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.

Well, hello.

They probably aren’t even the real authors anyway!

Mrs. Edgy linked me to this article, written in 2004 by Tamim Ansary.

Muddle Machine.

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.

Dilemmas, dilemmas.

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: ,

13 thoughts on “Textbook Post #3: Blogging Is A Real Learning Experience

  1. edgeofthesandbox 16 December 2010 at 12:19 am Reply

    Linda, thanks for the link!
    I should have given you the reference when I saw your previous post on textbooks. Unfortunately, being a multitasking mom (that’s my excuse, anyhow), I didn’t read it too close.

  2. Karen 16 December 2010 at 12:22 am Reply

    If you haven’t already, you really should read Zombie’s post, What’s the Matter with Texas, which is a very interesting discussion of the textbook issue, written from the viewpoint of someone who is not a social conservative. Zombie sees the problems more clearly than most–her post is very much worth reading.


    Here’s a taste: “There’s one little problem: While for the most part the Texas State Board of Education is in fact admirably defending patriotism, they unfortunately drag some ideological baggage into the meeting room as well, and do here and there attempt to push conservative and/or Christian viewpoints into the curriculum. Maybe not as much as their critics charge, and they’re not always successful, but they try. And try. And try.

    And it is this attempt on the part of the TSBE to overreach which frustrates me to no end. Because every time they push back too hard, they look just as partisan as the leftists they’re trying to counteract. Which gives the media and the liberal critics a valid basis on which to criticize Texas’ attempt (and thus any attempt) to salvage a patriotic curriculum.”

  3. Matt 16 December 2010 at 12:53 am Reply

    That is scary stuff. To think that much of our revisionist history and other indoctrination materials can come from one place is a frightening concentration of power.

  4. Mrs. du Toit 16 December 2010 at 12:14 pm Reply

    I have a collection of information regarding textbooks that I had for my old blog… how they’re written, the appeals process, as well as links to additional information from analysts. I don’t want to dump it all here, but if you’d like more information, please feel free to contact me at themrs -atty- mrsdutoit -dotty- com.

    One thing I will recommend is Thomas Sowell’s fine research text (for laypeople): “Inside American Education.” http://www.amazon.com/Inside-American-Education-Thomas-Sowell/dp/0743254082/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpi_4

    There are numerous reviews and descriptions at Amazon that will allow you to determine if it is a book you want to read.

    Also, if you are interested in finding out more about the problem, you can read some of John Taylor Gatto. He’s not my favorite on the subject, but his stuff is a good primer for the overall failure of the education system.

    And just a warning… it doesn’t matter if your children are in a Catholic school. With rare exception, they use the same texts, follow the same methods, and pull teachers from the same tainted pool. The problem is complicated, but the primary problem is Departments of Education. They turn out teachers who know far too little about far too much, and the unions only exacerbate the problem.

    • nooneofanyimport 16 December 2010 at 2:59 pm Reply

      Thanks. I’m a fan of Thomas Sowell, so I’ll be looking into that book suggestion.

  5. Lynn Comp 16 December 2010 at 1:02 pm Reply

    Linda – my husband was a teacher & got put onto “Lies my teacher told me” about where textbooks come from – might be a good read to check into

    • nooneofanyimport 16 December 2010 at 2:59 pm Reply

      Thanks Lynn. I’m enjoying Last Exit To Utopia right now, thanks to your suggestion months ago.

  6. Bob Mack 17 December 2010 at 2:35 pm Reply

    Not surprising that government texts are like government cheese–indigestible, suspect ingredients, and you don’t know who made it.

  7. robot 18 December 2010 at 4:50 pm Reply

    Wow! Instalanche? How cool is that? Congratulations. Good, hard work pays off.
    Merry Christmas to you and yours!

  8. There Goes the... 18 December 2010 at 5:13 pm Reply

    […] Textbook Post #3: Blogging Is A Real Learning Experience […]

  9. […] So I had to write “Textbook Post #3.” […]

  10. […] days.  Huh.  The problem’s nothing to do with the dog’s breakfast already known as public school textbooks.  Well never fear–we’ve got our Little Helpers In DC to straighten out the […]

  11. […] days.  Huh.  The problem’s nothing to do with the dog’s breakfast already known as public school textbooks.  Well never fear–we’ve got our Little Helpers In DC to straighten out the […]

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