When it comes to textbook publishing, are we in a powerless position?

May 23, 2010 at 9:46 am | Posted in uncategorized | 3 Comments

Posted by Derick Wigle

Video Link: Texas School Board to Vote on Textbook Changes

Last week in class, we discussed the benefits and drawbacks of textbooks and their use in content area classrooms. Just yesterday, the Texas State Board of Education approved a highly debated proposal that would change the state’s learning standards.  While the primary driving forces behind this debate are political in nature, it is more important to understand the broader national implications.  According to the The Washington Post, many of the nation’s textbook publishers are based out of Texas and ultimately adapt the standards established by The Texas Board of Education.  In response to the decision made by the Texas Board of Education, members of the California State Legislature have already presented legislation that would protect California from the Texas legislation (i.e. influence through textbook publishing).

The purpose of this post is not to insight a political debate; I would like to spread light on the overwhelming influence Texas and California have on the US textbook industry.  While I take personal issue with the decision made by the Texas Board of Education, I am more disturbed by the potential impact this has on the whole country.  While many of the articles available online portray California as victim defending themselves, the state is currently in the process if using its influence over the national education system (i.e. textbook publishing) for their own benefit.

It is quite clear that both Texas and California have a significant influence over the American educational system, and they know it.  I guess the question is, where does that leave us?  If the State of New York does not have a significant impact over textbook publishing in the US, what options do we have, and how should this problem be remediated?

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  1. During my observation at Fairport I noted that most of the teachers (in regards to Chemistry and Biology) used the text book as only a reference. The benefit was that the teachers were given freedom to create their own classroom activities to address the NYS standards and the needs of the students in the classroom. The direct outcome was that Fairport was able to circumvent the impact that both Texas and California have on the textbook industry. I applaud Fairport’s efforts and I will follow their lead in my classroom for two reasons. One – this is a way to lessen the influence of the two states on the learning direction that my classroom will take. Two – I believe in Dewey’s theory about ‘Bringing the curriculum to the student’. I do not believe that I can bring the curriculum to my students by using a standard textbook (even if NYS had written the book). A classroom needs lots of resources in order to address the needs of all the students and a textbook should serve as one of many.

  2. The influences the states of Cal. and Texas seem to be mostly the political agendas of the school boards. See this article
    This is only a one of the potential biases a textbook may have. Textbooks also have cultural and gender biases. These bias are hidden. The bottom line is that the teacher can minuimize all the potential biases by enriching the resource choices available to the students. A full and varied pallette of reading oppurtunities will give the students information from an equal number of points of view.The student should always be told to read with a critical eye. The student then can understand the slants or biases each resource has and interpret the understanding to fit into their understandings of the subject matter.

  3. I agree with Peter. The textbooks that are being purchased from Texas, or wherever, should only be used as one of many text sources in a classroom environment. Students should have the opportunity to explore different sources so that they can form their own understandings of the text. I think our students in New York State should see what points of view other states or even other countries have. Let’s open their eyes to the idea that there are different accounts of our history and even the history of the universe in which we exist. Why not expose the students to this? Just be careful and make sure to show multiple points of view. I don’t think New York State is powerless, but I do think that our state needs to realize that all kinds of resources need to be at the disposal of the classroom teachers other than just text books.


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