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(MSNBC)   Textbooks are part of the problem with U.S. education. "They are sanitized to avoid offending anyone..."   (msnbc.msn.com) divider line 47
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629 clicks; posted to Politics » on 16 May 2006 at 3:54 PM (8 years ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



47 Comments   (+0 »)
   

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2006-05-16 03:20:24 PM  
"sanitized" is too mild a term to use. Go pick one up on US history.
 
2006-05-16 03:27:56 PM  
submitter: "They are sanitized to avoid offending anyone..."

YA RLY.
 
2006-05-16 03:31:24 PM  
Pi is exactly three!
 
2006-05-16 03:31:25 PM  
The article says that we are falling behind in math and science. Math textbooks generally aren't all that offensive in the first place, and religious zealots will always be offended by science textbooks as long as they continue to actually teach science. Back when I was in high school, the biggest problem was that all of the textbooks were at least a decade out of date.
 
2006-05-16 03:32:28 PM  
and no, I can't be bothered to read past the second paragraph. I graduated from an American public school.
 
2006-05-16 03:33:17 PM  
Is our children learning?

Upon reading this article, it isn't difficult to not say that they isn't. And that is a shame.
 
2006-05-16 03:38:15 PM  
Feel free to blame Texas. The way textbook selection goes for many states is based on the review process for Texas, and it involves lots of money, lots of influence, and very little about textbook content.
 
2006-05-16 03:39:46 PM  
Cowboy Spencer
Feel free to blame Texas.

The article does. It says Texas and California are the two worst culprits.
 
2006-05-16 03:44:55 PM  
Couldn't we just give Texas and California back to Mexico? That would seem to solve most of our problems.
 
2006-05-16 03:46:11 PM  
Lies My Teacher Told Me (pops)

Learn it. Love it. Be pissed about it.
 
2006-05-16 03:46:41 PM  
"Texas' textbooks, which are often adopted by other states that have few alternatives, have included board-ordered passages mandating...pregnancies are best prevented by "respecting yourself" and getting "plenty of rest."

Now that's funny.
 
2006-05-16 03:47:02 PM  
5000_gallons_of_toothpaste: Math textbooks generally aren't all that offensive in the first place, and religious zealots will always be offended by science textbooks as long as they continue to actually teach science.

You have no idea. The article is dead on, except that California and Texas have different expectations on textbooks, and force publishers to move two different directions (at great expense, both in money and in quality of content) to satisfy both.

California is 11% of the market, Texas 10% and Florida 9%. California will not allow material in textbooks that prepares students (overtly, anyway) for standardized testing. Texas requires it, but has a different test than Florida. We must fulfill requirements to find illustrations of "minority hadicapped woman scientist," include references to scurrilous history "Eratostenes, an African, deduced the diameter of Earth" (he was a Greek, but in Egypt, which is in Africa), teach algebra without mentioning sets (not in fashion these days, according to teaching colleges), produce special editions with pictures of the Alamo, the Golden Gate Bridge, Miami, so that local culture is emphasized, make Spanish editions with a Mexican Spanish translation for Cal and Tex but Caribbean Spanish for Florida and New York.

There are several other states that command enough of the market and use statewide adoption that we make special editions for them, too. To fit in all of the crap that teachers demand, activities, exploration, cross-discipline connections, we end up publishing thousand-page monstrosities that don't cover in three courses what I learned as a boy in two.

/Math textbook publisher these last 17 years.
 
2006-05-16 03:49:38 PM  
Richard Feynman wrote a good piece once on how terrible the textbooks that he once reviewed were. Aparently it wasn't customary to actually read the books you review, so he aparently got funny looks for tearing apart a terrible math book.
 
2006-05-16 03:53:39 PM  
Of course textbooks are sanitized. If they told the truth about history, science, math, literature, or art then we would have a well-informed citizenry.

And we can't have that.
 
2006-05-16 03:54:37 PM  
Even college textbooks nowadays are ridiculously fluffy and sanitized.

Thankfully, most the college courses I've taken have used unfiltered primary texts.
 
2006-05-16 04:00:30 PM  
2006-05-16 03:49:38 PM DrJesusPhD

Hoot! I just read that think it was in "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!"
 
2006-05-16 04:02:18 PM  
Country full of friggin Nancys.
 
2006-05-16 04:03:08 PM  
History is offensive. It doesn't do any good to water it down.

The real issue is that public schools don't teach critical-thinking. Opinions counter to the curriculum cannot be challenged, nor are challengers allowed to logically defend their opinions. Politics are interjected into every class.

Teach the farking subject matter and leave the farking agenda's out of it. It's about the 3 R's dammit.
 
2006-05-16 04:04:21 PM  
slayer199: agenda's

*smacks forehead*

Proof-read before post.

Agendas...
 
2006-05-16 04:06:35 PM  
God forbid we talk about what really happened.
 
2006-05-16 04:08:14 PM  
DrJesusPhD: Aparently it wasn't customary to actually read the books you review

Of course it isn't. They have a requirement that you cover a certain curriculum. We send a huge stack of paper that says "We fulfill your 7th grade math curriculum requirement 7.A.1 on page 13 of the book. 7.A.2 on page 14. 7.A.3 on page 17, et cetera, all the way to 7.Z.23b. They check and make sure we have checked off all of their boxes. So we sort of review the book for them, or at least lead them to the bread crumbs they are looking for. We have a whole department in charge of that kind of crap. State adoption committeepersons are important and busy people who don't have time to read these things. Additionally, we hire some "State Reviewers and Advisors" to read the book, make suggestions, and write recommendation letters.

Then the school board flips through the book at the hearings and makes sure we have pictures of the right colors and shapes of people. Our sales droids open the book with subtle nonchalance to a page where, miracle of miracles, there is a picture of the Bay Bridge and a story problem about it. Ka-ching, ring up the Oakland Considated School District for 3.2 million, Ernie! Unless one of the local nutcases shows up and starts screaming that there is a) too much mention of God or b) no mention of God, and then we go around and around again.
 
2006-05-16 04:09:54 PM  
No, they're sanitized for your protection. If there isn't a white "cleanliness" seal on your textbook, always remember to wipe it clean and put some paper down before you sit on it. Proper hygiene is important, people.

/once caught crabs from a dirty Marine Biology textbook
 
2006-05-16 04:10:38 PM  
If we're not offended by our history textbooks, we're not teaching or learning history.

It would also be nice for the text in high school math books before the problem sets to be expanded a bit in an attempt to help students understand the "why" portion of things, because too often, their teachers don't.

Chemistry, biology, and anatomy classes should include more experimentation, and should be started in depth earlier.

English classes should include far more grammar, and should have more creative writing...

Anyway, I could go on for days and in a lot more detail.

*sigh*
 
2006-05-16 04:10:55 PM  
Ok So I started reading it thinking this was going to be a "political correctness gone wild" article. Then it almost redeemed itself and I thought they were going to have some actual insight into the debate. Then page two just ruined it and I realized it was a "PC gone wild" rant.

/damn, had my hopes up for some intelligent criticism.
 
2006-05-16 04:16:31 PM  
*looks around*
You do know where you are, don't you?

/hmm, my HTML disappeared...
 
2006-05-16 04:17:18 PM  
Grammar - spelling - reading comprehension
Grammar - spelling - reading comprehension
Grammar - spelling - reading comprehension
Grammar - spelling - reading comprehension
Grammar - spelling - reading comprehension
Grammar - spelling - reading comprehension
 
2006-05-16 04:22:04 PM  
TheRealMcCoy: Learn it. Love it. Be pissed about it.

Great book. Fabulous companion to Zinn's A People's History of the United States...
 
2006-05-16 04:29:09 PM  
whidbey
TheRealMcCoy

Story of American Freedom by Eric Foner. Another great read. A little to the left but gets the message across that American Freedom doesn't mean the same to everyone everywhere at every time in history. Focuses on the issues not the people, so there's very little finger pointing or sanitizing going in it.
 
2006-05-16 04:31:32 PM  
I don't buy that excuse.

The article talks about how places India and China are getting ahead of the US because their students are better educated in science and engineering flieds. There is only limited amount of politics that you can put into a math texrbook and I would wager that China puts more politics into their textbooks than America.

What the article fails to mention is that many textbooks in addition to all that PC crap are flat out wrong on many issues. They are often poorly written and eiddled with mistakes and factual errors. There is a definitive lack of competition among manufacturers and often the competition does not take the form of trying to outdo each other in the quality of their products. The influence of PC and crationsims crowds on the choice of textbook is a fact, but bribery and corruption are a much greater influence.

And the textbooks themselves are only a small factor in the quality of education anyway. Good teachers are more impoartant. And the amount of weight that a society puts on education is one of the most important factors in motivating szudents to learn. If the society puts down interlectualism and rationalism everwhere it won't produce many chlidren who are willing to focus their efforst in that area.
 
2006-05-16 04:31:35 PM  
I got in a huge argument with a high school history teacher about Wounded Knee, which our history book seemed to paint as just another "battle", and ignored the massacre elements.
 
2006-05-16 04:32:26 PM  
Thanks. I could use being riled up by something like that, Nuuu.

I'm still coming down from reading "People's History" even a couple of years later.
 
2006-05-16 04:39:18 PM  
I looked at my daughter's third-grade history textbook while helping her with some homework. It has a Picture Glossary of Famous Americans in the back. Now, I can understand how a publisher could have to condense certain things to keep the page count down, but under the "A" section, they list Louis Armsrong, Bessie Armstrong... and NO FARKING NEIL ARMSTRONG!?!?!?!?! WTF WTF WTF WTF WTF WTF WTF WTF????????? He was only the first farking human being to step foot on the farking MOON. You know, that bright ball in the night sky Louis Armstrong used to play that song about....
 
2006-05-16 04:43:23 PM  
i use my classic example from my Social Science Teacher in Highschool (7 years ago)

"Adolf Hitler was the Chancelor of Germany during World War I"

and this is history that is only 60-80 years old, think about 2000 year old history
 
2006-05-16 04:43:28 PM  
EdgeRunner: /once caught crabs from a dirty Marine Biology textbook

Bwahahahahah!
 
2006-05-16 04:48:39 PM  
Pre-high school science textbooks are hilarious. According to their pictures of kids doing experiments, 18% of the population is in wheelchairs.
 
2006-05-16 04:53:45 PM  
DrJesusPhD Richard Feynman wrote a good piece once on how terrible the textbooks that he once reviewed were. Aparently it wasn't customary to actually read the books you review, so he aparently got funny looks for tearing apart a terrible math book.

Now he was an amazing teacher! Everyone should read Six Easy Pieces

Any Pie Left NO FARKING NEIL ARMSTRONG!?!?!?!?! WTF WTF WTF WTF WTF WTF WTF WTF?????????

Just get her The Onion in History, they have a very informative piece on the moon landing: "Jesus Christ in a hand-woven-wicker-farking-basket Houston, I am on the goddam moon!"
 
2006-05-16 05:09:00 PM  
I was royally pissed when I finally read The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich and realized they didn't teach us about any of the important stuff, like how the Nazis came to power and got the people to back their aggression by whipping them into a frenzy over fake Czech and Polish terrorist attacks.

It was all from the perspective of "this is what happened" rather than "how do we make sure this doesn't happen again".
 
2006-05-16 05:18:33 PM  
pandabear
make Spanish editions with a Mexican Spanish translation for Cal and Tex but Caribbean Spanish for Florida and New York.

Now that's just messed up. These kids need to learn English then use the same textbooks as everyone else. The older they get the harder it will be.
 
2006-05-16 05:29:01 PM  
Loki-L: They are often poorly written and eiddled with mistakes and factual errors.

This was a textbook example of irony. Nice.
 
2006-05-16 06:41:15 PM  
2006-05-16 04:31:32 PM Loki-L

It's not that companies politicize math books. It's just Chinese, Japanese, and Indian math books are full of math. They don't have the answers at teh end. They don't have articles on elephants, carousels, or chicken farming. Pick up an American math book. It has all those
 
2006-05-16 06:42:42 PM  
Just one more symptom of the "diseconomies of scale" in public education today. Centralizing resources is a good idea when you have standard inputs and standard outputs. But as any parent will tell you, kids are not all standard. And this actually makes centralizing things, including textbooks, a bad idea. Education needs to be de-centralized and returned to local control as much as possible. And whoever came up with the idea of putting elected politicians in charge of school administration, rather than parents, needs to be hauled out into the street and shot. And if that person is already dead, they should be dug up and shot again just to be sure.

Here's how I would set it up:

1. Each state/county/city sets a standard of knowledge, i.e. "a student who completes grade "A" should know X, Y, and Z." (With hard sciences, mathematics, English/foreign language grammar, this should be pretty easy to define. With history or literature, this might take some finessing, but the emphasis should always be on providing as broad a survey of those subjects as possible, and making sure kids at least know what is hard fact and what is open to debate.) And leave the farking interest groups out of it. Aside from setting the curriculum standards, supervising testing, and disbursing school funds from property taxes, the state/county/city should have no other powers.

2. No such thing as a school district or school board, or a superintendent, or a group that picks one textbook for thousands of different kids. Instead, each individual school elects its own governing board from among parents with children enrolled in the school. 1 kid currently enrolled = 1 vote. The board hires (and fires) the principal, who in turn hires and fires the teachers. (Think of the principal as the CEO, and the board as a Board of Directors, and the parents as shareholders). Schools could potentially pool resources for auxiliary services (transportation, food service, financial management, etc.), but ultimately all decisions about each school's operations and management would rest with the parents and the board.

3. Break up students by ability, at first in small groups within classes, and then by whole classes later on, including using different textbooks. This makes sure the kids that do well in a certain subject get to go as far as their little minds without letting their talents go to waste trying to teach down to the average kid, while those who need help in a subject can take the time to get the basics right without being passed by. Of course, allow kids to go from one level to another, both up and down, based upon achievement.

4. Teachers would be given broad authority to supervise their classrooms and in how they teach. All teachers would have the ability to select the textbooks to be used, choose their own teaching style, and be able to discipline students without legal liability or fear of a lawsuit. (Parents would waive a right to sue as a condition of enrollment.) New teachers would be required to work under the supervision of more experienced teachers for the first few years, but allowed to fly solo after that. Most importantly, teachers would be required to have at least bachelor's degree in their subjects (to teach grades 4/5-12) or a degree in childhood education (K-3/4). As an incentive to attract good, motivated teachers, pay more for teachers with masters degrees in the relevant subjects, and make it so that the state will pay for any teacher to get a masters degree in exchange for a certain number of years of teaching service. Most importantly, pay teachers a full-year salary and give them some kind of tenure protection, as long as they spend summers doing something education-related (working on master's degrees, writing textbooks, teaching remedial summer school, etc.)... and they get out of the goddamn teachers unions.

4. Dirty little secret: it actually isn't that hard to write textbooks. It's the P.C. minutia that causes all the problems. Get a few college professors, some subject teachers, some outside experts and a few homeschooling parents together working together, and you'll produce a textbook that's just as good as anything a national textbook printer can come up with, and for a lot cheaper too. Heck, states could probably pay teachers and experts to take the summers and write their own textbooks, then have them printed and sold at cost. I guess the only guidelines would be that the history textbook authors should use as many primary sources as possible, and the literature textbook authors should be required to only use original, uncensored works. (Yes, all the cuss words, all the sexist, racist, hateful language, because the authors wrote it that way. Either that or don't use the work.)

With each teacher allowed to pick their own textbook, and textbooks available that are unaffected by the biases of jackasses in faraway states, this problem, and a few others should pretty much be solved.

...hey, what can I say. My mom used to be a teacher, librarian, and kids/teacher's book seller, and my aunt is a middle school principal. You spend enough time around teachers, you hear certain things and get certain ideas.
 
2006-05-16 08:53:51 PM  
Review of "lies my teacher told me", From the link provided by TheRealMcCoy:

"When textbook gaffes make news, as with the tome that explained that the Korean War ended when Truman dropped the atom bomb, the expeditious remedy would be to fire the editor. Loewen would rather hire a new team of authors bent on the pursuit of context instead of factoids. In Loewen's ideal text, events and people illuminating the multicultural holy trinity of race, gender, and social class would predominate over the fixation on heroes and acts of government. Such is the mood adopted throughout this critique of 12 American history texts in current use. Vetting 10 topics they commonly address--from the Pilgrims to the Vietnam War--Loewen bewails a long train of alleged omissions and distortions. To account for the deplorable situation, he offers this quasi-Marxist explanation: "Perhaps we are all dupes, manipulated by elite white male capitalists who orchestrate how history is written as part of their scheme to perpetuate their own power and privilege at the expense of the rest of us." Certainly students' appalling ignorance of history is troublesome, and broken families and excessive TV viewing are at least the equals of white male conspirators as the cause. However, libraries located where dissatisfaction with textbooks exists should be interested in Loewen's critique."

Sounds like an interesting read, at least.
 
2006-05-16 09:17:33 PM  
Public education intentionally keeping the population ignorant and malleable instead of properly informed?

SHOCKING I tell you!
 
2006-05-16 10:54:27 PM  
I'm not sure you can pin everything on textbooks-- with a good teacher, they are far less important. And can you play the political correctness card with math for instance? I'm not sure you can. I think they should hire teachers that understand the material they are teaching-- that might be the best bet.
 
2006-05-17 02:56:52 AM  
rayforce:

I'm not sure you can pin everything on textbooks-- with a good teacher, they are far less important. And can you play the political correctness card with math for instance? I'm not sure you can. I think they should hire teachers that understand the material they are teaching-- that might be the best bet.

You'd be surprised how politicized math can be. Many of the word problems are ones that take up much time. In some localities, it's no longer Susan and Michael taking away apples from Steven, it's mandated that names such as Javier and Kwakuu are the ones who take apples away from Chang.

Yes, they actually debate how many "ethnic" names should be in freaking math problems.
 
2006-05-17 07:45:49 AM  
Text books are not the problem.

The problem is that students almost never read them...
 
2006-05-18 02:14:04 AM  
You'd be surprised how politicized math can be. Many of the word problems are ones that take up much time. In some localities, it's no longer Susan and Michael taking away apples from Steven, it's mandated that names such as Javier and Kwakuu are the ones who take apples away from Chang.

I fail to see how this changes the math problem
 
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