, who come to Spain to do their PhD, and
without whom many PhD programs in Spain would cease to exist because of
lacking students. The only other social information that is given about the
immigrants is that they frequently have difficulties to integrate themselves and
that many of them do not have papers and hence staying in the country
No further explanation is given about the lack of integration, and why the
description is given a reflexive form (integrate themselves) as if integration is
only a one-way process. We do not even find one single remark on this special

page on racism, prejudice and discrimination. Also it is always remarkable that

the illegal residence of immigrants appears to be such an important information
among the few things that are being said about immigrants, and that we never
find any remark about the many business people who employ these same people
illegally. In other words, the emphasis on their bad things, and mitigating or
ignoring our bad things seems to be regular feature about all passages about
immigrants in these textbooks. When the textbook finally deals with the
population of Europe it briefly mentions the importance of migrations in a
subtitle, but the text itself does not explain why immigration was and is to
important for Europe.
In a passage on minorities in the world we find a few lines about
minorities in Europe:

Also the north-African immigrants who come to Europe and the Latin
Americans who arrive in the United States have integration problems,
because in both cases they encounter great difficulties being accepted by
the countries to which they emigrate. In all cases the main problem is
integration and the acceptance of differences in the framework of respect
between groups. (p. 96).

Apart from the rather simplistic and redundant formulation, also this
passage shows that the authors have really very little to say about immigrants,
other than repeating stereotypes about lacking integration, and a very mitigated
version in passive voice of what might be interpreted as discrimination: they
encounter difficulties being accepted. The students have to learn more about
the crops, natural resources, animals or types of landscapes in various parts of
the world, then about one of the major phenomena of our time, immigration, or
about one of the major problems of Europe: racism. Since all textbooks are
virtually the same, it should be concluded that the main problem resides in the
curriculum and the limited conception of geography.


Concluding out analysis of a Catalan and a Castilian textbook we may

conclude that there are of course no explicitly racist passages. However, we do
find a confirmation of many of the usual problems of representing other people,

other countries, and in particular of dealing with migration, its causes and
consequences. These problems may be summarized as follows:

The textbooks show the stereotypical polarization between Us and

Them, between Us in the North, in Europe or in Spain, on the one hand,
and Them in the South or in the Third World, on the other hand. Very little
variation or diversity is observed among Us or Them. For instance, in the
South there are no rich people, and in the North there are no poor people.

Immigration is represented as motivated and caused only by the needs

of immigrants, not by the needs or benefits of the receiving countries.

The information about the immigrants is scarce, and largely limited to

some simple statistics about how many there are, where they come from,
and where they settle.

Their work is stereotypically described as what Spanish people do not

want to do. There is no diversity of information about motivation of
immigration or type of work the immigrants do.

Even if little information is given about immigrants, one of the standard

items is virtually always that many of them are illegal. No information is
given about illegal employers who give work to immigrants without

Also, it is emphasized that immigrants have problems to integrate

themselves. Little information is given about the causes of lacking
integration, and such causes hardly have to do with the receiving

Racism, prejudice and discrimination are sometimes mentioned, but in

general, abstract terms, and not as a major problem of Us in Spain or
Europe, and of which we are the active agents. It is never described what
the consequences are in the everyday lives of immigrants. No details are
given about the kinds of daily discrimination.

More generally, negative aspects of Us in the North are ignored, toned

down or described in very vague and general terms. This is also true for
the (lacking) account about colonization and its consequences, as well as
contemporary globalization.

These are not incidental problems, but structural problems that

characterize virtually all passages, and since the textbooks are so standardized,
we may venture the conclusion that what we have found in our analysis may be

generalized for all textbooks currently used in Spain. This may also mean that
the general curriculum does not insist on including the kind of information that is
now obviously lacking.
The consequence for the learning process of adolescents in Spain is
serious: They are not prepared for active and adequate participation in an
increasingly multicultural society. They lack knowledge and insight into one of the
most important social issues of our time, immigration and racism, and have not
been prepared for daily interaction with fellow citizens from other countries and
cultures. Ignorant about what racism means they will not be able to recognize it
when they see it, nor be able to take into account the serious difficulties
immigrants may experience who are victims of everyday racism. In sum, on the
basis of our analysis we must conclude that current textbooks and curricula in
Spain need serious revision if they want to contribute to the necessary
knowledge and abilities of the citizens in a multicultural society.


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