March 11, 2010

"60% Say Their Kids’ Textbooks Place Political Correctness Above Accuracy."

A Rasmussen poll.

60 comments:

Gahrie said...

As a teacher, I second that statement.

David said...

Our above thought.

El Pollo Real said...

This is why I started Hollywood Home Schooling my kids.

There are some pretty awesome movie recommendations in the comments, especially by Trooper York.

former law student said...

80% of parents lie about having read their kids' textbooks.

Textbooks are simplified for the target audience though, warts removed, etc. We gave our nephew a copy of Lies My Teacher Taught Me. Hey, Howard Zinn liked it.

Kensington said...

What could go wrong?

peter hoh said...

School textbooks are too damned expensive.

FWIW, they seem to be about twice as heavy as the books I hauled around 30 years ago.

edutcher said...

Given the teacher unions take their marching orders from the Columbia University School of Education, which numbers the distinguished educator William Ayers among its alumni, the textbooks they want to buy for their districts reflect the Howard Zinn philosophy of education.

And this surprises us how?

former law student said...

80% of parents lie about having read their kids' textbooks.

Textbooks are simplified for the target audience though, warts removed, etc. We gave our nephew a copy of Lies My Teacher Taught Me. Hey, Howard Zinn liked it.


I had a look at my nephew's history book. The Bugs Bunny comics I read when I was 10 presented material the same way.

Chef Mojo said...

Oh. Howard Zinn? You mean that dead, discredited, commie propagandist?

Go wrap yourself up with "Good Will Hunting," and mutter, "Matt Damon!"

Try not to drool too much.

Paul said...

In the mid-1990s I asked a recent Polish immigrant what surprised him most about America. He said:

1. Rudeness

2. Affirmative Action

3. The fact that we are propagandized more relentlessly than he was in Poland under communism.

He must have been waiting for someone to ask him that question.

Paul said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
prairie wind said...

By now, our kids have teachers who weren't taught anything. My son's social studies teacher seems to think that teaching kids cynicism is his job. Instead of teaching them the basics so they can make their own interpretations, he teaches them that "everything is biased."

We do a lot of re-teaching at home. Yes, the 9/11 terrorists really were Muslim... no matter what your teacher says.

wv: elented (readers of The Anchoress definitely are.)

Jeff with one 'f' said...

As a former textbook editor I third that statement!

Pogo said...

My son said his classmates today, when discusssing McCarthy in the 1950s, argued that it was a right not only to be a communist in US goverment employ, but also to spy against the US, and shouldn't have been prosecuted.

Thanks, liberals!
Your work is done.
And it was a complete sucess.

bagoh20 said...

Is there any other institution in America as flawed and ineffective as our K-12 school systems. How can people justify results in cities like Detroit, L.A. and many others where half or more of the students don't graduate and many of those who do are entirely uneducated.

Would we accept hospitals that killed half their patients, or a car company that produced fleets with only half the cars capable of getting you to work, or airlines that crashed or got lost on half of all flights.

I know it's not as important as those things - it's only the future of our children and their country and the competence of the future car and plane builders, but I guess we can always import them.

That movie "Idiocracy" that imagines a future world of idiots caused by the stupid reproducing more than the intelligent may in fact come true, but not due to differential birth rates, but rather simple lack of effective education. Again, like political correctness the entire world is not infected with rampant stupidity in it's educating class and it may only mean the failure of the west. So we got that going for us.

Kirby Olson said...

They might as well get used to what they're going to face in college. There, it's going to be 100%, and if you mention one wrong thing in many places, you're out the door. In China, they had to force people into reeducation camps.

Here, the kids shell out huge money.

Peter V. Bella said...

I was looking through one of my daughter's text books from seventh grade a few years ago. it had a diversity editor and an environmental editor. This was a history book.

PC above accuracy, you betcha.

Gahrie said...

FWIW, they seem to be about twice as heavy as the books I hauled around 30 years ago.

This is in large part due to the fact that every page has a picture, drawing or chart, and most have multiples. (supposedly the kids won't pay attention otherwise) The text is also in a larger font.

Is there any other institution in America as flawed and ineffective as our K-12 school systems. How can people justify results in cities like Detroit, L.A. and many others where half or more of the students don't graduate and many of those who do are entirely uneducated.

Part of the problem here is the demand that everyone receive a college prep education. All of those kids who used to take basic Math and English, and lots of shop classes, are now nominally in college prep classes.

The biggest problem in education today is not bad teachers, it is unmotivated students and disengaged parents. ( I would put bad teachers fourth after the current education philosphy)

Gahrie said...

By the way....my solution?

Get rid of the federal and state dept.s of Education, and bring back neighborhood schools run by the parents.

Theo Boehm said...

My wife was a senior development editor at Houghton Mifflin for 10 years, working on textbooks. She mostly did college foreign-language books, and the occasional anthology or scholarly book in French.

She occasionally had to go slumming in high school books, always an eye-opener. The best attitude to take to retain sanity among the editors was that of mock-horrified bemusement. What has made these books increasingly bad over the years isn't politically-motivated PC coming from editors and publishers. No, it's the pressures under which State departments of education and school boards, who make the adoption decisions, must operate.

Every interest group and political action committee imaginable is after the education departments in large states, particularly Texas and California, to ride their particular hobby-horses into the pages of school textbooks in those states. The large states buy so many textbooks, and the costs of preparing alternatives so prohibitive, that what Texas and California wants, or is forced to want, the rest of the country gets.

You can imagine the whiplash that ensues when conservative Evangelicals and pro-life elements have their way in Texas, and the looney left works its magic in California. If every pressure group's demands were met, all textbooks, save perhaps math books, would be, perforce, content-free.

Foreign-language textbooks are commonly less jerked around than others, but even there, the pressure groups have been busy. A couple of near-legendary stories, still murmered about among veterans of Mother Mifflin in Boston, long after they, Huffy Muffy, and Huffy Muffy's former Foreign Language Division have all parted ways:

1. A high-school German textbook had an illustration of a birthday party showing a cake. It accompanied the usual language lesson about birthdays, parties, etc. Yes, even, or especially, in Germany, they have cakes at birthdays. The American Dental Association complained to a large state's education authorities about to adopt the book. The education authorities objected to my wife's employer.

The ever-resourceful editors came up with the stratagem of having the kids eat salad at the birthday party. The Dental Association was happy. No examples of unhealthy eating to lead 15-year-olds astray.

What the dentists were blissfully ignorant of was the accompanying dialog, in German, had the kids grumbling about how stupid it was to be forced to eat salad at a birthday party.

Read German? Dentists? Bitte!

2. Some snake-chucking Fundamentalist crew in Texas objected to showing a cow udder in a bucolic picture teaching farm-related vocabulary, also, I believe, in a German book.

A cow udder? This was somehow supposed to be immoral or prurient? In Texas? God help them if they'd shown a sheep.

Anyway, the picture editors cleverly rearranged the illustration, so that the calf, formerly to the side of the cow, was now in front, covering the bovine naughty bits. A piece of fencepost seemed to have come along with the calf in the cut-and-paste job, giving the little fella every appearance of having an enormous erection.

This went unnoticed by the holy-rollers, fixated as they were on hooved mammaries.

The authors, I believe, gave the managing editor one of those black-and-white painted kitchen stools, with the pink udders under the seat.

To this day, cow-themed Christmas, birthday, and other presents—teapots, mugs, kids' clothing, etc.—are common among a certain group of veteran editors in Boston. We still have a potholder and sweatshirt.

Editors these days would not do such things, I'm sorry to say, mostly because they no longer exist as a collegial group. But it's always been the provenance of age to complain of the meagerness of learning and the badness of the times.

Joe said...

I agree with Gahrie 100%. The federal government is now doing more to destroy education at all levels than any other entity.

As for math books specifically; forget PC, they are mostly crap. My kids have had math books with portions that were indecipherable. Even the teacher couldn't make heads or tails of them (but was forced to use the book by, yes, the assholes at the state level.) One of my brother's kids had a math book where the problems weren't actually listed in numeric order--he never could figure out what the pattern was. We presumed it was just random.

Joe said...

Theo, just thank God they didn't show any German cows! Especially German cows eating cake. Jesus, the world would have ended.

Theo Boehm said...

I apologize for the typos and the commas that fell from the ceiling into my comment above. I'm married to an editor who can spot misspellings and bad punctuation in 5 languages at 20 paces, and still it happens. Sorry.

Also, one of the several small advantages to living in Massachusetts, along the lines of, say, the month of October and Fenway Park, is the fact that the State does not adopt textbooks, but leaves the choice to local school committees. That means my one son who goes to public school does not have idiotic text books. The other son goes to Catholic school, where they hardly need textbooks, the teachers having memorized and mimeographed everything 34 years ago, and the place filled with groaning bookshelves otherwise.

former law student said...

Would we accept hospitals that killed half their patients

We accept hospitals where half the patients die, because they are the hospitals that other hospitals send their hardest cases to. The university hospital nearest me had a zero percent survival rate for bone marrow transplants in adults over 40. Nobody thinks the hospital is bad or the oncologists are incompetent. For these particular patients, that hospital is their last hope.

And so it is with the kids who come to schools in Detroit and LA. They are the least promising material -- Gahrie put his finger on it.

Bruce Hayden said...

The biggest problem in education today is not bad teachers, it is unmotivated students and disengaged parents. ( I would put bad teachers fourth after the current education philosphy)

I would suggest that the disengaged parents are a symptom, and not really a part of the problem. There was a recent article on charter schools in Harlem, where parents were lining up in the snow for a chance to get their kids into those schools, instead of the regular public schools. These are exactly the parents considered most likely to be disengaged, yet when they felt they could make a difference, they went for it, and took a chance.

If you want to talk disengagement of parents, I would first look at the public school systems that regularly dismiss any questioning by the parents with the authority of their experts. They have the doctorates, and how dare these uneducated parents challenge their educating their children.

I was surprised when I first saw this in action. I come from a part of society where those school experts would be challenged (but, then, I sent my kid to private school, where I did have input). My secretary though didn't have multiple graduate degrees, and faced this with all three of her kids. This is a woman who got her eldest out of the Navy by finding the right Admiral at the Pentagon, but couldn't make any headway with the local large city school district. The two kids I knew had ADHD and were dyslexic. But instead of helping them, the schools eventually threw them out, and there was nothing that she could do about it.

Bruce Hayden said...

And so it is with the kids who come to schools in Detroit and LA. They are the least promising material -- Gahrie put his finger on it.

Back to my example of charter schools in Harlem. Amazingly, they graduate most of their students from high school, while the regular public schools tend to graduate fewer than half. Yet, the initial demographics are in the regular schools' favor, despite the initial allocation being lottery based.

You can pretend all you want that the state monopoly school systems fail because of their students. This is not surprising, given your apparent belief in government solutions to most problems in society. But you are wrong.

The public school system has evolved to a system that operates for almost the exclusive benefit of the teachers and administrators thereof, with the students being only of cursory importance to their goal of high salaries, great benefits, security, and negligible accountability.

No one should be surprised that a lot of those jobs "saved or created" by the "stimulus" package a year ago involved teachers getting raises. Somehow, the theory was that they would somehow abandon their high paid secure jobs with pensions and benefits far better than the rest of society if they didn't get those raises. Especially in the midst of the biggest recession of our lifetimes.

The amazing thing is that liberals still believe that governments can run things like school systems well, or, really, even tolerably. They seem to be unaware of the inevitability of employees of such government entities capturing control of them, and then milking them to their advantage.

Expat(ish) said...

Even at my kids expensive (for me) private school the high school history books are mostly PC junk with faux "black history" and admiring stories about Unions and Commies in WWII.

I had a bit of a knock down with the history department head and we agreed that I would leave the curriculum comm. the next year. Apparently I was the first parent to actually read the textbooks.

Luckily my kids are inoculated against blind trust by now.

-XC

Gahrie said...

If you want to talk disengagement of parents, I would first look at the public school systems that regularly dismiss any questioning by the parents with the authority of their experts. They have the doctorates, and how dare these uneducated parents challenge their educating their children.

Which is why in my very next post I recommended getting rid of the Federal and state education dept.s and go back to neighborhood schools run by parents.

Gahrie said...

Back to my example of charter schools in Harlem. Amazingly, they graduate most of their students from high school, while the regular public schools tend to graduate fewer than half.

The parents who bother to organize and enroll their kids in charter schools are the opposite of disengaged parents, and charter schools usually have stringent performance requirements for the kids. I would expect them to have much higher graduation rates. They are actually examples of my proposed solution to the problem.

master cylinder said...

The real disconnect is Texas is home to many textbook companies-yet we have some of the worst schools.
Remind me when schools were run by parents?
Thank yer buddy GWB....no child left behind, that is your real problem.

raf said...

Only 60%. That is part of the problem. I am recurringly bewildered by arguements that it is wrong to have standardized testing because then teachers will only "teach to the test" instead of some wonderful mind-opening ideal. I always point out that most students in most public schools would benefit if they would only learn what was on a basic standardized test. They could read, maybe, and make change. For the most part, I get no further arguement, but a better example of "the perfect being the enemy of the good" than the public school system is hard to come by.

former law student said...

faux "black history" and admiring stories about Unions and Commies in WWII

What was faux about the black history in the text? During WW II, the Commies were of course our allies, and kept the Nazis quite busy as we invaded France. We were so delighted in their performance that we turned over huge hunks of Central and Eastern Europe to them.

Unions comprised the workers who built the bombs, tanks, and aircraft that helped the good guys win the war.

You can pretend all you want that the state monopoly school systems fail because of their students. This is not surprising, given your apparent belief in government solutions to most problems in society. But you are wrong.

And yet public schools do not fail the middle class. In fact, where I live, the most expensive houses are located in districts with the highest test scores. Riddle me this, libertarian man.

Patm said...

Have a friend who teaches social studies in the public schools. She's a true teacher; she's passionate and demanding, and she wants her students to learn how to think, not to just parrot. She is completely dispirited by the kids (10th and 11th grade, mostly) who make it to her classes knowing almost nothing about anything, barely able to string sentences together, and they're cynical, disinterested and for all intents and purposes "shut down."

And this is a "great" school district in a rather tony section of Long Island.

When they take her class, kids don't know what's hit them; neither do the parents who are used to seeing their kids get A's just for showing up, and are distressed that their darlings are actually getting B's, C's and D's when they don't do or know the work. My friend has decided that the only way to counter the trend is to continually refer to source documents. When something comes up in a book, she demands they, find the source documents and read them (but not any commentaries). Then when they get back to class, they take an issue from the textbook, and compare it to what they discovered for themselves.

She is engaged in the heavy task of teaching them the lost art of critical thinking, along with the usual "teaching to the test." It is not easy.

Meanwhile, a niece of mine who was an "A-student" in her public school had to drop out of her pre-med program for accounting. Why? "College is totally different than High School; I had no idea how to study."

She's smart enough to realize, now, all she did not learn in high school.

former law student said...

I always point out that most students in most public schools would benefit if they would only learn what was on a basic standardized test.

Standardized tests mean standardized curricula. The Regents' Exams have worked fine in New York State for a century and a half -- the problem is that the idea was applied only to the brightest students.

Patm said...

many comma errors in my above comment. sorry. not enough coffee.

master cylinder said...

Our public high school has graduating classes of 2000 students.
Does that ever work?

Big Mike said...

Only 60%!!!

I guess 30% don't read their kids' textbooks (FLS has clearly made a typo) and the remaining 10% actually believe that PC excrement.

former law student said...

"College is totally different than High School; I had no idea how to study."

Yes, college is totally different from high school, and people who never developed study discipline will founder on a rock.

Many young people miss the spoonfeeding and solicitousness of their high school teachers, as well as the parental voices nagging them to do their homework. Private school students are likely to mess up as well, judging by my aunt's kids.

Pre-med slackers inevitably crack up on Organic Chemistry, because it cannot be learned by pulling all-nighters the week before the exam.

But, every college now offers academic help to freshmen -- overconfidence and pride keep them from learning the study skills needed for college.

former law student said...

Our public high school has graduating classes of 2000 students.
Does that ever work?


My hs graduating class had 1978 students in it, so I would have to say yes.

Big Mike said...

Unions comprised the workers who built the bombs, tanks, and aircraft that helped the good guys win the war.

And there were also unions -- most famously the United Mine Workers under John L. Lewis -- which struck repeatedly just to show that they could. The attitude of the soldiers on the front lines towards the UMW was well summarized by one of them: "John L. Lewis, God d*mn your coal-black heart."

In fact, where I live, the most expensive houses are located in districts with the highest test scores.

In a "knowledge worker" economy the people who have and can use knowledge will make the most money. It should not surprise anyone that (1) such people would value education and choose to live in neighborhoods with excellent schools, and would therefore (2) put pressure on their local school boards to maintain and even improve the quality of education, and (3) their kids would also be bright and would score high on standardized tests. Genetics counts for something, FLS.

Michael said...

FLS: I think that the outcome of middle class schools is better for a couple of obvious reasons. First, many, if not most, of the schools were founded to respond to the demand created by new suburbs which sprang up to accommodate families who would not tolerate the schools in older neighborhoods. Second, the parents of middle class children are more likely to value education, to demand that their schools provide secure teaching environments and that sub-par teachers be weeded out as soon as possible. Many inner city parents do not value education and are indifferent to what goes on in the schools. No squeaky wheel, no response.
The imminent tragedy of a centralized government, particularly a "progressive" one, becoming involved in education is that it is far easier to level outcomes by reducing the quality of the middle class schools than to raise the standards of the inner city schools.

I have elected to make the financial sacrifice to send my children to private schools which are themselves not immune to the PC plague.

My 7th grader, has been informed by his private school Social Studies (nee History) teacher that much of the world was "imperialized" by Western Europe. Nice. Not a word, but nice.

Michael said...

As to college preparation, I was recently reminded by a prep school classmate that we had to write an essay every single day of the four years of our tenure. Including the last day of the last year, the day before graduation. I was very lucky to have been subjected to that torture because when I entered college I quickly noted that many, if not most, of my classmates could not write at all. they hadn't a clue how to write in essay form.

Big Mike said...

@Joe, I'm with you 100%. Not only did my son's geometry book not introduce proofs until the very last chapters (back in the 1960's we were doing proofs almost from the very first day) but it even included a question about whether the student enjoyed Maya Angelou's poetry. That's an appropriate question for an American Lit class, but if there's any relationship between poetry and geometry beyond the fact that they share the same last four letters, the relationship escapes a poor mathematician like me.

Robert Cook said...

Does this mean they realize that our history has long painted too pretty a picture of actual events and the purported "purity" of our character, intentions and motivations, or have they swallowed the idea that our history has been too "unfair" to the actual greatness of America?

Also, how would the parents know, one way or the other? Do they read their kids' textbooks? Do they know our history well enough themselves too critique anything the books might say in any case? (I'm sure the answers to these last questions are "No" and "No.")

Robert Cook said...

"My son said his classmates today, when discusssing McCarthy in the 1950s, argued that it was a right not only to be a communist in US goverment employ, but also to spy against the US, and shouldn't have been prosecuted."

The last bit, about spying, reveals the typical foolishness and false bravado of kids; the rest, about Communists having a right to serve in government employ is, of course, correct.

master cylinder said...

thanks fls-that just seems so big.
It's known as a "good" district and school, Plano Tx.

Michael said...

Robert Cook: Is your point that the poll was inaccurate or that the parents were too stupid to interpret the question or that parents should butt out of what their children are being taught? I don't doubt that parents do thoroughly read their kid's textbooks, but I do that that they get the general drift of what their kids are being taught. I may be all wrong about most parents but in my circle they are pretty clued in on what is going on and have an interest. They are well educated and of different political persuasions. Do they think that our history books have painted "too pretty" a picture of events? Perhaps. Do they feel a need to correct this by devoting the texts entirely to slavery, indian genocide, imperialism, land grabs, racism, xenophobia, gender inequality, income disparities, animal cruelty, various atrocities committed in the name of Christianity, unjust wars, McCarthyism, the unfair criminal justice system, worker mistreatment, violence against unionists, and too much salt in the food? Doesn't matter since all these topics are already covered.

Patm said...

fls, yes, it was chemistry that caused her crash-and-burn

Dust Bunny Queen said...

We do a lot of re-teaching at home. "Yes, the 9/11 terrorists really were Muslim... no matter what your teacher says."

This.

And as much homeschooling as you can to counter the inaccurate and completely false propagandized information that the teachers Unions are forcing onto the students.

We had to correct much of the misinformation that my daughter was taught in school.

She also tended to correct her teachers when they were wrong (like mother like daughter).

One 'social studies' teacher gave her a less than an "A" on a test of the Capitals of the States.

She had to inform him that Houston was NOT the Capital of Texas; demanded that he correct the grade....... and then proceeded to lecture him in front of the class that " Wasn't it HIS JOB to know these things?!?."

I was very proud.

Most of our students learn nothing or worse learn falsehoods. It should be criminal this waste of minds and time.

former law student said...

And there were also unions -- most famously the United Mine Workers under John L. Lewis -- which struck repeatedly just to show that they could.

The UMW struck against government restraint of the ability of employees to contract with employers. They were fighting FDR. Libertarians should throw their caps in the air and shout, "Huzzah!"

We seem to have a consensus about how kids' performance in public schools depends much on the parents, whether by their expectations of offspring and schools, or by the genes they pass down.

Robert Cook said...

Michael,

My point was twofold: how do the parents know what their kids' textbooks actually say? Your anecdotal experience notwithstanding, I doubt most parents have any idea what their kids' textbooks say; and,
Given the idealistic and bowdlerized American history most Americans have been taught for generations,(as is probably true with the national histories taught to citizens of every country), with what context or expert knowledge of their own would the parents have to critique that content of their kids' textbooks of which they might be aware?

And who's defining "political correctness?"

AJ Lynch said...

We spend way too much time wringing our hands about public schools. It's the parents who should get the credit or blame. For the really bad school districts, it would be cheaper for us if we built orpanages so we could take the kids from their dysfunctional parents.

Plus in ten years or so, the 1960's and 1970's libs who run things now will be dead and gone and calmer heads will be in charge.

Big Mike said...

We seem to have a consensus about how kids' performance in public schools depends much on the parents, whether by their expectations of offspring and schools, or by the genes they pass down.

Well, it's a start. By November I hope to have it where your hand doesn't start shake with palsy when you reach towards the Republican lever in the voting booth.

Michael said...

Robert Cook: Hard to support or undermine without anecdotal references. I would think that PC is pretty easily recognizable as the information that is supplied to counter the normal narrative. A section on the entrance of the U.S. in WWII would include Pearl Harbor but be immediately followed by the internment of Japanese U.S. citizens. Both true. Both important. Not equivalent. PC is the "yes but" piece of most arguments from the progressive view of history. True. Not equivalent. PC, like porn, is known when seen.

Big Mike said...

@Michael, very true.

Michael said...

Robert Cook: Eye of the beholder, indeed. Give me then an example of PC from your point of view. Or perhaps it is simply a distorted view of conservatives.

Roux said...

Not so sure about political correctness but after helping 4 kids studying through school I'd say most are poorly written and factually inaccurate.

Michael said...

Robert Cook: I see your point, but think you are conflating euphemisms with political correctness. To say "we didn't torture" is not PC, it is either a lie or the truth depending on your view of what was done to a particular individual. Political Correctness cannot be argued against while the "we didn't torture" position can be argued infinitely. It is not politically correct to say anything bad about Islam, for instance. It is not politically incorrect, however, to say whatever strikes your fancy about Catholicism. Go figure.

Joe said...

One example of PC: telling kids "You can do anything you want."

Estragon said...

The textbooks in use for the last couple of decades are, to put it politely, crap.

PC is hardly the only reason, but it is a big part of it. When the preferred narrative becomes the lesson, there is no lesson, only the preferred narrative.

ken in sc said...

I taught middle school and high school social studies—plus one year of 7th grade science—until 2007. The textbooks are full of PC junk. One example that comes to mind is the 6th grade world history book that devoted almost twice as much space to the life of Buddha as it did to the life of Jesus. At least in social studies, we were allowed to talk about religion. Another example is the high school history book that put forth the idea that ancient lost civilizations disappeared because they abused the environment and that will happen to us if we are not environmentally proactive.