Minnesota Liberal

Saturday, September 18, 2004

One For The Books

A few years back, I took a class entitled "Writing History." We looked at history, as a concept, and studied several different ways in which it is written. (This class, at the UofM, was taught by John Troyer. He is one of the most brilliant people I have ever met and really a great writer. Try google searching him and read his stuff.)

Anyway... It is an odd concept. Who is it that writes school textbooks? Why do we trust these textbooks? Are textbooks biased in any way?

Many of these questions were very similar to those that were asked when the State of Minnesota was developing new school standards. What is it that needs to be learned by children to understand the history of anything?

One of the nifty little facts we learned was that the state of Texas has an enormous amount of influence over how textbooks are written.

In Texas, they have a law requiring all textbooks be approved by a state board. That board is made up of a majority of Republicans. If they disagree with any of the content within a textbook, they can reject it and ask the publisher to resubmit it after certain changes have been made. Too much language about contraceptives in sex ed books or evolution in science books, and you won't be getting your book published. And this is a big problem because Texas buys more textbooks than almost any other state. And it would cost too much money for a publisher to create multiple different versions of their book. So schools in Minnesota get the same textbooks that were written for the Texas Board of Education.

I was just thinking about this subject because I really wonder how the George W. Bush presidency will play out in these textbooks. With such divided opinion on nearly everything he has done in his 4 years, it leaves us with one question:
We must ask, what is our children learning?
- George W. Bush