Saturday, October 16, 2004

The problems of textbook adoption

I don't usually agree with the Fordham Foundation. But I think all reasonable people -- liberal, conservative, or otherwise -- can agree that the textbook adoption process is deeply flawed. The far left and the far right both have been very effective in hijacking the process, forcing publishers to represent fringe views in textbooks in order to receive lucrative contracts.

The process has become so fraught with difficulties that small, innovative publishers can't compete. Saxon math books (which I've used in class and love) are but one casualty in the textbook adoption wars which have consolidated the $4.3 billion (yes that's billion) industry into a mere four companies. Many of the greatest textbooks never have a chance of making it into the public schools.

The Fordham Foundation has done a great service in analyzing the problem in great detail and advocating a very reasonable plan of action. It's worth a look:

Meanwhile, there's a controversy over the adoption of health textbooks brewing here in Texas. Apparently, some influential conservative groups (including a shadowy one called the Texas Eagle Forum) decided that sex education should be left out of the health textbooks and pushed hard to get their preferred textbook adopted. (Texas leads the nation in teen pregnancies. Obviously, we don't need to talk about sex education in health class.) The State Board of Education will rule on this in November.

It seems pretty clear what the strategy of the Christian Right is on this one, though. Consider this: “If we can have people of faith on the school board we can change this culture, we can change the public school…” -Rev. Bill Banuchi, Executive Director, NYS Christian Coalition.



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