21 December 2008

Most Textbooks Should Just Stay On the Shelf

From WashingtonPost.com education reporter Jay Matthews, this story discusses the problems we have with textbooks. Certainly, history books have become sanitized and distorted as Matthews points out.

My favorite teacher, Al Ladendorff of Hillsdale High in San Mateo, Calif., used our U.S. history text like a bull's-eye on a firing range. He had us identify factual distortions and analytical flaws in the thick tome the state had chosen for us. I never got over the realization that textbooks, presented as revealed truth all those years in school up until then, sometimes had as many mistakes and wrong-headed assumptions as my own term papers.
Several years ago, during a textbook adoption process, I found that each of the books under consideration gave different casualty numbers for the First Battle of the Marne. Unfortunately, it seems to be difficult to convince school communities at large that having a textbook does not make a class good.