The Customer isn't always right

The truth behind textbook adoption

The smoking gun

The textbook industry is a $4.3 billion per year industry. This is an astonishing amount of money that twenty one states pay to adopt their K-12 textbooks. The problem isn't the amount of money spent, but that the money is spent on "mediocre" and "dull" textbooks that aren't purchased for their effectiveness to increase student achievement, but if textbooks can pass "bias and sensitive screening".

While textbooks are/have been the de facto teaching material in many classrooms they are "politically blanched, dumbed-down text, larded with disconnected facts that are sometimes erroneous and not infrequently misleading."

While our student's backpacks are ripping at the seams with new, up-to-date, lengthy, heavy, and visually appealing books, U.S. students are learning less than their peers across the world.

The hijacking of textbooks in adoption states

Twenty one states participate in the textbook adoption process. The textbook adoption process has been referred to as a "textbook cartel" due to four multi-national publishers (Pearson, Mgraw-Hill, Reed Elsevier, and Houghton MIfflin) controlling the textbook publishing world and creating obstacles for small, high quality publishers to enter the market.

In order to gain large state-wide adoption, these mega publishers have began to self-censor textbooks they publish to appease pressure groups from the politically correct left and the religious right. The result? Textbooks that have no research-based proven effectiveness for student achievement or school success. Instead, these textbooks are laden with politically correct verbiage, dumbed-down text, sidebar notes, and appealing graphics. If a part of U.S. history upsets a pressure group, these publishers will self-censor the material right out of the textbook!

How to Reform Textbook Adoption

Textbooks today are trapped in an "ideological straightjacket" that are in contrast and contain disconnected facts that do not educate or engage our students. The textbook adoption system fails to serve the public interest and reform must come from outside. So how do we reform this textbook adoption? Two key suggestions for reform includes the deregulation of the textbook market and strengthening standards and accountability of the publishers, committee members, board, etc.; there needs to be transparency and accountability in who is recommending these books and why.

Here are some recommendations for reform:

1. Textbook guidelines should create incentives for the quality of the textbook vs. the quantity of "extras" in the textbooks (rating sheets, test guide, Spanish versions, etc.).

2. State officials should eliminate or abandon their "social content" guidelines, checklists, flip tests, key-word searches, "mentioning", and mechanical formals to eliminate state bias and sensitivity reviews of the textbooks.

3. Abandon the use of readability formulas which "dumb down" texts.

4. Adoption state officials should drop policies and practices that discourage small, high-quality publishers from competing in the textbook market (free book samples, requirement to stock state book depositories, publish frequent revisions, etc.).

5. Make the selection transparent-name names and encourage personal responsibility.

6. Districts of groups of schools should be allowed to petition the state to add specific books to the state-approved list.

Implications for Schools

I still support my belief that students are indoctrinated in today's schools. The adoption of textbooks continues to support this belief as pressure groups are wanting to impress their personal opinions and beliefs onto society via schools. The Common Core can be viewed as a "national curriculum" that wants to create a one size fits all education where every student is taught the same "standards" and state textbook adoption could carry out this "conspiracy theory". Textbooks are trying to please pressure groups while also trying to tie the material to state standards. Our textbooks are sugar coating and omitting many details in our history in order to appeal to where we are today in defending the rights of everyone. If issues of our past are upsetting, ugly or discriminatory publishers feel it's best to just omit them all together.

I have heard this quote from George Santayana so many times. Imagine the possibility for students who cannot simply remember the past, but do not know the past or are misinformed of the past! If our students do not know why, we as a nation, are where we are today and how we got to be here, how will they ever know where we are truly going?

The consumers (teachers, parents, and students) need to be at the center of authentic and active learning where students are presented with research-based, proven, and effective material as they are guided to analyze and critique the information based on their own personal opinions, beliefs, values, and morale rather than "dumbed down" boring texts that are presented to them only to appease pressure groups' agendas in today's schools.

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