For those out there unfamiliar with how textbooks work, the publishers of these books are largely at the mercy of the state of Texas and the books adopted by the State Board of Education there. Why? Because Texas is such a large state that if your book is chosen to fill the classrooms there, that is enough to cover the costs of publishing and up until recently that meant that publishers could and would ignore the wants and needs of other states. This can be great for publishers because as long as they cater to one group, they can ensure that they make their investment back. The problem, as written about here, is that it can sometimes mean that the students are short-changed.
The current debate involves science textbooks and the inclusion of both the theory of evolution and discussions of climate change; though earlier this year they also affected social studies texts as reported on by the New York Times here. Unfortunately for high school students over the next ten years, rather than getting a solid footing in real science, they may be exposed to politically motivated pseudo-science that has no basis in reality. A list of the “objections” can be found here. Apparently ideologically encouraged ignorance has become so ubiquitous that two-thirds of the members of the board are willing to make the children of their state even more uneducated than they are. A decision will be made in the month of November, but the only public hearing on the subject is being held on Tuesday, September 17th. If you live in Texas, and are adamantly opposed to this ideologically based assault on education, you may want to look into where that hearing is taking place and participate.
For those of us who live in other states, there is some good news. First of all, the internet and the age of democratization in education has meant that publishers do not rely nearly as much on the Texas State Board of Education as they used to. Also, even within Texas a, 2011 law made it so that the various school districts in the state are not required to adopt the books approved by them. However, that does not mean that this is something we should ignore. It is possible that publishers will continue to listen to ideologues over reason, and even if this only affects the states that are dominated by those opposed to using their brains, it will still drag down the collective intelligence of the country as a whole.
If you’re interested in learning about other ways textbooks have kept you blind, go out and pick up a copy of Lies My Teacher Told Me by James Loewen. It is a great text detailing only a few of the ways your school books kept you ignorant.