Textbooks and Curricular Materials

How do they effect public schools?

Textbooks

Textbooks are used as a main teaching tool across our entire country, which Anne C. Westwater discusses in her review of Diane Ravitch's book The Language Police. She claims that textbooks have become too much of a front line teaching tool and should instead be used as a guide by the teacher to effectively teach the subject focus. The reason for this is twofold—teachers should be better trained in their area of expertise and not rely on a book to teach their children, but Westwater also claims that our textbooks are highly censored and therefore cannot offer a valuable education to our students.

The Trouble with Textbooks: Distorting History and Religion

Textbooks and Censoring

Diane Ravitch also contributed to The Mad Mad World of Textbook Adoption, which was written about the censoring of textbooks, state laws regarding textbook censoring, and how textbook adoption began. Ravitch provides inside information on what information is not allowed on standardized tests or in textbooks. Words and concepts that we use and discuss in everyday situations are banned from these materials to keep from offending anyone, but Ravitch claims it goes far beyond that and has led to a numb and dumbed down education system.

School Programs/Curricular Materials

Advocacy Groups in the School Setting

Advocacy groups have their place in our society, schools included. Education should not just be about the basic subjects. It is about learning how to be in society, around other people, and proper behavior that goes with it. We should be learning about all kinds of religions, cultures, and ways of living so that we may choose what fits us best. And I definitely think advocacy groups need to exist in schools so kids can find their niche and be with people who have the same interests. At my highschool there was a GSA, focus groups (such as art club, math club, etc.) and then various religious groups that met one day a week on and off campus. What a great way to bring folks together and learn.

Conclusion

I have honestly never given textbook censorship this much thought. I find it hard to believe that textbooks are censored as intensely as Ravitch claims. I understand some of it, in that it is important to try to put information out there in an objective manner that will not offend those who are different. But some of the words she lists that are not allowed or places (such as a mountain, the sea) that could be considered partial to a particular audience kind of strikes me as strange. I'm thinking, there is no way this can be true. I plan to go to the library and try to check out early elementary textbooks and see what I can find.


This is a hard subject, because people that would seemingly be on the same side address completely different views. Consider the video above. This video talks about how the Islamic religion is portrayed in textbooks and how terrorism is not mentioned along with Islam. I was really offended by this, because although the terrorist groups that attacked us identified themselves with Islam, they were part of a branch of Islam that has a different goal of violence and hatred than does many other people of this religion. Diane Ravitch says the same thing, but in a different way. She agrees that more truth should be brought to textbooks about the terrorist attacks, but she also includes that those terrorists are a different branch of Islam than many other, peaceful people of the same religion.


Overall, we should be teaching our children truth so that they don't come into the real world with a jaded version of how things really are. This means advocacy in schools, and it means a straightforward and honest version of our history and the truths of the world, while using language that avoids offense when available.


Is this possible? It would mean those that want to protect offending those that are different coming together with those that don't wish to censor books and meeting in the middle.