Thursday, April 15, 2010

April 15: Time To Re-Write Textbook Writing

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Among the elected officials who have recently been dismissive of public will are most of the members of the Texas Board of Education.

A majority of the board is getting set to approve changes to textbooks that would alter a view of history to one that is more favorable to the extreme right-wing. Taraneh Ghajar Jerven, a freelance writer, gives the bloody details in a commentary in this week's Christian Science Monitor:

What the board is doing illustrates part of what is wrong with textbook writing across the country when it can be hijacked by people with partisan agendas, whether right or left. For instance, there have been complaints about textbooks in California being too favorable to left-wing causes.

Aside from politics, there is a question of whose history is or isn't represented. Increasingly, minority groups stake a claim to that history. Just as troubling as putting Jefferson Davis - or Sen. Joseph McCarthy - on a par with or above Thomas Jefferson is a textbook that eliminates Hispanics - especially in Texas, where they make up a sizable part of the population.

There should not be one central organization or agency writing all the textbooks in the country; a look at Nazi Germany - or the current demonization of Israel in Palestinian textbooks - shows that. But neither should the education of American children be hijacked by the same partisan parasites who have contaminated cable television, talk radio and the Internet.

There are trusted historians across the country and in local communities who look simply at what happened and not who it benefits. They should take a much larger role in helping textbook companies write history accurately.

As for Texas' Board of Education: Don't mess with American textbooks.

(Full disclosure: I work as an educator at the Historical Museum of Southern Florida.)

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