Textbook Post #3: Blogging Is A Real Learning Experience
On so many, many levels.
First comes that age-old lesson: Watch what you wish for. You just might get it. Instalanches are marvelous but terrifying occurrences, really.
The wealth of information a blogger receives from her readers, however, is simply marvelous.
The lovely lady who sits on the edge of a sandbox, biting her tongue, came by and casually dropped off a link about How School Textbooks Are Made.
She did that because I was so astounded at the credentials of the authors of my son’s textbook.
They probably aren’t even the real authors anyway!
Mrs. Edgy linked me to this article, written in 2004 by Tamim Ansary.
Here’s a quote:
“Who writes these things?” people ask me. I have to tell them, without a hint of irony, “No one.” It’s symptomatic of the whole muddled mess that is the $4.3 billion textbook business.
No one writes these textbooks? Why are authors listed, then?
Let commenter Josh explain:
As a former editor for such mainstream publishers, I can say that most of the writing for the textbooks I have worked on is done by free-lancers and editors. Very little is actually written by the “authors.” Authors are more the spokesmen for the textbook series than actual creators. They are chosen for the political connections rather than their creative input. The main drivers of content are state standards and the editorial staff.
Okey-dokey then. So an author is more of a spokesperson, chosen for political connections. In other words, the author was chosen because the author’s name sells.
The name sells to whoever buys the textbooks–mostly school boards, I should think. Commenter Jardinero1 points out the fact that:
Most textbook content, for the entire USA, has its origin, in Texas. The reason for this is that Texas adopts textbooks at the state level and thus is the largest purchaser. Other big states, like CA, NY, PA FL, adopt textbooks at the local level and don’t have as much clout. . . . So US textbooks are inevitably a reflection of the whims and prejudices of the Texas State Board of Education.
Right. So we need to be influencing the decision of the Texas State Board of Education in order to get less Progressive bias in the textbooks.
Well, maybe. Meet Presley Cannady, an employee of textbook publisher Pearson. He has an important bit of perspective:
“now that people are starting to pay attention to the content of textbooks again, I can assure you that Pearson will move heaven and earth to meet the market.”
Cannady explains that
“[Pearson is] a UK company with a number of imprints. Scott Foresman is one under Pearson Education; a largely North American subsidiary based in Boston (I’m a software developer with PE’s Learning Technology Group). Like most publishers, we edit, but do not produce the content. I can tell you this much, I don’t think more than three people in either one of our buildings have a clue who Jane Addams is, and all three of us just found out this morning after discussing this post.”
First, I just have to say: folks at the UK Pearson office were discussing a topic that originated from my post yesterday. Coooooooool.
Now comes Cannady’s bad news:
“Unfortunately, there’s a lot of leftist entrenchment both in the standards process and amongst the most productive contributors of educational content. There’s a lot of work to be done before truly balanced products can reach the consumer.”
Well, you heard the man. We libertarian types need to start contributing to the educational content of textbooks. We need to start applying for jobs doing just that.
Or, as Dad of Homeschrs suggests, we can decide that all this textbook muddling is another good reason to home school our kids.
It’s getting late. Can’t solve this dilemma tonight. Thanks for all the info, everyone. If you want more info, read the rest of Muddle Machine.
I’m keeping the textbook in question, Communities, over the Christmas break. Just a little light reading . . . .
UPDATE: Karen has reminded me of Zombie’s series of articles on school textbooks. She is absolutely right, they are well worth the read. Thanks.
My kids are not in the public school system, so I really didn’t think the textbook issue would be that relevant to me.
I was wrong.
Tagged: how textbooks are written, Scott Foresman textbook