So I’ve been reading a case study (as yet unpublished, but written by a co-worker’s father who is a professor at Brown) regarding textbook selection and regulations, particularly in Texas. You see, there are three major states that influence textbook publishing: Texas, California and Florida. The thing is, Texas and California have two opposite ideologies when dictating what should be taught. (This has led to more specialized textbook publishing, namely customized “state-specific” editions.) . . . Still, it’s interesting that depending on where you live you may get a very different kind of education, a very different slant. Texas leans towards conservative and traditional values in the classroom. Only recently were they able to begin putting evolution in the science books there. So many people rallied for Creationism to be taught on equal footing as evolution. Many petitioned for no teaching of dinosaurs, that textbooks should note that a number of people don’t believe the earth is more than a few thousand years old, instead of the millions of years old that the majority of scientists–based on evidence–consider it to be. Never mind the fossil record. Texas textbooks are only now beginning to portray women in roles other than wife, mother, care-giver. The books are only now beginning to move away from the pro-American, pro-capitalist propaganda that have filled them for decades. And I know, because I went to school in Texas.
California, on the other hand, swings the other way. Completely. It wants no traditional portrayals at all. It pushes political correctness to the limit. In every place that Texas is conservative, California is liberal. Heaven forbid a woman is shown as a stay-at-home mom in a California textbook. In California, apparently, that is a shameful thing. California doesn’t want stereotypically smart Asians, it doesn’t want grandmas baking cookies, it doesn’t want any kind of pride in America. There shouldn’t be nerdy kids, there shouldn’t be sporty kids, everyone should be shown as equal. Life in California texts is boiled down to a pasty, politically correct, mind-numbing blob.
Is there no balance between these two?
Face it: there are nerdy kids and sporty kids. It happens. It’s reality. And Texas clearly needs to come to grips with current scientific and sociological data. What education needs to do is give kids a world view. Not one the educators would like them to have, but a working one that the kids can apply to life as they know it. How left out does a nerdy kid feel when all he reads about are these perfect examples of well-rounded, well-adjusted characters? How confused is a kid who likes Jurassic Park but is told by his school system that dinosaurs are really just a theory and may never have existed at all, despite the bones displayed in so many museums?
Since I worked for two years in elementary textbook production, I feel like I have a good point of reference for this topic. I know from work experience that catering to Texas and California is a priority in the textbook publishing industry. These two states stand for a large portion of profits. (Florida as well.) In many cases, at least in my experience, the California books are often repackaged for sale to the rest of the nation at large. I’ve yet to experience the repackaging of Texas texts; it seems most states are looking for more liberal, politically correct books. I know a lot of time is spent making sure there are a certain number of minorities pictured in books, including showing male teachers and disabled people. Not necessarily a bad thing, but shouldn’t we focus a bit on the actual content? While political correctness levels rise, student achievement declines, as more time and effort is spent on the packaging and less emphasis is placed on the actual development of student texts.Powered by Sidelines